11 Of The Best Theatre Shows To Book This Season
Death Of A Salesman
Following its sold-out run at the Young Vic theatre, this critically acclaimed production is now showing at the Piccadilly Theatre, where it stays until the beginning of January. One of Arthur Miller’s greatest plays, Death of a Salesman focuses on the life of Willy Loman – an unsuccessful 69-year-old Brooklyn businessman who returns from a business trip to find his two adult sons living in the family home. In this new retelling, the Lomans are a black family, and racial tensions sit alongside the class and family strains at the centre of the original play. Starring Wendell Pierce, who you may recognise from Suits and The Wire, the production has received rave reviews.
Piccadilly Theatre, Denman Street, Soho, W1D 7DY; until 4th January
Winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, this play is not to be missed. Described by the award’s judges as a “hard-hitting drama that examines race in a highly conceptual, layered structure and ultimately brings audiences into the actors’ community to face deep-seated prejudices”, its reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. It follows the Frasier family as they gather to celebrate Grandma’s birthday. Things do not go according to plan and the audience is confronted with a thought-provoking account of racial alienation and division.
Young Vic, 66 The Cut, Waterloo, SE1 8LZ; until 18th January
The Taming Of The Shrew
Enjoy this brilliantly radical take on one of Shakespeare’s finest comedies, performed at the Barbican by the Royal Shakespeare Company. The original play is an energetic, comedic portrayal of the ultimate battle of the sexes, and this retelling doesn’t disappoint. Taking inspiration from Naomi Alderman’s novel The Power, it is set in a matriarchal world, with sumptuous Elizabethan costumes and plenty of witty dialogue. Lead characters Bianco and Katherine have swapped genders and what follows is an absorbing – and keenly funny – exploration of hierarchy and control.
Barbican Centre, Silk Street, EC2Y 8DS; until 18th January
My Brilliant Friend
Based on the celebrated novels by Elena Ferrante, My Brilliant Friend is an epic tale of love, ambition, violence and self-destruction. Starring Niamh Cusack and Catherine McCormack, it follows the story of celebrated author Lenu Greco. When her friend Lila disappears without a trace, Lenu looks back at their 60-year relationship, which began in post-war and poverty-stricken Naples. The play is shown in two parts, so it will take a fair chunk of your time – but it’s well worth it.
National Theatre, South Bank, SE1 9PX; until 12th February
Touching The Void
This play is sure to keep you gripped to your armrests. Based on the bestselling memoir by Joe Simpson, Touching the Void relays the mental battle Simpson and his climbing partner Simon Yates faced when fighting for survival in the Andes in the 1980s. After a disaster leaves them stuck on on an unsteady snow cliff, one of them has to make a perilous decision. Thrillingly good, you’ll feel as though you’ve been on an epic journey yourself by the end of this one.
Duke Of York’s Theatre, St Martin’s Lane, Charing Cross, WC2N 4BG; until 29th February
Cyrano De Bergerac
Fans of James McAvoy, listen up. Until the end of February, he’s starring in a new production of Edmond Rostand’s classic Cyrano de Bergerac at the Playhouse Theatre. The drama tells the story of Cyrano, a strong-willed man with plenty of talents. However, his abnormally large nose is a cause of anxiety and he feels that no one will love him the way he is. As the object of his affections confides in him about her love for another man, Cyrano hits a new low and ends up making a promise he may not be able to keep.
Playhouse Theatre, Northumberland Avenue, Charing Cross, WC2N 5DE; until 29th February
A heartfelt story of love and longing, this bold retelling of Chekhov’s melancholy masterpiece moves the action from 1850s Russia to 1960s Nigeria. Playwright Inua Ellams sets the drama against the backdrop of civil war and brings a fresh approach to themes of frustration and grief. The play centres around the lives of three sisters (Sarah Niles, Natalie Simpson and Rachael Ofori) as they mourn the death of their father. With the Biafran civil war encroaching on their provincial village life, they yearn to return to the bright lights of Lagos.
National Theatre, South Bank, SE1 9PX; until 19th February
This new play by award-winning writer Ella Hickson looks at hown women in power negotiate patriarchal pressure. The story focuses on Elizabeth I, who ruled for almost half of the 16th century. Many saw her as a political mastermind and resolute survivor, but others only noted that she was an unmarried woman, and a childless, kingless Queen. In a male-dominated era, Elizabeth felt her power ultimately resided in beauty, and this drama interrogates the means by which she used her appearance to maintain control. The play premieres at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at the Globe and is directed by Natalie Abrahami.
Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, 21 New Globe Walk, Bankside, SE1 9DT; 6th December – 15th February
Girl From The North Country
Featuring classic songs from Bob Dylan, this drama by esteemed playwright Conor McPherson is one for music lovers – but is definitely not a musical, nor simply a compilation of greatest hits. In Great Depression-era Minnesota, the story centres around a family who run a guesthouse and have plenty of personal issues to deal with – most notably a mother with early onset dementia and a layabout son who drinks too much. All sorts of wayward souls pass in and out of the house, bringing their own stories and secrets. The haunting lyrics and rhythmic base of Dylan’s songs are masterfully entwined with themes of hope and suffering and help illuminate key messages throughout. The show originally ran at the Old Vic in 2017 and received widespread critical acclaim.
Gielgud Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, West End, W1D 6AR; 10th December – 1st February
Focusing on themes of justice, power and gender, this new play from Lucy Kirkwood stars Maxine Peak, Cecilia Noble and Ria Zmitrowicz. In 18th-century rural Suffolk, a woman is sentenced to hang for a heinous murder. When she claims to be pregnant, a jury of 12 matrons are tasked with deciding whether she’s telling the truth. With only one midwife prepared to defend the woman, and a mob baying for blood outside, a great responsibility rests on their shoulders.
National Theatre, South Bank, SE1 9PX; 15th January – 23th May
Samuel Beckett’s macabre comedy will be brought to life at the Old Vic in January. Starring Daniel Radcliffe and Alan Cumming (who has received recent acclaim for his role in The Good Wife), it’s set to be incredibly popular. End Game is one of Beckett’s finest, and most absurd, plays. Cumming plays Hamm, who is trapped at home with his servant Clov (Radcliffe). Hamm is blind and cannot stand, whereas Clov cannot sit down. Expect standout, transfixing dialogue that will leave you with an unsettling sense of strangeness. The play will be presented in a double bill with Beckett’s short play Rough for Theatre II, which sees two men discuss the fate of another man in the room, who never speaks.
The Old Vic, The Cut, Lambeth, SE1 8NB; from 27th January
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