LONDON — London gets a new venue — well, a revamped one, actually — starting in late May, when the Whitehall Theater, once known for the riotous Brian Rix comedies that inspired the phrase “Whitehall farce,” reopens as a 350-seat studio space with the Royal Shakespeare Co.’s “Othello.”
“Cassio does get his trousers pulled down,” says director Gregory Doran, spotting the weakest of links between Shakespeare’s tragedy and the Whitehall’s comic past. Otherwise, expect a much-needed London venue that should be perfect for those RSC shows originating in the horseshoe-shaped Swan, an auditorium in fact slightly larger than this London space will be.
“Othello” travels from its current berth in Stratford on to five weeks in Japan and then into London for six weeks, May 26-July 3.
Antony Sher, Doran’s real-life partner, plays Iago to Sello Maake ka-Ncube‘s Moor. Those unable to catch either “Othello” or Doran’s current West End hit, “All’s Well That Ends Well,” starring Judi Dench, fear not: Both productions are to be filmed — “Othello” for Channel 4 and “All’s Well,” which, the director says, will not be transferring to Broadway, for the BBC.
Really Useful chief exec Andre Ptaszynski wants to make one thing clear: It’s OK to attend the theater on your own.
Why wouldn’t it be?
Because, at a typically busy perf of “All’s Well” a few weeks back, the Gielgud Theater box office supervisor refused to sell a single ticket to a customer, although he had a pair available.
He was seeking “to maximize the yield and sell the last remaining pair, since he knew he wouldn’t be able to sell the other single,” says Ptaszynksi, although logic would suggest that if there was one person willing to brave the theater by himself, it’s just possible that another might have been found.
The ripple effect: chaos in the British press. The Independent, especially, started crying discrimination against those who might prefer to go to the theater alone.
“I came down like a ton of bricks” on the employee, says Ptaszynski. He adds that single people are eagerly and entirely welcome within Really Useful’s doors.
At the same time, the exec says the lone ticket-buyer may be a less frequent phenomenon in London than New York. “We’re a more sociable crowd,” the exec deadpans.
Silence has been golden for Eliza Lumley, who plays the svelte if mute — except for one moment — secretary in the London revival of Tom Stoppard‘s “Jumpers,” transferring to Broadway this month.
But the 29-year-old actress-singer doesn’t want to make her first professional visit to New York without saying a word. To that end, Lumley (no relation to “AbFab’s” Joanna, in case you’re wondering) is doing three evenings of cabaret later this spring: May 30 at Don’t Tell Mama, and two shows May 31 at Joe’s Pub.
Lumley studied theology and philosophy at Cambridge and then attended the Royal Academy of Music. There, she says, “it bothered me that the work I was singing was not the music I listen to; I thought, this can’t be right.” With that in mind, she began turning her attention to Coldplay, Radiohead and the like, on her way toward devising “the Radiohead project,” as she bills her evening of song.
“It was a bit scary,” she reports, “because Radiohead are so popular. They’re so cool and ‘cred’ in that sense, so it was a bit of a sacred cow to go into their work.” As soon as she did, “I found amazing, amazing stuff,” suited to what she calls her “contemporary classical” approach.
Her program segues in the second half to Joni Mitchell, Kurt Weill and “My Heart Belongs to Daddy,” the latter, she says, “done in a very unusual way.” In London, incidentally, Lumley did get to speak Stoppard’s words, going on some 25 times for “Jumpers” leading lady Essie Davis, when Davis was either away or ill.
On Broadway, Davis will be covered by a local hire, in accordance with Equity rules. As a result, those wondering what Lumley sounds like have just the three concerts in which to find out.