The postponed Disney production finally touches down in Britain from Broadway, directed by Michael Grandage and mixing action adventure with the story of sisterly love and loyalty. Elsa and Anna will no doubt reignite the “Frozen fever” that surrounded the films.
• Theatre Royal Drury Lane, London, 27 August-3 April.
East Is East
Since premiering at Birmingham Rep in 1996, Ayub Khan Din’s comedy drama has sold out three London runs and been adapted for a Bafta-winning film. The story of George and Ella Khan’s brood negotiating life, love and identity in 1970s Salford returns to Birmingham for its 25th anniversary.
• Birmingham Repertory theatre, 4–25 September; then National Theatre, London, from 7 October.
Is God Is
Aleshea Harris’s award-winning drama sounds full of fire and fury: avenging twins set off on a journey to California after receiving a letter from the mother they thought dead. The theatre gives viewers the option to see it on the same night as What If If Only, Caryl Churchill’s play, which may be just 14 minutes long but is still sure to be an event.
• Royal Court, London, 10 September-23 October.
Following her dynamite debut, Seven Methods of Killing Kylie Jenner, Jasmine Lee-Jones performs her own play about a drama student who comes across a life-changing nugget of forgotten history. Set in London, it excavates the lives of two young black queer actresses and spans centuries.
• Soho theatre, London, 16 September-16 October.
The Mirror and the Light
The final novel in the celebrated Wolf Hall trilogy is adapted for the stage by its author, Hilary Mantel, and Ben Miles, who is returning to his role as Thomas Cromwell. Directed by Jeremy Herrin, the trilogy charts Cromwell’s sensational rise and fall in the court of Henry VIII (Nathaniel Parker).
• Gielgud theatre, London, 23 September-28 November.
A group of women discover their love of punk rock band the Slits inside a prison mental-health unit. Seeing the rebellious and revolutionary potential in punk, they form their own group. Written by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm, it is described as “part gig, part play”. Directed by Róisín McBrinn, joint artistic director of Clean Break.
• Crucible theatre, Sheffield, 24 September–16 October.
Roy Williams’s audio play is delivered as a series of monologues in the aftermath of seismic events: the Brixton riots of 1981, the September 11 attacks of 2001, as well as the more recent Black Lives Matter movement, Brexit and Covid – all seen through the eyes of one extended black British family in London. Part of the Sound Stage series.
• Pitlochry Festival theatre and Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh, Online, 24-26 September.
The lineup at the Young Vic this autumn looks little short of sensational: first, the delayed opening of Hamlet, starring Cush Jumbo. Directed by her long-time collaborator, Greg Hersov, Jumbo is to play “a new kind of Hamlet” with a supporting cast including Adrian Dunbar. Then comes James Graham’s new political play, Best of Enemies, set against the US presidential campaign of 1968.
• Young Vic, London, 25 September–13 November.
Dracula – The Untold Story
Imitating the Dog’s adaptation of Bram Stoker’s vampire classic is told from the point of view of Mina, fiancee to the more central figure Joseph Harker in Stoker’s novel. Relocated to the London of 1965, it uses digital technologies and combines graphic novel features with live performance.
• Leeds Playhouse, 25 September-9 October, then touring until 13 November.
This civil rights era drama received a digital reading during lockdown as a response to the Black Lives Matter movement. Now comes a full stage revival of Katori Hall’s Olivier-winning play, which imagines Martin Luther King Jr’s brush with a maid at a Memphis hotel, the night before his assassination in 1968.
• Royal Exchange theatre, Manchester, 25 September-27 October.
Ifeyinwa Frederick’s exploration of mental health among young men – from issues around masculinity to depression and therapy – sounds searing. Directed by Philip Morris, it looks at how men can open up and show vulnerabilities in a world that often demands the opposite of them.
• UK tour starting at Selby Town Hall, 29 September and ending at Soho theatre, London, 8 November-4 December.
Can I Live?
A story of climate crisis told through the lens of a young black British activist, this was conceived, written and performed by Fehinti Balogun, who recently starred in Sonia Friedman’s Walden and the hit TV series I May Destroy You. It is filmed theatre along with hip-hop and spoken word performance, and is produced by Complicité in association with the Barbican.
• Online, September–November.
The Long Song
Andrea Levy’s acclaimed novel, set in Jamaica during the last days of slavery and early years of freedom, is adapted by Suhayla El-Bushra. It tells the story of Miss July, born on a sugar plantation and forced apart from her mother, as well as those around her (from the formerly enslaved to plantation owners) in the unsettled early days of abolition.
• Chichester Festival theatre, 1-23 October.
Get Up, Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical
This highly anticipated account of the life of the reggae legend, shown in the bigger political context of his time, is backed by his daughter, Cedella Marley, and glitters with talent, from Lee Hall as its writer to Clint Dyer as director and Arinzé Kene as Marley. A must-see for the music alone.
• Lyric theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London, 1 October-3 April.
This European premiere by the Pulitzer prize-winner Suzan-Lori Parks features a close-knit group of liberal thirtysomethings who reach a point of crisis after one of them is assaulted by the police. Directed by Polly Findlay, it addresses issues around race from both white and black perspectives, and contains renewed urgency following George Floyd’s murder.
• Bridge theatre, London, 5 October-13 November.
Last year’s lockdown sits at the heart of Tim Price’s new play. A technophobe forms an unhealthy relationship with a virtual assistant after his daughter gives him an electronic device. Directed by Tamara Harvey, the drama explores the value of AI, and whether technology liberates or confines our lives.
• Theatr Clwyd, Mold, 16 October-6 November.
The Drifters’ Girl
Behind the success story of the mega doo-wop and soul band is the lesser-known tale of the American group’s manager, Faye Treadwell, who moulded them. Beverley Knight plays Treadwell and the score is stuffed full of hits.
• Newcastle Theatre Royal, Newcastle upon Tyne, 9–23 October, then at the Garrick theatre, London, 4–25 November.
Eddie Redmayne takes on his first West End role in 10 years, playing the Emcee opposite Jessie Buckley as Sally Bowles in Rebecca Frecknall’s production of Kander and Ebb’s musical. Designer Tom Scutt turns the Playhouse theatre into the debauched Kit Kat Club. Willkommen!
• Playhouse theatre, London, from 15 November.
The first major London revival of the Tony and Olivier-winning musical, based on Frank Wedekind’s once-banned 19th-century play about censorship, freedom and adolescent anarchy, all set against an almighty score. It stars Amara Okereke and Laurie Kynaston, among others, and is directed by Rupert Goold.
• Almeida theatre, London, 30 November–22 January.
Rosalie Craig stars in this musical inspired by the 17th-century story of Sleeping Beauty. Billed as a thrillingly dark new version of the folktale, it has a book by Tanya Ronder, music by Jim Fortune and lyrics (and direction) by Rufus Norris.
• National Theatre, London, 4 December-22 January.
Amstell’s Spirit Hole offers comedy fans their first chance since 2019 Netflix offering Set Free to see the neurotic, oversharing comic back in his natural habitat: the standup stage. Expect material on his recently turning 40, and some characteristic fretting on whether or not to have children.
• Margate Theatre Royal, 8 September, then touring.
It’s always a highlight in the comedy calendar when Christie unleashes a new show. Information about the new one – titled Who Am I?, and now touring after Covid delays – is thin on the ground. But if it’s a patch on the occasional sets she delivered between lockdowns, it will be another must-see from an act who fuses clowning and campaigning into something absolutely unmissable.
• Sherman theatre, Cardiff, 18 September, then touring.
This autumn sees the highly political Dane Baptiste take to the road with Chocolate Chip – so named, he says, because “if you make any comments about racial or economic inequality, people say you have a chip on your shoulder”. The tour was rescheduled after Covid postponement, allowing the Londoner to capitalise on the modest success of satirical 2020 BBC3 pilot Bamous.
• The Crescent, York, 23 September, then touring.
Canadian Mae Martin’s career has gone nuclear since her Edinburgh Comedy award nod for 2017 show Dope. Now, after the success of her semi-autobiographical Netflix smash Feel Good, comes its follow-up. Sap, runs the publicity, “looks at the uphill battle of trying to do the right thing in a world that seems to have lost its moral compass”.
• Ritz Manchester, 5 October, then touring.
For live comics, the Covid era has been unremittingly grim. For online comics – well, things have looked a little sunnier. Stellar US sketch/character act Meg Stalter broke out in 2020 with a string of hit viral videos, followed by her well-received Netflix special, Little Miss Ohio. Excitement duly surrounds this live UK debut.
• Soho theatre, London, 30 November-11 December.
Romeo + Juliet
There are three Romeo and Juliets dancing on to the stage this autumn. The Royal Ballet and Birmingham Royal Ballet offer more trad versions, but this one by contemporary choreographer Rosie Kay comes with a different slant, setting Shakespeare’s tragedy and its rival gangs in the hot Birmingham summer of 2021.
• Birmingham Hippodrome, 8 September.
The Midnight Bell
A new show from Matthew Bourne takes inspiration from the grimy booze-soaked novels of Patrick Hamilton, who chronicled low life in the streets of 1930s Soho. Bourne conjures up the Midnight Bell, the pub at the centre of Hamilton’s 20,000 Streets Under the Sky, and the chequered lives of its denizens.
• Everyman theatre, Cheltenham, 9 September, then touring.
Choreographer Drew McOnie – acclaimed for his work in musical theatre, including Jesus Christ Superstar and most recently Carousel – makes his first major ballet. McOnie takes the myth of the wizard Merlin and turns it into a story about outsiderdom and alternative families, with adventure, romance and dragons along the way. Presented by Northern Ballet.
• Tour begins Nottingham Theatre Royal, 25 September.
The Dante Project
A ride through heaven and hell (and the land in between) led by choreographer Wayne McGregor in this major new three-act ballet inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy, scored by Thomas Adès and designed by artist Tacita Dean. The first section, Inferno, premiered in LA in 2019, but it’s taken two years to make it all the way to paradise.
• Royal Opera House, London, 14-30 October.
Carnival of Shadows
A season celebrating 20 years of the Akram Khan Company, featuring the UK premiere of Outwitting the Devil, based on the Epic of Gilgamesh; Khan’s final appearances in the solo Xenos, about the experience of colonial soldiers in the first world war; and a children’s version of the same show, Chotto Xenos.
• Sadler’s Wells, London, 23 November-4 December.