I really am incredibly excited about this month’s line up. And it was one of those months where it was a real battle to whittle the contenders down to my ten favourites. There are so many fantastic shows out there this month to see, and across the board too in terms of genre, style, subject matter and themes. I want to get to every single one of the below. Whether I can fit them in is one question; whether I can afford it is quite another. I hope you too find something that’s just right for you too in this list. And if you do, book your tickets asap as the below are all likely to be sell outs. Enjoy!
1. An Octoroon, National Theatre
So, here it is. My favourite show of 2017 now transferred from the Orange Tree to the Dorfman. Only, if you do not already have tickets for this, your options are pretty limited as, remarkably, such has been the word-of-mouth success of this production, tickets are already sold out. There’s the chance to get some through returns and the weekly Friday Rush, so if you can get them do. This is a wild, provocative, ferociously original, damn funny, harrowing and innovative show that demands white audiences face up to their complicity not just in racism in theatre, but to racism itself. Runs 7 June to 18 July. Tickets from £15.
2. My Name is Lucy Barton, Bridge Theatre
If you haven’t read the book from Elizabeth Strout, well, you’ve missed out, that’s all I can say, but it is a powerful novel from the Pulitzer Prize winner that centres around an estranged mother and daughter who reconnect over a few days when the mother makes a surprise visit to her daughter, Lucy, who is in hospital with an infection following an operation. And as a history of abuse and isolation emerge, the question of what constitutes family is up for discussion. And what an adaptation this promises to be with the glorious Laura Linney making her London debut in what seems to be set up as a monologue. Runs 2 June to 23 June. Tickets from £15.
3. Machinal, Almeida Theatre
“Your skin oughtn’t to curl – ought it – when he just comes near you – ought it?” I cannot wait to see this rare revival of Sophie Treadwell’s 1928 play, Machinal, the only text out of 39 she wrote in her lifetime to be published. The play itself was inspired by the real-life story of Ruth Snyder, a housewife who was executed for the murder of her husband, and charts one woman’s rage against the loneliness of her loveless marriage, the isolation of life in an urban city, and the imprisonment of modern day life. She attempts to rebel – a rage against the machine – with terrible consequences. Runs 4 June to 24 July. Tickets from £10.
4. Utility, Orange Tree Theatre
Lots of fresh talent in the next play to open at the Orange Tree with director Caitlin McLeod, artistic director of new writing company The Coterie, directing this European premiere of the work of one of America’s most exciting emerging playwrights, Emily Schwend. Putting women in the spotlight, this play follows Amber who is juggling two nearly full-time jobs and three kids. Her on-again, off-again husband Chris is eternally optimistic and charming as hell, but rarely employed. The house is falling apart, and Amber has an eight-year-old’s birthday party to plan. As Amber struggles to keep things from boiling over, she is forced to confront reality – she is a stranger to the person she once was and the person she thought she might be. Runs 1 June to 7 July. Tickets from £15.
Nanjing, Shakespeare’s Globe
Performed in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse as part of Refugee Week, Nanjing is a monologue about identity, dispossession, and the consequences of war. It’s a story that is simultaneously delicate and epic. Written and performed by Jude Christian, this premiere tells the story of the Nanjing Massacre of 1937, frequently referred to as the Rape of Nanking. It poses essential questions about who we are and where we come from. Runs 22 to 24 June. Tickets from £10.
Fun Home, Young Vic Theatre
Winner of five Tony Awards, this electrifying Broadway version of Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel took America by storm. Meet Alison at three stages of her life.: memories of her 1970s childhood in a funeral home merge with her college love life and her coming out. Looking back on her complex relationship with her father, Alison finds they had more in common than she ever knew… The New York Times described this piece of musical theatre as, ‘a poignant and raw exploration of family, memory and sexuality,’ and, frankly, I cannot wait. Runs 18 June to 1 September. Tickets from £10.
Leave Taking, Bush Theatre
Winsome Pinnock has been described by The Guardian as, ‘the godmother of Black British playwrights’ and she defined and inspired a generation with her work for the stage and was the first black British woman to have a play produced at the National Theatre. She has written numerous, award-winning plays that put black experiences centre-stage and this, her classic award-winning play, focuses on three women across two generations as they negotiate the frictions between their countries and cultures causing us to examine what we leave behind in order to find home. Runs to 30 June. Tickets from £10.
Julie, National Theatre
Vanessa Kirby and Eric Kofi Abrefa feature in this new production from director Carrie Cracknell. Wild and newly single, Julie throws a late-night party. In the kitchen, Jean and Kristina clean up as the celebration heaves above them. Crossing the threshold, Julie initiates a power game with Jean – which rapidly descends into a savage fight for survival. This new version of August Strindberg’s play Miss Julie, written by Polly Stenham, remains shocking and fiercely relevant in its new setting of contemporary London. Runs to 8 September. Tickets from £15.
A 24-Decade History of Popular Music: The First Act, Barbican Centre
Fabulous and fearless, Taylor Mac reframes the social history of America through three decades of song in this no-holds-barred extravaganza of music, art, activism and hugely entertaining mass ritual. Part of this year’s LIFT Festival, New York’s Taylor Mac has created a Pulitzer Prize-nominated, once-in-a-lifetime performance in a quest to chronicle how communities grow stronger as they are being torn apart. Charting the years 1776–1806, Mac asks the audience to conspire together to reimagine rebellions, revolutions, triumphs and tragedies. Bawdy pub songs, sea shanties and subversive anthems are rearranged as musical mashups to take on a chapter of the defining early years of America’s history. Runs 28 to 30 June. Tickets from £16.
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Donmar Warehouse
At Marcia Blaine School for Girls, Miss Jean Brodie presides over her ‘set’, her chosen few. In return for their absolute devotion, Miss Brodie will provide an education far beyond the confines of the curriculum…. 2018 marks the 100th anniversary year of Muriel Spark’s birth and her iconic novel has been remade for the stage in this adaptation from David Harrower that sees Lia Williams take the same title role that bagged Maggie Smith her first Oscar for the film adaptation. And with Polly Findlay in the director’s seat, this looks set to be a thrill. Runs 4 June to 28 July. Tickets from £10.
Plus One More!
Sea Wall, The Old Vic
A late announcement, this, but how on earth could I let this one pass?! of course I had to squeeze it in! For the marvel that is Andrew Scott is taking up residency at the Old Vic for the last two weeks of the month where he’ll be bringing back to life his performance of this acclaimed Paines Plough production of the Simon Stephens play that wowed audiences back in 2008 when he first performed it. Now here’s your chance to catch this gem again, a monologue from a man whose life seems so good on the outside, but sometimes the force of life can crash against you. Sometimes everything you thought you could always depend on can be taken away. Runs 18 to 30 June. Tickets from £15.