The Year Ahead: 20 (non-West End) shows to look forward to in 2017

In Festivals, London theatre, Musicals, Opinion, Plays, Regional theatre by Ian FosterLeave a Comment

2017 is only days away now and the reviewing diary is already filling up! All sorts of headline-grabbing West End shows have already been announced (The Glass Menagerie, Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?, Don Juan In Soho, The Goat, Or Who Is Sylvia?) and the National look to continue a sensational year with another (Twelfth Night, Consent, the heaven-sent Angels in America), so this list is looking a little further afield to shows I hope to get to throughout the year from Bolton to Manchester, Sheffield, Woking and several Off-West End and fringe venues.

1. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall – Octagon, Bolton
After hearing Elizabeth Newman speak passionately on a panel discussion about women’s theatre, I kinda have a big (intellectual) crush on her, so I’m very keen to see her tackle a new adaptation by Deborah McAndrew of the classic Anne Bronte novel in a theatre that is very close to my heart.

2. Persuasion – Royal Exchange, Manchester
Another literary adaptation in the North-West and another where the choice of director is instrumental in its inclusion here. Jeff James (La Musica) has worked closely with Ivo van Hove as an associate director and so the thought of what he might be cooking up for this world premiere of Jane Austen’s novel is most exciting indeed.

3. Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – Sheffield Crucible
Described as a coming-of-age story with a twist, Dan Gillespie Sells and Tom MacRae’s new musical is the last show in the final season of Daniel Evans’ artistic directorship in Sheffield and true to form, it looks to be a brave and important piece, once again giving voice to those who aren’t necessarily normally heard in this genre (cf: Flowers for Mrs Harris).

4. The Convert – Gate Theatre, London
Danai Gurira’s Eclipsed was my play of the year in 2015 and so it’s great to see her work returning to the Gate Theatre, exploring another piece of recent African history that will doubtless be once again uncompromisingly thought-provoking.

5. BU21 – Trafalgar Studios
I loved BU21 when it opened at Theatre503 last year so it is great to see Stuart Slade’s ingeniously inventive play getting a well-deserved transfer into the West End here. Set in the aftermath of a fictitious terrorist attack, it’s disturbing and absolutely essential.

6 Narvik, HOME Manchester and then UK tour A new play with songs by Lizzie Nunnery, inspired by tales from naval veterans and stories of her grandfather’s time in the Navy, this show comes courtesy of Box of Tricks, a company whose utterly beautiful Plastic Figurines ranked highly in my 2015 list. I won’t be catching this until its final venue in the tour so look out for it in February and March.

7 He(art), Theatre N16Andrew Maddock had a good year last year – his in/out (a feeling) and The We Plays both impressed at the Hope Theatre – and his latest looks like an interesting proposition too. It’s playing at the Theatre N16 which, of course, is in Balham (right by the station).

8 a profoundly affectionate, passionate devotion to someone (-noun), Royal CourtThe talk may be about Jez Butterworth’s latest selling out but for my money, a new debbie tucker green play is where the excitement lies in what looks to be a fascinating year ahead at the Royal Court.
9 good dog, Watford Palace and then UK tourArinzé Kene’s return to writing with this tiata fahodzi production is sure to be one not to miss as he tackles the realities of growing up in a multi-cultural society.

10 I Capture the Castle, Watford Palace and Bolton OctagonDodie Smith’s novel is a rather lovely thing so the idea of its eccentric Englishness being captured in a musical is one that certainly appeals. Book and lyrics are by Teresa Howard, music is by Steven Edis and Brigid Larmour directs.

11 Obsession, BarbicanI know I said I’d try to keep off the beaten track with this list but Jude Law guesting with Toneelgroep Amsterdam? Er yes please!!!

12 Hamlet, AlmeidaSimilarly – Andrew Scott and Robert Icke! Plus Juliet Stevenson not budging from where she is just now.

13 Holding The Man, Brockley JackI saw this play not knowing a thing about it back in 2010 and no word of a lie, I wept in my seat until the Trafalgar Studios had pretty much emptied. So this production doesn’t have too much to live up to, honest, aside from being one of the best gay plays I’ve ever seen.

14 We Raise Our Hands in the Sanctuary, AlbanyKeeping things queer, Inky Cloak’s new show looks like another vital piece of LGBT+ theatremaking, spotlighting the crucial importance of queer spaces and highlighting why club culture matters on a political, emotional and human rights level at the very time when it appears to be most under threat in an ever-gentrifying London.

15 An Octoroon, Orange TreeI don’t know too much about this Branden Jacobs-Jenkins play aside from some people getting very excited about it and the fact that director Ned Bennett has the kind of exciting mind to make it unforgettable one way or the other.

16 The Wild Party, The Other Palace In his infinite wisdom, The Lloyd-Webber has decided to rename St James Theatre as The Other Palace but the more interesting thing about his takeover of the venue is its focus on musical theatre. Its opening season begins with this Michael John LaChiusa piece which has been cast amazingly to the hilt, a must-see if only for Donna McKechnie.

17 Dirty Great Love Story, Arts Theatre,This Fringe First Award winning production, written by Richard March and Katie Bonna, combines drama and poetry, rhythm and rhyme in a laugh-a-minute exploration of modern romance but has caught my eye due to its winning cast of Felix Scott and Ayesha Antoine who ought to make a most charming couple indeed.

18 Cyrano, New Vic and then touring nationallyAnother mention for Deborah McAndrew here with this new adaptation of Edmond Rostand’s romantic comedy Cyrano de Bergerac, which is the first of three productions Northern Broadsides will be staging to celebrate its 25th anniversary year. Adapting the verse freely to ape the vigorous swashbuckling of the musketeers, this shows a good nose for good drama.

19 The New Nigerians, ArcolaWritten by Hackney-born writer Oladipo Agboluaje and directed by Rosamunde Hutt, this world premiere of a gripping tale of conflict and compromise, setting the scene for a political revolution in 21st century Nigeria is an exciting piece of programming as part of the Arcola’s Revolution season.
20 Junkyard, Bristol Old Vic, Clwyd Theatre Cymru and Rose KingstonA Headlong musical? Sure! Especially when it has been written by Jack Thorne.

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Ian Foster
Since 2003, Ian Foster has been writing reviews of plays, sometimes with a critical element, on his blog Ought to Be Clowns, which has been listed as one of the UK's Top Ten Theatre Blogs by Lastminute.com, Vuelio and Superbreak. He averages more than 350+ shows a year. He says: "Call me a reviewer, a critic or a blogger, and you will apparently put someone or other's nose out of joint! So take it or leave it, essentially this is my theatrical diary, recording everything I go to see at the theatre in London and beyond, and venturing a little into the worlds of music and film/TV where theatrical connections can be made."
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Ian Foster on FacebookIan Foster on RssIan Foster on Twitter
Ian Foster
Since 2003, Ian Foster has been writing reviews of plays, sometimes with a critical element, on his blog Ought to Be Clowns, which has been listed as one of the UK's Top Ten Theatre Blogs by Lastminute.com, Vuelio and Superbreak. He averages more than 350+ shows a year. He says: "Call me a reviewer, a critic or a blogger, and you will apparently put someone or other's nose out of joint! So take it or leave it, essentially this is my theatrical diary, recording everything I go to see at the theatre in London and beyond, and venturing a little into the worlds of music and film/TV where theatrical connections can be made."

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