Victoria’s Top Ten London Theatre, September 2019


Right, summer’s over, Fringe is over… It’s time to get back into the swing of the routine back in London. But don’t feel that means you’ve got to package all that is cultural and wonderful back into a metaphorical box for you to deprive yourself of for this Autumn sees a deluge of great shows hitting the stage around the capital, including this month where big name writers, reworked iconic plays, critical contemporary subjects, and ballet triumphs fight for your attention – and your ticket money.

The ten (actually, eleven, but let’s gloss over that technicality) below are my picks for this month – I hope you will find something to tempt you here too.

Total Immediate Collective Imminent Terrestrial Salvation, Royal Court

The catchily titled Total Immediate Collective Imminent Terrestrial Salvation is a new play by Tim Crouch, which is presented through combined stage action and illustrated text. It tells the story of a man who manipulates a group of people to sit in a place together and believe in something that isn’t true. Having already caused waves at Edinburgh with both five- and one-star reviews, Total Immediate etc. sees audience and actors turn the book’s pages together, study the images, and sometimes share the words. I, for one, am totally here for shows that push at the boundaries so see you at the Court for a show that strips the theatrical event down to its purest form — an encounter between actor and audience. Opens 3 September. Tickets from £12.

Until the Flood, Arcola Theatre

Pulitzer Prize finalist Dael Orlandersmith (Yellowman, Young Vic) arrives in Europe to perform her urgent and revelatory play. We are set in Missouri, 2014. Michael Brown, a black teenager, is shot and killed by Darren Wilson, a white police officer. A tidal wave of unrest sweeps across the nation, powered by a new activist movement called Black Lives Matter. Its ripples are felt all over the world. In this gripping and revelatory drama, based on real-life interviews from the aftermath of the shooting, Dael journeys into the heart and soul of modern-day America. Confronting the powerful forces of history, race and politics, she embodies the many faces of a community rallying for justice, and a country still yearning for change. Opens 4 September. Tickets from £10.

The King of Hell’s Palace, Hampstead Theatre

I think many of us were pretty damn excited to see the details for Roxana Silbert’s first season at Hampstead, and she is starting off with Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig’s blazing world premiere based on a true story about a whistleblowing heroine and her extraordinary mission to expose a national cover-up. We are in Henan Province, 1992. China is laying the foundations for global wealth and power. Yin-Yin, a young Ministry of Health official, finds herself recruited into a new and unusual trade that boasts infinite stock and infinite demand. But amidst the hype and the soaring profits, she rapidly uncovers an unimaginable secret that will test to the limit her loyalties to her profession, to her family and to her country… Opens 5 September. Tickets from £18 (concessions available)

A Doll’s House, Lyric Hammersmith

If you think you know what to expect from this production then think again as Tanika Gupta has reimagined Ibsen’s classic play of gender politics through the lens of British colonialism, offering a bold, female perspective exploring themes of ownership and race. Add to that, we have Rachel O’Riordan making her directorial debut as Artistic Director of the Lyric, in a production that gives new urgency to the forces that drive our heroine to choose between society’s expectations and her own identity.

Calcutta. 1879. Niru is a young Bengali woman married to an English colonial bureaucrat – Tom. Tom loves Niru, exoticising her as a frivolous plaything to be admired and kept. But Niru has a long-kept secret. And just as she thinks she is almost free of that secret, it threatens to bring her life crashing down around her.

Jade City, The Bunker

Jade City has already built itself a reputation as an original work examining the impact of mental health on the working classes. The play focuses on two friends struggling with the pressures of everyday life in modern Belfast. One third of people in Northern Ireland live on or below the bread line, and the country has seen more suicides since the Good Friday Agreement than deaths during “the Troubles”.  As the government works to bring the 18-month deadlock in Northern Ireland to a close, Jade City explores the consequences of non-functional and uncaring governments and the effects on the people they have neglected. With an original electronic score to boot, this is a lyrical and powerful exploration of the choices we make and the only choices we have. Opens 3 September. Tickets from £10 (concessions available).

All of Me (The Possibility of Future Splendour), The Yard

Darkness meets a haunting beauty in Caroline Horton’s unnerving show about depression. All of Me has been adored in Edinburgh and it makes its way to The Yard for three weeks where I will most definitely be heading to see this. For this isn’t a production that looks for an upside or the more routine “there is hope” ending. Rather, Caroline unpicks the slow, cyclical nature of ongoing recovery, and asks what happens if we refuse to keep on keeping on. Strange, poetic, almost entirely sung through and all against a backdrop of broken glitterballs. Runs 10 to 28 September. Tickets from £12.

Amsterdam, Orange Tree Theatre

I’m curious about this play, Amsterdam, at the OT as it sounds quite like nothing else. It is a thriller that follows an Israeli violinist, nine months pregnant, living in her trendy canal-side Amsterdam apartment. One day a mysterious unpaid gas bill from 1944 arrives. It awakens unsettling feelings of collective identity, foreignness and alienation. Stories of a devastating past are compellingly reconstructed to try and make sense of the present. The play comes from Maya Arad Yasur, a prize-winning Israeli playwright whose work has been produced worldwide and it is directed by Matthew Xia in his first production as Artistic Director of Actors Touring Company. It sounds fascinating, it really does. Opens 6 September. Tickets from £15.

Two Ladies, Bridge Theatre

Frankly, any production with Zoë Wannamaker is going to get me excited but this new play from Nancy Harris sounds intriguing. As their husbands clash over an international crisis, the first ladies of France and America find themselves alone together in a side room. But are these women friends, or enemies? Can they trust each other? Can they even trust their husbands? It’s directed by Nicholas Hytner who is usually phobic when it comes to women writers but obviously mightily deft with his directorial touches so fingers crossed this comes together as it sounds great. Opens 14 September. Tickets from £15.

Blood Wedding, Young Vic

Written in the summer of 1932 with the Spanish civil war looming, Federico García Lorca’s anarchic meditation on the fate of the individual versus society was a prophetic foreshadowing of the violence that would soon both tear his beloved country apart, and lead to his own tragic end. Now, multiple award-winning director Yaël Farber (Les Blancs, The Crucible), brings Lorca’s most famous tragedy to the Young Vic in a new version by Marina Carr. Here, the mysteries of love and hate are explored against the backdrop of a community gearing up to unleash these elemental forces upon itself, with unstoppable consequences. What is done cannot be undone. Opens 19 September. Tickets from £10.

English National Ballet’s Giselle, Sadler’s Wells

The masterpiece returns! Is Akram Khan’s reworked Giselle with the ENB the best ballet I have ever seen? You know what, it may be. It certainly is the most exhilarating, beautiful and devastating contemporary ballet I’ve ever seen and I am privileged to have seen this production twice. This reworking looks to contemporary politics by placing our Giselle in a condemned garment factory, where a community of migrant workers serve at the mercy of the factory’s landlords. The highlight though is undoubtedly the demonic Wilis, the ghostly figures of the factory’s many victims, who form a vengeful and awe-inspiring cabal within Academy Award-winning Tim Yip’s towering set. Runs 18 to 28 September. Tickets from £15.

Glass. Kill. Bluebeard. Imp., Royal Court

We started with the Royal Court and we are going to finish with the Royal Court as, once again, they’ve a month of terrific shows ahead and I’ve already got my ticket to this limited three-week run of new plays from the mighty Caryl Churchill. What are they about? All we’ve got to go on is this: 1. A girl made of glass; 2. Gods and murders; 3. A serial killer’s friends, and 4. A secret in a bottle. Plus, we’ve the lovely James Macdonald in the director’s chair so, frankly, this is all I need to know that I have to be seeing this. Opens 18 September. Tickets from £12.

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