So, tomorrow marks a new year and a new month. So, time once again for my top ten list of shows to see next month. I’ve dramas, comedies, and even some ballet for you this month so, surely, one of these could tempt you out on a cold night? Surely!
And as always, if you see any of these shows, do let me know.
Woolf Works, Royal Ballet
This is the first revival of Wayne McGregor’s critically acclaimed ballet triptych to music by Max Richter, inspired by 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. McGregor’s ballet triptych met with outstanding critical acclaim on its premiere in 2015, and went on to win the Critics’ Circle Award for Best Classical Choreography and the Olivier Award for Best New Dance Production. Opens January 21st. Tickets from £4.
Wish List, Royal Court
This play from Katherine Soper was the winner of the 2015 Bruntwood Award for Playwriting and it seems very much a play for our time. The story centres around Tamsin, sole carer for her brother Dean, whose crippling OCD leaves him unable to leave the house let alone hold down a job. So, when their benefits are slashed, it falls to Jasmin to support them both through a desperate and highly pressured zero hours contract job. A sensitive and delicately powerful play about trying to survive when every system is against you. Opens January 10th. Tickets from £10.
Mary Stuart, Almeida Theatre
Two Queens, and with one toss of a coin, their fates are decided. It’s Juliet Stevenson and Lia Williams as Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots – though who takes which role is decided at the start of each performance by the flip of a coin. And it’s that theme of chance, luck and the flip of a coin that infuses this play about the battle for the heart and soul of two nations, and the divine rights of kings and queens.
For Elizabeth battled long and hard with internal doubts and external advisers on whether to behead her enemy north of the border for treason. After all, she had painful personal experience of a Queen losing her head, but her own future was not certain at this time. What precedent would she set for the execution of a Queen? We all arrive at our destiny by chance. What fates and coincidences brought Elizabeth to the throne, and what role should she play in the elimination of her enemies? Powerful stuff. Tickets from £10.
She Loves Me, Menier Chocolate Factory
There’s a lot of drama out there right now so, if you fancy something lighter, something to warm the heart, then look no further than She Loves Me at the Menier. More widely known as the template for Hollywood blockbuster, You’ve Got Mail, this 1960s musical follows Amalia and Georg who detest each other in real life as clerks in Maraczek’s Parfumerie but they just don’t realise that the other is the secret pen pal they are both writing love letters to in private. Ah, true love! It never runs smooth, does it? The reviews are glowing for this show so expect it to put a spring in your step. Tickets from £35.
Saint Joan, Donmar Warehouse
Josie Rourke is at the helm and it’s Gemma Arterton in the lead role for this revival of Bernard Shaw’s tragedy. Shaw wrote the play not long after Joan of Arc was canonised by the Catholic Church and the focus in the play is on her trial for heresy and witchcraft. Shaw considered the play to be without specific villains, but rather our concerns should be with what man is capable of when he thinks he is acting with the best intentions. Whether Joan was truly sent to the stake for the best reasons is up for debate, as is man’s scruples. Tickets are already pretty hard to come by so your best bet may well be the Monday 10am release of front row tickets. Tickets from £10.
Winter Solstice, Orange Tree Theatre
A sparkling Christmas comedy from Orange Tree Theatre in the form of this UK premier for Roland Schimmelpfennig’s Winter Solstice. It’s Christmas Eve and what should be a festive reunion for Bettina and Albert’s family and friends in front of the Christmas tree goes off-road when Bettina’s mother turns up for drinks with a man she’s only just met on the train. It promises to be a play that makes a few great swipes at class as well as decorum, so I’m expecting it to be a cracker. (See what I did there?) Opens January 12th. Tickets from £15.
This is a great play by Peter Schaffer. And this is a terrific production from Michael Longhurst of the highly fictionalised account of the relationship between Salieri, Court Composer to Emperor Joseph II (Lucian Msamati is terrific btw as the scheming Salieri) and the young pretentious genius on the scene, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Salieri rages at God for a perceived betrayal – he promised devotion to the Lord in exchange for musical talent. But, instead, though he rises through the ranks at Court, it is in Mozart, a brattish upstart, that the true genius lies. By way of retribution, Salieri sets out to destroy Mozart.
The story may have only a tenuous link to reality but the themes of ambition and corruption remain evergreen, and the infusion of music in this production through the inclusion of the Southbank Sinfonia is glorious. Tickets from £20.
Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes, Sadler’s Wells
Taking on an iconic film is always a hell of a challenge but there’s much to admire in Matthew Bourne’s adaptation of this much-loved film. Much like the film, we follow Victoria Page as she grabs her opportunity in a breakthrough role as the dancer in The Red Shoes, only for her own career to be challenged when she falls in love with the conductor of the orchestra. The show’s manager won’t stand for such an entanglement and forces Victoria to choose between her career and her love. And, well, it doesn’t end well. But for all the darkness and drama, Bourne brings out much light and humour too which makes this an eminently watchable and enjoyable show. Tickets from £12.
Only a couple of weeks left to see this brilliant new play from Lucy Kirkwood. Set in the near future, we follow a retired couple who live on the edge of a nuclear accident exclusion zone in the UK. We’re off-kilter right from the start – why is it set here? – but the everyday routine of life for this couple is turned upside down with the arrival of a blast from the past – Rose, a former colleague. It’s been over thirty years since they last saw her, so why has she turned up now? This is a fantastically multi-layered play that not only unravels the secrets we all keep, but also examines growing old and inter-generational responsibilities. Tickets from £10.
Art, The Old Vic
I’m pretty pleased I’ve managed to squeeze three comedies in to this top ten list as, well, we could do with a laugh. And this 90-minute revival of a classic apparently is having audiences leaving with smiles firmly on their faces. Rufus Sewell stars as Serge, a man who prompts a ruckus with his friends with his purchase of a painting. A painting that is entirely white. Just a white canvas, nothing else. Mark (Paul Ritter) is narrow-minded and grumpy, thinking his friend has lost his mind wasting his money on such a stupid piece of work, leaving Ivan (Tim Key) stuck in the middle. As much about friendship and open minds as it is about art. Tickets from £10.