Your guide to the best theatre in London this year.
The National Theatre. The West End. Shakespeare’s Globe. The titans of the London theatre scene are also some of the most iconic spots around, the beating heart of culture in this city. For the most part, they’ve announced their upcoming productions, and we’re proud to present our handy guide to the best theatre in London in 2019 – from theatre, to musicals, to good old Shakespeare himself. Check it out!
Musicals in London
All-singing, all-dancing, and all-new: it can only be the best new musicals in London in 2019.
1. Six The Musical, Arts Theatre, until May 5
When you’re a woman in the sixteenth century, you don’t get much control over your own narrative – even if you are the Queen of England. Luckily, this unlikely hit has given fresh voices to six women, better known as the wives of Henry VIII, through a catchy blend of history and pop-rock numbers. It’s also being marketed under the winning headline “Divorced. Beheaded. Live in concert!”, so I’m sold. Tickets and info here.
2. Follies, National Theatre, until May 11
This Sondheim revival was a smash hit in 2017, so it makes a lot of sense for the National Theatre to bring it back. Leading lady Imelda Staunton, who gave a powerhouse performance in the initial run, isn’t returning for this one, but it will nevertheless be a stirring musical nostalgia trip. Tickets and info here.
3. 9 to 5 The Musical, Savoy Theatre, until August 31
What a way to make a living… Three office workers, fed up with their sexist and overbearing boss, hatch a revenge plot to the tune of some Dolly Parton-penned songs. With Louise Redknapp and Love Island’s Amber Davies amongst the cast, expect this to be one of the hottest tickets in town. Read all about it here.
4. Only Fools And Horses, Theatre Royal Haymarket, until August 31
Lovely jubbly! Paul Whitehouse leads the cast of this improbable musical, which takes you to Peckham via the West End. The sitcom’s creator, John Sullivan, was working on the musical before he died, and his son Jim saw it finished with a little help from Whitehouse. Read all about it here.
5. Come From Away, Phoenix Theatre, until September 14
A musical set on September 11, 2001 doesn’t sound like the happiest of stories, but Come From Away has wowed critics and audiences since its US debut. 7000 passengers were stranded in a small town in Newfoundland, Canada as a result of the Twin Tower attacks, and the tale of how they were welcomed makes for an uplifting musical jaunt. Tickets and info here.
6. Waitress, Adelphi Theatre, until October 19
With a Sara Bareilles-penned soundtrack and a strong Broadway run behind it, Waitress is poised to be the breakout West End hit of 2018. Katherine McPhee dons the apron as the titular waitress, hoping to break out of her small town and tumultuous marriage by winning a baking contest. Rumours are it’s sweeter than a slice of pie. Tickets and info here.
7. Sweet Charity, Donmar Warehouse, April 6-June 8
All Big Spenders should make a beeline for the Donmar’s revival of Cy Coleman’s classic musical, which marks Josie Rourke’s farewell as artistic director. Anne-Marie Duff takes the lead role of Charity, giving love one last chance after a string of users and losers. Tickets and info here.
8. Man of La Mancha, London Coliseum, April 26-June 8
The English National Opera are tilting at windmills with the first revival of this classic musical in 50 years. Kelsey Grammer makes his West End debut in taking on the dual roles of Miguel de Cervantes and Don Quixote, and he’ll be up to all sorts of shenanigans as the errant knight. Tickets and info here.
9. Hansel & Gretel, Regent’s Park Theatre, June 14-22
Engelbert Humperdinck’s (the German composer, not the former UK Eurovision entrant) classical opera is trotted out for a week under the stars. A collaboration between Regent’s Park theatre and the English National Opera, this should be a lively retelling of the Grimm fairytale. Tickets and info here.
10. Jesus Christ Superstar, Barbican, July 4-August 24
A heavenly addition to the London theatre scene, the classic musical focuses on the last days of Jesus’ life, with a load of catchy musical numbers thrown in for good measure. Tickets and info here.
11. Evita, Regent’s Park Theatre, August 2-September 21
No Madonna in this one, but this production has something the 1996 film lacked: an open air amphitheatre in which to stage it. If you happen to be wandering through Regent’s Park this August, don’t be shocked to hear Don’t Cry For Me Argentina filling the night air. Tickets and info here.
12. Fame, Peacock Theatre, September 11-October 19
The legendary musical, following high school kids attempting to sing, dance, and act their way to fame, gets a 30th anniversary production in 2019. Essentially, if you really liked Glee, you’re going to love this one. Tickets and info here.
13. Dear Evan Hansen, Noel Coward Theatre, opens November 19 (previews from October 29)
It was long-rumoured, and we finally have an opening date. Audiences have fallen for this sweetly thought-provoking musical wherever it has opened, and we don’t expect London to be any different. Read all about it here.
14. Les Miserables, Queen’s Theatre, December (date TBC)
It’s new, but also not. All rather confusing, but here’s what we know, as per the Evening Standard: the current version of Les Miserables, which has been in London since 1985, and at the Queen’s Theatre since 2004, will transfer to the Gielgud Theatre in July, where it’ll run for four months before finally closing. In December, an updated version, based on the 25th anniversary Broadway show, will open at the by-then-renovated Queen’s Theatre. So in essence, same musical, different production. Keep an eye on their website for more.
Plays in London
Maggie Smith, Sally Field, Cillian Murphy, Tom Hiddleston, and Gillian Anderson are just some of the stars who’ll be treading the boards across London in 2019 – here’s our guide to the best theatre in London in 2019.
15. Inside Bitch, The Royal Court, until March 23
No big names in this one, but there’s an authenticity to this examination of women in prison: the four starring actresses have all served time in prison. The result is a devised ensemble piece that is “dark as fuck, and […] will knock your socks off”. Tickets and info here.
16. Shipwreck, Almeida Theatre, until March 30
“You are formally invited to dinner with the 45th President of the United States.” Well if that’s not a terrifying prospect, I don’t know what is. Rupert Goold directs the world premiere of this curious play, with Tara Fitzgerald and Justine Mitchell amongst the cast. Tickets and info here.
17. Jesus Hopped The ‘A’ Train, Young Vic, until March 30
A darkly comic look inside the US justice system from the writer of The Motherfucker With The Hat, this electric production features serial killers, cult leaders, and sadistic guards. Sounds like a fun dinner party… Tickets and info here.
18. Alys, Always, The Bridge, until March 30
Frances’ quite life is upended when she helps out car crash victim Alys, and finds herself catapulted into a world of luxury and excess. Expect a rather searching interrogation of wealth and privilege in this psychological thriller, at The Bridge until March. Tickets and info here.
19. The American Clock, The Old Vic, until March 30
It’s a testament to the genius of Arthur Miller that, without any pre-planning or special reason, London will witness at least four revivals of his plays in 2019. This is the first of them, a rarely-performed musing on the stock market crash viewed through the eyes of one family – Hadestown’s Rachel Chavkin directs a cast including Giles Terera, best known to London audiences for his strutting turn as Aaron Burr in Hamilton. Tickets and info here.
20. The Price, Wyndham’s Theatre, until April 27
Look, here’s another Miller play right now! The Price is transferring from the Theatre Royal Bath, and sees two estranged brothers reuniting to sell off their family furniture and settling old scores – look out for a scene-stealing turn from David Suchet as furniture dealer Gregory Solomon. Tickets and info here.
21. All About Eve, Noël Coward Theatre, until May 11
The classic Hollywood film gets a stage version, masterminded by prolific director Ivo van Hove, and starring Gillian Anderson and Lily James. Glamorous actress Margo Channing (Anderson) is the undisputed queen of the theatre, whilst Eve (James) is the ambitious upstart determined to usurp her. Tickets and info here.
22. The Twilight Zone, Ambassadors Theatre, March 4-June 1
Things go a little sideways in this homage to the classic TV series, which features copious amounts of magic, fantasy, and WTF-ery. Having previously played at the Almeida, it now gets a West End run at the Ambassadors. Tickets and info here.
23. Betrayal, Harold Pinter Theatre, March 5-June 8
The story of an affair told in reverse, Betrayal rounds off the star-studded Pinter at the Pinter season. Tom Hiddleston takes on a meaty lead role, with Zawe Ashton and Charlie Cox recently announced to join him in the cast. Tickets and info here.
24. Downstate, National Theatre, March 12-April 27
Hitting the National Theatre in March, Downstate sounds like a bright and breezy affair: four convicted paedophiles share a house in downstate Illinois, and their relative peace is shattered when a former victim turns up, seeking either retribution or closure. Tickets and info here.
25. The Life I Lead, Park Theatre, March 18-30
An enjoyably comic look into the life of iconic actor David Tomlinson – best known for his roles in Mary Poppins and Bedknobs and Broomsticks – The Life I Lead looks at fathers and sons, fame, and playing the loveable fool. Tickets and info here.
26. Grief Is The Thing With Feathers, Barbican Theatre, March 25-April 13
A London transfer of the Enda Walsh-penned, Cillian Murphy-starring play has been in the offing for ages, and 2019 finally sees it happen. A family riven by grief is visited by Crow, a mischievous healer who soon imposes himself upon proceedings. Tickets and info here.
27. Ali and Dahlia, Pleasance Theatre, March 26-April 14
Love is tough enough, but it gets even harder when you and your beau are on opposite sides of the Israel-Palestine conflicts, and one of you is interrogating the other… Tickets and info here.
28. Cry Havoc, Park Theatre, March 27-April 20
Opening within a day of Ali and Dahlia is another gripping love story, this time exploring the relationship between the West and the Middle East. As a government crackdown reaches Cairo, two men will have to evaluate their identities and relationship in this poignant production. Tickets and info here.
29. Intra Muros, Park Theatre, April 3-May 4
Riffing on the play-within-a-play trope, a theatre class inside a maximum security prison quickly devolves into a darkly comic life at incarcerated existence. Tickets and info here.
30. A German Life, Bridge Theatre, April 6-May 11
Displaying the kind of stamina most millennials would envy, the 84 year old Maggie Smith makes her return to the London stage. She’ll play Brunhilde Pomsel in this one-woman play, who made ends meet by working as Joseph Goebbel’s secretary, and it should be fascinating stuff. Tickets and info here.
31. Three Sisters, Almeida, April 8-June 1
A new version of the Chekhov classic, reimagined by Cordelia Lynn. Patsy Ferran, who won acclaim for the Almeida’s stunning Summer And Smoke revival, stars in what’s sure to be a stirring adaptation. Tickets and info here.
32. Night of the Living Dead Live!, Pleasance Theatre, April 9-May 19
For all you need to know about this show, please refer to the seating plan, which is divided into ‘Splatter Zone One’ and ‘Supposedly Safe Zone’. In the only production blessed by the Romero estate, you’ll find blood, guts, and braaaiiinnnsss… Tickets and info here.
33. All My Sons, The Old Vic, April 15-June 8
The Old Vic are pulling out all the stops for the production of Arthur Miller’s stunning tragedy, with a cast of Sally Field, Bill Pullman, and Jenna Coleman testament to this. The American Dream will all come shattering down around the Keller family, as long-buried secrets come to light. Tickets and info here.
34. Hell Yes I’m Tough Enough, Park Theatre, April 24-May 18
A thinly-disguised satire of the 2015 election, Hell Yes I’m Tough Enough sees two scheming politicians leak, ridicule, and blackmail their way to the top. No word on whether they’ll serve bacon sarnies, though. Tickets and info here.
35. Avalanche: A Love Story, Barbican, April 27-May 12
Maxine Peake takes the lead in this powerful story of one couple’s journey through the trials and tribulations of IVF treatment – don’t expect it to be a particularly easy ride. Tickets and info here.
36. Death of a Salesman, Young Vic, May 1-June 29
Right now, Marianne Elliot can do no wrong. Currently winning plaudits for her stunning revival of Company, she’s set to direct an all-black cast in a fresh take on Miller’s greatest play. The Wire’s Wendell Pierce and London theatre faves Sharon D. Clarke and Arinzé Kene lead the cast, which augurs very well for this production. Tickets and info here.
37. Don’t Look Away, Pleasance Theatre, May 7-18
With its roots in the Syrian migrant crisis, Don’t Look Away is set to be pretty powerful stuff, centring on one woman’s fateful decision to help a man in crisis. Tickets and info here.
38. The Last Temptation of Boris Johnson, Park Theatre, May 9-June 8
More political comedy at the Park Theatre, as the former Mayor of London/professional buffoon goes under the microscope. In 2029, with Brexit having spectacularly divided the country, the exiled BoJo stumbles back into controversy – and the limelight… Tickets and info here.
39. The Starry Messenger, Wyndham’s Theatre, May 16-August 10
Matthew Broderick and Elizabeth McGovern take the leads in this new work from Oscar-winning writer Kenneth Lonergan. Broderick is the aimless astronomer whose life is upended by a catastrophic event – expect the hype to build as the premiere approaches. Tickets and info here.
40. Beneath the Blue Rinse, Park Theatre, May 21-June 15
Billed as “Quentin Tarantino meets Last of the Summer Wine”, this comedy is all about growing old disgracefully. I’m sure that quote is more than enough to sell it to you, but in case it isn’t, tickets and info are here.
41. Kill Climate Deniers, Pleasance Theatre, Jun 4-30
Is that a little excessive? Not in David Finnigan’s lacerating satire, which delighted and enraged audiences during its Australian premiere. Featuring politicians, eco-terrorists, and Fleetwood Mac, you’ll have the chance to see it in June. Tickets and info here.
42. Bitter Wheat, Garrick Theatre, June 7-September 14
John Malkovich returns to the London stage for the first time in 33 years, lured back by the prospect of playing a Weinstein-esque depraved Hollywood exec primed to fall from power. David Mamet writes and directs this darkly funny response to the #MeToo movement. Tickets and info here.
43. Napoli, Brooklyn, Park Theatre, June 13-July 13
Coming of age as a young Italian-American woman in an immigrant family isn’t the easiest, and it’s about to get a little tougher when an earth-shaking event roils their upbringing. Tickets and info here.
44. Summer Rolls, Park Theatre, June 19-July 13
More cross-cultural coming of age tales await in Summer Rolls, as impulsive Mai’s upbringing in Britain clashes with the horrors her family escaped when they left war-torn Vietnam. It’s also the first British Vietnamese play staged in the UK, which is pretty neat. Tickets and info here.
45. The End of History, Royal Court, June 27-August 10
Writer Jack Thorne is best known for bringing The Cursed Child to the West End, but he turns his attention to a very different kind of family drama with this show. Hopes, dreams, and parental expectations will collide in a tenser-than-average family dinner, and it should make for compelling viewing. Tickets and info here.
46. The Night of the Iguana, Noel Coward Theatre, July 6-September 28
A lesser-known but fiercely loved Tennessee Williams play, this version features Clive Owen, Anna Gunn, and Julian Glover. On a hot, humid night in a Mexico hotel, disgraced reverend T. Lawrence Shannon (Owen) will encounter a parade of eccentric tourists, each with a story to tell. Tickets and info here.
47. Tree, Young Vic, July 29-August 24
As collaborations go, this is an impressive effort. Young Vic artistic director Kwame Kwei-Armah and actor, DJ, and London bar owner Idris Elba have teamed up for this searching look into contemporary South Africa, soundtracked by Elba’s album ‘Mi Mandela’. Tickets and info here.
48. Blood Wedding, Young Vic, September 19-November 2
Sure, it’s good luck to have something old at your wedding, but you probably don’t want a years-long, blood-soaked feud, really. Aren’t weddings stressful enough already? And yet, this is exactly what you can expect from the Young Vic’s production of Lorca’s classic tragedy, as old grievances come to a head in dramatic fashion. Tickets and info here.
49. Fairview, Young Vic, November 28-January 18, 2020
You’ve got to hand it to the Young Vic: they’re a rather eager lot, having announced their entire 2019 season even as others keep theirs under wraps. Taking them in 2020 is Fairview, a family drama that examines the nature of power – it’s fresh off a sellout run in New York, so we’re expecting big things from this. Tickets and info here.
Shakespeare (and friends) in London
The Bard and his buddies maintain an ever-constant presence in London, and here’s what you can expect in 2019.
50. Edward II, The Globe, until April 20
To say Edward II’s reign was tumultuous is a bit of an understatement, featuring a fruitless battle against Scotland, the execution of his possible gay lover, and finally, defeat at the hands of an army led by his own wife(!). Puts our modern struggles into perspective, doesn’t it? Anyway, it’s all here in Christopher Marlowe’s play, arriving at The Globe’s Wanamaker Playhouse in 2019. Tickets and info here.
51. Richard II, The Globe, until April 21
It’s Richard II, unlike you’ve ever seen it before. A cast composed entirely of women of colour make this a fairly revolutionary bit of theatre – and it’s particularly relevant today, given the play’s examination of Britishness, identity, and loyalty. Tickets and info here.
52. Romeo and Juliet, The Globe, until March 23
A stripped-down, easy-access version of the classic tale of star-crossed lovers, this production is designed to introduces newbies to The Bard’s work. If you’re one of the few people on Earth who doesn’t know how it ends, I’m not going to spoil it for you. Tickets and info here.
53. Richard III, Alexandra Palace Theatre, March 13-31
After 80 years of neglect, the Alexandra Palace auditorium is back, and raring to go. Their first dramatic production is Richard III, who’ll be clothing his naked villainy in the stunning surrounds of the revived Victorian theatre. Tickets and info here.
54. Henry IV, Part 1, The Globe, April 23-October 11
Following on from Richard II in Shakespeare’s Henriad is a new version of Henry IV, Part 1. Hotspur and Hal are two sons on opposite sides of the war, but whilst Hotspur is ready to lead an army, Hal is much happier boozing in a London pub. Can’t say I blame him, to be honest. Tickets and info here.
55. Henry IV, Part 2, The Globe, April 25-October 11
Loved the first part? You only have to wait two days to catch the concluding chapter of the Henry IV story, as The Globe continue the tale rather swiftly. With the king close to death, Falstaff has to recruit for the army, protect Hal, and somehow find time for a pub crawl. Sounds exhausting… Tickets and info here.
56. Henry V, The Globe, April 30-October 11
The final chapter in the Henry story – it’s the Return of the Jedi/Return of the King/Toy Story 3 of Shakespearean history plays. The concluding play sees Henry V attempt to prove himself a worthy ruler by doing what countless leaders have done before him: starting a petty war with France. Mon dieu! Tickets and info here.
57. The Merry Wives of Windsor, The Globe, May 17-October 12
Reportedly, Elizabeth I enjoyed the character of Falstaff so much that she pressed Shakespeare to write him his own comedy. It’s a little more lighthearted than war and bloodshed, as the hapless knight sets about wooing the Merry Wives, with predictably farcical results. Tickets and info here.
58. A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Bridge, June 3-August 31
The Bridge’s artistic director Nicholas Hytner is a dab hand with Shakespeare, so you can expect this to be a production to rival his warmly-received Julius Caesar of 2018. I mean, it’s just not summer unless you get a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, is it? Tickets and info here.
59. A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Regent’s Park Theatre, June 28-July 27
Anyone else getting deja vu? Flying defiantly in the face of The Bridge are Regent’s Park Theatre, who will mount their own production this summer. They’ll hope their gorgeous open-air theatre will trump The Bridge’s production, as Shakespeare’s legendary comedy comes alive under the stars. Tickets and info here.
60. A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Globe, June 28-October 13
Seriously, are you kidding me?! Not only is this the third major production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream hitting London this summer, it also opens on exactly the same day as the Regent’s Park production. I’d like to promise this is the last production we’ll see this year, but I really don’t know anymore… Tickets and info here.
61. As You Like It, The Globe, August 7-September 21
A holdover from the 2018 summer season, and for good reason. Michelle Terry’s first year as The Globe’s artistic director made liberal use of genderblind casting, a decision which worked beautifully for this production. No word on casting yet, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the return of Pearce Quigley’s wearily sardonic Jacques. Tickets and info here.
62. Bartholomew Fair, The Globe, August 23-October 12
The Notting Hill Carnival of its day, Bartholomew Fair welcomed merchants, musicians, circus acts, and the curious public. It was eventually shut down due to the high levels of debauchery it invited, but not before Ben Jonson immortalised it in this rib-tickling comedy. Tickets and info here.
Need more of a culture fix? Check out our guide to London’s art exhibitions in 2019!
Also published on Medium.