You must have had your head in a bucket of quick-drying cement if you haven’t seen James Norton on TV of late: as murderer Tommy Lee Royce in Happy Valley, Prince Andrei in War And Pace and Grantchester’s cute parson sleuth. He’s certainly versatile (and busy). Now he takes to the stage at the new pop-up Found 111 on Charing Cross Road, the venue that had a hit over Christmas with The Dazzle. Norton joins Kate Fleetwood (who recently played Medea at the Almeida) in Bug, the pair star as a war vet and a lonely cocktail waitress in a play set in a motel room in Oklahoma City. Tracy Letts, who also penned August: Osage County, premiered Bug at Notting Hill’s Gate Theatre in 1996, while a 2006 film version starred Michael Shannon, Ashley Judd and Harry Connick Jr.
Found 111, WC2, Thu to 7 May
The Shepherd’s Life
In 2015, James Rebanks’s account of life on the Lake District fells became an unlikely bestseller. A deserved one, too: it exquisitely observes the seasonal rhythms of hill farming and the blood and sweat required to get through the winter. Rebanks doesn’t romanticise (although his accounts of bringing the sheep in from the hills are highly poetic); instead, he paints a loving portrait of a gruelling life that involves digging sheep out of snow in the winter. It may not sound like an obvious page-to-stage adaptation, but Theatre By The Lake seems the right home for one, and the production will use film, puppetry and music to bring the fells inside.
Theatre By The Lake, Fri to 23 Apr
Reasons To Be Happy
It’s unusual for a playwright to go back and revisit characters, but Neil LaBute has done just that, and revealed himself to be rather less misanthropic these days in the process. This is, after all, the man who wrote and directed the roundly unpleasant 1996 film In The Company Of Men. Reasons To Be Pretty featured Steph and Greg, a couple plagued with problems. Now, in Reasons To Be Happy, they have separated; she’s married to someone else and he’s dating her best friend Carly, whose ex-husband wants her back. This is more romantic comedy than the trademark LaBute tale-with-a-nasty-twist, and features Tom Burke, recently Dolokhov in War And Peace, and Warren Brown of Luther fame.
Hampstead Theatre, NW3, to 16 Apr
Long Day’s Journey Into Night
Bristol Old Vic is celebrating its 250th anniversary this year and it’s doing it in style, with Richard Eyre’s revival of the Eugene O’Neill tragedy of family life, starring Jeremy Irons and Lesley Manville (the latter was marvellous in Eyre’s recent version of Ghosts, which played at the Almeida and in the West End). Irons plays family patriarch James, a bullying actor whose sons Edmund and Jamie are in the grip of consumption and alcoholism. Manville is his long-suffering wife Mary, who is descending into mania induced by drug addiction and unhappiness. It’s not exactly a jolly watch but it is a very powerful one, and this is a major production of a strongly autobiographical drama – a study of ruined lives and impossible futures – that won O’Neill a posthumous Pulitzer prize in 1957.
Bristol Old Vic, Wed to 23 Apr
Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Melville’s Moby-Dick and the passenger manifest for the Mary Celeste – the ship that was found floating and entirely deserted in the Atlantic in 1872 – are all alluded to in the latest piece from David Leddy and his company, Fire Exit. Leddy is one of British theatre’s most distinctive talents, and while not every show is a winner, even those that don’t come off are of interest; you could never accuse him of a lack of ambition and his previous shows such as Sub Rosa and Long Live The Little Knife have been brilliantly multilayered and unsettling. Described as “a perverse Aesop’s fable for the apocalypse”, this one tells of a quartet of extremely rich people who – with the airports closed and roads blocked – think they have found a way to escape the crumbling city by paying for a berth on the last ship leaving London. But is all quite as it first appears?
Tron Theatre, Tue to 26 Mar
Summer. Autumn. Winter. Spring.
Played out in the Old Granada Studios – also the site of The Factory, a 5,000-capacity arts centre scheduled to open in 2019 – Quarantine’s epic quartet considers the human life cycle from birth to death. Summer, previously seen in Salford in 2014, includes a crowd of people aged from 18 months to their 70s. Autumn takes the form of an interval full of conversations and imaginings about the future; while Winter is a film made by Rachel Davies about someone coming to the end of their life; and Spring features women in various stages of pregnancy. The shows can be seen separately this week and performances of the whole seven-hour cycle take place on 26 March and 2 to 3 April.
Old Granada Studios, Tue to 3 Apr