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Old Vic, 25th October to 3rd December; Barbican, 10th November to 23rd December
Glenda Jackson quit the stage in 1990 with a rampageous performance in Bertholt Brecht’s Mother Courage. After 23 years as a Labour MP, she’s back, aged 80, as King Lear. It will be fascinating to see if Jackson’s ferocity and faculties are in working order before, in character, she loses them in this demanding tragedy. Since her neurasthenic Ophelia to David Warner’s Hamlet in 1965, her Shakespearean roster has been thin.
Still, this is the must-see performance of the season, and Antony Sher’s Lear for the Royal Shakespeare Company will have to dig deep to compete. Sher, who was a memorable Fool to Michael Gambon’s Lear, has had strong reviews at Stratford-upon-Avon. Jackson’s supporting cast, directed by Deborah Warner, includes Celia Imrie as Goneril, Jane Horrocks as Regan, Rhys Ifans as the Fool and Harry Melling as Edgar.
Harold Pinter Theatre, London, 15th November to 11th February
Mark Rylance’s international profile has risen since filming Bridge of Spies and The BFG with Steven Spielberg but he’s not above returning to the London stage in a quirky play about frostbite and fishing by Minnesotan poet Louis Jenkins. You can get a free ticket by turning up on the day wearing waterproofs and carrying a fishing rod.
Strictly Ballroom: the Musical
West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds, 30th November to 21st January 2017
Baz Luhrmann’s joyous movie Strictly Ballroom (1992) pre-figured Strictly Come Dancing and a host of dance musicals. Along with Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge it makes up Luhrmann’s Red Curtain trilogy, in which dance, poetry and song are used as recurring motifs. The Strictly film’s origins were on the stage in Sydney; director and choreographer Drew McOnie returns the compliment in Leeds with a cache of new songs.