Features

Jason Allen 31/01/24


The Best London Theatre Right Now

The Best London Theatre | Amazing Shows to Book and See in February 2024

Ah, all the world’s a stage.

Particularly the big flat bits in front of the seating areas at London’s many theatres. Those parts are particularly stage-like.

And every evening they’re filled with performers ready to enthral, entertain, inspire, and make you laugh, cry, and think. And should you fancy doing any of those things in the near future, we’ve got just the thing to help you navigate yourself to the right place: a freshly updated theatre guide that collates reviews from all the top critics, tells you the best spots for dinner before the show, has a good place for some drinks afterwards, and includes literally dozens of fantastic shows


Jump Straight To: MUSICALS | DRAMACOMEDY | IMMERSIVE


UPCOMING THEATRE SHOWS TO BOOK NOW

So, we haven’t seen these yet. Obviously. But here are the shows we’re willing to bet good (ticket) money on now…

  • The fantastically weird Figs in Wigs are back at the Battersea Arts Centre next month with a new apocalyptic show fusing dance, comedy, theatre and art. Big Finish, Battersea Arts Centre, 14th – 27th March
  • The team behind Whodunnit [Unrehearsed] have found a way to put on a show without the hassle of doing rehearsals for it, and made it into a selling point. Laziness or genius? Maybe it’s both. But either way it looks amazing, and will probably sell out, 27th March – 4th May 2024.
  • Brian Cox takes a crack at the role of a machiavellian patriarch in Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Eugene O’Neill’s three-hour epic that’s commonly regarded as one of the greatest plays of all time. Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Wyndham’s, 19th March – 8th June
  • Ian McKellen has never played Falstaff, so he’s setting out to rectify that at 84. Catch him in Robert Icke’s upcoming mash-up of Shakespeare’s Henry IV parts 1 and 2. The Player Kings, Noël Coward Theatre, 1st April – 22nd June
  • If you don’t mind waiting till September, Waiting For Godot‘s worth marking in your diary. Ben Whishaw and Lucian Msamati are taking on Beckett’s existential two-hander under the Olivier Award-winning directorial steer of James Macdonald. Tickets go on sale this month, and you can sign up for alerts now. Waiting For Godot, Haymarket, September

THE BEST MUSICALS IN LONDON

Standing at the Sky’s Edge | Gillian Lynne Theatre

After bagging the Best New Musical award at the Oliviers last year, Standing At The Sky’s Edge is back. It’s an irrepressible, irresistible love letter to Sheffield – and it’s the real deal. It’s a co-production with Sheffield Theatres, with the book by playwright Chris Bush and music &s lyrics by the brilliant Richard Hawley (both, incidentally, authentic Sheffielders). It’s a generation-spanning exploration of lives of people on Sheffield’s Park Hill estate, set across three timelines – a grand, sweeping narrative that tackles hopes, dreams, and gentrification.

Dinner before: Stand at the bar’s edge at Barrafina Drury Lane.
Drinks after: Have a gentrified martini at Baudry Greene.
Details: Standing at the Sky’s Edge is going to be playing at the Gillian Lynne Theatre until 3rd August 2024. Tickets start at £20 and you can get them right here.

Opening Night | Gielgud Theatre

Opening night is a stage adaptation of the 1977 John Cassavetes film of the same name (which also inspired The Second Woman, the extraordinary endurance show performed by Ruth Wilson earlier this year). It follows the psychological deterioration of Myrtle, the leading actress in an upcoming Broadway show. And, in this case, the woman faithfully recreating that breakdown is none other than Sheridan Smith. Aside from leading lady Sheridan (who won an Olivier for her starring role in the Legally Blonde musical), there are some big names attached to Opening Night – in the directing chair is Tony Award-possessor Ivo van Hove, while the music is being taken care of by none other than Rufus Wainwright. And in case you don’t know him, he’s one of those people who has a Wikipedia page solely dedicated to the list of awards he’s won.

Dinner before: Get treated like a star at The Palomar
Drinks after: Find the hidden door to The Experimental Cocktail Club
Details: Opening Night will run at the Gielgud Theatre from 6th March to 27th July 2024. Tickets start at £20 and are on sale now, right HERE.

Hadestown | Lyric Theatre

Hadestown

They say the devil has all the best tunes – well now he’s also got a Tony and Grammy-winning megahit Broadway musical, making its long-awaited transfer to the West End.

Multi-talented singer-songwriter Anaïs Mitchell has written the lyrics, book and the brassy, brilliant soundtrack to this epic underworld tale steeped in Greek mythology, which tracks the intertwining love stories of Orpheus and Eurydice, and Persephone and her husband King Hades. Rolling into town on the back of rapturous critical notices, and with an enormous buzz ahead of its opening night, commit whatever unforgivable sins are necessary to secure a ticket – it really is a hell of a show.

Dinner before:First rate dumplings at Leong’s Legend, one of the best restaurants in Chinatown
Drinks after: Head to the underground candlelit bar, Below Stone’s Nest
Details: Hadestown is playing at the Lyric Theatre (closest tube station Piccadilly Circus) from 10th February until 22nd December 2024. Tickets cost from £20-125, and can be purchased HERE.

Cruel Intentions (the ’90s musical) | The Other Palace

cruel intentions the musical

That’s right – it’s the live adaptation of the movie that launched a thousand nascent teenage sexual awakenings, coupled with a soundtrack of absolute 90s bangers. Look, if you want highbrow entertainment, read Les Liaisons Dangereuses – the book that inspired it all. But, if you want to listen to No Scrubs, Genie in a Bottle and Bittersweet Symphony whilst watching manipulative American high school students seduce one another – well, you’ve come to the right place…

Dinner before: All-day antipodean dining at Timmy Green
Drinks after: Head to the part-gallery, part-bar, amie wine studio
London Theatre Critics say: The Times 4*, Evening Standard 4*
Details: ‘Cruel Intentions’ is playing at The Other Palace (nearest tube station Victoria) until 19th May 2024. Tickets are from £25.50 and are available HERE.

The Little Big Things | @sohoplace

Image: Pamela Raith

Following a diving accident, avid sportsman Henry Fraser became a tetraplegic. This new musical, based on Fraser’s acclaimed memoirs, tells the story of how he responded to this life-altering incident with unerring positivity. Directed by Luke Sheppard (My Son’s A Queer) with original music by talented composer and lyricist Nick Butcher, it’s a poignant, uplifting, immensely moving piece. Treat yourself to a pre-show drink at Nica’s Bar (it remains a Jedi-level theatre producer power move to name a bar after yourself) and a superb night out – @sohoplace may well have a little big hit on its hands.

Dinner before: Elegant British dining at Sussex
Drinks after: Fine wine at the infamous Noble Rot Soho
London Theatre Critics say:
WhatsOnStage 5*; The Evening Standard 4*; The Guardian 4*
DetailsThe Little Big Things runs at @sohoplace (closest tube stations Tottenham Court Road and Leicester Square) until 2nd March 2024. Tickets cost from £30, and can be booked HERE.

SIX | Vaudeville Theatre London

Six The Musical

Divorced, beheaded, live in concert: it’s the story of Henry VIIIth’s six wives, performed by the queens themselves in the form of a punk girl-band. To say it’s a phenomenon would be to undersell it: it started out as an Edinburgh Fringe show, and has now scored runs in the West End, on Broadway and down in Oz. Expect neon ruffs; Greensleeves-techno mash ups and unexpectedly poignant moments interspersed with its high-energy score.

Dinner before: Cult dumplings at Din Tai Fung
Drinks after: Subterranean cocktails at Eve
London Theatre Critics say: Evening Standard 5*; The Telegraph 5*; The Times 4*
Details: Six is booking at the Vaudeville Theatre (closest tube station Charing Cross) until 3rd November 2024. Tickets cost from £19.50-67.50, and can be purchased HERE.
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Moulin Rouge! | Piccadilly Theatre

Moulin Rouge The Musical

Why should you go see this live musical production of Moulin Rouge? Because you can can can! This dazzling show has transferred from Broadway to London, with an impressive 14 Tony nominations under its belt, a crack team of award-winning producers and creatives (including Baz himself), and an incredible soundtrack of 71 songs

Dinner before: Soho’s stellar new opening The Devonshire, conveniently across the road
Drinks after: 
Subterranean cocktails at SOMA
London Theatre Critics say: 
The Independent 4*; The Telegraph 4*
Details: 
Moulin Rouge! runs at the Piccadilly Theatre (closest tube station Piccadilly Circus) until 22nd June 2024. Tickets cost £29.50 – £225, and can be booked HERE.

Matilda The Musical | Cambridge Theatre

The Best London Theatre Right Now: Matilda - The Best London Theatre Right Now

A show in which a genius-level child with telekinetic powers somehow starts off as an underdog, this long-running musical take on the classic Roald Dahl tale – produced by theatre nobility the RSC – has had critics positively raving. And with good reason too – with lyrics by the inimitable Tim Minchin, ridiculously catchy tunes and a genuinely exceptional cast of kids, there’s not a single hole in this colourful patchwork of song and dance.

Dinner before: Grab a quick bite at KERB Seven Dials
Drinks after: Slip into La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels
London Theatre Critics say: The Telegraph 5*; The Guardian 5*; The Evening Standard 5*; The Independent 5*
Details: Matilda The Musical is booking at the Cambridge Theatre (closest tube station Covent Garden) until 25th May 2025, with tickets running between £20 and £125. You can book them right HERE.

Guys & Dolls | Bridge Theatre

guys and dolls - the best london theatre playing right now

Image: Manuel Harlan

Down at the Bridge Theatre, Nicholas Hytner’s going all-in on giving you a quality night at the theatre. It’s Guys & Dolls, baby, and it’s here to banish your late-winter blues. The set and costumes come from multi award-winning Bunny Christie (The Curious Incident Of the Dog in the Night Time), and they look as lush, glossy and indulgent as you’d hope. The always-compelling Danny Mays leads the cast, playing good old reliable Nathan (Nathan, Nathan, Nathan) Detroit. And the songs? Why, it’s hit after toe-atapping hit, courtesy of composer and lyricist Frank Loesser – we’re talking Luck Be a Lady, we’re talking Sit Down You’re Rockin’ The Boat, and we’re certainly talking the titular Guys & Dolls. It’s a fast-talkin’, crap-shootin’ helluva night out. With Anything Goes no longer playing at the Barbican, the position of ‘London’s go-to feel good musical’ is vacant, but not for long if Hytner and co have anything to do with it.

Dinner before: Meat, fish, fire at The Coal Shed
Drinks after:
Grab a pint on the Bermondsey Beer Mile
London Theatre Critics say:
Evening Standard 5*, The Independent 4*, The Guardian 4*
Details:
Guys & Dolls is booking at the Bridge Theatre (closest tube stations London Bridge and Tower Hill) until 31st August 2024. Tickets cost from £39.50 – £150 and you can book HERE.

Operation Mincemeat | Fortune Theatre

operation mincemeat

After multiple sell-out runs at London’s fringe theatres, Operation Mincemeat, the debut musical by creative quartet SpitLip, has come to the West End – and been extended eight times. What is it? It’s the story of the (genuine) Second World War plan to confound the Nazis by planting false intel on a corpse, and allowing the Germans to discover it. How is it told? In a riotous, rapid-fire barrage of role-swapping physicality.

‘Operation take the West End by storm’ has been a resounding success. Go see it, that’s an order.

Dinner before: Get mincemeat made into one of London’s best burgers at Joe Allen
Drinks after:
A thoroughly old fashioned drinking den, Mr Fogg’s Society of Exploration
London Theatre Critics say: They’ve picked up 65 5* reviews so far…
Details:
Operation Mincemeat! is booking at the Fortune Theatre (closest tube stations Covent Garden and Temple) until 21st September 2024. Tickets cost from £35 – £89.50 and you can book HERE, or enter the £25 ticket lottery HERE.

Les Misérables | Sondheim Theatre

The Best London Theatre Right Now: Les Miserables - The Best London Theatre Right Now

Do you hear the people sing? Well, you will if you head to Les Mis, an iconic musical based on Victor Hugo’s gloomy revolutionary novel that’s now in its 4th decade. It closed for the first time in 34 years while the theatre got some upgrades (and, er, other global events interfered) – but now it’s back, flying the flag once more with a critically acclaimed new production.

Dinner before: Enjoy classic brasserie fare at Dean Street Townhouse
Drinks after: A drink at The French House seems strangely appropriate
London Theatre Critics say: The Guardian 5*; The Telegraph 5*; Evening Standard 4*
DetailsLes Misérables runs at the Sondheim Theatre (closest tube station Piccadilly Circus), with tickets from £10-£165. You can book up until 28th September 2024 right HERE.

Hamilton | Victoria Palace Theatre, London

Hamilton

Hamilton might have won 11 Tony Awards for its Broadway run, but the London cast have proved they were ready to Rise Up to the challenge.

Following the story of founding father Alexander Hamilton, it’s a pioneering musical that raps its way through history, and within months of playing here, earned a record-breaking 13 Olivier nominations for its troubles…

Dinner before: Glitzy brasserie fare at The Ivy Victoria
Drinks after: Cocktails – and then inevitably a round of darts – at Flight Club
London Theatre Critics say: The Guardian 5*; The Telegraph 5*; The Independent 5*; The Stage 5*; The Evening Standard 5*
Details: Tickets are on sale for Hamilton at the Victoria Palace Theatre (closest tube station Victoria) until 28th September 2024. They cost from £47.75-£238, and can be purchased HERE.

Cabaret | The Kit Kat Club (Playhouse Theatre)

cabaret best shows in london now

Marc Brenner

Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome to this phenomenal new production of cabaret, directed by the sensationally talented Rebecca Frecknall. For this revival of the classic musical & film, the Playhouse Theatre has been transformed into a giant version of the Kit Kat Club, where (the lucky few, at least) can sip cocktails and dine at intimate cabaret tables while the show unfolds. And even if you missed the acclaimed performances by Jessie Buckley and Eddie Redmayne in the leading roles, the current cast – starring the Scissor Sisters’ Jake Shears as the Emcee and Rebecca Lucy Taylor (a.k.a. Self Esteem) as Sally Bowles – are just as strong. Plus, you’ll see some of the most beautiful costume design that’s hit London stages in the past few years…

Dinner before: Go fancy at Kerridge’s Bar & Grill
Drinks after: 
Superlative cocktails at Velvet Bar
London Theatre Critics say: 
Evening Standard 5*; The Independent 5*; The Telegraph 5*
Details: 
Cabaret is booking at the Playhouse Theatre (closest tube station Embankment) until 1st February 2025. Tickets cost £25 – £325, and you can book HERE.

Back To The Future: The Musical | Adelphi Theatre

Back to the future the musical

Image: Sean Ebsworth-Barnes

Future you visited us, and said it was imperative we tell you about this new musical. And to be fair, if you like cult movies and 80s hits, you’re probably going to enjoy it.

Dinner before: Steak at 1985 prices at Flat Iron Covent Garden
Drinks after: Hand-picked wines at Lady of the Grapes
London Theatre Critics say: The Metro 5*; The Telegraph 5*;  Michael J. Fox: “A truly great show.”
Details: Back To The Future: The Musical is booking at the Adelphi Theatre (closest tube station Charing Cross) until 6th April 2025. Tickets cost £19.55 – £224.50, and can be booked HERE.

Choir of Man | Arts Theatre

The Best London Theatre Right Now: choir of man

Grab a (free!) pint and strap in for an evening of resolutely non-toxic masculinity down at the Arts Theatre – the beardy, burly blokes of the Choir of Man are here to sing their hearts out in their onstage pub, whilst touching on themes of friendship, gentrification and mental health. Plot? What plot! You’re here for the vocal performances (uniformly superb) and the musical arrangements (likewise, courtesy of Musical Supervisor Jack Blume). The production, which has toured to Edinburgh and back, is as slick as can be, and the covers – including Somebody to Love, and Sia’s Chandelier, are absolute bangers. If music be the food of love, have another pint and enjoy 90 minutes of foot-stomping fun.

Dinner before: Truly legendary dumplings at Leong’s Legend
Drinks after: World’s 100 Best Bars entry, Side Hustle at NoMad
Details: Tickets are on sale for Choir of Man at the Arts Theatre (closest tube station Leicester Square) until 2nd June 2024. They cost from £22.50-£67.50, and can be purchased HERE.

 


THE BEST DRAMA ON NOW


Till the Stars Come Down | National Theatre

Till The Stars Come Down is, ostensibly, about three sisters from the East Midlands preparing for a wedding. But that’s not what it’s about. It’s a veritable banquet of theme and character delivered with biting wit and snappy, heartfelt dialogue – it’s about poverty, immigration, destiny, and more. It’s been working its way up the ranks of the theatre world, and the reviews its collected along the way have been absolutely gushing. Catch it while you can.

Dinner before: Get better-than-wedding food at Lasdun
Drinks after: Pretend it’s an open bar at Forza Wine
Details: Till the Stars Come Down is playing at the National Theatre until March 16th. Tickets start at just a tenner (for the Friday rush) and you can get them right here.

Harry Clarke | Ambassadors Theatre

If you’re going to do a one-man show, then you need to make sure that the man is a very charismatic one. And Billy Crudup could probably make the phonebook sound riveting. So it’s all the better that he’s not reading it here – he’s playing 19 (!) different characters in this multi-layered show about an American con-man pretending to be a Londoner. It’s an absolute corker of a show, and has transferred from sell-out runs in LA and NY to come here for a spell.

Dinner before: Enter the world of Louie
Drinks after: Go underground to Below Stone Nest
Details: Harry Clarke is playing at the Ambassadors Theatre from 9th March until 11th of May. Tickets start at £25 and are available right here.

The Human Body | Donmar Warehouse

Put on your topical hats everyone, The Human Body is about the founding of the NHS back in 1948. It comes to us from multi-award-winning writer Lucy Kirkwood, who has decided to use that charged political background to create a love story, casting the attractive combo of Jack Davenport and Keeley Hawes to play it out for her. And it looks like she’s succeeded.

Dinner before: Fall in love with the food at The Barbary
Drinks after: Cure whatever ails you at Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels
Details: The Human Body is playing at the Donmar Warehouse until 13th April 2024. Tickets start from £15 and are available right here.

Mirror | Trafalgar Theatre

Following a star-showered, sold-out run at the Almeida, Mirror has now been shipped off to the West End. Sam Holcroft’s masterfully deceptive script wraps up plays within plays within fake weddings within a totalitarian regime, where the boundaries between truth and narrative are constantly switched, culminating in one hell of a twist. To say much more would spoil the intrigue – or take at least another 500 words to even begin to explain – but with a dynamite cast led by Jonny Lee Miller (Trainspotting) and Tanya Reynolds (Sex Education), Mirrors limited West End run looks set to be a smash.

Dinner before: See how the Fallow team do chicken at FOWL
Drinks after: Exceptional cocktails at Velvet
London Theatre Critics say: Financial Times 5*; The Guardian 4*; The Stage 4*
DetailsMirror runs at the Trafalgar Theatre (nearest tube station Charing Cross) until 20th April. Tickets start at £20, and are available HERE.

The Merchant of Venice 1936 | Criterion Theatre

the-merchant-of-venice

Image: Marc Brenner

East London, 1936. The RSC’s touring production of The Merchant of Venice, which comes to The Criterion this February, reframes the narrative surrounding Shylock, one of Shakespeare’s most contentious and troubling characters. The Shylock of director Brigid Lamour’s production is more than a quasi-cartoonish villainous moneylender, but rather a resilient single mother, played by Tracy-Ann Oberman (Eastenders, Friday Night Dinner). The audacious recontextualising imbues Shylock and the merchant Antonio’s infamous ‘pound of flesh’ deal with very different resonances – and tells a tale not of an irredeemable villain, but of a hardworking parent desperate to protect her daughter’s future. A challenging, depressingly relevant, production.

Dinner before: A suitably regal feast at J. Sheekey
Drinks after: Gin cocktails and singalongs at Mr. Fogg’s Tavern
Details: The Merchant of Venice 1936 is running from 15th February to 23rd March 2024. Tickets cost from £19.25 – £96.25 and are available HERE.

For Black Boys… | The Garrick Theatre

best london theatre right now - For The Black Boys...

Image: Ali Wright

Six young Black men meet for group therapy. So begins a joyous, impassioned, journey through worlds of music, dance, imagination, and personal confession – exploring and unpacking issues of fatherhood, abuse, sexual insecurities, depression, and suicidal ideation. Calais Cameron’s smash-hit exploration of Black male identity began life at the New Diorama Theatre, enjoyed a sold-out run at the Royal Court, transferred to the Apollo in 2023, and is now coming to the Garrick Theatre on Charing Cross Road for an encore West End run.

Dinner before: First rate tapas at Barrafina
Drinks after: Care for a pint of Guinness? Head to The Devonshire
London Theatre Critics say: The Guardian 5*; London Theatre 4*; Evening Standard 4*
Details: For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When The Hue Gets Too heavy runs at the Garrick Theatre (closest tube station Leicester Square) from 29th February until 4th May 2024. Tickets cost £15-69.50, and can be booked HERE.

Enemy of the People | The Duke of York’s Theatre

the best london theatre right now: enemy of the people

Rehearsal Image: Hugo Glendinning

Believe it or not, Enemy of the People, the adaptation of Ibsen’s classic play by heavyweight German theatre director Thomas Ostermeier (and his Schaubühne theatre colleague, the dramaturg Florian Borchmeyer), marks the West End debut of screen stalwart and beloved ex-Time Lord Matt Smith. In Ostermeier’s production at the Smith plays a Dr (a role he is famously qualified to tackle) whose discovery about the supposed healing properties of the water in his town’s recently-opened spa leads to mutinous upheaval in the local community. This is a strictly limited six week run, so book fast if you’re after a ticket – the Duke of York’s Theatre is no Tardis.

Dinner before: You can’t go wrong with Dishoom Covent Garden
Drinks after: Shake things up with a cocktail or two at Experimental Cocktail Club 
Details: Enemy of the People runs at the Duke of York’s Theatre (closest tube stations Leicester Square and Charing Cross) until 6th April 2024. Tickets cost from £20 – £165 and can be booked HERE.

Dear Octopus | National Theatre

the best london theatre shows right now: dear octopus

A beautiful, touching play by the wonderful Dodie Smith – she of I Capture The Castle and, yep, 101 Dalmatians – set at a golden wedding anniversary on the eve of World War II. Directed by the fast-rising director Emily Burns (who recently tackled Jack Absolute Flies Again, another WWII-set piece at the NT), the titular ‘octopus’ refers to the family – “from whose tentacles we can never quite escape”. Wonderful, rich storytelling, from one of the 20th century’s truly great writers.

Dinner before: Seasonal, wood-fired dishes at Elliots
Drinks after: Carry on the evening at Flat Iron Square
Details: Dear Octopus is playing at the National Theatre until 27th March 2024. Tickets cost £20-£99 and can be booked HERE.

The Picture of Dorian Gray | Theatre Royal Haymarket

the picture of dorian gray

Though “all art is quite useless” according to Oscar Wilde in the preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray, that doesn’t stop tickets for this production of his infamous novella from being eye-wateringly expensive (then again, Wilde also dismissed cynics as those who know “the price of everything and the value of nothing”). If you can score a seat, you’ll be among the lucky few witnessing Sarah Snook, Succession’s very own Shiv, tackle yet another story of vanity and corruption – only this time, she’s playing all the characters. Without doubt the hottest solo show of the year (though obviously be wary of Matthew Macfadyen attempting to swoop in at the eleventh hour having been craftily preparing a one-man War and Peace…).

Dinner before: Northern India meets British cuisine at Tandoor Chop House
Drinks after: Mellow out with a couple glasses of red at Gordon’s Wine Bar
Details: The Picture of Dorian Gray is playing at the Theatre Royal Haymarket (nearest tube stations Leicester Square and Charing Cross) until 11th May 2024. Tickets are £60-£289 and available HERE.

Nye | National Theatre

the best london theatre shows right now: nye

Michael Sheen’s mighty voice was last heard at the National Theatre tackling Dylan Thomas’ glorious, evocative poetry in 2021’s Under Milk Wood. Now he’s back embodying another Welsh titan – Aneurin ‘Nye’ Bevan, founder of the NHS, in a piece written by Tim Price (Teh Internet is Serious Business) and directed by outgoing NT mandarin Rufus Norris. Go on, book yourself in for an appointment with Nye – it’s good for what ails you.

Dinner before: Authentic tapas at Meson Don Felipe
Drinks after:
A relaxing drink before you head home at Unwined in Waterloo
Details: Nye is playing at the National Theatre from 24th February – 11th May 2024. Tickets cost £20-£99 and can be booked HERE.

Metamorphosis | Lyric Hammersmith

Metamorphis

Image: Tristram Kenton

Frequent adapters-of-classic-works-into-dazzling-physical-theatre-performances Frantic Assembly (Othello) return to their home away from home, the Lyric Hammersmith, with what looks set to be a captivating retelling of Franz Kafka’s eerie, claustrophobic classic short story. Acclaimed poet Lemn Sissay is behind the script, with Frantic’s Artistic Director and co-founder Scott Graham directing. There are perhaps no theatre companies better placed to bring Gregor Samsa’s transformation to life – and with the production incorporating original music from Stefan Janik and video design from Ian William Galloway, the production promises to be a multi-sensory treat.

Dinner before: Stunning seafood at Faber
Drinks after: Take a trip to one of the best pubs in Hammersmith
Details: Metamorphosis runs at the Lyric Hammersmith (closest tube station Tottenham Hammersmith) until 2nd March 2024. Tickets cost from £15-£47 and can be booked HERE.

Macbeth | Dock X

best london theatre shows right now - macbeth

Image: Oliver Rosser

Grim, foreboding, and bespeaking great darkness – but enough about Canada Water, the home of state-of-the-art venue Dock X. Here, the Scottish Play will be staged as never before, in a new adaptation by the formidable Emily Burns (seen elsewhere this very month directing Dear Octopus at the National Theatre, as one does). Hollywood’s own Ralph Fiennes takes on the role of the doomed would-be-king, with Indira Varma (Game of Thrones) his enabling wife.

Dinner before: Authentic Italian just across the river at Il Bordello
Drinks after: Head to The Mayflower
Details: Macbeth runs at Dock X (closest tube station Canada Water) from 10th February – 23rd March 2024. Tickets cost from £25-£165 and can be booked HERE.

Broken Water | The Arcola

Broken water

On one London street, three women tell similar stories from three very different perspectives. Shortlisted for the Soho Theatre’s Verity Bargate Award, playwright Michèle Winstanley’s astute, tender play is a poignant exploration of what it is to be human, encompassing life’s myriad highs and lows, and the immense challenges that having children – or not having children – can bring. Directed by Nicola Samer (Uprooted at Shoreditch Town Hall).

Dinner before: Raw-focused dining at Little Duck – The Picklery
Drinks after: Unbeatable cocktails at Three Sheets 
Details: Broken Water is running at the Arcola until 24th February 2024. Tickets cost from £15- £23 and are available HERE.

The Hills of California | Harold Pinter Theatre

the best london theatre shows right now - the hills of california

Study the Venn diagram of ‘blockbuster theatrical mega-events’ and ‘collaborations between critical darlings at the peak of their powers’ and you’ll find The Hills of California slap bang in the centre.
We’re talking playwright Jez Butterworth (he of the transcendent Jerusalem) and director Sam Mendes (he of The Lehman Trilogy and, you know, Hollywood films), who last teamed up to give us The Ferryman, an epic, breathtaking study of a rural Irish family in the midst of The Troubles. Contrary to its title, the Hills of California is in fact set in Blackpool, in the sweltering summer of 1976. It’s here that we meet the Webb Sisters, as they return to the run-down guest house of their dying mother. Needless to say, book yesterday.

Dinner before: Head to Tom Cenci’s, Nessa
Drinks after: At the subterranean bar, Frank’s
Details: ‘The Hills of California’ runs at the Harold Pinter Theatre (closest tube stations Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square) until 15th June. Tickets cost from £15 and can be booked HERE.

The Motive and the Cue | Noël Coward Theatre

the best london theatre shows right now - the motive and the cue

Image: Mark Douet

Iiiiit’s back – following a stellar run at the NT, the Motive and the Cue heads to the West End, with Sam Mendes directing Jack Thorne’s tale of Richard Burton and John Gielgud’s production of Hamlet. Set in the rehearsal room, it’s a clash of egos and values, brought deliciously to life by a hugely talented cast, led by Johnny Flynn (playing Burton), Mark Gatiss (giving his Gielgud, naturally) and the Tuppence Middleton (an inspired choice to play Elizabeth Taylor). Your motive is clear – now (re)join the queue.

Dinner before: Unbeatable steaks at Blacklock Covent Garden
Drinks after: Drink whiskey in the hidden Spey Bar
London Theatre Critics say: The Independent 4*; The Evening Standard 4*
Details: ‘The Motive and the Cue’ is is running at the Nöel Coward Theatre (nearest tube station Leicester Square) until 23rd March 2024. Tickets cost from £67.50, and are available HERE.

This Might Not Be It | The Bush Theatre

this might not be

To a crumbling, underfunded NHS mental health office comes Jay. He’s an eager, bright-eyed new temp full of big ideas – and he’s met with a seen-it-all cynicism from veteran employee Angela. Longlisted for the Soho Theatre’s prestigious Verity Bargate award, and shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Playwriting, This Might Not Be It is a three-hander from red-hot emerging writer Sophia Chetin-Leuner, and seems set to continue The Bush’s run of form. Contrary to the play’s title, this actually might well be ‘it’.

Dinner before: Punchy Thai-American dishes at Chet’s
Drinks after: Margaritas, margaritas at The Hawk’s Nest
London Theatre Critics say: The Stage 4*
Details: ‘This Might Not Be It’ is playing at the Bush Theatre (nearest tube station Shepherd’s Bush) until 2nd March. Tickets are from £15 and are available HERE.

Stranger Things: The First Shadow | Phoenix Theatre

stranger things play

Manuel Harlan

There are TV shows, there are hit TV shows, and then there’s whatever Stranger Things is – at this point, a cultural psyche-shaping global mega-phenomenon. So to all those Stranger Things fans out there – and statistically, that’s very likely to be you – rejoice, for the show’s extended universe now expands, with a brand new play featuring a story by the Duffer Brothers (creators of Stranger Things) and written by Kate Trefry (a writer on the show) and Jack Thorne (writer of basically everything, and, in light of Cursed Child’s runaway success, the go-to playwright for all big-ticket-IP-stage-adaptations). The starry creative team is a hint at who’s backing the production – Netflix itself, making its first foray into theatre – and the title is a hint at the plot – the show is a prequel to the weirdness that eventually goes down in Hawkins, Indiana. A streamer-backed TV adaptation play that’s genuinely good? Stranger things have happened…

Dinner before: Turkish street food dishes at Yeni
Drinks after: Tequila time at La Bodega Negra
London Theatre Critics say: Sunday Times 5*, The Guardian 5*, Evening Standard 5*
Details: ‘Stranger Things’ is playing at the Phoenix Theatre (nearest tube station Tottenham Court Road) until 25th August 2024. Tickets are from £32.50 and are available HERE.

My Neighbour Totoro | Barbican Theatre

My Neighbour Totoro

Image: Manuel Harlan

Totoro’s back: abandon whatever you’re doing and book instantly. To watch My Neighbour Totoro is to feel your jaw unclench and your pulse settle. It is a warm bath. It is bliss. The RSC stage production of Studio Ghibli’s animated classic My Neighbour Totoro, which is returning to the Barbican, is perhaps the single most joyous production to have hit the London stage in the last decade. Ostensibly a children’s story – a fable set in the midst of the Japanese countryside, where echoes of the old sprites and spirits still remain – the show is in fact an utterly enchanting tale of familial kindness and community support, which happens to include some spectacular (and vast) puppetry. Totoro’s first appearance onstage creates a child-like joy and wonder that will sweep up the most cynical of adults – and the creativity never lets up. Go. You simply must.

Dinner before: Cosy up at the charming atmospheric French Bistro, Le Café du Marché
Drinks after: A cheeky bottle of red at the candlelit, Winemakers Club
London Theatre Critics say: The Guardian 5*, The Telegraph 4*, six Olivier Awards
Details: ‘My Neighbour Totoro’ is playing at the Barbican (nearest tube stations Moorgate and Barbican) from 21st November 2023 – 24th March 2024. Tickets are from £25 (day seats) and are available HERE.


THE BEST COMEDY ON NOW | LONDON THEATRE


Plaza Suite | The Savoy Theatre

Neil Simon’s sharp-witted exploration of love and marriage? In a Broadway transfer to the Savoy Theatre? With a creative team positively riddled with Tony awards? And performed by real-life couple and bona fide Hollywood stars Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick?! Oh come on. Get dressed up fancy, pay an eyeball-twitching amount for a cocktail at next door’s dreamy Beaufort Bar, and treat yourself to a proper night out at the theatre.

Dinner before: Go Italian at Da Henrietta
Drinks after: Head to Gordon’s Wine Bar – a crepuscular cellar bar along the Embankment
London Theatre Critics say: Evening Standard 4*, The Telegraph 4*
Details: ‘Plaza Suite’ runs at The Savoy Theatre (closest tube stations Embankment and Charing Cross) until 30th March 2024. Tickets cost from £35, and can be booked HERE.

The Play That Goes Wrong | Duchess Theatre

The Play That Goes Wrong

Honestly, they could be messing this up horribly every night, and no one would notice. In fact, they’d probably clap.

Dinner before: Bombastic Italian at Ave Mario
Drinks after: Highly-rated cocktails at Side Hustle
London Theatre Critics say:
 The Independent 4*; Financial Times 4*; The Stage 4*
DetailsThe Play That Goes Wrong is booking at the Duchess Theatre (closest tube station Covent Garden) until 28th April 2024. Tickets cost £22-67.50, and can be booked HERE.


Looking for more comedy? Check out our guide to the best comedy gigs in London this month


THE BEST IMMERSIVE SHOWS IN LONDON

The Gunpowder Plot | Tower Vaults

Best things to see in the theatre right now: Gunpowder Plot

Step into the past, and a purpose-built venue in the Vaults opposite the Tower of London, as you experience – and participate in! – the historic gunpowder plot, via the medium of ‘Layered Reality’. What does that mean? Think VR headsets combined with live theatre, plus ‘real physical sensations’ (that’s right). Written by Danny Robins (he of 2:22 A Ghost Story), the piece stars Slytherin’s very own Tom Felton as Guy Fawkes, who leads a ‘digital cast’ that includes Gary Beadle and Michelle Asante. A unique – and explosive – night out.

Dinner before: Riverside dining at Coppa Club
Drinks after: Moonshine Saloon if you can’t get enough of all things immersive
Details
The Gunpowder Plot is currently playing at the Tower Vaults, 8-12 Tower Hill Vaults London EC3N 4EE until 31st December 2023. Tickets available HERE.

 


Want to see great theatre for less? Find out how to get cheap theatre tickets in London