Can you believe it? The list of my ‘shows to see’ is so packed with fantastic openings that there is no space for the two biggest shows out there – Follies and Network, both at the National Theatre. I’m figuring Follies is pretty much on your radar already as I’ve been recommending it the past couple of months. And as for Network, complete with Bryan Cranston, well, tickets are already thin on the ground with the best availability being in the New Year.
Instead, I wanted to focus on shows that you can see now, and which I think – in all my wisdom – promise to be exciting, relevant, and with something to say about who we are and the world we live in. And don’t think that means this is all heavy. Far from it. There’s comedy in here too, and even a little romance. And even then, for the second month in a row, my Top Ten is a Top Eleven. I just can’t squeeze it all in!
But also, a heads up for those who are looking for a laugh… I don’t usually include stand-up comedy but the mighty Stewart Lee kicks off a three-month residency at Leicester Square Theatre this month. The man is a legend for a reason. And there are still some tickets left!
But anyway, whatever your preference or interest, I am sure there is something for you in the list below.
1. Inside Pussy Riot, Saatchi Gallery
This collaboration between Nadya Tolokonnikova – the founder of post punk, feminist art collective Pussy Riot – and Olivier-nominated Les Enfants Terribles is an incredible immersive theatrical production. In 2012, Nadya was prosecuted for protesting the Russian Orthodox Church’s support of Putin. She was sentenced to two years of imprisonment where she was faced with solitary confinement and humiliation. Inside Pussy Riot seeks to remind audiences what actually happened and how one’s basic human rights and freedom of expression can be taken away at any point. This exhilarating show will play from Tuesday 14th November to Sunday 24th December 2017. Tickets from £21.50.
2. Barber Shop Chronicles, National Theatre
This was such a runaway sell-out success when it showed at the NT earlier this year that it has, wisely, been brought back for more. For generations, African men have gathered in barber shops to discuss the world, whether that be big topics such as sport and politics, or the personal more intimate troubles. And all of that is caught up in this terrific play from Inua Ellams that leaps from a barber shop in London to Johannesburg, Harare, Kampala, Lagos and Accra. These are places where the banter can be barbed and the truth is always telling. Opens November 20th. Tickets from £15.
3. Poison, Orange Tree Theatre
Artistic Director Paul Miller is back in the director’s chair for this UK premiere by Dutch writer Lot Vekemans following huge European success and a critically acclaimed New York run. Claire Price and Zubin Varla play a couple separated for seven years following the tragic death of their child. They are reunited for a difficult meeting in an extraordinary play that asks a simple question: is it ever possible to move on? Opens November 2nd. Tickets from £15.
4. Minefield, Royal Court
Following its sell-out 2016 run at the Royal Court, Minefield is back for just ten performances. Lola Arias is a leading voice in Argentinean theatre and, here, she gets six Falklands/Malvinas war veterans, who once faced each other across a battlefield, to now face each other across a stage. Together they share memories, films, songs and photos as they recall their collective war and embody the political figures that led them into it. Soldier, veteran, human – these men have stories to share as they take us from the horrors of war to today’s uncertainties, with brutal honesty and startling humour. YOU WILL BE MOVED. Opens November 2nd. Tickets from £12.
The Sex Workers’ Opera, Ovalhouse
What do you think of when you hear the words ‘Stripper’, ‘Escort’, ‘Pornstar’? These are words that are almost synonymous with judgment and reaction, whether it be pity, scorn, lust or empathy. Created and performed by sex workers and their friends, Sex Worker’s Opera offers an unflinchingly honest, upliftingly human insight into the lives of sex workers locally and around the world. Plus throw a bit of opera, hip-hopera, contemporary dance and pole dance into the mix and we most definitely have sex workers taking back the stage to tell their own stories in their own words. Runs November 22nd to December 2nd. Tickets from £15 (concessions available).
The Suppliant Woman, Young Vic
When The Guardian describes a play as “an epic, feminist protest song,” well, to be frank, I’m going to be interested. And in this new version of Aeschylus’s epic from David Greig, we follow fifty women who leave everything behind to board a boat in North Africa and flee across the Mediterranean. They are escaping forced marriage, hoping for protection and assistance, and seeking asylum in Greece. Featuring a chorus of local women from London, this is part play, part ritual, and with innovator Ramin Gray at the helm, this looks really exciting. Opens November 13th. Tickets from £10.
The End of Hope, Soho Theatre
The End of Hope is a comedic gem, magnificent from start to finish. Centred around the most absurd of one-night stands, this (genuinely!) laugh-out loud play examines not just the awkwardness of casual sex, but it’s also a touching examination of how we see ourselves and the barriers we all put up. I tell you, this show is superb. And it’s only an hour long! Don’t miss this, it’s glorious. Closes November 11th. Tickets from £10.
Romantics Anonymous, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse
There’s a new musical at the Globe and it’s both directed and with book from Emma Rice. Romantics Anonymous is a funny, charming and awkward love story adapted from the French-Belgian film Les Émotifs Anonymes, written by Jean-Pierre Améris and Philippe Blasband. The musical follows Angélique, a gifted chocolate maker inhibited by social anxiety, and Jean-René, the awkward boss of a struggling chocolate factory, in an unusual and tender love story about finding the courage to be happy. This will be the final new production directed by Emma Rice as Artistic Director of the Globe and here’s hoping she goes out in style.
The Dark Room, Theatre 503
Now, this could be special for it’s the UK premiere of Angela Betzien’s award-winning The Dark Room (Best New Australian Work, Sydney Theatre Awards), which draws attention to the abuse, neglect and limited social care in remote communities in Australia. This intricately layered psychological thriller takes a sober look at one of the devastating issues of contemporary Australian discourse – the abuse of defenceless children, and Angela wrote the play after having witnessing first-hand the shortage of accommodation for children in care in these communities. Opens November 8th. Tickets from £10 (Pay What You Can Saturday Matinees also available).
Bad Roads, Royal Court
“I spend the night in an officer’s barracks, where no woman has ever set foot.” To say I’m looking forward to this would be an understatement. Natal’ya Vorozhbit is the leading Ukrainian playwright of her generation and this, Bad Roads, promises to be a series of heart-breaking, powerful and bitterly comic accounts of what it is to be a woman in wartime, whether that be as a medic, a journalist, or as one of a row of teenage girls waiting for soldiers on benches. Opens November 15th. Tickets from £12.
The Butch Monologues, Theatre Royal Stratford East / Soho Theatre
This one has runs both at Stratford East and Soho Theatre this month, and that’s great as it sounds terrific. Developed and performed by The Drakes, a London based group of butches, transmen and gender rebels, The Butch Monologues promises to be a powerful and often humorous collection of secret stories exploring sexuality, vulnerability and desire. These monologues are taken from interviews with butches, masculine women, gender rebels and transmen from around the world.
Theatre Royal Stratford East: Wednesday 8th – Friday 10th November. Tickets from £10 (concessions available)
Soho Theatre: Tuesday 21st – Saturday 25th November. Tickets £15 (concessions available).