The sun is out and things are looking up in the world of London theatre as we have a cracking and wonderfully diverse line up of shows for you including blockbuster musicals, Afrofuturism, righteous feminism, impeached Presidents, bohemian revolution, remixed Chekhov and Jamaican wakes.
I’m loving the line-up for May so I’ve all my fingers crossed that you’ll find something in this list for you too. There is such a great range of choice, from drama to comedies, from funk classics to ABBA-esque soundtracks, and this list is a great testament to the innovation that does exist in theatre-land, providing you scratch beneath its surface.
The Writer, Almeida Theatre
The show that so many are talking about, and I can absolutely understand why. I haven’t witnessed such a visceral piece of feminist theatre since Alice Birch’s Revolt, She Said. The anger here is palpable and righteous, but writer Ella Hickson and director Blanche McIntyre have captured this tsunami of emotions into a fantastically original, innovative and challenging production that attacks not just the patriarchy but also theatre and even its audiences. A wondrous production. Runs to May 26. Tickets from £10.
Nightclubbing, Camden People’s Theatre
I am SO here for this! Inspired by Grace Jones and Afrofuturism, award-winning artist Rachael Young’s Nightclubbing imagines a different future for women of colour through striking intergalactic imagery and visceral live music. Named after Grace Jones’ 1981 landmark album of the same name, Nightclubbing was originally sparked by an event in 2015 when a group of young black women were racially discriminated against and refused entry to a London nightclub. Runs 8th to 12th May before embarking on a UK tour. Tickets from £12.
Effigies of Wickedness (Songs Banned by the Nazis), Gate Theatre
There is so much greatness wrapped up in this show that it’s hard to know where to begin… Let’s start with the production itself, a collaboration between the Gate and the ENO that takes the shape of a cabaret show celebrating the subversive underground scene – with its personalities and songs – that so appalled the Nazis. Add to that not only is this directed by the Gate’s AD Ellen McDougall, but Seiriol Davies, the brains behind How to Win Against History, is the lyricist, we’ve Lucy McCormick, fresh from Collective Rage and her scandalous hit, Triple Threat, and we’ve Le Gateau Chocolat whose performances have been a cabaret favourite for years. I want this injected straight into my veins. Runs 3 May to 2 June. Tickets from £15 (concessions available).
One of my stand-out productions from 2017 is back as this traumatic but utterly memorable play has its West End transfer. If I said this was about rape, few of you would go to see it. And I appreciate that. As did writer, Nina Raine so rather than make a rape case her focus, she instead centres her play around the friendships and tangled love lives of the two opposing Counsels in the case. Their social scene makes for an easy ‘in’ but Nina knows what she is doing for this play forces us to confront the fact that even though these two worlds seem miles apart – an assaulted working-class woman in the dock versus the metropolitan elite who argue her case – rape and the themes around it of truth, empathy and justice do not respect any class divide. A dagger to the heart. Runs 18 May to 11 August. Tickets from £15.
RashDash’s Three Sisters, Yard Theatre
God, I love RashDash and now these feminist theatre and music makers are ripping up Anton Chekhov’s revered 1900 play and reimagining Three Sisters with electric guitars. Obviously. RashDash – Abbi Greenland, Helen Goalen and Becky Wilkie – take on the roles of the titular siblings Olga, Masha and Irina, to question why the men in this play have all the lines. But this isn’t just being brash for the sake of it. As the collective have themselves said, ‘our playful approach to a version ‘after Chekhov’ is about the canon, who gets to speak and be heard on our important stages. It neither worships nor attacks the original, it simply asks, what if we were the three sisters? What would we want to say?’ Runs 22 May to 9 June. Tickets from £15 (concessions available).
Chess: The Musical, London Coliseum
Nobody’s Side is one of the greatest songs from a musical ever and I will quite happily fight anyone that disagrees. But that’s not the only classic in this fantastic musical (I bloody love Chess) written in 1984 by ABBA songwriters Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, and Tim Rice about an international chess match between West and East. There’s also I Know Him So Well and One Night in Bangkok. And in this revival, we’ve also the magnificent Alexandra Burke (all hail the woman who should have rightfully won Strictly last year) alongside Michael Ball, Cassidy Janson and Tim Howar. This should be a cracker. Runs to 2 June. Tickets from £15.
Grotty, Bunker Theatre
Her debut show, Brute, marked writer Izzy Tennyson out as very much one-to-watch and she is back with Grotty, a semi-autobiographical piece centred on East London’s lesbian scene. The play is a provocative, satirical and at times grotesque exploration of intergenerational tension in the lesbian community, as well as struggles with mental health, identity and grief. This is no sentimentalised view of the London lesbian scene and is certainly not for the faint hearted. Told through the eyes of a young and reckless Rigby, a series of flashbacks expose Rigby’s taste for self-destruction and girlfriends with nice flats. Rigby doesn’t just fall down the rabbit hole, she hits the very bottom of it. Runs 1 May to 26 May. Tickets: £19.50 (concessions available).
Nine Night, National Theatre
Natasha Gordon’s debut play Nine Night is a touching and very funny exploration of the rituals of family. The play’s title refers to the Jamaican tradition of a Nine Night Wake and this play focuses on the wake of Gloria whose children and grandchildren mark her death with a party that lasts over a week: nine nights of music, food, sharing stories – and an endless parade of mourners – which starts to put a strain on the family bonds. But it’s only on for the shortest of times so don’t hang around if you want to see this. Runs to 26 May. Tickets from £15.
Building the Wall, Park Theatre
‘America, 2019. A President impeached. In a world of ‘fake news’, can anyone admit the truth?’ You’d think a play with this tagline would have been crafted in the past twelve months but, no, for – somewhat remarkably – this gripping political thriller from writer Robert Schenkkan, (a Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning playwright) was finished before Trump was elected. Nevertheless, here we are with this play that follows Rick, a man incarcerated awaiting sentencing for the crime of the century. He grants just one interview – to Gloria, an African American historian who becomes Rick’s only chance to tell his version of the truth. Runs 2 May to 2 June. Tickets from £18.50 (concessions available).
Suicide Notes… The Spoken Word of Christopher Brett Bailey, Shoreditch Town Hall
Surely it is impossible to overlook a show that promotes itself as “a live action short story collection for the depraved, the depressed and the death obsessed.” I mean, hell, on that description, let’s all get down to Shoreditch for this. But, sensation aside, Christopher Brett Bailey is a phenomenal performer, who blends stories, poems and black humour who examines the human condition in the most addictive and breath-taking of ways. Expect a linguistic kaleidoscope of caustic cartoons, crackpot prophesies and demented erotica. verbal diarrhoea, dirty jokes, and venomous poetry. Runs 2nd to 4th May. Tickets from £12.50.