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This week’s best theatre shows: our critics’ picks (January 17)

Richard Pepple and Joan Iyiola in rehearsals for The Convert at the Gate Theatre. Photo: Iona Firouzabadi
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The theatre year is still warming up, with pantomime still playing at number of venues around the country, but there are a few intriguing openings this week along with the box of delights that is the London International Mime Festival.

Natasha Tripney

Don’t miss

The Convert – Gate Theatre, London

American playwright Danai Gurira’s Eclipsed took a potentially harrowing subject – it’s set during the Liberian Civil War – and turned it into something rich, human and moving. Christopher Haydon directs the UK premiere of her new play, set in 19th-century Rhodesia. It opens on January 19.

Also worth seeing

Felix Scott and Ayesha Antoine in Dirty Great Love Story. Photo: Richard Davenport

Dirty Great Love Story – Arts Theatre, London

Richard Marsh and Katie Bonna’s ridiculously uplifting two-hander, Dirty Great Love Story, returns to London with a new cast. Felix Scott and Ayesha Antoine play the couple in this modern romcom at the Arts Theatre from January 18. Co-writers Marsh and Bonna also performed the original production, so it’ll be interesting to see if the new version can replicate its many charms.

Morale Is High (Since We Gave Up Hope) – Home, Manchester

New gig theatre from emerging company, Powder Keg. Morale Is High (Since We Gave Up Hope) was developed with help from Theatre Delicatessen in Sheffield and is presented as part of the Push Festival of new work in the North West at Manchester’s Home. It’s on from January 16-18 ahead of a run at Camden People’s Theatre.

Mr Swallow – Houdini – Soho Theatre, London

Nick Mohammed brings his alter ego Mr Swallow to Soho Theatre. This Edinburgh Fringe hit sees him attempting to tell Houdini’s life story with songs, considerable silliness – and a live recreation of the great magician’s famous underwater escape. We called it a “spellbinding feat of comic perfection” in our five-star review.

Event of the week

Top Trumps – Theatre503, London

Battersea’s Theatre503 presents Top Trumps, a series of short plays from writers including Caryl Churchill, Hassan Abdulrazzak and Roy Williams responding to Donald Trump’s election. They run from January 19-21.

Mark Shenton

Don’t miss

Chris Peluso and Zoe Doano in Death Takes a Holiday. Photo: Scott Rylander

Death Takes a Holiday – Charing Cross Theatre, London

Director Thom Southerland has scored major fringe hits at Southwark Playhouse with Maury Yeston’s Titanic and Grand Hotel, now he offers the UK premiere of Yeston’s 2011 Off-Broadway show Death Takes a Holiday, opening on January 23 at Charing Cross Theatre. On January 24, I will be hosting a post-show interview with Yeston.

Also worth seeing

Wonderland – Edinburgh Playhouse then touring

The UK premiere of Frank Wildhorn’s Broadway musical Wonderland, an adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, begins a tour at Edinburgh from January 20-28. Kerry Ellis and Rachael Wooding appear as Alice at different venues in a cast that also features Wendi Peters and Dave Willetts.

Us/Them – National Theatre, London

I missed Us/Them at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe, where it was the talk of the town, so I’m looking forward to catching it now at the National’s Dorfman, where it opens January 20. Telling the story of the 2004 Beslan school siege, it is produced by Brussels-based Bronks, one of Belgium’s leading theatres for young audiences.

In the Depths of Dead Love – Print Room, London

A new Howard Barker play invariably ignites controversy as it is, but In the Depths of Dead Love, receiving its stage premiere at the Print Room on January 19 after previously being performed as a radio play, has already sparked protests before it opens, for its all-white cast playing Chinese characters.

Thoroughly Modern Millie – New Wimbledon Theatre, London and then touring

Will the protestors be out in force for Thoroughly Modern Millie, too, in which Michelle Collins will play the comic Chinese caricature of Mrs Meers, for this new touring production of Jeanine Tesori’s Broadway musical? The tour kicks in Wimbledon from January 17.

January – The Musical Revue – Crazy Coqs at Live at Zedel, London

Julie Atherton stars in Alexander Parker and Patrick Stockbridge’s January – The Musical Revue, a new show about the worst month of the year, running January 23-25.

Last chance to see

The Red Barn – National’s Lyttelton Theatre

David Hare’s The Red Barn, based on a novel by Georges Simenon, ends its run at the National on January 17, with a cast led by Mark Strong, Hope Davis and The Night Manager’s Elizabeth Debicki. The real star though is Bunny Christie’s astonishing design.

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