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


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.

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