Whatever you may think about the year 2016 in terms of political events, we can all agree it was a pretty stellar year for London theatre. As much as we love to reminisce about all the great shows we’ve seen, there’s something even more exciting to be done: looking forward to what 2017 has to offer.
Let’s start with the big, fat, unavoidable Broadway smash hit coming our way: Hamilton. If you have, in fact, been living under a rock for the past year and have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s the quick rundown. Hamilton is a musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda (of In The Heights-fame) about Alexander Hamilton, one of America’s Founding Fathers. Mixing traditional musical theatre with rap and featuring a mostly non-white cast, in 2016 the show bagged eleven Tonys, a Grammy and the Pulitzer Price. Tickets go on sale to the general public on 30 January, long before its November opening at the newly refurbished Victoria Palace. You’ll be joining a long queue of people hoping to grab a ticket, but don’t let that put you off; even though the New York Times were ‘loath to tell people to mortgage their houses and lease their children to acquire tickets’, they reckoned that Hamilton ‘might just about be worth it’.
Another hotly anticipated opening is The Ferryman at the Royal Court, playing from the end of April. All you need to know about this one is that it’ll bring together Royal Court-debutant Sam Mendes with old favourite Jez Butterworth. Tickets are, naturally, sold out, but we’d be very surprised if a West End transfer is not on the books.
Another Hamlet, you say? Surely, after the great Cumberbatch doing the Dane, we’ve peaked? Well, since this one will be directed by the Almeida’s resident wunderkind Robert Icke, we reckon this will be a show to look forward to. It also helps that Icke has friends in talented places: Juliet Stevenson stars as Gertrude, while Andrew Scott will tackle the lead. If nothing else, add it to your list so that, come February, you can complete your Sherlock-stars-do-Hamlet bingo card.
Hamlet. Photo credit: Miles Aldridge
You may have heard of this other director who’s having a bit of a moment as well. The Barbican have bagged Ivo van Hove for a residency, which, among other things, will see him directing Jude Law in Obsession. The one we can’t wait to see, however, is Roman Tragedies, a six-hour epic that encompasses Coriolanus, Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra. It was first shown at the Barbican in 2009, so this is a good chance for more recent Van Hove fans to join the party. It only has three performances in March, however, so be quick to grab a ticket before all the newly converted Hedda Gabler aficionados beat you to it.
Speaking of the National Theatre, have they got a fantastic-looking season lined up or what? Even though it feels like picking a favourite child, we’re most excited about Lucy Kirkwood’s new play Mosquitoes, opening in July. With Rufus Norris directing and Olivia Colman starring, this should by all rights be a good one.
For more star power, you’ll want to be heading to the Harold Pinter in February. Imelda Staunton is taking the lead in the late, great Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Anyone who saw Staunton in Gypsy, for which she took home her well-deserved fourth(!) Olivier last year, will know that she’s an awesome and occasionally terrifying stage presence, so the role of Martha should be a fantastic fit.
Last but certainly not least, we have to talk about Woyzeck at the Old Vic. The original unfinished play by Büchner is given a makeover by Jack Thorne, who you might also know as the playwright behind ‘theatrical event of the year’ Harry Potter and The Cursed Child. If that doesn’t make your nerdy heart beat fast enough just yet, the lead will be played by John Boyega, of Star Wars-fame. The last time London saw a high-profile interpretation of Woyzeck was Punchdrunk’s The Drowned Man; although we bet this one will be a little less kooky, the Old Vic has been on top form lately and will surely come up with something appropriately weird and wonderful come May.