The Da Vinci Code
Dan Brown’s 2003 thriller earned censure from some corners of the church for its alternative religious history and its depictions of Mary Magdalene and Jesus. That hasn’t stopped its success: after the big-budget Hollywood film, we will now see the first stage adaptation, with Nigel Harman playing Robert Langdon, the Harvard professor of religious symbology, and Hannah Rose Caton as police cryptologist, Sophie Neveu.
• Churchill theatre, Bromley, 10-15 January, then touring until 12 November
Robert Icke’s production of George Orwell’s classic political satire will be led by puppets of 33 life-size animals. The allegory of revolution and its aftermath is adapted and directed by Icke, designed by Bunny Christie, who created the sensational set for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, with puppetry by Toby Olié (War Horse).
• Birmingham Rep, 22 January-5 February, then touring
Ian Hislop and Nick Newman’s play about the comedy legend Spike Milligan is set in the 1950s, with Olivier award-winning actor John Dagleish starring as Milligan. Staged to commemorate 20 years since his death, it tells the story of both Milligan and fellow Goons Harry Secombe and Peter Sellers, and how he channeled his dark past to create an entirely new absurdist brand of comedy.
• Watermill theatre, Newbury, 27 January-5 March
After the film success of The Father, Florian Zeller’s new play will focus on the demands – and torments – of family, career and sexual desire in a character’s life. Translated by longtime collaborator Christopher Hampton and directed by Jonathan Kent, the story will no doubt be told in Zeller’s characteristically captivating but unsettling way.
• Hampstead theatre, London, 5 February-12 March
An Hour and a Half Late
Griff Rhys Jones and Janie Dee star as a couple of retirement-age empty-nesters in this spiky domestic comedy by French writers Gérald Sibleyras and Jean Dell. Their marriage blows up in a conversation that brings emotional outpourings and explosive home truths, all fuelled by plonk. Adapted and directed by Belinda Lang.
• Theatre Royal Bath, 16-26 February, then touring
Dogs of Europe
Exiled from their native country, Belarus Free Theatre, who make underground work in secret locations, will stage this psychological drama set in the near future. Based on a novel by Alhierd Bacharevič (which is banned in Belarus), it revolves around a murder investigation in a dystopian super-state ruled by a secret service. Billed as both an epic fantasy and a political thriller about the dangers of looking away from authoritarianism.
• Barbican, London, 10-12 March
To Kill a Mockingbird
Aaron Sorkin’s Broadway adaptation of Harper Lee’s novel finally arrives in the UK, two years after it was originally scheduled. Directed by Bartlett Sher and starring Rafe Spall as Atticus Finch, the story of racism in 1950s Alabama may resonate all the deeper after the resurgence of Black Lives Matter.
• Gielgud theatre, London, 10 March-13 August
The Human Voice
After her acclaimed turn in Hedda Gabler, Ruth Wilson teams up again with the Belgian director Ivo van Hove. This time she will star in Jean Cocteau’s searing monologue, which takes place in a break-up phone conversation between a desperate woman and her lover.
• Harold Pinter theatre, London, 17 March-9 April
The Burnt City
Pioneering immersive theatre company Punchdrunk present what is billed as their most ambitious production to date. This show tells the story of the fall of Troy, transposed to a future parallel world. Taking place across three Grade II-listed buildings, it plunges audiences into a dystopian cityscape where they choose to follow characters who emerge from the shadows.
• One Cartridge Place, London, 22 March-28 August
This promises to be a bold and boisterous new musical adapted from Peter Mullan’s cult 1998 film. Powered by the music and lyrics of the Emmy award-winning Scottish indie duo Tommy Reilly and Roddy Hart, it is a darkly comic story of grief, forgiveness and family life. A National Theatre of Scotland production.
• Beacon Arts Centre, Greenock, Scotland, 1-2 April, then touring
Ellen Wilkinson was a firebrand Labour politician who served in Winston Churchill’s cabinet. Caroline Bird’s play suggests she should be better remembered today: a working-class woman who entered parliament, she campaigned for the fight against Franco’s fascists in Spain, spoke up for Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany and led 200 workers in the Jarrow Crusade to end unemployment and poverty.
• Nottingham Playhouse, 13-30 April
The Cher Show
With a book by the Tony and Olivier award-winning Rick Elice, direction by Arlene Phillips and choreography by Oti Mabuse, this promises to be one of the biggest, loudest and glitziest musicals of the year. Then there is Cher’s life story itself, from her Armenian heritage to her truck-driver father, Sonny Bono and later, the concerts, costumes and pop hits, 35 of which will feature in the show (from Believe to The Shoop Shoop Song).
• Curve, Leicester, 15-23 April, then touring
Jodie Comer will make her West End stage debut in Suzie Miller’s award-winning play about sexual abuse and the legal system. This monologue directed by Justin Martin tells the story of Tessa, a swaggering barrister who finds her position on judicial procedure shifting when she becomes a victim herself.
• Harold Pinter theatre, London, 15-27 April
The Father and the Assassin
Brilliant Indian playwright Anupama Chandrasekhar last teamed up with the Kiln’s artistic director, Indhu Rubasingham, on a radically reworked version of Ibsen’s Ghosts which alluded to the Delhi bus gang rape of 2012. They reunite for what sounds like a gripping drama tracing the life of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin, Nathuram Godse, from his beginnings as a devout follower to his radicalisation and their final encounter. Shubham Saraf plays Godse alongside Ayesha Dharker and Peter Singh.
• National Theatre, London, 12 May-18 June
A Hero of the People
Brad Birch reworks Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People in this story of Mick, an MP whose “think positive” plans and “can-do” spin collide with his sister’s discovery that the town’s water supply is being polluted and he is called upon to act. Directed by Joe Murphy, the story pits the personal against the political, story against reality and emotions against facts.
• Sherman theatre, Cardiff, 13-28 May
The White Card
Claudia Rankine’s 2019 play tackles white privilege and cultural appropriation. Directed by Natalie Ibu, it tells the story of a wealthy white couple who invite a talented Black artist to dinner, where tension brews high. It poses the question: can society progress when whiteness remains invisible? This is a UK and European premiere and the American writer’s first published play.
• Home, Manchester, 18-21 May, and various locations
The Glass Menagerie
Jeremy Herrin revives Tennessee Williams’s semi-autobiographical masterpiece which explores the fragility and fallibility of memory. Amy Adams will make her West End debut in the role of matriarch Amanda Wingfield. In a novel touch, two actors (Paul Hilton and Tom Glynn-Carney) will play Tom, the aspiring poet and narrator.
• Duke of York’s theatre, London, 23 May-27 August
Michael Frayn’s Olivier award-winning comedy, which premiered in 1982, took us behind the scenes of a company of actors to show the unpredictability of life in the theatre. Hailed as a timeless British classic, it will now be revived in a 40th-anniversary production by Elizabeth Newman and Ben Occhipinti.
• Pitlochry Festival theatre, 27 May-1 October
Tamara Rojo creates her first production for English National Ballet, transforming Marius Petipa’s little-performed 1898 ballet into a tale of nurses in the Crimean war, inspired by Florence Nightingale. Rojo has gone back to Petipa’s original choreography, mapping her story on to the master choreographer’s steps, finding a new way to breathe life into the classical repertoire. Set to Glazunov’s original score.
• London Coliseum, 13-23 January; Mayflower, theatre, Southampton, 30 Nov-3 Dec
A Tale of Two Cities
The main thing you can be sure of is that this show by dance-theatre company Lost Dog will be a long way from Dickens. Choreographer/director Ben Duke’s fanciful imagination has previously turned Paradise Lost into domestic dramedy and Romeo and Juliet into a story of midlife marriage breakdown. Here he focuses on A Tale of Two Cities’ undercooked female character Lucie Manette, redrawing her as a complex 21st-century woman.
• UK tour opens 8-9 February, Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds
Alice in VR Wonderland
Rather than expecting audiences to come to her, choreographer Jasmin Vardimon is taking dance to the people – in virtual reality form – in a tour of UK shopping centres. It’s a 20-minute experience, based on Alice in Wonderland as filtered through Vardimon’s inventive, highly physical choreography. Sit back, enjoy some 360-degree dance, and buy some cut-price designer togs afterwards.
• UK tour opens at Ashford Designer Outlet, 8-20 February
A new dance festival, featuring major classics of the contemporary canon – Lucinda Childs’ Dance and Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s Fase – alongside new works. Lesser known artists on the bill include Katerina Andreou with BSTRD, a duet for dancer and vinyl turntable; and Italian Alessandro Sciarroni, who has revived a Bolognese courtship dance, Polka Chinata, now practised by only five people in the whole of Italy.
• 9-23 March, various London venues
An immersive dance performance by choreographer Ivan Michael Blackstock (who has worked with Beyoncé, no less) confronting themes of mental health, masculinity and the stereotyping of black men. Traplord depicts a young man finding himself on a journey through life, death and rebirth, incorporating spoken word, film, opera, grime and trap music alongside raw and intense dance.
• 180 The Strand, London, 26 March-16 April
The Scandal at Mayerling
The first chance for Scottish audiences to see Kenneth MacMillan’s stormy psychological drama of a ballet, Mayerling, based on the true story of Crown Prince Rudolf, found dead in 1889 beside his teenage mistress Mary Vetsera in a seeming double suicide. Scottish Ballet’s director Christopher Hampson has adapted MacMillan’s 1978 ballet for his company with the blessing of the choreographer’s widow, Deborah MacMillan.
• Theatre Royal Glasgow, 13-16 April, then touring
Like Water for Chocolate
A new full-length ballet from Christopher Wheeldon, his first for the Royal Ballet since The Winter’s Tale in 2014, reuniting the choreographer with the same creative team: composer Joby Talbot and designer Bob Crowley. Based on Laura Esquivel’s novel, it’s a magical realist story of a Mexican woman’s emotions being transmitted through the food she cooks to the people who eat it.
• Royal Opera House, London, 2-17 June
A familiar face from TV, whose appearances on Taskmaster and Frankie Boyle’s New World Order never fail to raise a smile, Essex man Maddix is no slouch at standup either. He’s giving little away in advance of new touring show King Crud, but if the form book is any guide, expect slacker charm, a radiant sense of fun, and disgruntled social commentary from a working-class, Anglo-Jamaican-Greek perspective.
• G Live, Guildford, 19 January, then touring
If there’s an upside to Nish Kumar quitting The Mash Report, the satirical show he fronted for five years on BBC Two then Dave, it’s that he’s refocusing on live comedy, which he does very well. With Your Power, Your Control, expect more furious, peeved and dismayed jokes about the disintegrating state of the nation – most of which, to be fair, rebound squarely on Kumar himself.
• Bonus Arena, Hull, 2 February, then touring
Leicester Comedy festival
The UK’s second biggest comedy festival returns, with (fingers crossed) a return to live performance after last year’s digital event. All comic life is here, with stellar acts including Ahir Shah, Maisie Adam, Bilal Zafar, Flo & Joan and fantastic Britain’s Got Talent graduate Nabil Abdulrashid. The fourth ever UK Kids’ Comedy festival runs alongside.
• Various venues, 2-20 February
Her 2019 Edinburgh fringe show The Twist?... She’s Gorgeous was one for the ages, a millennial-meets-maniacal oversharing cabaret, whose acid-bathed songs ranged across sex, self-image and neurosis in the age of Instagram. Now Cohen, a regular at Alan Cumming’s NYC nightspot Club Cumming, brings it back for a one-off gig in March, and musical comedy fans really shouldn’t miss it.
• Clapham Grand, London, 2 March
Nothing she ever does will rival the global impact of Nanette, her 2017 show (and later, Netflix special) about the limits of comedy. Its success has created a buzz around every new show the Tasmanian announces, so Body of Work (“a feelgood live show”, Gadsby calls it, which may touch on her recent marriage) will be one of this spring’s hottest tickets.
• Manchester Opera House, 6 March, then touring
Ubiquitous TV face Joe Lycett secured priceless publicity this month when his 2022 tour posters appeared with fellow comic James Acaster’s face substituted for Lycett’s own. A typical Lycett trick, that – and fans of the Birmingham man’s gadfly behaviour are unlikely to be disappointed by a show that promises, and will certainly deliver, “talking at a room of people in a queer and comedic fashion”.
• Plymouth Pavilions, 11-12 March, then touring
Few comics are as well loved by their peers as US standup Bamford, whose autobiographical Netflix series Lady Dynamite – about mental health, like much of Bamford’s comedy – won her a new legion of fans. And deservedly: nuanced, emotionally exposing and eccentric, she’s unlike anyone else. An occasional visitor to the UK, a short run of dates in 2022 constitutes her first British tour.
• Liberty Hall theatre, Dublin, 21 April, then touring
Inspired perhaps by the success of his new BBC vehicle This Time and podcast From the Oasthouse, Alan Partridge embarks on a rare live tour in 2022. Making his first stage appearance since 2008, Steve Coogan’s deathless alter ego promises a TED talk-style outing, offering “a roadmap to a better tomorrow”…
• SSE Arena, Belfast, 22 April, then touring
The reigning Edinburgh Comedy award champ, and the only one to retain the title three years running (thanks, Covid!), Jordan Brookes now launches a new show, Fix, exploring “how we’ve become so dependent on other people’s opinions of us.” This edgy and unpredictable comic has “always considered my act mainstream”, he says – and with this biggest tour yet, he now seeks to prove it.
• Soho theatre, London, 23 May-11 June, then touring from September