2015 was a thrilling rollercoaster ride for the theatre scene, with more venues programming exciting and risk-taking productions that complemented a more traditional slate of work. We saw artistic directors leave venues for pastures new and then, in return, gain new visionaries for the future. So as we stand on the precipice of 2016, what theatrical delights await? We asked our regional editors to pick a selection of shows that should cater for all tastes and so we present to you our pick of the very best theatre to look forward to in 2016.
This Restless Houseis a new trilogy of plays by Zinnie Harris, based on the Greek tragedyThe Oresteiaby Aeschylus, presented in association with National Theatre of Scotland. Harris’ playtells the bloody saga of a family torn apart by a succession of murders and betrayals, set against the backdrop of a society on the brink of a revolution and learning to operate within a nascent and flawed justice system.
Based on the story by JRR Tolkien and with music by Karine Polwart, Puppet State Theatre Company presentsLeaf By Niggle. Niggle is a painter. Not a very successful one, partly because he has so many other things to do. For some time he has been obsessed with one particular canvas – a curious picture of a tree with a vast landscape stretching out behind it. The painting keeps getting bigger and bigger, but Niggle has a journey to make.
How You Gonna Live Your Dash by one of Scotland’s most visionary theatre-makers, Jenna Watt, is Watt’sfirst performance since her Fringe First award-winning productionFlâneurs.Based on real-life testimonies and featuring stunning pyrotechnic effects, this epic new performance explores the life-altering decisions we make in order to get the most out of our time on earth.
Written in the spring of 1939, but rarely seen on the stage after David Lean’s film version in 1944. Noel Coward’s saga of the lives and loves of one family and their friends during a turbulent period of history is warm-hearted, moving and infused with a love of Britain and its people.
Winner of four awards at the 2015 Olivier Awards including Best New Musical and Outstanding Achievement in Music for Ray Davies. Sunny Afternoontells the story of the early life of Ray Davies and the rise to stardom of The Kinks.Set against the backdrop of a Britain caught mid-swing between the conservative 50s and riotous 60s, this production explores the highs and lows of one of Britain’s most iconic bands and the irresistible music that influenced generations.
North East &Yorkshire
Northern Ballet brings their magic to Aesop’s fable,Tortoise &the Harein this delightful national tour. The Hare enjoys boasting about his speed and, fed up with being teased for being slow, the tortoise challenges him to a race. The short performances last approximately 40 minutes and will be a perfect blend of live ballet, music and theatre for children.
Lucy Bailey returns after her success with Dial M for Murder and The Postman Always Rings Twice for this brand new reworking of the Charles Dickens classic tale of identity and self-discovery. Originally published in 1861, Great Expectations has been adapted by Michael Eatonand promises to be visually stunning, chilling and tender.
Everything I bought and how it made me feel started life as a blog. For one whole year, writer Harry Giles kept a detailed online record of every purchase and how it made him feel – his hopes, dreams, fears and failure to compromise with consumerism. The production asks interesting questions: Why do we buy what we do? Is there a way to do it better? And how does consumerism really make us feel?
Billy Elliott is set in a northern mining town in the eighties, at the time of the miners’ strike. A musical with real heart, it follows Billy’s inspirational story of hardship, family, community and passion. With a score by Elton John and 81 awards won worldwide, this is not one to miss. And where better to see it than in the region where it’s set?
The Ring Cycle comprises four opera’s which make up Wagner’s epic masterpiece, Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried and Gotterdämmerung. Presented in concert format at Leeds Town Hall with a 100 piece orchestra, it will be Wagner’s music at its greatest. Conductor Richard Farnes, who has become a leading interpreter of the composer’s music, will propel audiences on an extraordinary journey through 15 hours spread across four days, marking the end of his 12-year tenure as Music Director.
North west-based Box of Tricks theatre company has become a real champion for new writing across the region and, for their first production of 2016, the company continues to challenge theatregoing perceptions. Focusing on love at different ages and celebrating the nation’s favourite food,Chip Shop Chipsis an immersive love story set in a chippy performing in unusual spacesacross the North.
Following a major multi-million-pound crowd funding campaign, producer Jamie Hendry brings a new musical adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s much-loved book about a rebellious and rambunctious Toad to the stage. This new adaptation is written by Downton Abbey’s Julian Fellows with music and lyrics written by songwriting duo Stiles and Drewe. The production is directed by Birmingham Rep’s Artistic Director Rachel Kavanagh. The show will also visit the Theatre Royal, Plymouth and Southampton’s Mayflower Theatre.
Marianne Elliot returns to the theatre where her career really started to take off with a re-mounting of her critically acclaimed National Theatre production of D.H Lawrence’s Husbands and Sons. The production will star Ann-Marie Duff in this brutal production, which explores the lives of the women who are fighting day and night to keep their families together in the shadow of Brinsley pit.
Told by an Idiot, in collaboration with National Theatre Scotland and Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum Theatre, presents a new “comedy with songs”, which will open its UK tour in Liverpool. Paul Hunter directs this tale of the last person to be executed for blasphemy and takes a look into the bleak and dark past of the Scottish capital. Inspired by a short story by James Robertson, the production features the lyrics of Poet Simon Armitage and music by Iain Johnstone.
In her first season as Artistic Director, Elizabeth Newman directs a new revival of the classic musical Singin’ in the Rain. Set during the time when movies were transitioning from silent cinema to the “talkies”, this all singing, all splashing musical will guarantee smiles on faces and maybe even a few wet faces too. The production will be presented in a co-production with The New Vic Theatre and Salisbury Playhouse.
Directed by James Dacre in a co-production with English Touring Theatre and Rose Theatre Kingston, The Herbal Bed opens the 2016 Made in Northampton season. When William Shakespeare’s daughter is publicly accused of adultery with her neighbour, her husband chooses to stand by her, suing her accuser for slander. In doing so, their lives fall under the glare of intense public scrutiny in this emotional thriller, based upon real events from Stratford-upon-Avon in the summer of 1613.
Out of Chaos, the Birmingham-based, multi-award winning creators of Unmythable and Norsesome takes on its greatest challenge yet: all the drama, intrigue and madness of Macbeth in 80 high-octane minutes. More than 30 characters are brilliantly and boldly brought to life by just two actors. Directed by Mile Tweddle and produced in association with Barnsley Civic Theatre and Oxford Playhouse.
The Birmingham REP’s youth theatre; Young REP presents Anger Management, directed by Tom Saunders. A group of teenagers are excited to be invited away for a week of dance, sport, arts and crafts, but as the doors are locked they soon discover that not everything is as it seems. Is it their fault? Will they prevail? And what did they do to earn their place in Anger Management?
Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the classic tale of Holly Golightly written by Truman Capote and so memorably portrayed by Audrey Hepburn in the iconic 1961 film, is being given a new lease of life as a stage play with music. Adapted by Pulitzer Prize finalist and Tony and Olivier Award-winning playwright Richard Greenberg and directed by the Curve’s newly appointed Artistic Director Nikolai Foster, and starring Pixie Lott as Holly Golightly, this tale of the vivacious, good-time girl and her fantastical existence in 1940s New York City, is told through the eyes of a young writer, completely fascinated by this exquisite extrovert who every woman wants to be, and every man wants to be with.
Melly Still directs Shakespeare’s rarely performed romance of power, jealousy and a journey of love and reconciliation, Cymbeline at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Cymbeline is the ruler of a divided Britain. When Innogen, the only living heir, marries her sweetheart in secret, an enraged Cymbeline banishes him. Distracted by Innogen’s marriage Cymbeline is blind to the actions of a powerful figure behind the throne who is plotting to seize power by murdering them both.
Richly drawn and completely rivetingThe James Playsbring to life three generations of Stewart kings who ruled Scotland in the boisterous 15thCentury. Written by Rona Munroe as a historical drama for a contemporary audience, the plays are more real, more epic, and equally addictive as any television drama. Experienced as a trilogy,The James Playsreveal a rarely explored period of Scottish history and a country on the cusp of discovering its own identity. You’ve never seen History Boys like these!
The time-travelling prestidigitators, Messrs Rhys Morgan &Robert West, are off for a short tour in the south-east. Expect silliness and fun for all ages – the Victorian magicians bring a show brimming with inexplicable tricks, peerless precognition and an unhealthy dollop of cerebral smart-arsery to the proceedings. Morgan &West have performed their unique brand of eccentricity all over the globe, with sell-out shows all over the UK and in Australia. The Reviews Hub reviewed them at this year’s High Tide Festival. Keep an eye on your wallets and watches.
After a shaky couple of years, Ipswich’s PULSE Festival seems to be getting back on its feet and looking again at new work and emerging practitioners, rather than being the sandbox for Edinburgh Fringe that it had become. No details yet of its 2016 line-up, but an eclectic mix of contemporary and more avant-garde work is promised. Well worth a visit.
Bruce Norris’ 2009 biting satire has already won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for drama and a Tony Award for best play in 2012. Acclaimed by critics and audiences alike since its debut on Broadway in 2010, Clybourne Park has also been awarded Best Play at the Oliviers, the Evening Standard Best Play Award, the South Bank Sky Arts Theatre Award, and Critics’ Circle Best Play Award. The Mercury Theatre’s Artistic Director Daniel Buckroyd now takes the reins for what has to be one of the most prestigious offerings to come out of the Mercury this year.
East Anglia’s most beloved arts festival is back for its 11th year. Too early for detailed line-ups but previous festivals have featured such A-list names as Thom Yorke, Noel Gallagher, Manic Street Preachers, Sadlers Wells Ballet, Opera North, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Dara O’Briain, Jack Dee and Jason Manford. With that calibre of content, tickets aren’t cheap and you’ll need a high tolerance for drunken teenagers but highly recommended.
Birmingham Stage Company isworld-renowned for adapting and bringing to the stage some of the best-loved children’s stories and that unique stand continues as they bring David Walliams’ hilarious tale to the stage in this world premiere production. Ben is off to stay at his boring Granny’s again… but little does he know that his gran has a secret that will change his opinion of her forever.
Graham first came to national attention after his hugely successful run at the National Theatre of This House.In 2014, Theatre Royal Plymouth produced Graham’s The Angry Brigade about homegrown terrorists in the early 1970s. Now, amid daily articles about loony politics, Graham’s Monster Raving Loony looks at the life of Screaming Lord Sutch. Has Graham touched the nerve in the news again. Can he hit gold with this one?
Verity Standen returns to the Tobacco Factory with her mesmeric acappella song theatre.Mmm Hmmm following previous sell-out runs. A truly genre-defying production combining three stunning female voices. First closely harmonised, then breaking apart, sharing words and syllables one at a time. No real narrative but a series of vignettes and scenes that comment on the tragic, romantic, comic and frustrations of everyday life. A promise of a very unique, aurally and visually arresting evening.
Choreographer Matthew Bourne’s revisionist version of the classic fairy tale, Sleeping Beauty returns on a new UK Tour. Expect a haunting retelling ofthis well-known story but in Bourne’s unique style. Part fairy tale, part ballet, part cross between the very contemporary Twilight and True Blood. Something for all ages, and in particular,somethingat the theatre totakethose difficult teenagers. The evening promises to be an intriguing and entertaining spectacle.
Circomedia is a full-time professional training centre for contemporary circus and physical theatre in Bristol and,alongside productions by its own students, the centre also programmes around 10-15 pieces of professional work a year. There is also a wide variety and mix on offer and, in 2016, companies such as Mark Bruce Company, Etta Ermini Dance Theatre and The Richochet Project all feature to create a vibrant and interesting alternative arts programme.
Following a critically acclaimed run at London’s Savoy Theatre, this musical treat goes back on the road. Nathan Detroit is desperate: he needs money for an illegal dice game, and he needs it fast. Not to mention a 14-year engagement with nightclub singer Miss Adelaide, whose patience is finally running out. Enter notorious gambler Sky Masterson, a guy who can never turn down a bet, and straight-laced missionary Sarah Brown, a doll with a heart of ice. Nathan’s wager is that Sky has to romance Sarah by taking her to Havana for dinner and in return he’ll provide a dozen ‘sinners’ for Sarah’s mission. Surely this is one bet Nathan absolutely can’t lose?
Sidney Bruhl is a Broadway playwright who has failed to have a hit in some time and is now suffering from writer’s block. When a young writer, Clifford, arrives on the doorstep of his remote home with a new script Sidney plans to kill him and pass off the play as his own. But is this play everything it first appears to be? Deathtrap is directed by Adam Penford
When Leontes, King of Sicilia, accuses his wife of being unfaithful with his childhood friend, the King of Bohemia, he sets in motion a chain of terrible events that destroys everything he holds dear. It is only the tender actions of an old man, and the redemptive power of Time, which afford any hope that all may not be completely lost. Covering 16 years, TheWinter’s Tale is a play of wonderful contrasts: winter and summer; old and young; fantasy and reality. This great late play features one of the most truly magical moments in theatre, and possibly the most famous of stage directions: “Exit pursued by a bear”.
Hetty Feather is an enchanting story about a young girl’s adventures following her escape from a Victorian Foundling Hospital. Based on a novel by Jacqueline Wilson, adapted for the stage by Emma Reeves and directed by Sally Cookson, this production uses songs, live music and circus skills to glorious effect and gained a 5 star review when we saw the show in Plymouth last year and will continue to wow audiences alike until April this year.
Craig Taylor’s compilation of small overheard conversations proves an enlightening and often humorous look at life among the island we like to call “home”. These conversations were originally published in The Guardian but now played out on the stage they will challenge and change the way you listen to those around you forever.
A new chapter in the Harry Potter cannon was always going to be a major event, but rarely has such attention been received for a West End play. Even a year before it opens and without any details, interest went into overdrive and once tickets went on sale they soon broke box office records. Little is known yet of the content of the show, save that it is spread over two parts and takes place 19 years after the final book when Harry is struggling to come to terms with the past and being the father of three school-age children.
The Lion King may still be packing them in at London’s Lyceum Theatre but Disney Theatrical Productions plan a further expansion into the West End for the much-anticipated West End premiere of Aladdin. Based on the Disney classic animated film. Aladdin will preview from 27 May before an official opening on 15 June. Starring Dean John-Wilson as Aladdin and Jade Ewen as Jasmine, Aladdin promises to be one of the biggest shows of the year.
Lyle Kessler’s Tony Award-nominated Orphans comes to Southwark Playhouse in February. Deserted in childhood by their father and the death of their mother, two orphaned brothers find themselves neglected, forgotten and living in a decrepit house in North Philadelphia. As life becomes more desperate the boys turn kidnappers and their lives change forever. Violent, humorous and heart-breaking; Orphans is a moving story about the void left by abandonment.
London now gets the chance to see the musical that premiered at Bath’s Theatre Royal in 2015. Set in London in 1937, the musical follows the tale of Laura Henderson and her eccentric plans to restore and revive the now famous Windmill Theatre. With book and direction by Terry Johnson, choreography by Andrew Wright, lyrics by Don Black and music by George Fenton and Simon Chamberlain, w returns ‘home’ to London’s West End. We reviewed the show in Bath and awarded it five stars, saying “Mrs Henderson Presents bursts with glitz and glamour”
The theatre world is gearing up to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death in 2016 with Shakespeare’s Globe offering The Complete Walk project. Over the weekend of 23 – 24 April 2016, specially created short films of each of Shakespeare’s plays will be shown on screens along the banks of the Thames from Westminster Bridge to Tower Bridge. Featuring some of the UK’s best-known actors, the films will be directed by a selection of talented young directors and each will include fresh material, interwoven with Globe on Screen titles, footage from the BFI’s Silent Shakespeare films and newly created animation.
Ireland’s premier venue for children’s entertainment presentsBees! The Musical. Did you know that there are more than 20,000 different types of bees? The bumble bee, the solitary bee, the mining bee, the spelling bee, the vitamin B… And then there’s Mel, who is a Honey Bee. She can’t find her colony. She got left behind, you see. In fact, she’s not even sure how to be a bee!.BEES! A Musicalis a funny, factual foray into the lives of pollinators and their importance for us humans.
This historically based theatre production by Ann Matthews comes to Galway’s Townhall Theatre after a successful run in Dublin’s The New Theatre. The play is centred around Constance Markievicz, depicting an event in Dublin at Easter in 1916 when a policeman was fatally shot. The dialogue is largely based on the extensive speeches made by Markievicz during this time, leaving the audience decide to issue an innocent or guilty verdict.
Following its success at 2014’s Tiger Dublin Fringe Festival and several runs across Ireland, Dublin Oldschool returns this year. Join Jason, a wannabe DJ on a chemically enhanced trip through the streets of Dublin as he stumbles from one misguided misadventure to another as he tried to reconnect and reminisce with his brother Daniel who he hasn’t seen for three years.
Paul Howard is back with one of Ireland’s most popular characters. With a general election looming in the spring of next year, the return of Paul Howard’s satirical masterpiece has never seemed more prophetic, or more timely. set in the year 2022. Ireland is in the middle of an unexpected economic boom. The country’s debts have been repaid in full, the people are once again selling houses to each other for five times what they’re worth and Bertie Ahern is set to become Taoiseach again at the age of 71.
Tracy Ryan’s critically acclaimed production of Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting returns. Now teamed up with Reality:Check Productions, they promise to present a bigger, better, never before seen version of Trainspotting. This generation-defining novel is brilliantly adapted for the stage and tells the story of heroin addict Mark Renton, as he stumbles through bad ideas and sobriety attempts with his unreliable friends Tommy, Sickboy, Begbie and Alison.