2001 West End

Sam Mendes (startinghere71)

In the West End inflation continued to push prices up as theatre seats hit the record top price of £40. This, alongside the knock on effects of the 9/11 terrorist attacks resulted in Mayor Ken Livingstone introducing a discount ticket initiative to allow greater access to theatre across the capital. Both Trevor Nunn and Same Mendes announced plans to step down from their Artistic Director positions at both the National and Donmar respectively within the next 18 months, as the RSC’s Adrian Noble revealed plans to leave the Barbican in London and to refurbish the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford.


At the National Theatre, highlights included August Wilson’s Jitney, as well as Humble Boy – a new piece by Charlotte Jones which transferred into the West End. Howard Jones proved he is still the master of revivals as his production of Private Lives brought together Alan Rickman and Lindsay Duncan as the quarrelling lovers who realise they wish to be together after experiencing marriage to another person in a chance meeting on their respective honeymoons. Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof starred Ned Beatty and Gemma Jones in a new production directed by Anthony Page at the Lyric on Shaftesbury Avenue to mainly positive reviews. Frances O’Connor starred as Maggie the cat to moderate effect, but it was Jones’ portrayal of Big Mamma which had the critics raving.


New musicals suffered greatly due to the downfall in tourism, with Peggy Sue Got Married at the Shaftesbury Theatre failing to win an audience, despite the star appeal of Ruthie Henshall.

Peggy Sue got Married (Wikipedia)

Closer to Heaven, a musical with a score by the Pet Shop Boys premiered at the Arts Theatre to mixed reviews, featuring an original score that was pre-released on the band’s 1999 album. The show was pulled by the venue in favour of a larger audience puller, and it closed in October to make way for The Vagina Monologues. West End shows began to show signs of suffering.

Trevor Nunn’s ‘safe’ revivals at the National Theatre resulted in My Fair Lady and South Pacific in the Lytteton and Olivier respectively, with the former gaining controversy due to the casting of Eastenders actress Martine McCutcheon as Eliza Doolittle. The reinvention of South Pacific changed the order of songs, placing the emphasis on the shows’ darker themes of racism and war, sidelining the romantic plot that leads the narrative. Phillip Quast played a convincing Emile de Becque, and he won the Olivier for Best Actor a year later.    


Shows opening in London’s West End

 The Faith Healer – Almeida, Feelgood – Garrick, Buried Alive, Out in the Open, Mouth to Mouth – The Albery, Jitney – National, Humble Boy – National, The Play What I Wrote, Songs for a New World – Bridewell, Closer to Heaven – Arts, Peggy Sue got Married – Shaftesbury, Private Lives, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Privates on Parade, A Raisin in the Sun, Kiss Me Kate – Victoria Palace, South Pacific – National, My Fair Lady – National.