Autumn is always a packed season for London theatres and that’s no exception here as it was a real battle to wheedle my list down to my top ten. In fact, I couldn’t. There are eleven on this list. And, even then, some had to miss out.
Three new shows open at the NT this month but I’ve no room for Saint George and the Dragon or the return of Jane Eyre (I know the latter is popular but I wasn’t crazy about it myself when I saw it last year).
Plus, I’m fully aware I don’t have Mike Bartlett’s return to the Almeida with Albion on the list, or Dr Seuss’s The Lorax at the Old Vic. I’ve no doubt that there are many looking forward to these shows but, instead, I’m more drawn to the list below.
Perhaps it’s the subject matter, perhaps it’s just personal preference, but considering this list covers everything from depression to showgirls, from Palestinian politics to first meetings with birth mothers, and shows on tearing down racist colonialist statues and cute-meets, I’m crossing fingers I’ve got all the good bases covered.
This is a great list and I hope you find something to tempt you.
B, Royal Court
Chilean playwright Guillermo Calderón comes to the Royal Court with B, a play that sets out to examine change – what drives us to demand it, and what can be done to bring it about. It focuses on an intergenerational shift in opinion and perspective on violence – Alejandra and Marcela are young and are planting bombs in the middle of the night, but they don’t want to hurt anyone; they just want to be heard. But José Miguel is from another generation and he’s committed to change by any means possible: ‘We used to kill kings. We used to kill millionaires. And now all we do is make threats on the Internet. That’s why I’m offering you the chance to start a war.’ Closes October 21st. Tickets from £12.
Follies, National Theatre
I’m not seeing this until Christmas so I can’t tell you for sure that it’s terrific but, hey, the audiences and critics seem pretty unanimous that it is, and how can a mix of Sondheim, showgirls and Imelda Staunton possibly go wrong? It’s certainly the most escapist show on the list and its lavish production from Vicki Mortimer turns the head. But there’s a lot of talent on stage here and the story is a bittersweet one, with former stars of the stage reminiscing about their glory days with songs such as the mighty Losing My Mind in its score. To January 3rd. Tickets from £15.
My Name is Rachel Corrie, Young Vic Theatre
Rachel Corrie was a 23-year-old American peace activist from Olympia, Washington, who was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer on 16 March 2003, while undertaking nonviolent direct action to protect the home of a Palestinian family from demolition. This play is based on her writings and it captures her idealism, her eloquence, and her sardonic wit. Josh Roche, winner of the JMK Award 2017, directs this stirring, troubling account of an extraordinary young woman’s overwhelming commitment to her cause. However, the short run is already sold out so it is Returns only, I’m afraid. Closes October 21st. Tickets from £10.
It is quite a feat to turn the Arab Israeli “peace process” into a compelling, exciting and affecting play, but that is exactly what J.T. Rogers and Bartlett Sher have done with Oslo. Focusing on the secret back channel negotiations that laid the groundwork for the Oslo Accords of 1993, this play examines what must be risked for peace even if the chance of success is only fleeting and even dangerous. And it is much funnier than you might expect! Opens October 2nd. Tickets from £18.
Heisenberg: The Uncertainty Principle, Wyndham’s Theatre
This play is the inaugural production for Elliott & Harper, the new theatre company created by director Marianne Elliott and producer Chris Harper and it sees writer Simon Stephens use the theory of quantum mechanics as a leap-off point to explore the dynamics of a relationship between an unpredictable woman and an older man. And given it stars the terrific Anne Marie Duff and Kenneth Cranham (who moved me to tears in The Father), there’s plenty to get excited about. Closes January 6th 2018. Tickets from £19.50.
Beginning, National Theatre
This new play from David Eldridge promises to be an intimate, tender and rather funny look at those awkward first few steps in a fledgling relationship. In this two-hander directed by Polly Findlay, it’s the early hours of the morning and Danny (Sam Troughton) is the last straggler at Laura’s (Justine Mitchell) party. But does the party’s end signal the start of something new for both of them? Opens October 5th. Tickets from £15.
The Lady from the Sea, Donmar Warehouse
It is damn good news to see a woman getting her hands on this famous Ibsen play that examines a woman’s battle between the duty and obligation of family and marriage, and the lure of a life determined by love and passion. It’s Elinor Cook who will bring her own interpretation to the stage, which will be directed by Kwame Kwei-Armah, whose One Night in Miami was one of my highlights of 2016, and who just so happens to be the Young Vic’s new Artistic Director-in-waiting! And it’s Nikki Amuka-Bird taking up the role of Ellida, following her recent BAFTA Television Award nomination for Zadie Smith’s NW. Big talent all around! Opens October 12th. Tickets from £10.
Every Brilliant Thing, Orange Tree Theatre
“Every Brilliant Thing may be the funniest show about depression you’ve ever seen.” Not my words but the New York Post’s. And Duncan Macmillan’s smash hit is back on tour, arriving at the Orange Tree for its first major London run. Lyn Gardner called this play that follows one man’s life, from his mother’s attempted suicide to his own challenges with mental illness, a “life-affirming piece of theatre.” And, frankly, that’s good enough for me. Opens October 10th. Tickets from £15.
Louise Wallwein grew up in the care of nuns from the age of nine. Glue is her frank and gripping true story of her first meetings with her birth mother, three decades after being put up for adoption. The world as she knew it was turned upside down, and this is how she learnt to fight. Glue is a comedic live art performance fuelled by rhythmic poetry. It’s a show about getting to grips with our family relationships and therefore our identities. Runs Tuesday 3rd October – Saturday 7th October. Tickets from £15.
The Fall, Royal Court
As the statue of colonialist Cecil Rhodes came down at the University of Cape Town, seven students wrote The Fall. It took South Africa and Edinburgh by storm and comes to the Royal Court for an exclusive limited London run. As colonialist and patriarchal icons are dismantled across the world, The Fall goes to the heart of how race, class, gender, power and history’s voices intersect. In the wake of global events The Fall reminds us that decolonisation is still a relevant, vital and urgent topic all over the world. Closes October 14th. Tickets from £12.
All the Little Lights, Arcola Theatre
Inspired by the Rochdale sex scandal, All the Little Lights follows three teenage girls (the sort of teenagers that society often demonises or overlooks) who, with the threat of sexual exploitation lurking in the shadows, spend one last night together by the railway line as they try to recover all they’ve lost – friendship, family, safety. Developed with the support of Safe and Sound, who campaign against child sexual exploitation, this play captures the voices of these powerless, underprivileged girls with compassion, humour and authenticity. In fact, so effectively does it do this that this show won writer Jane Upton the George Devine Award after it premiered last year at Nottingham Playhouse. Opens October 10th. Tickets from £17 (concessions available)