Reasons You Should(n’t) Love Me
Amy Trigg’s debut is billed as a one-woman tragicomedy about a 20-something with spina bifida navigating life, love and loneliness. The joint winner of the inaugural Women’s Prize for Playwriting last year, it is performed by Trigg – she is also an actor and comedian who has appeared at the RSC.
Kiln theatre, London, 21 May-12 June
Sonia Friedman Productions’ RE:EMERGE season features the West End debut of three playwrights and kicks off with this one by Amy Berryman. Directed by Ian Rickson and starring Gemma Arterton alongside Fehinti Balogun and Lydia Wilson, it features a Nasa botanist and tackles climate activism. The season continues with J’Ouvert and Anna X.
Harold Pinter theatre, London, 22 May-12 June
Ralph Fiennes directs and performs TS Eliot’s four interlinked poetic meditations on time, faith and spiritual enlightenment. Co-adapted by Fiennes alongside James Dacre, the series of poems was written over six years, coinciding with the second world war, and they contain reflections on surviving a national crisis.
Theatre Royal Bath, 25 May-5 June; then touring
The Death of a Black Man
First performed at Hampstead theatre in 1975, this play’s themes still resonate today, from class and gender politics to capitalism, racial assimilation and belonging. Alfred Fagon was an important figure in the black British theatre scene of the 1970s and 80s – Dawn Walton’s revival is set to introduce his work to a new generation.
Hampstead theatre, London, 28 May-10 July
José Saramago’s novel about an epidemic of blindness was sensationally reimagined as a sound and light installation at the Donmar Warehouse last year. Following a world tour, UK audiences can experience it at the Oxford Playhouse, Lawrence Batley theatre in Huddersfield, Theatr Clwyd, Yvonne Arnaud in Guildford, Festival theatre in Edinburgh, Eden Court at Inverness, and Poole Lighthouse. Directed by Walter Meierjohann, it features the haunting voice of Juliet Stevenson.
UK tour, 28 May-17 July
Jack Thorne’s adaptation of Hirokazu Kore-eda’s 1998 film is co-produced with Headlong and tells the surreal story of a group of strangers – recently deceased – who find themselves in an existential waiting room between life and death in which they must choose a single memory to take with them in the afterlife.
Dorfman, National Theatre, London, 2 June-24 July
The Girl Next Door
Alan Ayckbourn had a productive pandemic, writing (and acting in) audio dramas. He returns his focus to the stage with this genre-splicing production. Ayckbourn’s 85th play, it features a veteran actor as its central character and explores ideas around the past and present.
Stephen Joseph theatre, Scarborough, 4 June-3 July
Trevor Nunn follows up his triple bill of Samuel Beckett’s short plays at Jermyn Street theatre from last year with this celebrated two-act drama on the 60th anniversary of the play. Lisa Dwan – the consummate Beckett actor – plays Winnie, a woman stuck in a mound of earth.
Riverside Studios, London, 11 June-25 July
This triple bill includes Simon Stephens’s drama on white privilege, Blue Water and Cold and Fresh; Tanika Gupta’s The Overseas Student, which re-imagines Gandhi’s formative years in London; and Roy Williams’s Go Girl, about black female resilience. Each is a monologue, and they star Tom Mothersdale, Esh Alladi and Ayesha Antoine respectively.
Lyric Hammersmith theatre, London, 18 June-24 July
This revival of Nick Payne’s play about the multiverse is based on an innovative producing model in response to the pandemic: Michael Longhurst returns to direct the two-hander but this time it will be performed by four different casts in turn. The couples are Sheila Atim and Ivanno Jeremiah, Peter Capaldi and Zoë Wanamaker, Omari Douglas and Russell Tovey, and Anna Maxwell Martin and Chris O’Dowd.
Vaudeville theatre, London, 18 June-12 September
Ian McKellen takes on Shakespeare’s Prince of Denmark in this “age blind” production. One of the hottest tickets of the summer, it is also among the starriest with a cast that includes Francesca Annis, Steven Berkoff, Emmanuella Cole and Jenny Seagrove.
Theatre Royal Windsor, 21 June-4 September
Bach & Sons
Nina Raine’s powerful NHS play, Tiger Country, was staged in 2011 and given a timely broadcast on screen during the pandemic last year. Now she has written a drama about the life of Johann Sebastian Bach and his musical brood. It is directed by Nicholas Hytner and stars Simon Russell Beale as the composer who, according to production notes, was “touchy, fabulously rude and constantly in trouble with his employers”.
Bridge theatre, London, 23 June-11 September
As You Like It
Adapted by Yolanda Mercy and directed by Paul Hart, Shakespeare’s uplifting pastoral comedy set in the Forest of Arden finds the perfect home at this theatre which has the most beautiful, verdant grounds. Responsibly sourced, repurposed or recyclable materials have been used to create the set, props and costumes, too.
Watermill theatre, Newbury, 24 June-24 July
Victoria Wood wrote her debut play for Sheffield Theatres Studio, where it was performed in 1978. Its plot revolves around two friends and a talent contest at a down-and-out nightclub, and is filled with Wood’s inimitably sharp and sparkling observational comedy. The cast in this revival includes Richard Cant, Daniel Crossley and Jonathan Ojinnaka.
Crucible theatre, Sheffield, 30 June-24 July
A drama on climate emergency, rebellion and civil disobedience. April De Angelis has written eloquently on climate activism previously; here she weaves a dramatic tapestry of testimonials from members of the Extinction Rebellion community, with the voices of vicars, classroom assistants and actors, among others.
Theatre Royal Stratford East, London, 30 June-17 July
What better antidote to our troubled times than this much adored Rodgers & Hammerstein musical, which boasts one of the duo’s most memorable scores and songs such as Some Enchanted Evening and I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair. Staged by CFC’s artistic director, Daniel Evans.
Chichester Festival theatre, Chichester, 5 July-4 September
Written by the Booker prizewinner Ben Okri and directed by Kwame Kwei-Armah, this is a radical stage adaptation of a 4,000-year-old Egyptian poem about the warrior Sinuhe. The cast has yet to be announced but it promises to be eye-catching, staged in the round with a set designed by the architect David Adjaye.
Young Vic, London, 9 July-21 August
A new musical by Chinonyerem Odimba which explores love and relationships. The sound and music is composed by the acclaimed duo Ben and Max Ringham, and it’s produced in association with tiata fahodzifollowing Odimba’s new role as artistic director of that company. It will be staged at Roundabout, Paines Plough’s portable in-the-round auditorium.
Belgrade theatre, Coventry, 28 July-8 August; and touring
Five short plays are to be performed every week over this season, and audience participation comes with a twist: it is the viewers who decide which actor plays which part, as well as assigning them props and costumes. Directed by Tamara Harvey, this promises to me more than a parlour game, and enlists 15 of Wales’s most exciting writers (Meredydd Barker, Katherine Chandler, Ciaran Fitzgerald, Ming Ho and Mari Izzard, to name a few).
Theatr Clwyd, Mold, 18 August-4 September
Back to the Future: The Musical
This postponed 2020 production brings the story of Marty McFly and his time travelling DeLorean into our future, with new music composed by Alan Silvestri and Glen Ballard featuring alongside some golden oldies (The Power of Love and Johnny B. Goode). Produced by the creators of the Back to the Future films (Colin Ingram, Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale), it has the signs of becoming a comforting, post-pandemic West End crowd-puller.
Adelphi theatre, London, from 20 August
The Terrace Bar of Ally Pally, with its panoramic views of the capital, hosts another outdoor comedy festival for the end-of-May bank holiday weekend, with big-hitters Nish Kumar, Russell Howard and Nina Conti all featuring.
Alexandra Palace, London, 28-31 May
“England’s largest arts festival” returns, with a mix of online and in-person performance, including new and work-in-progress comedy from the likes of the LOL Word collective, Sean McLoughlin, Yuriko Kotani and Sara Barron.
From 28 May
You’ll have to wait until autumn for Phil Wang’s official tour. But he’s recording his hit Philly Philly Wang Wang show for Netflix this June at the London Palladium. For that – and for his warm-up gigs at Pleasance London and in Newbury – tickets remain available.
Pleasance, London, 23/29 May; London Palladium, 12 June.
Cambridge Comedy festival
This annual event expands into a three-day camping extravaganza this year on the site of the erstwhile Secret Garden Party festival. The all-comedy lineup includes Dara Ó Briain, Rosie Jones, Kiri Pritchard-McLean and many more.
Grange Farm, Abbots Ripton, 9-11 July
A seeming lifetime ago, this part-improvised, all-surprising show won the Edinburgh Comedy award. Still the reigning champion, Jordan Brookes belatedly gets the chance to bring it to a wider audience.
Soho theatre, London, 14-22 June
Flo & Joan
The latest show from the sister double-act, drolly recasting their own relationship in light of 2019’s notorious Bros documentary, and packed with delightfully tricksy songs, returns to the stage after Covid’s rude interruption.
Camberley theatre, 19 June; Marlowe theatre, Canterbury, 6 July; then touring
There can be few more reassuring signs that comedy will rise again than a Frank Skinner tour. From late June, this consummate comic returns with his interrupted 2020 tour Showbiz, featuring wide-ranging ruminations and anecdotage from the ineffably funny Black Country man.
Reading Hexagon, 25 June; then touring.
St Albans Comedy Garden
The latest addition to the summer’s roster of Comedy Garden events (after Bristol in June and Brighton in July) brings several stellar comics to Verulamium Park in the Hertfordshire town – Aisling Bea, Sara Pascoe and Sindhu Vee among them.
Verulamium Park, St Albans, 28 July–1 August
Her early shows were feminist, her last one took on politics – now her latest addresses religion. There’ll be whoops, there’ll be tears and there’ll be laughter, as force-of-nature comedy powerhouse Luisa Omielan brings God is a Woman (and her warm-up gigs, titled How’s This Work Again?!) to the stage.
Soho theatre, 27 May-5 June; Regents Park Open Air theatre, 4 July
Michael Spicer was one of lockdown’s breakout stars with his Room Next Door sketches, in which he played a dismayed adviser to various foot-in-mouth politicos. A book and a Radio 4 series duly followed; so too a live tour, Spicer’s first ever, which kicks off this spring.
Corn Exchange, Newbury, 29 May; then touring.
Norfolk and Norwich festival
There are some tasty bits of dance popping up during the East Anglian festival: choreographer Botis Seva and company Far From the Norm tackle young people’s hope and anger in Good Youtes Walk; Frauke Requardt and David Rosenberg offer a “sci-fi dance show” called Future Cargo, and there’s hip-hop circus from Simple Cypher. Plus there’s family theatre, cabaret and an immersive installation.
Various venues, 17-30 May
Rosie Kay: Absolute Solo II
Twenty-one years since she performed her first solo show (and five years since last dancing publicly herself) Rosie Kay returns to the stage, with plenty of life experience to reflect on as an “older” female dancer. Bodies, identity, sex, gender, it all gets a look-in in Kay’s new semi-autobiographical solo.
Birmingham Repertory theatre, 19 May; Salisbury Playhouse, 16 June; Edinburgh Festival Theatre, 24 July
The Royal Ballet: 21st Century Choreographers
A premiere from genius US choreographer Kyle Abraham alongside two pieces from the Canadian Crystal Pite make this an exciting start to the Royal Ballet’s new season back on stage. Two more mixed bills follow in June and July including Balanchine’s stone-cold classic Apollo and a slice of Sleeping Beauty.
Royal Opera House, London, 18-30 May
Aakash Odedra: Rising
Aakash Odedra is a kathak dancer of virtuosity and curiosity, who made his mark a decade ago with Rising, a performance featuring solos created for him by some of Europe’s top contemporary choreographers (Akram Khan, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Russell Maliphant). To mark the 10-year anniversary, Odedra revives that breakthrough show.
Curve, Leicester, 24-25 May; Oxford Playhouse, 1 July; Lighthouse, Poole, 7 July
Three shows on tour from Leeds company Northern Ballet: first, the convoluted seductions of David Nixon’s Dangerous Liaisons; then a selection of recent creations in Contemporary Cuts 2021, including extracts from Jonathan Watkins’s 1984 and Cathy Marston’s Jane Eyre; and finally Nixon’s unconventional take on Swan Lake.
The Lowry, Salford, 1-5 June; Sadler’s Wells, London, 8-12 June; Leeds Grand theatre, 17-26 June
British Ballet Charity Gala
Hosted by Dame Darcey Bussell, no less, if you can stump up the gala ticket price (£240-£250!) this promises to be a celebratory evening featuring the rare sight of the UK’s eight top dance companies on stage: the Royal Ballet, English National Ballet, Scottish Ballet, Ballet Black, Northern Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Rambert and Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures.
Royal Albert Hall, London, 3 June
English National Ballet: Solstice
Highlights from ENB’s rep including extracts from old favourites like Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty, as well as a duet from Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s Broken Wings, about the life of artist Frida Kahlo, and the exuberant brilliance of William Forsythe’s Playlist (Track 1, 2) danced to house and neo-soul tracks.
Royal Festival Hall, London, 16-26 June
For the love of fairy godmothers, magical transformations and all the trappings of the sparkly tutu ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet break out David Bintley’s Cinderella. The reduced production has been specially tweaked for Covid safety but promises onstage extravagance nonetheless – designer John Macfarlane never disappoints.
Birmingham Repertory Theatre, 18-26 June; Theatre Royal Plymouth, 8-10 July
Lost Dog: Paradise Lost
Ben Duke’s inspired one-man show riffing on Paradise Lost gets a welcome revival. Writer/performer Duke roves on wild flights of fancy but with endearing charm he takes the audience with him all the way, turning Milton’s epic poem into a very relatable metaphor for parenthood.
Corn Exchange, Newbury, 23-24 June; Brighton Dome Concert Hall, 26 June; Ustinov Studio, Bath, 8-9 July
The annual hip-hop festival is back in time for its 18th year. The weekend shows feature a smorgasbord of different artists, from champion b-boys and tightly drilled street dance crews, but before that there’s heartfelt and hard-hitting dance theatre from choreographer Rachid Hedli paying tribute to Calais’s migrant workers.
Sadler’s Wells, 1-4 July
This article was amended on 17 May to correct the title of Aakash Odedra’s show, Rising