It’s the month where Nature takes a leaf out of Theatre’s book and puts on its first show of the season to entice us out of our homes. And there’s a lot of theatre to get you buzzing this month. See what takes your fancy in this month’s picks.
Opening Off-West End
London’s loudest laughs come from the Soho theatre this week.
You won’t find a more hilarious, joyously surprising and creative hour than five-starred Luke Rollason’s hugely-popular show PLANET EARTH III , which returns to London after success around the world. It’s a gleefully low-budget, one-man nature documentary set in a future where our worst predictions came true.
Following ecological collapse, thousands of endangered species are extinct, including the BBC. But one plucky (and unpaid) intern isn’t giving up, and right on programming schedule, we’re getting series three. Armed with only obsolete office supplies, an Attenborough voiceover and a surreal imagination, nature’s weirdest creatures are brought back to life by the ‘hugely entertaining’ (Chortle website) Luke Rollason. There is a wonderful inspired lunacy to his edgy creativity that often reminds me of the best early work of Complicite. Give yourself a treat and go – I promise you’ll never look at a paper clip the same way again! At the Soho Theatre from 3 to 6 April.
Read my interview with Luke Rollason about PLANET EARTH III here
LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE was a wildly successful 2006 road movie , and now a musical version originating from Off-Broadway gets its European premiere at the Arcola, where it runs until 11 May. A standout cast includes Olivier-nominated Laura Pitt-Pulford, twice Olivier-nominated Paul Keating, multi-award nominated Gabriel Vick and TMA nominated Gary Wilmot. This show is the first major collaboration between the Arcola and Selladoor productions, the prolific global entertainment producers. After London’s run, you can catch it on an extensive UK tour from May until November.
Here’s a musical revival we’ve all been waiting for. Tyrone Huntley (star of January’s Leave to Remain) makes his directorial debut with the exuberant and effervescent Fats Waller songbook musical AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ which runs at Southwark Playhouse from 19 April to 1 June. Join an extraordinary group of performers on a journey through a defining period of American musical history, the 1920s and 30s Harlem Renaissance – where joints were jumpin’ with talented dancers, singers and instrumentalists jamming to a new beat known as swing. Having notched up substantial West End runs in 1979 and 1995, this first major revival in over 20 years is choreographed by Oti Mabuse (Strictly Come Dancing) in her theatrical choreographing debut. It will hopefully enjoy a tour on top of this run and at Colchester Mercury, which co-produces with Paul Taylor-Mills. Get down there and party!
Read a Guardian interview with choreographer Oti Mabuse here
First seen at last year’s Edinburgh Festival, SITTING is the debut play by BAFTA Award-winning actress Katherine Parkinson which runs at the Arcola in East London from 10 April to 11 May.
Luke, Cassandra and Mary are sitting. They sit weekly for their portraits and, in a series of revealing sessions, end up sharing their funny and moving tales of love, longing and loss.
The Guardian’s Mark Fisher said “Art models reveal all in Katherine Parkinson’s smart debut…[she] delicately reveals connections that, by the end, give the play a wistful emotional weight” . This is on my list and I think it should be on yours. I’m intrigued….
Running until 27 April, this is for those of you that want a bit more of a challenging piece. GOING THROUGH, at the Bush Theatre, is a translation of an award-winning French play (Traversee) about child migrants and the perilous journeys they face to find a better life, by writer Estelle Savasta and directed by Omar Elerian, director of acclaimed West End hit Misty. This production is for deaf and hearing audiences and combines English, BSL and Creative Captioning. Aiming to both warm and break audiences’ hearts, this looks an interesting option for those more adventurous theatregoers.
Returning Off-West End
Returning to the Vaults in London for a month-long season from 2 April to 3 May, is the heartfelt and helpful show that reminds us that it’s OK to not be OK. That’s the message of A SUPER HAPPY STORY (ABOUT FEELING SUPER SAD) a very funny, helpfully honest and insightful cabaret musical about depression. Sally’s a happy person. She doesn’t let little things get her down and almost never cries. But she’s got an illness. It makes her feel like she isn’t the person she wants to be, but she doesn’t want anyone to know about it. Written by Olivier Award winner Jon Brittain (Rotterdam and Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho) with music by Matthew Floyd Jones (Frisky & Mannish). It’s a joyful, buoyant, gleeful, slightly silly, sugar-coated, unrelenting and completely super happy show! Except for the bits about depression.
“A Super Happy Story is Superb” said The Guardian’s Lyn Gardner.. and she was right! I am so glad that I went and I think you will be too. Touring UK-wide through to June. After London you can see it in May at Brighton, Mansfield, Nottingham, Derby, Burton-on-Trent, Spalding and Leicester
Touring the UK
Touring the UK extensively now until July , the hit tribal rock musical HAIR returns in the much – acclaimed 50th anniversary production. Cast includes the ever-watchable Marcus Collins (TV’s X-Factor, Hairspray), Jake Quickenden (Dancing on Ice) and a relative newcomer with a fantastic voice, Kelly Sweeney (watch out for her!).
See it in April at Cheltenham, Manchester, Cardiff, Plymouth and Birmingham
Opening West End
Jeremy Herrin directs Sally Field and Bill Pullman in Arthur Miller’s blistering drama, ALL MY SONS.
America, 1947. Despite hard choices and even harder knocks, Joe and Kate Keller built a home, raised two sons and established a thriving business.
But their contented lives, already shadowed by the loss of their eldest boy to war, are about to shatter. With the return of a figure from the past, long buried truths are forced to the surface and the overwhelming price of their American dream is laid bare.
Those drawn by the stars and Miller’s writing will no doubt find this rewarding, but if you can’t get there remember it’s being NTLive broadcast in May!
Featuring the legendary song, The Impossible Dream (The Quest), MAN OF LA MANCHA is inspired by Miguel de Cervantes’ extraordinary novel Don Quixote. Presented at the magnificent Coliseum for the first time in 50 years. This uplifting, timeless tale stars Kelsey Grammer, Danielle de Niese, Nicholas Lyndhurst, Cassidy Janson and Peter Polycarpou from 26 April to 8 Jun 2019 for a limited six week season in a new production by Michael Linnit and Michael Grade (in collaboration with English National Opera) Featuring the ENO’s 35-piece orchestra, which will sound fantastic no doubt (West End orchestras normanlly being in the 10-15 range). Join Don Quixote as he chases his impossible dream, to pursue the beautiful princess Dulcinea – and a few windmills. Determined to uphold all that is good and right against the odds, Quixote’s courage sustains, as he follows his unreachable star. (NB due to the very limited run there seem to be some pretty “unreachable” ticket prices too, but these may adjust as the dates near).
One of last year’s best discoveries was THE PHLEBOTOMIST, Ella Road’s award-nominated debut play, which totally sold out its season at the Hampstead Theatre Downstairs. Set in a tantalisingly near future, the drama revolves around how each individual’s potential future life is completely predetermined….by the score from one single blood test. The audience I was with absolutely hugged this play from start to finish.
Four star reviews across the board for this brilliant, intelligent new thriller , a newly expanded version of the hit show which sold out last year and caused the first ever (I think) transfer from the Studio to the Main House, no mean feat in itself, but it points out how successful the play is. I urge you to see it while you have the chance. Only until April 20th.
Read my four star review of THE PHLEBOTOMIST here
A standing ovation at every performance has greeted Stephen Sondheim’s lovingly-crafted, bittersweet musical FOLLIES, returning to the National Theatre after a sold-out run last year (and winning Best Musical Revival at the Olivier Awards). On the eve of demolition of Weissman’s Theatre, past performers gather to drink, dream and reminisce….and somehow, try to make sense of it all.
New cast members this season are all top-notch: Joanna Riding (The Pajama Game, Flowers for Mrs Harris), Alexander Hanson (A Little Night Music) and Claire Moore (Phantom of the Opera). Returning cast include the phenomenal Tracie Bennett, assured Janie Dee and (from mid-April) the spine-tingling operatic septugenarian Josephine Barstow, with perfectly-drilled choreography once again courtesy of the brilliant Olivier-Award-winning Bill Deamer. In an ongoing repertory season to May 11th.
NT Live Broadcasts
ALL ABOUT EVE is a stage translation of the Oscar winning classic Bette Davis movie about rival actresses of different generations vying to stay in the limelight.
Lifting the curtain on a world of jealousy, insecurity and blind ambition, this new production, from one of the world’s most innovative theatre directors, Ivo van Hove (Network, NT Live: A View from the Bridge), asks why our fascination with celebrity, youth and identity is the only thing which is, ironically, ageless. Broadcast live on Thursday April 11th to cinemas across the UK, and then in a series of encores across the country. Check when it’s on at your local screen. Details here
London shows closing
Closing Saturday 13 April – Laura Wade’s incisive look at the stresses on living as a model fifties housewife, Home, I’m Darling starring Katherine Parkinson closes at the Duke of York’s prior to embarking on a short tour, visiting Bath, Salford and Mold
Closing Saturday 13 April – The final part of Florian Zeller’s well-received trilogy, The Son , closes at the Kiln Theatre in Kilburn
Closing Saturday 20 April – The only time I’ve said “too many hits in one show” Motown the Musical closes at the Shaftesbury Theatre (prior to an extensive UK tour, details here)
Closing Saturday 27 April – Mark Haddon’s mega-hit The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time closes at the Piccadilly Theatre
Closing Saturday 27 April – Arthur Miller’s saga of family relationships and the costs (of all types) they incur are examined in The Price , starring David Suchet, which closes at Wyndham’s Theatre
Standing at the Sky’s Edge, the new Richard Hawley musical, closes Sat April 6th at Sheffield’s Crucible.
RAGS, the musical with Rebecca Trehearn closes Sat April 6th at Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester.