Victoria’s Top Ten London Theatre, October 2019


Hope you’re all settled into Autumn now and if you’re looking for some good theatre to get you out of the cold evenings, you’ve got a cracking selection to choose from as, over the next couple of months, we’ve a heady mix of comedy, drama, musicals and cabaret coming your way.

And October gets us off to a great start with one of the most-anticipated productions of the year opening at the NT and the welcome return of some great talent, such as Katori Hall, Alice Birch, Arinze Kene and Sh!t Theatre.

And there’s some big topics being examined here, including austerity, Brexit, the criminal justice system, South African politics, Middle Eastern politics and even the Rwandan genocide. But there’s also the intimate too as well as some exciting challenges to the orthodox structure of a play.

Can’t wait.

A History of Water in the Middle East, Royal Court

I think this may well be my undergraduate thesis adapted for the stage. And considering it comes from the brilliant Sabrina Mahfouz, I’m expecting it to be a hell of a lot more interesting than my writing! For it’s no exaggeration to say that water may well prove to be a more dangerous and divisive resource for the Middle East than even oil so Sabrina is on a mission to explore who really holds the power in and over the Middle East. In a world long obsessed with access to oil, will water soon become the natural resource that dictates control, or has it been all along? From the British Imperialist ownership of natural resources, to the environmental urgency of the present, water has shaped lives, policies and fortunes – and it will shape all of our futures. Runs 10 October to 16 November. Tickets from £15.

Faith, Hope, and Charity, National Theatre

This production opened a couple of weeks ago and there’s been no ignoring the impact it has been having on audiences with its hard-hitting but affecting examination of the impact of austerity on a fictional community centre. In fact, so profound has been the impact that I am desperately trying to rejig my diary so I can get to see this. The community centre in question, already diminished by welfare cuts, is now threatened with closure. Yet in these dire straits, writer Alexander Zeldin focuses in on the acts of generosity and humanity that keeps people alive – the woman cooking lunch for those in need, the volunteer caring for his choir. Expect to feel overwhelmed with both anger and hope. Runs to 12 October. Tickets from £15.

The Antipodes, National Theatre

It’s back-to-back gems in the National’s Dorfman Theatre this month for as soon as Faith Hope and Charity vacates the building so the mighty Annie Baker returns. The talent behind The Flick and John is back with this work that is a play about people telling stories about telling stories. Little is ever straightforward in Annie’s work, and their hearts are usually revealed in extra-slow motion during long running times. This production though should only be two hours long – which is practically a hop, skip and a jump in Annie Baker time – but I’m not expecting this work to be any less layered or complex as The Antipodes asks what value stories have for a world in crisis. Runs 21 October to 23 November. Tickets from £15.

We Anchor in Hope, Bunker Theatre

I’m looking forward to Anna Jordan’s new play both for its subject matter – taking aim at gentrification – and because her previous one, the Bruntwood-winner Yen, packed a real punch. In this new show, directed by Bunker’s AD Chris Sonnex, we are in The Anchor, a local pub about to become redeveloped into luxury flats. It’s the last night before the place closes and its regulars are having a party. Only as much as this is a celebration of good times, there is a reflection on what else is being lost than simply a pub. Runs 25 September to 19 October. Tickets from £10 (concessions available).

[BLANK], Donmar Warehouse

I’ll always be excited by Alice Birch’s writing. Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. is one of my faves and Anatomy of a Suicide holds a very special place in my heart. And, so, we have [BLANK], a new play and a co-production with Clean Break that reaches across society to explore the impact of the criminal justice system on women and their families. And she’s certainly given director, Maria Aberg, a challenge with 100 unnamed scenes from which to create the final piece. Can’t wait. Runs 11 October to 30 November. Tickets from £10.

Little Baby Jesus, Orange Tree Theatre

Misty rightly brought Arinzé Kene front and centre so it’s no surprise that theatres are now picking through his back-catalogue and, personally, that makes me happy as I didn’t know much about Arinze prior to his career-defining performance so I’m all for looking at the development of the artists. Enter Little Baby Jesus at the OT, a play first performed at the Ovalhouse back in 2011, that platforms a trio of intercut monologues about the lives of three inner-city teenagers who are forced to grow up long before they reach adulthood. And it also goes to show how keen Artistic Director, Paul Miller, is to platform work from playwrights from many backgrounds. I wish some other ADs would learn from him… Runs 18 October to 16 November. Tickets from £15.

The Ice Cream Boys, Jermyn Street Theatre

A production I’ve been dying to see since its programming was announced, The Ice Cream Boys is the unlikely title for a play that brings Jacob Zuma, the charismatic but corrupt former President of South Africa, face to face with Ronnie Kasnis, the mastermind of the country’s intelligence service. Both allies and enemies, this promises to be a gripping exploration of politics and power. Can’t wait; genuinely can’t wait for this. A brilliant piece of programming from JST. From 9 October to 2 November. Tickets from £15.

Sh!t Theatre Drink Rum with Expats, Soho Theatre

Hallelujah for this transfer for this won a Fringe First up in Edinburgh this summer and I’ve already got my ticket for this transfer. Not that I’m expecting to be all fun and laughs, mind. For Sh!t Theatre is a performance art duo comprised of Rebecca Biscuit and Louise Mothersole and the pair devised the show as a response to this being Britain’s last year of being a member of the EU. And the device? The pair chatted to the expats in Malta, in particular regulars at The Pub, a venue notorious for being the location where Oliver Reed died in 1999. Needless to say, the opinions of the British expats (or should that be immigrants) is as backward on the Brexit issue as you’d expect. But Rebecca and Louise also discover a darker side with a black market in EU passports, assassination of journalists, and migrants dying in Maltese waters. Runs 8 to 19 October. Tickets from £13.

Tokyo Rose, New Diorama Theatre

I love New Diorama Theatre; their support for emerging companies and creatives is something to behold. And I’m particularly pleased to see them platform this cracking new piece of work from Burnt Lemon Theatre, a female-led company focussing skills of musicianship and new writing to tackle tough topics surrounding gender and politics. And in Tokyo Rose they are turning back the dial to 1949 where Iva Toguri is charged with treason in one of the most controversial trials in American history. Iva stands accused of being the notorious ‘Tokyo Rose’, a Japanese wartime disc jockey who broadcast Axis propaganda to the Allied forces in the Pacific. But was Iva the villain she was made out to be? Runs 8 to 12 October. Tickets from £16 (concessions available).

Our Lady of Kibeho, Theatre Royal Stratford East

Written by the marvellous Katori Hall (TINA: The Tina Turner Musical, The Mountaintop), Our Lady of Kibeho marks 25 years since the Rwandan genocide with its haunting insight into the extraordinary true events that captured the world’s attention. Katori starts her play in 1981 at Kibeho College in Rwanda. A young girl has claimed to have seen a vision of the Virgin Mary who warns her of the unimaginable: Rwanda becoming hell on Earth. But she’s ignored by her friends and scolded by her school. But then another student saw the vision, and another, and the impossible soon appears to be true. This was hailed as ‘the most important play of the year’ by The Wall Street Journal when it premiered in New York in 2014 so put this in the ‘unmissable’ folder. Runs 25 September to 2 November. Tickets from £10.

Post your comment