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The Best Theatre in London this July
Image Credit: courtesy of the National Theatre

The Best Theatre in London this July

2 July 2017 Will Rathbone

This July there really are some special shows coming our way. Us Londoners can look forward to immersive gig-soundscapes, all-star casting, hilarious millennial angst, astonishing CGI, topical global commentary and the return of one of our finest playwrights. It’s a bumper month, so read on and get booking.

Returning to the Southbank Centre after last year’s astonishing sell out Klanghaus: On Air, visual artist Sal Pittman and art rockers The Neutrinos once again take over a hidden area of the Royal Festival Hall to present Klanghaus: 800 Breaths from July 1-23. Part gig, part installation, part promenade performance, there’s nothing quite like a Klanghaus show. Think Talking Heads and Gang of Four combining to fill an industrial maze with art and noise – it’ll be funny, groovy, heavy, melancholy and out of this world.


Image courtesy of The Photographic Unit
 
If music’s your bag, then head to the Old Vic. Taking the music of Bob Dylan and weaving it into a play, Girl From The North Country is the latest piece from Irish playwright Conor McPherson, and runs from July 8 – October 7. Set in Minnesota in 1934, it follows a desperate small-town family whose world is turned around by the arrival of a bible-selling preacher and a down and out boxer. McPherson is a master at presenting society’s misfits, and one of the best playwrights working today, whilst a cast that includes Ron Cook, Ciarán Hinds, Shirley Henderson and Arinzé Kene guarantees top class acting.
 
Speaking of top playwrights, there’s none finer than Lucy Kirkwood right now. The Children at the Royal Court was widely considered to be the best new play last year, and followed hot on the heels of the sensational Chimerica. Her latest, Mosquitos, runs at the National Theatre from July 18 – September 28 and looks at two opposing sisters brought together suddenly by tragedy. One works in Geneva at the Large Hadron Collider whilst the other lives in Luton doing nothing much. Kirkwood is on the button when it comes to modern concerns, and we’ll always be first in line to see her latest work.


Image courtesy of the National Theatre
 
In a similarly current vein, Javaad Alipoor’s The Believers Are But Brothers comes to the marvellous Ovalhouse in South London as an Edinburgh Fringe preview from July 12-15. The one-man show looks at online radicalisation and the rise of technology as a 21st century weapon, taking in the crisis of masculinity along the way. It’s a bold, uncompromising look at a subject the world understands frighteningly little about.
 
One of the highlights from last year’s Fringe was the delightful Often Onstage by all-female comedy troupe Figs in Wigs. It’s a dance-based exploration of the act of entering and exiting the stage – a literal look at the ‘ins and outs’ of the theatre business. It’s charming, funny and inventive, and you can catch it from July 6-8 at the Battersea Arts Centre.


Image Credit: Manuel Vason
 
Equally funny, but in an altogether more devastating fashion, is Touch at the Soho Theatre, running from July 6 – August 26. It comes from the creators of the cult smash hit Fleabag, and if you know and love the show (it also spawned a successful BBC series) then you’ll know what to expect here. Dee, a 33 year-old woman who has freshly moved to London, is looking for a fresh start. Touch follows Dee’s sexual escapades and attempts to take control of her life in a crushingly honest and refreshingly open way – book sooner rather than later for this one.
 
Another playwright returns to the scene of previous successes at the Royal Court this month, as Jim Cartwright’s seminal 1980s play Road is re-staged by hotter than hot director John Tiffany from July 21 – September 9. The inhabitants of an unnamed road in northern England during Thatcher’s reign are the stars, and given the current parallels to be found with a pressured, desperate working class discussing the hardships of modern life, it seems like a fairly apt time for this revival. It’s got blockbuster written all over it – like much of the Royal Court’s 2017 so far – and with a cast including Lemn Sissay, Michelle Fairley and June Watson there’s no doubting the pedigree here.
 
If a star cast is what you’re after though, look no further than Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at the Apollo Theatre from July 13 – October 7. The Young Vic is taking over the West End venue, and they’re taking Sienna Miller and Jack O’Connell with them. Tennessee Williams’ scorching, beatific classic about a Mississippi couple’s self-destructive web of lies is directed by Benedict Andrews – who in 2014 wowed critics and crowds alike with his take on Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire. This is one of the summer’s biggest shows – guaranteed.


Image Credit: Charlie Gray
 
Finally, something a little different, as the RSC is transferring their recent version of The Tempest to The Barbican from June 30 – August 18. Artistic Director Gregory Doran directs the incomparable Simon Russell Beale – who, if you haven’t seen him do Shakespeare before, was born to do so – as Prospero. It takes a hell of a lot to upstage the mighty SRB, but the ingenious and unique Caliban here might just do so. Working with tech wizards Intel, this Caliban is a CGI projection-mapped wonder, and it’s a breathtaking feat of modern wizardry. Whatever you may think of the injection of CGI to theatre, it’s undoubtedly groundbreaking, and worth watching to catch a glimpse of what the future may hold.

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