Victoria’s Top Ten London Theatre, November 2019


So, look, the sights and sounds of Christmas are making themselves known on stages around town but I’m saving all my Christmas shows for next month so, for November, let’s lap up some big-name musicals and dramas that are coming to town. Not only is the much-lauded Young Vic production of Death of a Salesman transferring to the West End, but we’ve the London premiere for the adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend and, at Shaftesbury Theatre, we’ve a musical for pop aficionados everywhere.

But, as ever, the best shows in town aren’t always the biggest so it’s great to be able to include some of the more fringe theatres too – Bunker, Hampstead, Arcola and Kiln have had fantastic 2019s and they are closing with aplomb with works form some of the most exciting writers around.

Similarly, I’m excited to be able to include some dance too, especially a contemporary piece that illuminates the life and work of one of the most exciting artists imaginable – Egon Schiele.

And no monthly list this year has been without at least one show from the Royal Court. And November is no exception.

So much to enjoy!

& Juliet, Shaftesbury Theatre

A musical comprised of songs from the likes of Britney, Rihanna, Justin Timberlake and Ariana? I mean, come on. This was made for me! Songwriter supremo Max Martin has collated together the hits he has written for these superstars and transformed into the score for a new musical that imagines that Juliet (of ‘Romeo and’ fame) did not kill herself when she found her boyfriend unconscious on the floor. No, that would be a waste. Instead, Juliet decides her own fate. Expect a bright, fun-loving show that is packed to the brim with big pop anthems. Runs 2 November to 28 March. Tickets from £20 (concessions available).

Staging Schiele, Southbank Centre

This is a hugely exciting new dance production from Shobana Jeyasingh Dance that looks to bring Schiele’s world to life. A revolutionary artist who worked at the beginning of the 20th century, Egon Schiele is famous for his stark, confrontational and undeniably erotic nudes and notorious for a personal life that saw him accused of incest and kidnapping. But it’s the former that is the focus here with choreographer, Shobana Jeyasingh, looking to explore the tangled and complex relationship between a male artist and their female models, and to capture the Austrian artist’s self-conscious framing of himself and his work in his brief meteoric rise to fame before his untimely death. Runs 4 November to 5 November. Tickets from £18 (concessions available).

My Brilliant Friend, National Theatre

The NT’s big winter show, this. And tickets have been selling REALLY quickly because, of course, this two-show production is adapted (by April de Angelis) from the hugely popular Elena Ferrante Neapolitan Novels. Love, violence, ambition and self-destruction… Consider these the principal themes in this story that sees an Italian novelist look back over a 60-year friendship that endured through times of war, poverty and emancipation. Also worth noting that April is running a playwriting workshop at the NT in November too if you are a writer wanting to pick up tips from one of the best. Runs 12 November to 22 February. Tickets from £15.

i will still be whole (when you rip me in half), Bunker Theatre

There’s a lot of love out there for playwright Ava Wong Davies so expect to hear and see a lot about this play on social media. Exploring blood ties, the politics of race, sexuality and inherited trauma, the show is a series of interlinking, overlapping monologues from a daughter and a mother centred around their first meeting in over 20 years – that’s 20 years after the mother walked out on her daughter. What is it both women seek and get from this reconciliation? Runs 12 to 23 November. Tickets from £10 (concessions available).

#WeAreArrested, Arcola Theatre

Arcola’s first co-production with the Royal Shakespeare Company is a vital story about the cost of reporting the truth in the age of fake news. #WeAreArrested is a gripping play about fighting for truth in a network of lies. When a journalist is sent a flash-drive containing critical evidence of illegal government activity, he is duty-bound to publish the story. But with the nation destabilised and divided, a sinister power is eroding the rule of law. What price will he pay for speaking out? Adapted from the book by Can Dündar, who was arrested for publishing footage of Turkish State Intelligence sending weapons into Syria, this deeply personal and universal story finds urgent new life as authoritarian politics spread across the globe. Runs 13 November to 7 December. Tickets from £10.

On Bear Ridge, Royal Court

We’ve been waiting 15 years for a new play from writer Ed Thomas and though he has apparently delivered a cracker, don’t go expecting it to be all fun and laughter. Rather On Bear Ridge is set in a desolate landscape, one ravaged by war and/or an apocalyptic incident, which has left only a few survivors. And these characters are bound together through memory, routine and place but also through language. And it is through language that Ed starts exploring themes of loss, using it as a metaphor for other losses, whether personal or community-wide. Beckett-esque overtones, maybe, but this promises to be an impressive production. Runs 24 October to 23 November. Tickets from £12.

Death of a Salesman, Piccadilly Theatre

Right, I’m not messing around here – this production is absolutely bloody amazing. I saw it when it ran at the Young Vic earlier this year and each night was a sell-out. Yes, the cast is astounding – Wendell Pierce is the main star but, frankly, so is Sharon D. Clarke who wowed in their supporting roles – but the whole production is mesmerising. With a Black cast for the Loman family, directors Marianne Elliott and Miranda Cromwell have brought out more from Arthur Miller’s text than has been explored before. And I also want to give special mention to designer Anna Fleischle who has created this delicate fragile separate world for Willy’s reminisces that only heightens the emotional impact of this show. UH-MAY-ZING. Runs from 24 October to 4 January. Tickets from £15.

Dirty Crusty, The Yard Theatre

Clare Barron’s Dance Nation was one of my favourite productions of last year so obviously I am all over this production of one of her earlier shows. Dirty Crusty is another dark comedy and, also much like Dance Nation, has both dance and female bodies and dreams at its heart as it follows Jeanine, who starts taking adult ballet lessons from an ex-ballerina, and ends up in a journey of self-discovery, sex and bad hygiene as well as dance and our attempts to reclaim failed dreams. Runs from 24 October to 30 November. Tickets from £19 (concessions available).

When the Crows Visit, Kiln Theatre

Anupama Chandrasekhar is an Indian playwright with an already-extraordinary reputation: she was the NT’s first international playwright-in-residence from 2016-2017 and was the first Indian to be nominated for the Evening Standard Theatre Award for Most Promising Playwright, the John Whiting Award AND the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize (FYI the last two are esteemed writing awards). Now her latest is getting a world premiere at the Kiln with AD Indu Rubasingham at the helm. Inspired by both Ibsen’s Ghosts and true events in contemporary India, When the Crows Visit centres around a mother who is forced to confront the ghosts of her past when her son is accused of a violent crime. Runs 23 October to 30 November. Tickets from £10.

Botticelli in the Fire, Hampstead Theatre

Roxana Silbert has rolled out a very exciting programme of shows in her first season as Artistic Director and it continues with this fascinating “hot-blooded queering of Renaissance Italy” from Jordan Tannahill centred around the famous artist, Sandro Botticelli. This is a man who has it all – talent, fame, good looks. But whilst at work on his breakthrough commission, ‘The Birth of Venus’, Botticelli’s devotion to pleasure and beauty is put to the ultimate test. As plague sweeps through the city, the charismatic friar Girolamo Savonarola starts to stoke the fires of dissent against the liberal elite. Botticelli finds the life he knows breaking terrifyingly apart, forcing him to choose between love and survival. Runs to 23 November. Tickets from £18 (concessions available)

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