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The Lieutenant of Inishmore by Martin McDonagh Credit: Johan Persson

Top 5: Star Gazing in the West End

12 July 2018 Suzanne Frost

One of the really exciting things about living in London (well in our theatre crazy minds anyway) is that some seriously big names of film and TV are always eager to appear on a West End stage, which means us Londoners get to watch celebrities up close in intimate settings (or, you know, from the last available seat up on the second balcony). This summer, it feels like the star density is extra high, and with so many hot tickets for unmissable performances, you better get queuing!

Ian McKellen
Ian McKellen as King Lear at Chichester Festival 2017. Images Manuel Harlan.

Sir Ian has been a grandfather/god/man with a long white beard to an entire generation as the mighty and mysterious Gandalf the Grey in Lord of the Rings. But of course before Hollywood came calling, McKellen was already known as one of the greatest Shakespearian actors alive. Now 79 years old, the living legend is revisiting one of Shakespeare’s great roles, the aging King Lear, which McKellen said might be his last big Shakespeare part, so a live encounter with the man who will forever have that air of a great and good wizard about him is an opportunity we shall not pass ...
 
King Lear will be playing at the Duke of York’s Theatre from 11 July – 3 November. There are £5 tickets for 16 - 25 year olds.
 
Mark Rylance
Mark Rylance (c) Featureflash Photo Agency shutterstock

Rylance, another of Britain’s great Shakespearian actors, returns to the Globe Theatre, which he once lead as director, giving you the chance to see an actual Academy Award Winner a couple of feet away for a 5-quid groundling ticket. Rylance won a supporting actor Oscar in 2016 for his portrayal of a gentle-eyed Russian Spy opposite Tom Hanks in Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies. However, his real home turf has always been the stage, and there will nothing gentle about his performance as Iago, Shakespeare’s most Machiavellian villain in the murderous tragedy Othello.
 
Othello will be playing at the Globe from 20 July – 13 October.
 
Aidan Turner
Aidan Turner in The Lieutenant of Inishmoore trailer, (c) aidanturnernews.com

Maybe the hottest thing around this summer, Turner became a household name when he took his shirt off in the first ever Poldark episode, resulting in instant stardom. The Lieutenant of Inishmoore is Aidan’s West End debut, and instead of a romantic hero, he plays a violent Irish terrorist who happens to have a soft spot for cats in this funny and gory production by Michael Grandage. Unfortunately no shirts come off, but Turner gives a wonderful comedic performance, which kind of makes things even hotter… We hear his name is in the pot for the next James Bond so we’d recommend doing the waiting at the stage door thing sooner rather than later!
 
The Lieutenant of Inishmoore is at the Noel Coward Theatre until 8 September.
 
Orlando Bloom
Orlando Bloom Killer Joe Cooper Killer Joe at Trafalgar Studios. Photo: Marc Brenner

This feels a bit mean as a follow-up, but Orlando Bloom, heartthrob of yesteryear, is also back in the West End after a ten year absence filled with endless Hollywood blockbusters, high profile celebrity relationships, and of course turning 40. In an attempt to go against his image, Bloom appears as the title assassin in Killer Joe, a dark, violent, misogynist play that critics have largely panned, calling it “nasty to a fault” and “irredeemably unpleasant”. Bloom’s performance has been praised though, and tickets will still be highly sought after on the premise of seeing a Hollywood star in one of the West Ends most intimate venues. And he DOES take his shirt off… and more…
 
Killer Joe is playing at Trafalgar Studios until 18 August.
 
 
Cate Blanchett
Cate Blanchett (c) Steven Chee

What about the ladies, we hear you say?  Indeed there seems to be a distinct lack of female star power this summer, but 2019 will see double Oscar winner Cate Blanchett return to London. After first announcing she will star in All About Eve, directed by the ever popular Ivo van Hove, Blanchett has since pulled out of that production (which is rumoured to go ahead with Gillian Anderson in the lead now) and will be appearing at the National Theatre instead. The avant-garde play When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other: Twelve Variations on Samuel Richardson‘s Pamela will be directed by avant-garde director Katie Mitchell, and will play in the NT’s smallest venue, the Dorfman Theatre. This is probably much more to Blanchett’s taste, but expect a run like no other on the very limited seats. Tickets will go on sale this autumn.
 
‘When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other: Twelve Variations on Samuel Richardson‘s Pamela’ will play at the National Theatre in January 2019.
 
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