If half of a director’s job is picking the right cast, Jamie Lloyd (pictured) is at least half of a good director. Since taking up residence at Trafalgar Studios in London in 2013, he’s attracted James McAvoy, John Simm, Simon Russell Beale and Martin Freeman – actors of the highest lumen-rating – to this 360-seater house. Once there, none has given him anything less than vital performances; McAvoy, as a manic but oddly sympathetic Macbeth, hit a career high. But Lloyd’s skill extends well beyond hiring the actors and telling them where to stand (and there are at least two grand British directors who have built careers doing just that): he has a knack for homing in on the words or phrases that are most integral to a play’s world, and then making them concrete in a way that’s insistent without being obtrusive. So his set for “The Pride”, Alexi Kaye Campbell’s Olivier-winning play tracing shifting attitudes to homosexuality, was backed with a mottled mirror that both concealed and reflected the on-stage sexual and moral shenanigans; at a moment of crisis in “Macbeth”, blood cascaded in great gouts from the flies, slicking the protagonists in gore.
Lloyd’s third season at the Trafalgar begins with “The Homecoming”, Pinter’s threatening, crow-black comedy of domestic power-games, with a cast that includes Ron Cook, Keith Allen and, again, John Simm. One adept director, three actors of equal parts menace to mischief: that’s 50% job done. ~ ISABEL LLOYD
The Homecoming Trafalgar Studios, London, Nov 14th to Feb 13th
THEATRE AT A GLANCE
Funny Girl (Menier, London, Nov 20th to Mar 5th). Sheridan Smith, who looks more and more like the defining star of her generation, takes on the tears-of-a-clown Streisand role in Merrill’s and Styne’s biography of Fanny Brice. A Broadway transfer seems likely, a West End transfer inevitable.
Evening at the Talk House (Dorfman, London, Nov 17th to Jan 23rd). The National hosts the world premiere for this new play from Wallace Shawn. Rumour has it, it’s a murder-mystery; rumour also has Alex Jennings in the running for the lead, but Shawn’s writing is so stimulating the casting should barely matter.
Here We Go (Lyttelton, London, Nov 25th to Dec 19th). Meanwhile, over in the main house, another world-class writer, another premiere: Caryl Churchill’s “short play about death”. The run is short too, so tickets might be hard come by.
Guys and Dolls (Savoy, London, Dec 10th to March 12th). David Haig and Sophie Thompson, a tried and tested comedic pairing, join Jamie Parker for this London reboot of a joyful Chichester Festival production.
Bull (Young Vic, London, Dec 11th to Jan 9th). Think of it as anti-panto: a third, entirely deserved run for Mike Bartlett’s vicious three-hander about the sharpest end of office politics.
Noises Off (American Airlines, New York, from Dec 17th). Michael Frayn’s unmatched farce-behind-a-farce is revived for Broadway, with Jeremy Herrin steering the gags physical and verbal. ~ Il