Today is the first day of a new year, and 2018 is the year I will have to scale back my theatre going (it was getting ridiculous to be fair). So I’m going to have to be a lot more selective about what I see. Looking at the year ahead (and with the occasional backward glance) here are some of the things I’m most optimistic about for 2018, with regards to theatreland anyway (afraid I’ve no solutions for the current global mess we’re in):
- I’m finally getting to see ‘Hamilton’. It is the kick off to my birthday week, and a friend managed to secured the tickets (I was at a funeral when they went on sale and even I have standards) almost a year ago.
- On my birthday eve I’m seeing ‘The Birthday Party’. With an all star cast, this Harold Pinter revival feels like an appropriate way to say goodbye to another year of my life. Here’s hoping my birthday the next day doesn’t have similarly nightmarish and menacing qualities.
- I like to take my mother out to see a show on my actual birthday (well she did do all the hard work ** years ago). This year my choice is ‘Lady Windermere’s Fan’. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to see what Kathy Burke does with this wonderful comedy about “posh people”. The subsequent casting of Jennifer Saunders was an added bonus.
- Some of my favourite playwrights have new plays for me to enjoy in 2018. Annie Baker’s ‘John’ at the National Theatre kicks me off. After adoring ‘The Flick’ (which just to be different I saw at the Steppenwolf in Chicago) I can’t wait to see what she has created now. Next will be ‘Angry’, a new Philip Ridley at the Southwark Playhouse. I’ve long been a big Ridley fan, he has a dark imagination that connects with my own. Taking advantage of a West End transfer from the Chichester Festival Theatre, I will get to see ‘Quiz’ at the Noel Coward this year. I wish my local bus service was as regular as James Graham’s theatrical output, and the good news is the quality of his work doesn’t seem to be negatively impacted by how prolific he is. Having seen fabulous reviews for its Chichester run, I’m excited I get to catch ‘Quiz’ nearer to home. And to round it off, Barney Norris, another playwright I consistently enjoy, has a new play at the Bridge Theatre this Spring, called Nightfall. Really excited to see his work come to life in such a large, shiny new space.
- I will also be keeping a close eye on what the Young Vic are up to. I’ve already got some exciting shows booked up there: ‘Brothers Size’, ‘Winter’, ‘The Inheritance Parts 1 &2’ and Fun House. ‘The Jungle’ was one of my favourite plays of 2017. With a new artistic director building on a wonderful legacy, I can’t wait to see what they have up their sleeves for later in the year.
- The Park Theatre is a venue I’ve become very attached to since it opened over 4.5 years ago. This year they’re hosting the UK Premiere of the musical ‘Rothschild and Sons’. I’ve grown to love watching musicals in more intimate spaces, as it offers a more visceral experience than seeing them in big anonymous West End venues (FYI The Other Palace and Southwark Playhouse are great places to catch smaller scale musicals, among others). If musicals aren’t your thing, the Park Theatre have lots of other gems to offer in their 2018 line-up, well worth checking them out and paying them a visit as it is a lovely and friendly space in Finsbury. Their annual birthday gala (they turn 5 in May) is great fun, although sadly it looks like I won’t be able to attend this year.
- Having to wait until October to see ‘A very very very dark matter’ at the Bridge Theatre, but hoping it will be worth the wait. The subject matter (Hans Christian Andersen) and the casting (Jim Broadbent) were enough for me to nab two tickets the moment they went on sale. Plus the fact it is written by Martin McDonagh didn’t hurt either. Hoping that with these magical ingredients, we get a spellbinding theatrical experience.
- While it’s been on since the beginning of December, I’ve not had a chance to see ‘The Grinning Man’ at the Trafalgar Studios. A new musical by Carl Grose, I’ve been itching to see this show since it opened in Bristol. However things kept getting in the way. Really hoping I get to see this gem before it closes on 17 February (any friends stuck on what to get me for my birthday, there are offers floating around on tickets, just saying/hinting/being as subtle as a rhino).
- The acclaimed ‘Mary Stuart’ is returning to the West End. This is another show the small gods of theatre have stopped me seeing. The night I was due to see it at the Almeida the performance was cancelled, and being cash-strapped at the time, I felt I had to take the refund rather than book in for a new date (such is the life of a freelancer). This may have been destiny as a good friend has since been cast in this new run, so really hoping to finally see this show. Otherwise there is a big gap in my Robert Icke theatre bingo card (which should be a thing)
- I want to spend more time in my spirit home AKA The Soho Theatre. For the uninitiated the sheer volume of shows they have on (some nights they’ve been known to hit 9) can make it hard to know where to start. But it is worth taking the time to sign up to their mailing list (or better still support them, best membership in town if you ever need a late night drinking spot in Soho), and look through their regular updates as they do offer a multitude of riches. From comedy via cabaret and drag, to topical plays and moving one-person shows, the Soho really is the gift that keeps on giving. For the budget conscious, the Soho is a great way to put your toe in the theatrical waters for the same amount of money you might spend to see a film at the cinema. In January you have a chance to see Fleabag, if you’ve never seen the stage show version. While in April, David Hoyle’s ‘Diamond’ is well worth catching and will appeal to any interested in LGBT+ history. He is a glorious performer, this focus on his own personal experiences is sure to both move and entertain.
- Finally (because I like to end on a prime number) I’m looking forward to Dry Powder at the Hampstead Theatre. I’ve been lucky enough to see Hayley Atwell on stage before, and couldn’t resist the opportunity to see her in this new play. With a wonderful director, writer and additional cast (Aidan McCardle and Tom Riley), this show feels likes it should be a hot ticket (but having checked they still have decent availability) for those prepared to make the journey to Swiss Cottage (its only a short hop on the Jubilee line London-based people).
There are lots of big star, west end shows I haven’t mentioned. They’ll get plenty of mainstream coverage and don’t need my help (yes the irony of my list starting with Hamilton is not lost on me, but sod it, I’m excited). But outside of a few exceptions I’d rather see 3-4 fringe shows for the price of a big West End extravaganza. Even Cate Blanchett, who it appears will not be in a West End production of ‘All about Eve’ after all, hinted in a recent interview with the Stage that her return to the London stage may not be to a West End venue. While this may well be a throw away comment that goes nowhere, I can help feeling a flutter in my heart at the thought of possibly seeing her perform somewhere more intimate.
So that is a round up of what I’m currently excited about for 2018. Obviously lots of surprises and new shows ahead of us, that is the joy of living in a city with a vibrant theatre-scene. I’ll have barely scrapped the surface of all the goodies out there, so what theatre experiences are you most excited in 2018?