As theatres go dark and productions close early, one man alone seems to be keeping the recession-battered West End afloat. Since 2007, Rupert Goold—young(ish), award-winning, as bouffantly handsome as Michael Hutchence, but without the drugs or the leather trousers—has been quietly filling London’s theatres. First he directed Patrick Stewart’s shattering “Macbeth”, followed by a nimble unpicking of Pirandello, then most recently a cunning, pitch-perfect “No Man’s Land”.
Now Goold’s production of “King Lear” for the Liverpool Everyman—in which a frail, visionary Pete Postlethwaite seemed to carry the blasted heath inside him—transfers to the Young Vic; the deal was struck before “Lear” had even opened in the north. Meanwhile at Drury Lane, Goold’s “Oliver!” open's tonight, with Rowan Atkinson achieving a lifetime’s ambition by playing Fagin, and the BBC’s bracing, belting “I’d Do Anything” winner Jodie Prenger doing the same in the role of Nancy. Goold’s version is based on the successful 1994 London Palladium production, notable for its hard-edged choreography by Matthew Bourne and new material from Lionel Bart, so you can expect a snappy, not-too-sappy alternative to the Christmas panto. ~ ISABEL LLOYD
"Oliver!": Theatre Royal, London, from December 12th
"King Lear": Young Vic, London, January 29th to March 28th