Going wild for the West End as a record-breaking 2.5million worth of 10 seats are sold
23:58 GMT, 28 June 2012
Leading lady: Sheridan Smith will play Titania, the Queen of the Fairies, in A Midsummer Night's Dream
The Michael Grandage theatre season, which includes a host of stars and a flood of 10 tickets, has sold a record 2.5 million worth of seats since I revealed its debut line-up two weeks ago.
Grandage’s West End revolution has become a sensation.
As this page was first to report, the director has persuaded some of the stage’s brightest lights, including Simon Russell Beale, Judi Dench, Jude Law, Daniel Radcliffe, Sheridan Smith, David Walliams and Ben Whishaw, to star in five plays, each having a three-month run at the Noel Coward Theatre.
The season will kick off on December 1, with Russell Beale in Privates On Parade.
John Logan’s new play Peter And Alice will follow, with Judi Dench and Ben Whishaw portraying Alice Liddell Hargreaves (who inspired Lewis Carroll to write Alice In Wonderland) and Peter Llewelyn Davies (who provided the spark for J.M. Barrie to pen Peter Pan).
Daniel Radcliffe stars in the season’s third production: Martin McDonagh’s The Cripple Of Inishmaan.
It will be Radcliffe’s second appearance on the London stage. He starred in How To Succeed In Business Without Even Trying on Broadway. But the actor said his year in New York was enough.
Sheridan Smith and David Walliams will play Titania and Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Grandage told me he wanted the play to be the ‘sexiest Dream ever’. I was most amused to see his quotes appear all over the world.
The fifth and final production in the inaugural season will see Jude Law give us his Henry V while, as Grandage put it, he still possesses ‘youthful vigour’.
Obviously, not all the seats are 10. Just 200 are at that price for every performance. Others are 27.50 and 57.50.
But to sell 2.5 million worth of tickets in a fortnight for a series of non- musical plays is extraordinary, and a testament to the fact that serious theatre is still a potent force in the commercial West End.
It also makes an argument for playhouses to stay that way and not allow themselves to be turned into houses for musicals.
At least two major theatres for dramatic plays or comedies have been lost to musicals on Shaftesbury Avenue, which is a shame.
Once, a producer could assemble a first-cast play, director and stars and find a theatre within a few months. Now, the choicest houses are so scarce they have to be booked six months to a year in advance.
Setting the scene: The Noel Coward Theatre in London will be the venue for the five plays that will each run for 12 weeks and cost as little as 10 a show
Award-winning director Michael Grandage, left, and executive producer James Bierman, right, were determined to make sure the shows had affordable tickets
A hoodie we can all be proud of
When Jason Maza was in infants school, his parents were tearing their hair out. ‘At eight I was a bit of a nightmare because I had so much energy, and they were asking themselves: “What are we going to do with him”’
What they did was put him on the stage. Jason was sent to a Saturday theatre school where he discovered and developed a passion for acting. He saw Ray Winstone in Nil /06/28/article-2166161-13D6EA30000005DC-404_306x423.jpg” width=”306″ height=”423″ alt=”Jason Maza” class=”blkBorder” />
Nice and nasty: Fast up and coming young actor Jason Maza, left, and in character in the play Fear, right
Jason and Aymen Hamdouchi play two hoodies who terrorise people — including those in the audience. They size the punters up and point out what brands they’re wearing.
‘One lady pulled her handbag closer to her as she was leaving the theatre. That’s how real it seemed to her,’ Jason told me over breakfast. Fear is one of the most provocative dramas in a long time, but it also tries to understand the background reasons for young people who turn to crime; something Plan B was trying to do with his movie Ill Manors.
The play was a tad too ‘in your face’ for a couple of actors, who withdrew from the production during rehearsals. ‘The tragedy of people like the ones we play in Fear is that there’s no one to care about them, or to love them,’ Jason said. ‘I’m not defending what their characters do, but that has something to do with it.’
He talked about his own parents, who run food kiosks in parks, who instilled their own work ethic into him. ‘It’s so easy when you’re young to get caught up in negativity,’ he said.
But acting set him on the positive path.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel film has turned into a phenomenal earner. It opened after the busy awards season, so wasn’t saddled with some worthy label.
It was a movie for audiences who wanted to enjoy a good story, told by top-notch actors such as Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Ronald Pickup, Celia Imrie and Dev Patel. The cast were overseen by director John Madden, using a script by Ol Parker, who in turn adapted it from a novel by Deborah Moggach.
All the components worked. The film has gone on to take a global total of $125 million: $40 million in the U.S. and more than 20 million in the UK.
I mention all this because I’ve just seen Quartet, directed by Dustin Hoffman from Ronald Harwood’s screenplay. It’s set in a home for retired opera singers and classical musicians, and it’s as touching as it is funny.
The leads — Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Pauline Collins, Billy Connolly, Michael Gambon and Sheridan Smith — are all sublime. It will occupy a place in your heart and if it’s released as well as Exotic Marigold, it will make a fortune.