LONDON — Add writer-director Conor McPherson‘s “Shining City” to the Anglo-Irish mix of shows that will have a Broadway berth early in the 2005-06 season. Following the New York transfers of Antony Sher in “Primo” and the stage version of “Festen” comes confirmation from producer Barry Weissler that “The Weir” scribe’s latest will arrive on Broadway in October, following an out-of-town run in San Francisco in August.
The expectation, says Weissler, is that original leading man Stanley Townsend will repeat his acclaimed perf as tormented fiftysomething Dubliner John. “I wouldn’t do it any other way,” says the producer, who is eyeing “Doubt” star Brian F. O’Byrne to play Ian, the therapist who takes John in hand.
“Shining City” opened last June at the Royal Court in London before transferring in September to Dublin’s Gate Theater. Weissler’s partners on this commercial run include wife Fran Weissler, Scott Rudin, Roger Berlind and Debra Black.
Among the shows Weissler won’t be producing, at least this year, is a U.K. “Hairspray,” which had been pegged for October on the West End. “We were forced to postpone,” says the impresario, explaining the physical production from Toronto was shifted to Las Vegas instead of London. “And it wasn’t worth raising another $3 million to build a new (one)” for the U.K.
For now, says Weissler, any London “Hairspray” “is on hold.”
Suddenly, it seems, one can’t move in Britain without stumbling onto another play about terror, and that’s not even counting the Russian play “Terrorism,” seen at the Royal Court in 2003 and headed soon to New York. “Solstice,” the new Zinnie Harris play at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford, is described as an examination of “themes of faith and terror in a world slipping out of control,” while Max Stafford-Clark‘s Out of Joint troupe brings its latest, “Talking to Terrorists,” to the Royal Court in June.
Before that, however, come two shows in May to the Hampstead Theater, where they’ll run in repertory through June 11. The provocatively titled “Osama the Hero” marks the second produced play from 34-year-old Dennis Kelly (“I’ve written a lot I won’t admit to”), whereas “A Single Act” marks the first major U.K. stage production for scribe Jane Bodie, also 34, back in her native London after nine years in Australia.
Why the interest in terror now, as the distance grows from 9/11? “We’ve had time to reflect, which I think is very British,” says Bodie. “People have had time to digest, so there’s perhaps a cooler response, a less temper-driven response.”
Bodie’s play concerns two London couples, one of whom witnesses a building being blown up. The cause of the explosion is never revealed. “We don’t even know if it’s a terrorist attack. I didn’t want it to be a play about revenge as much as one about how (such events) affect intimacy.”
“Osama the Hero” is about a 17-year-old student on a London council estate who “quite innocently,” says Kelly, names bin Laden when asked to select a hero of choice for a school project. Set now, and without specific reference to any terrorist incident, the play is bound to cause a stir given that title. “The real question,” says the author, “is whether the play earns its title; I think it does.”
- “Romance,” the David Mamet farce (talk about a contradiction in terms!) running through May 1 at Off Broadway’s Atlantic, looks set to make its London debut next season at the Almeida. No creative team is yet attached, but at least one of the Brit directors currently represented on Broadway is among those being paged.
- Conference seekers of the world, rejoice! The three main entities in U.K. theater management — the Society of London Theater, Theatrical Management Assn. and the Independent Theater Council — will hold a joint conference May 18-20 on the future of the art form in the 21st century.
Speakers skedded include Nick Hytner and Michael Attenborough, artistic directors of the National and Almeida, respectively.