January’s Top Shows

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Welcome to January’s show highlights. Here are my picks of the most interesting shows that you can find around London and the UK.

Off-West End

Opening

There’s little point in telling you about SpitLip’s hilarious, ingenious and melodious musical comedy OPERATION MINCEMEAT. That’s because its next run (from 4 to 11 January) has completely sold out. HOWEVER, the good news is that they have already scheduled a further run for 14-23 May at the same venue, and you can buy tickets now! I’m going again – and I promise you that I don’t revisit anything but the best.

The year is 1943 and the Brits are losing World War Two. Luckily, they’re about to gamble all our futures on a stolen corpse. Have the counter-intelligence services gone too far this time?

OPERATION MINCEMEAT is Singin’ in the Rain meets Strangers on a Train, Noel Fielding meets Noel Coward. Savour the fast-paced, hilarious and unbelievable true story of the twisted secret mission that won us World War II. The question is, how did a well-dressed corpse wrong-foot Hitler?

OPERATION MINCEMEAT has been nominated for ‘Best Ensemble in a New Production of a Play or Musical’ at the Broadway World Awards 2019 and for five Off West End Awards including Best New Musical, Best Company Ensemble, Best Set Design, Best Musical Director and Best Sound Design. The team also recently took home the prestigious Stage Debut Award for “Best Composer/Lyricist.”

May I just remind you all that I did say back last June that this had the potential to become a cult hit?….

Read my **** review of OPERATION MINCEMEAT here


RAGS THE MUSICAL plays from 9th January to 8th February at the Park Theatre in Finsbury Park.

Set in New York in 1910, with a score celebrating the multicultural music of opportunity, optimism and hope which was filling the streets then, RAGS The Musical tells the heart-warming and powerful tale of a group of Jewish immigrants as they arrive to start a new life in America. Carolyn Maitland (Ghost UK Tour) stars as Rebecca, leading UK musical theatre star Dave Willetts plays Avram and Sam Attwater (EastEnders, Dancing on Ice) will star as Bronfman.

With a ravishing score by the songwriters of Wicked and Annie and the book-writer of Fiddler on the Roof, this is a sweeping saga of America’s immigrant past.

This is a transfer of the UK premiere of this eagerly anticipated new version which premiered at Manchester’s Hope Mill Theatre in February 2019 to much acclaim, produced by the prolific Katy Lipson and directed by Bronagh Lagan (Little Women, Putting It Together, Promises, Promises).


THE LONDON INTERNATIONAL MIME FESTIVAL brings a range of exciting shows to the capital, three of which have made it into my recommended list for January.

First, at Soho Theatre, Trygve Wakenshaw presents the world premiere of his show ONLY BONES v.1.4 from 7 to 25 January at the Soho Theatre.

‘Make a show with No story, No language, No set, No props, and only ONE light’.

Rubber-limbed Trygve Wakenshaw (seen previously at Soho with his very funny show A DIFFERENT PARTY) takes on the challenge set by fellow New Zealander, Thomas Monckton, creator of the original Only Bones (v1.0) described by The Times at LIMF17 as ‘spare but not slight… painfully hilarious’.

Trygve Wakenshaw’s Only Bones v1.4 raises a finger, as well as most other limbs, to the rule books and the people that write them. This is a hilarious new minimalist extravaganza. This is micro-physical comedy unlike anything you’ve seen (unless you’ve seen Thomas Monckton’s Only Bones v1.0)


Secondly, at Wilton’s Music Hall from January 14 to 18, ever-interesting company Told By An Idiot present an intriguing show about two of the world’s greatest comedians. THE STRANGE TALE OF CHARLIE CHAPLIN AND STAN LAUREL

In 1910 the unknown Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel set sail for New York as part of Fred Karno’s famous music hall troupe. On this journey, Charlie and Stan shared a cabin and then spent two years together touring North America, with Stan as Charlie’s understudy. Stan returned home, later finding success with his soulmate Oliver Hardy. Charlie developed his Little Tramp character and within five years became one of the most famous figures in the world.   

In Charlie Chaplin’s highly detailed autobiography Stan Laurel is never mentioned. Stan talked about Charlie all his life. 

Playing fast and loose with the facts and with an original piano score composed by Mercury Award Nominee Zoe Rahman played live each night, this is no nostalgic bio-drama, but a hilarious and deeply moving homage to two men who changed the world of comedy forever. 

Touring the UK after this date, the venues can be found at Told By An Idiot’s website here


And thirdly, at The Barbican Centre from January 29 to February 1, renowned company Kiss and Cry present COLD BLOOD

Dancing hands star in elaborate miniature sets, the action filmed live to become epic as it fills a huge screen.

In this wonderfully whimsical production, the story of seven surprising deaths takes the audience into an array of scenarios that touch on the fleeting fragility of life. Watch as performers and crew conjure visuals onstage or simply succumb to the beautifully detailed kaleidoscopic vistas appearing on film. From the razzmatazz of a Fred and Ginger-style dance number to a floating figure in outer space, from a ravaged war-torn cityscape to the recreation of an iconic Boléro ballet.

Set to music including Ravel, David Bowie and Janis Joplin, COLD BLOOD brings together intricate hand choreography, tiny props, live cinema and a witty script. From Jaco Van Dormael and Michèle Anne De Mey – who co-directed Kiss & Cry here to much acclaim in 2017.


At The Bunker, a timely drama, THE PROCESS , runs from 11th January to 1st February.

Jo’s winning at life. Her business is going brilliantly. She’s Cost Positive. She’s even on the telly. She’s a Deaf woman turning the hearing world on its head. Until the system turns on her.

A malevolent bureaucracy, the rise of alt-right politics, and the human lives caught in the middle all ask: what happens if you believe ‘it’ll never happen to me’?

THE PROCESS is told in BSL and spoken English, and every show will be performed in a relaxed environment.


Dani is 17. She’s on the internet (of course), looking to meet someone honest and direct. What she finds is a man twice her age who thinks she’s an 11-year-old boy.

– I’m sorry I’m not the freak show you expected.
– We’re on the same side of the bars I think.

This is the first major revival of THE SUGAR SYNDROME, the debut play from Lucy Prebble (A Very Expensive Poison, The Effect and ENRON): a devastatingly and disturbingly funny exploration of an unlikely friendship, our desire to connect, and the limits of empathy. Running at the Orange Tree, Richmond from January 24 to February 22.


At Theatre503, THE EDIT plays from January 7 to 11.

Five years ago Nick and Elena fell in love. Two years ago they fell out of it. They haven’t seen each other since. Until now.

It’s that meet up. The first time seeing the ex since the breakup. Something almost all of us have suffered through, whether or not by choice. Unfolding in real time, Nick and Elena try and work out where they went wrong so that they can both move on with their lives. The only question is whether they will do so together, or separately. After all, every love story deserves a second chance. Doesn’t it? Together they were glorious. Together they were a disaster. It just depends on how you see it.

Tender and funny, THE EDIT tests the limits of love, forgiveness and self-preservation. This is the London premiere of Sarah Gordon’s debut play following a UK tour last summer.


With timing that improves for every outing of this show, Sam Steiner’s YOU STUPID DARKNESS! is about the struggle for optimism and community amid the chaos of a collapsing world.

Everything’s been falling apart for a while now. In a cramped, crumbling office four volunteers spend a few hours every Tuesday night on the phone to strangers telling them everything is going to be OK. As the outside world disintegrates around them, Frances, Joey, Angie and Jon teeter on the edge of their own personal catastrophes. Their hopes and fears become entangled as they try, desperately, to connect with the callers and with each other. Playing at Southwark Playhouse from January 16 to February 22.


At the Tristan Bates Theatre from January 20-22, BROKEN ENGLISH is an intriguing-sounding show written by Emerging Artist award winner Jahmar Ngozi. BROKEN ENGLISH is a contemporary depiction of the journey of the English language using performance poetry, physical theatre and traditional drama to tell an original and engaging story. The show sets out to explore the dexterity of English as a form of culture as well as communication in a celebration of cultural diversity and creativity.


From 21 January to 8 February, the Omnibus Theatre in Clapham presents the World Premiere of THE GLASS WILL SHATTER by Joe Marsh.

Rebecca still has nightmares about Amina and the unnerving events that unfolded in her classroom. Or is it Amina that still has nightmares? Years later, one of them decides – it’s time to meet, again.

Through a series of gripping flashbacks to the school where Amina learned and Rebecca taught, an irreversible sequence of choices lead to an unexpected end, changing the course of both of their lives.

Thrilling and powerful, THE GLASS WILL SHATTER interrogates faith, belonging and polarisation within the school system – and the consequences of Prevent Policy on the quality of education in the UK today.

Althea Theatre is an award-winning international ensemble made of British and non-British actors and theatre makers based in London, exploring and addressing societal issues from both national and international viewpoints.


Lucy Kirkwood’s (Mosquitoes, Chimerica) new play THE WELKIN comes to the National Theatre from 15 January, directed by David Macdonald and starring Maxine Peake.

Rural Suffolk, 1759. As the country waits for Halley’s comet, Sally Poppy is sentenced to hang for a heinous murder. When she claims to be pregnant, a jury of 12 matrons are taken from their housework to decide whether she’s telling the truth, or simply trying to escape the noose.

With only midwife Lizzy Luke prepared to defend the girl, and a mob baying for blood outside, the matrons wrestle with their new authority, and the devil in their midst.


An interesting pair of shows played in repertory come to the Old Red Lion pub theatre from 7th January to 1st February. Both penned by (and featuring) Rosalind Blessed, LULLABIES FOR THE LOST and THE DELIGHTS OF DOGS AND THE PROBLEMS OF PEOPLE. LULLABIES looks at the struggles of modern mental health, exploring depression, social anxiety, childlessness, miscarriage, hoarding and eating disorders whilst remaining full of humour, understanding and ultimately hope. DELIGHTS looks at love gone wrong through the lens of a disintegrating relationship, when trying to identify hero and villain is not as easy as it may first seem.


VAULT Festival

The VAULT FESTIVAL 2020 starts on 28 January and runs until 22 March. London’s largest and most interesting festival of upcoming work and rising artists, it’s like having all the fun of going to the Edinburgh Fringe but without the pricey travel and accommodation. Established in 2014 by Tim Wilson, Mat Burtcher and Andy George, it has rapidly grown to be an integral part of London’s winter scene. Last year 80,000 people enjoyed over 420 performances, which is why this is a festival with something for everyone.


Off West End – Last Chance

ENDING JANUARY 4th The perfect New Year theatre treat for adults is at the new Boulevard Theatre. GHOST QUARTET is a dizzying, intoxicating musical of love, loss and spirits – of both the spectral and alcoholic kind. Three-time Tony Award-nominee Dave Malloy’s hauntingly beautiful song cycle is a story about stories themselves; how we tell them, how we hear them, and how they evolve, intertwine and draw us in. With a standout cast including Carly Bawden and Zubin Varla this is a must-see show, especially after the triumph of Malloy’s other show, the excellent PRELUDES which played at Southwark Playhouse in October.

But back to GHOST QUARTET. Rose has a problem. She’s been betrayed by her lover, a local tree-dwelling astronomer, with her very own sister. Rose seeks vengeance and a passing bear might just offer the answer. But his services come at a price: a pot of honey, one piece of stardust, a secret baptism – and a photo of a ghost.

A kaleidoscopic journey spanning continents, centuries and the cosmos ensues. But even through the fogs of time and a haze of whiskey, Rose can’t shake the feeling that she’s done this all before…

Dave Malloy is the writer of the Broadway smash-hit Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812. GHOST QUARTET runs until January 4th. Sit back and enjoy….

Read my **** review of GHOST QUARTET here


ENDING JANUARY 5th CIRCUS 1903 is an utterly delightful throwback to the glory days of the circus when skilled and brave artists risked life and limb to bring us thrills as they spun high in the air, juggled with impossible numbers of clubs, contorted themselves into unbelievable shapes and generally made the near-impossible happen right before our eyes.

Held together by a very accomplished ringmaster who has the showman’s gift of a pinch of cynicism and a pound of heart, he marshals the interludes between the acts with audience participation from some of the smaller audience members, who are all as delighted and excited as the older kids in the room. The icing on the cake is the appearance of the life-size elephant puppets from the people who brought us WAR HORSE, who once again make us believe totally in the grace and personality of these brilliantly brought to life creations.

This is a terrific show for all the family which lets you remember what it was like to be a kid and sit in wonder. Well worth a trip!

ENDING JANUARY 11th Jermyn Street Theatre’s ONE MILLION TINY PLAYS ABOUT BRITAIN by Craig Taylor ends soon.

“You remember every packet of crisps you’ve eaten, then?”

A couple peer into an estate agent’s window; two sports fans have a heart-to-heart in the loo; a daughter has questions about her mother’s love life; and as a father helps his son tie his football boots, he realises they are growing apart. If you keep your eyes and ears open, there are a million tiny plays happening every day.

Originally published in The Guardian, this collage of scenes now form a hugely entertaining and addictive evening in the theatre. It will change the way you listen to the world around you, and train journeys will never be the same again.

ENDING JANUARY 18th The ever-reliable Orange Tree in Richmond caps a remarkable year of must-see shows with Paul Miller’s perceptive and human revival of Bernard Shaw’s play CANDIDA. If you enjoy well-crafted drama expertly presented, this is a real theatre treat.

Eugene believes in love, free-thinking and liberation: James in social justice for all and conventional married life for himself. Candida believes in her own strength and her right to run her life as she wants.

A young man with the soul of a poet clashes with a popular Socialist preacher and threatens his domestic happiness. Only Candida can decide who is the stronger – and who’s to be the winner.

With a superb cast, spare but effective design and Miller’s warm and bright direction, CANDIDA is unmissable. It plays at the Orange Tree, extended until January 18th.

Read my **** review of CANDIDA here


ENDING JANUARY 18th At the Bush Theatre is I WANNA BE YOURS

Ella is from Yorkshire. Haseeb is from London. They order a pizza. House red for Ella. Hot chocolate for Haseeb.

I think I’m falling in love with you.’

People and playlists. Christmas and Eid. Travelcards and Megabuses. London to Leeds. Love is more than just a game for two. Especially when there’s an elephant in the room.

A tender, funny, lyrical play about finding love and holding onto it with everything you’ve got, I WANNA BE YOURS is the debut play from Zia Ahmed. The show is fully BSL integrated.

Read my **** review of I WANNA BE YOURS here


ENDING JANUARY 18th A World Premiere written and directed by Olivier Award-winning director Bijan Sheibani (Barber Shop Chronicles, The Brothers Size), THE ARRIVAL plays the Bush Theatre.

“I’ve spent so much of my life wondering…passing people on the street… and now, yeah… you’re here”.

When Tom and Samad meet for the first time, they are stunned by the similarities they share. In spite of Tom’s adoption and all the years spent apart, the two brothers are joined by an undeniable biological bond.

But as they become closer and their lives entangle, they realise that finding each other comes at a price. THE ARRIVAL is a taut family drama about obsession, betrayal and the human need to belong.


ENDING JANUARY 19th For young theatregoers aged 3 or over, the perfect treat is a tiger. Not just any old tiger, though. THE TIGER WHO CAME TO TEA is an hour’s worth of jolly fun, song and dance with all the characters from Judith Kerr’s much-loved book transferred to the stage through the skilled pen of master storyteller David Wood. As an adult, I loved seeing and hearing the children’s reactions to the story and almost felt like a kid myself again. Heck, I even joined in the Tiger Dance! If you haven’t seen it, go; and if you have seen it, find some kids to take again! The Olivier Award-nominated show plays daytimes until January 19th at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in the West End.


ENDING JANUARY 23rd FAIRVIEW by Jackie Sibblies Drury won both the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for female playwrights.

It’s Grandma’s birthday and the Frasier family have gathered to celebrate. Beverly just wants everything to run smoothly, but Tyrone has missed his flight, Keisha is freaking out about college and Grandma has locked herself in the bathroom. But what else is wrong with this picture?…..

An interrogation of our subtly destructive preconceptions,  FAIRVIEW plays at the Young Vic an extended season to 23 January following a sell-out run in New York.

Read my ****1/2 review of FAIRVIEW here


ENDING FEBRUARY 1st C’est Magnifique! Achieving the near-impossible task of translating a unique French movie to the stage, and doing so in some style, this AMELIE will bring a smile to your lips and warmth to your heart, as we follow our heroine helping others but finding it hardest to help herself. With a tuneful score and dynamic Audrey Brisson as Amelie, this is your passport to joie de vivre. Playing a season at The Other Palace Theatre in London to February 1st.

Read my **** review of AMELIE here


Continuing

If you’re looking for a fluffy, light musical confection then float along to the Menier Chocolate Factory where THE BOY FRIEND, Sandy Wilson’s all-singing all-dancing love letter to 1920s musical comedies has its first major London revival in over 10 years.  Set in Madame Dubonnet’s finishing school in the south of France, the school’s perfect young ladies burst into song at the drop of a cloche hat, and forbidden boy friends are forever popping through the French windows to gaily sing and dance with them. Since its premiere in 1953, it has become one of the most beloved British musicals of all time.

The production sees Matthew White renew his collaboration with the Menier – where he previously directed SHE LOVES ME, CANDIDE, and SWEET CHARITY. Reuniting Olivier- winning choreographer Bill Deamer with White from their stunning Olivier Award-winning TOP HAT, this will be a treat – you can check your cares at the door and just relax. Enjoy! The show runs to 7 March.


Outside London

Northampton/ Salisbury

Positively laden with glowing five- and four- star reviews, Jerry Herman’s classic musical MAME is back- and how! When young Patrick goes to stay with his Auntie Mame, he walks into a fast-living world of fun and and joy. It will be a real treat to see two-time Olivier-winner Tracie Bennett (Follies) as Mame, with Darren Day and Harriet Thorpe (Absolutely Fabulous) (as Mame’s “old, old, old friend” Vera Charles). Get set for some high-octane musical fun! The celebrated score includes the rousing title number, plus “Open a New Window,” “If He Walked into My Life,” “We Need a Little Christmas,” “Bosom Buddies” and “That’s How Young I Feel.” Good to see that rising star producer Katy Lipson -who has now made so many excellent smaller-scale musicals – is starting to move into the bigger shows. Congratulations to everyone involved! The show visits Northampton from 7-11 January and Salisbury from 21-26 January. Hurry! It’s your last chance!


Touring the UK

Anyone who loves the Latin crossover music of Gloria Estefan will enjoy ON YOUR FEET! It has had mixed but mostly positive reviews, unanimous in the musical content of the show. It looks good and sounds just great, with a brilliant band (worth the price of admission alone) who never let the energy flag.

Featuring 26 hits, this Tony Award nominated show ran on Broadway for two years, for over 750 performances. ON YOUR FEET! is the inspiring true love story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan and charts their journey from Cuba to the streets of Miami and finally to international superstardom. Featuring some of the most iconic pop songs of the era, including “Rhythm is Gonna Get You”, “Conga”, “Get On Your Feet”, “Don’t Want To Lose You Now” and “1-2-3” and many more.

ON YOUR FEET! is directed by two-time Tony Award® winner Jerry Mitchell (Kinky Boots, Legally Blonde), with choreography by Olivier Award-winner Sergio Trujillo (Jersey Boys) and book by Academy Award® winner Alexander Dinelaris (Birdman). See it in January at Canterbury and continuing to tour into May.

Read my ***.5 review of the show here


NT Live Broadcasts

January brings numerous encore screenings of two NTLive broadcasts to screens around the UK and further afield. You can still enjoy Andrew Scott in Noel Coward’s PRESENT LAUGHTER, the comedy hit ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS with James Corden, and FLEABAG, HANSARD and SMALL ISLAND also appear in selected encore screenings.

To find screenings in your area, check out the schedule of NT Live website, details here.


Read my Theatre Preview roundup for London’s Barbican Life magazine (Winter 2019/20 issue)

If you are a resident of the Barbican Estate in London, you may already have seen my regular theatre preview articles in the excellent quarterly BARBICAN LIFE magazine, covering all the exciting and innovative theatre productions staged in the next three months at the world-renowned Barbican Centre.

If you haven’t, then please click on the link to go directly to the theatre preview article here. Enjoy!


December’s top shows

Welcome to December’s show highlights. Here are my picks of the most interesting shows that you can find around London and the UK.

Off-West End

Opening

C’est Magnifique! Achieving the near-impossible task of translating a unique French movie to the stage, and doing so in some style, this AMELIE will bring a smile to your lips and warmth to your heart, as we follow our heroine helping others but finding it hardest to help herself. With a tuneful score and dynamic Audrey Brisson as Amelie, this is your passport to joie de vivre. Playing a season at The Other Palace Theatre in London to February 1st.

Read my **** review of AMELIE here


The ever-reliable Orange Tree in Richmond caps a remarkable year of must-see shows with Paul Miller’s perceptive and human revival of Bernard Shaw’s play CANDIDA. If you enjoy well-crafted drama expertly presented, this is London’s best Christmas theatre treat.

Eugene believes in love, free-thinking and liberation: James in social justice for all and conventional married life for himself. Candida believes in her own strength and her right to run her life as she wants.

A young man with the soul of a poet clashes with a popular Socialist preacher and threatens his domestic happiness. Only Candida can decide who is the stronger – and who’s to be the winner.

With a superb cast, spare but effective design and Miller’s warm and bright direction, CANDIDA is unmissable. It plays at the Orange Tree until January 11th.


FAIRVIEW by Jackie Sibblies Drury won both the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for female playwrights.

It’s Grandma’s birthday and the Frasier family have gathered to celebrate. Beverly just wants everything to run smoothly, but Tyrone has missed his flight, Keisha is freaking out about college and Grandma has locked herself in the bathroom.

An interrogation of our subtly destructive preconceptions,  FAIRVIEW plays at the Young Vic to 18 January following a sell-out run in New York.


If you’re looking for a fluffy, light musical confection then float along to the Menier Chocolate Factory where THE BOY FRIEND, Sandy Wilson’s all-singing all-dancing love letter to 1920s musical comedies has its first major London revival in over 10 years.  Set in Madame Dubonnet’s finishing school in the south of France, the school’s perfect young ladies burst into song at the drop of a cloche hat, and forbidden boy friends are forever popping through the French windows to gaily sing and dance with them. Since its premiere in 1953, it has become one of the most well-loved British musicals of all time.

The production sees Matthew White renew his collaboration with the Menier – where he previously directed SHE LOVES ME, CANDIDE, and SWEET CHARITY. Reuniting Olivier- winning choreographer Bill Deamer with White from their stunning Olivier Award-winning TOP HAT, this will be a treat – you can check your cares at the door and just relax. Enjoy! The show runs to 7 March.


Anything from Paines Plough is worth a look and I WANNA BE YOURS , a co-production with Tamasha, sounds interesting. It has been touring the UK over the last six weeks and so should be in good shape for its London run at the Bush Theatre from December 4th to January 18th

Ella is from Yorkshire. Haseeb is from London. They order a pizza. House red for Ella. Hot chocolate for Haseeb.

I think I’m falling in love with you.’

People and playlists. Christmas and Eid. Travelcards and Megabuses. London to Leeds. Love is more than just a game for two. Especially when there’s an elephant in the room.

A tender, funny, lyrical play about finding love and holding onto it with everything you’ve got, I WANNA BE YOURS is the debut play from Zia Ahmed. The show is fully BSL integrated.


Quirky and kinky, and with a rocking Elvis soundtrack* (*NB: is NOT a musical!), MARTHA, JOSIE AND THE CHINESE ELVIS is a good choice for an ‘adults only’ alternative Christmas treat – a sweet yet saucy celebration of life’s outsiders.

Josie’s tired. Tired of the Bolton winter. Tired of looking after daydreaming daughter Brenda-Marie. Tired of working as a dominatrix to make ends meet. Too tired to celebrate turning forty. But her favourite client Lionel insists on a birthday party and, knowing Josie’s a huge Elvis fan, invites a very special guest. Just as hips start swinging, somebody no-one expected arrives and skeletons come tumbling out of the closet… Writer of Humble Boy (National Theatre) Charlotte Jones’ hilarious and heartfelt comedy about finding a place to fit in won the 1998 Pearson Best Play Award and, on its twenty-first anniversary, receives its first ever London production, from comedy specialists Signal Theatre Company. Playing at the Park Theatre from 11 December to 4 January.


Playing at the Tristan Bates Theatre until 14th December, NOR WOMAN NEITHER is written and performed by Ingrid Schiller and Verity Kirk.

As a girl she dreams, as a woman she screams.

In a world burdened with the pressure of success, how far would you go to get what you want?

Meet Laura, an actress: failing but failing confidently whilst drowning in a torrent of love, lust and ambition. Faced with a life-changing dilemma, Laura rollercoasters through her torrid past in deciding what to do.

NOR WOMAN NEITHER is a 60 minute dark comedy with a kick


ONE MILLION TINY PLAYS ABOUT BRITAIN by Craig Taylor runs at the Jermyn Street Theatre from December 4th to January 11th.

“You remember every packet of crisps you’ve eaten, then?”

A couple peer into an estate agent’s window; two sports fans have a heart-to-heart in the loo; a daughter has questions about her mother’s love life; and as a father helps his son tie his football boots, he realises they are growing apart. If you keep your eyes and ears open, there are a million tiny plays happening every day.

Originally published in The Guardian, this collage of scenes now form a hugely entertaining and addictive evening in the theatre. It will change the way you listen to the world around you, and train journeys will never be the same again.


For young theatregoers aged 3 or over, the perfect treat is a tiger. Not just any old tiger, though. THE TIGER WHO CAME TO TEA is an hour’s worth of jolly fun, song and dance with all the characters from Judith Kerr’s much-loved book transferred to the stage through the skilled pen of master storyteller David Wood. As an adult, I loved seeing and hearing the children’s reactions to the story and almost felt like a kid myself again. Heck, I even joined in the Tiger Dance! If you haven’t seen it, go; and if you have seen it, find some kids to take! The Olivier Award-nominated show plays from December 9th to January 19th at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in the West End.


Off West End – Last Chance

The perfect Christmas theatre treat for adults is at the new Boulevard Theatre. GHOST QUARTET is an intoxicating musical of love, loss and spirits – of both the spectral and alcoholic kind. Three-time Tony Award-nominee Dave Malloy’s hauntingly beautiful song cycle is a story about stories themselves; how we tell them, how we hear them, and how they evolve, intertwine and draw us in. With an standout cast including Carly Bawden and Zubin Varla this is a must-see show, especially after the triumph of Malloy’s other show, the excellent PRELUDES which played at Southwark Playhouse in October.

But back to GHOST QUARTET. Rose has a problem. She’s been betrayed by her lover, a local tree-dwelling astronomer, with her very own sister. Rose seeks vengeance and a passing bear might just offer the answer. But his services come at a price: a pot of honey, one piece of stardust, a secret baptism – and a photo of a ghost.

A kaleidoscopic journey spanning continents, centuries and the cosmos ensues. But even through the fogs of time and a haze of whiskey, Rose can’t shake the feeling that she’s done this all before…

Dave Malloy is the writer of the Broadway smash-hit Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812. GHOST QUARTET runs until January 4th. Sit back and enjoy….

Read my **** review of GHOST QUARTET here


#WeAreArrested  (running to 7 December) is Arcola Theatre’s first co-production with the Royal Shakespeare Company. It’s a vital story about the cost of reporting the truth in the age of fake news.

When a journalist is sent a flash-drive containing critical evidence of illegal government activity, he is duty-bound to publish the story. But with the nation destabilised and divided, a sinister power is eroding the rule of law. What price will he pay for speaking out?

Adapted from the book by Can Dündar, who was arrested for publishing footage of Turkish State Intelligence sending weapons into Syria, this deeply personal and universal story finds urgent new life as authoritarian politics spread across the globe.


A World Premiere written and directed by Olivier Award-winning director Bijan Sheibani (Barber Shop Chronicles, The Brothers Size), THE ARRIVAL plays the Bush Theatre until 18 January.

“I’ve spent so much of my life wondering…passing people on the street… and now, yeah… you’re here”.

When Tom and Samad meet for the first time, they are stunned by the similarities they share. In spite of Tom’s adoption and all the years spent apart, the two brothers are joined by an undeniable biological bond.

But as they become closer and their lives entangle, they realise that finding each other comes at a price. THE ARRIVAL is a taut family drama about obsession, betrayal and the human need to belong.


I have to draw a new map. I have to be seen. For her. For all of us!

Since her ordeal five years ago, nineteen-year-old Nene rarely leaves home. Secure within her mum’s embrace, Nene now keeps the outside world securely on the other side of her bedroom window.

But weekly visits from her best friend Lea start to fill the void and on one unexpected day, when she is finally beyond the walls of her sanctuary with her vibrant, funny, and spirited girlfriends, a long-forgotten spark is powerfully reignited in Nene, one which will change her direction forever…

Chinonyerem Odimba’s poignant and life affirming new play UNKNOWN RIVERS is a testament to the extraordinary powers of female friendship – where there’s turmoil, trauma and hardship, there’s also love, bravery and hope, making it possible to go with the flow… and live.  Odimba’s plays include Princess and the Hustler, which is currently on a UK Tour. UNKNOWN RIVERS runs at Hampstead Downstairs until December 7.

Read my ***1/2 review of UNKNOWN RIVERS here


NT Live Broadcasts

December brings encore screenings of two NTLive broadcasts to screens around the UK and further afield. You can enjoy Andrew Scott in Noel Coward’s PRESENT LAUGHTER, recorded earlier in the year at the Old Vic. Also, the tenth anniversary screening of the comedy hit ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS with James Corden continues encore screenings around the UK. FLEABAG also appears in selected encore screenings.

To find screenings in your area check out the schedule of NT Live website, details here.


November’s top shows

Welcome to November’s show highlights. Here are my picks of the most interesting shows that you can find around London and the UK.

Off-West End

Opening

The new Boulevard Theatre’s opening production is GHOST QUARTET, an intoxicating musical of love, loss and spirits – of both the spectral and alcoholic kind. Three-time Tony Award-nominee Dave Malloy’s hauntingly beautiful song cycle is a story about stories themselves; how we tell them, how we hear them, and how they evolve, intertwine and draw us in. With an intriguing cast including Carly Bawden and Zubin Varla this looks set to be a highlight, especially after the triumph of Malloy’s other show, the excellent PRELUDES which played at Southwark Playhouse in October.

But back to GHOST QUARTET. Rose has a problem. She’s been betrayed by her lover, a local tree-dwelling astronomer, with her very own sister. Rose seeks vengeance and a passing bear might just offer the answer. But his services come at a price: a pot of honey, one piece of stardust, a secret baptism – and a photo of a ghost.

A kaleidoscopic journey spanning continents, centuries and the cosmos ensues. But even through the fogs of time and a haze of whiskey, Rose can’t shake the feeling that she’s done this all before…

Dave Malloy is the writer of the Broadway smash-hit Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812. GHOST QUARTET runs until January 4th.


C’est Magnifique! Achieving the near-impossible task of translating a unique French movie to the stage, and doing so in some style, this AMELIE will bring a smile to your lips and warmth to your heart, as we follow our heroine helping others but finding it hardest to help herself. With a tuneful score and dynamic Audrey Brisson as Amelie, this is your passport to joie de vivre. Playing a season at The Other Palace Theatre in London from 29 November to February 1st.

Read my **** review of the show here


At the Royal Court, Ed Thomas’s ON BEAR RIDGE plays until 23rd November

“One minute we had customers, the next minute there was no-one.”

In a lost village, blurred by redrawn borders, hidden under a crumb on the map, Bear Ridge Stores still stands. After a hundred years, the family butchers and grocers – a place for odds and ends, contraband goods, and the last petrol pump for 30 miles – is now silent.

But owners John Daniel (Rhys Ifans) and Noni (Rakie Ayola) are not leaving. They are defiantly drinking the remaining whiskey and remembering good times, when everyone was on the same side and the old language shone.

Outside in the dark, a figure is making their way towards them.

A semi-autobiographical story about the places we leave behind, the indelible marks they make on us, and the unreliable memories we hold onto.


#WeAreArrested  (running from 13 November to 7 December) is Arcola Theatre’s first co-production with the Royal Shakespeare Company. It’s a vital story about the cost of reporting the truth in the age of fake news.

When a journalist is sent a flash-drive containing critical evidence of illegal government activity, he is duty-bound to publish the story. But with the nation destabilised and divided, a sinister power is eroding the rule of law. What price will he pay for speaking out?

Adapted from the book by Can Dündar, who was arrested for publishing footage of Turkish State Intelligence sending weapons into Syria, this deeply personal and universal story finds urgent new life as authoritarian politics spread across the globe.


“It doesn’t feel like a disease, it feels like… falling in love. Your heart races, and your skin tingles. It’s perfect. At first.”

Running until 23 November, CHEMISTRY receives its European premiere at the Finborough Theatre

Steph struggles with chronic depression. Jamie just overachieved himself off the deep end. When they meet in their psychiatrist’s office, sparks fly and they stumble unexpectedly into a beautiful relationship. But how do you trust someone else when you are already in a battle with your own brain? 



Last year, 70.9 million prescriptions for antidepressants were dispensed in England alone, while, in the United States, an estimated 15.5 million Americans have taken antidepressant medication for at least five years and over. With dark humour, a beautiful soundtrack and captivating visuals, CHEMISTRY is an intimate, frank and uncompromising examination of the chemicals we take and how they impact our ability to love.


GERM FREE ADOLESCENT is an OCD love story that asks: what exactly is ‘normal’ anyway…? Running until November 9th at The Bunker.

Ashley is 16. She’s lived in Medway for 15 years and 6 months. She has 2,354 leaflets on sexual health. She knows exactly how many she has, because she’s counted them 1,582 times… At 7.48pm tonight, she will have been going out with Ollie for exactly 3 months, which he thinks means it’s time to take their relationship to the next level; especially given her position as their school’s resident expert on sexual health. But what if counting leaflets can’t protect Ashley from getting hurt when she decides to take her biggest risk yet?

1 in 10 young people experience a mental health problem, but how do you go about discussing this with your first boyfriend or girlfriend? Written by Natalie Mitchell, the play draws on her own mental health experiences, and the painful yet often funny stories collected during an extensive research and development process. Fierce and funny, serious and irreverent – this play will resonate with anyone who’s ever worried they’re not “normal.”


“He’ll look different. My little boy. When I get out. Like… to the picture I’ve got in my head. Be like meeting him all over again. Be a whole new start.”

The winner of the annual Papatango New Writing Prize is always worth seeing. This year’s winner, Samuel Bailey’s SHOOK, tenderly and honestly examines the young men society shuts away.

Instead of GCSEs, Cain, Riyad and Jonjo got sentences. Locked up in a young offenders’ institution, they trade sweets, chat rubbish, kill time – and await fatherhood.

Grace’s job is to turn these teenagers into parents, ready to take charge of their futures. But can they grow up quickly enough to escape the system?

Running at Southwark Playhouse until 23rd November.


“I’ve spent so much of my life wondering…passing people on the street… and now, yeah… you’re here”.

A World Premiere written and directed by Olivier Award-winning director Bijan Sheibani (Barber Shop Chronicles, The Brothers Size), THE ARRIVAL plays the Bush Theatre from 21 November to 18 January.

When Tom and Samad meet for the first time, they are stunned by the similarities they share. In spite of Tom’s adoption and all the years spent apart, the two brothers are joined by an undeniable biological bond.

But as they become closer and their lives entangle, they realise that finding each other comes at a price. THE ARRIVAL is a taut family drama about obsession, betrayal and the human need to belong.


Following the sold-out hit MADAME RUBINSTEIN in 2017, Miriam Margolyes returns to Park Theatre in the World Premiere black comedy SYDNEY AND THE OLD GIRL.

Nell and Sydney Stock are at war – and it’s mutually assured destruction. After 50 years cooped up in the same shabby East London house where ghosts of a hard life still linger, the points scored in never ending arguments continue to bind the pair together. And then, there is the not so simple matter of the inheritance…

As the twisted game between mother and son reaches breaking point, the care worker finds herself an unwitting pawn, played from both sides. Nell will stop at nothing for her bitter triumph over Sydney – but he has his own plans on how to end this for ever.

Acerbic humour from the inimitable Miriam Margolyes in a rare London stage performance alongside co-stars Mark Hadfield and Vivien Parry make SYDNEY AND THE OLD GIRL a production worth seeing. Running Until 30 November.


“If I had Wings I’d fly.”

Following a run in Swansea, London audiences have a rare chance to see the renowned stage and screen director Sean Mathias revive his award-winning 1985 play A PRAYER FOR WINGS.

Rita lives in a derelict church in Swansea with her disabled mother, for whom she has been carer since she was ten years old. With Mam suffering from multiple sclerosis, and no family or friends to turn to for support, Rita fills her days with romantic dreams. She yearns for the love of a man, fantasises of escaping on a cruise ship to America and aches to fly away to a life of beauty and love.

With an all-Welsh cast, this mesmerising and darkly entertaining production tells a tale of bravery with startling humour and passion, exploring the intense conflict of care, family and interdependence, set against a woman’s hopes and dreams. The show runs at the King’s Head Theatre until November 23rd.


I have to draw a new map. I have to be seen. For her. For all of us!

Since her ordeal five years ago, nineteen-year-old Nene rarely leaves home. Secure within her mum’s embrace, Nene now keeps the outside world securely on the other side of her bedroom window.

But weekly visits from her best friend Lea start to fill the void and on one unexpected day, when she is finally beyond the walls of her sanctuary with her vibrant, funny, and spirited girlfriends, a long-forgotten spark is powerfully reignited in Nene, one which will change her direction forever…

Chinonyerem Odimba’s poignant and life affirming new play UNKNOWN RIVERS is a testament to the extraordinary powers of female friendship – where there’s turmoil, trauma and hardship, there’s also love, bravery and hope, making it possible to go with the flow… and live.  Odimba’s plays include Princess and the Hustler, which is currently on a UK Tour. UNKNOWN RIVERS runs at Hampstead Downstairs until December 7.


Nouveau Riche and Omnibus Theatre present QUEENS OF SHEBA at Battersea Arts Centre from 18 to 23 November.

At a London nightclub in 2015, the lives of a group of friends were changed forever when confronted with misogynoir – where sexism meets racism – in its most vicious form.

Turned away from a nightclub for being “too black”, four passionate women re-affirm the joys of sisterhood as they tell hilarious, moving and uplifting stories that shed light on the lives of everyday women battling what shouldn’t be an everyday problem.

Written by Jessica L. Hagan, QUEENS OF SHEBA is an hour-long journey of laughter and reflection.


A HAUNTED EXISTENCE
DIFFERENT FROM THE OTHERS

Two interesting shows addressing gay history appear in November. The first, running from 7 to 9 November at Battersea Arts Centre, is set in the 1950s.

In A HAUNTED EXISTENCE, Tom Marshman weaves together history and hearsay to highlight turmoil, stigma and heartbreak and tell the story of Britain’s very recent, shameful past, through the lives of gay men living at a time when homosexuality was illegal.

In the early 1950s, 17-year-old Geoffrey Patrick Williamson was on the Exeter-to-Bristol train when he got into a conversation with another man – also travelling in his train compartment – who accused Geoffrey of making ‘improper approaches’. The other man was a Railway Officer in plain clothes. Geoffrey was arrested at the next stop. When questioned, Williamson revealed the names of men he had had sex with, so beginning a domino effect of arrests, prison sentences, aversion therapy and suicide.

Tom Marshman skilfully blends creative technology, music and projection as he retraces a forgotten true story.

At the White Bear Theatre until November 16th is DIFFERENT FROM THE OTHERS an intriguing show about a film made just after the end of World War One. In 1918-1920, there existed a brief, an ever so brief moment, a mere 20 months when sanity prevailed. Men held hands in public, Moscow and St Petersburg were gay and free from discrimination, and Germany, feeling the full brunt of blame had yet to establish itself.

In that tiny window of opportunity came something quite extraordinary. Four years after “Birth of a Nation”, before Valentino and Garbo there came a full-length motion picture so advanced in its depiction of same-sex love that it could have be written by modern gay rights activists.

The author, Claudio Macor, stumbled across the film on YouTube, gay history that demanded to be told. which inspired his show- the World premiere of DIFFERENT FROM THE OTHERS.


Off West End – Last Chance

Okay listen up, you have seventy-five years to be all you can be!

LITTLE BABY JESUS, a 2011 work by writer/performer Arinzé Kene, introduces three characters. Joanne is dipped in rudeness, rolled in attitude and is fighting to keep her life afloat. Sensitive and mature he may be, yet Kehinde struggles with an obsession for mixed race girls as he eyes his place on the social ladder. Rugrat, class clown and playground loudmouth, just wants to make it past GCSEs and keep their name on the tip of your tongue.

As their lives collide and intertwine, three extraordinary young people relay the moments they ‘grew up’. Three remarkable stories. Three incredible journeys.

Directed by Tristan Fynn-Aiduenu, winner of the JMK Award 2019, LITTLE BABY JESUS runs at the Orange Tree Theatre until 16 November.


Praised as “one of the freshest voices in American theatre” by the New York Times, Pulitzer Prize-winner Annie Baker returns to the National Theatre (following acclaimed runs of her mesmerising shows The Flick and John) with her latest extraordinary play THE ANTIPODES. Their phones switched off, a group of people sit around a table telling, categorising and theorising stories. This is a world that is both familiar and fantastical. Their real purpose is never quite clear, but they continue on, searching for the monstrous. THE ANTIPODES asks what value stories have for a world in crisis. Playing at the National Theatre until 23 November.


FALSETTOS , the double Tony Award winning musical from James Lapine and William Finn finally gets its London premiere (courtesy of Selladoor Productions) at the Other Palace until November 23. Featuring a brilliant cast including Laura Pitt-Pulford (LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE), Natasha J Barnes (WASTED) and Daniel Boys (AVENUE Q) amongst others.

An amusing and poignant look at a modern family, FALSETTOS revolves around the life of a gay man Marvin, his wife, his lover, his soon to be bar mitzvahed son, their psychiatrist, and the lesbian neighbours, Originally created under the spectre of the AIDS crisis, this ground-breaking musical about family dynamics manages to remain buoyant and significant even as it moves towards its heartbreaking conclusion, which reminds us that love is all that really matters.

Read my **** review of the show here


Outside London

Manchester/ Northampton/ Salisbury

Until November 9th With five and four star reviews, Jerry Herman’s classic musical MAME is back- and how! When young Patrick goes to stay with his Auntie Mame, he walks into a fast-living world of fun and and joy. It will be a real treat to see two-time Olivier-winner Tracie Bennett (Follies) (pictured above, top right) as Mame, with the great Tim Flavin (above, left) and Harriet Thorpe (Absolutely Fabulous) (pictured above, centre) as Mame’s “old, old, old friend” Vera Charles. Get set for some high-octane musical fun! The celebrated score includes the rousing title number, plus “Open a New Window,” “If He Walked into My Life,” “We Need a Little Christmas,” “Bosom Buddies” and “That’s How Young I Feel.” Good to see that rising star producer Katy Lipson -who has now made so many excellent smaller-scale musicals – is starting to move into the bigger shows. Congratulations to everyone involved! MAME plays Hope Mill Theatre till November 9th. The show visits Northampton and Salisbury in January 2020, and must tour the whole country soon!


Touring the UK

If you love the Latin crossover music of Gloria Estefan you will enjoy ON YOUR FEET! It has had mixed but mostly positive reviews, unanimous in the musical content of the show. It looks good and sounds just great, with a brilliant band (worth the price of admission alone) who never let the energy flag.

Featuring 26 hits, this Tony Award nominated show ran on Broadway for two years, for over 750 performances. ON YOUR FEET! is the inspiring true love story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan and charts their journey from Cuba to the streets of Miami and finally to international superstardom. Featuring some of the most iconic pop songs of the era, including “Rhythm is Gonna Get You”, “Conga”, “Get On Your Feet”, “Don’t Want To Lose You Now” and “1-2-3” and many more.

ON YOUR FEET! is directed by two-time Tony Award® winner Jerry Mitchell (Kinky Boots, Legally Blonde), with choreography by Olivier Award-winner Sergio Trujillo (Jersey Boys) and book by Academy Award® winner Alexander Dinelaris (Birdman). See it in November at Manchester, Belfast and Norwich before the show takes a break and returns in January 2020 to visit Canterbury and more into May 2020.

Read my ***.5 review of the show here


NT Live Broadcasts

November brings two NTLive broadcasts to screens around the UK and further afield. On November 7th The National Theatre’s sold out production of HANSARD will be coming to a venue near you. And from November 28th you can enjoy Andrew Scott in Noel Coward’s PRESENT LAUGHTER, recorded earlier in the year at the Old Vic.

To find screenings in your area check out the schedule of NT Live website, details here.

Other Broadcasts

The recent spectacular West End revival of 42nd STREET will be screened in over 550 cinemas across the UK and Ireland from November 10th

There is a full list of venues available here.

Advertised as “Broadway’s greatest show on London biggest stage”, the production stars Emmerdale‘s Tom Lister (Julian Marsh), Philip Bertioli (Billy Lawlor), Clare Halse (Peggy Sawyer), and Bonnie Langford (Dorothy Brock).

The classic story of 42nd Street follows the lives of performers as they struggle to fulfil their dreams of stardom on Broadway. The show has a book by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble, music by Harry Warren and lyrics by Al Dubin. It originally ran in London for five years and most recently its revival ran almost two years at the 2200-seat Theatre Royal Drury Lane.

Gaining five and four star reviews from critics and audiences alike, the huge cast of 60 and orchestra of 20 ensure that this will be a spectacular show to enjoy for all the family.


October’s top shows

Welcome to October’s show highlights. Here are my picks of the most interesting shows that you can find around London and the UK.

Off-West End

Opening

From October 24th, the new Boulevard Theatre’s opening production is GHOST QUARTET, an intoxicating musical of love, loss and spirits – of both the spectral and alcoholic kind. Three-time Tony Award-nominee Dave Malloy’s hauntingly beautiful song cycle is a story about stories themselves; how we tell them, how we hear them, and how they evolve, intertwine and draw us in. With an intriguing cast including Carly Bawden and Zubin Varla this looks set to be a highlight, especially after Malloy’s other successful show, the excellent PRELUDES which is playing at Southwark Playhouse until October 12th (see below).

But back to GHOST QUARTET. Rose has a problem. She’s been betrayed by her lover, a local tree-dwelling astronomer, with her very own sister. Rose seeks vengeance and a passing bear might just offer the answer. But his services come at a price: a pot of honey, one piece of stardust, a secret baptism – and a photo of a ghost.

A kaleidoscopic journey spanning continents, centuries and the cosmos ensues. But even through the fogs of time and a haze of whiskey, Rose can’t shake the feeling that she’s done this all before…

Dave Malloy is the writer of the Broadway smash-hit Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812.


BERYL Discover the inspiring story of Beryl Burton, the greatest woman on two wheels, in this revival of the 2014 trailblazing tale from writer Maxine Peake.

Beryl Burton MBE, OBE – twice World Road-race Champion, five times World Pursuit Champion – was never meant to cycle. In childhood, a serious illness left her with a weakened heart; doctors warned against strenuous exercise for the rest of her life. Yet, at 30, branded ‘the Yorkshire housewife’ and with no financial sponsorship, she became the first sportswoman in history to break a men’s competitive record.

Featuring a host of unforgettable characters and a great big dollop of Northern wit, Peake’s freewheeling play is the extraordinary true story of a woman who pushed at the limits, took on the status quo – and won. Playing at Arcola from 16 October to 16 November.


BABY REINDEER was one of the hits of this year’s Edinburgh Festival. When Edinburgh Comedy Award Winner Richard Gadd (Monkey See Monkey Do) offers a free cup of tea to a stranger, what appears to be a trivial interaction has ramifications far wider than he could ever have imagined.

This is a gripping debut play and chilling personal narrative exploring obsession, delusion, and the aftermath of a chance encounter. Directed by Olivier Award Winner Jon Brittain (Rotterdam), the show plays the Bush Theatre from 9 October to 9 November.



Bertrand Lesca and Nasi Voutsas are the internationally-acclaimed theatre makers behind EUROHOUSE and the award-winning PALMYRA. Their stripped-back shows play with humour, brutality and the impressive ability to flip between the two

Bert and Nasi return with a show entitled ONE. Locked in a deadpan double-act and a polarised world, they are both looking for a way to be together. But they get distracted by squabbles, insults, tap-dancing and one-upmanship. How will it end? You decide. 

ONE plays at the Battersea Arts Centre until October 19th


The Finborough Theatre continues its interesting finds from America with the European debut of hit Off-Broadway play THE NICETIES by Eleanor Burgess which runs from 1 to 26 October.

“There is one appropriate way of responding to a woman of color who says, I have an idea to assert, and that is to shut up and listen”

America. 2016. Within the stately office of an elite university two women united by their vision for the future, but divided on how to get there, meet to review a history paper that asks one big question: has America reached the moment for its real, radical, revolution?

When a clash of ideas becomes a complicated discussion about race, the niceties begin to wear thin and one woman is forced to put everything on the line in order to make her case.

As their private dispute explodes into a public war, the devastating consequences of their good intentions are laid bare, as both student and professor ask: Have we left it too late to repair our divided society?


Highly-praised at this year’s Edinburgh Festival, here’s a quick London season for haunting musical ISLANDER, playing at Southwark Playhouse from 2 to 26 October.

Eilidh stares out to sea and dreams of a new life beyond her lonely island. Myth and reality collide when the tide washes a mysterious stranger onto her beach, changing her life forever. Epic storytelling, intimately staged with a contemporary Scottish folk-inspired score.

The two-hander cast of Kirsty Findlay (Olivier Award Nominated, Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour) and Bethany Tennick perform a whole host of characters, while weaving, building and layering their voices using looping technology to create an expansive, ethereal soundscape for the ears and imagination.


Okay listen up, you have seventy-five years to be all you can be!

LITTLE BABY JESUS, a 2011 work by writer/performer Arinzé Kene, introduces three characters. Joanne is dipped in rudeness, rolled in attitude and is fighting to keep her life afloat. Sensitive and mature he may be, yet Kehinde struggles with an obsession for mixed race girls as he eyes his place on the social ladder. Rugrat, class clown and playground loudmouth, just wants to make it past GCSEs and keep their name on the tip of your tongue.

As their lives collide and intertwine, three extraordinary young people relay the moments they ‘grew up’. Three remarkable stories. Three incredible journeys.

Directed by Tristan Fynn-Aiduenu, winner of the JMK Award 2019, LITTLE BABY JESUS runs at the Orange Tree Theatre from 18 October to 16 November.


Playing to 19 October at the Greenwich Theatre, BROOKLYN THE MUSICAL was seen in New York in 2004 and now receives its European Premiere, starring Hiba Elchikhe (who was so good in FIVER at the Southwark Playhouse a few months ago) and John Addison (from the West End production of SCHOOL OF ROCK). The show also features Andrew Patrick-Walker (Bat Out of Hell), Sabrina Aloueche (We Will Rock You) and Emily-Mae (The Producers).  The cast alone make it worth a look, but as yet I haven’t heard the score.

BROOKLYN THE MUSICAL is a story within a story. A band of soulful street singers who meet up to share stories from their lives, and their story tonight: a young Parisian coming to America to search for fame and the father she never knew and the journey she embarks upon to find the soul of the city that bears her name.

Featuring a wide range of rock, pop and soul, these stories interweave to create an inspiring and touching musical that celebrates the energy and spirit of New York City.


Praised as “one of the freshest voices in American theatre” by the New York Times, Pulitzer Prize-winner Annie Baker returns to the National Theatre (following acclaimed runs of her mesmerising shows The Flick and John) with her latest extraordinary play THE ANTIPODES. Their phones switched off, a group of people sit around a table telling, categorising and theorising stories. This is a world that is both familiar and fantastical. Their real purpose is never quite clear, but they continue on, searching for the monstrous. THE ANTIPODES asks what value stories have for a world in crisis. Playing at the National Theatre from 21 October to 23 November.


We just haven’t had enough shows about sperm recently. So here, from the folk who brought you the sell-out comedy hit Planet Earth III, PRIVATES: A Sperm Odyssey sees Luke Rollason (“amazingly entertaining” Ed Fest Mag), Christian Brighty (“hilarious” List) and Tom Curzon (“charming” Chortle) perform as three sperm on an adventure as big as life itself.

In this new, award-winning show, these plucky Privates must survive basic training, hostile white blood cells and the most dramatic ejaculation sequence ever seen onstage to be the first to fertilise the egg and become a beautiful baby. A very funny, fantastical and very frank look at how we talk about sex, and why. Playing at the Soho Theatre on October 31 to November 2nd.


Sometimes I wake up in the morning and all the missed opportunities of my life stare at me, grind me down until I’m nothing. Nothing but dust.

A new darkly comic, absurdist play by James Mannion, MITES is a sinister exploration of the manipulation that lies beneath relationships, in particular of those who are mentally vulnerable in society.

A lonely woman, abandoned by her husband, lives in an isolated house with her outspoken, anthropomorphic cat, Bartholomew. One day she is visited by Ken, a Pest Controller, who claims to be her ex-husband returned to her. Deceived by his lies and obsessed with memories of the past, the woman accepts Ken into her life, despite the sceptical protestations of Bartholomew. As her self-deception grows and Ken’s true intentions become clear, how will she survive the competitive machinations of her two male companions? And is there more to Bartholomew than meets the eye? MITES plays at the Tristan Bates Theatre from 7 to 26 October.


Off West End – Last Chance

Until October 12th FAITH, HOPE AND CHARITY is an unmissable, quietly devastating look at the dereliction of the UK’s social service through a hugely compassionate lens. In a run-down community hall on the edge of town, a woman has been cooking lunch for those in need. A choir is starting up, run by a volunteer who’s looking for a new beginning. A mother is seeking help in her fight to keep her young daughter from being taken into care. An older man sits silently in the corner, the first to arrive, the last to leave. Outside the rain is falling.

FAITH, HOPE AND CHARITY is the culmination of a trilogy that began with BEYOND CARING – ‘Unforgettable’ (The Times) – and followed by LOVE – ‘the National’s play of the year, and then some’ (Evening Standard). Alexander Zeldin’s new play goes to the heart of our uncertain times. Playing at the National’s Dorfman Theatre from until October 12th.

Read my **** review of the show here


Until October 12th PRELUDES is mesmerising – a true original. Based on a true story of the composer genius Rachmaninoff’s sessions of hypnotherapy, PRELUDES is an intriguing new musical by three-time Tony Award-nominee Dave Malloy (Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, Ghost Quartet). It examines the crippling debilitation and harm the world can do to people, and how the dramatic and musical process can be used as therapy to restore them back into the fullest of creative lives. PRELUDES runs until October 12th at Southwark Playhouse.

Read my **** review of the show here


Until October 12th ANNA BELLA EEMA  “Something is coming. It’s either the interstate or the end of the world”. Precocious child Annabella lives in a deserted trailer park. Schooled by her eccentric mother Irene, she learns to co-exist with the vampires, werewolves and monsters that lurk in the world outside. Desperate to ward off the new highway that threatens the demolition of their home, Annabella steps outside to build a girl out of mud. The girl comes to life. The girl is Anna Bella Eema.

Pulitzer Prize finalist Lisa D’Amour’s (Detroit, National Theatre) part ghost story, part fairytale, part coming-of-age fantasy, ANNA BELLA EEMA plays at the Arcola until October 12th.

Read my *** review of the show here


Until October 13th TORCH SONG, Harvey Fierstein’s Tony-winning play about the life and loves of a drag artist in 1970s New York runs until October 13th at the Turbine Theatre in Battersea, next to the Power Station. This inaugural production at the venue is directed by Olivier-winner Drew McOnie


Until October 5th FOR SERVICES RENDERED A warm September afternoon in an idyllic English village. Tea is served on the terrace. Sounds of a tennis party float across the lawn. But this England has no place for the heroes of the First World War. No jobs to sustain them, no mantelpieces for their medals, and no money for their debts. Against the odds, three sisters must carve new paths in an uncertain world.

Somerset Maugham’s sharply observed and passionate play is a Chekhovian examination of desire, frustration and hope.

FOR SERVICES RENDERED runs at the Jermyn Street Theatre until October 5th, and is directed by JST’s Artistic Director, Tom Littler.


Continuing

FALSETTOS , the double Tony Award winning musical from James Lapine and William Finn finally gets its London premiere (courtesy of Selladoor Productions) at the Other Palace until November 23rd. Featuring a brilliant cast including Laura Pitt-Pulford (LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE), Natasha J Barnes (WASTED) and Daniel Boys (AVENUE Q) amongst others.

An hilarious and poignant look at a modern family, FALSETTOS revolves around the life of a gay man Marvin, his wife, his lover, his soon to be bar mitzvahed son, their psychiatrist, and the lesbian neighbours, Originally created under the spectre of the AIDS crisis, this ground-breaking musical about family dynamics manages to remain buoyant and satirically perceptive even as it moves towards its heartbreaking conclusion, which reminds us that love is all that really matters.


West End Opening

Opening October 8th Stephen Mangan leads this restyling (by comedy specialist Sean Foley) of the classic 1951 Ealing comedy THE MAN IN THE WHITE SUIT which originally starred Alec Guinness. All about a scientist who creates a miracle fibre which doesn’t wear out, the discovery is seized upon by both the mill owners and the trades unions who all want to suppress it. It will be intriguing to see how Foley works with the fifties nature of the story and manages to bring his own quirky eye to the story details. Reuniting Foley with Stephen Mangan, (they worked together on JEEVES AND WOOSTER to great success in 2016), this will be an interesting experiment in itself.


Opening Outside London

Manchester

Until November 9th Manchester is excited for this – and me too. After 50 years Jerry Herman’s classic musical MAME is back! When young Patrick goes to stay with his Auntie Mame, he walks into a fast-living world of fun and and joy. It will be a real treat to see two-time Olivier-winner Tracie Bennett (Follies) (pictured above, top right) as Mame, with the great Tim Flavin (above, left) and Harriet Thorpe (Absolutely Fabulous) (pictured above, centre) as Mame’s “old, old, old friend” Vera Charles. Get set for some high-octane musical fun! The celebrated score includes the rousing title number, plus “Open a New Window,” “If He Walked into My Life,” “We Need a Little Christmas,” “Bosom Buddies” and “That’s How Young I Feel.” Good to see that rising star producer Katy Lipson -who has now made so many excellent smaller-scale musicals – is starting to move into the bigger shows. Great good wishes from me to everyone involved! Previews from September 28th and playing till November 9th. The show visits Northampton and Salisbury in January 2020, and must tour the whole country soon!


Salisbury

5th – 29th October Here is a most welcome revival of BREAKING THE CODE, a play first seen in 1986 when it starred Derek Jacobi. At the height of the Second World War eccentric genius Alan Turing was breaking the complex German code, Enigma, at Bletchley Park. Since his work was classified top secret for years after the war, no one knew how much was owed to him when he was later put on trial and publicly humiliated by the revelation of his sexuality. Hugh Whitemore’s compelling play intertwines an account of Turing’s most heroic hour with that of his betrayal by the nation he had helped in its darkest hour. Turing’s story went on to be told in the 2014 Oscar-winning film The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch.

Breaking the Code stars Edward Bennett and Julian Firth and is directed by Christian Durham.


Touring the UK

C’est Magnifique! Achieving the near-impossible task of translating a unique French movie to the stage, and doing so in some style, this UK tour of AMELIE will bring a smile to your lips and warmth to your heart, as we follow our heroine helping others but finding it hardest to help herself. With a tuneful score and dynamic Audrey Brisson as Amelie, this is your passport to joie de vivre. See it in October at Southampton until October 5th when the tour ends. The show then prepares for a transfer to London in November for a Christmas season at The Other Palace.

Read my **** review of the show here


If you love the Latin crossover music of Gloria Estefan you will enjoy ON YOUR FEET! It has had mixed but mostly positive reviews, unanimous in the musical content of the show. It looks good and sounds just great, with a brilliant band (worth the price of admission alone) who never let the energy flag.

Featuring 26 hits, this Tony Award nominated show ran on Broadway for two years, for over 750 performances. ON YOUR FEET! is the inspiring true love story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan and charts their journey from Cuba to the streets of Miami and finally to international superstardom. Featuring some of the most iconic pop songs of the era, including “Rhythm is Gonna Get You”, “Conga”, “Get On Your Feet”, “Don’t Want To Lose You Now” and “1-2-3” and many more.

ON YOUR FEET! is directed by two-time Tony Award® winner Jerry Mitchell (Kinky Boots, Legally Blonde), with choreography by Olivier Award-winner Sergio Trujillo (Jersey Boys) and book by Academy Award® winner Alexander Dinelaris (Birdman). See it in October at Sunderland, Edinburgh, Sheffield, Cardiff and Manchester.

Read my ***.5 review of the show here


NT Live Broadcasts

October brings another NTLive broadcast to screens around the UK and further afield. On October 17th The Bridge Theatre’s highly-acclaimed production of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM will be coming to a venue near you.

To find screenings in your area check out the schedule of NT Live website, details here.