It’s cold out there, I know, but below are some terrific shows that are well worth leaving the house for. I’ve comedies for you, dystopian nightmares, ballet, murder-mysteries by candlelight, dramas on big relevant themes in the world today, Shakespeare, and even Andrew Scott! Come on, you cannot tell me there isn’t anything in this line-up that works for you!
And as ever, if you see any of the below, let me know what you think.
Ah, Caryl Churchill… This gem from ‘Britain’s Greatest Living Playwright’ is back, having premiered at the Royal Court last year. It’s running there again for a few weeks before heading off in tour and, if you love your theatre vital, exciting and innovative then I would absolutely recommend this. For, as the play starts, you think you are in for a whimsical play focused on four retired ladies reminiscing about how much their local town has changed over their lifetime. But nothing is so obvious in Caryl Churchill’s world and, instead, this play throws you into a powerful series of flash-forwards, which envisage a dark apocalyptic future. Extraordinary and not a little unnerving. Closes February 11th. Tickets from £10.
Hamlet, Almeida Theatre
It’s almost cruel for me to put this show on the list as the demand for tickets is sky-high so if you want to see this, some effort will be required! But frankly, why wouldn’t you want to see this? For the Almeida has taken the glorious Andrew Scott and partnered him with Robert Icke, a director known for wanting to shake things up, so I’m fully on board with this being an exciting and radical take on the fate of the Danish Prince. Day tickets will be available and more tickets will also go on sale at 10am on February 20th. Grab them! Opens February 17th. Tickets from £10.
Who’d have thought that a satire on the lure of Far-Right ideology would not only work, but be so damn funny? And, boy, Winter Solstice is hilarious. The play centres around a family’s Christmas Eve whose festive preparations are punctured by the unexpected arrival of a stranger who has recently befriended the grandmother. But though many are seduced by the charm and passions of this stranger in their midst, others are not so sure, and in his words and actions see dangerous shadows from the past. And given events of 2016, with more battles ahead as extreme right-wing values come into the ascendancy, the timing of this production is extraordinary. And the darkness is in the humour for whilst we’re laughing at the ridiculousness of this stranger’s opinions, others connect with his words. Closes February 11th. Tickets from £10.
Twelfth Night, National Theatre
Shakespeare’s comedy of mistaken identity and unrequited love is one of my favourites. It has obviously been done many times (The Rylance’s version at The Globe always brings a smile to my face) so it’s good to see the NT bringing something new to the table with some interesting gender swaps in a play that already has a lot of gender swapping going on within it! Here, Tamsin Grieg plays a transformed Malvolia, traditionally a male role. Meanwhile Doon Mackichan (Smack the Pony) will play a gender-flipped Feste. Opens February 15th. Tickets from £15.
Woolf Works, Royal Opera House
This marks the first revival of Wayne Macgregor’s acclaimed contemporary ballet triptych based on the works of Virginia Woolf. Each of the three acts springs from one of Woolf’s landmark novels – Mrs Dalloway, Orlando and The Waves – but these inspirations are also enmeshed with elements from her letters, essays and diaries. Woolf Works was McGregor’s first full-length work for The Royal Ballet and it met with outstanding critical acclaim on its premiere in 2015, going on to win the Critics’ Circle Award for Best Classical Choreography and the Olivier Award for Best New Dance Production. Closes February 14th. Tickets from £4.
Low Level Panic, Orange Tree Theatre
Orange Tree Theatre really does have a programme of shows with themes that are prescient and current, doesn’t it? For once the shadow of Nazism leaves with Winter Solstice above, this witty play from Clare McIntyre is next. Low Level Panic explores the effect of society’s objectification of women through the eyes of three female flatmates who voice the fears and challenges all women face from the barrage of expectations and judgment that comes their way. Originally performed at the Royal Court back in 1988, Clare won the Samuel Beckett award for this play the following year. And still, thirty years on, how depressing is it that its themes must still be discussed and confronted today? But I, for one, am damn looking forward to this dark comedy. Opens February 16th. Tickets from £15.
See Me Now, Young Vic Theatre
A new version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is opening on the Main Stage this month at the Young Vic but I’m far more interested in this new show running in the smaller Maria stage. Created and performed by sex workers, See Me Now platforms voices that are often mocked or marginalised completely. Here, sex workers share their painful, touching and often hilarious stories about their lives behind closed doors – what is required of them and the myriad of complex and often surprising reasons for why they do what they do. Tickets from £10 (though they are pretty scarce already).
Silver Lining, Rose Theatre
Rose Theatre sees the world premiere of Silver Lining, the new comedy by Sandi Toksvig. It tells the tale of five extraordinary yet forgotten women, who come together one treacherous night to recreate The Great Escape – senior citizen style! Set on a dark and stormy night in the Silver Retirement Home, five elderly ladies are trading stories of their remarkable lives. But with the storm floods rising and no rescue team in sight, the ladies are faced with the sudden realisation that in order to survive they are going to have to do what they have done for their entire lives – do it themselves. It sounds terrific. And this is a joint production with English Touring Theatre so after Kingston, this production is going on tour nationally. Can’t wait. Opens February 3rd. Tickets from £5.
The White Devil, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse
Oh, here’s a dark one… The White Devil was originally written by John Webster back in the 17th century. Based on a real murder in Italy some thirty years before, the play was designed as a satire on the corruption in the Royal Court in England at the time. Exploring the reality gap between how people depict themselves in public – as whole, and pure – and how they behave in private, this adaptation sees director Annie Ryan reinterpret the story in a dystopian reimagining that reveals a nightmarish world of deceit and madness. The candlelight and shadows of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse seems to be a perfect place to stage this. Tickets from £10.
This list is topped and tailed with shows at the Royal Court and rightly so as they are both terrific. Unlike Escaped Alone, Wish List is set in the right here, right now and it is a painful but engaging and heartfelt examination of the cruelty of Austerity Britain. Tamsin is a young woman and sole carer to her brother who is unable to work. With no family to support them, she juggles her responsibilities to him with her insecure and spirit-crushing zero-hours job at a local packing factory. But when the Benefits Office unexpectedly declares her brother unfit to work – something which he is clearly not able to do – the fragile balance Tamsin is fighting to maintain is thrown into disarray. A small story but one that packs a powerful punch. Closes February 11th. Tickets from £10.