London’s theatre scene is, as usual, thoroughly overcrowded with stuff to see; there are well over a hundred new shows opening across the city during the next month. Here’s my attempt to pick out a handful of what the capital has to offer theatrically when it comes to the weird, novel, or at least a little bit different. Expect fringe hits, radical reinterpretations, and absolutely nothing interesting whatsoever at the Donmar Warehouse.

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othellomacbeth (Lyric Hammersmith)

London’s Shakespeare cup runneth over at the moment: the next six weeks will see no fewer than four separate stagings of Macbeth alone. Jude Christian (rising star director of My Mum’s a Twat and Lela & Co.) has a rather elegant solution to this: do two at once. Here she presents brutally cut versions of both Othello and Macbeth frankensteined together into one larger story. There’s certainly an eye-catching audaciousness to this, but the production’s Manchester performances also won praise for the play’s clarity and cohesion, focusing in on common themes of jealousy, power, and revenge with a radical feminist cut.

Image: Stephen Cummiskey

The Malady of Death (The Barbican)

Just over a year on from Anatomy of a Suicide, writer Alice Birch and director Katie Mitchell recombine for a stage adaptation of Marguerite Duras’s 1982 novella La Maladie de la Mort. Full disclosure: Anatomy was possibly my favourite of the plays I saw last year, Mitchell is one of my genuine idols, and I have been dying to see one of her “live cinema” pieces staged since I came across excerpts on Youtube last year. This production promises her typical surgical insight applied to pornography and its effects on the psyche, as well as an exploration of the theatrical versus the cinematic image. 

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POT (Ovalhouse)

Ambreen Razia is the latest in a growing modern trend to have her breakout monologue Diary of a Hounslow Girl optioned for a TV pilot, joining the successful ranks of Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Michaela Coel, amongst others. In the meantime, she has recombined with director and recent Old Vic 12 inductee Sophie Moniram to tell a story of children caught between a failing care system and violent gang culture. Expect authentic voices, exceptional performances, and theatre which delves beyond surface expectations and preconceptions. 

Image: Breach Theatre

It’s True, It’s True, It’s True (New Diorama)

History plays are The Big Thing at the moment (see: Hamilton, 17c, The Lehman Trilogy, etc.), but perhaps the most unique and compelling of the current roster is fringe veteran Breach Theatre’s re-staging of the 1612 trial of Agostino Tassi for the rape of Artemisia Gentileschi: exceptional Baroque painter, only fifteen at the time of the attack. The play draws compelling comparisons between our current climate of sexual abuse and that of 17th Century Italy, but also takes time to explore Gentileschi’s violent self-expression in her art during that period. The awards and plaudits have flooded in since it opened at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, including a coveted Fringe First (Breach Theatre’s second) and The Stage Award for Acting Excellence. 

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ear for eye (Royal Court)

Can I really claim that a debbie tucker green play is an “alternative” pick? I don’t really care – I’m too excited about this piece to leave it out. The Olivier- and BAFTA-winning playwright and director returns to the Royal Court with a play that promises to examine institutional racism and the too-slow pace of change with her convention-defying, rhythmical style and form. Honestly, I’d recommend just about anything from green; she’s one of the UK’s most consistently dazzling artists, with a powerful and abstract grip on language and a remarkable knack for the dramatisation of the topical and significant. 

Image: Sarah Beth

All We Ever Wanted Was Everything (Bush Theatre)

The fact that everyone is now using the phrase “gig theatre” like you should know what it means is largely due to this cult hit from Middle Child. The show injects the energy and liveness of their music into an archetypal millennial story of New Labour and Brexit Britain, of a world inherited and a world left behind, and, allegorically, a meteorite on a collision course with the earth. The gig theatre trend they have helped spawn is pretty evident from this month’s lineup: in particular, The Lost Disc at the Soho Theatre and We Can Time Travel at the BAC are also worth catching.

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I’m a Phoenix, Bitch (Battersea Arts Centre)

From the flames, the Battersea Arts Centre’s Grand Hall has been rebuilt and reopened – and what better to join their comeback season than a comeback show from live artist and self-proclaimed phoenix Bryony Kimmings. Her previous autobiographical shows have ranged from detailing her journey to track down the ‘source’ of a recently contracted STI to a piece on alcoholism written during a marathon seven-day bender. This promises to be a “powerful, dark, and joyful work” inspecting her recovery after postnatal depression and trauma. 

Image: Britney Comedy

Britney (Battersea Arts Centre)

The rest of the BAC’s October programme is pretty fantastic (and wonderfully eccentric) – but the pick of the lot has to be Britney, a show that will destroy you and rebuild you all over again. Occupying theatrical space somewhere between a sketch show and a TED talk, Charly Clive and Ellen Robertson talk you through the (true) story of what happens to two best friends when one of them gets a brain tumour. It is, at least on the surface, a comedy – but also a touching, powerful, and optimistic piece of storytelling that’s not to be missed.

You can see our 5-star review for Britney in: John, the pair’s other show, here.

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Pinter Three (The Harold Pinter Theatre)

The imaginatively named ‘Pinter Season’ rolls into its second month in a continued bid to perform all of Harold Pinter’s one act plays (and some additional material) for the tenth anniversary of his death. The programme continues well into February – perhaps deeply appropriate for a playwright often considered gruelling and wintery, but devastatingly insightful. The third collection, starring Tamsin Grieg amongst others, includes A Kind of Alaska and Landscape, both explorations of loneliness, isolation and memory – but be sure to catch one of the twelve nights that include Penelope Wilton reprising Tess, a monologue the Nobel Prize-winner wrote specifically for his close friend and long-term collaborator. 

Theatre Editor
Matt has just finished four years of mathematics at University College London, and is now taking the logical next step of pursuing a career in theatre. As well as an avid critic, he is a passionate director and playwright, with work produced at the VAULT Festival, Camden People's Theatre, and The Shaw.

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