November has arrived and the capital has been hit by a wave of uninspired big-budget Shakespeare, horrifically pre-emptive Christmas shows, and the predictable, unstoppable, inevitable return of War Horse. Still, look a bit further than London’s largest stages and there is, as always, buckets and buckets of the weird, novel, or at least a little bit different. Expect multimedia theatre, drag queens, and the conspicuous absence of David Hare.
SUPERBLACKMAN (Battersea Arts Centre)
BAC’s Phoenix Season strides on. Last month saw Bryony Kimmings return with the brave and triumphant five-star I’m a Phoenix, Bitch; this month’s most eye-catching offering is SUPERBLACKMAN, a fusion of mythology, pop culture, and graphic novels, taking aim at topics like mental health and representation. Every Friday and Saturday it will also be accompanied by SUPERBLACKMAN LATES, a late-night AV mixtape of visuals and sounds inspired by the show. It’s part of the UP NEXT programme at the BAC and Bush Theatre, which hands over the reins to a series of visionary BAMER artists and directors.
Lands (Bush Theatre)
How many plays can boast the central involvement of a mini trampoline? Lands
Super Duper Close Up (Yard Theatre)
Multimedia is the very current thing to be doing right now, and few companies do current like Made In China. They’ve got pedigree too: the first company ever to perform at the Yard, they return with superlative praise from Lyn Gardner, Time Out, and The Times (amongst others) under their belt. Super Duper Close Up promises an exploration of the gender politics of social media through Lynchian green-screened live film and hypnotic movement and words.
The Pit and the Pendulum (Omnibus Theatre)
Another multimedia offering to make the list, this Edgar Allan Poe adaptation instead promises an exploration of sensory deprivation and isolation. Poe’s short story tells of a tortured victim of the Spanish Inquisition held in a pitch black cell; Christopher York’s adaptation aims to reproduce Poe’s creeping sensory fear with wireless headphones, binaural sound, and AV projection.
How to Catch a Krampus (The Pleasance London)
With Hallowe’en over, November is well and truly fair game for the dire spate of trite and sickly Christmas theatre. Not so at The Pleasance, where international drag collective Sink the Pink present a non-traditional subversion of the dull and tired tale – “think Sweeney Todd meets the Wicker Man (and Black Mirror with better wigs!)”. The show’s publicity boasts that first-aiders will be present at every performance, so I’m expecting great things.
It’s not the only anti-
Mistero Buffo (Arcola Theatre)
The Arcola welcomes three thrilling transfers this month, and whilst I’d also highly recommend the BBC-endorsed Chigozie Obioma adaptation The Fishermen, my eye has been caught by sell-out Edinburgh hit Mistero Buffo. I first read the script a few years ago and was immediately taken by Fo’s blasphemous, cutting, Vatican-denounced satire; the Nobel-prize winner performed the monologue himself for nearly thirty years. Rhum and Clay’s production brings a modernised, revitalised take with five-star reviews and awards aplenty.
BOYS (New Diorama)
It is often easier to tear down than to build up, easier to critique than to create, and so my greatest respect is reserved for the rare show that wholeheartedly celebrates. BOYS deconstructs and reconstructs manhood, rejoicing in our similarities as much as in our differences – for which it rightly won the Origins Outstanding Work Award at the VAULT Festival this year (as well as giving rise to one of my favourite Exeunt reviews). It’s a real vindication for The Pappy Show, a nascent actors training company that specialises in physical and visual ensemble theatre.
Still, literally everything at the New Diorama is good right now. Check out Lights Over Tesco Car Park, M.E.H – (Mass Epidemic Hysteria), and Landscape (1989) which could all have easily made this list.
A Small Place (Gate Theatre)
Jamaica Kincaid’s 1988 essay by the same name is a pretty brutal indictment of, well, quite a few things: colonialism, neo-colonial tourism, corruption, power structures in Antiguan politics and government – it is perhaps not obvious how it translates well into a theatrical format, which is in part why it might be worth seeing. The adaptation is directed by ex-Paines Plough trainee and general rising prospect Anna Himali Howard, who amongst other things worked The Beanfield, a radical historical reenactment of a Stonehenge standoff between travellers and the police that captured the attention of audiences and critics alike.
The Ex-Boyfriend Yard Sale (Camden People’s Theatre)
Call me weird, but I’m a sucker for a synopsis that mentions maths. Hayley McGee wants to turn the sentimental value of gifts from ex-boyfriends into cold hard cash and she’s enlisted the help of Melanie Phillips, theatre maker and maths educator, to find a formula for the economics of love. If that’s not a plot line you can get behind, I don’t know what to say.