Absolute Hell

Absolute Hell

Rodney Ackland|Sutton Arts Theatre | Directed by Emily Armstrong

Sutton Arts Theatre bring the chaos and frenzied escapism of post-war Soho to life in a fine production of Rodney Ackland’s controversial play ‘Absolute Hell’, directed by Emily Armstrong. Set entirely in La Vie en Rose, a dimly lit private members drinking club, it is one of those plays in which nothing much seems to happen, but everything does. The large cast successfully create a rich tapestry of humanity in all its varied pain, glory and disorder. Spending time in the company of these lost souls offers an engaging and satisfying insight into some of the complex realities of London life in 1945. Blitz nostalgia it most certainly is not.

Fleabag

Fleabag

Phoebe Waller-Bridge|NTLive Broadcast from Wyndham’s Theatre | Directed by Vicky Jones

Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s one woman play, which inspired the hit BBC TV series, is a perfectly formed theatrical pearl.

Appropriate

Appropriate

Branden Jacobs-Jenkins| Donmar Warehouse, London | Directed by Ola Ince

The ghost of a dead father and the brutal history of slavery haunt the ramshackle former plantation house of a dysfunctional American family in the UK premiere of Branden Jacob-Jenkins’ Appropriate at the Donmar Warehouse, directed by Ola Ince. It’s part gothic story, part family drama and part history play.

Venice Preserved

Venice Preserved

Thomas Otway| Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon | Directed by Prasanna Puwanarajah

Thomas Otway’s 1682 play is one of the very few Restoration tragedies still staged. In Prasanna Puwanarajah’s production, currently running at the Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, it receives a “noir twist”, presenting the audience with a ‘Blade Runner meets Mad Max’ cyberpunk vision of a corrupt Venice.

Cats

Cats

Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, based on ‘Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats’ by T S Eliot | Kilworth House Theatre, Leicestershire | Directed by Nick Winston

Nick Winston’s new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s hit musical at Kilworth House Theatre delivers on every level: this is ‘Cats’ as you’ve never seen it before. Fresh, playful and impeccably performed. fffffEncore Performing Arts, directed by Adam Guest, rise to the considerable challenge of staging this dark and raunchy tale of women getting away with murder in a production bursting with sexiness and sass.

Chicago

Chicago

John Kander and Fred Ebb | Lakeside Arts Theatre, Nottingham | Directed by Adam Guest

Encore Performing Arts, directed by Adam Guest, rise to the considerable challenge of staging this dark and raunchy tale of women getting away with murder in a production bursting with sexiness and sass.

Deadtown

Deadtown

Ivan Arsenjev and Petr Forman | Birmingham Repertory Theatre | Directed by Petr Forman

This is a unique piece of hypnotic theatre which shifts from vaudevillian circus to something far more fantastic as we are invited to journey into the depths of the Wild West with a host of comedians, illusionists, gunfighters and beautiful ladies.

All My Sons

All My Sons

Arthur Miller | Highbury Theatre, Sutton Coldfield | Directed by Ian Appleby

In this latest Highbury Players production, director Ian Appleby has assembled an impressive cast, each effective in conveying how the ghostly presence of two absent characters exercises a profound influence over their lives. It’s a bold, powerful realisation of Miller’s intense family drama.

Shrek

Shrek: The Musical

David Lindsay-Abaire | Leicester Haymarket Theatre | Directed by Sally Bruton

Leicester Amateur Operatic Society bring the fairytale kingdom of Duloc magically to life on the Haymarket Theatre stage in this slick, vibrant and upbeat production. This is family entertainment of the highest order from a community theatre company packed full of talented singers, dancers and actors.

Guys and Dolls

Guys and Dolls

Frank Loesser | Sutton Arts Theatre | Directed by Emily Armstrong and Dexter Whitehead

Taking on any classic musical which audiences already know well is risky. There’s a weight of expectation. There aren’t many shows more well-known than ‘Guys and Dolls’, much-loved and hailed by critics as a “perfect musical comedy” when it opened on Broadway back in 1950. Throw in the 1955 film starring Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando and Jean Simmons, countless stage revivals and a host of familiar songs and there’s plenty of pressure for any company. It’s a gamble but thankfully, under the direction of Emily Armstrong and Dexter Whitehead, Sutton Arts’ roll of the dice pays off with a resounding win: this is a hugely impressive piece of amateur theatre.

Fiddler on the Roof

Fiddler on the Roof

Joseph Stein, Jerry Brock and Sheldon Harnick | Playhouse Theatre | Directed by Trevor Nunn

There’s nothing shaky about this Fiddler on the Roof: voices are incredible across the whole cast. A slick, sharp and spirited production of a much-loved musical.

Living Together

Living Together

Alan Ayckbourn | Quarndon Village Hall | Directed by Peter Konowalik

Sir Alan Ayckbourn celebrates both his 80th birthday and the 60th anniversary of his professional playwrighting debut this year. Incredibly, his 83rd full length play will premiere in Scarborough this summer. Perfect timing this week then, for Quarndon Amateur Dramatic Society (QUADS) to treat audiences to a farcical journey back to the mid-1970s in their staging of one of the much-loved Norman Conquest plays – Living Together.

"Movies will make you famous, television will make you rich, but theatre will make you good."

Terrence Mann
A Thousand Splendid Suns

A Thousand Splendid Suns

Khaled Hosseini | Birmingham Repertory Theatre | Directed by Roxana Silbert

Khalid Hosseini’s much-loved 2007 novel tells the deeply affecting story of an unlikely friendship between two Afghan women, both married to the same husband. The narrative spans several decades, starting in 1992 in an Afghanistan ravaged by civil war.

"Words are sacred. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones, in the right order, you can nudge the world a little."

Tom Stoppard
Hamilton

Hamilton

Lin-Manuel Miranda | Victoria Palace Theatre | Directed by Thomas Kail

Manuel Lin Miranda’s box office smash Hamilton, playing at the Victoria Palace in London, is a theatrical phenomenon. Musicals being ‘current’ and ‘relevant’ has become almost cliched but with a Trump administration in the White House full of anti-immigrant rhetoric, this show feels razor sharp and bang on the money.

The Price

The Price

Arthur Miller | Wyndham’s Theatre | Directed by Jonathan Church

The metaphorical price of the life decisions we all make is what this play really excavates and in this, Jonathan Church’s production successfully mines the depths of Miller’s writing.

Kunene and the King

Kunene and the King

John Kani | Swan Theatre | Directed by Janice Honeyman

South African actor, activist and playwright John Kani’s new two-hander weaves weighty and wide-ranging personal themes with a nation’s political history in this world premiere at the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon Avon.

Equus

Equus

Peter Shaffer | Cambridge Arts Theatre | Directed by Ned Bennett

A striking and violent image dominates the imagination of the audience in this complex and disturbing play: six horses have been wilfully blinded with steel spikes. Why would anyone commit such a brutal act?

Edmond de Bergerac

Edmond de Bergerac

Alexis Michalik | Birmingham Repertory Theatre | Directed by Roxana Silbert

French theatre phenomenon premieres at The Birmingham Rep.