Spring is here (finally) and with any luck, we’ve seen the last of the snow so time to think about venturing out in our evenings, such as going to see some cracking theatre. And we’ve got musicals as well as plays, and comedy as well as drama. And international politics as well as intimate family dramas. And controversy too, always. I’m always here for theatre that rocks the boat. Enjoy!
1. Strictly Ballroom: The Musical, Piccadilly Theatre
I adored Baz Luhrmann’s glorious Strictly Ballroom when it was released so I will be first in the queue for this stage adaptation. Will Young is in the cast but he’s not playing Scott Hastings, the dancing rebel who mixes love with ambition in picking left-footed Fran to break all the rules of competition and battle at the Pan Pacifics. Rather, that honour goes to Jonny Labey, who recently won ITV’s Dance Dance Dance. Not that this worries me as I’m really only in it for the glitter, sequins and blue eyeshadow! Opened 29 March. Tickets from £25.
2. Absolute Hell, National Theatre
Ah, one of the most controversial plays of the 20th century returns… This Rodney Ackland play was condemned as ‘a libel on the British people’ when it first appeared in 1952. I suspect it was perhaps its suggestion that there was little to choose between socialists and fascists that did it. Or maybe, just maybe, it was just the pompous pearl-clutching at its realism set in a sleazy post-war Soho drinking den where a cast of gays, lesbians, drag queens and washed-up creatives mingle to love, fight, and try to see a future in a world still struggling to emerge from under the rubble of war. Runs 18 April to 16 June. Tickets from £15.
3. The Encounter, Barbican Theatre
I am in luck as I missed this masterpiece when it first performed ran at the Barbican back in 2016 but now it is BACK. Complicité and Simon McBurney’s show is based on the true story of National Geographic photographer Loren McIntyre who, lost in a remote area of Brazil in 1969, had a startling encounter that changed his life forever. Simon’s solo performance threads scenes of his own life with details of McIntyre’s hallucinogenic journey, plunging the audience into a visceral inner voyage, and asks critical questions about how we live and what we believe to be true. Runs 14 April to 5 May. Tickets from £35.
Instructions for Correct Assembly, Royal Court
This new dark comedy from Thomas Eccleshare (this marks his Royal Court debut) is all about giving parenting a second go and how we strive to create the perfect life for ourselves and our children. The Royal Court isn’t giving much away about this gem but with hints that the couple have a 30-day money back guarantee and an easy-to-follow construction manual, and with dialogue as brilliant as ““This might be a little more complicated than the bed but still, I’m sure it’s the kind of thing we can crack on our own,” I’ve got some ideas as well as high hopes! Runs 7 April to 19 May. Tickets from £12.
Rumi is a British Pakistani woman who’s referred to as a ‘Coconut’ (brown on the outside, white on the inside). Born and brought up as a Muslim, she spends more time enjoying fine wine and bacon than at the mosque. When she meets Simon, a white guy, she hopes that his decision to convert to Islam will be enough to keep everyone happy. But things get complicated as he begins to explore his faith. Based on writer Guleraana Mir’s real experience of interracial and intercultural relationships, this promises to be an irreverent but dark comedy. Runs 11 to 28 April. Tickets from £9.
Mayfly, Orange Tree Theatre
This debut play from Joe Wight follows a day in the life of one grief-stricken family. The daughter, Loops, takes it on herself to fix her family and introduce them to her new boyfriend, Harry, for the first time. Only Harry isn’t aware that he is Loops’s boyfriend. She’s not sure what her parents are going to think but what she couldn’t have predicted is that they’d turn out to need him almost as much as she does. Runs 19 April to 26 May. Tickets from £15.
Devil with The Blue Dress, Bunker Theatre
It’s pretty pertinent timing for this play centred around the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal. Directed by The Bunker’s Artistic Director Joshua McTaggart, this new production interrogates America’s biggest political sex scandal of all time. The production unfolds across two timelines – in 1995 when the affair took place and in 1998 when it burst into public view and almost took down the Clinton presidency – and is focused on the five women at the heart of the scandal: Hillary Clinton, Monica Lewinsky, Chelsea Clinton, Bettie Curie, and Linda Tripp. Runs 29 March to 28 April. Tickets from £19.50 (concessions available).
Palmyra, Battersea Arts Centre
This show wowed both audiences and critics at the Edinburgh Festival last year and was also named in Lyn Gardner’s Best Shows of 2017 list. Palmyra uses the subject of Syria and the breakdown of relationships to explore themes of revenge, the politics of destruction and what we consider to be barbaric. But don’t expect the orthodox; this is eccentric, avant-garde theatre – and there’s a lot of crockery smashing to boot. Stressful and extraordinary. Runs 10 to 14 April. Tickets £12.50. (Also runs at Shoreditch Town Hall 17 to 28 May).
The Writer, Almeida Theatre
“I want awe. I feel like I need blood. All the time. And anything less than that makes me feel desperate. It makes me feel like I want to die.” Writer Ella Hickson returns to the Almeida following the success of Oil in 2016 (the ambition and scope in which I adored) and she’s back tackling big themes with this searing exploration of power and patriarchy directed by tour-de-force, Blanche McIntyre. In this new play, a young writer challenges the status quo but discovers that creative gain often comes at a personal cost. She wants to change the shape of the world, but a new way of thinking will need a new story… Runs 14 April to 26 May. Tickets from £10.
The Inheritance, Young Vic
Last month, I had The Inheritance down in my list and, well, *pats self on back*. This play, this production, is tremendous. Centered around the lives of a group of friends, all gay men living in New York, it follows their tangled love lives, dinner parties and disappointments as they face up to what it means to be a gay man in a world supposedly where equality has been achieved, but where Trump is now President. And the ghosts of the past – of the suffering of AIDS and the trauma of stigmatism – are hard to shift. Breathtaking. Heartbreaking and hilarious in equal measure. Runs to May 19. Tickets from £10.