Well, this is my last top ten list for stage shows to see in London for 2016. I know, it’s been emotional. But I hope these continue to be useful as I’ll still be doing them next year!
Anyway, focusing on the right now, the list below is a great selection (if I do say so myself) but yet it doesn’t include Mark Rylance in Nice Fish, the terrific Amadeus at the National Theatre, and (also at the NT), Mark Strong in the intriguing The Red Barn. But i figured as I’d mentioned them in previous newsletters, you’d be OK with me squeezing in the new shows below.
So, once more with feeling for 2016. And Merry Christmas and please, for the love of God, may next year be better than this one…
Hedda Gabler, National Theatre
Rufus Norris really does have a talent for bringing the best together in the most remarkable of combinations, doesn’t he? We’ve got the classic Ibsen play, directed by a man at the top of his game – Ivo van Hove – with Ruth Wilson (Luther) in the lead role as the newly-married woman who is far from happy. This ain’t going to be the happiest piece of theatre you’ll see this festive season but it may well be one of the best. Opens December 5th. Tickets from £15.
Once in a Lifetime, Young Vic
If you fancy an upbeat uplifting show this Christmas, this classic Broadway comedy could be just what you’re looking for! It’s the 1930s and Harry Enfield makes his stage debut as an out-of-luck vaudevillian performer who decides to head to Hollywood to see if he can break through in the newest craze – the ‘talkies’. What follows is a series of witty mishaps and humorous blunders which sends up the craziness and absurdities of Tinsel Town. Tickets from £10.
The Red Shoes, Sadler’s Wells
Matthew Bourne takes on one of the most iconic films to bring this new ballet to the stage and, well, we’ve all our fingers crossed. Previous stage adaptations of this film have not fared well but there’s good reason to believe Matthew Bourne will capture the darkness in this haunting tale of dancing and possession that follows Victoria Page’s obsessive drive to become the world’s greatest dancer. And, it must be said, a terrific alternative to the more traditional Christmas ballets. Opens December 6th. Tickets from £12.
Sheppey, Orange Tree Theatre
Following on from his revivals of works from Bernard Shaw, Terrence Rattigan and Doris Lessing, Artistic Director Paul Miller is now taking on Somerset Maugham in the first revival for a generation of Maugham’s final play, Sheppey. A warm-hearted play for Christmas, Sheppey looks at the decisions of a man who unexpectedly wins the lottery. His family have all sorts of plans for the winnings but the man would rather use his fortune in a more unorthodox way. Who’s to say which way is right? And will it ultimately change anything anyway? A classic play with some of the most famous lines in theatre. Open now. Tickets from £12.
The Children, Royal Court Theatre
Following plays such as Chimerica and NSFW, Lucy Kirkwood is one of the most exciting British playwrights around. And now she returns to the Royal Court with a mysterious dystopian play about a retired British couple, two nuclear scientists, retreating from an unstable world. Only when a face from their past suddenly appears, an awful lot starts to unravel. With shadows of Fukushima and perhaps a terrible foreshadowing for Hinkley Point, this play also takes an interesting look at generational responsibilities. Tickets from £10.
Mary Stuart, Almeida Theatre
A play about two queens – Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots – to be played by two of the greatest talents, Juliet Stevenson and Lia Williams. It seems completely appropriate, yet which queen will be played by who will be decided on the day of the show by a flip of a coin. That’s one hell of a challenge for the actors and for director Robert Icke, but the Almeida is not one for shying away from risk, is it now? Such is the anticipation that all advance tickets for this show have already sold out. More tickets will go on sale at 10am on Monday 5 December and Day Seats will be available from Saturday 10 December. So don’t give up hope! Tickets from £10. Opens December 2nd.
Saint Joan, Donmar Warehouse
The fascination with Joan of Arc never wanes and now, film star Gemma Arterton teams up with Donmar’s Artistic Director Josie Rourke to bring their own stamp to Bernard Shaw’s classic play about a woman seen as everything from a hero to a traitor, from a saint to a witch. All advance tickets have gone for this one too, I’m afraid. But the Donmar does release tickets every Monday morning through its Front Row initiative so there is still a chance! Opens December 9th. Tickets from £10.
Art, The Old Vic
A rare opportunity to confess another classic play I have never seen… So thanks to The Old Vic for giving me the chance to correct this for Artistic Director, Matthew Warchus, has reunited the original creative team behind Art for this new revival, which will star Tim Key, Paul Ritter and (my mother’s favourite) Rufus Sewell. This comedy examines art and friendship as it follows the purchase of a large, expensive, completely white painting that puts immense strain on the bonds of friendship and lots of passionate discussions about what exactly art is. Opens December 10th. Tickets from £12.
Little Match Girl, Shakespeare’s Globe
I think it’ll be impossible to talk about this production in any way – preview or review – without commenting on the fate of its director, Emma Rice, who was forced to step down from her position as Artistic Director of The Globe a couple of months ago. This’ll be one of her last shows and it’ll demonstrate how terrific Emma’s vision is through the incorporation of music, puppetry and dark magic in this tragic story that will also include other tales from Hans Christian Andersen, such as The Princess and the Pea, and Thumbelina. Tickets from £10.
Fleabag, Soho Theatre
Oh, I am mean, aren’t I? The tickets for this brief return of the play that inspired the cult television show sold out in, what, twenty minutes? But there is always the possibility of returns or the release of spares during the run and, I tell you, if you can grab any of these, DO! Fleabag has taken on a huge life since but when I first saw this original play, directed by Vicky Jones and starring Phoebe Waller-Bridge, I was stunned. I’d never seen a one-person show this good – the script, the sound design, the directing… it’s a terrific piece of theatre in its own right. Five stars, all the way. Opens December 5th. Tickets from £15.