Stepping out

LONDON — “Dance of Death,” one of the surprise commercial successes of the past Broadway season, will be waltzing its way to the West End next year, with Sean Mathias again directing Ian McKellen as the army captain, Edgar, for which the British actor-knight got rave reviews. (In a lesser season, he might have won the Tony for best actor; as it was, bizarrely, he wasn’t even nominated.) David Aukin, Karl Sydow and ACT Prods. are producing.

Joining McKellen will be Frances de la Tour and Owen Teale (“A Doll’s House”), with Robert Jones designing what Mathias describes as “sort of a new production.” Speaking from his home in Cape Town, South Africa, Mathias tells Variety the London “Dance” is “not a rethink” of the Broadway one but, rather, “an evolution of what we did in New York.”

“The casting gives it quite a different dynamic,” he says, adding, “I always thought Ian and Frances” — she co-starred in Mathias’ 1994 defining National Theater production of “Les Parents Terribles” — “would make an amazing pair, and I waited patiently all year to get them.”

In New York, the show played the Broadhurst, a largish venue that, Mathias acknowledges, couldn’t help but prompt some broadness in the playing. In London, a March 4 opening has been penciled in for the somewhat cozier (i.e., under 1,000 seats) Lyric Theater.

“It’s a much smaller theater,” says Mathias, so his staging, he adds, “should be much more intimate.”

Brit bits: Return engagement

Tom Stoppard and David Leveaux proved a good match in London and then on Broadway with “The Real Thing” in the 2000 revival that won three Tony Awards. Late next spring, playwright and director reteam for a new production of Sir Tom’s 1972 “Jumpers.” Simon Russell Beale will play the God-obsessed metaphysician, George, a part immortalized by the late Michael Hordern. Expect a June opening in the Lyttelton.

Ralph Fiennes finishes his National Theater stint as Jung Feb. 5 in Christopher Hampton’s “The Talking Cure” and segues almost immediately into the more fanatical realms of Ibsen, opening April 17 in Stratford in Adrian Noble’s production of “Brand.” (Capable of running five hours, this staging, I am assured, will come in at a more audience-friendly three.)

The six-week Stratford stand in truth looks to be an elongated preview period, with the press not invited until the production’s London bow June 4 at the Theater Royal, Haymarket, where the show will play through Aug. 30.

Hall marks: Sir Peter soldiering on

The words retirement and Sir Peter Hall have rarely been used in the same sentence, so it’s not surprising to hear the director — who turned 72 on Nov. 22 — enumerating a lineup of work to make helmers half his age desperate for a holiday.

In April, Hall starts rehearsals for a 10-week summer residency at the Theater Royal, Bath, the same producing entity — based in the spa city of Bath — that was responsible for “Up for Grabs,” the recent Madonna starrer on the West End.

Madonna, thankfully, has no part in Hall’s forthcoming season, budgeted at about $800,000, which kicks off with cross-cast revivals of Noel Coward’s “Design for Living” and Harold Pinter’s “Betrayal,” both directed by Hall, along with a Thea Sharrock-directed staging of D.H. Lawrence’s little-known autobiographical drama, “The Fight for Barbara.”

Following that threesome will be a separately cast production of “As You Like it,” to mark — shockingly — Hall’s first staging of the Shakespeare play. In the past, the director says, “I never found anybody, male or female, who I thought could play Rosalind.”

This time, he has — his own daughter Rebecca, 20, who has earned raves for her professional theater debut on the West End in Hall’s Strand Theater revival of “Mrs. Warren’s Profession.”

While the hope is that “Betrayal” and “Design for Living” will transfer to the West End in repertory, Hall will be back in the London fray, whatever happens, in late 2003 and into 2004. First, he plans to revive “Summer and Smoke,” the Tennessee Williams drama that hasn’t been seen in a major London production for more than 40 years. After that comes Beckett’s “Happy Days,” with Hall’s current Mrs. Warren, Brenda Blethyn, playing the immobile chatterbox Winnie.

Having once run the National, Hall has been invited back there in 2004 to direct Harley Granville Barker’s rarely produced 1926 play “The Secret Life.”

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