Last year, Daniel Evans, artistic director of Sheffield Theatres, announced quite a coup when he signed up Life On Mars star John Simm for his Shakespearian debut. This year, he’s gone one better by reuniting two of the stars of officially ‘The Greatest TV Show Ever Made’ and has cast Dominic West and Clarke Peters, AKA Jimmy McNulty and Lester Freamon of The Wire in the Crucible’s forthcoming production of Othello.
The Wire reunion is definitely the biggest highlight of Sheffield Theatres’ Autumn Season, which was officially announced last week. It’s already been met with fevered anticipation, not least amongst Wire addicts still displaying withdrawal symptoms. West is, of course, Sheffield born and bred, so Othello represents a homecoming for him, while Peters has trod the boards of the Crucible back in the days when he was a jobbing actor. Of course, there’s also a fair degree of anticipation in seeing one of Shakespeare’s most celebrated plays brought to life at the Crucible. Hamlet was well-received, although not without its flaws, so it will be fascinating to see how Evans, who last directed Ibsen’s An Enemy Of The People with an epic sweep, will handle the dark tale of The Moor of Venice.
While the revival of Othello is bound to grab the headlines, there’s plenty elsewhere to satisfy most palates. Following the recent successful joint-production of Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf with Northern Stage, October and November sees Sheffield Theatres link up with the acclaimed London-based British touring theatre company Paines Plough. The collaboration will see three plays by three new playwrights, using the same ensemble of four actors, and performed in a new, in-the-round auditorium at the Crucible Studio. It promises to be very exciting, especially with directors of the calibre of Richard Wilson and James Grieve (who directed one of the best productions of the last year in Love Love Love) attached.
Another highlight in the Studio is the European premiere of Don Evans’ comic study of a middle-class black family in surbaban Philadephia during the ’70s, One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show, while the Crucible’s 40th birthday is celebrated with the Sheffield People’s Theatre making their debut with Lives In Art, a production created especially for the Crucible’s anniversary. There are also a variety of events to mark the theatre’s birthday, including shows by Forced Entertainment, a specia evening featuring former Artistic Directors such as Michael Rudman and Deborah Page looking back on the life of the theatre, and a special collaboration with Sheffield Museums entitled Passing Through.
The Lyceum has its usual mix of dance, comedy and crowd-pleasing musicals, including Northern Ballet’s version of Hamlet, the phenomenally popular Legally Blonde, the Judy Garland tribute End Of The Rainbow with an acclaimed performance by Tracie Bennett, and the welcome return of Edward Hall’s all-male touring company Propeller with their version of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale. Both theatres will also be taking part in the annual Sheffield Comedy Festival in October, with names such as Jon Richardson, Shappi Korsandi and The Comedy Store Players already confirmed.
Perhaps the busiest person in Sheffield over the rest of the year will be Daniel Evans himself. As well as starring in The Pride throughout July at the Crucible Studio and directing Othello, he’s also taking the lead in Steven Sondheim’s Company, which is this year’s Christmas musical at the Crucible, following the huge success of Me And My Girl last year. Evans is something of a Sondheim expert, having already won two Oliver Awards for Merrily We Roll Along and Sunday In The Park With George, and it will be intriguing to see how he interprets one of Sondheim’s most celebrated musicals. Evans certainly had a daunting task in following in the footsteps of Samuel West and Michael Grandage as Artistic Director, but he’s already proved in two short years that he’s more than up to the task.
For tickets and further information, visit: Sheffield Theatres.