Home / Featured / PREVIEW: 2013 UK theatre highlights

PREVIEW: 2013 UK theatre highlights

As venues across the country pack up the lastremnantsof panto for another year, thoughts begin to turn to the rich pickings on offer across the country in 2013. Our team of regional editors look at highlights coming up across the UK.

South West – Chosen by Regional Editor Jacqui Onions

As we enter 2013, Britten 100 is causing a stir all over the UK, and indeed the world, and the South West is no exception. Look out for numerous concerts celebrating the centenary of composer Benjamin Britten, including the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and BBC National Chorus of Wales presenting Britten’s Spring Symphony at St David’s Hall Cardiff on Friday 25th January.

2014 sees another centenary and one that will be very well celebrated in the Welsh parts of the South West region – that of Dylan Thomas. Plans for a year-long festival are already well under way but fans of the poet need not wait a whole year as the one-man show Dylan Thomas: Return Journey visits the South West this March; coming to the Brewery Theatre at The Tobacco Factory, Bristol. With Bob Kingdom in the rôle of Thomas and original direction by Anthony Hopkins, what better way to get in the mood for next year’s celebrations?

Continuing the Welsh theme for a moment, the Welsh National Opera’s spring season is themed Free Spirits; presenting three operas – Lulu, The Cunning Little Vixen, and Madam Butterfly. They open and close their tour in the South West, kicking off in February at the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff, and closing in April at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth.

The Drum Theatre, Plymouth have joined forces with Told by an Idiot and Young Vic to present, My Perfect Mind. This fascinating story is that of actor, Edward Petherbridge, who in his second day of rehearsals as King Lear suffered a stroke. As a result he was left barely able to move yet the rôle of Lear still remained word for word in his head! Performed by Edward Petherbridge and Paul Hunter, My Perfect Mind is at the Drum Theatre from 14th February – 2nd March before embarking on a UK tour.

Closer Each Day is an improvised soap-opera which takes place every other week at the Wardrobe Theatre, Bristol and 2013 sees it enter its 5th season. Previously receiving a 4* review from The Public Reviews, this is a great night out for regular viewers and new visitors alike, and don’t worry if you’ve missed some of the action as you can catch up with the story so far with on the Closer Each Day website – http://www.closereachdaysoap.blogspot.co.uk/

Scotland – Chosen by Regional Editor Amy Taylor

Happy New Year! As the Scottish theatre world attempts to shake off the pantos of last season, the beginning of January is always a very quiet time in the industry. However, once we hit the middle of January the season springs into life, and an explosion of classics, new works and visual spectaculars appear in every theatre in the country. But the new year is looking promising in Scottish theatre, with Stewart Laing’s adaptation of Jean Genet’s The Maids at the Citz in Glasgow opening on the 19th of January, quickly followed by the Lyceum’s revival of Shelagh Delaney’s A Taste of Honey in Edinburgh.

The new season of the highly popular A Play, A Pie and a Pint season is launched on the 28th of January, with performances in March and April, and the Traverse’s visual theatre festival, Manipulate, runs from the 4th – 16th of February, and marks the return of Vox Motus’ 2009 festival favourite, Slick. March, however, promises to be the start of a very intriguing new season for the National Theatre of Scotland, who begin with a production of Wills Wilson’s study of island life, Ignition, on Shetland. Black Watch, the NTS’ internationally acclaimed production returns to Glasgow in March to begin a national and international tour; the perfect send off for departing Artistic Director, Vicky Featherstone. Elsewhere, a new production of Nikolai Gogol’s The Government Inspector, directed by Gerry Mulgrew, comes to the King’s Theatre in Edinburgh, and for fans of musicals, Cats returns to Scotland in February, and will set up a temporary home at the Edinburgh Playhouse and, His Majesty’s Theatre in Aberdeen. Of course, I can’t mentioned musicals without paying some attention to the current UK tour of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which comes to Glasgow King’s Theatre in February and the Edinburgh Playhouse in March. I am currently shivering with anticipation for this production.

Moving on to May, Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean’s The Day I Swapped My Dad For Two Goldfish will begin touring Scotland, while Zinnie Harris’ adaptation of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House comes to the Lyceum in Edinburgh. Meanwhile, June brings about a number of important productions, namely Stewart Laing’s take on Confessions of a Justified Sinner, and perhaps, most importantly, John Tiffany’s final production with the NTS, his adaptation of the classic Swedish vampire coming-of-age film, Let the Right One In, which arrives at the Dundee Rep on the 6th of June.

North West – Chosen by Regional Editor John Roberts

Musicals have always been a firm favourite in the region and the biggest of them all opens its UK Tour in Manchester later on in the year, when Stephen Schwartz’s Wickedflies into the Palace Theatre to greenify the region. The 60s-set musical Hairspray brings its infectious feelgood tunes to The Lowry in February with Mark Benton as Edna and The X Factor’s Marcus Collins as Seaweed. High Society is also revived this year and opens this month at Venue Cymru in Llandudno before embarking on a national tour.

Drama also features heavily within the region. The Library Theatre who are currently in residence at The Lowry Theatre open their season with Chris Honer’s last production as artistic director of the company with Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage. Down the road at The Royal Exchange, they present the world premier of Rory Mullarky’s Cannibals which is directed by Michael Longhurst who gained critical acclaim for his production of Constellations at The Royal Court in London.

Over in Liverpool, drama is lovingly looked after at The Liverpool Playhouse, with the world premiere of Spike Theatre’s Sink or Swim – the company’s 15th production in 15 years, and if their scratch performance last year is anything to go by then this is set to be their biggest and best show to date. While in June in a co-production between The Playhouse Theatre and Nottingham Playhouse, The Kite Runner gets its European Premiere which is based on the number 1 bestseller by Khaled Hosseini and directed by Giles Croft.

Told by an Idiot make a welcome return to the region with a week long run of My Perfect Mind at The Unity Theatre in March, directed by Kathryn Hunter and performed by Paul Hunter and Edward Petherbridge, My Perfect Mind tells the story of when Petherbridge was cast as King Lear, when on the second day of rehearsals he suffered a stroke that left him barely able to move. As he struggled to recover Edward made a discovery: the entire rôle of Lear still existed word for word in his mind. From being on the brink of playing Shakespeare’s most revered rôle, to lying in a hospital bed, Edward had never imagined what tragedies and comedies lay in store for him.

South East – Chosen by Regional Editor Glen Pearce

For those who think that theatre is confined to London, the South East shows that there is a thriving theatre scene outside of the M25. A strong mix of venues, festivals and theatre companies means that the choice of shows on offer can be somewhat daunting. Our touring houses offer regional audiences to catch bit-hitters such as Dolly Parton musical 9 to 5, Propeller’s latest Shakespearian double bill and the perennial Woman In Black.

Such a rich mix makes picking highlights difficult but must-see’s include The National Theatre of Scotland’s Black Watch, playing for just five performances to Norwich as part of the Norfolk And Norwich Festival.Since itspremièrein 2006 Black Watch has been staged worldwide, picking up awards and acclaim wherever it plays. Joining the festival as part of the University of East Anglia’s 50th anniversary celebrations, this is a play that will move even the hardest of hearts.

Comedian Lenny Henry seems to have been bitten by the stage bug. After his acclaimed Othello for Northern Broadsides and a well-received Comedy of Errors at the National Theatre, Henry returns to the stage in August Wilson’s American classic Fences, playing the Cambridge Arts Theatre as part of a UK tour. Set between the Korean and Vietnam wars, the central character of Troy Maxson has previously been performed by the like of James Earl Jones, Laurence Fishburne and Denzel Washington.

Over in Ipswich, the New Wolsey Theatre is gaining a reputation for its world premiere’s and this February hosts the premiere of Michael Lesslie’s psychological thriller And Then The Dark. Seven years since a mother and son died in the attic Edward still sits in the room below, tormented by their ghosts, refusing to accept they are gone.Lesslie’s first play Swimming With Sharks was produced in the West End in 2007 and now this production promises to keep audiences on the edge of their seats.

Colchester Mercury Theatre’s new Artistic Director Daniel Buckroyd has taken the brave step of programming for the whole of 2013 in one go. One of the highlights being his reassembling of the creative team behind his critically-acclaimed 2008 production of Howard Goodall and Melvyn Bragg’s classic musical The Hired Man. The production previously toured the UK before transferring to New York and forms a key part of Buckroyd’s first season at the Colchester venue.

Heading into Kent and the Marlowe Theatre is now well and truly settled into their stunning new home and in March will be welcoming the touring version of The Full Monty Play. First it was a smash hit film, then a Broadway Musical. Now Simon Beaufoy, the Oscar winning writer of the film, has now gone back to Sheffield where it all started. Featuring songs from the film by Donna Summer, Rod Stewart, Hot Chocolate and Tom Jones, The Full Monty is brought back to the to the stage by award-winning director Daniel Evans.

Central – Chosen by Regional Editor Selwyn Knight

Here in the central region, we have several theatres producing high quality theatre. At the region’s heart is Birmingham Rep under its new Artistic Director, Roxana Silbert. Currently closed as part of the redevelopment of Library of Birmingham, this year sees its 100th birthday season presented at its home until the 1970s, the Old Rep in Station Street. The season includes two new commissions, Philip Pullman’s I Was A Rat and Birmingham writer Robin French’s new take on Hedda Gabler, Heather Gardner. I Was A Rat is a co-production with Nottingham Playhouse, Ipswich New Wolsey Theatre and Teatro Kismet from Italy. The Rep is due to return home in September.

Just along the M6 and we find The Belgrade Theatre in Coventry, named after the city that provided the wooden cladding in the auditorium. Hamish Glen, the Belgrade’s Artistic Director kicks off with Nikolai Gogol’s Marriage, quickly followed by Chekhov’s Sons Without Fathers and the return of the story of Coventry’s experiences of the Blitz, One Night in November. Nearby, Warwick Arts Centre is committed to bringing audiences the best theatre from around the world. The critically acclaimed Cheek by Jowl bring the UK premiere of Ubu Roi, and multi award winning 1927 present their melange of live music, storytelling and film that is The Animals and Children Took to the Streets. There are just too many good things to describe each: Stan’s Café with their The Anatomy of Melancholy, Fevered Sleep and for younger theatregoers, Rubbish, co-produced with Theatre-Rites, China Plate’s MACBETH – Blood Will Have Blood with Contender Charlie, Oily Cart’s In a Pickle and Plutot La Vie’s By The Seat of Your Pants.

Further east and we find the lovely Royal &Derngate Theatre in Northampton with its Made in Northampton Season, the last under Artistic Director Laurie Sansom before he takes up his new rôle heading up the National Theatre of Scotland. This includes the world premiere of the stage adaptation of To Sir With Love, together with Cooped, in collaboration with Spymonkey, Willy Russell’s One for the Road, Alan Ayckbourn’s Mr Whatnot and A Midsummer Night’s Dream in their Comedy Gold season.

A trip north brings us the Leicester’s Curve Theatre with its innovative design. Season highlights include Frances Ruffelle in Piaf and Hot Stuff.

Naturally, there are plenty of venues at which the finest touring productions can be seen, including the Milton Keynes Theatre, Oxford’s Playhouse and New Theatre, Derby Theatre and Birmingham’s New Alexandra Theatre and Hippodrome, home of Birmingham Royal Ballet and their productions of Aladdin, Coppelia and Giselle.

And of course, the Royal Shakespeare Company can be found here, in Stratford upon Avon. Their The World Elsewhere group of plays continue in the Swan with Boris Godunov, The Orphan of Zhao and A Life of Galileo, as well as The Winter’s Tale.

London – Chosen by Regional Editor Ian Foster

Theatre is a year round business in London but as the new year begins there is, as ever, a huge amount of choice for London Theatre goers, from small fringe theatres to major west end plays and musicals.

Returning to play Her Majesty, Helen Mirren returns to the stage in The Audience at the Gielgud this February, taking a fictitious look at those private conversations between the Monarch and her Prime Minster.

Mirren isn’t the only Dame with a nifty side-line in playing Monarchs appearing on stage this spring. Dame Judi Dench who joins Ben Whishaw at the Noel Coward in the second Michael Grandage Company season show, Peter and Alice.

Musical Theatre fans are spoilt for choice for shows across the city. At the Soho theatre in February new musical LIFT opens starring a wealth of West End talent including Julie Atherton. At the Union theatre they hope to continue their run of hit musicals with a revival of the Tim Rice/Benny and Bjorn classic Chess, bringing the small scale treatment to what is often seen as a big blockbuster behemoth. For actual big bucks blockbuster head to the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in May where Charlie and the Chocolate Factory takes residence – nothing could go wrong with this, could it…?!

Returning to plays, Headlong can always be relied upon to innovate and in May they will be partnering the Almeida theatre in Islington for Chimerica, a tense look at how two countries are still rocked by Tiananmen Square.


North East and Yorkshire – Chosen by Regional Editor Laura Stimpson

Shipbuilding tradition a key part of the North East’s industrial heritage, a symbol respected throughout the world. Men of the Tyne captures the stories of men who worked in the Tyne shipyards from the 1950’s to the 1980’s. Running at the Washington Arts Centre, the show fuses music, stories and film to evoke the era.

February when a new adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Fall Of The House of Usher takes to the stage. A three-man cast promise to have audiences on the edge of their seats in fear.

Over in Newcastle, Northern Stage offer a season full of interest including a dance double bill, Pictures We Make, that reflects our perceptions of life and the later in the season a staging of Dennis Potter’s Blue Remembered Hills. Nearly twenty years after Potter’s death, Blue Remembered Hills still has the power to move audiences.

The men from The Full Monty are heading home as the new stage play adaptation of the hit film returns to Sheffield, playing at the Lyceum in January while over in Harrogate Alan Ayckbourn’s Sugar Daddies plays Harrogate Theatre at the end of February.

Over in Leeds The West Yorkshire Playhouse offer plenty of choice including new productions of Doctor Faustus and a new staging of Sherlock Holmes. Representing the region across the country, Northern Broadsides will be touring their production of Rutherford and Son.

South Coast – Chosen by Regional Editor Marina Spark

The new year kicks off in the south coast region with a fantastic show for the children. A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings can be seen at Salisbury Playhouse, Salisbury from 22nd – 26th January 2013. This show which is for all ages is inspired by Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s short story and presented with visual beauty and magic by leading theatre companies Little Angel Theatre and Kneehigh Theatre. This is a must see show for everyone from 6 to 106 who believe that an old man might fly.

Later that month surprises, Alan Ayckbourn’s new comedy which has its head in the future and its heart in the past visits the Yvonne Arnaud, Guildford as part of its national. Make sure you catch it there between 23rd Jan – 22nd Feb 2013.

Another brilliant show for children comes to The Haymarket, Basingstoke from Fri 15 – Sun 17 Feb 2013. The Gruffalo’s Child follows hot on the heels of The Gruffalo’s sell out tour and west end run. Tall Stories Theatre Company brings Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s award-winning sequel to life in this magical, musical adaptation. But remember, all adults must be accompanied by a responsible child.

An especially exciting new version of The Seagull will be presented at The Nuffield, Southampton from 11 – 20 April 2013. The show is a co-production between The Nuffield and Headlong, both renowned for their innovative, accessible re-imaginings of classic texts. The Seagull is directed by Blanche McIntyre, recently described by London’s Evening Standard as “a rising star”, so it certainly is worth going out on a rainy April evening for.

Fast forwarding to October, Slava’s Snowshow will be returning to The Mayflower, Southampton from Tue 1 – Sat 5 October 2013. This show is unlike anything you will have ever seen before and is an unmistakably unique, unmissable treat. Slava’s Snowshow touches the heart and the funny bone and is packed with wonder and delight. A must see in the south coast.

About The Reviews Hub

The Reviews Hub
The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. We aim to review all professional types of theatre, whether that be Commercial, Repertory or Fringe as well as Comedy, Music, Gigs etc.