The Nudge’s Guide To The Best London Theatre Shows Playing Now
Ever since the dawn of time, human beings have gazed at the stars in awe and asked themselves “Where can I get a list of only the best London theatre shows playing right now – divided into musical, comedy, drama, and immersive categories – in which I can also discover a heap of nearby bars and restaurants to help me make a night of it?”
Well the answer is… right here…
Last updated: 27th March 2018
Jump to: MUSICALS | DRAMA | COMEDY | CABARET | IMMERSIVE
Brief Encounter | Empire Cinema Haymarket
Credit: Steve Tanner
After Emma Rice’s unexpectedly brief encounter with the Globe, her seminal, exuberant production of Noel Coward’s classic returns to the West End with aplomb. Don’t expect a carbon copy of the iconic film – there are three concurrent romances for starters – but it’s a beautiful show, packed with music, dance, projections, acrobatics and more.
Dinner before: Globally inspired dishes from an Ottolenghi protégé at Scully
Drinks after: Vesper martinis at Dukes Bar
Critics say: The Times 4*; The Guardian 4*; What’s On Stage 4*; Evening Standard 4*
Details: Brief Encounter runs at the Empire Cinema Haymarket (closest tube station Piccadilly Circus) until 2nd September. Tickets cost from £20 to £52.50, and can be purchased HERE.
Caroline, Or Change | Hampstead Theatre
Already booked in for a huge West End transfer, Caroline, Or Change, is a surreal, touching and fantastical musical from Jeanine Tesori and Angels in America playwright Tony Kushner. Following the stories of a Jewish family in mourning and their black maid Caroline – played with regal, unfaltering poise by Sharon D. Clarke – it explores racial, religious and economic tensions through a sweeping score, an impressive portion of which is sung by household objects.
Dinner before: Top notch sushi at Jin Kichi
Drinks after: If you haven’t been inside the Swiss Cottage, now is probably a good time.
Critics say: The Times 5*; Evening Standard 5*; The Arts Desk 5*
Details: Caroline, Or Change runs at the Hampstead Theatre (closest station Swiss Cottage…confusing.) until 21st April. Tickets cost £10-£37 and can be booked HERE.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie | Apollo Theatre
This title could have been reaaally embarrassing if the show hadn’t taken off. Luckily, critics are going mad for it, with bountiful comparisons to ‘a Billy Elliot for the millennial age’. Following the true story of 16 year old drag queen Jamie determined to wear a dress to prom, the show is packed with feel-good, prejudice-busting scenes fed by songs from The Feeling singer, Dan Gillespie Sells.
Dinner before: Homely Spanish at Morada Brindisa Asador
Drinks after: Cocktails from The Palomar team at The Blue Posts
Critics say: The Times 5*; The Stage 5*; The Independent 5*; Financial Times 5*
Details: Everybody’s Talking About Jamie runs at the Apollo Theatre (closest tube station Piccadilly Circus) until 6th October. Tickets cost from £20 and can be purchased HERE.
Girl From The North Country | Noel Coward Theatre
Bob Dylan was lying. All he really wanted to do was to create a subtly heart-wrenching, low-key musical painting a picture of desolate, Depression-era Midwest America.
…So it’s a good thing that his team approached critically lauded playwright and director Conor McPherson to create this touching musical tableau, where an interweaving cast casually pick up an instrument to express their innermost needs and frustrations through an eclectic selection from Dylan’s back catalogue.
Dinner before: Fresh seafood from freshly-opened The Oystermen
Drinks after: Tequila cocktails at Café Pacifico
Critics say: The Guardian 5*; The Times 5*; The Independent 5*; The Evening Standard 5*
Details: Girl From the North Country runs at the Noel Coward Theatre (closest tube station Leicester Square) until 31st March 2018. Tickets cost from £53.50 to £98.50, and can be purchased HERE
Matilda | 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 has had critics positively raving, and is carried by a genuinely exceptional cast of kids. Get ready to hastily spotify the soundtrack all the way home.
Dinner before: Misnomered dim sum at Ugly Dumpling
Drinks after: A well-nomered swift at Swift
Critics say: The Telegraph 5*; The Guardian 5*; The Evening Standard 5*; The Independent 5*
Details: Matilda runs at the Cambridge Theatre (closest tube station Covent Garden) until 10th February 2019. Tickets cost from £20 to £122.50, and can be purchased HERE
42nd Street | Theatre Royal Drury Lane
Sometimes it turns on the waterworks, but this firework of a chorus-line musical will leave nothing but a smile on your face. Sure, some of the lyrics might be a little dubious these days (“What’s cute about a little cutie is her beauty, not brains”), but the sight of forty pairs of feet drumming the floor in perfect unison can hardly fail to entertain.
Dinner before: Italian-tinged tapas at Opera Tavern
Drinks after: A bottle (or a case) at The 10 Cases
Critics say: The Telegraph 5*; The Stage 5*; The Times 5*
Details: 42nd Street runs at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane (closest tube station Covent Garden) until 20th Oct 2018. Tickets cost from £15 to £125, and can be purchased HERE
The Grinning Man | Trafalgar Studios
Combine the devising talents of the original War Horse director; a macabre Victor Hugo tale and the most impressive puppetry you’ve seen since… well, War Horse; and you’ve got yourself a pretty bizarre, wonderful musical. This grim tale follows the fortunes of a man whose face was carved into a permanent grin as a child, and now travels with a freakshow in 17th century England, where he falls in love with his blind adopted sister and encounters an incestuous royal family. Claassic Hugo.
Dinner before: Seafood and champagne cocktails at J. Sheekey
Drinks after: Cocktails with a view at Trafalgar St. James
Critics say: The Guardian 4*; The Independent 4*; The Times 4*; The Telegraph 4*
Details: The Grinning Man runs at Trafalgar Studio 1 (closes tube station Charing Cross) until 14th April. Tickets cost from £22.50 to £95, and can be purchased HERE.
Hamilton | Victoria Palace Theatre
Unless you’ve been living under a particularly well-soundproofed rock for the past few months, you’ll no doubt be vaguely aware that the biggest musical to drop this century has finally come to British shores.
And the new cast are ready to Rise Up to the challenge.
Following the story of founding father Alexander Hamilton, it’s a revolutionary musical that raps its way through history, and has already earned a record-breaking 13 Olivier nominations for its troubles…
Dinner before: Upmarket comfort food at Rail House Café
Drinks after: The Drunken Oyster above Hai Cenato
Critics say: The Guardian 5*; The Telegraph 5*; The Independent 5*; The Stage 5*; The Evening Standard 5*
Details: Hamilton runs at the Victoria Palace Theatre (closest tube station Victoria) from 6th December until 30th June 2018 (but it will definitely be extended). Tickets cost from £20 to £200, and are sold out for this initial part of the run – but you can still get tickets in various ways, click HERE to find out how.
Pinocchio | National Theatre
While some critics have claimed there’s a lack of real guts to Dennis Kelly’s adaptation of the classic tale, it’s undoubtedly worth a look for the giant puppets representing the humans in the story, the stunning re-workings of the Disney songs, and the characterisation of Jiminy Cricket as a germ-obsessed hypochondriac.
Dinner before: Sharing platters at Florentine
Drinks after: Cocktails in the bric-a-brac-filled Vaulty Towers
Critics say: The Guardian 4*; The Independent 4*; The Times 4*
Details: Pinocchio runs at the National Theatre (nearest station Waterloo) until 10th April. Tickets cost from £31-62, and can be booked HERE.
Amadeus | National Theatre
The composers Mozart and Salieri had a famously fraught relationship.
And, if rumours are to be believed, it may have ended in violins.
This production of Peter Schaffer’s much-lauded play gets a triumphant revival at The National, replete with a full symphony orchestra ready to crank out old Wolfgang’s greatest hits as the childish composer gallivants around the stage with a desperately gloomy Salieri in tow. Like the music it showcases, this, seemingly, is a play that will never get old.
Dinner before: Modern Turkish at Tas
Drinks after: Experimental cocktails at Dandelyan
Critics say: The Telegraph 5*; The Financial Times 5*; Evening Standard 4*; The Times 4*
Details: Amadeus runs at the National Theatre (closest tube station Waterloo) until 24th April. Tickets cost from £31 – £67, and can be booked HERE.
The Birthday Party | Harold Pinter Theatre
Celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, this revival’s essentially a birthday party for The Birthday Party.
And it’s got a pretty strong guest list, with Zoe Wanamaker, Stephen Mangan and Toby Stephens amongst the starry cast. Cryptic, unsettling and sinister, it’s a psychological thriller set in a boarding house on the coast, where everything begins to unravel on the arrival of two new visitors. Expect shady characters, super-sharp dialogue, and of course….
…plenty of pauses.
Dinner before: Authentic ramen at Kanada-ya
Drinks after: Japanese cocktails to match at Machiya
Critics say: The Telegraph 5*; The Times 4*; The Guardian 4*; Evening Standard 4*
Details: The Birthday Party runs at the Harold Pinter Theatre (closest tube station Piccadilly Circus/Leicester Square) until 14th April. Tickets cost from £15-£99.50, and can be purchased HERE.
Black Men Walking | Royal Court
Black Men Walking is now on the London leg of its 14 week run. And it arrives at the Royal Court with a pretty hefty swathe of acclaim for its originality, unusual form, and slick combination of poetry and rap. Taking inspiration from the Black Men’s Walking Group established in Sheffield in the early noughties, it follows Thomas, Richard and Matthew on one of their regular walks through a scenic but subtly hostile world, seeking to affirm their identity and bringing to light 500 years of Black British history as they do so.
Dinner before: Seasonal dining at Elystan Street
Drinks after: Eccentric speakeasy Bart’s
Critics say: The Guardian 4*; The Independent 4*; The Arts Desk 4*
Details: Black Men Walking runs at the Royal Court (closest tube station Sloane Square) until 7th April. Tickets are limited but you can find out more about day tickets and returns on their website HERE.
The Great Wave | National Theatre
This is a great wave that will carry you away. Based on true events, this story of separated Japanese sisters sees an intense family tragedy blown into an epic of global proportions as it plays out across the political stage. Powerful performances combine with incredible set design and audio-visual effects to emphasise both the awesome and the minute, in this elegant staging directed by Tricycle Theatre artistic director Indhu Rubasingham.
Dinner before: Take a jaunt along to Sea Containers
Drinks after: Craft beers at The Understudy
Critics say: The Guardian 4*; The Independent 4*; The Times 4*
Details: The Great Wave runs at The National Theatre (closest tube station Waterloo/Embankment) until 14th April. The ticketing function is currently unavailable online but you can check availability with the box office on 020 7452 3000.
The Ferryman | Gielgud Theatre
There was a lot of back and forth about this production, but they decided to put in on in the end. And you can be glad they did, because the ebullient new play from the lauded Jez Butterworth has won the hearty approval of critics with its dynamic staging, spine-tingling writing and excellent cast – one of whom gives a particularly commendable performance, despite being an actual baby.
Dinner before: Bib Gourmand-awarded mezze at The Barbary
Drinks after: Intimate nightcaps at Balls & Company
Critics say: Evening Standard 5*; The Stage 5*; The Guardian 5*; The Independent 5*; The Telegraph 5*
Details: The Ferryman runs at the Gielgud Theatre (closest tube station Piccadilly Circus) until 19th May 2018. Tickets cost from £39.50 to £89.50, and can be purchased HERE.
Julius Caesar | Bridge Theatre
Beware the ides of… April.
Because it’ll be your last chance to catch this edgy modern-dress adaptation of Shakespeare’s dramatic historical tale, starring Ben Whishaw and directed by the lauded Nicholas Hytner. In a rare move for commercial theatre, this promenade production allows you into the thick of the action as part of a baying Roman crowd, eavesdropping on conspiracies and made complicit in the emperor’s assassination…
Dinner before: Oh, maybe the outlet of mightily praised eatery St. John that’s handily inside the theatre.
Drinks after: Zero waste cocktails at Nine Lives
Critics say: The Stage 4*; The Guardian 4*; The Times 4*; The Independent 4*
Details: Julius Caesar runs at the Bridge Theatre (closest tube station London Bridge) until 15th April. Tickets cost from £15-£90 and can be purchased HERE.
Long Day’s Journey Into Night | Wyndham’s Theatre
Eugene O’Neill’s desperately tragic portrait of a family fraying at the seams was so personal that he forbade it from ever being performed, and asked it stay unpublished for 25 years after his death. His widow apparently disagreed, and it duly received its first performance within three years of him kicking the bucket. But it’s a good thing she did, because it’s since been hailed as a landmark of 20th century American literature – and this revival starring Jeremy Irons and Lesley Manville has been universally praised by critics as one of the best London theatre shows on right now.
Dinner before: Lima Floral (Europe’s first Michelin starred Peruvian, incidentally)
Drinks after: 19th century cocktails at Mr Fogg’s Tavern
Critics say: The Guardian 4*; The Independent 4*; The Telegraph 4*; Evening Standard 4*
Details: Long Day’s Journey Into Night runs at Wyndham’s Theatre (closest tube station Leicester Square) until 7th April. Tickets cost from £49.75 – £98.50, and can be purchased HERE.
Mary Stuart | Duke of York’s Theatre
When it came to casting Mary Stuart, it was a real toss-up between Juliet Stevenson and Lia Williams.
And so every night, they literally decide it by tossing a coin.
Instantly they split off into the roles of Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots; and we join them just as the former is asked to sign the death warrant of the latter. What follows is a gripping adaptation of Schiller’s classic play, exploring the ideas of freedom and responsibility in the political arena – and a set of performances that critics are er, losing their heads over.
Dinner before: Ants egg soup at Lao Café
Drinks after: All the wines at La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels
Critics say: The Guardian 5*; The Evening Standard 5*; The Stage 5*; The Independent 4*; The Telegraph 4*
Details: Mary Stuart runs at the Duke of York’s Theatre (closest tube station Leicester Square) until 31st March. Tickets cost from £10 – £95, and can be purchased HERE.
Misty | Bush Theatre
The overwhelmingly talented Arinze Kené turns his talents to writing, performance and spoken word in his originally soundtracked show, Misty. Seamlessly blending live music, poetry and direct address to the audience, he asks what a “black play” can, should, and is expected to be, and the significance of telling particular narratives over others.
Dinner before: Head along to neighbourhood restaurant Bush Hall Dining Rooms
Drinks after: Sink a cocktail in the cosy library-style theatre bar
Critics say: The Independent 4*; The Stage 4*; Evening Standard 4*
Details: Misty runs at the Bush Theatre (closest tube station Shepherd’s Bush Market) until 21st April. Tickets cost from £10 and can be purchased HERE.
Summer and Smoke | Almeida Theatre
Aaaand the Almeida have done it again. Rebecca Frecknell’s production of Tennessee Williams’ somewhat neglected play is a searingly rendered portrait of the tension between body and soul, desire and duty in turn-of-the-century America. Patsy Ferran has blown critics away with her portrayal of the neurotic Alma, as she falls for rugged trainee doctor John – a charged but troubled attraction erratically soundtracked by the nine upright pianos surrounding the space.
Dinner before: Head to Scandi smokehouse Rok Islington
Drinks after: Peruse the wine library at Humble Grape Islington
Critics say: The Independent 5*; The Telegraph 5*; The Guardian 4*
Details: Summer and Smoke runs at the Almeida (closest tube station Angel) until 7th April. Tickets are now sold out, but you can find out ways to get hold of any day rush tickets or returns HERE.
Witness For The Prosecution | London County Hall
Courtroom dramas don’t always make great plays.
But then, who are we to judge?
And a revival of Agatha Christie’s shorter-running play (read: fewer than 60 years), Witness For The Prosecution, is certainly one to buck the trend. Given an atmospheric twist by director Lucy Bailey; it’s performed in the rarely accessible (and suitably ‘20s) courtroom of London County Hall. Expect more twists and turns than a poorly made pretzel.
Dinner before: Homely ramen at Yamagoya
Drinks after: Cocktails with a view on the OXO Terrace Bar
Critics say: The Telegraph 4*; The Times 4*; The Guardian 4*
Details: Witness For The Prosecution runs at London County Hall (closest tube station Waterloo) until 16th September 2018. Tickets cost from £10 to £95, and can be purchased HERE.
Good Girl | Trafalgar Studios
Credit: Felicity Crawshaw
After critically acclaimed runs at the Edinburgh Fringe and London’s very own VAULT Festival, Naomi Sheldon’s boisterous and searingly honest one-woman show transfers to Trafalgar Studios for a month-long run. Peppered with 90s references, genuine laugh out loud moments and a killer soundtrack, this unexpectedly touching exploration of growing up and vulnerability hits all the right notes.
Dinner before: Elegant seasonal dishes from Rochelle Canteen at ICA
Drinks after: Subterranean cocktails at Eve
Critics say: EdFringeReview 5*; The Stage 4*; The List 4*; Broadway Baby 4*
Details: Good Girl runs at Trafalgar Studios (closest tube station Charing Cross) until 31st March. Tickets cost from £20 – £35, and can be purchased HERE.
The Play That Goes Wrong | Duchess Theatre
Honestly, they could be screwing this up horribly every night and nobody would notice. In fact, they’d probably clap.
Dinner before: French food at er, Frenchie
Drinks after: And French wine to boot at La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels
Critics say: The Times 4*; The Independent 4*; The Telegraph 4*; The Stage 4*
Details: The Play That Goes Wrong runs at the Duchess Theatre (closest tube station Covent Garden) until 30th September 2018. Tickets cost from £20 to £67.50, and can be purchased HERE.
The Great Gatsby | Mystery Location
This isn’t your average, everyday, garden variety Gatsby. It’s the great one, and he’s throwing one heck of a party – and you’re invited. Eavesdrop on secret bedroom conversations, connive with the characters, and throw some serious jazz hands.
Dinner before: We couldn’t possibly give the location away…
Drinks after: No, really we can’t.
Critics say: British Theatre Guide 5*; The Guardian 4*; The Stage 4*
Details: The Great Gatsby runs somewhere mysterious (closest tube station Borough…) until 29th July 2018. Tickets cost £34, and can be purchased HERE
Trainspotting | The Vaults
Yep, immersive Trainspotting. And while they stop short of inviting you to shoot up with them, prepare to be flung head-first into the grimy, heroin-infused side of 1980s Edinburgh in this 21st anniversary revival of the stage adaptation from Irvine Welsh’s iconic book. There’s nudity, there’s coarse language, there’s full immersion – even in that toilet scene. It’s excellent… though maybe not one for a first date.
Dinner before: Ottolenghi-style cuisine at Bala Baya
Drinks after: A strong drink at Penny bar
Critics say: It’s had almost 20 5* reviews from its Fringe run. So generally, pretty favourable.
Details: Trainspotting runs at the Vaults (closest tube station Waterloo) until 3rd June. Tickets cost from £20 – £35, and can be purchased HERE.
Main image: Caroline, Or Change
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