Victoria’s Top Ten London Theatre, January 2019


New year, new you – right? Well, if one of your resolutions is to get out and about a bit more in London town, catch a few shows etc, than I’m here to help as my top tens are, as we all know, fabulous. I try and blend the classics with the contemporary, steer in some exciting shows from more Off-West End / Fringe venues (because the best shows are not always those appointed by the big theatres) and I always like to dabble with the finest cabaret too as that is a mightily underrated and hugely enjoyable art form.

Anyway, enough with the chat! Here’s my first list for 2019 and, fingers crossed, you find something to warm the heart and tease the brain on these chilly nights.

Doctor Faustus, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus in the hands of director, Paulette Randall, makes for a fresh take – and one that the Globe is keen to explore as running alongside this famous cautionary tale examining the nature of human curiosity and our unparalleled thirst for knowledge is Dark Night of the Soul: a feminine response to the Faustian bargain. The Faustian myth continues to fascinate and intrigue, but has been appropriated by the masculine, with little exploration of what it means for the feminine, to stop at a crossroads and ‘sell her soul’. An ensemble of female writers will respond to the provocation, with the aim of creating a chorus of female voices asking: What would you sell your soul for? Runs to February 2. Tickets from £10.

The Convert, Young Vic Theatre

Greeted with a sweep of five-star reviews on its press night, this is a stunning production of a stunning play. Black Panther star and Tony-nominated writer Danai Gurira explores if faith has a cost and if so, when is that cost too much? It’s 1896 in what is modern day Zimbabwe and Jekesai, a young woman fleeing forced marriage finds herself working for devout Catholic priest, Chilford. He relishes the opportunity to mould his new convert but Jekesai’s salvation has a price. There is still some decent availability for tickets in January so don’t miss this. Runs to 26 January. Tickets from £10.

Original Death Rabbit, Jermyn Street Theatre

We all have our comfort blankets and coping mechanisms. And if yours happens to be wearing a full-sized rabbit onesie (with ears), what’s the problem? You’re not bothering anyone. At least, not until you’re photographed at the back of a child’s funeral. Dressed as a rabbit. And the photo goes viral. Original Death Rabbit is a tale of our time that shines a light on one woman’s struggle with the dark side of the internet. Rose Heiney’s incisive comedy, now rewritten for the stage, was originally broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in December 2017. Runs from January 9 to February 9. Tickets from £15 (concessions available).

War of the Worlds, New Diorama Theatre

Inspired by Orson Welles’ classic radio play – 80 years almost to the day since the original broadcast was apocryphally reported to have caused widespread panic after being mistaken for true events – this legendary totem of science fiction is reimagined for our era of Fake News and ‘alternative facts’; where widespread panic and mistrust and make the truth an ever-harder concept to identify. In this radical adaptation, Rhum and Clay explore our inability to separate fact from fiction and show the power of fake events to cause real reactions. With references ranging from H.G Wells and Orson Welles via Jeff Wayne and a nod to Tom Cruise, this intense, unsettling and raucously entertaining reinvention of the original alien invasion myth shows that in the darkest of times, the truth is a very precious commodity. Runs 8 January to 9 February. Tickets £15 (concessions available).

In Lipstick, Pleasance Theatre

This is an observational play about the power and powerlessness of youth within the fractured life of the modern city. It combines sex, lies, damage and the stretch of our dreams. The play focuses on Mud and Cynthia, the former a woman on the run from her damaged past; the latter, a woman hibernating from the wilderness of the modern world. But their relationship comes under strain for while Cynthia hides among YouTube videos of Shirley Bassey, a dressing up box and the McDonald’s saver menu, Maud is preparing for the greatest performance of her life. It is only a matter of time before reality shatter their cocoon of lipstick and fairy tales. Runs 9 to 26 January. Tickets from £13.

When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other, National Theatre

Cate Blanchett, Martin Crimp, Katie Mitchell. Probably all you need to know, really. Not that getting tickets will be easy. All advance tickets are long-gone thanks to a bizarre programming decision that put this on the smallest stage at the NT. But if you are dead keen, on the day of the performance, a very limited number of cheap Day Tickets will be available in person from 9.30am. What is this new play about? Well, it is an exploration of the messy, often violent nature of desire and the fluid, complicated roles that men and women play. Using Samuel Richardson’s novel, Pamela, as a provocation, six characters act out a dangerous game of sexual domination and resistance. Runs 16 January to 2 March. Tickets from £10.

Stop and Search, Arcola Theatre

This sounds right up my street – and the perfect note to start 2019 on. Stop and Search is a notoriously racist police tactic and its use is only increasing. From award-winning writer Gabriel Gbadamosi comes this visceral and poetic new play, exploring a time of distrust where the lines blur between conversation and interrogation. Stop and Search explores our deep ambivalence about the ways we police each other. Artistic Director of Arcola Theatre, Mehmet Ergen directs the production. Runs 9 January to 9 February. Tickets from £15.

Dear Elizabeth, Gate Theatre

Two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist and Tony Award nominee, Sarah Ruhl, has crafted a stunning and quietly bold piece of theatre about what it means to love someone, and all the questions we regret never asking. Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell were two of America’s most brilliant poets. Their friendship was messy, intense, unconventional and profound. Through their lives, they wrote over 400 letters to each other, spanning decades, continents, political eras. Directed by Gate’s AD, Ellen McDougall, these are their words. Runs 17 January to 9 February. Tickets from £14 (concessions available).

SWEAT, Donmar Warehouse

I am so thankful I got my hands on one of the few remaining tickets for this production for it is quite something. In 2011, Lynn Nottage began spending time with the people of Reading, Pennsylvania: officially one of the poorest cities in the USA. During the following two years, she dug deep into the forgotten heart of middle America, finding a city divided by racial tension and the collapse of industry. Sweat is the Pulitzer Prize-winning play that Lynn wrote following her experience and it comes to us directed by the newly-announced next AD of the Bush, Lynette Linton. Runs to 26 January. Tickets from £10.

Christine Bovill’s PARIS, Wilton’s Music Hall

These are the evenings I live for: a five-star, award-winning show which has wowed international audiences in London, Ireland, Berlin and beyond, Christine Bovill beckons you back to a Parisian scented twilight world, the golden age of French Song; a demi-monde of heroes, outcasts, cynics and bruised romantics. With drama, pathos and pizzazz, the show casts a sepia-tinged spotlight on the songs and stories of Jacques Brel, Edith Piaf, Barbara, Juliet Greco, Charles Aznavour and more, interspersed with wonderful anecdotes from the period (performed in French and English). Runs 29 January to 2 February. Tickets from £12.50 (concessions available).

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