It’s June! So, let’s have a round up of my recommended shows to see in London this month. We’ve got most bases covered with dashes of Carnival, musical comedy, turn-of-the-century dramas, feminist festivals, much-anticipated revivals and proven winners.
Plus, as ever, I’ve wheedled in a great blend (if i may say so myself!) of established and new names.
Present Laughter, The Old Vic
Pretty much anything with Andrew Scott in immediately goes to the top of my lists. One of the finest stage actors of his generation finally getting his dues as a result of his TV profile is good to see but do see the man on the stage if you can as he is an immense talent. And your next opportunity is in this Noel Coward comedy. I don’t think the main man and director, Matthew Warchus, will be doing an extended round of the much-promoted video, ‘Who Said It – Noel Coward or Freddie Mercury.’ Rather, expect a chaotic whirlwind of love, sex, panic and soul-searching. And Andrew Scott crushing it, obvs. Opens 17 June. Tickets from £10.
J’Ouvert, Theatre 503
This is an exciting proposition indeed. In J’Ouvert, it’s the Notting Hill Carnival and the streets in West London are alive. In dazzling colour and endless sequins and feathers, Jade and Nadine are fighting for space in a world they thought was theirs. J’Ouvert promises to be a hilarious and fearless story of two best friends battling to preserve tradition in a society where women’s bodies are frequently under threat. A timely reflection on the Black British experience and the sexual politics that are experienced at Carnival and beyond. Runs to 22 June. Tickets from £10.
Calm Down Dear, Camden People’s Theatre
2013 was the first time CPT programmed Calm Down, Dear, their festival of feminist theatre. Six years on and not only is the festival going from strength to strength but its rota of shows is fantastically diverse and fascinating. From female hairiness to deconstructing Hitchcock, from female friendship to abortions, and from coming of age to explorations of motherhood and womanhood and on to the pension crisis facing women, the 2019 list is supremely exciting. The festival has already started so don’t hang around as each night is a one-off. Runs to 16 June. Tickets from £12 (concessions available).
Rutherford and Son, National Theatre
I was in two minds about whether to include this in the list; after all, its subject matter of life in a turn-of-the-century Northern industrial town doesn’t scream contemporary relevance. But two things swayed me: First, this production marks the return of Roger Allam (who I love) to the NT for the first time in over a decade. Second, this play, which was written in 1912, was written by a woman. Gina Sowerby. How interesting it will be to see and hear a woman’s insight into this era where men and capitalism reshaped Britain irrevocably. And we need more women writers at the NT. Runs to 3 August. Tickets from £18.
Strange Fruit, Bush Theatre
There’s a lot of excitement around this revival of Strange Fruit, Caryl Philips’ classic play of a family caught between two cultures, and the uncrossable no-man’s land that can come between parents and their children. We follow Alvin and Errol – two brothers who can’t picture much of a future for themselves. They’re young, black and living in England in the 1980s, with an entire country and political system set against them. Instead they focus firmly on their past – the sunny Caribbean and heroic father they left behind when their mother brought them to England twenty years ago. But when Alvin returns home from his grandfather’s funeral in the Caribbean, a new version of their past emerges. Opens 12 June. Tickets from £20 (concessions available).
SWEAT, Gielgud Theatre
Those of us who saw this at the Donmar know this is a sublimely affecting piece about how the ruthlessness of capitalism has set the working class against each other and how, when the squeeze is put on, issues of racism and sexism quickly come to the fore. Miranda Plimpton is eye-wateringly good as Tracey, a factory worker in Middle America whose work, friendships and relationships are pushed to breaking point when the local factory starts laying off staff. Lynn Nottage’s writing and Lynette Linton’s direction are both so on point. This production is perfect. Opens 7 June. Tickets from £25.
The Sweet Science of Bruising, Wilton’s Music Hall
It’s great to see this fantastic production have a life beyond its sold-out run at Southwark Playhouse. Certainly, I didn’t know ANYTHING about the underground world of female boxing in Victorian London. Hell, I didn’t even know it existed! But writer Joy Wilkinson has weaved a cracking play from this fascinating subject matter as we follow four very different women who must fight each other inside the ring but stand united together for their fight for equality. Opens 5 June. Tickets from £12 (concessions available).
Kill Climate Deniers, Pleasance Theatre
So, obviously it was one glance at the title of this play and I was, like, yup, that’s going on the list. But what timing, huh? And some interesting challenges about whether the end justifies the means as this blend of fact and fiction explores what it may take to change things for the better. Expect laughs and sobering provocations as we navigate our way through action sequences Sylvester Stallone would be proud of, hostage situations teetering on the brink of calamity and eco-terrorists storming Australia’s Parliament House during a Fleetwood Mac concert. Opens 4 June. Tickets from £12.
Bronx Gothic, Young Vic
There’s nothing like new ways to perform and present theatre to excite the soul. Enter this production – at the intersection of dance, theatre and visual installation, Okwui Okpokwasili’s Bronx Gothic delves into one woman’s attempt to shake loose memory. In a coming of age story of a girl in the Bronx on the cusp of a sexual awakening, what emerges is a breath-taking exploration of girlhood. The production draws on inspiration from West African griot storytelling and the epistolary style of the Victorian novel to ask what it means to be a brown girl dreaming herself awake. This is the show’s UK premiere. Runs to 29 June. Tickets from £20 (concessions available).
Operation Mincemeat, New Diorama Theatre
If you haven’t been keeping up to date with theatre reviews then let me tell you that this musical comedy about a famous secret mission in the Second World War has been garnering endless five-star reviews. It’s a complete must-see, though you wouldn’t necessarily think that considering it’s about the British plot to disguise the 1943 Allied invasion of Sicily by placing false plans for an alternative invasion on the corpse of a dead tramp to fool the Germans. But this is the unlikely source material for what has been described by The Stage as a “masterclass of macabre comedy.” Runs to 15 June. Tickets £18 (concessions available).