LONDON — What’s in a name? A lot, apparently, as regards the forthcoming Royal National Theater production of “A Streetcar Named Desire,” which now has a Stanley, Iain Glen, to go with its already announced Blanche, Glenn Close.
Glen starred opposite Nicole Kidman in “The Blue Room,” with the West End preem of “Martin Guerre” and a Royal Shakespeare Co. “Henry V” among his other London credits.
Rehearsals start Aug. 12 for the Tennessee Williams revival, which will preview from Sept. 28 in the Lyttelton, opening Oct. 8 for a limited run through Nov. 23. As was true of such previous Lyttelton stagings as “Carousel” and “My Fair Lady,” this will be a straight run of the play, i.e. not in repertory.
The designer will be Bunny Christie, whose extraordinary set for the National’s recent “Baby Doll” was far and away the best thing about that Williams reclamation.
“For me, hopefully, we’ll come up with something that will give people a huge emotional experience,” Close says of her dreams for the show, calling Blanche “just one of the great characters.” (In the 1970s, she played Stella to Shirley Knight’s Blanche at New Jersey’s McCarter Theater.)
At least one thing has changed since Close last worked with “Streetcar” director Trevor Nunn on “Sunset Boulevard” in the 1990s. Last week, the National a.d. was knighted, so he is Sir Trevor from now on.
‘At Liberty’ in London
Maybe the British will make her an honorary Dame following the London transfer of “Elaine Stritch at Liberty,” which has set an Oct. 9 opening at the Old Vic, previewing from Oct. 1. As on Broadway, the Tony-winning septuagenarian will do five perfs in London, with an eight-week initial run skedded amid early hopes of an extension.
Sally Greene and Mark Goucher in Britain are partnering Broadway duo Barry and Fran Weissler to bring the solo tour de force to London, where the actress remains a household name following the 1970s TV sitcom, “Two’s Company,” in which she co-starred with Donald Sinden. Goucher pegs the show’s London stand at £450,000 ($660,000), with hardline costs of £375,000 ($555,000) and the remainder on reserve.
At a £40 ($67) top, George C. Wolfe’s production will break just shy of 70% at the Old Vic, a venue some 300 or so seats smaller than her Broadway berth at the Neil Simon. But making money, Goucher emphasizes, isn’t really the point of the enterprise. “This is a piece of event theater,” says the 36-year-old London producer, who was at Stritch’s Broadway opening earlier this year.
“You ain’t ever gonna get the opportunity to see this again,” says Goucher, sounding like someone who also knows he’s unlikely ever to produce anything like this again.
To the ranks of American visitors to the British stage, we can now add Claudia Shear, who will travel with her Broadway hit “Dirty Blonde” to the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds for a monthlong run starting July 5. (Opening night is July 9.)
The Yorkshire venue has been good to contemporary American drama of late, launching, among other shows, both “Proposals” and “Visiting Mr. Green” in England, the Neil Simon play in a new production that got far better reviews than the short-lived Broadway one.
By contrast with “Proposals,” the production of “Dirty Blonde” will replicate precisely its New York one, with Kevin Chamberlin and Bob Stillman joining Shear in her play as they did both Off Broadway and on. The question remains, of course, whether Mae West is an iconic enough figure to sustain interest in England in a play about her. (If only the play were about Elaine Stritch … )
“I didn’t think Mae West was particularly iconic in the United States,” notes its director, James Lapine, while agreeing that a prolonged life for the play this side of the Atlantic would probably require “a theater personality (in the lead) that the English know.”