Features Published 3 September 2018

Exeunt Recommends: September 3rd-18th 2018

The UK's theatres are starting a new term with some huge openings, and we're taking notes. Here's what to see.
Alice Saville
Pericles at the National Theatre. Photo: James Bellorini

Pericles at the National Theatre. Photo: James Bellorini

London
Late August, typically a bit of a graveyard time for London’s theatres, has been lit up by two ambitious, expansive, big-hearted shows: Emilia at Shakespeare’s Globe, and Pericles at the National Theatre. Hopefully at least one of them will be back. But for now, there’s another invigorating injection of new ideas over at The Yard, courtesy of Live Drafts. Playwrights, young companies and live artists are all presenting early stage work, and tickets are only £5 (£7.50 for two).

Battersea Arts Centre hasn’t been held back by the fire that ripped through its Grand Hall three years ago, but it’s still thrilling to see the space back in action: it’ll reopen with Gecko’s unsettling, image-rich dance theatre piece Missing, which has been resurrected after losing its set and costumes in the original blaze. North of the river, there’s another relaunch: Tricycle Theatre will kick off their controversial rebrand as KILN with Alexis Zegerman’s Holy Sh!t, a drama about the desperate lengths a couple go to to get their kid into a CofE school, staged by the venue’s AD Indhu Rubasingham. And Theatre Royal Stratford East is keeping its name, but new artistic director Nadia Fall’s approach is quite a break with the past. Her first season kicks off with The Village, April De Angeli’s new version of Fuenteovejuna, reimagined for a setting in contemporary India

Vinay Patel’s An Adventure is coming to Bush Theatre, and it sounds thrilling: taking in post-Partition India, Kenya, and 1970s London, in a story of love and upheaval. Losing Venice, on at the Orange Tree, is Jo Clifford’s look at a country that’s losing its empire and harbouring delusions about its place in the world, set in the Spanish Golden Age. And Sylvia at the Old Vic also reimagines history: it’s definitely not the only hip-hop suffragette show in the works (we can blame Hamilton for that) but it’s definitely the highest profile, with a book by Kate Prince and Priya Parmar, and ZooNation’s signature dance storytelling style.

Exeunt has lodged quite a few complaints about the American-family-round-a-dinner-table play, but please excuse the hypocrisy of us recommending Stephen Karam’s The Humans: it comes to London with its original cast intact, and by all accounts it’s an outstanding example of the genre. Still more excitingly – Dance Nation at Almeida Theatre looks incredible. It’s the story of a pre-teen dance squad that’s much darker and so much weirder than that sounds. Also in US-theatre-in-London news, there’s a chance to see Bill Russell and Janet Hood’s musical Unexpected Joy – a female-led show by the team behind Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging QueensHeathers – The Musical is finally coming to the West End, having cloaked itself in a hairspray-like fug of social media hype (did you hear, Carrie Hope Fletcher’s in it!).

Under Daniel Kramer’s leadership, the ENO’s been visiting some of London’s smaller, most atmospheric spaces and the results so far have been magical: for a gentler musical experience, make for Paul Bunyan at Wilton’s Music Hall, a venue that’s an ideal way to hear this rarely-staged Benjamin Britten opera.

Bullish, Camden People's Theatre. Photo: Ben Millar Cole.

Bullish, Camden People’s Theatre. Photo: Ben Millar Cole.

Southampton
Camden People’s Theatre is taking a mini-festival of LGBTQIA+ theatre on tour around the UK, in a wonderful, expansive scheme that’ll bring a dose of queer energy to Wakefield, Derby, Peterborough, Exeter and Poole. The fest will start touring at the end of the month, but for now there’s a chance to see its headliner Bullish in Southampton: it explores transformation and masculinity through the lens of a Greek myth.

Pembrokeshire
On a beach in Tenby, National Theatre of Wales’ Tide Whisperer will use poetry and immersive sound to explore ideas of mass migration, in a work by poet and playwright Louise Wallwein. It’s also being filmed for live broadcast at Dorset’s b-side festival – more info on the film-focused multi-arts festival here.

‘Gastronomic’ at Norwich Theatre Royal

Norwich
Collabs between restaurants and theatre folk are often dicey: tepid nibbles and ace theatre? Delicious food but next-to-no show? You really take your chances. But nonetheless, Gastronomic looks like it might just live up to its billing. Curious Directive have created a show set in 2021, on a plane, where ‘international sky chefs’ (totally a thing) are serving up a five-course menu in an augumented reality experience, miles above ground.

Cambridge
Mixing architecture and performance art, free weekend festival In Your Way is taking over Cambridge. Very quietly. It’s made up of five non-text-based, site-responsive performance works – including River Cam-inspired Flow, and Rhiannon Armstrong’s Can I Help You, billed as “the performance art version of Handy Andy”.

‘othellomacbeth’

Manchester
Co-produced with Lyric Hammersmith, othellomacbeth looks pretty enticing: Jude Christian directs a 90 minute splice of two Shakespeare plays. Hot on the heels of London’s Emilia, Queen Margaret offers a contrasting slice of feminist revisionist history. Jade Anouka stars as a queen trying to hold her court together as the Wars of the Roses rumble on, in a play that Jeanie O’Hare has crafted from Shakespeare’s words. And if you don’t want to see Shakespeare’s work in any form, however chopped-and-changed, then head to the Lowry, where Paines Plough will be staging some excellent new writing: Simon Longman’s Island Town and Vinay Patel’s Sticks and Stones.

‘Cyrano de Bergerac’

Glasgow
Well, this looks like a treat. Scotland’s theatrical big guns (aka Citizens Theatre, Royal Lyceum and NTS) are coming together to stage the big-hearted (and conked) romance Cyrano de Bergerac in a new Scots translation by Edwin Morgan. Oh, and there are costumes by Pam Hogg. Be still my beating heart.

Exeunt Recommends is a fortnightly 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.

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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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