In a week when the UK government doubled down on its harmful and divisive rhetoric with regard to refugees and immigrants, Chickenshed’s new spring show Rush feels depressingly timely. At its core the story of three women from different generations of the same family, the show also tells a much wider tale that both celebrates black culture and laments its erosion across the centuries.
‘The epitome of feel-good fun’: THE GREAT BRITISH BAKE OFF MUSICAL – Noel Coward Theatre
Back in 2009, when The Great British Bake Off first appeared on our TV screens, nobody could have predicted that a show about people making cakes in a tent would even get a second series, let alone become a national and international sensation. But the…
‘Clever, multi-layered comedy’: THE PLAY WITH SPEECHES – Jack Studio Theatre
“Complicated, isn’t it?” says one of the characters early on in James Woolf’s The Play With Speeches – and they’re not wrong. As writer Anthony (Matthew Parker) sits down with director Penny (Katherine Reilly) to audition actors for his new play, they discover to their surprise that someone’s been selling tickets, and now they have an audience (us).
‘Has humour & heart’: DAVID COPPERFIELD – Riverside Studios
As adaptations go, they don’t come a lot more ambitious than Simon Reade’s reimagining of David Copperfield at Riverside Studios. The semi-autobiographical novel by Charles Dickens is known for its expansive cast of characters, and this production sees all of them played by just three actors.
‘You can’t help but leave feeling uplifted’: SCRATCHES – Vault Festival
The subject of Aoife Kennan’s Scratches is a tough one for many reasons – one of which is that, for very good reasons, she can’t actually talk openly about it. And so a sort of code develops between performers and audience over the course of this courageous, devastating and yet simultaneously very funny one-hour show, in which any reference to its core topic is described only as “the Thing”.
‘We’re left wanting more & that’s never a bad thing’: SALT-WATER MOON – Finborough Theatre
Though it’s considered to be a Canadian classic, it’s somehow taken nearly 40 years for David French’s Salt-Water Moon to reach the UK, directed by Peter Kavanagh at the Finborough. Part of the semi-autobiographical “Mercer series”, this gentle two-hander introduces us to Jacob (Joseph Potter), newly returned to his Newfoundland home after a year in Toronto, and Mary (Bryony Miller), the sweetheart he’s come to win back.
‘Intimate, funny & inventive’: A CHRISTMAS CAROL – Jack Studio Theatre
This is far from the only option for anyone wanting to see A Christmas Carol in London this year – but if you’re looking for a performance that’s intimate, funny, inventive and a little bit different, this year’s festive offering from the Jack surely has to be a tough one to beat.
‘Such warmth, inclusivity & pure joy’: JACK! – Chickenshed Theatre
It’s the festive season, and of all the Christmas shows on offer this year, I’m not sure they could possibly come much bigger than Chickenshed’s Jack! Playing is believing… As ever, the North London theatre company’s end-of-year spectacular is staggering in its ambition, with a cast of 800 in total across four revolving rotas. And if that inevitably means that at times things get a bit chaotic, it’s a small price to pay for a show with such warmth, inclusivity and pure joy.
‘There’s so much joy & heart’: LA MAUPIN – Lion & Unicorn Theatre
La Maupin is a folk punk musical celebrating this queer icon, written by Olivia Thompson and performed by a small cast of actor-musicians from female-led theatre company Fantastic Garlands. The story follows Julie on a rollercoaster ride as she runs from the law, fights in duels, joins the opera, falls in and out of love with men and women alike, moves to Paris, gets another death sentence – and does it all while being unequivocally, unapologetically herself, even when everything and everyone seems to be against her.
‘The central themes remain as relevant as ever’: A SINGLE MAN – Park Theatre
Based on the novel by Christopher Isherwood and adapted by Simon Reade, A Single Man follows a day in the life of George (Theo Fraser Steele), a middle-aged British professor living in Los Angeles, as he wakes, goes to work, visits a friend, has dinner with another, encounters one of his students in a bar, and finally falls into bed back at home.
‘Both sensitive & brutal in its exploration of a difficult topic’: APPLES IN WINTER – Playground Theatre
All I can really say about Apples in Winter at the Playground Theatre is that it’s really, really good, with an immensely powerful one-woman performance from Edie Campbell that will leave you feeling shaken and devastated and furious. An absolute must-see.
‘Has the makings of a very important piece of theatre’: GUINEA PIGS – The Space
There’s a lot to appreciate in Guinea Pigs at The Space. The central inspiration is a topic that’s been deliberately covered up and will therefore be news to many audience members, and Elin Doyle’s script both asks challenging questions about the rights and wrongs of nuclear armament, and draws neat parallels between the UK’s political situation in the 1980s and in 2022 (in summary, not much has changed).
‘True crime done right’: THE QUALITY OF MERCY – Courtyard Theatre
Theatre doesn’t get much more personal than this. The Quality of Mercy is the story of serial killer Harold Shipman, written and performed by Edwin Flay – a patient of Shipman’s as a child, and the grandson of Renee Lacey, who died at the Hyde GP’s hands when she was just 63 years old. Set in his cell on the night Shipman will take his own life, the play sees him recording a final tape, looking back on his life and crimes, and attempting to justify his motivation for ending so many innocent lives.
‘Quite haunting’: LANDSCAPE WITH WEAPON – Cockpit Theatre
Landscape with Weapon asks some interesting and uncomfortable questions, and ultimately proves that when it comes to morality, right and wrong are not always as clear-cut as we might like them to be.
Why should you see dark comedy Blue at the White Bear Theatre? Read on…
You’ll like Blue at the White Bear Theatre if… The play is a dark comedy. You will laugh. You will think about the ‘human condition’. You will find some of it absurd because life is a little weird and sometimes the more we think the more confusing and complicated life becomes.
’Heartbreaking story told beautifully’: MOMENT OF GRACE – Hope Theatre
Inspired by the moment in April 1987 when the princess opened Britain’s first HIV/AIDS unit at London’s Middlesex Hospital and challenged public perceptions of the disease by shaking hands with patients, Moment of Grace at the Hope Theatre draws on a number of voices to paint a powerful picture of that day and its far-reaching impact.
‘An innovative & effective piece of theatre’: TEN DAYS IN A MADHOUSE – Jack Studio Theatre
Going in, it’s hard to know if the technical aspects of Douglas Baker’s production of Ten Days In A Madhouse at Jack Studio Theatre will feel gimmicky, but it quickly becomes evident that there’s no such danger; every part of the play has obviously been well thought through and when put together it all works extremely well.
‘A story about regular people finding their way in life’: ANOTHER AMERICA – Park Theatre
Bill Rosenfield’s Another America is not quite what I expected – which, it turns out, is the whole point. Inspired by the 1999 documentary film True Fans by Dan Austin, it’s not explicitly billed as a political play.
At Brockley Jack, Arrows & Traps ‘bring to the stage not one but two inspiring real-life stories’
Returning to live performance for the first time in two years, Arrows & Traps prove they’ve lost none of their ambition as they bring to the stage not one but two inspiring real-life stories.
‘Gently makes us aware of our own ignorance’: THE 4th COUNTRY – Park Theatre
Female-led theatre company Plain Heroines “make funny plays about difficult subjects”. That’s an apt description of Kate Reid’s The 4th Country.