Top Ten London Theatre and Ballet October 2016


Hello everybody

October is a HUGE month for new shows in the Capital. Everywhere you turn there are curtains coming up on new productions. That means plenty to get through, here, in my top ten. However, sadly this isn’t exhaustive as there are more I’d like to have shared with you. Nevertheless, let this ten be your guide to those ones you really, really should be thinking about booking sooner rather than later.

And for all the rest, I promise to cover them at some point via Twitter but, as a heads up, the Royal Court continues its platforming of new writing with Torn and Father Comes Home. Similarly, the Young Vic has a great line-up this Autumn. The Mountaintop is listed below but I’m also planning to see Man of Good Hope. And, as I mentioned last month, the Donmar’s all-women Shakespeare trilogy opens at its temporary home away from the Donmar in King’s Cross.

As ever, do let me know which ones you see.


Lazarus, Kings Cross Theatre

David Bowie and Ivo van Hove. What a combination. This musical collaboration between the iconic performer and one of the hottest directorial talents in the world wowed audiences and critics alike when it opened on Broadway last year. This transfer may come with its original cast and creatives, but the loss of Bowie earlier this year will certainly cast a shadow, especially as much of the score comes from his illustrious back catalogue – including classics such as Life on Mars, All the Young Dudes, The Man Who Sold the World, and Heroes. But there are three new tracks also. Which is appropriate as Bowie, like van Hove, was an innovator always looking forward. Opens October 25th. Tickets from £15.


A Pacifist’s Guide to the War on Cancer, National Theatre

I love Bryony Kimmings. I’ve loved everything she’s ever done, whether it’s her excavation of her sexual history, or her fears on the coming of age of her young niece. As a performance artist, she is irrepressibly charismatic. And her shows, often autobiographical, are bold and their themes are universal. So hence I’ve already got my ticket for this, Bryony’s first show at the NT. And it’s an all singing all-dancing examination of the whirlwind that follows a cancer diagnosis. Brilliant. Absolutely bloody brilliant. I have all my fingers crossed that this will be everything I hope it to be. And with the promise of big musical numbers, shiny costumes, and real cancer survivors in the cast, I think we should be fine. Opens October 14th. Tickets from £15.


One Night in Miami, Donmar Warehouse

One night, one meeting. It’s 1964 and Cassius Clay (not yet Ali) has just beaten Sonny Liston. A night of celebrations, yet Clay avoids the crowds and instead, spends a night in deep discussion with Malcolm X, Sam Cooke, and American football star, Jim Brown. The subjects? America, segregation, racism, the Civil Rights movement, and the Nation of Islam. I have wanted to see this play since it premiered on Broadway in 2013 so I am thrilled that the Donmar is hosting its London debut. I already have my ticket. (In fact, I bought it as soon as this show was announced!). Opens October 6th. Tickets from £10.


The Red Barn, National Theatre

It’s a pub quiz question – which actor would you like to play you in a film of your life? My answer – Mark Strong. Now, I’m aware of a few challenges around this casting but no matter. The guy is simply awesome. And now he returns to the London stage following his award-winning turn in A View from the Bridge in this psychological thriller based on the book by George Simenon. It comes from an unusual writer-director blend of David Hare and Robert Icke – the former a part of the theatrical establishment, the latter with a reputation for challenging the rules. So this could be something special. Opens October 6th. Tickets from £20.


The Mountaintop, Young Vic Theatre

April 3, 1968. Martin Luther King’s last night on Earth. Not that King knew that, of course. Holed up in Room 306 at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, we get to meet the man behind the legend, listening to him as he explores his hopes and fears for both the Civil Rights movement and himself – and as he wrestles with his doubt about the very concept of liberation. Here at the Young Vic, this Olivier-award winning play will be directed by Roy Alexander Weise, who won the 2016 JMK Award for young directors. Opens October 7th. Tickets from £15.


King Lear, Old Vic Theatre

Apparently we still live in a time when casting a woman in a traditionally male Shakespearian role is considered a revolutionary act. A depressing state of affairs, for sure. But let’s ignore these dinosaurs who insist only men have the strength and depth to play Lear and celebrate the fact that GLENDA JACKSON IS RETURNING TO THE STAGE! It’s been over 25 years since we last saw her and now she’s back, playing the ageing King presiding over the collapse of his Empire. And it’s a cracking supporting cast too, including Jane Horrocks and Rhys Ifans. Remarkably there are still some tickets left. Grab them! Opens October 25th. Tickets from £12.


Oil, Almeida Theatre

Fresh from tackling the problems of the Congo in They Drink it in the Congo, the Almeida is now throwing itself into exploring the oil industry. A hefty challenge on a sprawling subject, which they acknowledge, describing this new show from Ella Hickson as an “epic, hurtling crash of empire, history and family.” It sounds terrific in its ambition. And add to that, it will be directed by Carrie Cracknell and will star Anne-Marie Duff. The whole thing just sounds magnificent. And how thrilling to see such a female-dominated set of creatives. (Can we get this more often, please? Far, far more often.) Opens October 7th. Tickets from £10.


Amadeus, National Theatre

The THIRD entry for the NT in this list. I know it seems excessive but their Autumn/Winter line-up is mightily impressive. And included is the return of Amadeus. In this terrific play from Peter Shaffer, the rise and fall of this greatest of the greats is told from the viewpoint of Court schemer and jealous competitor, Antonio Salieri. I’m (obviously!) way too young to have witnessed the mighty NT production back in 1979, but even I know that the lead performance from Paul Scofield casts a long shadow. Taking up the gauntlet in that role now is Lucian Msamati (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom). And given this production is directed by Michael Longhurst (They Drink it in the Congo, Constellations), expect this to be given a revolutionary makeover. Opens October 19th. Tickets from £15.


Shakespeare Triple Bill, Birmingham Royal Ballet

More Shakespeare and another triple bill. But this one comes not from the Donmar, but from Birmingham Royal Ballet. Appearing at Sadler’s Wells, the company will showcase three Shakespeare-inspired ballets that celebrate the Bard’s legacy. This will include a one-act dramatic take on Othello, a collective piece celebrating a cast of Shakespearian favourites, and an intriguing new work from Jessica Lang based on the great man’s sonnets. In addition, later in the month the Company will also be performing a full-length new ballet from David Bintley based on The Tempest, also at Sadler’s Wells. Opens October 10th. Tickets from £12.


Blue Heart, Orange Tree Theatre

Surely, SURELY, this has to be a winning combination? Two one-act plays from the mighty Caryl Churchill put on by Orange Tree Theatre, a revitalised company that is churning out the hits with an almighty regularity. The two plays are Heart’s Desire and Blue Kettle, and I’ve not seen either, which is not surprising as this will be their first major revival since their Royal Court premiere almost 20 years ago. The common theme in these plays is family – with the first seeing a family await the return of their daughter from Australia, and the second following a conman and the five women he manipulates into believing he is their biological son. But this is Churchill, so there’ll be no straight line narratives here… Opens October 13th. Tickets from £15.

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