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.


A “clutch” of awards 3: – The London Pub Theatres Awards 2019 crowns King’s Head Theatre

The inaugural London Pub Theatres Awards ceremony at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre on October 27 saw many of London’s great independent spaces recognised for their work. Instigated by London Pub Theatres magazine (which has been running since 2015), the awards were prefaced by a champagne reception.

The Lifetime Achievement Award was awarded to Leonie Scott Matthew, Artistic Director of Pentameters Theatre.

Joint runners-up for Theatre of the Year were The Jack Studio in Brockley and the Hope Theatre in Islington.

London Pub Theatre of the Year was The Kings Head Theatre in Islington.

Congratulations to all nominees and winners. Full details here


Theatre FootNotes for July 2019 – a summary of other theatre events in my diary

MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG

Monday 8th July – Guildhall School of Music and Drama final year students’ graduation show at the Silk Street Theatre, Barbican. Sondheim and Furth’s bittersweet musical complimented by an excellent 20-strong band, as always at Guildhall.


THE LAST SONG OF OLIVER SIPPLE

Sunday 14th July – The Last Song of Oliver Sipple (at the King’s Head Theatre, Islington) tells the story of a forgotten American hero tortured by prejudice, hypocrisy, media intrusion and the rift created within his own family.

“I loved my country, but my country didn’t love me”, laments Oliver (Billy) Sipple, a decorated Vietnam veteran who bravely averted an assassination attempt upon US President Gerald Ford in 1975. An invitation was planned to the White House to thank him. But Oliver Sipple was gay. So the invitation was withdrawn and Sipple received a tiny note of thanks from Ford instead. Sipple’s life story and death at an early age from drink in 1989 after years of media hounding and being preyed on by opportunists makes for a rather sketchy 50-minute play as presented here. It feels like there is a deeper story to tell, but not knowing what research this work is based on it is impossible to say whether anyone connected with the play actually knew Sipple.

The meat of the story is in the central incident, with the rest feeling very much like supporting material. The stories about meeting and working with Harvey Milk are interesting but go no further than a sort of diary entry, so it is difficult to know this character further. What is undoubted is that he was a national hero who was not respected. We hear a lot about what happened but the bio doesn’t leave much time to explore the feelings of this private man reluctantly thrust into the public eye with all the attendant challenges.

Here is another show with no specific theatrical, visual component until the final moments. This would make a fine radio play but I do not see what bringing it to the stage added to the script.

Whilst being grateful to writer David Hendon for bringing Sipple back to the public eye, this show itself is an historically interesting but sketchy introduction to an ordinary man who happened to be in the right place at the right time to avert a potential crisis…and happened to be gay.


THE OFSTED MASSACRE

Monday 15th July – LAMDA final year graduating students’ show. A specially commissioned new comedy by Phil Porter and directed by Joe Murphy. Acting was generally of a very high standard (particularly the leads) and a majority of these actors are clearly stage-ready. The script was relatable and funny, although sadly it ran out of steam halfway through act two, and would have perhaps played better if it was shorter. Nevertheless, by this time the actors had mostly been seen to good advantage.


FERNANDO AND HIS GRANDMOTHER

Wednesday 31st July – At Clapham’s Omnibus Theatre, Out of the Wings ( https://ootwfestival.com/ ) is presenting its fourth annual festival, exploring untapped theatre from the Spanish and Portuguese-speaking world. Over five days, a series of staged readings bring to life new English translations of works by playwrights from six countries, alongside workshops, talks and events, in celebration of theatre in translation.

“It’s the voices, boy, the voices.”

In a dance across the generations, the legendary Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa duets with his irrepressible grandmother Dionísia Seabra. Spanning almost a century, their meetings continue despite illness, distance, and even death. Come what may, some bonds refuse to be broken.

Fernando’s a troubled boy, haunted by his private terrors. From an early age the only refuge is his intimacy with his demented grandmother. They are a conspiracy of two. They are complicit. Faced with a disapproving and seemingly threatening world, they share a private universe of make-believe games and songs.

Are genius and insanity as close as this? These two both spend their lives in different ways as outsiders. Dionísia hears voices in her madness. Fernando as a child is already inventing alter egos which as an adult become the fully fledged fictional “heteronyms” – the many writers under whose names his work is eventually published – and considered among the greatest of the twentieth century.

Written by Armando Nascimento Rosa , translated by Susannah Finzi and directed by Almiro Andrade

Cast Dora DaCruz, Patrick Campbell


London’s exciting new theatres – coming soon!

It is such an exciting time for new, renovated and renewed theatre spaces opening up in and around London, that I thought that a quick round-up would make interesting reading.

Opening very soon

Troubadour White City Theatre

Troubadour Theatres are opening two new large (1000-plus seats) outer-London theatres this month, in White City (in the former BBC Media Village in west London) and Wembley Park (in the former Fountain Studios, the venue of live televised shows including The X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent and Pop Idol). This follows the company’s ethos of repurposing existing buildings to create exciting new arts environments. Both of these areas have no existing significantly sized theatre spaces, and the founders of Troubadour, Oliver Royds and Tristan Baker (who ran the temporary Kings Cross Theatre to such success with shows like THE RAILWAY CHILDREN, David Bowie’s LAZARUS and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s IN THE HEIGHTS), aim to grow an audience base from the surrounding areas with the massive home-building developments which continue to bring more people into the capital. Family-friendly spaces, with flexible capacities and facilities, these will be welcome additions to London’s theatre scene. Schemes include ample eating and drinking opportunities as well as lots of toilets – at last!

Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre

Big shows coming in this summer for the opening include the DINOSAUR WORLD LIVE, the National Theatre’s PETER PAN and later in the year, a run of the National’s mega-hit WAR HORSE. Alongside these are a range of shows for children and young people, welcoming the next generation of theatregoers in as early as possible to grow the theatre-going habit. Both venues open late July. Let’s wish them every success!

Find the Troubadour Theatres website here


A brand new 200-seater located in the railway arches next to Battersea Power Station will open in August to enhance the cultural options in the gradual revitalisation of this area. Artistic Director is Paul Taylor-Mills (ex- the Other Palace) and presented by producer Bill Kenwright. The inaugural show is the Tony Award-winning TORCH SONG by Harvey Fierstein and directed by Drew McOnie. Preview performances from 22 August.

Find the Turbine Theatre website here


Opening Late 2019

Hammersmith’s Riverside Studios (projected opening end of 2019) was originally a compact, busy film studio in the 1930s and 40s, its two sound stages turning out many good British films until 1954. Bought by the BBC for conversion into TV studios, the facility remained in regular use until 1974 when the Riverside was bought by the Council and run as a Trust. By 1978 two large studios were home to a wide variety of performances and associated events, running with much success for decades. TV production returned in 1996 and was in much demand until the building closed in 2014. The site has now been redeveloped to include the obligatory massive slab of (over 150) flats sitting on top of a reborn Riverside Studios, which comprises five spaces- a TV studio seating 400, two theatre/studio spaces seating 400 and 180, a flexible events space with river views and a community/rehearsal space. Also housing two cinemas, cafes, bars and a restaurant with river views and access, this will be a really welcome return for an ever-popular venue.

Find the Riverside studios website here


The Boulevard Theatre(opening in October). Part of strip club king Paul Raymond’s Revue Bar, located in Walker’s Court, Soho, the Boulevard Theatre part of the venue originally hosted up and coming comedy from the likes of Eddie Izzard, French and Saunders and Rik Mayall back in the 1980s. With the closure of the venue in 2004, it has finally been redeveloped with a new auditorium and bar/restaurant facilities to a design by leading theatre architects CharcoalBlue. Its tiny capacity of just over 160 will mean that its programme may well be specialised, but Artistic Director Rachel Edwards (of the Sweeney Todd revival in the pie and mash shop of a couple of years ago) will no doubt bring some credibility to the place. Let’s wish it success with its newly-announced programme starting in October.

Find the Boulevard Theatre website here


Southwark Playhouse(projected opening end of 2019) – has had several temporary homes since 1992, but it has now found a permanent residence at its new facility, which is actually on two sites. Located on Newington Butts, just five minutes down the road from where they are now, there is a 300-seat flexible theatre space, with a youth and community theatre space appended. On the second site, which is back at the theatre’s old home on Tooley Street under London Bridge station, there will be two flexible smaller spaces (200 and 150 seats) for emerging and developing work. They are currently fundraising to fit out the new spaces, but have some way to go with their funding targets, hence the opening date may be knocked back.

Find the Southwark Playhouse website here

Read more about the new development at the Southwark Playhouse website here


Opening 2020

Theatre Royal Drury Lane. It’s on the left….honest!

The Theatre Royal Drury Laneprojected reopening October 2020. Having bought the building next door (above right) for Front of House extensions including lifts, restaurants, bars and cafes, as well as more ladies loos (hooray!) , this jewel in world theatre’s crown is the longest continual theatre site in the world. Considering the major clobbering it is currently enduring, I find it very hard to believe that the theatre will open in October 2020 with Disney’s FROZEN, but perhaps I shall be proved wrong. Time will tell.

Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber, who owns the venue as part of his LW Theatres group, said “The auditorium will be completely reconfigured into a comfortable and more intimate space. The auditorium will also be reshaped to create a tighter curve, bringing the performer and audience closer together.” The aim is to produce a flexible auditorium, which I personally find very difficult to imagine with a 2000-seater, so I shall have to wait and see. If it works, they will have pulled off a very tricky conundrum. So, let’s wish then luck for now and I’ll reserve my judgement.

More about Theatre Royal Drury Lane redevelopment at the LW Theatres website here


In 2020 the King’s Head Theatre in Islington plans to move just a stone’s throw from its current 110-seat room-behind-a pub to a brand new basement space within Islington Square. The submitted proposals would see the creation of a 250-seat auditorium and an 85-seat studio, along with bar, foyer and good backstage facilities which will be a real blessing for all those who have had to endure the old theatre’s many limitations.


Opening 2021

Selladoor Worldwide have recently announced ambitious plans to redevelop the Greenwich Borough Halls building into a new multi-space theatre and performing arts hub named the Greenwich Festival Theatre. The new venue will be a major producing theatre and entertainment hub for South East London, offering a diverse theatre programme and an artistic mission to present a year round live performance programme of both local and national importance. The Grade II listed former Greenwich Borough Halls was built in 1939 and has most recently been home to a dance organisation but then fell vacant and is currently disused. It could open as early as Spring 2021.

Visual for proposed Greenwich Borough Halls remodelling into the Festival Theatre

The plans will create a 650-seat main stage and a 240-seat flexible studio/black box space. The plans also include extending the main stage performance footprint and seating capacity of the hall to allow larger and more ambitious musicals, plays and live performance to be presented in the building. The redevelopment will also feature a basement rehearsal suite for creative learning programmes, community use and skills development. A front extension to the building is planned to facilitate a two-story brasserie bar for all day dining and pre-theatre meals, as well as a rooftop terrace bar for evening drinks and functions.

How this new venue will sit alongside the existing nearby Greenwich Theatre – which has recently celebrated its 50th anniversary – remains to be seen.


Built on the site of the old Astoria Theatre, amidst the new Crossrail station development, the new Nimax Theatre in Tottenham Court Road has been a long time coming since its first announcement, but work is now under way for a 600- seat auditorium opening late 2021.


Kings Cross theatre building proposals – illustration

After their success with the new Bridge Theatre which opened near Tower Bridge in 2017, the two Nicks, Hytner and Starr, through their London Theatre Company plan to open and run a new, as yet unnamed theatre in the new Kings Cross development area. Designed by The Bridge’s architects and engineers, this new 600-seat space will be similarly flexible in layout and offer a range of configurations. Opening is projected for Winter 2021.


And beyond?

Any addition to London’s theatre scene is welcome, especially since the loss of many smaller venues from the 1960s to the 80s reduced the breadth of choice to theatregoers. Personally, I would love to see more 200-300 seat spaces where work could come in, to be given greater exposure and a longer life, ideally in a complex of varying sized spaces so that work could grow its audience and establish itself, away (if just for a time) from some of the harsher commercial realities.

Currently in London, there are precious few venues under 800-seat capacity, and those we have are in constant demand for new shows which might not be able to fill a larger venue for a twelve week run. This is partly why the new 500-600 seat sized venues have arisen, and they are so welcome. Of the existing smaller West End venues, the 550-seat St Martin’s has been tied up for over 45 years with THE MOUSETRAP, the 430-seat Fortune has been tied up for 30 years with THE WOMAN IN BLACK, The 440-seat Ambassadors was let to STOMP! for almost ten years and the 470-seat Duchess is currently booking The Play That Goes Wrong into 2020. Smaller theatres in London are always in-demand and therefore usually unavailable, denying a West End run to many shows which might otherwise have made the leap successfully. In this sense specifically, Trafalgar Studios have got it right in venue size, with a 500-seat and a 100-seat space to receive both larger and smaller shows.

So let’s wish all these upcoming new and remodelled theatres every success. And let us all get out and support them!


FootNote: There are a number of other plans in the pipeline but at present such minimal details are available as to not allow us to discuss them in any certainty. For that reason, I will add regular update articles as new plans are firmed up and announcements made.