The diversity of shows and subjects across the London stages right now is very exciting. We’ve musicals that include everything from erstwhile classics to adaptations of childhood stories, and dramatic theatre that includes revivals of plays from the most famous of writers to works from new faces.
Whether you want to laugh or cry, to sing along, to be challenged, or to have your heart broken in two, there is most definitely something to suit your taste on show in August. Here are my top tips for shows that are worth putting towards the top of your list.
The Plough and the Stars, National Theatre
2016 marks the centenary of the Easter Rising in Ireland where Republicans launched an armed insurrection to end British rule. It was the first armed rebellion in Ireland for over a hundred years and was timed to exploit British involvement in the First World War. But the uprising ended in a bloody massacre when the British, with superior weaponry and larger numbers, opened fire on civilians and rebels, killing five hundred and wounding thousands. This, Sean O’Casey’s powerful play on the insurrection, is a moving production on the injustice of war and how suffering is forced on those caught in the crossfire. Tickets from £15.
Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour, National Theatre
To say I am looking forward to seeing this would be an understatement. Funny, sad and raucously rude, Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour is adapted from Alan Warner’s brilliant novel, The Sopranos, about six girls on the cusp of change. Young, lost and out-of-control, they’re hit by love, lust, and pregnancy and death over the course of a single day. This comes to the NT following huge acclaim at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe and it isn’t often you get the opportunity to see a musical about losing your virginity and finding yourself. Expect plenty of laughs, explicit language and what is lovingly referred to as ‘adult themes’. Tickets from £15.
Yerma, Young Vic Theatre
The original Yerma is a play by the Spanish dramatist, Federico García Lorca. A tragedy, it tells the story of a woman whose obsession for a child of her own drives her to a most desperate act. Now, with the draw of Billie Piper in the lead role, Simon Stone is bringing a radical new production to the Young Vic. His much lauded The Wild Duck wowed audiences at the Barbican back in 2014 so hopes are high for this one. I already have my ticket. Tickets from £10.
Into the Woods, Menier Chocolate Factory
Take the darkly mysterious Grimm’s fairy-tale, Little Red Riding Hood, add more than a splash of Sondheim, and you have the musical, Into the Woods. This revival is a transfer from New York, where it ran off-Broadway to much acclaim from both audiences and critics, and it’s already doing the same in the Menier. This version from Fiasco Theatre is a stripped-down affair with little of the lavish staging you can find in other productions but you can expect plenty of songs, dance, dry humour and knowing winks. Tickets from £39.50.
Faith Healer, Donmar Warehouse
Brian Friel was one of the finest playwrights ever and many consider Faith Healer to be his finest work. The play is about Frank Hardy, a faith healer who tours across the UK performing miracles. But does he really command healing powers? The play is comprised of four conflicting monologues given by Frank, his wife and two others who are close to him. We revisit the same events – and the same people – but from different points of view, forcing us to judge not just the supposed miracles, but the man at the centre of them too. And this production at the Donmar is mesmerising in its execution. Tickets from £10.
They Drink it in the Congo, Almeida Theatre
The Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the most dangerous countries in the world. You wouldn’t put it down as an obvious subject for a comedy but writer Adam Brace has taken it as the centre for his new play on the problems of doing something good about something bad. Set in London, the story focuses around a festival that’s been arranged to raise awareness on the Congo’s issues. The Almeida is packaging it as “hilarious and provocative”. Let’s hope so. But whichever way you cut it, this looks pretty damn exciting. Open August 12. Tickets from £10.
Allegro, Southwark Playhouse
It’s taken over sixty years but, finally, this Rodgers & Hammerstein musical has its European premiere. Why has it taken so long? Well, this was actually a bit of a flop when it opened in 1947 – a result of the combination of a low-key plot and little of the lavish production values to hits such as Carousel. Here, we follow Joe, a small town boy, and we follow him across four decades of his life as he slowly learns the value of family. So why am I recommending it? Because its creative team is that of the recent Titanic musical, which was excellent, and they are adapting the musical’s book, and creating new orchestrations so this could be quite special. Tickets from £14.
Young Chekhov, National Theatre
The Young Chekhov trilogy opened to overwhelming praise at Chichester Festival Theatre last year. The company has now taken up occupation of the National Theatre, offering a rare opportunity to explore the birth of a revolutionary dramatic voice. David Hare has adapted three of Anton Chekhov’s early works – Platonov, The Seagull and Ivanov – and all three shows are directed by Jonathan Kent, who added more plaudits to his already impressive CV with his stunning production of Gypsy last year. Tickets from £15.
Groundhog Day, Old Vic Theatre
When you bring back together the team behind the smash-hit musical Matilda, you know you are going to set hopes high. And that is exactly what the Old Vic has done, this time charging composer and lyricist Tim Minchin, choreographer Peter Darling, and designer Rob Howell to take on the classic film, Groundhog Day. It’s a world premiere and a great statement from Artistic Director Matthew Warchus (who also directs) that the Old Vic is anything but old and dusty. Early audience reactions have this as a ‘wow’ so fingers crossed…Tickets from £12.
Funny Girl, Savoy Theatre
Well, she’s back. Sheridan Smith has returned to Funny Girl after taking a well-publicised leave of absence for stress. However, she has not returned for every single show so check the theatre for details. I saw Sheridan in the title role when this production ran at the Menier and she was terrific – blending comedy, drama and musical talent effortlessly, with the flick of her wrist – so I am sure audiences will be thrilled to see her return. However, I hear that her understudy, Natasha Barnes, has wowed theatregoers in her absence so either way, whoever performs, it seems you’ll be in for a great show. Tickets from £25.