Tom Hiddleston and Cate Blanchett will tread the boards, a string of Broadway hits will reach the West End and a Shakespearean classic will get a twist – there’s much theatre to look forward to around the UK in 2019.
The Betrayal of Tom Hiddleston
The largest stage door selfie scrum of 2019 will probably be for Tom Hiddleston (above) when he appears in Betrayal, Harold Pinter’s taut story of a love triangle told in reverse, which is at the West End theatre that bears the playwright’s name (5 March – 1 June).
Betrayal follows a star-studded season of Pinter at the Pinter. In an intriguing bit of casting, Danny Dyer and Martin Freeman will appear there in a double bill of A Slight Ache/The Dumb Waiter (31 January – 23 February).
Broadway hits hit the West End
Dear Evan Hansen, about an anxious schoolboy who fakes messages from a dead classmate to gain popularity, won six Tony Awards, including best musical, in 2017. It will transfer to the Noel Coward Theatre in London in November (dates TBC).
Come From Away tells how a small town in Newfoundland welcomed 7,000 air travellers stranded in Canada after the US closed its airspace following the 11 September 2001 attacks. It will land at the Phoenix Theatre (30 January – 25 May).
US singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles has penned the music for Waitress, which is adapted from the 2007 film starring Keri Russell. The stage version comes to London’s Adelphi Theatre (8 February – 25 May) and is said to be the first West End musical to have an all-female creative team, with direction by Diane Paulus and choreography by Lorin Latarro.
More new(ish) musicals
The UK premiere of Amelie, an adaptation of the magical 2001 film, will be at the Watermill Theatre in Newbury, Berkshire (11 April – 18 May), before a UK tour.
Little Miss Sunshine is based on the 2006 Oscar-winning film, and will have its European premiere at the Arcola in London (21 March – 11 May) before also going on tour.
Standing at the Sky’s Edge is about Sheffield’s famous/infamous Park Hill estate and based on the 2012 album of the same name by singer-songwriter Richard Hawley (above). The script is by the excellent Chris Bush (Sheffield Crucible, 15 March – 6 April).
Another guitarist making the move into theatre is Dire Straits’ Mark Knopfler, with Local Hero, based on the classic 1983 film for which he wrote the soundtrack (Edinburgh Lyceum, 23 March – 20 April).
New York-set musical Mame hasn’t been staged in the UK since 1969, when Ginger Rogers starred. It will be resurrected at Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester with double Olivier winner Tracie Bennett (27 September – 9 November).
From page to stage
It will be intriguing to see how Yann Martel’s beloved 2001 novel Life of Pi, about a boy stranded on a lifeboat with a tiger, translates to the stage (Sheffield Crucible, 28 June – 20 July). The animals will be brought to life using puppets.
The first major stage adaptation of Louis de Bernieres’ Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, scripted by Rona Munro, will open at the Rose Theatre, Kingston, south-west London (23 April – 12 May), before going to the Birmingham Rep.
The buttoned-up affections and loyalties of Kazuo Ishiguro’s classic The Remains Of The Day will be on show at the Royal & Derngate, Northampton (23 February – 16 March) before a national tour.
Cillian Murphy (above) plays both a bereaved dad and an imaginary crow in the adaptation of Max Porter’s novel Grief is the Thing with Feathers at the Barbican Theatre in London (25 March – 13 April).
National Theatre artistic director Rufus Norris will helm an adaptation of Andrea Levy’s story of post-war Caribbean migration Small Island (May, dates TBC).
And Scottish poet Jackie Kay’s best-selling memoir Red Dust Road, about the journey to find her birth parents, will be brought to the stage by the National Theatre of Scotland and Home, Manchester, at the Edinburgh International Festival (August, dates TBC) and Home (September).
There’s more than one way to tame a shrew
Shakespeare’s dated comedy The Taming of the Shrew, about men seeking to woo (and tame) their chosen wives, is getting flipped on its head in two new versions, which both see the gender roles reversed.
In the first, the play is being reimagined by trans playwright Jo Clifford at the Sherman in Cardiff (28 February – 16 March), while the Royal Shakespeare Company is setting the play in an alternative, matriarchal England (8 March – 31 August).
West Side Story gets new moves
The Jets and Sharks, West Side Story‘s gangs of New York, have followed Jerome Robbins’ original choreography in virtually every major production for 60 years. But now two UK revivals are busting out some new moves.
A version at the Royal Exchange in Manchester (6 April – 25 May) will be choreographed by Aletta Collins, while Ellen Kane will come up with new dance steps for the Curve in Leicester (23 November – 11 January 2020).
Compelling new British stories
Former Middlesbrough taxi driver Ishy Din is writing about what he knows, setting his new play Approaching Empty in a cab office in the north of England to explore “the everyday struggles of a post-industrial generation of British men” (Kiln Theatre, London, 9 January – 2 February, then tour).
Princess & The Hustler, Chinonyerem Odimba’s play about race and beauty in 1960s England, is the second work from Eclipse’s major endeavour to tell new black British stories (Bristol Old Vic, 9-23 February, then tour).
Nick Ahad uses the British wrestling scene as a setting to explore multiculturalism in Glory at The Duke’s in Lancaster (21 February – 2 March, then tour).
Actor and writer David Judge’s autobiographical SparkPlug, about a mixed-race boy called David who is adopted by a white man in the 1980s, promises to be a powerful watch (Home, Manchester, 13-23 February, then tour).
Also in Manchester is There Is A Light That Never Goes Out: Scenes From The Luddite Rebellion, which looks at our relationship with technology (Royal Exchange, 25 July – 10 August).
And some compelling American ones
Martyna Majok’s drama about four intertwined lives, Cost of Living, won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Drama – now it’s coming to the UK with Adrian Lester (above) in the cast (Hampstead Theatre, 24 January – 2 March).
Ray Fearon plays an African-American maths professor whose wife leaves him when he refuses to attend the Million Man March in Tanya Barfield’s Blue Door, described as a play with original songs, at Bath’s Ustinov Studio (7 February – 9 March).
Idris revisits Mandela
Idris Elba, who played Nelson Mandela on screen in 2013, has written Tree, about life in South Africa after Mandela, with Kwame Kwei-Armah, the artistic director of London’s Young Vic. He won’t act in it though. (Upper Campfield Market Hall, Manchester, 29 June – 10 July).
Andrea Dunbar’s legacy lives on
Dunbar wrote about life in 1980s Bradford with plays including Rita, Sue and Bob Too. She died in 1990 at the age of 29.
Now, Adelle Stripe’s novel about her life, Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile, is being adapted by Lisa Holdsworth and will be staged at the Ambassador pub in Bradford (30 May – 8 June).
The Royal Court in London, where Dunbar found success, held a day of events inspired by her life and work a year ago. One play commissioned as part of that was Seven Methods of Killing Kylie Jenner by Jasmine Lee-Jones (4-27 July).
Cate Blanchett’s ‘dangerous game’
Lots of eyeballs will also be fixed on Cate Blanchett (above) when she makes her debut at the National Theatre in Martin Crimp’s When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other (16 January – 2 March).
The show, which also stars Stephen Dillane, promises “a dangerous game of sexual domination and resistance”. The National allocated tickets in a ballot (which has now closed).
Wouldn’t it be loverly (jubberly)
Only Fools and Horses is getting a new lease of life as a West End musical (Theatre Royal Haymarket, 9 February – 6 July). It’s co-written by Jim Sullivan, son of the classic sitcom’s creator John, and comedian Paul Whitehouse, who’s also playing grandad. This time next year we’ll be Olivier Award winners.
Strictly stars rip it up
What do you do after a star turn on Strictly Come Dancing? If you’re Jay McGuiness, Louis Smith, Aston Merrygold or Harry Judd, you join the cast of Rip It Up, a 1960s-themed jukebox musical, which is hotfooting to the Garrick in the West End (7 February – 2 June).
If you haven’t had enough of Brexit…
Former BBC News correspondent Jonathan Maitland gives us a glimpse into post-Brexit Britain in 2029 in The Last Temptation Of Boris Johnson, which will supposedly be updated every night to reflect changes in the current political landscape (Park Theatre, London, 9 May – 8 June).