So, my first monthly Top Ten stage shows list… Below is my list of recommended shows to see in London for June. There’s a great selection in here, from plays to ballet, from opera to musicals, and a bit of comedy and Shakespeare thrown in too.
Each month, I will be compiling my Top Ten list of shows to see that month and you can get this list direct to your inboxes by signing up here. Along with my Top Ten art shows to see, these newsletters will be winging their way to inboxes the first weekend of every month.
I’m a bit late on this first one – forgive me. Also, blame Sky Broadband. I apologise by way of adding an eleventh show to see – so this is more a Top Ten +1!
Blue/Orange, Young Vic Theatre
When it first premiered in 2001, Joe Penhall’s Blue/Orange grabbed the Olivier and a whole host of acclaim for his biting satire on mental illness. And now Blue/Orange returns with a flourish with a dynamic, exciting and wickedly funny production at the Young Vic. The play follows Christopher, a black man, who has been held for thirty days under a Section Two order. Now, about to be released, his psychiatrist is reluctant to let him go, thinking Christopher is showing far more worrying behaviour than first thought. But the senior consultant disagrees. And this disagreement soon unravels into a huge conflict that touches upon race, language, society and even the very definition of mental illness itself. It’s frightening that this play is still so resonant, fifteen years after it first opened. But this is powerful, brilliant stuff.
The Deep Blue Sea, National Theatre
Last time Helen McCrory and Carrie Cracknell collaborated at the National Theatre we were treated to a version of Medea that was so powerful, it was like having a knife turning in your heart. And the two are back, mining the depths of darkness and despair again, in an impressive revival of Terence Rattigan’s play of a married woman and her ill-fated affair in post-war London. This isn’t a play for those looking for an upbeat night out but it is a production with a central performance that will haunt you. Tickets from £15 (though there are not many cheap ones left. For £20 tickets, your best bet would be the NT’s Friday Rush).
Madam Butterfly, English National Opera
Whenever I’m asked for an ‘introductory opera’ I always say either Anthony Minghella’s version of Madam Butterfly or a traditional Carmen. They are both so accessible, and we know the story and music so well. So, now’s your chance as the English National Opera is running Minghella’s production of Puccini’s much-loved Madam Butterfly – this famous tale of unrequited love – at the London Coliseum. This show is incomparably beautiful; the visuals are drenched with Minghella’s cinematic vision. I can’t imagine you will ever see a more visually striking production of this famous story. Tickets from £12.
Richard III, Almeida Theatre
It seems almost mean to recommend a play where tickets are already as rare as gold dust but this production of Richard III can’t be overlooked, what with the alluring combination of its starry cast (Ralph Fiennes playing the villainous king and Vanessa Redgrave as Queen Margaret) and its innovative director (Almeida’s Artistic Director Rupert Goold). Bur fear not, for there is still hope! A smattering of tickets do come up on the website occasionally as returns are made or more tickets are released. Plus, from Friday June 17th, day tickets will be released each morning at11am. And if all that fails, in July, Richard III will be the first play beamed live to cinemas nationwide as part of the new Almeida Live initiative. Tickets from £10.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare’s Globe
I was going to kick this off by saying what a treat it is to watch Shakespeare outside in the Globe on a balmy summer evening but, currently it is ******** it down outside so I may need to bin that selling point for this month. Instead can we get some love for Emma Rice, the new Artistic Director at the Globe, and her new, irreverent version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which transports Shakespeare’s play of love and trickery to Hoxton? Emma also mixes up the usual heterosexuality with gay pairings as well as straight. And add in the glorious cabaret star, Meow Meow, (who I adore, btw) as the fairy Titania and you have recipe for fun and a lot of trouble. Purists are up in arms, of course, which is a reminder that this is well worth seeing. Seated tickets from £20; standing £5.
People, Places, Things, Wyndham’s Theatre
This is it people, your final week warning! People, Places, Things closes this weekend after a run that has seen the production grab Olivier awards, as well as rapturous love from audiences and critics alike. People, Places and Things is an electric piece of theatre on addiction and recovery, the lies we tell ourselves, and the secret scars we all have to bear. It’s a smart, witty yet heart-breaking piece of work, with, at its centre, one of the finest performances of the year from Denise Gough as a woman wrestling with her demons – internal and external. Tickets from £15.
Natalia Osipova, Sadler’s Wells
Any show with Natalia Osipova would always make a ‘must-see’ list but add her first ever UK on-stage pairing with her off-stage partner, Sergei Polunin (for non-ballet peeps – him of Hozier’s Take Me to Church fame) and we have a show that audiences are salivating for. The shows at Sadler’s Wells will be a programme of new work specially commissioned for Natalia, with routines from renowned contemporary dance choreographers Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Russell Maliphant and Arthur Pita. But I suspect just as many will be there to see the ‘bad boy of ballet’ who walked out on the Royal Ballet. Both are stars. I cannot wait. Shows run from Wednesday 29 June to Sunday 3 July. Tickets from £12.
Cuttin’ It, Royal Court
Yup, you read that right – I’m recommending to you a play about FGM. Now, I know there’s a lot of fears here – will this be arduous and overwrought? Will this be condescending? Am I making you see something you should see rather than want to see… I get all that. But throw those thoughts away because Cuttin’ It is extraordinary. It’s returning to London after a tour following its premiere at the Young Vic and it’s gripping, heart breaking and, at times, hard to bear. But it is also incredibly warm and witty. This is a superb play on a desperately relevant subject. Go, go, go! Opens June 23rd. Tickets from £10.
David Baddiel, Menier Chocolate Factory
David Baddiel has, pretty much, taken up residency at Menier Chocolate Factory, with his new show on his parents and their (and, therefore, his) experience of dementia. Not necessarily a subject you’d put down as one to generate many laughs – but that is exactly David’s point. This isn’t a show that reduces his parents, in particular his father, to this illness, but one that celebrates families in all their weirdness, eccentricities, affections and failings. Closes June 25th. Tickets from £22.50.
Titanic, Charing Cross Theatre
This popular musical, which won praise in its initial run at Southwark Playhouse a couple of years ago, is back again for another sailing. And it is a welcome return. As well as an engaging score, the book is based on real passengers who boarded the Titanic and, at its heart, this is an examination of the class structure in society that the boat rigidly reflected in its segregation of life (and death) on board. It’s tender, depressing stuff – of course – but amongst the defeated hopes and dreams of those struggling in third class, there’s some warmth and light comedy to lift the gloom in the portrayal of social climbers in Second Class desperately trying to grab their chance to rub shoulders with the wealthy – even if it is right at the death. A hell of an achievement to make a musical this good and this engaging from a story that has been told many times. Tickets from £17.50.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Palace Theatre
Ok, strictly speaking this play is not opening until the end of July as it is in previews for the next six weeks. However, it would be a tad remiss to do a rundown of what’s hot on the London stage and not include what is, in truth, the biggest show out there. What can I tell you? Well, basically nothing ‘cause, you know, #keepthesecret but I think we can safely say there will be all the magic needed to keep the love for the Harry Potter universe alive and well in its devoted fans. And, hopefully these fans will become theatre fans too. Availability isn’t great with 2017 being your best bet (!) but there are two lotteries running – a weekly one for online purchases and a daily one at the box office. Tickets from £15 (Tickets £30 in the lotteries).