Here comes the sun… and an eclectic spread of work covering giant ants, Luddites and Nico. Natasha Tripney and Tim Bano present their choices
Natasha is The Stage’s reviews editor and joint lead critic.
Michael Longhurst’s inaugural production as artistic director of the Donmar Warehouse is a revival of David Greig’s 1994 play, set in a small border town in Europe. Inspired by, though not specifically about, the conflict in the Balkans, it feels like a pointed and timely choice – a version was also staged earlier this year at Leeds Playhouse. At the Donmar, Longhurst will direct a cast including Shane Zaza, Natalia Tena and Ron Cook. It opens on June 27.
From The Salon Project to Paul Bright’s Confessions of a Justified Sinner, Stewart Laing is, hands down, one of Scotland’s most inventive and exciting theatre artists. He reunites with playwright Pamela Carter for a new piece for the National Theatre of Scotland, in part inspired by the cult 1950s film of the same name and, intriguingly, featuring 150,000 ants. It’s at Glasgow’s Tramway from June 27-July 6.
Prolific playwright Jack Thorne and director John Tiffany – aka the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child creative dream team – reunite for a new play set in one the most pivotal years in recent political history: 1997. The impressive cast includes Lesley Sharp, David Morrissey, Zoe Boyle, Kate O’Flynn, Laurie Davidson and Sam Swainsbury. It opens on the Royal Court’s main stage on July 3.
From Hamlet to Happy Days via Shelley’s Masque of Anarchy, Maxine Peake and Sarah Frankcom’s creative relationship has been an incredibly rich one. Peake is always commanding, always compelling. Their latest collaboration for the Manchester International Festival is inspired by the life and art of 1960s icon Nico, in particular, her 1968 album The Marble Index. The whole MIF programme this year looks great, but this is the one I’m most excited about. It opens in Manchester’s Stoller Hall on July 12.
Kandinsky is one of the most inventive companies around, adept at bringing idea-rich stories to life, from Still Ill, exploring life with Functional Neurological Disorder, to Dinomania, a layered piece about history, science and legacy. The company’s work is layered, intelligent, and thought-provoking. Each show has seen them grow. Created by James Yeatman and Lauren Mooney, this new play, for the Royal Exchange’s main stage, relocates the Luddites to the 21st century. It opens on July 29.
Tim is joint lead critic for The Stage. He has also written for the Guardian and Time Out
There’s a constant tussle between theatre and film when it comes to adapting novels. Theatre doesn’t always win. But here’s hoping Sheffield Theatres can pull off a War Horse for this adaptation of the Booker Prize-winning, multimillion-copy-selling novel Life of Pi. It’s adapted by Lolita Chakrabarti, whose play Red Velvet has been a great success, and features puppetry by Finn Caldwell, one of the original War Horse puppeteers. It should be a great summer spectacle – particularly if they can pull off the Bengal tiger Richard Parker. Runs from July 3.
One of the most revelatory performances I’ve seen in the last couple of years was Amara Okereke playing Cosette in Les Misérables. Not only was it her first theatre performance – she won The Stage Debut Award for it – but she managed to turn a boring part into something completely new. Far from being mopey and bland like so many other interpretations, her Cosette was brimful of joy and life – as though she couldn’t wait to burst out of those metal gates. Anyway, I’ve been excited to see what she’d get up to next, and it’s going to be playing Laurey in Chichester Festival Theatre’s production of Oklahoma! Jeremy Sams is directing, Josie Lawrence is Aunt Eller. A summer treat. The run begins on July 15.
Despite the show’s very public casting woes there’s a lot going for this musical. It’s adapted from Alice Walker’s epistolary novel and follows Celie, an African-American woman in the deep south of the US from 1909 and into the decades that follow. They’ve now recast the role of Celie with the wonderful T’Shan Williams (she was in Caroline, Or Change last year as well as the underrated Heathers the Musical), and the excellent Tinuke Craig is directing. It’s also produced by Leicester’s Curve (along with Birmingham Hippodrome), which knows its way around a musical. The show runs at Curve from July 3 and at Birmingham Hippodrome from July 16.
It’s taken a while for Jason Robert Brown’s musical to make it over here. The show, based on the popular romantic novella, opened on Broadway in 2014 but didn’t do very well, despite the not-inconsiderable star power of cast members Steven Pasquale and Kelli O’Hara, as well as some soaring moments in Robert Brown’s score. Maybe it will work better over here in the smaller, more malleable Menier Chocolate Factory. Also, Trevor Nunn is directing; his sad and stately Fiddler on the Roof is doing good business in the West End at the moment, and it goes without saying that he has form with musicals. Add Jenna Russell to the mix and it could be amazing. Runs from July 23.
Just getting to see a new production of Evita is exciting enough, whoever is behind it, since all we’ve had for the past 10 years or so is the now-stale touring version. But factor in Jamie Lloyd as director and the gorgeous Open Air Theatre setting and this could be something really special. Regent’s Park managed to reinvent Jesus Christ Superstar back in 2015 (that production is also playing over the summer at the Barbican), so maybe it will do the same with Evita. Runs from August 8.