Angels and demons: the unmissable theatre, comedy and dance of autumn 2017

Hamilton hits London, Bryan Cranston’s news anchor goes berserk, Wayne McGregor turns his DNA into dance, Mae Martin revisits her teen addictions and Toyah Willcox is a time-travelling queen


For Love Or Money

Blake Morrison updates a 1709 French drama, Turcaret by Alain-René Lesage, in which money – as much as passion – spins the plot. Barrie Rutter, shortly to bid farewell to Northern Broadsides, directs and stars in this Yorkshire-based version of the riotous comedy about a man who is clever with finance but a clot with women.
The Viaduct, Dean Clough, Halifax (box office: 01422 255266), from 15 September. Then touring.

We’re Still Here

Six years after they staged their glorious production The Passion with Michael Sheen on the streets of Port Talbot, National Theatre Wales return to the town for a site-specific piece that gives voice to the community. When its steelworks was faced with closure in 2015, the people of Port Talbot came together to speak out. Based on interviews with those who live and work in the region, this co-production with the always invigorating Common Wealth company is a show about making your own future.
Byass Works, Port Talbot, 15-30 September.

King Lear

Ian McKellen first played Lear for the RSC in 2007. Now he has another crack at the role in the kind of intimate setting that often proves ideal for Shakespearean tragedy. Jonathan Munby directs, Kirsty Bushell, Dervla Kirwan and Tamara Lawrance are Lear’s daughters and, following the cross-gender pattern in the recent Globe production, Kent is played by Sinéad Cusack.
Minerva, Chichester (box office: 01243 781312), from 22 September.

Ten years after his RSC performance, Ian McKellen returns to the role of King Lear.
Ten years after his RSC performance, Ian McKellen returns to the role of King Lear. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian

Pink Sari Revolution

Purva Naresh adapts Amana Fontanella-Khan’s book about India’s all-female, 400,000-strong Gulabi Gang, led by the charismatic Sampat Pal Devi, who came together to fight injustice and stop the abuse of women. A story about using hot pink saris to fight for freedom and discovering the truth when the odds are stacked against you.
Curve, Leicester, 27 September-7 October, then touring.

The Tin Drum

Kneehigh bring to the stage Günter Grass’s sprawling masterpiece about Oskar, a boy who decides never to grow up and takes on the world with his tin drum. Mike Shepherd directs Carl Grose’s gleeful adaptation that promises all the verbal fireworks and rotten nastiness of the original, which was written in the long shadow of fascism.
Liverpool Everyman, 28 September-14 October. Then touring.

What does it really mean to be a man? Scottee.
What does it really mean to be a man? Scottee takes Bravado on tour. Photograph: Holly Revell


When the performance artist Scottee was young, masculinity meant drunkenness and aggression, and the local boys grew up into violent men. Part memoir and part examination of what it really means to be a man, his solo show sets out on a tour of male-dominated spaces throughout the UK, including social and lap-dancing clubs. An evening that should offer blood, sweat and tears.
The Briton’s Protection, Manchester, 28-30 September. Then touring.

Labour of Love

With plays such as This House and Ink, James Graham has shown an extraordinary gift for recreating momentous public events. Now he has taken on the turbulent recent history of the Labour party from Neil Kinnock to Jeremy Corbyn. Martin Freeman plays an MP and Tamsin Greig his principled constituency agent in a play, directed by Jeremy Herrin, that gets outside the Westminster bubble to look at Labour’s northern strongholds.
Noël Coward theatre, London (box office: 0844 482 5140), from 3 October.

More screwball comedy than physics lecture …Heisenberg stars Kenneth Cranham and Anne-Marie Duff.
More screwball comedy than physics lecture …Heisenberg stars Kenneth Cranham and Anne-Marie Duff. Photograph: Dan Kennedy

Heisenberg: The Uncertainty Principle

Marianne Elliott and Chris Harper launch their newly formed production company with a Simon Stephens play, first seen off-Broadway, about a chance encounter that radically changes two people’s lives. More screwball comedy than physics lecture, the play stars Anne-Marie Duff and Kenneth Cranham and reunites many of the team behind the massively successful The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time.
Wyndhams, London (box office: 0844 482 5120), from 3 October.

Victory Condition

Vicky Featherstone directs Jonjo O’Neill and Sharon Duncan-Brewster in a new play by Chris Thorpe who had a big hit with Confirmation, about how confirmation bias influences our worldview. This one is billed as an attempt to “get to grips with the fact that everything happens at once” and looks at the disconnections we experience in a hyper-connected world.
Royal Court, London (box office: 020-7565 5000), 5-21 October.


Bridget Boland’s lost 1947 classic gets a rare outing. The Lyceum stage is turned into a provincial German theatre used as a makeshift transit camp for displaced persons facing forcible postwar repatriation. Wils Wilson’s production promises to be an immersive experience and is bound to raise important questions at a time when Europe faces a contemporary refugee crisis.
Lyceum, Edinburgh (box office: 0131 248 4848), from 6 October.


Given that title, and with Mike Bartlett of King Charles III fame as author, it is clear that we are in for a state-of-the-nation play. Further clues are provided by the fact that the setting is the ruins of a garden in rural England that suggests a mix of Shaw’s Heartbreak House and Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard. Victoria Hamilton, as a woman searching for the seeds of hope, heads a cast that includes Helen Schlesinger and Margot Leicester. Rupert Goold directs.
Almeida, London (box office: 020 7359 4404), from 10 October.

Fire Below (A War of Words)

Owen McCafferty’s 2012 play Quietly was a superbly restrained yet emotionally explosive look at violence and reconciliation. This piece returns to the subject through the prism of two neighbouring couples enjoying a drink together 20 years on from the peace agreement. But who knows when a grenade might be lobbed into the conversation?
Lyric, Belfast (box office: 028-9038 1081), 12-29 October. Then at the Abbey, Dublin.

The Cherry Orchard

Writer Gary Owen and director Rachel O’Riordan have proved themselves a formidable partnership with Iphigenia in Splott and Killology. Now they take on Chekhov with a production that relocates the original to Pembrokeshire in 1982 as Thatcher’s government sweeps away the old certainties and those trees come crashing down.
Sherman, Cardiff (box office: 029-2064 6900), 13-28 October.

Rory Kinnear in Young Marx.
Broke and horny … Rory Kinnear in Young Marx. Photograph: Bridge theatre

Young Marx

This comedy by Richard Bean and Clive Coleman launches a new, 900-seat commercial theatre: the first to be built in London for 80 years. Situated near Tower Bridge, it is the brainchild of Nicholas Hytner and Nick Starr and holds enormous potential. One hopes the building doesn’t overshadow a play in which Rory Kinnear plays the young Karl who, broke, horny and bubbling with revolutionary ideas, is hiding away in Soho.
Bridge theatre, London, (box office: 0843 208 1846), from 18 October.

The Last Testament of Lillian Bilocca

Maxine Peake tells the story of Hull’s forgotten heroine who took on the power of the trawler owners at the end of the 1960s and fought for better safety conditions for the fishermen. A salty, site-specific tale, steered by Sarah Frankcom, and played out in Hull’s historic Guildhall with folk music contributions from the Unthanks.
Guildhall, Hull, 3-18 November.


Paddy Chayefsky’s Oscar-winning 1976 movie about a news anchorman who goes berserk on screen and turns into a populist prophet has been dramatised by Lee Hall. Its vision of a world where opinion trumps fact sounds eerily topical and what ups the stakes is that it is directed by the ubiquitous Ivo van Hove and stars Bryan Cranston who, even before his phenomenal performance in Breaking Bad, was a highly accomplished stage actor.
Olivier, London, (box office: 020-7452 3000), from 4 November.


Derek Jarman’s chaotic and giddily incendiary punk classic is reimagined and updated for the stage by Chris Goode, 40 years after it first appeared in cinemas. One of the original cast members, Toyah Willcox, returns, this time taking on the role of a time-travelling Elizabeth I who finds herself in a contemporary London where girl gangs rampage across the streets and order has given way to violence.
Royal Exchange, Manchester (box office: 0161-833 9833), 2-18 November.


The RSC’s Roman season comes to an epic climax with Mike Poulton’s two-part adaptation of Robert Harris’s sequence of novels about Cicero. The story takes Cicero from his election as consul and the conspiracy to destroy him up to his determination to save the Republic from a military dictatorship under Mark Antony. Poulton’s skill in adapting Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell novels, and the fact that Greg Doran directs, suggests the omens are favourable.
The Swan, Stratford-upon-Avon (box office: 01789 403493), from 16 November.


All-female roller derby is a thrilling spectacle and one of the fastest growing sports in the world. Fresh from the superb Our Carnal Hearts, Rachel Mars teams up with Nat Tarrab to bring all the visual spectacle of a skate-fast, hit-hard sport to the theatre. A show about women’s bodies, competitiveness and breaking through the pack.
The Pit, London (box office: 020-7638 8891), 23 November-2 December.

Sweeping all before it … Hamilton in New York.
Sweeping all before it … Hamilton in New York. Photograph: Joan Marcus


This is the big one. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop musical swept all before it on Broadway winning a record-breaking 11 Tony awards, becoming a box-office smash and even provoking the ire of President Trump. Inspired by a biography by Ron Chernow, it tells the story of one of America’s founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton, and signally shows his white colleagues played by racially diverse actors. It will be fascinating to see if it makes as big an impact in London.
Victoria Palace, London, (box office: 0844 482 5138), from 6 December.


Objectively Funny

There are comedy festivals all around the UK this autumn – in Belfast, Nottingham, Greenwich and elsewhere – but for a trip to the art form’s cutting edge, look no further than this intense shot of up-and-coming standups in a West End pub. Over a few days only, there are hits including Evelyn Mok’s Hymen Manoeuvre, about the anxieties the Chinese-Swedish comic experienced around losing her virginity, Jordan Brookes’ convention shredding Body of Work, and Fin Taylor’s polemic about the failings of the left. Lucy Pearman’s endearingly strange Maid of Cabbage and Tez Ilyas’s latest compendium of tales of life as a fun-loving British Muslim also feature.
The Albany on Great Portland Street, London, 16-26 September.

Hymen Manoeuvre … Evelyn Mok
Hymen Manoeuvre … Evelyn Mok Photograph: PR Company Handout

Natalie Palamides

One of the most talked about shows at this summer’s Edinburgh fringe, this compelling oddity from American actor Palamides won her the Best Newcomer comedy award. Directed by cult silent comic Doctor Brown, Laid is a theatre-comedy hybrid that splays anxieties about fertility and parenting across a surreal clown show, as egg-turned-woman Palamides births, smashes, eats and finally rears her own eggs in an increasingly neurotic cycle. It’s hysterical, and weirdly profound.
Soho theatre, London, 6-18 November.

Greg Davies

It’s a first tour in four years for the Man Down and Cuckoo star, a late comedy developer who’s made himself near ubiquitous since his break on The Inbetweeners. His 2012 show The Back of My Mum’s Head was his best yet, an uproarious celebration of his own idiocy. Expect more ridiculous autobiographical comedy in its follow-up You Magnificent Beast – the poster for which was banned for contravening Amazon’s “no-nipple policy”.
Margate Winter Gardens, 15-16 September; Southend Cliffs Pavilion, 19-20 September; then touring.

Thoughtful … Mae Martin.
Thoughtful … Mae Martin. Photograph: Murdo Macleod/The Guardian

Mae Martin

You’ve got a right to expect well-honed standup from 30-year-old Mae Martin, given that – as she recounts in this new show, Dope – she’s been doing it since she was an awkward 13-year-old in her native Toronto. The show (shortlisted for this year’s Edinburgh Comedy award) explores Martin’s obsessive behaviour, from a Bette Midler fixation via her adolescent addiction to comedy to a destructive drugs habit in her late teens. Throughout, it’s intimate, thoughtful and highly entertaining.
Soho theatre, London, 18-30 September; Glee Club, Oxford, 10 October; then touring.

Simon Amstell

“Deeply personal and horribly revealing,” is how Simon Amstell describes his new touring show What Is This? – which means it will slot neatly into his canon of deeply personal and revealing standup shows. Now in a happy relationship and with less present-day misery to draw on, Amstell promises plenty of retrospective neurosis as he ranges across a lifetime of identity crises, confused sexuality and existential angst. His restless soul search should, as ever, be our delight.
Leicester Square theatre, London, 22-23, 27-28 September; Oxford Playhouse, 24 September; then touring.


Rambert on tour

The always superb dancers of Rambert test themselves against two new works. Symbiosis is a full-tilt dance by Greek choreographer Andonis Foniadakis, while Goat is a company debut from the maverick dance theatre-maker Ben Duke (whose comically hubristic work Paradise Lost was a one-man adaptation of Milton’s poem). Duke takes the music of Nina Simone to anatomise the extremes of pleasures and pain experienced by performers on stage with a selection of her most popular songs, sung live by Nia Lynn.
• Symbiosis, the Lowry, Salford, 28-30 September, then touring; Goat, Festival theatre, Edinburgh, 26-28 October, then touring.

Maguy Marin’s piece for Lyon Opera Ballet at Dance Umbrella
Maguy Marin’s piece for Lyon Opera Ballet at Dance Umbrella Photograph: BERTRAND STOFLETH b.stofleth@fre/PR Company Handout

Dance Umbrella

London’s oldest but still most vital festival of contemporary dance returns with a programme that searches out the city’s hidden stages, from Battersea power station to a derelict part of Silvertown and Trinity Buoy Wharf. Standout shows include Fallen from Heaven, a sublime and raunchy investigation of what it means to be a woman by the fiercely individual flamenco dancer Rocío Molina, and Lyon Opera Ballet’s epic, choreographic investigation of Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge, which is interpreted in three works by Lucinda Childs, Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker and Maguy Marin.
Venues across London, 11-28 October.

Company Wayne McGregor: Autobiography

It’s typical of Wayne McGregor that, when he decided to choreograph his own life story, he put science at the heart of his narrative. The driving force of Autobiography is his discovery of his personal genome, as sequenced for him by leading geneticists and then refracted through the prisms of his own dance imagination. Music is by the electronic sound artist Jlin and lighting as always is by the magically inventive Lucy Carter.
Sadler’s Wells, London, 4-7 October.

Untouchable by Hofesh Shechter at the Royal Opera House in 2015.
Untouchable by Hofesh Shechter at the Royal Opera House in 2015. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian

Kenneth MacMillan celebrations

Kenneth MacMillan brought new possibilities of risk, intensity and sophistication to the ballet stage and, 25 years after his death, companies around the UK are celebrating the choreographer’s work. Northern Ballet and Birmingham Royal Ballet have their own programmes and are also taking part in a historic collaborative season at the Royal Opera House, joining the Royal Ballet, English National Ballet and Scottish Ballet to present six one-act ballets, including the little-performed Le Baiser de la Fee.
• Birmingham Royal Ballet, Birmingham Hippodrome, 27-30 September; Northern Ballet, Alhambra Theatre, Bradford, 5-7 October; Royal Opera House season, 18-27 October.

Royal Ballet: The Illustrated ‘Farewell’ / The Wind / Untouchable

The dazzlingly, unpredictably imaginative Arthur Pita creates his first work for the Royal, mining depths of obsession and fear in choreography inspired by the haunted silent movie classic The Wind. In the same programme is a revival of Hofesh Shechter’s Untouchable and a new commission from Twyla Tharp, in which she revisits and expands her seminal work As Time Goes By, shaping it around the brilliant partnership of Sarah Lamb and Steven MacRae.
Royal Opera House, London, 6-17 November.


Michael Billington, Lyn Gardner, Judith Mackrell and Brian Logan

The GuardianTramp

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