This week I decided to do something different and share my personal round-up of the hottest new theatre shows opening in London over the next two months (excluding musicals). It is my personal Top Ten and I have included a mix of revivals, new plays, and stage adaptations of novels and films. Theatre is very subjective and I stress that these are my personal choices rather than a definitive guide.
The productions are listed according to their Press Night (most productions will have previews before their Press Night).
1. Fatal Attraction, Theatre Royal Haymarket – Press Night 25 March
The World Stage Premiere of Fatal Attraction brings one of the most talked-about and compelling movies of the 1980s to the London stage.
Fatal Attraction is a story of obsession and revenge. It explores how a chance meeting in a bar and a casual sexual encounter becomes a living nightmare for Dan Gallagher and his family. After spending an illicit weekend with Alex Forrest, Dan assumes he can walk away. But Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned and Alex starts to stalk Dan and his family with terrifying consequences.
The production stars Natascha McElhone as Alex Forrest, Mark Bazeley as Dan Gallagher and Kristin Davis as Beth Gallagher, and is directed by Trevor Nunn.
2. Another Country, Trafalgar Studios – Press Night 3 April
Another Country follows a company of public schoolboys through a summer term in the early 1930s where Bennett and Judd are both outsiders; one coming to terms with his homosexuality, the other already a committed Marxist.
But the Establishment has traditional ways of dealing with rebels and when a scandal rocks the school, the young men must confront their beliefs and make choices which will have a momentous impact on their lives and on the future of their country.
Julian Mitchell’s award-winning play explores the questions what would lead a boy to betray his friends and a man to betray his country?
The production transfers from the Chichester Festival and is directed by Jeremy Herrin.
3. Let the Right One In, Apollo – Press Night 7 April
Let the Right One is a stage adaptation of John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Swedish horror novel and film, reworked for the stage by Jack Thorne.
Oskar is a bullied lonely teenage boy living with his mother on a housing estate at the edge of town, when a spate of killings rock the neighbourhood. Eli is the young girl who has just moved in next door. She doesn’t go to school and never leaves the flat by day. Sensing in each other a kindred spirit, the two become devoted friends. What Oskar doesn’t know is that Eli has been a teenager for a very long time…
The onstage re-imagination of the tale, now set in the brisk Scottish Highlands, focuses on the darker elements of the novel, resulting in a deeply chilling piece. The production opens in London’s West End following a sell out run at the Royal Court.
4. Birdland, Royal Court – Press Night 9 April
The last week of a massive international tour and rock star Paul is at the height of his fame. Everybody knows his name. Whatever he wants he can have. He can screw anybody he wants to. He can buy anything he desires. He can eat anything. Drink anything. Smoke anything. Go anywhere.
As the inevitability of the end of the road looms closer, and a return home becomes a reality, for Paul, the music is starting to jar.
A piercing new play looking at empathy, money and fame. A new Simon Stephens play is always an “event” and this should be no exception. Andrew Scott stars as Paul.
5. Handbagged, Vaudeville – Press Night 10 April
The monarch – Liz. Her most powerful subject – Maggie. Two enduring icons, born six months apart. One destined to rule, the other elected to lead. One believed there was no such thing as society. The other had vowed to serve it.
Handbagged focuses on two very powerful and iconic British women, Queen Elizabeth II and Margaret Thatcher, looking at them as individuals and at their working relationship. What did the world’s most powerful women talk about behind closed palace doors?
Handbagged is a new play written by Moira Buffini and directed by Indhu Rubasingham, Artistic Director of the Tricycle Theatre. The production opens in London’s West End following a sell out run at the Tricycle Theatre.
6. King Charles III, Almeida – Press Night 10 April
Queen Elizabeth II is dead. After a lifetime of waiting, the Prince of Wales ascends the throne as King Charles III. A future of power but how to rule?
Mike Bartlett’s controversial new play explores the people beneath the crowns, the unwritten rules of our democracy, and the conscience of Britain’s most famous family.
The production is a World Premiere and is directed by Rupert Goold, Artistic Director of the Almeida Theatre. The production has a stellar cast including Oliver Chris, Adam James, Tim Pigott-Smith and Tom Robertson.
7. Privacy, Donmar Warehouse – Press Night 22 April
Is there really such a thing as privacy anymore?
James Graham’s new play Privacy investigates the digital age and explores how governments and corporations collect and use our personal information, and what that means for our security, our identity and our future.
Provoked by the recent revelations of Edward Snowden, Privacy draws on interviews with journalists, politicians and analysts, and asks the audience directly: How much do we give away when we share?
The production is directed by Josie Rourke, Artistic Director of the Donmar Warehouse.
8. The Silver Tassie, National Theatre – Press Night 23 April
Dashing Harry Heegan leads his football team to victory, arriving home in swaggering celebration before he grabs his kit and heads for the trenches of World War I.
A nightmare world awaits. The men, reduced to cannon-fodder, speak in mangled incantations as the casualties stack up.
Months later, Harry returns, a cripple at the football club party. Everyone but the shattered war veterans dances and forgets.
Sean O’Casey’s powerful, huge and rarely performed anti-war play of 1928 displays a jagged madness that belies its Dublin tenement setting and gives full expression to the horror and waste of war. The production is directed by Howard Davies.
9. 1984, Playhouse – Press Night 8 May
April, 1984. 13:00. Comrade 6079, Winston Smith, thinks a thought, starts a diary, and falls in love. But Big Brother is always watching.
Orwell’s ideas have become our ideas; his fiction is often said to be our reality. The “definitive book of the 20th century” (The Guardian) is re-examined in a radical new staging exploring surveillance, identity and why Orwell’s vision of the future is as relevant now as ever.
This a new adaptation of George Orwell’s novel by Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan. The production opens in London’s West End following a sell out run at the Almeida Theatre.
10. Sandel, Above the Stag – Press Night 22 May
I wanted to include a fringe theatre production in my selection and I have chosen Sandel.
Set in Oxford in the 1960s, it tells the story of a love affair between a 19 year old undergraduate, David Rogers, and a precocious Cathedral choirboy, Antony Sandel.
When David is sent down after infringing college regulations, he is given a job as a teacher at the choir school – where Sandel is still a pupil.
Add David’s Catholic friend Bruce, who is studying to be a priest, to the mix and the stage is set for a powerful showdown.
Though even more controversial today than it was in the 60s, Sandel is a tale about what love can do in any age when it takes over your life, and will delight and shock.
Glenn Chandler’s stage adaptation of Angus Stewart’s well-known cult gay novel was one of the major critical hits at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe.
That is my personal selection of the best of London theatre productions, opening over the next two months. There is diversity and variety within the selection, so I hope there is something for everyone. Go forth and explore!