Top performing arts in 2009


London theatre

● King Lear Young Vic, London January 29–March 28 Pete Postlethwaite brings Rupert Goold’s controversial version from Liverpool’s Everyman Theatre. (020–7922 2922)

● Enjoy Gielgud Theatre, London From February 2 Alison Steadman and David Troughton star in Christopher Luscombe’s joyous revival, seen last year in Bath, of  Alan Bennett’s 1980 comedy. Showing an old couple occupying one of the last back-to-backs in Leeds, Bennett’s play presciently foresaw the transformation of working-class life into a theme-park industry. (0844 482 5130)

● England People Very Nice Olivier Theatre, London From February 12 Richard Bean is one of our best, most underrated playwrights. Here, he traces the pattern of immigration across four centuries as French Huguenots, the Irish, the Jews and the Bangladeshis successively enter the chaotic world of Bethnal Green. Nicholas Hytner directs what promises to be an epic Jonsonian comedy. (020–7452 3000)

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● Burnt By The Sun Lyttelton Theatre, London From March 4 Making plays out of films can be a deadening process, but this promises to be a notable exception. Peter Flannery (who wrote Our Friends In The North) has here dramatised a brilliant Russian film showing an idyllic summer
retreat disrupted by the beginning of Stalin’s Great Terror. Howard  Davies directs an ace cast headed by Ciarán Hinds and Rory Kinnear. (020–7452 3000)

● Madame de Sade Wyndham’s Theatre, London From March 13 The Donmar Warehouse’s  triumphant West End season continues with a rare Japanese play by Yukio Mishima, which depicts the life of the notorious Marquis de Sade through the eyes of six remarkable women. As the cast includes Judi Dench and Rosamund Pike, and the director is the peerless Michael Grandage, much is expected. (0844 482 5120)


● London International Mime Festival Five London theatres January 10–25 The festival provides provocative entertainment embracing circus skills, macabre puppets, optical illusions, Surrealism and cabaret from artists of nine countries. (; 020–7637 5661)

● Carmen On tour April 15 to May 9 Scottish Ballet presents its first commission from the contemporary choreographer Richard Alston, and it will share a program with Ashley Page’s intriguing Cheating, Lying, Stealing. (; 0141–331 2931)

● Northern Ballet Theatre anniversary Grand Theatre, Leeds From February NBT’s 40th anniversary season of creations and revivals kicks off with a mixed bill featuring Gillian Lynne’s tribute to L. S. Lowry, A Simple Man (February 26–28), followed by a national tour (; 0870 122 2815)

● Spring Dance Coliseum, London March 25 to April 26 Spring Dance opens with American Ballet Theatre’s Swan Lake and Le Corsaire and closes with a celebration  of salsa and ballroom dancing. (; 0871 911 0200)

● Focus on Forsythe Venues across London April 20 to May 10 Sadler’s Wells’ ‘Focus on Forsythe’ ranges from William Forsythe’s daring choreography, old and new, to compelling installations made of suspended balloons, fog and thread. At Sadler’s Wells, Tate Modern and venues across London. (;  0844 412 4300)

Performing Arts

Regional theatre

● Othello West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds February 14 to March 14 Touring to Scarborough, Coventry, Bath, Kingston, Newcastle-under-Lyme and Halifax. Judging by the moody, bare-head-and-shoulders promotional shot, Lenny Henry means business, but there is  no way of guessing how he will transcend his comedic persona. (;  0113–213 7700)

● The Tempest RSC, Stratford February 14 to March 14 Anthony Sher teams up with fellow South African actor John Kani, in a collaboration between the RSC and Cape Town’s Baxter Theatre Centre. It starts at Stratford, then tours to Richmond, Leeds, Bath, Nottingham and Sheffield, into
April. (; 0844 800 1110)

● Where There’s a Will On tour February 4 to April 11 Among the touring-company highlights is this Peter Hall-directed Feydeau farce from English Touring Theatre that will visit Kingston, Cambridge, Malvern, Guildford, York, Salford, Liverpool and Oxford. (; 020–7450 19990)

● A Midsummer Night’s Dream/ The Merchant of Venice On tour Propellor, Edward Hall’s  all-male company is touring A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Merchant of Venice in rep in January and February (Aberystwyth, Liverpool, Norwich, Kingston) and June (Cheltenham, Manchester, Oxford) with a stint in between at Newbury’s Watermill Theatre, from March 4 to May 2. (;  01635 45834)

● The Real Thing Salisbury Playhouse February 26– March 21 What’s on offer at the regional reps seems paltry in comparison with the touring companies’ schedules, but Salisbury Playhouse once again has an interesting season, including Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing and Brian Friel’s Faith Healer (April 20–May 9). (; 01722 320333) Music

● The Beggar’s Opera Linbury Studio Theatre, London January 20–31 Realised by Benjamin Britten. A new production of this free-wheeling classic brings Britten’s arrangement to the Royal Opera House for the first time, with Thomas Randle singing Macheath. (; 020–7304 4000)

● Der Fliegende Holländer Royal Opera House, London February 23–March 10 Bryn Terfel stars as Wagner’s haunted Flying Dutchman. Tim Albery’s new production uses the composer’s alternative version, treating the three acts as a single unbroken span. (; 020–7304 4000)

● Doctor Atomic Coliseum, London February 25–March 20 The UK premiere of John Adams’ meditation on the  creation of the atomic bomb. Gerald Finley plays its conflicted inventor, J. Robert Oppenheimer. (; 0871 911 0200)

● Baroque Arias Barbican, London March 11 The unique Thomas Quasthoff performs arias by Bach and Handel accompanied by the Berlin Barocksolisten, as part of his year-long sequence of five concerts at the Barbican. (;  0845 120 7500)

● Dido and Aeneas/Acis and Galatea Royal Opera House, London March 31–April 20 An extraordinary Purcell-Handel double-bill, featuring starry casts (headed by Sarah Connolly and Danielle de Niese respectively), directed and choreo-graphed by Wayne McGregor (; 020–7304 4000)


The Young Victoria Out March 6 Forget the stout, black-clad, unamused Queen Victoria and discover the story of a bright, young princess groomed for the throne, and how she fell in love. Julian Fellowes wrote the screenplay and the film boasts a cast including Emily Blunt as Victoria, Rupert Friend as Albert, Miranda Richardson and Paul Bettany.

Slumdog Millionaire Out January 9 Director Danny Boyle tells the story of how impoverished teen Jamal Malik (Dev Patel) became a winner on the Hindi version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?. Heartwarming and epic with sumptuous views of India.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Out February 6 Brad Pitt stars in this intriguing tale of a man who starts out old and gets younger and younger, based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Cate Blanchett stars as the woman who tries to share his life, and it’s directed by David Fincher.

Frost/Nixon Out January 9 The eagerly awaited film version of Peter Morgan’s powerhouse play that wowed West End and Broadway. Michael Sheen stars as David Frost with Frank Langella as Richard Nixon

Revolutionary Road  Out January 30 One of two new films featuring strong perfomances from Kate Winslet (the other being Second World War drama The Reader, out January 2), this reunites her with her Titanic co-star Leonardo DiCaprio and is directed by her husband, Sam Mendes.

Milk Out January 16 Maverick film-maker Gus Van Sant directs Sean Penn, hotly tipped for an Oscar nomination, in the story of Harvey Milk, the openly gay mayor of San Francisco, who was assassinated 30 years ago. Also starring Josh Brolin and James Franco.