Right, panto season, I know. But don’t think that means there is nothing else to see at theatres this month because there is PLENTY on around London. Moreover, not only is the list below utterly delicious, but it contains both some of the biggest shows this year on West-End transfers, and much-anticipated new openings too. Fantastic.
Kicking off this festive list with the least Christmas-sy show of all but one for which, I expect, there will be queues around the block. It’s been over twenty years since Mark Ravenhill gave us Shopping and Fucking, but his latest, The Cane, promises to be just as provocative. Only it’s not consumerism in Mark’s crosshairs this time but control, violence, and power games. We follow Edward, an apparently beloved school master, retiring after 45 years of teaching. But instead of a celebratory send off, Edward is confronted with a riot. Students are attacking his home and provoking a slew of uncomfortable questions. And given the wider context in contemporary society of challenging power structures and abuse of power, I’m all for this. Opens December 6. Tickets from £12.
It is finally here, the Black Panther star and Tony-nominated writer Danai Gurira’s striking play that considers whether faith has a cost and, if so, when does that cost become too much. Director Ola Ince (Poet in da Corner) takes us to 1896 in what is modern day Zimbabwe to meet Jekesai, a young woman fleeing forced marriage who finds herself working for devout Catholic priest, Chilford. The man of God relishes the opportunity to mould his new convert but Jekesai’s salvation comes at a price for his convert. And given the talent on stage too… Letitia Wright (Black Panther), Paapa Essiedu (RSC Hamlet) and Ivanno Jeremiah (Humans)… My, my, my, we are truly blessed. Opens December 7. Tickets from £10.
It’s worth noting that Anthony Neilson’s adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s classic tale of a haunted conscience comes with a content warning for provocative language, some violent scenes, and moments and themes that some people may find distressing, That’s quite an anti-Christmas list but I am so drawn to the promise of darkness and humour that I will be going to see this, a story of a young playwright who rents an attic flat in Brighton to crack her writer’s block but, whilst there, forms a relationship with her landlady, a lonely young woman with a life-altering condition. And as the pressure mounts on the writer to meet her deadlines, her relationship with the landlady becomes ever-more suffocating. Opens December 5. Tickets from £15.
It sold out at Chichester, it sold out at Hampstead and now this phenomenon is transferring to the West End and, frankly, I’m thrilled as I will FINALLY get to see this. Written by Tony Kushner, author of legendary play Angels in America, Caroline, Or Change stars Sharon D. Clarke in an astonishing “virtuoso performance”. Louisiana, 1963. Revolution is in the air, though not so much for Caroline, the poorly paid maid toiling endlessly in the sweltering basement of the Gellman household. It’s a fantastical, magical place amidst the piles of laundry and singing washing machines, especially for eight-year-old Noah Gellman who sneaks downstairs to see her whenever he can. Yet a simple gesture to leave more money in Caroline’s pocket is about to test who, and how far, the winds of change can ever really reach… Runs to 9 February. Tickets from £32.50.
Le Gateau Chocolat is one of cabaret’s brightest stars – an artist who blends charm and humour with a beautiful singing voice and a tender heart. So, take this superstar, mix in a live band and nods to icons including Kate Bush, Whitney, Meatloaf, Pavarotti, and I’m there. Seriously; I already have my ticket. But this should be a heartfelt as well as exciting show as Le Gateau Chocolat explores the people, the moments, the relationships and the art that have come to shape us and the ideals we aspire to. Monday 10 – Tuesday 11 December. Tickets £10.
Wait, not what you think! Yes, this has Louisa M. Alcott’s classic at its heart but not as we know it for this is a contemporary reimagining from playwright, Rachael Claye. Young womanhood has been a popular theme on the stage this year and so not only does this mark the 150th anniversary of the famous novel, but it is certainly well-timed theatre-wise too. Come see how Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy would fare today in this celebration of sisterhood and a bittersweet story of family, loss and love. Runs to December 15. Tickets from £9.50.
Nine Night wowed both audiences and critics in its run at the National Theatre and quite rightly too as this is a terrific play that sets itself in a traditional Jamaican wake that is held to mark a death where friends and families come together to pay respect and remember the deceased. Only this is an incisive and powerful examination of inter-generational differences, the prevalence of sexism, cultural clashes – even the belief in the afterlife itself – and how this impacts the dynamics of any and every family unit. Written with flair by Natasha Gordon, directed with aplomb by Roy Alexander Weise and executed with immense skill by a hugely talented cast. One of the highlights of the year, for sure. Runs to February 23, 2019. Tickets from £25.
I am hugely excited about this debut play from Ellie Kendrick. More well known for her roles in Game of Thrones and Anne Frank, this play sees the star taking up writing duties instead, working alongside Rash Dash (or, specifically, two of them) to bring to us an electric fusion of word, music and movement that sets out to ask, how is power created? With an ensemble to make your mouth water, including burlesque star Rubyyy Jones, we focus on three women pushing themselves out of a hole in the ground: “We’re harpies/ We’re a three headed bitch / We’ve been guarding the gates / Now we’re throwing them open.” They’re singing. They’re moving. They’re taking up space. And they refuse to apologise. This sounds intoxicatingly theatrical and potent. I’ve all my fingers crossed… Runs to January 12. Tickets from £12.
If you’ve been following theatre-land world at all this year, chances are you know all about this adaptation of Tennessee Williams’s play. One of the landmark productions of the year, and one which has put the names of its director, Rebecca Frecknall, and its lead star, Patsy Ferran, down in permanent ink as stars not of the future, but of right now. I saw this at the Almeida and such was the impact of this intimate play about the sexual awakening of a young, lonely woman that I was almost speechless afterwards. The extent to which the cast and creatives have turned over and interrogated this classic is wondrous and its atmospheric production will stay with you for a long, long time. Runs to January 19, 2019. Tickets from £25.
It is the season of hope and hope can come in many forms, such as this cute comedy, so why not go for a show with a difference this festive season and head out to see Drip, a one-man musical comedy by award-winning duo Tom Wells and Matthew Robins. Liam is 15 and he’s just signed up for Bev Road Baths’ first ever synchronised swimming team. A wonderful thing, only he’s only really done it for his best mate Ca who wants to get a team together to win the annual Project Prize at school. She tries every year and she always loses. But Liam wants to change all that. After all, he’s an optimist and he’s determined to help. There’s just one problem; Liam can’t swim. Opens December 3. Tickets from £10.