I hope you’re all OK. It’s been a bruising couple of weeks, huh? So, for those of you looking for a show to either indulge the pain or distract you completely, here’s my top ten list of shows to see in London in July.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare’s Globe
At some point, people, it will actually stop raining. And when it does, please make a note to go and see this, Emma Rice’s irreverent version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, at the Globe. Here, Shakespeare’s play of love and trickery is transported to Hoxton. Out goes orthodoxy with gay pairings mixing it with the usual heterosexuality, and in comes the glorious cabaret star, Meow Meow, as the fairy Titania. It’s a recipe for fun and a whole lot of trouble. Purists are up in arms with the production, of course, which is a reminder that this is well worth seeing. Seated tickets from £20; standing £5.
The Deep Blue Sea, National Theatre
Helen McCrory and Carrie Cracknell seem to have it down, don’t they? Not only was their Medea at the National Theatre in 2014 a masterpiece in fury, rejection and revenge, but they have impressed once again, this time with Terence Rattigan’s play of a married woman and her ill-fated affair in post-war London. I tell you now, this won’t have you rolling in the aisles but it is an intense study of the death of an affair, and how sometimes you’ve just got to find it in you to move on. Tickets from £15 (though there are not many cheap ones left. For £20 tickets, your best bet would be the NT’s Friday Rush).
Richard III, Almeida Theatre
“Now is the winter of our discontent.” Ain’t that the truth… Anyway, what could ease the Post-Brexit turmoil more than an evening watching Rupert Goold’s reworking of Shakespeare’s masterpiece of a man so possessed with a lust for power that he will stop at nothing to get the crown. In truth, it seems almost mean to recommend this play when tickets are already as rare as gold dust but this production can’t be overlooked, what with Ralph Fiennes playing the villainous king and Vanessa Redgrave as Queen Margaret. Day tickets are released each day at 11am and if that doesn’t work, Richard III will be the first play beamed live to cinemas nationwide as part of the new Almeida Live initiative on 21 July. Tickets from £10.
Cuttin’ It, Royal Court
I saw this at the Young Vic last month and was absolutely blown away. A play about FGM sounds like a hard sell – it sounds like a production that could be overwrought or impossible to endure. Not this. Not at all. For writer Charlene James has created a play that has as many moments of warmth and friendship as it does of pain and suffering. Focusing on two young girls growing up in Britain today, it forces us to examine the violence that exists, hidden, all around us. And now it has transferred to the Royal Court for a short time only. Don’t miss your opportunity to see Cuttin’ It – grab the opportunity with both hands. Tickets from £10.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Palace Theatre
So, I think we’re OK on the backstory for this one, right? JK Rowling returns to the much- loved Harry Potter universe, only this time we have a new boy wizard, Albus, Harry’s son. How will he handle the weight of the family legacy he never wanted? What happens? No one can divulge as, you know, #keepthesecret but this is unequivocally the biggest show in town and I think we can safely say that there will be all the magic needed to keep the love for the Harry Potter universe alive and well. 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).
Funny Girl, Savoy Theatre
Who knows when/if Sheridan Smith will be returning to, what was supposed to be, this star vehicle to showcase her enormous talent and brilliant comic timing? Certainly the theatre is not chancing it with any firm dates; clearly Sheridan’s health is paramount. But though Sheridan was luminous when I saw her as Fanny Brice, the woman who rose from comic-hall draw to Broadway star, her understudy Natasha Barnes has been wowing audiences with one stunning performance after the next. I hear that nothing has been lost in this bittersweet story of one woman’s gains and losses on the way to musical stardom. It will have you tapping your feet to classics such as Don’t Rain on My Parade, no problem. Tickets from £15.
1984, Playhouse Theatre
There’s something deeply unsettling in the fact that Orwell’s dystopian masterpiece never stops being relevant, and this, Robert Icke’s radical adaptation, has returned to the West End stage. The pernicious presence of Big Brother, the constant surveillance of our lives through technology, the dictatorship of a single ideology… All of this is relevant today in our society dominated by free market capitalism, where the rights of the worker remain subordinated to the goals of the elites, and where even the flicker of dissent a la Snowden or Chelsea Manning brings such punitive reactions from the State, well, that boot really could be going through the human face forever. Tickets from £10.
Unreachable, Royal Court
Playwright and director Anthony Neilson has a reputation for experimental theatre – and his return to the Royal Court is so experimental that we’re not 100% sure what it will be about as it is being created in the rehearsal room. Do we have any ideas? Well, Royal Court has the line ‘A film director on an obsessive quest to capture the perfect light’ as a description on their website, and the line portal into what the cast is working with includes slogans such as ‘This does not exist’ and ‘It’s Not a Memory,’ so no, not a lot. But with both Anthony’s reputation and Matt Smith as the star casting, expect this to be popular. Or at leave divisive. So, either way, I expect this will be one to see. Tickets from £15.
Through the Mill, Southwark Playhouse
Judy Garland. That woman will never stop being a legend and any show that even touches upon her life will draw the crowds. But this musical is unusual in that it focuses on how the girl became a star, rather than the demise of the woman. Set primarily during the filming of ‘The Judy Garland Show’ in 1963, Through the Mill chronicles the production difficulties behind the scenes, intercut with the young Judy Garland’s rise to fame through MGM in the 1930s, and her triumphant sell-out concert engagement at the Palace Theatre in the early 1950s. I, for one, cannot wait. Tickets from £12.
Faith Healer, Donmar Warehouse
Brian Friel was one of the great playwrights, and Faith Healer is seen by many as his masterpiece in what is an extraordinary back-catalogue. There is so much at work in this play but suffice to say it follows Frank Hardy – a man who performs miracles. Or does he? Is he for real or a confidence trickster? And this play’s construction – with the same story being told from three points of view – forces us to examine whether even the characters themselves can ever be reliable narrators. Or is that the point of faith, of life even, that it is simply what it seems from your point of view? With Lyndsey Turner at the helm and critical praise all round, this is clearly one of the best shows in town. Tickets from £10.