After the relative lull of August, the London theatre scene is coming back hard this month as a wave of new shows take over the stages at pretty much every theatre going. And what an exciting, diverse wave of works await us this. There really is something for everyone, including the return of breakout shows you may have missed earlier this year, and a wealth of new voices.
SYLVIA, Old Vic Theatre
No surprise to see this one on the list. This is a much-anticipated new musical from ZooNation – so much so that tickets for its short run at the Old Vic are already sold out – which combines dance, hip hop, soul and funk to shed new light on a remarkable story at the heart of the Suffragette movement. The campaign for votes for women cleaved the Pankhurst family apart (I know this as I have just so happened to have written a play about it myself!) but it is not the firebrand Emmeline or her zealous older daughter Christabel who are the focus here, but Sylvia, the shy retiring one who became a socialist pioneer. Extra gold stars for any reviewer who can get through this without comparing it to Hamilton. Runs 3 to 22 September. Tickets from £12.
Holy Sh!t, Kiln Theatre
Things are a-changing at Kiln. There’s the name change (from Tricycle), the refurbished building and a push to become a producing house so there’s much to get excited about with this new season, and Kiln is off to a cracking start with this from writer Alexis Zegerman. Simone and Sam will do anything to get their daughter into the local Church of England school. Juliet and Nick agree to show them the ropes. And so battle commences as the bonds of family, faith and friendship are stretched to breaking-point as four forty-somethings wrestle for school places. Runs to October 6, 2018. Tickets from £10.
Dust, Trafalgar Studios 2
If you didn’t catch Dust earlier this year at Soho Theatre, you’ve got a second bite of the cherry as this powerful one-woman show on the dark side of depression and suicide is transferring to Trafalgar for a limited run. Writer Milly Thomas wanted to draw on her own experience of depression and her desire to talk more about mental health in society today to create a play that takes an interesting and almost radical view on those battling with the illness – and those trying to love them. I found this really affecting and I’m looking forward to seeing it again. Runs to October 13, 2018. Tickets from £15.
Queens of Sheba, New Diorama Theatre
There’s been so much excitement about the new season at New Diorama so it’s no surprise that there isn’t one show from them in this list, but two. But let’s start with Nouveau Riche’s Queens of Sheba… Fresh from its success at the Edinburgh Fringe, this all-female show is inspired by the scandal of DSTRKT nightclub’s alleged racist door-policy. Expect this to be an hilarious and explosive look at misogynoir: where sexism and racism meet. Runs 4 to 8 September. Tickets from £15.
About Leo, Jermyn Street Theatre
Mix theatre with art and expect to find me first in line for tickets, especially when the artist at the centre of the play in question is Leonora Carrington, an extraordinary woman who had an extraordinary life. And that is exactly who About Leo revolves around. When a young journalist turns up unexpectedly in Mexico City, the elderly Leo must confront her past, including her legendary love affair with the artist Max Ernst. Inspired by real events, this promises to be a gripping drama which skilfully unpicks ideas about art and inspiration. Runs 5 to 29 September. Tickets from £10.
An Adventure, Bush Theatre
This new play from (the lovely) Vinay Patel started from an interesting place: the arranged marriage of his Indian grandparents, an event Vinay has been reflecting upon since he discovered that his grandmother selected his grandfather from an array of suitors, a sort of beauty parade that challenged his perceptions of gender dynamics in the set up. It’s a similar starting point that he uses for An Adventure where, on a stormy night in 1954, a woman doomed to marry one of five men discovers the wildcard choice might just be the person she’d been hoping for all along. And so we follow the headstrong Jyoti and her fumbling suitor Rasik from the shores of post-Partition India to the forests of Kenya, onto the industrial upheaval of 1970s London and the present day. This promises to be an epic and one that puts front and centre the experiences of the people who journeyed to these shores in hope and shaped the Britain we live in today. Runs 6 September to 20 October. Tickets from £10.
Misty, Trafalgar Studios
Sometimes good things happen in this god-awful world and the return of Misty is one of them. Events conspired against me when this ran at the Bush earlier this year meaning I missed a show that became a sensation. But now the Trafalgar has secured a West End run for it and I. AM. THRILLED! For here, Arinzé Kene takes us on an epic, lyrical journey through the pulsating heart and dark soul of inner city London. The show is an inventive blend of gig theatre, spoken word, live art and direct address, and features an original musical score performed live during the show. Bring it. Runs to 20 October. Tickets from £10.
Natalia Osipova: Pure Dance, Sadler’s Wells
Multi-award-winning ballerina and general all-round ballet superstar Natalia Osipova returns to Sadler’s Wells with a new production and world premiere. Pure Dance is a hand-picked programme of eclectic dance works exploring both contemporary and classical ballet repertoire rarely seen in the UK. If you’ve not seen Natalia before, her range and her talents are spellbinding – her ability to flip from classic to contemporary mesmerising – and if you have had the pleasure of seeing Natalia before, you’ll know this promises to be an extraordinary evening. Runs 12 to 16 September. Tickets from £12.
4.48 Psychosis, New Diorama Theatre
“I had a night in which everything was revealed to me. How can I speak again?” Sarah Kane’s 4.48 Psychosis is so famous, it’s legendary. An iconic contemporary play that many of us have been waiting to see again ever since the opera adaptation at Lyric Hammersmith, as well as the divisive and controversial revival of Sarah’s Cleansed at the NT. And here it is. But again, in a new form as award-winning Deafinitely Theatre bring its celebrated bilingual approach to Sarah’s lyrical and haunting final play on the trauma of mental illness. Directed by Paula Garfield, 4.48 Psychosis is performed in both British Sign Language and spoken English for the very first time. Runs 18 September to 13 October. Tickets from £15.
Fabric, Soho Theatre
It’s hard to say you’re excited about a show on domestic and sexual violence but I hope you understand what I mean. Fabric promises to be very special. It centres around Leah, a smart, kind, recently promoted woman who finally seems to ‘have it all’ when she gets married. But it quickly becomes apparent that this is not the case as she finds herself revolting; revolting against a society and a judicial system that just won’t listen. This play bears witness to how grey areas seep into everyday life, and how a million small things – some seemingly harmless – can result in one terrible act. The play is performed in support of Solace Women’s Aid, a charity which works to bring an end to the harm done through domestic and sexual violence. See you there. Runs 11 to 22 September. Tickets from £11.
Losing Venice, Orange Tree Theatre
And so the run of glory continues under Paul Miller at the OT with the first major revival of Jo Clifford’s play set in a nation constantly on the edge of war. Jo may be more well-known for her work as a transgender performer and writer (her play Eve about her journey of becoming a trans woman wowed audiences in Edinburgh last year) but this is a damn prescient and timely work that focuses on a country that, having lost an empire, continues with delusional ideas of its place in the world, making poor choices powered by the absurdities of masculinity, whilst letting itself be distracted by the ceremonial marriage of a Duke. I mean, come on! How perfect is this? Losing Venice is a joyously original, witty take-down of dangerously daft machismo and the deranged behaviour of countries such as ours. Runs 7 September to 20 October. Tickets from £15.
Dance Nation, Almeida Theatre
This, Clare Barron’s phenomenal award-winning new play, opened in New York earlier this year to a wave of five-star reviews and, frankly, I cannot wait. The premise may seem familiar – a group of pre-teen dancers competing for the top prize at a national dance competition – but what follows is a celebration of female ambition, ferocity, and unabashed preteen girlhood. As Time Out Theatre NY put it, “Dance Nation is out for blood.” This is writing that looks at the prickly transition from girl to womanhood, where sexuality and confusion mixes uncomfortably with competitiveness and camaraderie. This is the kind of work I live for. Runs to 6 October. Tickets from £10.
Poet in da Corner, Royal Court Theatre
Debris Stevenson is a young poet, lyricist and dancer who has performed her unique work everywhere from BBC Radio 3’s The Verb to London’s Roundhouse, and now she is coming to the Court with this new work that is part of the 14-18 NOW arts programme, which (inspired by the Representation of the People Act 1918) invites young female artists to explore democracy, equality and inclusion in contemporary Britain. In this semi-autobiographical piece, Debris gets us to step into a technicolour world where music, dance and spoken word collide, and discover how grime – and, in particular, Dizzee Rascal’s ground-breaking grime album Boy in da Corner – allowed her to redefine herself. Runs 21 September to 6 October. Tickets from £12.