With summertime coming to an end, the lure of a night out at the theatre becomes even more enticing as a way of banishing those inevitable blues. Fortunately there are a host of smash musicals, new plays and revivals to keep spirits up as we head into autumn. If you are planning a spontaneous trip to the theatre or looking for things to do in London in the next few months, this is our guide to the three must-see shows you should try.
Something old….. A Doll’s House
First performed in Copenhagen in 1879, this hard-hitting production has the title of the world’s most performed play. And it is not too difficult to see why. This timeless tale of a disintegrating marriage, finally brought to its knees by secret money worries, still has the power to shock. Don’t miss the chance in the next six weeks to take in this triumphant transfer from the Young Vic to the West End. Intense isn’t the word; especially with the truly explosive ending, which when I saw the play, left not only the actors but also the audience, emotionally drained. I was utterly gripped from beginning to end. Despite it being a “period play”, the clever, rotating circular house set, gave it a lot less of a stagy, historical feel and really drew you into the heart of a household, which at first seems happy and carefree but is slowly revealed , layer by layer, to be anything but. It is easy to see why leading lady, Hattie Morahan, swept up a host of stage acting awards – her flighty and fragile performance as “doll-like” Nora is a tour-de-force. This is must-see theatre.
- Playwright / Author: Henrik Ibsen
- Director: Carrie Cracknell
- Cast: Hattie Morahan (Nora Helmer), Dominic Rowan (Torvald Helmer)
- Theatre: Duke of York’s Theatre, St Martin’s Lane, London
- Getting there: Nearest tube – Leicester Square
- Book tickets: Click here to find out the latest deals
From the world’s oldest play to a new, innovative drama looking at the political and cultural relationship between superpowers, China and America. The play begins in 1999 in Tiananmen Square, when American photojournalist Joe captures the iconic photograph of a man facing up to the oncoming tanks armed only with two shopping bags and a despairing wave. The spontaneous picture, which cements Joe’s career, sees him launch, twenty years later, a quest to find the unknown hero “tank man” and find out what became of him. Criss-crossing the decades at speed, this utterly-absorbing play, sees idealistic Joe make decisions that puts his career, friends and lovers in jeopardy as he fights to reveal the truth of that fateful day. The subject matter may seem a little heavy, but the play manages to inject a heavy dose of humour, along with the pathos and politics. The play’s brilliance is in leaving you questioning your preconceptions about these two countries and especially what happened that day in Tiananmen Square. Boasting a stunning, revolving set, which moves seamlessly across the continents and decades, it is too hard to pick out a star turn from the incredible cast; they are all top drawer. It is not often you leave an almost three-hour-long play, desperate to immediately sit through it all over again. Only running until the end of October, this is a play that has had the critics raving and the audience agreeing with all the plaudits heaped upon it.
- Playwright / Author: Lucy Kirkwood
- Director: Lyndsey Turner
- Cast: Stephen Campbell Moore (Joe), Zhang Lin (Benedict Wong)
- Theatre: The Harold Pinter Theatre, Panton Street, London
- Getting there: Nearest tube -Piccadilly Circus or Leicester Square
- Book tickets: Latest ticket offers for Chimerica
Something borrowed…Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
The final show is a literally mind-blowing, musical re-imagining of Roald Dahl’s classic dark children’s tale. While borrowing heavily from both the book and film, so fans of both will be left happy; thanks to a stunning set, this is a unique theatrical experience which will thrill the kids and unlock the inner child within even the most cynical adult. The show follows Charlie Bucket’s magical journey, along with four other “golden ticket” winners, behind the scenes of Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, where edible delights await at every turn. But there is a price to pay for those children who stray off course and discover life is not always so sweet. The cast, led by a weirdly, wonderful comic performance by Douglas Hodge as Willy Wonka, hit all the right-notes and there are a host of genuinely laugh-out loud moments. To call the stagecraft “ingenious”; seems almost to underplay the incredible imagination that has gone into recreating the special effects. From the Oompa Loompas, to the chocolate waterfall which tempts Augustus Gloop to Mike Teevee’s shrinking and Violet Beauregarde’s exploding, it is almost hard to believe you are in a theatre and not a 3D cinema. And as for the great glass elevator, well just wait and see. Just “wow”. If you want a musical experience to blow your socks off and still leave you smiling the next day every time you think about it; you would be hard-pressed to find a better show.
- Playwright / Author: Adapted by David Grieg, from Roald Dahl’s book, with music and lyrics by Scott Wittman and Mark Shairman
- Director: Sam Mendes
- Cast: Douglas Hodge (Willy Wonka)
- Theatre: Theatre Royal Drury Lane, Catherine Street, London
- Getting there: Nearest tube – Charing Cross or Covent Garden
- Book tickets: To see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – visit here
These are just three of the shows to tempt you this autumn, so to discover the full range of theatre deals, just click on this link.