Welcome to December’s show highlights. Here are my picks of the most interesting shows that you can find around London and 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 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.
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
“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….
#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
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
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.
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.
Welcome to September’s show highlights. Here are my picks of the most interesting shows that you can find around London and the UK.
So, after a rash of festivals in Edinburgh and London, there’s just a moment to catch our breath before the next wave of great shows kicks off in early September. Fasten your seatbelts!
PRELUDES sounds fascinating. 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 from September 6th until October 12th at Southwark Playhouse.
FAITH, HOPE AND CHARITY 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 promises to be another uncompromising theatrical experience that goes to the heart of our uncertain times. Playing at the National’s Dorfman Theatre from September 9th to October 12th.
Hampstead Theatre Downstairs is an undisputed treasure trove of new writing, and this looks set to continue with EITHER . Running from September 19th to October 26th, Ruby Thomas’ funny, smart and sexy debut play probes our romantic choices in life and explores the human need to connect and be loved – regardless of the ramifications.
A young, loved-up couple are surrounded by life’s infinite possibilities and temptations. And at a time in their lives where they have little responsibility, they’re determined to live this chapter as fully and spontaneously as possible. But in their pursuit to enjoy all that life has to offer, should every opportunity that comes their way be taken?
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 from August 30th 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.
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 is a dazzling burst of storytelling from the dark heart of American Gothic. Playing at the Arcola from September 11th to October 12th.
TORCH SONG, Harvey Fierstein’s Tony-winning play about the life and loves of a drag artist in 1970s New York runs from September 6th to 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
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 from September 4th to October 5th. Directed by JST’s Artistic Director, Tom Littler.
HOW LOVE IS SPELT“She wanted spontaneity, adventure… I said I can be spontaneous… I just need a little bit of time to plan.” Peta is new in town and ready for whatever London has to throw at her. She’s looking for romance, for friendship, for exciting people to lead her on big adventures. But being an independent woman in the new millennium isn’t easy, especially when there’s a constant reminder of the life you’re trying to escape. With each new encounter, Peta flirts with what might have been, but has the journey to London put enough distance between her and her past?
This is the first major revival of this fascinating and funny play from Susan Smith Blackburn Prize-winning playwright Chloe Moss (This Wide Night, Soho Theatre; Dickensian, BBC) which was first produced at Bush Theatre in 2004. How Love Is Spelt is directed by Charlotte Peters (Associate Director War Horse, UK Tour and An Inspector Calls, West End). Playing at Southwark Playhouse from September 4th to 28th.
“You should all have a book. Does everyone have a book? This book is part of the play. In a minute, we’ll all open this book and we’ll invite you to turn the pages.”
The writer manipulates a group of people to sit together and believe in something that isn’t true. The book he’s written predicts it all: the equations, the black hole and all the words we’ll speak until the end.
On this last day, at this last hour, a defector finds her voice and returns.
In this new play, presented through stage action and illustrated text, audience and actors turn the book’s pages together, they study the images and they sometimes share the words out loud.
ALL OF ME is an intimate and absurd exploration of wanting to live, wanting to die and what can happen if we sit together with the dark. Olivier Award nominee Caroline Horton reunites with director Alex Swift (★★★★ How to Win Against History, Young Vic) to bring you the show that happens after the curtain call, when the lights have gone down but the mess remains. Playing at the Yard in East London from September 10th to 28th
Until September 7th at the Kiln Theatre in Kilburn, the Olivier and Tony Award nominated musical BLUES IN THE NIGHT is in its first major London revival in 30 years. Directed by Susie McKenna and starring Olivier Award winners Sharon D. Clarke (Death of A Salesman, Caroline or Change, Ghost, Amen Corner) and Clive Rowe (Guys and Dolls, Carousel), Blues in the Night is a steamy compilation of 26 hot and torchy blues numbers that frame the lives and loves of four residents of a downtown hotel. Featuring soul-filled songs by blues and jazz icons Bessie Smith, Duke Ellington, Johnny Mercer, Harold Arlen and many more.
West End Opening
Well, we have had quite a slew of film to stage adaptations in the last few years, haven’t we? Whilst it’s true that they will never have the same qualities as the originals, they are often worth seeing for the talent involved. A case in point is the restyling 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 Sean Foley (adaptor and director) 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.
Manchester is in for a treat. 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 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.” A tour must follow. Previews from September 28th and playing till November 9th.
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 September at Eastbourne, Inverness and Southampton . 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 September at Birmingham, Plymouth, Nottingham and Sunderland. Read my review of the show here
James Lapine and William Finn’s LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE is a musical adaptation of the hit 2006 quirky road movie. It’s touring the UK and is worth a visit. See it in September at Leicester, Cardiff, Aberdeen and Liverpool, where the tour closes. Read my review of the show here
From 13 to 22 September, there are over 100 theatre-related events going on across the country during Heritage Open Days. Most likely a theatre near you will be opening its doors to offer tours of the buildings. Intrigued? Then take a look at their website here where you can search what’s happening near you.
Every September since 1992, London Open House has enabled public access to 800+ buildings, many of which are inaccessible at any other time of the year, with associated walks, talks and tours over one very busy weekend, now attracting over a quarter of a million people annually.
22 theatres and 5 cinemas are listed in this year’s offerings, ranging from the grandeur of Sir Cameron Mackintosh’s freshly-refurbished Victoria Palace Theatre to the Victorian charms of Hoxton Hall and Wilton’s Music Hall, to more modern offerings such as the National Theatre. All will be open for exploration via tours and/or talks on-site. Tucked away in the “entertainment” category is the first cinema to be Grade-I listed, the incredible Tooting Granada (now rather cheesily-titled Buzz Bingo, but inside still an awe-inspiring and richly-detailed movie palace)
Please note that some sites require advance booking while others do not. Do check with the Open House website on each venue’s individual listing page for full details. Also, a lot of venues will open on just one day of the weekend, not both, so do please check before you travel.
Find out more at the Open House website which you can find here
NT Live Broadcasts
September brings two NTLive broadcasts to screens around the UK and further afield. On September 12th Phoebe Waller-Bridge brings her hit show FLEABAG to UK-wide audiences from the stage of Wyndham’s Theatre.
Then on September 26th (and later dates) it’s the welcome return of one of the National’s biggest successes of recent years, Richard Bean’s ONE MAN TWO GUVNORS starring James Corden in a career-boosting role for him.
To find screenings in your area check out the schedule of NT Live website, details here.
London Shows closing
September 7th- BLUES IN THE NIGHT closes at The Kiln Theatre
September 8th- JOSEPH closes at the London Palladium
September 9th- EQUUS closes at Trafalgar Studios
September 14th – THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY closes at the Menier Chocolate Factory
September 21st – EVITA closes at the Open Air Theatre, Regents Park
September 28th – THE NIGHT OF THE IGUANA at the Noel Coward Theatre