On a weekly basis, we list some of London’s must watch plays.
If you see anything that you think should be mentioned please email over your two line review to: email@example.com
Purple Heart: Bruce Norris – 6th April
The Gate Theatre’s Purple patch continues with Purple Heart, a beautifully written, superbly acted piece of work by Bruce Norris about an American family whose soldier husband/father/son has ben killed. His wife is falling apart and then his colleague – one hand missing – pays a call. Why is he there? Excellent.
The Curious Incident of the dog in the Night-time: adapted by Simon Stephens – 4th Jan 14
You will never see a better play about aspergers that The curious incident of the dog in the night-time. If you loved the book, you’ll still love the play. The brilliant evocation of the information overload which Christopher suffers as he arrives at a London tube station is just one of the highlights in an evening of highlights.
Mydidae: Jack Thorne – 30th March.
This is an intimate twisted love story. One bathroom. Two people, a story of fragility and the darker side of love. Marion, played by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, the other Co-Artistic Director of DryWrite, is a thoroughly engaging actor with a wonderful sense of deadpan comic timing and Keir Charles is equally as strong as her lover and the dominating business-man. The close proximity of the audience who are practically sitting in their bathtub adds to the rawness and discomfort of watching this couple go about their most private processes and thoughts.
Port: Simon Stephens – 24th March
Thoroughly enjoyed Simon Stephens new play. This is about a womans desire to escape a potentially bleak destiny. Set in Stockport and unfolding across thirteen years, Simon Stephens’ Port is a celebration of the human spirit as Racheal (the brilliant Kate O’Flynn) looks to the future and opts for something better. Port conveys a sense of history from within. The acting is brilliant, Mike Noble as her gormless little brother Billy also adds greatness to the mix to make this a not to be missed performance.
Past shows recommended.
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligary: Dudley Hinton and Sebastian Armesto with simple8 - 16th March
Franzis Gruber, a lowly bureaucrat, lives a neat and ordered life in a sleepy, provincial German town. When a travelling fair arrives, full of clowns, freaks, magicians and sleepwalkers, it drags Franzis into a series of nightmarish murders – spinning dreams into reality, the imagined into truth and order into chaos. All the music and sound is performed live by the ensemble.
Bitch Boxer: Charlotte Josephine – 9th March
Charlotte Josephine, an East 15 graduate, wrote and acted in this one woman play. Set in Leytonstone, Chloe, a 21 year old boxer tells us of her love and respect for boxing. It’s full of heart and thoroughly engaging from start to finish. It’s a wonderful performance and I strongly urge you to go and see it.
Bottleneck: Luke Barnes – 9th March
Bottleneck is a vibrant coming-of-age story about becoming a man through adventures both big and small. It is about a notorious city; Liverpool. How the outside world views it, and how it views the outside world. Fourteen year old Greg lives in Liverpool in 1989. He has just started secondary school. He earns pocket money sweeping up hair in a barbers. Girls are aliens. Liverpool FC are everything.
Di and Viv and Rose: Amelia Bullmore - 23rd Feb
Hampstead Theatre is going through a purple patch. Hot on the heels of critically acclaimed The Judas Kiss (starring the marvellous Rupert Everett) come Di and Viv and Rose, a sparkling tale of the friendship between three disparate characters who meet as freshers at a northern university. Gina McKee is the tightly controlled one, Tamzin Outhwaite is the sporty lesbian and Anna Maxwell Martin is the scatty arty one who discovered that if you ask men to sleep with you “they will”. The play spans three decades starting with the 80s. There is one crisis too many, but the play is so gloriously funny and moving with such splendid acting, that you forgive Amelia Bullmore’s throwing in of kitchen sink. Expect to see it follow The Judas Kiss and transfer to the West End.
Metamorphosis: Franz Kafta – 16th Feb
Wonderfully moving and heartfelt production of Franz Kafta’s classic short story. The Samsa family attempt at coming to terms with the fact their son has somehow turned into a hideous and monstrous insect. Accompanied by a hauntingly beautiful musical score written by none other than Nick Cave. It’s no wonder this has been brought back to the Lyric for a second time!
Philip Ridley is a man of surprises. Beneath a sky full of stars a decision is made. This decision sets off an astonishing chain of events. And a journey involving a talking leopard, a greedy King, a magical bird, a tidal wave, a Sea Witch, a lost soldier, a devious dolphin, a war – and a trail of feathers in the snow.
A Clockwork Orange: Anthony Burgess – 5th Jan
A satisfyingly effective adaptation of Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange, catapults the audience into an edgy world of ultra violence and raw testosterone. Powerful performances from an all male cast led brilliantly by director Alexandra Spencer-Jones. Alex (Martin McCreadie) is engaging and highly watchable as leader of the Droogs and the physical performances work very well with the thuggish brutality played out in ballet sweeps and often charming cartoonish swagger.
Mydidae: Jack Thorne – 22nd Dec
DryWrite is a new writing theatre company that challenges writers to work with specific briefs and goals to actively engage audiences with argument and action. Hope is in the eyes of the beholder. Jack Thorne has a way of taking his actors to the edge, sometimes with what seems like more sensationalist motivations than others. Keir Charles and Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Mydidae’s David and Marian, expose themselves completely physically in the bathroom drama set in under 24 hours in the life of a couple who are battling with the false illusions of hope and the invisibility of any end. The writer of Shameless, Skins, and This is England, Thorne’s tone doesn’t loose its dry, cutthroat approach to speech. The naturalism of the interpretation perhaps dampened the potential of the piece, but exercised well, makes it a really engaging piece of contemporary writing.
Reviewer: Lia Serrano
The Architects: - 2nd Feb
In the custard halls of the biscuit factory in Bermondsey, the walls are smeared with history – the history of mass producing biscuits. Shunt have taken the extraordinary liberty to extend this history to ancient Greece. A wildly disorientating performance chasing the tail of myth, memory and misanthropy; and the hope that amongst you there might also be a hero.
There may be glitzier panto offerings, there may be pantos with bigger stars or wizzier props,
but none will be as exuberant as Midnight’s Pumpkin at the Battersea Arts Centre, or have
as good a selection of dressing up clothes that you can wear to the Prince’s Ball.
This is a mash up Cinderella from the marvellous Kneehigh theatre group,
with former Cirque du Soleil performer Audrey Brisson
as the winsome heroine. The Prince is ludicrously self obsessed, striding about in his
jodphurs and there is a remote controlled cat which looks like it suffered at the
stuffer’s hands and is responsible for one of the biggest laughs of the night.
You get to dance in the ballroom and one or two “lucky” audience members get to wear
But I cd only whisper: Kristiana Colon – 1st Dec
Beautiful fierce and lyrical, Set in America in the 1970′s. Black Vietnam veteran Beau Wllie Brown – played brilliantly by Adetomiwa Edun – is held in custody, accused of a heinous crime. A story murmured between dark dreams. Stunning performance by Emmanuella Cole as Beau’s wife Crystal too.
The Seagull: Anton Chekov – 1st Dec
Chekhov’s darkly comic masterpiece is ignited for the 21st century by Anya Reiss, Winner of the Most Promising Playwright at both the Evening Standard and Critics’ Circle awards. A successful actress visits her brother’s isolated estate far from the city, throwing the frustrated residents unfulfilled ambitions into sharp relief. As her son attempts to impress with a self-penned play, putting much more than his pride at stake, others dream of fame, love and the ability to change their past.
The Kingdom: Colin Teevan – 27th Nov
Three Irishmen. Digging. Telling tales to put down the day. Rooted in the dramas of ancient Greece ‘The Kingdom’ is Colin Teevan’s haunting and lyrical new play and his first collaboration with award winning director Lucy Pitman-Wallace.
Chapel Street: Luke Barnes – 22nd Nov
Chapel Street is the debut play from one of the UK’s most exciting new writers, Luke Barnes. Crackling with energy and dripping with humour it is an acerbic yet compassionate portrait of good times gone bad for a betrayed generation, which carries a pertinence in the wake of David Cameron addressing ‘Broken Britain’.
The Mystery of Charles Dickens: Peter Ackroyd – 10th Nov
The Mystery of Charles Dickens by Peter Ackroyd offers a wonderful evening full of drama and poignant anecdote. This story of Dickens’ life is interwoven with dramatic readings from his novels just as he himself was so driven to do.
Simon Callow is a marvel —as lecturer clear and fluent; as narrator fascinating; as actor deeply moving in his portrayals. His delivery always projects and is wonderfully colourful.
Is he Callow, Ackroyd or Dickens— is he actor or creator, lecturer or narrator? Who can say? All parts merge seamlessly in this absorbing and inspiring journey through the life and mind and characters of the great Victorian novelist whose works defined an age.
Reviewer: Douglas Rogers
Hedda Gabler: Henrik Ibsen – 10th Nov
Anna Mackmin returns to The Old Vic to direct Olivier Award-winner Sheridan Smith in this major new production of Ibsen’s masterpiece. Brian Friel’s adaptation of this seminal work reveals a play as fresh and shocking as when it was originally written.
Blackta: Nathaniel Martello-White – 17th Nov
This hilariously biting satire by Nathaniel Martello-White, directed by Young Vic artistic director David Lan, exposes the highs and lows of making it as a black actor – a ‘blackta’.
Paines Plough Roundabout Season: Nick Payne, Penelope Skinner and Duncan Macmillan – 27th Oct
Three fantastic playwrights and three fantastic plays. Only a couple of days left. Do see if you can! On at The Shoreditch Town Hall, booking through The National Theatre.
Jumpy: April De Angelis – 3rd Nov
Another Royal Court transfer, Jumpy has you laughing out loud but lacks the thing you need that joins all the pieces together. It has the complex mother/daughter relationship, marital affairs, a paranoid fear of ageing and a bit of feminism in the melting pot but somehow it all gets muddled up along the way. Tamsin Greig takes the lead but it’s best friend, Francis played by Doon Mackichen who shines.
Julietta - 3rd Oct
Julietta at the English National Opera is a rarely performed Martinu opera which is marvellously sung and marvellously staged by Richard Jones. It’s an off-beat surreal piece featuring a man’s love for a girl he has heard singing in his dreams. Anyone who has ever been rudely awakened from the moment when you are just about to attain the object of your desire, will sympathise with his demand to be allowed back into the dream. There are no stand out tunes as such, but it is well worth seeing for the superior quality of the ensemble singing, and the quirkiness of the production.
Barbershopera: Cabaret Sauvignon – 6th Oct
Following a joyous run at Soho Theatre earlier this year, Barbershopera revive their superb evening of cabaret, song and laughter in a terrific new show: Cabaret Sauvignon. On the back of a triumphant return to the Edinburgh Festival with their latest offering, The Three Musketeers, the gang are ready to roll back into the West End for some autumnal jollity.
The Illusion: Pierre Corneille adapted by Tony Kushner – 8th Sept
A lawyer, desperate to find the son he drove away years before, engages the services of a mysterious magician, who conjures up magical visions of the romantic, adventurous and perilous life the lawyer’s son has been living before finally revealing the ultimate truth. Finishes this saturday.
Brand New Ancients: Kate Tempest – 22nd Sept.
Kate Tempest’s latest production Brand New Ancients is doing something very different and very exciting. This is raw and powerful storytelling. Kate peels back the pretence and tells us her tale with the use of basic, stripped lighting and four skilful musicians who accompany her throughout. Powerful, emotive and tragic, I suggest you don’t miss this!
Propeller: The Winter’s Tale & Henry V - 21st July
Propeller have been getting standing ovations round the world for their energetic, exciting performances of Shakespeare’s tales. Where else but in their version of The Winter’s Tale, would you have the immortal line: “Take it away, saxophone sheep”? It alternates with their thrilling Henry V.
Birthday - Joe Penhall. 4th August
Joe Penhall turns the genders on their heads with this funny, thoughtful story of a pregnant man and his wife. Pride, prejudice and the chattering classes clash in an NHS hospital.
The Physicists - a new version by Jack Thorne – July 21st
This is a slick – almost cartoon like – revival of a play which at its heart suggests that physicists are best locked up in an asylum to save the world from their brains. Good fun and thought provoking.
Dr Dee - Damon Albarn – July 7th
Following the success of Damon Albarn’s Monkey: Journey to the West, ENO presents the London premiere of Albarn’s visionary new opera Dr Dee.
Children’s Children - Matthew Dunster – June 30th
An absorbing story, simple but still filled with revelations and one very memorable outburst. Tightly written, with lots of laughs to puncture the gritty emotion.
Lucia Di Lammermoor - Donizetti – June 30th
There’s superb singing in a stark production of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor at Opera Holland Park – the tale of a woman driven mad by being forced to marry a man against her will. The wild summer weather contributed!
Mad about the boy - Gbolahan Obisesan – June 16th
Rave reviews all round. A lyrical and timely examination of what it means to be a man today.
Mercury Fur - Philip Ridley – June 23rd
The hit sell-out production of Mercury Fur transfers to the Trafalgar studios 2. Philip Ridley himself, described it as the best production of this play yet and I would agree, completely. Wonderful, dark and explosive theatre. Fun for all the family……not.
His Greatness – Daniel MacIvor – May 19th
Daniel MacIvor’s latest play is a taut, funny, irony-tinged drama inspired by the fate of the great gay playwright and poet Tennessee Williams who met the most prosaic of deaths choking on the cap of an eye-drops bottle in a hotel room at the age of 71. Directed by Che Walker, strong, engaging performances keep us interested through-out.
Wasted – Kate Tempest – May 19th
Poet and lyricist Kate Tempest is at The Roundhouse, Camden, with her debut play Wasted. It’s lyrical, dynamic, beautifully humourous and truthful. This is playwriting one floor up. Superb acting from Cary Crankson. Watch this space for an interview with Kate Tempest and NFTU soon.
Shiverman – James Sheldon – May 26th
“Before the first morning, in the time of the Shiverman, when the ground trembled and fire tumbled down the mountainside, the music began.”
Misterman by Enda Walsh – May 28th
A brilliant piece of work from acclaimed playwright Enda Walsh, in his first collaboration with Cillian Murphy since the highly acclaimed DiscoPigs 15 years ago. Set within a vast two story warehouse, we witness the character of Thomas McGill slowly unhinge amongst the claustrophobic town of Irishfree. Cillian Murphy’s electrifying performance alone is worth the trip to the National for this magnificent piece of theatre.
Review: Nicola Young
Carmen - OperaUpClose – May 12th
Oedipussy - Spymonkey – April 21st
If you want a proper belly laugh watching grown men wearing strange nappy affairs, and a woman who appears naked at one stage, apart from a cat’s head, you can’t do better than Oedipussy at the Lyric. The story of the man who killed his father, married his mother and gouged his eyes out, has never been more silly. Hail the Spymonkey group.
Review: Penny Smith
A Walk On Part - April 14th
The acerbic diaries of former Labour minister Chris Mullin are animated in this fast and deep play running the length of the New Labour government. Mullin’s cutting personal insight into politics is brought to life by a sharp company led by John Hodgkinson and is as revealing as it is entertaining.
Review: Adam Smith
Bingo by Edward Bond – March 31st
Roll up and see William Shakespeare as you’ve never seen him before. Played by Patrick Stewart in this gripping revival of Bond’s 1973 play, Shakespeare still has his words and his characteristic little earring. But now he’s old, fed up and ready to strike a deal over land rights.
Review: Adam Smith
Can We Talk About This? by Lloyd Newson – March 28th
This is an absolutely unmissable production that reconfigures the form of verbatim theatre, as well as physical theatre. Can We Talk About This? targets and expresses the double standards that surround contemporary cultures’ notions of freedom of speech, multiculturalism and Islam.
Review: Lia Serrano
Reasons to be Cheerful - April 1st
Ian Dury and The Blockhead’s greatest hits are staged in a high energy coming of age tale. This production is by world renowned disabled theatre company Graeae. All but two members of the cast have a visible disability. It’s a positively executed and fun production with a nostalgic accuracy for the era.
In Basildon by David Eldrige – March 24th
Excellent writing with a lot of laughs. This beautifully acted play is perhaps 20 minutes too long – if David Eldridge had omitted the last little act, it would have been perfect. A tale of family feuds and how money can poison the strongest of bonds.
Review: Penny Smith
The Pitchfork Disney by Philip Ridley – March 17th
Siblings Presley and Haley have long quit the world, and are alone with their past in a flat that ‘reeks’ of chocolate. Darkly fantastical story telling from the king of IN YOUR FACE THEATRE. This is the play’s first revival in 21 years.
Review: Gemma Rogers
The Death Of Klinghoffer composer John Adams – March 19th
Hypnotic and not as shocking as I expected it to be – that’s the John Adams’ opera at the ENO. The central performances are excellent with the marvellous Alan Opie as Klinghoffer- the only man to die at the hands of the hijackers of the Achille Lauro cruise ship in 1985. The music is minimalist and at times thrillingly moving. Even though it’s sung in English there are subtitles so you always know exactly what is going on.
Review: Gemma Rogers
The Paper Cinema’s Odyssey - Feb 25th
Homer’s cornerstone of literature is vividly told with beautiful illustration and masterful puppetry. A silent film is created before your eyes, set to a captivating live score from exceptional musicians.
At Swim Two Boys by Jaimie O’Neill – Feb 25th
If you sit in the front row, you will get wet. Dublin, 1916, during the run up to the Easter Uprising, two young men meet; one teaches the other to swim. Taken from the novel of the same name, told through dance by the always innovative Earth Fall, this tender, funny and moving piece is well worth the schlep out to Hammersmith.
Review: Luke Healey
The Bee by Hideki Noda and Colin Teevan – Feb 11
In The Bee, even horrific events are normalised. In another time, are the events that we consider normal actually horrific? That’s the startling question this play makes you ask of yourself.
Review: Adam Smith
Neighbourhood watch by Alan Ayckbourne – Feb 11
Ayckbourne has donned both his writing and directorial caps once more with his sizzling new play, which simmers and fizzes while casting a slightly more cynical tone than usual. Uproariously funny at times. This brilliant ensemble cast are not to be missed.
Review: Oliver Kaderbhai
Our New girl by Nancy Harris – Feb 18
A forensic examination of motherhood, privilege, ambition and love. Beautifully acted both deeply moving and outrageously funny and had the audience baying for blood at times.
Review: Gracie Grumphie
No more shall we part by Tom Holloway – Feb 18
In many ways, this play is a lesson in how not to go about suicide. Diagnosed with cancer and desperate to take her failing health into her own hands, Pam begins to alienate her husband who is not ready to let her go.
Review: Gemma Rogers