Ah, summer… Long evenings in London mean plenty of opportunity to enjoy what this great city has to offer so let’s have a run through your best options for August. And if you’re thinking, surely it all closes down for August? I’m here to tell you that you couldn’t be more wrong.
And it’s not all dark auditoriums in dusty buildings either as we’ve got open air theatre and festivals to draw you in. We’ve got big names and iconic musicals, as well as the beginnings of a stunning Autumn season with the likes of the Donmar, Old Vic and National Theatre putting on some fantastic heavyweight dramas.
As always, see you there!
Do I really need to explain this one? Is there anyone left who doesn’t know what this is about?? Though, for those who’ve not heard much about the actual original theatrical production, it may be pretty critical to point out that Phoebe Waller-Bridge and her co-conspirator Vicky Jones started Fleabag’s life as a one-woman show so don’t go expecting to see any hot priest. This is the original 75-minute production and it’ll be the last time Phoebe performs this. It remains the greatest one-person show I have ever seen – and I’ve sat through some amazing works. This play started a phenomenon but it’s worth remembering the original work itself was awesome and a deceptively simple show. Opens 20 August. Tickets from £27.50.
You’d think that Sharon D Clarke would want some time off between Death of a Salesman finishing at the Young Vic and it opening in the West End in October, but nope, for the living legend is fronting this divine compilation of 26 hot and torchy blues numbers that frame the lives and loves of four residents of a downtown hotel. The production has been awash for five- and four-star reviews with audiences and critics luxuriating in the gorgeous vocals that enrich these soul-filled songs by blues and jazz icons Bessie Smith, Duke Ellington, Johnny Mercer, Harold Arlen and many more. This promises to be a night to remember. Runs to 7 September. Tickets from £12.50 (concessions available).
It’s summer, it’s practically a heatwave so it is most definitely the right month to pop down to the Underbelly Festival on the Southbank and soak up its fantastic variety of punk cabaret, circus variety, drag acts, and live music. Underbelly has the best atmosphere to be found in any of London’s auditoriums and, this month, there’s some cracking shows to choose from including, Cocoa Butter Club (cabaret-variety which gives a platform to the best performers of colour, set to a soundtrack of hip-hop, jazz, funk and soul), an electrifying, haunting and devastating valentine to one of the great entertainers on the 50th Anniversary of her death: Keith Ramsay is Judy Garland, Spice Gals (a drag tribute to you-know-who), and the world’s most provocative Octogenarian burlesque comedian Lynn Ruth Miller. Runs to 29 September. Tickets from £14.
The musical may well be a phenomenon but so is this particular production. This is the third stint for this adored production following its to its two sell-out seasons at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre – which just so happened to have garnered the show an Olivier Award for Best Musical Revival. It’s certainly a spectacle and a half with Tom Scutt’s much lauded gritty design making for a terrific backdrop to this rock opera production that sees the big numbers belted out by big voices and some fantastic choreography that brings the drama of the mob to life. JCS has never been better. Runs to 24 August. Tickets from £15.
And, so, we leap from one Rice/Lloyd-Webber classic to another. This summer take a seat in the Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park and be whisked away to the streets of Buenos Aires as we follow our erstwhile heroine rise up from rags and poverty to extreme riches and power. Only for it all to go a bit wrong. And for her to ask us not to cry for her. I mean, I mock a little but there is a real pleasure to enjoying such a popular show as this in the sunshine, especially as the theatre has got such a strong reputation for producing terrific musical revivals. There is no reason to think that this version from Jamie Lloyd won’t be as great as those it follows. Opens 2 August. Tickets from £25 (concessions available).
This is a phenomenal initiative from Bunker Theatre and plaudits must go to Chris Sonnex who continues to turn heads for his artistic direction at the Bunker. Enter, This is Black, a festival that will premiere theatre productions by four new Black writers across an alternating double-bill. Exploring identity, family relationships and universal struggles, the festival will showcase All the Shit I Can’t Say to My Dad by Abraham Adeyemi and Blue Beneath My Skin by Macadie Amoroso with PYNEAPPLE by Chantelle Alle and Melissa Saint and Teleportation by Ronkẹ Adékoluẹjo. The festival itself was curated by Steven Kavuma in response to issues around the challenge for Black artists navigating the white space of Edinburgh Festival, adding “I believe that Blackness is not one dimensional; it is layered, complex, beautiful, ugly, angry, loud, and everything more that is unsaid and with all the plays in this festival, we aim to offer audiences a varied depiction of Black stories.” May this take flight. Starts 5 August. Tickets from £10.
So, everybody, time to cheer for the one play in the 2019 year at the Old Vic that was written by a woman. Hello, Lucy Prebble and her adaptation of Luke Harding’s brilliant account of the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko by Russian operatives on UK soil. This happens to be a story I know damn well given my time working on projects about the Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya (who was also linked to this story) but I’ve no doubt this will be an electric theatrical encounter that will light up the murky world of international espionage. Opens 24 August. Tickets from £10.
A deeply moving and unflinching journey into Australia’s dark history. Adapted from Kate Grenville’s acclaimed novel, this multi-award-winning production from Sydney Theatre Company tells the story of two families divided by culture and land. We’re following William Thornhill who arrives in New South Wales a convict from the slums of London. Upon earning his pardon, he discovers that this new world offers something he didn’t dare to dream of: a place to call his own. But as he plants a crop and lays claim to the soil on the banks of the Hawkesbury River, he finds that this land is not his to take. Its ancient custodians are the Dharug people. Opens 22 August. Tickets from £21.
You know what ‘chiaroscuro’ is? It’s an artistic term that refers to the treatment of light and shade in drawing or painting. Here it is used as a springboard to examine the connections and differences amongst a group of friends. This bold production promises to explore the experiences of women of colour across generations and celebrates the many intersections of female identity from the 1980s to now and how women chose to identify themselves. This gem comes from Jackie Kay who has blended spoken word and live music to create this gig theatre production that also sees Bush AD Lynette Linton at the helm. Opens 31 August. Tickets from £10 (concessions available).
I’m always one for ghost stories and have a lot of love for Branden Jacobs-Jenkins (An Octoroon) so I’ve already got my ticket for this play, the second production under Michael Longhurst at the Donmar. With the mighty Ola Ince (The Convert) in the director’s chair, this gripping play about ghosts and the legacies we are left with promises to take on the rich tradition of American family drama. We’re in the midst of an unhappy group of relatives who have been dragged together in the wake of a death in the family but when they make a gruesome discovery in the derelict mansion of the old guy who’s passed on, well… the family is in for an awakening. Opens 16 August. Tickets from £10.