Playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins made a sensational impact with An Octoroon at London’s Orange Tree this year. His latest, shortlisted for the Pulitzer prize, is a comedy about a group of adrenalin-filled, youthful high-fliers working for a New York magazine and fuelled by coffee and ambition. Michael Longhurst, responsible for the National Theatre’s Amadeus, directs and Colin Morgan, seen on stage in Mojo and on TV in Merlin, stars.
• 15 June-22 July, Hampstead theatre, London. Box office: 020-7722 9301.

The Wind in the Willows

Rufus Hound as Mr Toad in The Wind in the Willows.
Rufus Hound as Mr Toad in The Wind in the Willows. Photograph: PR Company Handout

George Stiles and Anthony Drewe have written the songs and Julian Fellowes has done the book for this latest version of Kenneth Grahame’s classic about the plight of a group of riverside animals. Admired on a previous outing in Plymouth, it will have to contend with memories of Alan Bennett’s non-musical version, but it has a strong cast including Rufus Hound as Toad, Gary Wilmot as Badger and Craig Mather as Mole.
• 16 June-9 September, London Palladium; 0844 8740665.


Bertie Carvel as Rupert Murdoch in rehearsals for Ink.
Bertie Carvel as Rupert Murdoch in rehearsals for Ink. Photograph: PR Company Handout

“It was the Sun wot lost it,” it was said of the recent election. Now James Graham’s new play goes back to the origins of the once-influential redtop and its owner’s determination to give the public what they want. Rupert Goold directs, Bertie Carvel plays Rupert Murdoch and David Schofield is rival Mirror boss Hugh Cudlipp. Could this be the new Pravda?
• 17 June-15 August, Almeida, London; 020-7359 4404).

Around the World in 80 Days

First seen four years ago, Laura Eason’s version of Jules Verne’s novel was an instant hit and is back by popular demand. It follows Phileas Fogg’s three-month circumnavigation of the globe and, in Theresa Heskins’s inventive production, shows him travelling by everything from elephant to wind-propelled sleigh.
• 23 June-8 July, New Vic theatre, Newcastle-under-Lyme; 01782 717962. Then on tour.

Julius Caesar

Shakespeare’s Roman tragedy, with its political murder and civil strife, seems to be everywhere this summer. It is one of the opening productions in Chester’s ambitious new theatre and arts centre, before moving to the Grosvenor Park Open Air theatre. Loveday Ingram, who lately directed The Rover for the RSC, follows the recent trend by giving the action a modern setting.
• 23 June-27 August, Storyhouse Stage, then at Grosvenor Park Open Air theatre, Chester; 0844 815 7202.

Titus Andronicus

David Troughton plays Titus Andronicus.
David Troughton plays Titus Andronicus. Photograph: Helen Maybanks

Shakespeare’s bloodiest tragedy gets a rare outing as part of the RSC’s Roman season. Although the action involves rape, cannibalism and mutilation, successive productions by directors such as Peter Brook and Deborah Warner have shown the play to be a forerunner of King Lear rather than a simple gore-fest. David Troughton now plays the revered Roman general seeking revenge on the gothic queen, Tamora, and Blanche McIntyre directs after her successful production of The Two Noble Kinsmen.
• 23 June-2 September, Royal Shakespeare theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon; 01789 403493.


Sandra Marvin (Camila Batmanghelidjh) in rehearsals for Committee.
Sandra Marvin (as Camila Batmanghelidjh) in rehearsals for Committee. Photograph: Jack Sain

The full title is a bit of a mouthful: The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee Takes Oral Evidence on Whitehall’s Relationship With Kids Company. This is something of a novelty: a verbatim musical based on the evidence given by, among others, Camila Batmanghelidjh and Alan Yentob, during an inquiry into the collapse of a famous charity. Tom Deering has done the music, Hadley Fraser and Josie Rourke the book and lyrics and I just wonder if there will be a catchy title-song.
• 24 June-12 August, Donmar Warehouse, London; 020-3282 3808.

The Tempest

Mark Quartley (Ariel) and Simon Russell Beale (Prospero) in The Tempest.
Mark Quartley (Ariel) and Simon Russell Beale (Prospero) in The Tempest. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian

Gregory Doran’s hi-tech production, in which the RSC collaborates with Intel and The Imaginarium Studios, translates Mark Quartley’s Ariel into a computer-generated image that takes on multiple forms. But, in the end, it’s Shakespeare’s words that count and Simon Russell Beale’s Prospero is an unforgettably guilt-haunted figure whose bookish solitude provokes his political usurpation. Emotional engagement, as always, is the true test of theatre.
• 30 June-18 August, Barbican, London; 0845 120 7511.


Co-created by Frantic Assembly’s Scott Graham, Underworld’s Karl Hyde and playwright Simon Stephens, this show is a collage of words, music and movement based on conversations with fathers and sons. Although the starting point is deeply personal, the production aims to explore not just the crisis in masculinity but larger questions of identity and nationality. Directed by Graham, the show is a centrepiece of this year’s Manchester international festival (MIF).
• 1-22 July, Royal Exchange theatre, Manchester; 0161-833 9833.

Returning to Reims

Thomas Ostermeier is one of the most exciting directors in Europe. At MIF he stages an adaptation of a bestselling memoir by Didier Eribon recording the writer’s return to his working-class roots only to discover that his family has switched allegiance from the Communist party to the National Front. Further layers are added to the story as the Berlin actor Nina Hoss records Eribon’s book and describes her own engagement with politics.
• 5-14 July, Home, Manchester; 0843 208 1840.

Girl from the North Country

Sheila Atim and Shirley Henderson in rehearsals for Girl from the North Country.
Sheila Atim and Shirley Henderson in rehearsals for Girl from the North Country. Photograph: Manuel Harlan

Conor McPherson weaves the music of Bob Dylan into his latest play. You realise why when you see the setting is a Minnesota guesthouse in 1934, where the residents find their space invaded by a Bible-punching preacher and a boxer looking for a comeback. Ciarán Hinds, Arinzé Kene, Shirley Henderson and Ron Cook lead a 20-strong cast of actors and musicians.
• 8 July-7 October, Old Vic, London; 0844 871 7628.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Benedict Andrews had a big hit with his in-the-round production of A Streetcar Named Desire in 2014. Here he teams up again with the Young Vic, who have colonised a West End theatre for another Tennessee Williams classic. Sienna Miller plays Maggie and Jack O’Connell her impotent, alcoholic husband, Brick, and one hopes Andrews uncovers the dark humour in a play often seen as a steamy, below-the-belt sex drama.
• 13 July-7 October, Apollo theatre, London; 0844 482 9671.

The House They Grew Up In

Samantha Spiro explores family ties in The House They Grew Up In.
Samantha Spiro explores family ties in The House They Grew Up In. Photograph: PR Company Handout

Deborah Bruce’s last play, The Distance, was a lively account of the emotional fall-out when a mother abandons her family. Now she turns her attention to a pair of reclusive siblings holed up in a family home filled with the debris of decades. Samantha Spiro, last seen at Chichester as Fanny Brice in Funny Girl, and Daniel Ryan play the leads and Jeremy Herrin directs a co-production with Headlong that, hopefully, will enjoy a better fate than DC Moore’s Common.
• 14 July-5 August, Minerva theatre, Chichester; 01243 781312.


It is hard to think of a better British play last year than Lucy Kirkwood’s The Children. Now she’s back with a new piece that again interweaves public and private worlds: in this case, the collision between the scientific Alice, working in Geneva on the Large Hadron Collider, and her Luton-based sister, Jenny. Olivia Colman and Olivia Williams play the sisters and Rufus Norris, who’s not lately been having the best of times at the National, directs.
• 18 July-28 September, Dorfman, National Theatre, London; 020-7452 3000.


Jim Cartwright’s Road returns to the Royal Court.
Jim Cartwright’s Road returns to the Royal Court. Photograph: Jon Super/The Guardian

Jim Cartwright’s play was one of the key works of the Thatcherite 80s, in that it took us on a guided tour of a deprived Lancashire town: the sadness and squalor were offset by the ebullience of Ian Dury’s music and Max Stafford-Clark’s production. John Tiffany, who masterminded the Harry Potter stage production, is now at the helm with a strong cast including Michelle Fairley, Liz White and June Watson. It will be fascinating to see how he recaptures the spirit of a play in which economic decline and boozy endurance go hand in hand.
• 21 July-9 September, Royal Court, London; 020-7565 5000.


Ever outward-looking, Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum joins forces with the DOT Theatre of Istanbul to present a new Scottish/Turkish version of this absurdist comedy by Eugène Ionesco. A satire on conformity, the play presents us with a society in which everyone, except the obstinate Bérenger, is turning into rampaging rhinoceroses. Zinnie Harris has come up with a new version, to be directed by DOT’s Murat Daltaban.
• 3-12 August, Lyceum, Edinburgh; 0131-473 2000.

The Whip Hand

In a packed Edinburgh festival programme, the Traverse offers a co-production with Birmingham Rep and the National Theatre of Scotland. The play itself is by Douglas Maxwell, who wrote the extraordinary Decky Does a Bronco. Here he tackles power and privilege as the hero celebrates his 50th birthday by launching a bombshell that shocks and surprises his family.
• 3-27 August, Traverse, Edinburgh; 0131-228 1404.

Looking at Lucian

Lucian Freud’s studio is the setting for Alan Frank’s portrait of the painter.
Lucian Freud’s studio is the setting for Alan Frank’s portrait of the painter. Photograph: Stephan Agostini/AFP/Getty Images

Aside from Francis Bacon, there is no more mesmerising modern British painter than Lucian Freud. In Alan Franks’s play, we watch Freud at work at his Kensington studio, little realising that the intimate relationship between artist and model is about to be destroyed. The versatile Henry Goodman plays the formidable Freud and Tom Attenborough directs.
• 3 August-2 September, Ustinov Studio, Theatre Royal, Bath; 01225 448844.

The Divide

Often thought of as the Molière of the middle-classes, Alan Ayckbourn has a long-standing interest in sci-fi and dystopian drama. This new, two-part play envisages a Britain a century on that has been decimated by a deadly contagion and in which the sexes are brutally segregated. Said to acknowledge the influence of Orwell, Huxley and the Quatermass TV shows and film, this is a wildly ambitious project, directed by Annabel Bolton, that will eventually head to the Old Vic.
• 8-20 August, King’s theatre, Edinburgh; 0131-473 2000.

Oresteia: This Restless House

Zinnie Harris’s Greek tragedy was first seen at the Citizens in Glasgow.
Zinnie Harris’s Greek tragedy was first seen at the Citizens in Glasgow. Photograph: Tim Morozzo

After Robert Icke’s updated Aeschylus at London’s Almeida, Zinnie Harris’s version, first seen at the Citizens in Glasgow, is reprised for the Edinburgh festival. At its first outing, it was widely praised for its imaginative take on a classic tragedy, for Dominic Hill’s visceral staging and for Pauline Knowles’s outstanding performance as the murderous Clytemnestra.
• 22-27 August, Lyceum, Edinburgh; 0131-473 2000.


Michael Billington

The GuardianTramp

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30, Jul, 2017 @7:00 AM