There's still a lot of interesting-sounding shows coming up for 2011 and my bank balance is still quivering with fear at the sight of them. So this week, as last, I'm going to be picking out the ones that have the most interesting casting to me and talking them up a bit.
5. Anna Christie, Donmar Warehouse
I have never seen or read any Eugene O'Neill. I understand this is quite a gap in my knowledge if I ever want to hold any valid opinions about 20th century US drama, so I've made a resolution to do something about it this year. And happily, this resolution coincides with a Rob Ashford-directed production of Anna Christie at the Donmar Warehouse. It's like it was meant to be!
Woman to watch: Ruth Wilson. She's just plain superb, and I look forward to seeing her on the Donmar stage again.
4. Juno and the Paycock, National (Lyttelton)
I'll be honest. I know nothing about this. But it's a classic Irish play, and Sinéad Cusack is in it, that is literally enough for me.
Woman to watch: Sinéad Cusack! She was simply awe-inspiring in the 2009 Bridge Project, and this should be the perfect showcase for her talents.
3. A Delicate Balance, Almeida
Edward Albee is my favourite living American playwright, and I live in constant fear of the day when that will no longer be the case. But for now, I am tremendously excited at getting to see the Almeida's forthcoming production of his 1966 play A Delicate Balance. It's quite an intense psychological play, dealing mainly but not exclusively with wanting to escape from reality, and coming from the Almeida, this should be a brilliant production.
Woman to watch: It was difficult to choose from the three splendid ladies who are currently cast in this play, but I'm going to go with Penelope Wilton. She's brilliant.
2. The Beauty Queen of Leenane, Young Vic
And my favourite living Irish playwright is Martin McDonagh. He is the master of nasty, brutal, dark comedy, and this is a play that very much showcases that. If you've got a particular sense of humour, you'll find this tale of a desperate spinster and her complicated relationship with her elderly mother terrifically funny. If you have very little sense of humour, you'll find it incredibly painful and sad to watch. And if you're somewhere in the middle, as the vast majority of people are, you'll find it an exquisitely tortuous combination of the above. It's only a year since the Young Vic revived this play, but they're bringing that production back already, and with good reason.
Woman to watch: Rosaleen Linehan. It can't be easy getting inside the psyche of a character like Maureen, but with Linehan leading by example and turning in such a dedicated performance as Mag, there's no way the rest of the cast can fail to be anything other than excellent.
1. Antony and Cleopatra, Swan Theatre
Opinions were slightly divided with the original run of this production, but even those who liked it (myself included) couldn't quite work out why Michael Boyd was giving it a rejig and presenting it in the Swan Theatre as part of the opening season. Then came the resignation of Kathryn Hunter from the ensemble. And while I still can't figure out why Michael Boyd wants to rejig it and present it in the Swan Theatre, I know I will be making the journey up to Stratford for it after all, thank to the magnificent Katy Stephens taking over the lead role.
Woman to watch: Katy Stephens! Honestly, I don't know why they didn't just cast her as Cleopatra in the first place.