London Theatre – The Best Shows Right Now
Updated On 9th August 2018!
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?”
And the answer is… well, here.
Jump Straight To: MUSICALS | DRAMA | COMEDY | IMMERSIVE
THE BEST MUSICALS | LONDON THEATRE
Brief Encounter | Empire Cinema Haymarket
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
London Theatre 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 9th September. Tickets cost from £20 to £52.50, and can be purchased HERE.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie | Apollo Theatre, London
This title could have been reaaally embarrassing if the show hadn’t taken off. Luckily, London theatre 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
London Theatre 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.
Fun Home | Young Vic, London
Hailed by London theatre critics as the next great musical to travel across the pond, Fun Home is a Tony award-winning musical adaptation of Alison Bechdel’s graphic autobiography. A patchwork of memories interspersed with a critically acclaimed score, an adult Alison tracks her life from childhood to adulthood; through college, her coming out, and the suicide of her gay father. It’s surprisingly radiant for a show which centres on such a tragic event, with excellent performances all round.
Dinner before: Anatolian cuisine at Tas
Drinks after: Cocktails with a view at Rumpus Room
London Theatre Critics say: The Telegraph 5*; The Independent 5*; The Times 4*; The Guardian 4*
Details: Fun Home runs at the Young Vic (closest tube station Waterloo) until 1st September. Tickets cost from £10-40, and can be purchased HERE.
Hamilton | Victoria Palace Theatre, London
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 theatre event to drop this century has come to London.
And the 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
London Theatre 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) pretty much indefinitely. Tickets cost from £20 to £200, and can be purchased HERE.
Matilda | Cambridge Theatre, London
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
London Theatre 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.
THE BEST DRAMA | LONDON THEATRE
Home, I’m Darling | National Theatre
Credit: Manuel Harlan
A daintily aproned Katherine Parkinson (The IT Crowd) stands in a perfect dolls-house of a home, preparing her husband’s boiled egg. It’s only when she takes out her laptop that you realise this isn’t the 50s. Judy, however, would very much like it to be, embracing the nostalgia and ideals of this restrictive but picture-perfect era. Laura Wade’s first original play since Posh – which caused ripples with its searing analysis of entitlement and privilege – Home, I’m Darling is a complex play that delves into individual notions of feminism in the light of the #MeToo movement and how we define our domestic roles.
Dinner before: Dinner with a view at the OXO Tower Brasserie
Drinks after: Head across the river to World’s Best Bar winner, The American Bar
London theatre critics say: The Stage 5*, The Times 5*, The Guardian 4*
Details: Home, I’m Darling runs at the National Theatre (closest tube station Waterloo) until 5th September. There are limited tickets available here, or via Friday Rush and Day Returns.
The Jungle | Playhouse Theatre, London
The Jungle has just transferred to the West End after a critically acclaimed run at the Young Vic. But strictly speaking, this is its second transfer. Because this play – written by two former volunteers, and featuring a cast made up of many former refugees – comes from the Calais Jungle itself, set in a pop up, reconstructed version of the makeshift Afghan café that sprung up amongst the chaos. It’s an unsurprising rollercoaster of emotions, taking you through the horrors and small triumphs of the different lives lived out in the camp with breathtaking candour.
Dinner before: Spiced, smoky meats at the Tandoor Chop House
Drinks after: Share a bottle at Gordon’s Wine Bar
London Theatre Critics say: The Guardian 5*; The Independent 5*; The Stage 5*
Details: The Jungle runs at the Playhouse Theatre (closest tube station Embankment) until 3rd November. Tickets cost from £18.80 – £81.30, and can be purchased HERE.
King Lear | Duke of York’s Theatre
There’s an old theatre saying that if you’re old enough to play Lear, you’re too old…
This is Sir Ian McKellen’s second time in the title role.
At the age of 79, it’s no mean feat – but this production (a transfer from an acclaimed run in Chichester last year) has put that adage well and truly to bed, thanks to a personal, intimate and probing portrayal of the declining king; made all the more poignant by McKellen’s vow that this will be his last Shakespeare. Visually stunning, it’s a fitting swansong that assaults the emotions and drags you down with him in his descent to madness…
And at least he won’t forget the lines.
Dinner before: Creative plates at Henrietta
Drinks after: Head down the Strand to Eve
London theatre critics say: The Guardian 4*, Telegraph 4*, Londontheatre 5*
Details: King Lear runs at the Duke of York’s Theatre (closest tube station Leicester Square) until 3rd November. Tickets cost from £25-195, and can be purchased HERE.
The Lehman Trilogy | National Theatre
Plays about great financial crises. They can be a little depressing. But this elegant translation of Italian playwright Stefano Massini’s three-act play tells the unexpectedly captivating story of the Lehman Brothers, from the humble Alabama cloth shop opened by three German Jewish immigrant brothers, to their grandson who ran what had by then become America’s fourth largest investment bank into the ground. Slickly presented by a cast of three multi-roling actors (Simon Russell Beale, Ben Miles and Adam Godley) and directed by Olivier award-winning Sam Mendes, this show’s headed for anything but a slump.
Dinner before: Riverside terrace dining at Sea Containers
Drinks after: Head back for a nightcap at Dandelyan
London theatre critics say: The Times 5*; The Guardian 5*; The Telegraph 4*; The Stage 4*
Details: The Lehman Trilogy runs at the National Theatre (closest tube station Waterloo) until 20th October. Tickets are generally sold out, but you can still get hold of them via Friday Rush or Day Returns. Find out more HERE.
Pressure | Ambassadors Theatre, London
A play about the weather might not seem the most thrilling out there.
But don’t let it cloud your judgement.
Set in the run-up to D-Day, playwright David Haig himself stars as the meteorologist tasked with determining the best time to strike, who soon comes to blows with an American meteorologist with different methods and very different opinions. London theatre critics are hailing its perfectly pitched performances and well-crafted writing – no wonder it’s finally transferred to the West End.
Dinner before: A cosy fish supper at Parsons
Drinks after: Mezcal cocktails at The Lost Alpaca
London Theatre Critics say: The Guardian 4*; The Independent 4*; The Evening Standard 4*
Details: Pressure runs at the Ambassadors Theatre London (closest tube station Covent Garden) until 1st September. Tickets cost from £15 – £75 and can be purchased 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
London Theatre 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 31st March 2019. Tickets cost from £10 to £95, and can be purchased HERE.
THE BEST COMEDY | LONDON THEATRE
Allelujah! | Bridge Theatre
Allelujah! It’s a new Alan Bennett play. One of theatre’s most prolific writers, Bennett turns this time to a geriatric ward (complete with a thriving in-patient choir) for his setting, where NHS cuts are threatening closure. Witty, poignant and topical, it’s a show with great heart and strong performances from the cohesive ensemble.
Dinner before: Visit the in-house sibling of Michelin-starred St John
Drinks after: A glug of vino at 40 Maltby Street
London theatre critics say: The Guardian 4*; The Independent 4*; The Telegraph 4*
Details: Allelujah! runs at the Bridge Theatre (closest tube station London Bridge) until 29th September. Tickets cost from £15-90 and can be purchased HERE.
Silk Road (How To Buy Drugs Online) | Trafalgar Studios
The first show ever funded by Bitcoin, Silk Road is a darkly comic monologue about the ‘dark web’, an online black market where anything from heroin to organs can be bought and sold without being traced. Inspired by interviews with genuine internet drug barons, it veers between black humour and moments of serious intensity, as a Geordie teenager and his grandma find themselves sucked into this virtual criminal network.
Dinner before: Fusion food at Bronte
Drinks after: Nightcaps with a view at the Trafalgar St James Rooftop Bar
London theatre critics say: Broadway World 4*
Details: Silk Road runs at Trafalgar Studios (closest tube station Charing Cross) until 1st September. Tickets cost from £20-32.50, and can be purchased HERE.
The Lieutenant of Inishmore | Noel Coward Theatre London
Credit: Johan Persson
A terrorist so violent that even the IRA don’t want him – admittedly, it hardly sounds like the set up for a rib-tickling show. But Irish playwright Martin McDonagh’s satire on terrorism is still very dark, very funny and flawlessly executed – and the West End debut of Poldark’s Aidan Turner has been met with high praise from critics across the board. And they must really mean it, because he keeps his clothes on the whole time.
Dinner before: An old school London theatre dinner at J. Sheekey
Drinks after: Gin cocktails amid Victorian ephemera at Mr. Fogg’s Tavern
London Theatre Critics say: The Independent 4*; Evening Standard 4*; The Guardian 4*; The Telegraph 4*
Details: The Lieutenant of Inishmore runs at the Noel Coward Theatre (closest tube station Leicester Square) until 8th September. Tickets cost from £10-£104, and can be purchased HERE.
The Play That Goes Wrong | Duchess Theatre London
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
London Theatre 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 7th April 2019. Tickets cost from £20 to £67.50, and can be purchased HERE.
IMMERSIVE | LONDON THEATRE
The Great Gatsby | Mystery Location, London
This isn’t your average, everyday, garden variety Gatsby. It’s the great one, and he’s throwing one heck of a party… 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.
London Theatre Critics say: British Theatre Guide 5*; The Guardian 4*; The Stage 4*
Details: The Great Gatsby runs somewhere mysterious (closest tube station Borough…) until 31st December 2018. Tickets cost £32.50, and can be purchased HERE.
Main image: The Jungle
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