Welcome to June’s show highlights. Here are my picks of the best shows that you can find in and around London and the UK.
Opening Off-West End
THE SWEET SCIENCE OF BRUISING at Wilton’s Music Hall. ‘When that bell rings, your life is entirely in your hands.’ Having had a sold-out season last year at Southwark Playhouse and four-starred by me, I can definitely recommend you to this intriguing and gripping production which brings to life a little-known piece of London’s history. In 1869, deep in the heart of Victorian London is a theatre where only the strongest survive. Controlled by men and constrained by corsets, four very different women are drawn into the dark underground world of female boxing; each finds an unexpected freedom in the ring. As their lives begin to intertwine their journey takes us from grand drawing rooms to rowdy backstreet pubs where the women fight inequality as well as each other. But with the final showdown approaching, only one can become the Lady Boxing Champion of the World…
Grab this chance to see one of the best shows of last year, staged in the perfect home for this show, the world’s oldest surviving grand music hall. Two treats for the price of one!
WIFE at the Kiln Theatre. “I don’t believe that I’m nothing but a daughter and a wife and a mother. I’m a human being”. In 1959, Daisy is at a crossroads. Married to Robert, but in love with Suzannah, her moral compass tells her to go one way, society the other. What she chooses to do next will have consequences for generations to come.
Set in 1959, 1988, 2019 and 2042, four couples intersect with productions of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. When it comes to identity, gender and unrequited love, how do societal expectations and pressures change over time? Samuel Adamson (The Light Princess, National Theatre, Gabriel, Shakespeare’s Globe) maps a constellation of four queer stories within four generations in one family. This world premiere of this captivating study of sexuality across the ages is directed by Kiln’s Artistic Director, the briliiant Indhu Rubasingham.
The Finborough Theatre has an unrivalled reputation for dusting off forgotten treasures, and my feeling is that this may well be another. Directed by the reliable Phil Wilmott, AFTER DARK is a late Victorian hit play by highly-successful writer Dion Boucicault (The Shaughraun, London Assurance, The Octoroon, etc). Having lain unseen for 120 years, we can now wonder at the tiny 50-seat Finborough housing a cast of twelve (!) and the many melodramatic scenes, involving train crashes, river rescues, dastardly villains, plucky heroines, salacious scandal and dark secrets, crackling with the energy of a London of fresh peril and opportunity. Love and honour sit next to grinding poverty, sex and criminality in an epic play whose finale descends into the new-fangled London Underground railway! Not to be missed.
If its laughter you’re after then you can’t go far wrong with Michael Frayn’s NOISES OFF, returning to the scene of its first success in 1982 at the Lyric, Hammersmith. In this new production, directed by Jeremy Herrin, Meera Syal stars as Dotty, ageing actress who has sunk her life savings into a production of a tired sex comedy, hoping that a quick UK tour will bag her a comfy retirement pot. Naturally, things go awry in ever-more disastrous ways, from the set to the cast to the sardines, as we see the show deteriorate from the rehearsal to the end of the tour. With dizzying split-second timing, physical comedy and an insanely complex plot, at its best this is a show to relax and enjoy to the full! Let’s hope this production lives up to its promise. Now where did I put those sardines……..
At the Orange Tree in Richmond, Paul Miller revives Terence Rattigan’s World War II hit WHILE THE SUN SHINES from 7th June to 27th July, after scoring a big hit with Rattigan’s FRENCH WITHOUT TEARS two years ago.
“I’ll tell you but you won’t believe me. I slept in the same bed with an earl… No, not a girl, stupid, an earl.” 1943. On the eve of his wedding, the young Earl of Harpenden – Bobby to his friends – has offered his room to Joe, an American soldier he drunkenly met the night before. When Bobby’s fiancée Lady Elizabeth turns up, Joe makes a move, thinking she must be Bobby’s ex, the wonderful Mabel Crum. But a Free French lieutenant also has eyes for her… And to complicate matters, Bobby’s future father in law turns up too. It’s London in the Blitz, and identities get confused: time to make hay…
First seen last year, Alex Wood’s play NINE FOOT NINE is a fascinating sci-fi look at gender from Sleepless Theatre. It imagines the far-reaching impacts of a physical change in women, whereby they grow to the size of the title. As women across the world literally rise up, what will be the impact, how will they manage and use their power, and what will be the outcome for this new world order. Imaginatively staged with an accomplished mixed ability cast when I saw this last year, the play is well worth seeing on its mini-tour at the end of June. See it at Bristol on June 27th, Manchester on June 29th, and London’s New Diorama on June 30th. NB all performances are fully captioned and venues, I understand, fully accessible.
Returning Off-West End
Comedy Brilliance– no two shows ever the same! After selling out his shows in April, Luke Rollason returns to the Soho Theatre with PLANET EARTH III for two final shows on June 14 and 15 at 10.00pm. The story? – just briefly, after a nuclear event wipes out everything including the BBC, one plucky, unpaid, intern gathers togethr the recoding of David Attenborough and a mass of office equipment to make the series that would never be- PLANET EARTH III. Improvisation, clever creativity and just plain craziness. You’ll never have more fun with your clothes on. Just GO! Tickets and information here
Touring the UK
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 June at Exeter, High Wycombe, Oxford and Edinburgh. Read my review of the show here
LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE is out on a national tour with a super-talented (if occasionally underused) cast which make it worthwhile viewing . See it in June at York, Brighton, Bradford and Woking. Read my review of the show here
Now well into its stride, the 50th anniversary UK tour of the tribal rock musical HAIR carries on with abandon, starring Jake Quickenden, Marcus Collins and Kelly Sweeney. See it in June at Portsmouth, Edinburgh and Oxford.
It’s your last chance to see the optimistic but satisfyingly honest A SUPER HAPPY SHOW (ABOUT FEELING SUPER SAD) which has spent May encoring at London’s Vaults and is now back out on the last leg of its UK tour. See it in June at – 12 June, Burton-on-Trent, Burton Brewhouse ; 13 June, Spalding, South Holland Centre; 14 June, Leicester, Attenborough Arts Centre. The show is an unlikely-sounding musical about depression, and from personal experience I can tell you that it’s well worth a visit.
Opening West End
Its Summer at last and here’s the perfect show to raise the temperature! Having spent a couple of weeks “running in” in Leicester, this Broadway import bursts onto the London scene at the Coliseum for a season from June 14th until 31st August.
Gloria Estefan has sold over 100 million records worldwide and is the most successful Latin crossover performer in the history of pop music. Featuring the best of her 38 number 1 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).
People who like a dash of classical and opera with their musical theatre might enjoy Tony Award-winning musical THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA which comes to the Royal Festival Hall for a (very) limited run, 14 June – 5 July, apparently fully staged – and with direction by Daniel Evans (of Chichester Festival Theatre).
Based on the 1960 novel by Elizabeth Spencer, THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA tells the story of a mother and daughter, Margaret and Clara Johnson, on vacation in Italy. Clara becomes besotted with a local named Fabrizio, but what starts as a love story takes darker turns as family secrets and conflicts come to the surface. This musical adaptation, written by Adam Guettel and Craig Lucas, dramatises the story, and uses classical music and opera, rather than traditional pop music often associated with Broadway theatre. In this production, American operatic soprano Renée Fleming is joined by Dove Cameron, Alex Jennings and Rob Houchen. THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA premiered on Broadway in 2005 and ran for 504 performances, winning six Tony Awards from 11 nominations, including best original score and best orchestrations.
Until June 8th, THIS ISLAND’S MINE is having its first ever revival since debuting thirty years ago, and is well worth seeing. Running at the Kings Head Theatre, Philip Osment’s passionate and humane drama of forbidden love lyrically reminds us of the struggles we have been through, and the bittersweet pangs of first love. Showing how far we have come, but how much we have to lose. This tender and heartfelt revival feels dangerously topical. With a talented cast and direction by the acclaimed Philip Wilson.
DEATH OF A SALESMAN is the much-anticipated new production of the Arthur Miller classic from star director Marianne Elliott, with a standout cast including Olivier Award-winner Sharon D Clarke (Caroline, or Change), Wendell Pierce (The Wire, Suits, Selma) who makes his UK stage debut, and Arinzé Kene (Misty), bringing Elliott’s acute vision to one of the greatest plays of the twentieth century, seen through the eyes of an African American family. Not quite the ground-breaker we were hyped up to expect, nevertheless a very solid production well worth seeing. Extended to July 13. NB The entire run is sold out, returns only.
The much-praised National Theatre production of THE LEHMAN TRILOGY is now playing the Piccadilly Theatre and has just extended its run to the end of August. With a stunning cast including Simon Russell Beale and Ben Miles as well as having such brilliant reviews behind it, I am sure it will be worth seeing. For those who can’t get there, it will be broadcast in the schedule of NT Live in 25 July, details here.
NT Live Broadcasts
Can you believe that NTLive is 10 years old?! There will be a number of encores in the Autumn to celebrate this anniversary. For now, The late Andrea Levy’s Orange Prize-winning novel SMALL ISLAND comes to life in an epic new theatre adaptation. Experience the play in cinemas, filmed live on stage as part of National Theatre Live’s 10th birthday, broadcast to a theatre or cinema near you from 27 June. Check the NTLive website for locations near you here
London shows closing
Closing June 8th – ALL MY SONS – Sally Field and Bill Pullman star in Arthur Miller’s fisrt big hit from 1947.
Closing June 8th – AMOUR – A musical fantasy set in Paris in 1950, utilising the songs of Michel Legrand closes at the Charing Cross Theatre.