Well, I guess I need to start with, Merry Christmas! Too early? Well, these will be my last arts and culture round-ups before Christmas so when else will I have the opportunity to thank you, and to say that I hope you have found these monthly listicles interesting and of use?
There’s a lot out there across London each month so I hope these have helped you find shows that you maybe would have missed – or perhaps I’ve even shed light on new names you might not have heard of before. Here’s hoping! Of course, Hamilton makes my list, but there’s plenty more to enjoy in my recommendations, from warm festive cabaret wonders (hello, Meow Meow), to achingly relevant political dramas, as well as fabulous musicals and dark fantasies. Wonderful!
1. The Twilight Zone, Almeida Theatre
I’m totally loving the Almeida’s subversive take on Christmas programming with this revamp of the dark The Twilight Zone. Adapted by Anne Washburn, this world premiere production of the acclaimed television series lands on stage for the first time in its history. Or its present. Or its future. As the Almeida says, “Stage magic and fantasy unite as the ordinary becomes extraordinary.” Bring it on! Opens December 5th. Tickets from £10.
2. The Jungle, Young Vic
So, there are shows on this list and elsewhere in town that will bring lots of Christmas cheer, but The Jungle will likely not be one of them. However, I cannot wait to see this production where we will join refugees and volunteers from around the world over fresh baked naan and sweet milky chai at the Afghan Café, which lies in the heart of the Calais migration camp, known colloquially (and with dangerously racial overtones) as “The Jungle.” Refugees will be performing alongside actors. Prepare to be moved. Closes January 6, 2018. Tickets from £10.
3. Meow Meow: Apocalypse Meow, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse
If I could drag you all to see this, I would. I adore Meow Meow. She is a cabaret superstar par excellence and her blend of comedy, warmth and showtunes makes her one of the most sensational performers you could hope to see. I saw Apocalypse Meow a couple of years ago and I have been waiting breathlessly for its return. Laugh-out-loud comedy and hijinks mix with tender reflections on loneliness and lost dreams to make this one of the most memorable Christmas shows you’ll ever see. LOVE! Runs Wednesday 20th – Sunday 31st December. Tickets from £10.
4. Belleville, Donmar Warehouse
This transfer from New York of Amy Herzog’s play about a seemingly-perfect marriage sliding into crisis has clearly excited audiences as all advance tickets have already sold out. And there’s good reason to have high expectations as this intense and suspenseful drama has already been heralded as one of America’s hottest new plays, and it’s Michael Longhurst (Amadeus, Constellations) directing. So, if, like me, you missed out, we’ll have to watch out for the weekly release of tickets via KLAXON. Opens December 7th. Tickets from £10 (free for under 25s in the YOUNG + FREE scheme).
4. Hamilton, Victoria Palace Theatre
Right, do I need to give an overview of this one? OK, let’s do it. Hamilton. That phenomenon from the States that uses hip-hop to tackle the unlikely subject of the life and times of the United States’ first treasury secretary, Alexander Hamilton. Created by the wonderful Lin-Manuel Miranda, the show wowed audiences, won eleven Tony Awards, and even caused Michelle Obama to say that this show was “the best art I have ever seen in my life”. The West End transfer has not been without difficulties though, with building work delays at the theatre causing two weeks of previews to be cancelled. The show is due to open December 6th, but it’s all looking a bit touch-and-go. Still, when this show eventually opens, there’s little doubt that it’ll thrill audiences over here too. Tickets from £20.
Misalliance, Orange Tree Theatre
It has been another phenomenal year at the Orange Tree under the Artistic Directorship of Paul Miller (the successes have been constant and without exception), and the man himself is back in the director’s chair for this revival of a Bernard Shaw comedy. One of Shaw’s most playful and inventive early comedies about class and feminism, it takes place on a single Saturday afternoon in an upper-class house in Edwardian England where eight marriage proposals have been made amongst the guests and residents – but which ones are the misalliances?? Opens December 7th. Tickets from £15.
Goats, Royal Court
Goats continues the Royal Court’s commitment to platforming female playwrights and global voices as this play is a major new work by Syrian playwright and documentary filmmaker, Liwaa Yazji, and it explores the lies we choose to believe as a society, and the rippling effect when one man questions the ‘truth’. The ‘goats’ of the title are literal, referring to a radical compensation scheme in a small town in Syria where a goat is gifted to the grieving families for each son martyred to the war. Closes December 30th. Tickets from £12.
How to Win Against History, Young Vic
At the time of writing there was only a handful of tickets left for this much-anticipated show. That doesn’t surprise me as this riches-to-rags story focusing on the 5th Marquis of Anglesey, who was one of the world’s wealthiest men until he frittered it all away, wowed audiences and critics when it debuted at Edinburgh last year. This hilarious, ripped-up musical, with an outrageous performance by Seiriol Davies in the lead, could well provide all the fabulousness you need this festive season. Closes December 30th. Tickets from £10.
Callisto: A Queer Epic, Arcola Theatre
Back from sold-out runs at both Edinburgh Fringe and Arcola, Callisto: A Queer Epic is a swirling constellation of remarkable queer stories. In London, 1680, opera star Arabella Hunt has secretly entered into the first recorded gay marriage in UK history. In Worcester, 1936, Alan Turing pays one final visit to Isobel Morcom, mother of his lost first love, Christopher. In the San Fernando Valley, 1979, Tammy Frazer arrives at Callisto Pornographic Studios, searching for the love of her life. And on the Moon, 2223, Lorn is building a paradise to sleep in, but Cal, his A.I. companion, is determined to keep him awake. Opens December 5th. Tickets from £12.
Parliament Square, Bush Theatre
I absolutely adored James Fritz’s first full-length play, Four Minutes Twelve Seconds, which I saw at Hampstead Theatre Downstairs so I cannot wait to see this. And it sounds pretty damn relevant too for this play centres around a single, selfless act of protest. The cause or subject matter is never revealed; instead, the act is used as a vehicle for us to consider whether political protest can ever make a difference, and whether violent acts of protest against injustice are madness. I think we can safely say there will be a lot for us to think about come lights up. Closes January 6, 2018. Tickets from £10.