2017 has undoubtedly been the West End’s year for new plays in living memory. As the Christmas season approaches, it is worth highlighting a few of the best to tempt readers to enjoy an unforgettable night out with the family or clients.
Those on a budget should note that early in the New Year theatres struggle to sell tickets so that all but the most popular shows are likely to be discounting in January and February.
Hamilton at the Victoria Palace
Hamilton has not yet open but already, has got the kind of word-of-mouth from America which suggests it will sell out forever.
This musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda tells the story of a presidential spin doctor in the days of George Washington. It features a fantastic score, scandalous ideas about the protagonist’s private life and the kind of political shenanigans that we thought were invented by Richard Nixon.
It doesn’t open until 21 December but you may well need to book tickets for 2019 now.
Network by Lee Hall at the National Theatre
Readers may have fond memories of Peter Finch’s performance opposite Faye Dunaway in the mid-1970s movie of the same name.
One of today’s most popular avant-garde directors, Ivo van Hove has been charged with bringing it to the stage in an updated version by Billy Elliott writer Lee Hall.
To add to the glitz, the leading character is played by Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston, who is absolutely outstanding on his British stage debut as a TV anchor going mad but taking an equally mad world along with him.
The Ferryman at the Gielgud Theatre
The Ferryman written, written by Jez Butterworth who is best known for Jerusalem and directed by Sam Mendes, harks back to Northern Ireland during The Troubles 40 or so years ago. This is the blackest of black comedies, which not only offers a chilling history lesson but keeps viewers on the edges of their seats as a family drama unfolds in hilarious fashion.
Ink at the Duke of York’s Theatre
The incomparable James Graham has managed to conquer St Martin’s Lane with Ink and Labour of Love.
Rupert Murdoch has become a legend, albeit largely for the wrong reasons these days. Graham has cleverly put together a totally convincing portrait of the media ogre in his relatively youthful days 50 years ago as Murdoch and Larry Lamb turned The Sun from a dull if respectable left-wing broadsheet into the megalith that we all know today.
Labour of Love at the Noël Coward Theatre
With his love of theatre and politics, it was probably only a matter of time before James Graham turned his attention to the Labour Party.
Set in a Midlands constituency office, the play follows the fortunes of the candidate and agent as representatives of the malaise from which the party has been suffering for the last half-century and more.
Oslo by JT Rogers at the Harold Pinter Theatre
This American import that briefly stopped at the National provides a gripping three hours of entertainment, focusing on the unlikely attempts of a Norwegian couple to broker peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians in the mid-1970s.
Where Jimmy Carter and the best that the States had to offer could not bring the warring parties together, these minor functionaries use charm and luck in an effort to do the impossible.
Young Marx at the Bridge Theatre
Richard Bean is the man behind One Man, Two Guvnors and has the knack of combining high comedy with serious drama. His latest play opens the sparkling new Bridge Theatre next to London Bridge, which is worth a visit even if you aren’t going to see the play.
It is a comedy featuring Rory Kinnear as the young Karl Marx trying to make his way in Soho 150 years ago. Rather than the serious Germanic political thinker, for the most part, this portrayal portrays a randy young husband showing far too little care for his family.
Glengarry Glen Ross at the Playhouse Theatre
David Mamet’s cynical portrait of salesman at their worst still rings true three decades after it was originally written. This revival featuring Hollywood star Christian Slater should act as a reminder of why hard selling is so unpleasant, not to mention the need to uphold ethical standards at all times. As such, it could be perfect fare for accountants.
Follies at the National Theatre
Stephen Sondheim has become a legend in his own lifetime and Follies is a work that combines some wonderful music with a poignant storyline about the theatre’s loss of the kind of razzle-dazzle that wowed audiences in the middle of the last century.
It features unforgettable performances from a series of actors and actresses led by the incomparable Imelda Staunton.
Everybody’s Talking about Jamie at the Apollo, Shaftesbury Avenue
This unlikely musical hit is unusual but totally intoxicating. Everybody’s Talking about Jamie started out in Sheffield, where it got great reviews. The London transfer shows a star in the making, John McCrea in the role of a 16-year-old whose dream is to become a drag Queen.
The evening combines a fantasy element and some gritty depictions of life in the North today, with family disputes compounding the difficulties of a gay youngster trying to make his way at school, not to mention what may well be the first hijab-wearing characters in a mainstream British musical. It also has a really catchy title song.
Full length reviews of all of these shows are available (in late December for Hamilton) on www.britishtheatreguide.info