So, how was your Christmas then? Was there a chocolate orange, piece of turkey, or slice of Christmas pud that didn’t get eaten? Wonderful. That’s a proper Christmas, right there. But, if you’re like me, your thoughts will already be turning to 2018 and all those good intentions you’re going to put into practice.
And if one of them is to get more culture into your veins then, well, you’ve come to the right place as, in 2018, I’ll be continuing God’s work by rustling up my top ten theatre and art shows to see in London each month. And where better to start than those shows around town that have made it into my recommended list for January?
And what a cracking list we’re kicking off with – we’ve the dark and unsettling, musical phenomenon, bittersweet romantic comedies, famous lives, political drama, and feminist rage. So all the important bases covered then.
It seems almost mean to put this one up as the chances of getting a ticket (if you don’t have one already) seem pretty daunting. Well, don’t panic, because there are still ways to get a ticket to this extraordinary musical that just had me in awe of its verve and originality. First, you can always scrawl through the Ticketmaster website show-by-show for returns or the odd ticket. (July onwards has been released so there’s quite a few there!)
Or, there’s the £10 lottery each day at 4pm. To enter, put your name into the lottery two days before the show in question and you’ll find out if you’ve won by 2pm the next day. It’s so worth it. This is an electric show that brings the struggles and strife of Alexander Hamilton – the man who rose from nothing to the highest levels of power during the American Revolution – to life in a way that has resonance and meaning for those wondering what can be accomplished in one lifetime in spite of all the obstacles in front of us.
This wonderful revival of Pete Shaffer’s iconic play returns to the Olivier! If you missed this first time around, please don’t let this opportunity pass you by again. Director Michael Longhurst’s decision to incorporate the Southbank Sinfonia into the production is sublime, Lucian Msamati’s performance as the Machiavellian Salieri I still believe was criminally overlooked in awards season, and at the heart of this theatrical spectacle is a powerful and emotional examination of genius, the corrosive power of jealousy, and man’s rage with God. Wonderful. Opens January 11th. Tickets from £15.
The Brothers Size, Young Vic
The Young Vic kicks off 2018 with this revival of a decade-old work by the Academy Award-winner Tarell Alvin McCraney (Moonlight). After a spell in prison, two African-American brothers reunite through Yoruba mythology and live music. Bijan Sheibani directs this darkly sparkling, brilliant play of a deeply moving fable about the bonds between men. Opens January 19th. Tickets from £10.
Beginning, Ambassadors Theatre
Following a sell-out run in the Dorfman, writer David Eldridge’s acclaimed production of Beginning transfers to the West End. Justine Mitchell and Sam Troughton reprise their critically acclaimed roles as Laura and Danny in this tender and funny story about loneliness, the first fragile moments of risking your heart, and taking a chance. Opens January 15th. Tickets from £18.
Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992, The Gate Theatre
When the policemen accused of assaulting young, black taxi driver Rodney King were acquitted, deadly riots broke out across LA, laying bare the recurring pattern of racial oppression and police brutality in America. For this ground-breaking piece of verbatim theatre, Anna Deavere Smith interviewed hundreds of people from police commissioners to Rodney King’s family about those devastating few days in the summer of 1992. These are their words, performed by Nina Bowers, who will play over 25 characters. Opens January 11th. Tickets from £10.
Mary Stuart, Duke of York’s Theatre
This extraordinary piece of theatre centred around the burden of power was a five-star hit when it ran at the Almeida back in 2016 and now it finally has its West End transfer. Juliet Stevenson and Lia Williams play both Elizabeth I and Mary Stuart – the allocation of roles decided by the toss of a coin at the start of each performance – in Robert Icke’s adaptation of Schiller’s political tragedy of two Queens in a world of men that takes us behind the scenes as Elizabeth wrestles with demands from her advisers to execute her cousin for treason; a terrible act that Elizabeth well remembers that her father put upon her own mother. Opens January 13th. Tickets from £10.
Rita Sue and Bob Too, Royal Court Theatre
I really feel for the Royal Court on this one; they really are stuck between a rock and a hard place on this one. But, nevertheless, here we are: the once-cancelled Rita Sue and Bob Too is now back on and, so, we will all get to see and examine how Andrea Dunbar’s seminal semi-autobiographical work about two teenage girls, living on a housing estate in Bradford, who agree to have sex with a man whose kids they were babysitting – and the repercussions it has for all those involved. I’m not sure what it’s going to feel like, watching this play in the current climate when harassment and abuse is centre-stage, but I am rooting for this production and hope it can bring an interesting insight to the conversation. Starts January 9th. Tickets from £12.
Collective Rage, Southwark Playhouse
In Collective Rage, the lives of five very different New York women named Betty collide at the intersection of anger, sex and “theat-ah”. As they meet, fall in love, rehearse, revel and rage, they realise that they’ve been stuck reading the same scripts for far too long. Strongly influenced by cabaret and female drag, this outrageous comedy exquisitely rejects shame and stereotype. It will punch you in the gut, break your heart and then take you dancing. Hurrah! Opens January 24th. Tickets from £12.
John, National Theatre
Writer Annie Baker returns to the National Theatre after her sell-out hit The Flick, which made just about everyone ‘best of’ list for 2016. And in John, Annie centres her play around a Brooklyn couple, Elias and Jenny, who arrive late at night to a Gettysburg B&B; a brief stopover as they make their way to New York. But this is a couple where tensions are beginning to show, and the strains are tested by the eccentric B&B manager and her eclectic interior design, which sees the rooms filled to the brim with dolls and miniature houses. Opens January 17th. Tickets from £15.
Woman Before a Glass, Jermyn Street Theatre
Peggy Guggenheim was an incredible and fascinating woman – and one who collected artists almost as much as art. Married to Max Ernst, lover of Samuel Beckett, champion of Jackson Pollock and Pablo Picasso, her love life was as colourful as her gargantuan art collection. Peggy moved to Venice in the late 1940s and quickly became one of its most glamorous, scandalous residents. Lanie Robertson’s play brings her remarkable story to life. Peggy’s passionate loyalties and prejudices changed the face of twentieth century art – but at what cost? Opens January 17th. Tickets from £15.