Perhaps the greatest thing about London’s West End theatre scene is its diversity. After all, for every big budget Lion King-type musical there’s an intelligent, thought-provoking and moving play like, say, Proof that takes audiences by storm; for every controversial, tune-filled blockbuster like The Book of Mormon or Jerry Springer: The Opera there’s an equally elegant, inspiring and satisfying Shakespearean production like last year’s take on Hamlet with Benedict Cumber batch. Many fans of the London stage then, from wherever they hail in the world, visit the UK capital especially to catch the latest, most exciting and never-seen-before musicals or plays that grace its stages. And here are eight to watch out for this summer…
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
(Palace Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue W1D 5AY; opens July 30th)
To kick-off this list then, here it is – the theatre event of not just the summer, but surely the entire year. J K Rowling’s follow-up to her seven Harry Potter novels (and their eight big-screen adaptations) is a two-part stage play that she’s co-written. Anticipation is stratospheric among Potterheads, naturally, but casual fans are expecting a magical experience too. Admittedly (and unsurprisingly) it’s already ‘officially’ sold out, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to pick up returned tickets on the day of performances – do check; you might get lucky!
(Prince Edward Theatre, 28 Old Compton Street W1D 4HS; June 27th 2016-February 11th 2017)
Already a super-smash on Broadway (as you might expect), the London transfer of Disney’s big, brash, vibrantly colourful stage musical adaptation of its 1992 box-office blockbuster promises to be just as big a rocket-fuelled magic-carpet-ride of a success over here. Not least because it boasts acclaimed Broadway cast lead Trevor Dion Nicholas filling the late, great Robin Williams’ lamp as the irrepressible Genie.
(Trafalgar Studios, 14 Whitehall SW1A 2DY; June 27th-August 13th)
American actor Jesse Eisenberg has built a Hollywood career out of playing both unlikeable and loveable, smart millennials on the big screen, but he writes and stars in plays about them too. His latest – his third – comes to Trafalgar Studios this summer following a successful off-Broadway run. And, like so many of the West End’s major venues, Trafalgar Studios is very near many of the area’s best and most comfortable hotels, which many a theatregoer’s likely to choose as their place-of-stay for a short break, such as the Piccadilly London West End hotel.
(Donmar Warehouse, 41 Earlham Street WC2H 9LX; June 27th- August 20th)
Originally written and first performed in the 1970s, Brian Friel’s play that follows the fortunes of a travelling faith healer has been revived many times on both sides of the Atlantic; surely a sign of the quality of the material here and making it deserving of a place in this best of London theatre summer 2016. Note that it’s also directed by a real hot young thing, the Olivier Award-winning Lyndsey Turner, whose most recent project was helming last year’s Barbican production of Hamlet – the one that starred Benedict Cumberbatch as the Danish prince.
(Almeida Theatre, Almeida Street N1 1TA; June 27th-August 6th)
The aforementioned Benedict Cumberbatch always seems to be busy, having appeared most recently on British TV screens as Shakespeare’s twisted, tyrannical take on England’s King Richard III, but so too is the equally talented and greatly admired Brit thesp Ralph Fiennes, whose latest treading of the boards see him take up where Cumberbatch left off by starring as the final Plantagenet monarch in this Islington venue’s version of the Bard’s bloodthirsty history play.
(Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, Inner Circle NW1 4NU; June 27th-July 9th)
Underlining the cosmopolitan, forward-looking nature of the UK capital, this summer’s Shakespeare offering at the wonderfully unique open air theatre – to be found in the heart of the beautiful Regent’s Park – is a version of the Bard’s much adored and shamelessly patriotic Henry V that features actress Michelle Terry in the lead as the warring young king. Once more unto the breach then … with a difference.
(Hampstead Theatre, Eton Avenue NW3 3EU; June 27th-July 16th)
Like Trafalgar Studios and Chelsea’s legendary Royal Court, this venue’s established a name for itself for showcasing new theatrical writing talent by launching exciting new plays. Recently, it hosted Mike Bartlett’s adaption of the film Chariots of Fire and now it welcomes the ‘King Charles III’ playwright’s new effort to its stage, which exposes the far-reaching consequences of challenging the digital age’s controlling forces; inspired in no little part by the actions of whistle-blower extraordinaire Edward Snowden.
The Deep Blue Sea
(National Theatre, Upper Ground SE1 9PX; June 27th-August 17th)
The master playwright when it came to dramatising post-war British middle-class ennui and angst, Terence Rattigan’s enjoyed a somewhat unexpected renaissance in the West End in recent years and this latest offering promises to be a real highlight. But why? After all, isn’t this the play that was adapted as a relatively high-profile, recent film starring Mrs Daniel Craig (Rachel Weisz)? Well, yes, but not only does this latest stage version feature the acclaimed Mrs Damien Lewis (Helen McCrory) on lead duties, it’s also directed by Carrie Cracknell who’s developed a name for herself as something of a left-field feminist figure in the theatre world. So the results could prove to be intriguing; even electric.