Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Coward's Tonight. . . Next Summer!

I am OVER THE MOON! The Shaw Festival announced its 2009 line-up and what a terrific one it is. In particular, they are putting on ALL 10 short plays of Noel Coward's Tonight at 8:30. All of them. All in one season! I saw a production of Still Life at the Shaw a few seasons ago as their lunchtime play, but to see the whole series! I am in awe and so excited. They are the perfect company to tackle this.

From the press release:

Artistic Director Jackie Maxwell officially announced the Shaw Festival’s 2009 season today. In 2009 The Shaw takes on a monumental and historic project with full productions of each play in Noel Coward’s famous Tonight at 8:30 collection. The Shaw’s 2009 productions represent the first time all ten short plays have been performed in repertory by a professional company since they were first produced by London’s Phoenix Theatre in 1935-36. The plays will be performed in sets of three, one on each of the Festival’s Niagara-on-the-Lake stages, with the tenth, the rarely produced Star Chamber, being the lunchtime production in the Royal George. And to celebrate this idea for the event that it is, on two separate occasions, we will present all ten in one day – an event we are appropriately naming “Mad Dogs and Englishmen”.
Ms. Maxwell said of the collection: “As the idea of doing all of Coward’s Tonight at 8:30 came to me, and as I reread the plays, I was struck that each one is a brilliant jewel – like the best short stories – some well known, some not. As is typical of Coward – who was always pushing the envelope in both form and content – the ten plays vary hugely. There are out-and-out comedies, heart-wrenching dramas, fantasy musicals and historical tales. Coward is a brilliant miniaturist, a master storyteller, and any group of these plays, seen together, is a truly satisfying evening at the theatre. The experience of seeing them in one fell swoop, for those who are game, will be thrilling indeed.

Oh, I'm game. I'm game.

The rest of the season also looks great - Sondheim's Sunday in the Park With George, O'Neill's A Moon For the Misbegotten and Osborne's The Entertainer among others. You can read about the full line-up here.

I have watched part of the BBC's production of Tonight at 8:30 in the Noel Coward Collection, which I own. But quite frankly, it stars Joan Collins who was absolutely ghastly in the few bits that I saw. Her portrayal of Mrs. Bagot, the owner of the station teashop in Still Life, honestly made me nauseous. Which is not to say that the DVD set is not worth owning for the other productions on it. In particular, I liked A Song at Twilight with Deborah Kerr and Paul Scofield. And there are a number of radio plays on the discs, including Post Mortem, Coward's rarely performed play about a soldier returning from the dead in the 1920s to find that the society that came out of the war wasn't worth his sacrifice. The extras also include some wonderful Coward interviews.

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