London’s theatreland is really going through the gears now… The new seasons are well underway and so there is a host of fantastic new shows all over the place. So much so that I didn’t have space to squeeze in four worthy mentions…
Two sold out shows are back by popular demand – Bryony Kimmings is back for three weeks at Battersea Arts Centre with I’m a Phoenix, Bitch so if you missed that last year, go now! Plus, Cyprus Avenue, David Ireland’s black comedy, is also returning London at the Royal Court this month.
But if festivals are more your thing, February also sees two big theatre ones in town with the much-loved VAULT showcasing new work from some of the most exciting emerging names in British theatre. Whilst at Bush Theatre, we have BABYLON, a celebration of Black and Brown cultural innovators. Both are well worth a visit.
So, it may be the shortest month but there’s a damn long list of cracking shows to see.
Jesus Hopped the A Train, Young Vic Theatre
From Pulitzer Prize winner Stephen Adly Guirgis, comes this critically-acclaimed dark comedy about the American justice system and the contradictory nature of faith that I am DESPERATE to see. I cannot wait, really. Inside the lockdown wing of Rikers Island prison, a frightened young man accused of murdering a cult leader is confronted with a charismatic born-again serial killer and a sadistic guard. Will one man’s redemption lead to another’s damnation? Opens February 14. Tickets £10.
All About Eve, Noel Coward Theatre
There’s a lot of excitement about this production – and I can understand why. First, we’ve the goddess that is Gillian Anderson taking on the iconic role of Margo Channing and, opposite, we’ve Lily James as the younger conspiring Eve. And at the helm? Ivo van Hove. There’s a lot to love here. I’m just a little nervous when I see the words “adapted for the stage” and, let’s be frank, how will any comparison compare to the original? I know there will be many though only too willing to find out so grab those cheaper tickets sooner rather than later as they are getting rare… Opens February 2. Tickets from £25 – though some cheaper ones may still be available!
Superhoe, Royal Court Theatre
You’d be hard pushed to find a creative-in-the-know who isn’t excited about the new season at the Royal Court and so we get underway with the sublimely-titled, Superhoe where we meet Sasha Clayton, a 24-year-old self-titled “singer slash rapper,” who lives with her mum, step-dad, and irritating little sister, in Plaistow. She’s gone from being the most popular girl at school, to spending most of her time on her own in her bedroom scrolling through social media. And she may not have a job or a flat, and, admittedly her boyfriend’s not answering her calls; but she’s got talent and a dream and when she releases her first EP everything’s going to change… Runs to February 16. Tickets from £18.
Cougar, Orange Tree Theatre
Yup, there’s an all-women creative and stage management team behind Cougar but that’s not the only reason to be excited about this production. This new play explores the impact of climate change and consumerism so not only is this subject matter critical and necessary, but frankly it is also a thrill to see women take charge of a play about a truly universal theme rather than being kept pigeon-holed in plays about domestic abuse or sexual assault. In the play, we follow Leila and John – a couple with an arrangement of sorts. But it’s hard to hold an affair together when the world’s falling apart. And is it possible in this world of consumerism, we treat other people just like any other commodity we can pick up and leave behind? Opens February 1. Tickets from £15.
Black is the Color of my Voice, Trafalgar Studios
I am so here for this. Inspired by the life of Nina Simone, Black is the Color of My Voice follows a successful jazz singer and civil rights activist seeking redemption after the untimely death of her father. She reflects on the journey that took her from a young piano prodigy destined for a life in the service of the church, to a renowned jazz vocalist at the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement. Apphia Campbell is at the heart of this production and if you go on weekends, Apphia will also perform Soul Sessions, her cabaret celebrating Simone’s brilliant music. Opens February 5. Tickets from £25.
Agnes Colander: An Attempt at Life, Jermyn Street Theatre
More of us should be keeping up to speed with life at Jermyn Street as it often has some cracking shows. Such as this gem. Hailed as a long-lost masterpiece, Harley Granville Barker’s witty and compelling exploration of love, sexual attraction and independence was written in 1900 and unearthed in the British Library a century later. Following an acclaimed run at the Theatre Royal Bath, Trevor Nunn’s production now arrives in London. In the story, we follow Agnes. She’s three years on from leaving her unfaithful husband and has since struck out as an artist. But when she suddenly she receives his letter ordering her home, she has to weigh up what must be confronted if she is to seize the chance to shape her own life. Opens February 12. Tickets from £15.
Call Me Vicky, Pleasance Theatre
Written by sisters Nicola and Stacey Bland, Call Me Vicky is a debut play based entirely on a true story. This hard-hitting, comic production charts Vicky’s transition from male to female in a time that was far less understanding than the world we live in today. It’s 1980 in Elephant and Castle. Martin and best friend Debbie are getting ready for another night out at Martin’s favourite night spot, The Golden Girl – one of Soho’s premier drag clubs. However, tonight is not a regular night out; tonight is the night that will change Martin’s life forever. Opens February 19. Tickets from £12.
The American Clock, Old Vic Theatre
‘For them the clock would never strike midnight, the dance and the music could never stop…’ The American Clock turns, fortunes are made and lives are broken. In New York City in 1929, the stock market crashed and everything changed. In an American society governed by race and class, we meet the Baum family as they navigate the aftermath of an unprecedented financial crisis. The world pulses with a soundtrack fusing 1920s swing and jazz with a fiercely contemporary sound, creating a backdrop that spans a vast horizon from choking high rises to rural heartlands. Visionary director Rachel Chavkin (Hadestown) presents Arthur Miller’s ground-breaking play about hope, idealism and a nation’s unwavering faith in capitalism. Opens February 4. Tickets from £12.
Berberian Sound Studio, Donmar Warehouse
Artistic Director Josie Rourke is not going out quietly as following on from the fantastic SWEAT, we have the dark and surreal horror-comedy, Berberian Sound Studio. Here, Peter Strickland’s acclaimed film is adapted by Joel Horwood and Director Tom Scutt. It’s Italy, 1976 and Gilderoy is a long way from home. His work as a sound designer for Dorking-based nature documentaries has not gone unnoticed. He has swapped the foley table of his garden shed for the glamour of the Berberian Sound Studio. Here, at the height of giallo horror, cabbages become corpses, your own voice can be over-dubbed, and silence speaks louder than screams. Christ, alive! Opens February 8. Tickets from £10.
Equus, Theatre Royal Stratford East
Look, I’m rapidly becoming a bit of a Ned Bennett (An Octoroon, Buggy Baby) groupie and the brilliantly talented director has now turned his hand to Equus, Peter Shaffer’s gripping and transfixing psychological thriller. Inspired by a true story, Equus explores the complex relationships between devotion, myth and sexuality. When teenager Alan Strang’s pathological fascination leads him to blind six horses in a Hampshire stable, psychiatrist Dr Martin Dysart is tasked with uncovering the motive behind the boy’s violent act. Opens February 15. Tickets from £10.