Molly Gearen here—newly minted Strand Mag Theatre Editor. Below you will find a carefully curated collection of what to see in London in the early autumnal months. (I’d say “fall,” but I’m trying to translate from Yank to Queen’s English—if you ever catch me live be sure to ask how well that sort of thing went when I took two Brits to see Hamilton in Chicago.) For more information about performances and tickets, please visit the individual theatre websites or box offices.
The Blues Brothers — Cabaret Theatre at
The Hippodrome Casino
Closes 26 August 2017
This is absolutely a tourist-trap musical adventure, but the movie is so good you’ll almost forgive the audacity of a live version. The music is a riot (read: not recommended if you’re opposed to having “Jailhouse Rock” stuck in your head for days on end). If you haven’t seen the movie, it comes highly recommended—especially if you want to see Carrie Fischer with a flame-thrower in hand (also, my dad’s first car got wrecked in one of the chase scenes, so it’s absolutely a claim to fame). 18+
Yerma — Young Vic
Closes 31 August 2017
This modern take on Lorca’s original play returns to the Young Vic after sweeping awards last summer. I saw the first preview in 2016, and it remains the most moving piece of theatre I’ve ever witnessed. Billie Piper plays a woman whose desperation for a child destroys her marriage, career, friendships, and eventually her life. Don’t bother trying to get a copy of the script—director Simon Stone has thus far declined to release one, because the working script was created in collaboration with all of the performers. If you only see one thing this year, let it be this play.
Hamlet — Harold Pinter Theatre
Closes 2 September 2017
Anyone else missing Sherlock? If so, check out Andrew Scott playing Hamlet this fall. Here’s hoping he brings the brooding melancholy of Moriarty to one of Shakespeare’s best plays and most complex characters. (I still think Gertrude offed Ophelia because Ophelia was pregnant, but that’s a debate for a different time.)
Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour — Duke of York’s Theatre
Closes 2 September 2017
Lee Hall, the creator of Billy Elliot, adapted this raucous musical about six Catholic school girls letting loose in Edinburgh for one night only. It saw successful seasons at the National Theatre of Scotland and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and UK Tour, and is sure to make for a fun night out. TW: flashbacks to unflattering plaid are entirely possible if you had to endure that kind of thing.
The Odyssey — The Scoop
Closes 3 September 2017
Bring a sweater (jumper?) for this three-part outdoor performance on the banks of the Thames. Tickets are free, and with room for 1,000 at each performance there’s no need to book ahead to see this masterful rendition of Homer’s epic poem.
Road — Royal Court Theatre
Closes 9 September 2017
This play is set on an unnamed road in the north of Britain in the 1980s. Inhabitants of the town tell their stories in the midst of Thatcher’s England (Thatcherites beware, her reviews are less-than-warm). Expect angst and anger set to the music of the 1980s.
The Great Gatsby — Secret Location
Closes 10 September 2017
This is more immersive-party than play—“1920s dress encouraged, dancing shoes required,” but your host is Jay Gatsby, so who really minds? Location is “TBC,” but the closest tube stop is either Leicester Square or London Bridge.
Alice’s Adventures Underground — Les Enfant Terribles Theatre Company
Closes 23 September 2017
Check out this quirky, interactive play performed in the Vaults below Waterloo station—die-hard Carrol fans may be disappointed at liberties taken with the story, but anyone who grew up daydreaming of venturing down the rabbit-hole finally has a chance (albeit in the midst of a metropolis and not an idyllic countryside).
Mosquitoes — National Theatre, Dorfman Stage
Closes 28 September 2017
This is a play about two very different sisters (Olivias Colman and Williams) thrown together again by a tragic event, and the fallout of their reunion. As with all shows at the National, student tickets go on sale for 15 pounds 45 minutes before the performance.
Queen Anne — RSC at the Royal Haymarket
Closes 30 September 2017
The play follows the life of Princess Anne in the days before she ascends the throne. Anne struggles to balance her relationship with Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, her duties to King William III, and the responsibility she owes her country. This production had a sold-out season at the Swan in Stratford-upon-Avon, and also features a rare trifecta of female director, writer, and leading actors.
Girl From the North Country — Old Vic
Closes 7 October 2017
This is a musical featuring Bob Dylan songs and set in Duluth, Minnesota (2 HOURS NORTH OF WHERE I GREW UP!!) The English majors reading this may well remember a very interesting discussion about the validity of Dylan’s Nobel Prize in Literature which he earned for song writing—what better place to revisit the notion than in a beautiful old theatre during a family drama about living in a pretty cool state?
King Lear — The Globe
Closes 14 October 2017
If you’re interested in doubling up on Shakespearian tragedies about daddy issues, check out King Lear. Standing at the Globe is an experience not for the faint of heart, but there’s something thrilling about entering into the tradition handed down from Elizabethan times that brings you that close to the action. (I saw a production of Antony and Cleopatra where Eve Best planted a kiss on a handsome man near the stage, so queue up early in case Cordelia gets frisky.)
Much Ado About Nothing — The Globe
Closes 15 October 2017
The new take on this Shakespearian comedy is set in Mexico in the year 1910. Cousins Beatrice and Hero fall in love—and experience confusion and miscommunications galore—with two dashing young soldiers, Benedick and Claudio, respectively. (Look out for fun puns on Beatitudes and Benedictions in the wonderfully ireful love of Beatrice and Benedick.)
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof — Young Vic Performing at
The Apollo Theatre
Closes October 23
See Sienna Miller and Jack O’Connell star in the Tennessee William’s masterpiece, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Set in the 1950s in the American South, this play deals with Maggie, a woman desperate for a child and sexual affirmation, and her husband Brick, a gay man reeling with grief over his lover’s recent death and frustration with the patriarchal tension that arises during their stay at his family home. The set is minimal and the language is electrifying—a true must-see.
Follies — National Theatre at The Olivier Stage
6 September 2017 - 3 January 2018
And in something of a nod to mores of Old-Broadway, (and entirely by the happy coincidence of the closing date), we’ll end this list with a classic kick-line piece. Imelda Staunton stars in this Sondheim musical about the closing of a famous old theatre and the reunion of actresses who used to work there.