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Natasha Tripney’s theatre picks: February 10

Uncle Vanya at the Almeida
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This week is absolutely packed. Following a fairly quiet January, it feels like everything has suddenly woken up and there are new shows opening all across the country – on Wednesday 10 alone there are major openings at Liverpool, Plymouth, Mold, and Kingston.

Uncle Vanya – Almeida Theatre, London

Not just a pick of the week this, but one of my picks of the year. Robert Icke returns to the Almeida, where last year he directed his triumphant Oresteia, a production which was as ambitious as it was thrilling, taut as a high-wire and stomach-knotting in intensity, one of the highlights of 2015. He’s tackling Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya with a cast including Paul Rhys in the title role ad Jessica Brown Findlay as Sonya. I won’t lie, I am so excited about this. So. Very. Excited. Five-year-old-kid-on-Christmas-morning excited.

Monster Raving Loony – Theatre Royal, Plymouth

Rehearsals for Moster Raving Loony. Photo: Manuel Harlan
Rehearsals for Moster Raving Loony. Photo: Manuel Harlan

James Graham’s intriguing new play, Monster Raving Loony, uses the antics of Screaming Lord Sutch and the work of famous comedians across the decades as a way of reflecting on the British sense of humour and speaking more widely about British identity.

Cock – Tron, Glasgow

The Tron presents the first UK staging of Mike Bartlett’s Cock since its Royal Court premiere six years ago. Andy Arnold directs the four-hander, an exploration of love and sexual identity, which like its follow-up, Bull, placed human relationships in an arena-like setting.

The Spanish Tragedy – Old Red Lion, London

In what marks something of a departure for the Islington pub theatre – usually a home of new writing – Barrel Organ dramaturg Dan Hutton is directing Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy, one of the earliest and messiest of all the revenge tragedies. There will be blood – quite a lot of it probably.

Doctor Faustus – Swan Theatre, Stratford-Upon-Avon

Doctor Faustus at the Swan Theatre. Photo: Helen Maybanks
Doctor Faustus at the Swan Theatre. Photo: Helen Maybanks

Maria Aberg – whose past work for the RSC includes 2013’s music festival As You Like It and a playful and inventive take on King John which not only cast the brilliant Pippa Nixon as the Bastard but also featured an inspired Dirty Dancing interlude – returns to the Swan Theatre to direct Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus. The always-compelling Sandy Grierson will be sharing the roles of Faustus and Mephistopheles with Oliver Ryan, the two actors alternating the parts at each performance.

Mr Incredible – Vault Festival, London

Camilla Whitehill’s play Where Do Little Birds Go? was one of the more striking pieces of new writing at  last year’s Edinburgh Fringe, a monologue set in the East End of London during the reign of the Krays and inspired by true events which, while harrowing, also contained a surprising amount of warmth and grace. Her new play, Mr Incredible, is being performed as part of the Vault Festival from February 10-14.

Hardboiled: The Fall of Sam Shadow – New Diorama, London

The Lecoq trained Rhum and Clay – the company behind the inventive 64 Squares, a piece inspired by the Stefan Zweig novella – is presenting its latest show, Hardboiled: The Fall of Sam Shadow, a homage to film noir which promises to be similarly visually rich.

Hidden Vice – Theatre N16, London

If you’re looking for alternative Valentine’s Day activities, the fringe theatre at the Beford pub in Balham – still stubbornly sticking with its original name, geography be damned – will be presenting a day of new writing – 14 short plays in all – music and food from 2pm onwards on February 14.