So many of the recommendations for shows to see next year focus on the West End. And for sure, I’m excited to catch big ticket numbers like All About Eve, Come From Away, and Waitress but I wanted to cast my eye a little further afield, so here’s my top tips for shows on the London fringe (plus one from the Barbican) and across the UK.
1 Medea, Internationaal Theater Amsterdam at the Barbican
Simon Stone’s sleekly contemporary recasting of Euripides is straight up amazing. Anchored by a storming performance from Marieke Heebink, it is as beautiful and brutal as they come. It’s also one of the few plays that has legit made me go ‘oh no’ out loud once a particular penny dropped. My review from 2014 is here but do yourself a favour and don’t read it until you’ve seen it.
2 Macbeth, Watermill Theatre
2018 saw some disappointing Macbeths and I was thus ready to swear off the play for 2019. But the Watermill Ensemble’s decision to tackle the play will certainly break that resolve, Paul Hart’s innovative direction of this spectacular actor-musician team will surely break the hoodoo…
3 Noughts and Crosses, Derby Theatre, and touring
Pilot Theatre follow on from their strong Brighton Rock with this Malory Blackman adaptation by Sabrina Mahfouz, a Young Adult story but one which promises to speak to us all.
4 The Importance of Being Earnest, Tara Arts
Oscar Wilde got a major West End residency in 2018 but there was a real lack of inspiration to Classic Spring’s traditional productions. So if we look elsewhere, Two Gents Productions – returning to Tara Arts in Earlsfield – are turning Earnest into a two-hander and giving it to 2 British-African women to perform. How could you resist?!
5 Pictures of Dorian Gray, Jermyn Street
And on a similar theme, Lucy Shaw’s adaptation here is f**king with gender so that depending on the night you go, both Dorian and Wotton could either be male or female. This is the kind of adventurous thinking that makes me want to book – so you should too!
6 In Other Words, UK tour
A play that made me cry like no other. Get to any of Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury; Mission Theatre, Bath; Tara Arts, London; Harlow Playhouse; Spring Arts Centre, Havant; Forest Arts Centre, New Milton; Cheltenham Everyman; Lichfield Garrick; York Theatre Royal; Harrogate Theatre; Oldham Coliseum Theatre; Stage@Leeds; Cast, Doncaster; Carriageworks Theatre, Leeds; Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh; or Tron Theatre, Glasgow if you can.
7 My White Best Friend, Bunker Theatre
Incoming Artistic Director Chris Sonnex looks set to lead the Bunker boldly into the future and this piece is my standout from his opening season. Curated by Rachel De-Lahay & Milli Bhatia who are challenging writers to divulge their unspoken truths, it’ll be performed sight unseen every night.
8 Time Is Love/Tiempo es Amor, Finborough Theatre
A new play from Chè Walker with original music from Sheila Atim who also stars? Count me in!
9 Gentleman Jack/Shooting With Light, Brockley Jack
The much beloved Arrows & Traps will sadly be disbanding *sob* but are going out on a high with this female-centric rep season, featuring a single, expert ensemble.
10 SparkPlug, UK tour
A ferocious monologue from David Judge about racism, violence and masculinity, this short and sharp show from the ever-excellent Box of Tricks theatre company is touring extensively from February.
11 Our Lady of Kibeho, Royal and Derngate
The UK premiere of a Katori Hall play is always of note and directed here by James Dacre with Jonathan Fensom designing, this will be unmissable. Starring Gabrielle Brooks, Michelle Asante and Ery Nzaramba at the front of a huge ensemble, getting booking now.
12 The Hired Man, Queens Theatre Hornchurch
One of, if not the best modern British musical, Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch and Hull Truck Theatre in association with Oldham Coliseum Theatre are presenting us an actor-musician take which should be excellent.
13 West Side Story, Royal Exchange
For such an iconic musical, this classic doesn’t appear too often on our stages so this ought to be a real treat, especially when you figure in Sarah Frankcom’s direction and new choreography from Aletta Collins.
14 Us Against Them, Hull Truck
I’ve enjoyed Nastazja Somers’ work whenever I’ve caught it so I’m pleased to see her collaborating with Maureen Lennon here on this Middle Child production which promises a cabaret with a difference.
15 hang, Sheffield Theatres
I was a big fan of this debbie tucker green drama at the Royal Court a couple of years back so I’m very intrigued to see what up-and-coming director Taio Lawson will make of it here.
16 The Last Yankee, Bolton Octagon
There’s all sorts of major Arthur Miller revivals going on in 2019 but you shouldn’t let this one slip under your radar – directed by David Thacker, it promises much.
17 The Remains of the Day, Out of Joint
As any right-minded individual should be, I’m looking forward to what Barney Norris does next. And it turns out that it is adapting this Kazuo Ishiguro novel for this co-production by Out of Joint and Royal & Derngate, Northampton, in association with Oxford Playhouse. Dates are currently booking at both places with further venues to be announced. Christopher Haydon directs too, hurrah!
18 Skellig, Nottingham Playhouse
This much-loved children’s book has been adapted by author David Almond and could well prove a great pre-Easter treat.
19 Richard III, Headlong UK tour
Tom Mothersdale is an exciting actor to look out for but this piqued my interest as the dramatic debut for the new theatre at Alexandra Palace (currently hosting Horrible Histories). It’s a co-production between Headlong, Alexandra Palace and Bristol Old Vic with Royal & Derngate, Northampton and Oxford Playhouse (also visiting Home Manchester and Cambridge Arts Theatre) so there’s plenty of opportunities to catch it.
20 Barber Shop Chronicles, UK tour
Award seasons always have their quirks but the fact that this exceptional play was scarcely recognised is properly scandalous. So this news of a UK tour is fantastic and the fact that it is booking in some pretty hefty runs at various theatres is doubly great, hopefully allowing for word of mouth to really build there. The show visits Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, in partnership with Contact, Leicester Curve, Bristol Old Vic, Sheffield Crucible, Leeds Playhouse, Oxford Playhouse, and Nuffield Southampton Theatres.