The Best London Theatre | Amazing Shows to Book and See in December 2023
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…
The Witches | National Theatre
There’s some real magic taking place on the NT’s Olivier Stage – a rollicking musical adaptation of Roald Dahl’s terrific (and slightly terrifying) classic children’s story. You’ll remember the plot with fondness/repressed trauma from your childhood – the notion that witches walk among us, with their bald heads and square feet, but that they cannily disguise themselves as regular people. Lucy Kirkwood (Chimerica) and Dave Malloy (Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812) have triumphantly updated Dahl’s piece into a modern musical, and the tale of young Luke and his grandma’s efforts to thwart the witches’ evil plan to turn children into mice zooms by. There are star-making performances from the young company playing the rodents, and Katherine Kingsley steals scenes – if not the show – as the delightfully deviant Grand High Witch (yep, she of your recurring nightmares circa Year 4). A transfer surely beckons – but, in the meantime, fall under its spell.
Dinner before: No-fuss, top-tier pizza at Pizza Pilgrims
Drinks after: A few bevs under at the heated, bauble-bedecked tent at Electric Winter
London Theatre Critics say: The FT 5*; Evening Standard 4*; The Stage 4*
Details: ‘The Witches’ is playing at the National Theatre (nearest tube stations Waterloo and Embankment) until 27th January 2024. Tickets are from £46 and are available HERE.
Two Strangers (Carry a Cake Across New York) | The Kiln
The Kiln theatre habitually punches above its weight, and seems set to do so yet again with this sharp and effervescent new musical from writers Jim Barne and Kit Buchan.
Dougal, a wildly optimistic young Brit, is in New York for 36 hours, in order to attend the wedding of the father he doesn’t know – and Robin, the stressed-out sister of the bride (and cynical New Yorker), is tasked with collecting him from the airport. Thus begins the two hander, which cleverly both subverts the tropes of the romcom and utilises some of them – Carrying its Cake Across New York and eating it, too. Sam Tutty, who won an Olivier starring in Dear Evan Hansen, plays the irrepressible Dougal, with Dujonna Gift taking on the acerbic Robin.
Dinner before: At the Middle-Eastern neighbourhood gem, Carmel
Drinks after: A couple cocktails at the two-sided bar, Heads + Tails
London Theatre Critics say: The Observer 5*; The Guardian 4*; The Telegraph 4*
Details: ‘Two Strangers…’ is playing at the Kiln Theatre (nearest tube station Kilburn) from 28th November 2023 – 20th January 2024. Tickets are from £15 and are available HERE.
The Little Big Things | @sohoplace
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*
Details: The 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.
Sunset Boulevard | The Savoy Theatre
It’s a starry affair over at the ever-glam Savoy Theatre – with Jamie Lloyd taking the reins and directing Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical adaptation of Billy Wilder’s all-time-classic Hollywood comic noir. Stepping into the iconic role of Norma Desmond, originated in the West End by Patti LuPone, is another American diva of the highest order – Nicole Scherzinger, who will be playing the fading (surely not?!) actress for a 16 week run. Expect high notes and high camp.
Dinner before: Exceptional Modern French dishes at Frenchie
Drinks after: Late-night drinking at the music-led, STEREO
London Theatre Critics say: The Stage 5*; The Evening Standard 5*
Details: Sunset Boulevard runs at The Savoy Theatre (closest tube stations Embankment and Charing Cross) until 6th January 2024. Tickets cost from £20, and can be booked HERE.
SIX | Vaudeville Theatre London
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.
It takes a brave man to step into the shoes, dress, and latex mask of the mighty Robin Williams in one of his most iconic roles, but Gabriel Vick is up to the considerable challenge. His turn as hapless dreamer Daniel Hillard – AKA twinkly-eyed Scottish nanny Mrs Doubtfire – is a tour de force. The show is a big hearted slice of American family drama, but Vick’s highly physical, accent-hopping, farcical turn gives it the heft needed. You’ll be dancing in the aisle, dears.
Dinner before: Fresh and hearty pasta at Notto
Drinks after: Head to the plush wine bar, The Mulwray
Details: Mrs Doubtfire is running at the Shaftesbury Theatre (nearest tube stations Tottenham Court Road and Covent Garden) until 29th September 2024. Tickets cost from £27.50-£175, and are available HERE.–
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 20th April 2024. Tickets cost £29.50 – £225, and can be booked HERE.
Matilda The Musical | Cambridge Theatre
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 15th December 2024, with tickets running between £20 and £125. You can book them right HERE.
Guys & Dolls | Bridge Theatre
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 24th August 2024. Tickets cost from £39.50 – £150 and you can book HERE.
Operation Mincemeat | Fortune Theatre
After multiple sell-out runs at the Southwark Playhouse, and a mounting sense of buzzing anticipation, it’s happened: Operation Mincemeat, the debut musical by creative quartet SpitLip, has come to the West End. 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 multi-roling physicality.
‘Operation take the West End by storm’ has been a resounding success.
Dinner before: Authentic Laotian cuisine at Lao Cafe
Drinks after: Victorian style 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 15th June 2024. Tickets cost from £35 – £79.50 and you can book HERE, or enter the £25 ticket lottery HERE.
Les Misérables | Sondheim Theatre
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*
Details: Les 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 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)
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 28th September 2024. Tickets cost £25 – £325, and you can book HERE.
Back To The Future: The Musical | Adelphi Theatre
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 21st July 2024. Tickets cost £19.55 – £224.50, and can be booked HERE.
Choir of Man | Arts Theatre
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
Stranger Things: The First Shadow | Phoenix Theatre
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
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.
Dreaming and Drowning | The Bush Theatre
The Bush has long done a fine line in gripping one-person shows – think Monica Dolan’s B*EASTS, Richard Gadd’s Baby Reindeer, and Nikhil Parmar’s Invisible. To be swiftly added to that venerable list is writer-director Kwame Owusu’s Dreaming and Drowning, a Mustapha Matura Award-winning play produced by WoLab (For a Palestinian) which interrogates the anxieties of a young Black queer man. Actor Tienne Simon takes centre stage as Malachi, who is off at uni and seeking a fresh, positive start – but whose burgeoning relationship with charismatic musician Kojo is hampered by Malachi’s constant, recurring, nightmare, which finds him in the ocean, sinking, pursued by a beast just out of sight…
Dinner before: Punchy Thai-American dishes at Chet’s
Drinks after: Margaritas, margaritas at The Hawk’s Nest
Details: ‘Dreaming and Drowning’ is playing at the Bush Theatre (nearest tube station Shepherd’s Bush) from 28th November – 23rd December 2023. Tickets are from £15 and are available HERE.
A Christmas Carol | Alexandra Palace Theatre
Be prepared for a visit from the Ghost of Christmas Carols Past. Mark Gatiss’ superb, spooky take on Dickens’ eternal favourite, a production last seen in 2021, has returned for a welcome encore run, with that real life Fezziwig himself, Keith Allen, donning the wimple and giving his finest Scrooge. It’s an inspired choice to combine a timeless festive classic with a derelict-but-glamorous London institution (that’s Alexandra Palace Theatre, not Keith Allen), with the venue adding a further flicker of romance to the festive romp. Unlike Scrooge’s post-revelation Christmas Day order, this is anything but a massive turkey.
Dinner before: Timeless French dining at Les 2 Garcons
Drinks after: At one of the best cocktail joints in North London, Little Mercies
Details: ‘A Christmas Carol’ is playing at Alexandra Palace Theatre (nearest tube stations Turnpike Lane and Bounds Green) from 28th November 2023 – 7th January 2024. Tickets are from £28 and are available HERE.
Unbelievable | Criterion Theatre
It’s your last chance to see something a little different from Derren Brown – or rather, not from Derren Brown. His latest piece, which he conceived and directs, instead outsources the job of performing to a series of non-magicians – the conceit being that a) there is intrigue to be had in seeing magic delivered by those who haven’t developed the ingrained habits, techniques and tics of the professional conjurer (there is) and b) that all of these performers are good at other things too (they are!). So amidst the mind games – and it’s all mind games, of course – there’s a song-n-dance variety show feel to the piece. In summoning us all to the theatre and without even having to show up, Brown may have pulled off the canniest trick of all – but his surrogates put on a more than worthy show. Believe it.
Dinner before: At the modern Peruvian gem, LIMA CANTINA
Drinks after: Priceless views at Radio Rooftop Bar
Details: ‘Unbelievable’ is playing at the Criterion Theatre (nearest tube station Piccadilly Circus) from until 7th January 2024. Tickets are from £21.25 (restricted view) and are available HERE.
My Neighbour Totoro | Barbican Theatre
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
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.
Dark, funny, faultlessly-executed – following a multi award-winning Edinburgh run, picking up both a Fringe First and a The Stage Edinburgh Award, playwright Marcelo Dos Santos’ hit play comes to the Bush’s main space. The tale of a neurotic stand-up comedian’s search for love, Feeling Afraid… is produced by the all-conquering Francesca Moody (Fleabag) who previously took Richard Gadd’s dark and brilliant Baby Reindeer from Edinburgh to the Bush. Snag a ticket to see Samuel Barnett in spectacular form as the piece’s self-destructive comic, or the joke will be on you.
Dinner before: First-rate pizzas at The Hawk’s Nest
Drinks after: Sip natural wine while records spin at Next Door Records
London Theatre Critics say: FEST 5*; WhatsOnStage 5*; The Telegraph 5*
Details: Feeling Afraid… runs at the Bush Theatre (closest tube station Shepherd’s Bush) from 10th November to 23rd December 2023. Tickets cost from £15 (concessions) and can be booked HERE.
King Lear | Wyndham’s Theatre
The Wyndham’s stage has just played host to Mike Birbiglia’s Old Man and the Pool, and now it’s time for ‘Kenneth Branagh’s Old Man and The Fool’ [NB. dear Nudge Editors – surely that gets me a raise?]. Yep, Sir Ken is ’giving his Lear’ – and directing it for good measure, luv – in a 50 performance West End run before taking it to New York, and you could do a lot worse than to treat yourself (although with vertiginous ticket prices, there is a heavy emphasis on ‘treat’). As well as a Hollywood star, Branagh is a genuine Shakespearian heavyweight, and he tackles the Mad King in hypnotic, rage-filled fashion. There’s a triumphant performance at the heart of this tragedy, and you’d be a fool to miss it.
Dinner before: Unbeatable steaks at Blacklock Covent Garden
Drinks after: Drink whiskey in the hidden Spey Bar
Details: King Lear is booking at the Wyndham’s Theatre (closest tube stations Leicester Square and Charing Cross) from 21st October until 9th December 2023. Tickets cost from £20 and you can book HERE.
Ghosts | Shakespeare’s Globe – Sam Wanamaker Playhouse
Ibsen’s searing tragedy scandalised audiences when it first premiered in the 1880s – what with its familial trauma, incest, and euthanasia (not to mention absolutely masses of syphilis) – and whilst the piece might not be quite so shocking now (the Daily Telegraph at the time hysterically described I as “an open drain: a loathsome sore unbandaged; a dirty act done publicly”) it’s still hard-hitting stuff. This compelling production marks the Globe debut of director Joe Hill-Gibbons (The ENO’s Marriage of Figaro) and is delivered in candlelight, with superb design courtesy of Rosanna Vize (last seen artfully bringing Andrew Scott’s one-man Vanya to life). A spirited re-staging of a major work.
Dinner before: At the latest eatery by the Som Saa team, Kolae
Drinks after: Continue the night in the secret subterranean den, The Green Room
Details: ‘Ghosts’ is playing at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse (nearest tube stations Cannon Street and Borough) from 28th November 2023 – 28th January 2024. Tickets are from £5 (standing) and are available HERE.
The Homecoming | The Young Vic
No-one does eery, poetic menace quite like Pinter. At the Young Vic there’s a homecoming for director Matthew Dunster (previously the building’s Associate Director), whose production features a talented ensemble cast including Joe Cole (Peaky Blinders) and Jared Harris (who won a BAFTA for his exquisite turn in Chernobyl). The Young Vic’s stage is a wonderfully intimate location to stage Pinter’s play, which remains tense, dark, and endlessly-layered, full of turns of phrase that stick in your mind long after the piece has ended.
Dinner before: Authentic tapas at Meson Don Felipe
Drinks after: A relaxing drink before you head home at Unwined in Waterloo
Details: ‘The Homecoming’ is playing at the Young Vic (nearest tube stations Waterloo and Southwark) from 27th November 2023 – 27th January 2024. Tickets are from £24 (concessions) and are available HERE.
Harriet Walter, you say? ‘Playing a formidable matriarch’, is it? This alone, frankly, is more than enough for most right-thinking readers to make haste to the NT’s booking page, however for those as-yet undecided, there’s more; Lorca’s classic final play has been adapted by the prolific Alice Birch (she of the TV adaptations of Sally Rooney’s Normal People and Conversations With Friends), and sees director Rebecca Frecknall making her National Theatre debut, having most recently helmed molten-hot productions of Romeo & Juliet and A Streetcar Named Desire. Powerful women collaborating on a powerful play – Bernarda Alba should expect a full house.
Dinner before: Share a pie at Lasdun
Drinks after: Exquisite cocktails at Lyaness
Details: ‘The House of Bernarda Alba’ is running at the National Theatre (nearest tube station Waterloo) from 16th November 2023 – 6th January 2024. Tickets cost from £46-£99, and are available HERE.
The MacArthur-winning Annie Baker is the playwright behind this potent new comic drama playing at the Dorfman, which sees five women in Northern California philosophising about life, suffering, and desire. The setting: a Cali wellness facility, in which the patients’ physically vulnerabilities provide the gateway to the inner struggles they face. It’s elegantly written and masterfully delivered – another witty and soulful piece from one of our leading voices, with direction courtesy of James Macdonald (Glengarry Glenn Ross) and set design courtesy of über-cool American collective dots (Kate Berlant is KATE).
Dinner before: Seasonal, wood-fired dishes at Elliots
Drinks after: Carry on the evening at Flat Iron Square
London Theatre Critics say: The Stage 5*
Details: ‘Infinite Life’ is running at the National Theatre (nearest tube station Waterloo) from 22nd November 2023 – 14th January 2024. Tickets cost from £20-£60, and are available HERE.
Joseph Fiennes doesn’t just play Gareth Southgate, he is Gareth Southgate in this pulse-raising NT hit from the power-trio of playwright James Graham (he of Best Of Enemies and lots more), director Rupert Goold (he of Spring Awakening and lots more) and set designer Es Devlin (she of Beyoncé’s Formation tour and lots more – but, again, to be clear, she designed Beyoncé’s Formation tour). It’s an epic, pacy piece – but it’s thoughtful, too. Graham’s text combines hours of meticulous research with well-judged flights of fancy, as Southgate leads his men to war – and comes to terms with the infamous unresolved struggles of his past. After a rapturous reception at the NT, it’s coming home (to the Prince Edward Theatre for a West End transfer).
Dinner before: Good old English grub at Dean Street Townhouse
Drinks after: Subterranean cocktails at Wun’s Tearoom
London Theatre Critics say: Daily Telegraph 5*; WhatsOnStage 5*; Evening Standard 4*; The Times 4*
Details: ‘Dear England’ is running at the Prince Edward Theatre (nearest tube station Leicester Square) until 13th January 2024. Tickets cost from £20, and are available HERE
THE BEST COMEDY ON NOW | LONDON THEATRE
Backstairs Billy | Duke of York’s Theatre
Downton Abbey’s very own Penelope Wilton as The Queen Mother? And the dashing Luke Evans (Beauty and the Beast) as her beloved servant, the titular Billy, ‘holder of the royal corgis’? Why, it’s got ‘camp Christmas hit’ written all over it! Running for a limited season at the Duke of York’s Theatre, Covent Garden, playwright Marcelo Dos Santos’ piece isn’t all froth and champagne and palace intrigue (though there’s plenty of that) – there’s bite added by the social context, too, with HRH’s lavish receptions set against the rise of Thatcher and a country being brought to its knees by industrial strike action. With a smashing central performance from Wilton as the QM, and plenty of scandalous business from Billy and the servants scarpering about the corridors, it’s a right royal romp.
N.B. No need to do any additional Googling, the answer is yes: there are indeed real corgis onstage.
Dinner before: First rate tapas at Barrafina
Drinks after: Care for a pint of Guinness? Head to The Devonshire
Details: ‘Backstairs Billy’ is playing at the Duke of York’s Theatre (nearest tube stations Charing Cross and Leicester Square) from 27th November 2023 – 27th January 2024. Tickets are from £10 and are available HERE.
Ulster American | Riverside Studios
‘Go West, where Woody Harrelson, Andy Serkis, and Louisa Harland are all starring in a pitch-black comedy written by David Ireland’, as the Pet Shop Boys didn’t quite sing. Yep, Woody Harrelson, of Woody Harrelson fame, is performing an eight-week run at Riverside Studios, and you’d be well advised to get booking. But don’t just jump on the Hammersmith & City Line for the promise of Hollywood stardust alone – playwright Ireland (who also appears as an actor in the superlative Derry Girls) is the real deal, and Ulster American debuted to great acclaim at the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe where it played at the highly influential Traverse Theatre, winning the Carol Tambor Award. The big-hitting Jeremy Herrin (Best of Enemies) directs this razor-sharp satire which skewers identity politics – and performative male faux-feminism – to gasp-inducing effect.
Dinner before: A suitably regal feast at J. Sheekey
Drinks after: Gin cocktails and singalongs at Mr. Fogg’s Tavern
London Theatre Critics say: The Telegraph 5*; The Independent 4*; The Times 4*
Details: Backstairs Billy runs at the Duke of York’s Theatre (closest tube station Leicester Square) until 27th January 2024. Tickets cost £10-175, and can be booked HERE
The Play That Goes Wrong | Duchess Theatre
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*
Details: The 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
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…