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Theatre previews

Tony Field previews some of the entertainment available to us in the next quarter in the Barbican theatres and nearby.


ven seasoned London theatregoers are often astounded at the range of work available to them at the Barbican venues. The range varies from opera to dance, from drama to musicals; and even more so from all corners of the world – France, USA, Japan and Australia, Germany and Italy, Hong Kong and Sao Paulo. I have recently been consulted by foreign countries as to how they can best turn their major cities into 24-hour cultural centres like those at the Barbican, Pompidou and Lincoln Centre so it is surprising to find residents privileged to be housed in the Barbican expressing criticism of any of its cultural activities, day or night.

The Barbican Centre continues its celebrations of its 30th birthday year with Ninagawa, renowned for his visually powerful staging, bringing a new Japanese production of Shakespeare’s “Cymbeline” from 29th May. This is produced by Thelma Holt as part of London’s 2012 World Shakespeare Festival. Thelma Holt has produced many Ninagawa productions since 1987 and their experience of working together on the Barbican stage is so familiar to them both that they can communicate their comfort to Japanese actors new to this Centre. This is followed by a dozen amazing pieces by the late Pina Bausch from Germany, Italy, USA, Chile, Hong Kong, France, Hungary, India, Turkey, and Brazil all staged at Sadler’s Wells and the Barbican Theatres from 6 June to mid-July. “Desdemona” is a new work created by Toni Morrison, Peter Sellars and Rokia Traore and specially commissioned for the Royal Shakespeare Company. This will play in the Barbican Hall in July and will demonstrate how two women of African-American origin can be inspired by an “invisible” character from one of Shakespeare’s most


racially-charged plays. This profound conversation will include hope for a different future for Desdemona and her African nurse, Barbara, from beyond the grave.

It is perhaps a little early to mention a season in September but after the recent memorable appearance of Cate Blanchett in “Big and Small” which astounded audiences, one must alert theatregoers to Juliette Binoche appearing in “Madame Julie” by August Strindberg. Originally produced at the Avignon Festival this French interpretation of the timeless themes of desire, love and the constraints of social convention. I

shall be interested to see this modern version of “Miss Julie” which I produced at the Lyric, Hammersmith with Diane Cilento in 1960. At the Bridewell, Howard Brenton’s “Bloody Poetry” is the fascinating study of Lord Byron, Shelley and Mary Shelley journeying across Europe to escape the moral constraints of England. The Bridewell continues its interest in musicals in June and July with Tim Firth’s “Our House”, Richard Maltby Jr’s “Baby” and Jason Robert Brown’s “Songs For a New World” and “The Last Five Years”. These three writers/composers are always worth a visit.



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