It may be August but that doesn’t stop the flow of new shows around London town this month. There’s plenty to see, as ever, and lots of big names headlining shows in the West End – McKellen in Lear, Aidan Turner in The Lieutenant of Inishmore, Simon Russell Beale in The Lehman Trilogy and the Rylance in Othello to name just a few (men).
But that’s not to say that these will necessary be the BEST shows to see this month. Just take the below for instance… Sure, they may not have household names in their cast list but these are fantastic subject matter and promise to be shows that both challenge and entertain.
£¥€$ (Lies), Almeida Theatre
First in my list and I can’t wait to see this. This wowed audiences at the Edinburgh Festival last year and I’m all in for this controversial and fun exploration of financial markets and the financial crash. On Monday September 15, 2008 – the day the financial crash happened – I was standing amongst the chaos on the largest trading floor in London. That’s miles away from this show’s gambling tables and croupiers – but I’ve a feeling the point will be well made. Runs 1 to 18 August. Tickets from £35.
What can I say? The Jungle deserves its place in this top ten for the second month in a row (or is it third?) as, simply, it is the best show in town right now. As daring as it is diverse, this is warm, affecting, and a desperately needed dramatisation of the challenges and treatment of the migrants and refugees that made communities and lives for themselves in the Calais camp, which was shut down at the end of 2016. The Playhouse Theatre, like the Young Vic before it, has been radically transformed to ensure the audience feels as part of the Afghan café, where much of this play is set, as its characters. Runs to 3 November. Tickets from £15.
Remarkably, there are still a handful of tickets available for this utter gem at the Young Vic. Innovative in content and form, this ‘play with songs’ follows Alison Bechdel, now a successful cartoonist, looking back at key events in her life that shaped who she is today, including her sexual awakening as a gay woman and her fractured relationship with her father. It is a beautifully bittersweet production, one that brings joy to your heart and tears to your eyes, and one that considers how society has changed and is continuing to change in its attitudes towards the LGBT community. Runs to 1 September. Tickets from £10.
Homos, or Everyone in America, Finborough Theatre
Equality is here – now what? In a supposedly ‘post-gay’ America on the brink of passing marriage equality, a first date at a New York bar starts two men on a fearless, funny and fragmented journey leading up to a historic moment of change. Jordan Seavey’s raw and provocative portrait of a love story explodes attitudes, emotions and prejudices that sit at the heart of relationships across the world. This dazzling kaleidoscope of a play asks us all the question – are personal and political choices really all that different? Runs 7 August to 1 September. Tickets from £18.
Bring it On!, Southwark Playhouse
You know the film, now the stage adaptation is about to hit London and when you’ve got minds such as Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton, obvs) and Jeff Whitty (Avenue Q) in the creative team, things are looking VERY promising. Obviously, we are in the competitive world of cheerleading in American high schools so expect this youth arrangement to bring all the sass and choreography for this musical filled with the complexities of friendship, jealousy, betrayal and forgiveness. I’m particularly excited to see Isabella Pappas in the cast, who I haven’t seen since she knocked me for six in The Nether. Runs to 1 September. Tickets from £14.
Silk Road (How to Buy Drugs Online), Trafalgar Studios
The Silk Road was the name given to the famous network of trade routes that linked the East to the West. However, it was also the name given to an online black market and the first modern darknet market, best known as a platform for selling illegal drugs, and it is this latter use of the term that is the subject in this new play from Alex Oates. It’s already got a first in that it’s the first production to be funded entirely through Bitcoin but I’m hoping for more as it was hugely popular when it ran at The Vaults a few years ago. Opens 8 August. Tickets from £20.
Carmen La Cubana, Sadler’s Wells
Well, it’s damn hot outside so why not capture some of that summer sizzle in this fantastic new blend of two of my great loves – the opera Carmen and Cuba? Carmen La Cubana is a sultry new musical that blends Bizet’s classic score flavoured with authentic Cuban styles. Set against the simmering turmoil of Revolution in Cuba, 1958, this production mixes opera with salsa, mambo, rumba and cha-cha-cha to bring to life – in a whole new way – one of the most famous operas ever created. Runs 1 to 18 August. Tickets from £15.
Emilia, Shakespeare’s Globe
At the Globe, most eyes are understandably on the Rylance in Othello, but there’s reason to get excited about their new writing programme too. Emilia is a case in point. The woman at the centre of this production is Emilia Bassano, rumoured muse of Shakespeare himself. But, like so much in history, a woman’s story is told only through their relationship with men, for Emilia’s life as a poet of great repute is forgotten and the woman herself is remembered only via her rumoured link to Shakey. Here, writer Morgan Lloyd Malcolm reclaims Emilia’s story. Opens 10 August. Tickets from £5.
Things of Dry Hours, Young Vic
Weaving the spiritual with the political, Things of Dry Hours follows a black Communist agitator living in Birmingham, Alabama during America’s Great Depression of the 1930s. Tice Hogan and his daughter Cali seem to live a quiet life, keeping their heads down, reading the Bible, Karl Marx, and washing the rich folks’ laundry. But Tice is also a socialist – a political leaning increasingly popular in the poverty-stricken working classes in America at that time. But when an unknown white factory worker crashes into their lives, their security is on the line – is this intruder a racist? A capitalist spy? Or is it possible that people can actually surprise us and not be who we suspect them to be? Runs 15 to 25 August. Tickets from £15.
Home I’m Darling, National Theatre
Laura Wade’s new play was awash with five-star reviews on its opening at Theatr Clwyd, and rightly so as this is a fantastic, if unsettling, new comedy about one woman’s quest to be the perfect 1950s housewife. Every couple needs a little fantasy to keep their marriage sparkling and this is Judy’s idea of a good suggestion. But is it? For behind the gingham curtains, things start to unravel, and being a domestic goddess is not as easy as it seems. Tickets are already hard to come by so it may be Friday Rush and Returns only if you want to go. Runs to 5 September. Tickets from £15.