Latest London theatre recommendations October 2018

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There have been a few new seasons announced in luvvie-world so I thought I would let you know what might be interesting. Remember dear reader I have no axes to grind or mates to support so no biases here. I simply have nothing better to do. So my economic inactivity could be your cultural entertainment gain.

For those who can’t be bothered to wade through the more detailed update below are some top ideas for booking ahead.

  • Top Girls at the National Theatre
  • Stories at the National Theatre
  • Three Sisters at the Almeida Theatre
  • Cyprus Avenue at the Royal Court Theatre
  • All My Sons at the Old Vic Theatre
  • A Very, Very, Very Dark Matter at the Bridge Theatre
  • All About Eve at the Noel Coward Theatre

Also don’t miss this if you like musicals … though it isn’t your standard jazz hands extravaganza (which is why I loved it).

  • Caroline, or Change at the Playhouse Theatre

On now and which I can very highly recommend.

  • Humans at the Hampstead Theatre – it is sold out but maybe returns are possible- a standard American dysfunctional family at Thanksgiving set up but then it goes a bit off kilter and says a lot out US economy/society in a subtle and funny way.
  • The Jungle at the Playhouse Theatre – read and believe the reviews – very sharp and insightful but they are really asking stupid prices across the remainder of the run – first time I saw it £10, second time (yes it is that good) £20 but they are asking £100 a pop for a bench seat. Hmm.

Right then here is the detail of some of the forthcoming seasons at the key venues.

  • National Theatre. The two blockbusters on now The Lehman Trilogy and Antony and Cleopatra are sold out. If the Lehman Trilogy were to pop up again you would be mugs not to see it. Should have listened to me months ago. I still have my eye on Stories a new play by Nina Raine about, I think, late, single, motherhood. She is a sharp and funny writer and her last play Consent got a West End transfer. Of the new season which starts booking in November there is a Tartuffe, an update of the Moliere satire, of which there have been a few recently, but I need to see the cast before recommending and MOST IMPORTANTLY there is a new version of Top Girls. Top Girls is one of the best plays ever written by Caryl Churchill who is the greatest English playwright after Shakespeare IMHO. It kicks off with a chat between various real and fictional women about their lives then tells the story of Marlene in the 1980s. A feminist classic. That probably isn’t selling it very well but I am immensely excited I can see again. And finally for those of a more pretentious bent there is When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other. By a chap called Martin Crimp who isn’t the most direct of writers, it’s based on Samuel Richardson’s Pamela, a C18 novel which is about as dodgy in terms of sexual politics as it is possible to get. But they will no doubt rework its themes and the big draw is Cate Blanchett and Stephen Dillane in the leads. And the darling of European style auteur direction Katie Mitchell is in the chair. Mind you her last London outing, which I saw earlier in the week, La Maladie de Mort, complete with on stage nudity, left me baffled.
  • Barbican Theatre. On the subject of knotty, poncey European theatre there is a treat coming up for all you Russian speakers out there. The Moscow Pushkin drama theatre is bringing over its productions of Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard and Brecht’s The Good Person of Sichuan in February next year.
  • Almeida Theatre. Right here are some more promising recommendations. On sale now a The Tragedy of King Richard II, Top Shakespeare charting the downfall of Dickie 2 and rise of Henry 4 and the shift in how monarchy worked, all done in flowery verse. I wouldn’t necessarily start here with the history plays, (Dickie 3 is the go to on that front,) but the draw is Simon Russell Beale in the lead and Joe Hill-Gibbons, who likes to mess about with Shakespeare to normally good effect, as director. Booking from November is a Three Sisters, more Chekhov but this has all the right ingredients so I think is worth a view, and Shipwreck, which sounds like it is going to be some sort of Trump satire, written by Anne Washburn who has conjured up some interesting ideas before at the Almeida even if they don’t always quite work. Then next year there is an adaptation of Danish film thriller The Hunt (google the watch it) and Vassa an adaptation by Mike Bartlett of a Maxim Gorky classic. Mike Bartlett is currently on the telly with his fictional Sun vs Guardian newspaper saga, Press. I think this will be a must see, a one-family-as-metaphor-for-state-of-the-nation thing, which is what he excels at, so except copious reminders from me on this.
  • Royal Court Theatre. Royal Court is bringing back Cyprus Avenue for a limited run. Stephen Rea, (you will know him from the telly), is an Ulster Loyalist who think his grand-daughter is reborn Sinn Fein politico Gerry Adams. Sound odd I know but writer David Ireland scripts are very funny though knowing a bit about Irish politics will help. Obviously v topical and it won loads of awards.
  • Donmar Warehouse. Does Berberian Sound Studio mean anything to anyone? Genuinely bizarre film by a chap called Peter Strickland. I loved it. No idea how they are going to stage this. Could be brilliant or awful.
  • Old Vic. Right. Hollywood royalty in the form of Sally Field and Bill Pullman coming over for a production of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons. Good support, fine director. This is a typical US dysfunctional family saga but in Miller’s hands it becomes so much more, the downfall of a man (the Dad) from a past mistake (so a classic Greek tragedy set up). Not a sure fire guaranteed winner but all the ingredients are there so I definitely recommend this.
  • Bridge Theatre. I have been banging on about A Very, Very. Very Dark Matter by Martin McDonagh, (In Bruges, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, Hangmen, Lieutenant of Inishmore) for months. Please book or maybe now you can wait for the reviews at end October and if, as I expect, a string of 5*’s then book straight away. His last play Hangmen is the best new play I have seen in years.
  • Rose Kingston. Maybe only relevant for the South-West Londoners amongst you but my local is going straight for the popular jugular with the latest season now on sale, Stones in My Pockets, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and(via the Open Air Theatre) To Kill A Mockingbird.
  • Noel Coward Theatre. Just on sale All About Eve directed by Ivo van Eve with Gillian Anderson and Lily James. The classic black and white Manckiewicz film with Bette Davies in the lead to be given the full van Hove filmic treatment. Will sell out and pretty expensive seats but will probably be a big hit. He doesn’t always get it right translating film to theatre, but when he does, like Network, it is must see stuff.

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