Features Published 8 January 2019

Exeunt Recommends: January 2019

Vault, Push Festival, and more mime than you can shake an (invisible) stick at: here's Exeunt's UK-wide picks for January in theatre.
Alice Saville

The first month of the year is horribly underrated. Yes, trying to return to business-as-usual often feels like wrestling an octopus into a three piece suit but there’s (hopefully) a mountain of Christmas chocolate to work through and no pressure to leave the house. And in theatre-land, it means that the usual spree of mega-budget openings is replaced by an eclectic line-up of new shows making their quiet entrance into the world. Here are some UK-wide picks of shows to brighten the start of 2019.

‘Company’ at Gielgud Theatre. Photo: Tristram Kenton

Look, if you want to see something truly and extremity-warmingly wonderful, you could just go and see Rosalie Craig, Patti LuPone & co doing Company (read Alice Saville’s review for Exeunt here). Somehow, despite the substantial hype, there are loads of tickets with respectable sightlines for under £30. But I recognise that January is a time to challenge your mulled wine-softened body and mind, and there are many theatrey ways to do that.

London International Mime Festival (9th January – 3rd February) is back for 2019, and its line-up of wordless visual theatre is much, much broader than the name suggests. Full line-up is here, but Anywhere looks especially magical – it tells the story of Oedipus’s wanderings, as performed by a puppet made from slowly-melting ice.

Isley Lynn, who wrote Skin A Cat (Exeunt review here), is collaborating with physical theatre company Rhum & Clay on The War of the Worlds at New Diorama Theatre, in what sounds like an intriguing mix of sci-fi and present-day politics.

Vault Festival is steaming into Waterloo, with a line-up that’s as packed as a 7am commuter train but hopefully much more fun. This year it’s got a headliner: Counting Sheep, an immersive protest inspired by the 2014 uprising in Ukraine, and made by the directors of Belarus Free Theatre. Tickets start from £18 (for £40 you can be a ‘Premium’ protester, make of that what you will). Its first week also includes another chance to see Katie & Pip, a story about (and performed with) a diabetic teenage girl and her dog (Exeunt’s review from the Edinburgh Fringe here). And I’m excited to see Opal Fruits, Holly Beasley-Garrigan’s four-generation spoken word story set on a South London council estate, and Juniper and Jules, a queer love story about falling in love and nonmonogamy.

Not to be outdone, The Yard is unleashing the latest instalment of NOW #19, a mini-festival of double bills. It kicks off with 24 Italian Songs and Arias, a new show about failure and opera by Brian Lobel, and Fk Alexander’s Diana is Dead, which is apparently a revenge fantasy where Diana gets justice in a barrage of industrial techno and… oh wow, I can’t think of a better way to first wallow in, then triumphantly shake off any lingering January doldrums.

The drum I will beat until my withered hands are no more than a collection of dry bones, held together by the fading magic of theatre history, is that panto isn’t actually, technically a Christmas thing. Pantos traditionally opened on Boxing Day and kept on playing through January and February – even to Easter, if tickets were selling. So all of this is a long preamble by way of saying that The Wardrobe Theatre’s Oedipuss in Boots is still running until 20th January, and I respect this decision, the company, and indeed their ingeniously punning chosen name for the show. Alternatively, make for Ferment Fortnight at Bristol Old Vic, which is a chance to sample new work from some of the city’s best-loved makers, including Vanessa Kisuule, The Wardrobe Ensemble, and Documental.

‘Fram and Dunt’ is on as part of Push Festival

Home Manchester is hosting Push Festival (11th-26th January) which is a showcase for artists from the North West, and its line-up includes Fram & Dunt, a circus-tinged father-daughter show that’s intense, poignant, and weirdly surreal (more in Exeunt’s interview with Ellie Dubois). Plus Fat Girl Singing by Emma Geraghty, a fat positive show with songs that feels pretty essential in a month of constant culturally-enforced dieting-related blah.

Glasgow and Edinburgh
New Scottish opera Anthropocene is set in a frozen wasteland, and is hence a very solid bit of programming for January. Composer Stuart MacRae and librettist Louise Welsh tell the story of a strange force that emerges from the ice, baffling a trapped team of Arctic scientists. It plays Glasgow’s Theatre Royal (24th-26th January) and Edinburgh’s King’s Theatre (31st January- 2nd February) before stopping in at London’s Hackney Empire next month.

Exeunt Recommends is a regular series highlighting the shows and festivals our writers are excited about: we try to make it UK-wide, but the range of areas featured is subject to what’s on. For more tips, browse through our recent reviews.


Alice Saville

Alice is editor of Exeunt, as well as working as a freelance arts journalist for publications including Time Out, Fest and Auditorium magazine. Follow her on Twitter @Raddington_B



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