The 11 must-see new theatre shows to book tickets for this summer
This summer, London’s cultural scene is jam-packed, whether you’re looking for brilliant outdoor theatre shows, innovative new plays or glitzy West End revivals. There are A-list stars aplenty, courtesy of Emilia Clarke, Amy Adams and Tom Hollander, as well as urgent new political works and retellings of modern classics. Here we’ve rounded up our pick of this summer’s best new London theatre shows. But be quick – as the hottest tickets in town, they’re bound to get snapped up quickly.
Harold Pinter Theatre
29 June – 10 September 2022
Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke is set to make her West End debut in this 21st-century modernisation of Anton Chekhov’s celebrated play, which was actually slated to run in 2020 before being scuppered by the pandemic. Produced by the Jamie Lloyd Company – who’ve just finished their sell-out run of Cyrano with James McAvoy – Clarke will play the ambitious yet vain young actress Nina in British playwright and screenwriter Anya Reiss’s contemporary version of the 1895 masterpiece – a tragic tale of love, obsession, jealousy and regret – starring alongside Tom Rhys Harries, Daniel Monks, Sophie Wu and Clarke’s GoT castmate Indira Varma.
A Doll’s House Part 2
The Donmar Warehouse
10 June – 6 August 2022
As usual, the tiny-but-mighty Donmar Warehouse has one of the hottest tickets in town, which comes courtesy of this sequel to Henrik Ibsen’s 1879 masterpiece A Doll’s House. The brilliant Olivier Award-winning Noma Dumezweni plays Nora, with the show picking up 15 years after the original play left off, as our heroine returns home after walking away from her stifling marriage. But can she pick up the shattered pieces of her former life, or is it too late? Written by American playwright Lucas Hnath, the production was a smash hit on Broadway when it showed in 2017 and it seems set to prove just as popular on this side of the pond. And before you ask, no – you don’t have to have seen Part I to enjoy it.
The Old Vic
9 June – 9 July 2022
August Wilson’s best-known play, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, recently had the Hollywood spotlight turned on it for a Netflix film adaptation, which starred Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman in his final role. Now the eighth play from the great Black American playwright’s Pittsburgh Cycle is getting its first major UK revival in 20 years at the Old Vic. Taking its name from the US slang for an unlicensed taxi, the show follows the lives of eight Black men in a racially segregated, post-Vietnam America, who are all united by their connection to Jim Becker’s cabs, which will travel to parts of Pittsburgh that other drivers dare not venture.
The Young Vic
16 July – 13 August 2022
New to the Young Vic this summer comes Chasing Hares, a biting drama that won Theatre Uncut’s Political Playwriting Awards last year. Written by British playwright and screenwriter Sonali Bhattacharyya, the show follows West Bangali Prab, who by day struggles to survive as he operates machinery in his brutal factory job and by night writes stories for his beloved baby daughter, Amba. When he is hired by a popular actress to write a play for her, he uses the medium to expose the injustice of factory conditions and address the rumours of child exploitation, potentially risking his own life in the process.
The Ambassadors Theatre
15 June – 4 September 2022
Stranger Things star David Harbour made his West End debut playing the handsome young Nick in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the Apollo Theatre in 2006, and now he’s back to tread the boards again in American playwright Theresa Rebeck’s brand new dark comedy, which is premiering over here rather than on Broadway. Harbour plays Michael, one of three siblings who returns to his childhood home in rural Pennsylvania to look after his dying father, played by Bill Pullman. When his brother Nedward and sister Pam arrive, it’s clear they’re all after the same thing: getting their hands on dear old dad’s money.
The Southbury Child
The Bridge Theatre
1 July – 27 August 2022
Three-time Olivier Award-winning actor Alex Jennings is no stranger to the stage, but this marks his debut at the Bridge Theatre, where he’ll be taking on the role of David Highland, a charming but frequently drunk vicar, in Stephen Beresford’s darkly comic new play. Living in an isolated coastal town, David makes a decision that turns his congregation against him as he finds himself dangerously at odds with public opinion. As the conflict begins to seep into his family life, David starts questioning his position within his community, as well as everything he stands for. Sharply written and wryly astute, this is an exploration of family, faith, tradition and tolerance in a rapidly changing world.
That Is Not Who I Am
The Royal Court
10 June – 16 July 2022
Billed as “a play of rare political urgency, savage wit and real compassion and wisdom” by playwright Simon Stephens, this new work at the Royal Court is proving something of a mystery in the theatrical world. Said to have been written by the unknown Dave Davidson, a first-time playwright who has ‘worked in security’ for the last 38 years and refuses to share any photographs of himself for security reasons, it definitely feels as if there is something else going on here. But regardless, the thriller is making waves with its plotline about stolen online identities, as it follows the protagonist Ollie, whose life starts to spiral out of control when his digital persona is taken. A must-watch, if only to uncover the secrecy surrounding it.
2 July – 20 August 2022
This a deeply timely watch courtesy of British screenwriter Peter Morgan, the man behind Netflix’s The Crown. The year is 1991, during the fall of the Soviet Union, and BAFTA-winning actor Tom Hollander plays billionaire businessman Boris Berezovsky, the ‘kingmaker’ behind Vladimir Putin. As a new generation of oligarchs fights to seize control, Berezovsky swiftly finds himself moved from the president’s inner circle to public enemy number one. Directed by the Almeida’s Artistic Director Rupert Goold, the play offers up a powerful story of ambition, as well as examining the dangers of loyalty and love.
The Glass Menagerie
Duke of York’s Theatre
Until 28 August 2022
Amy Adams may be a household name with six Oscar nominations under her belt, but this marks the first time the Hollywood star will take to the stage in the West End. She’s chosen one of Tennessee Williams’ most popular plays, The Glass Menagerie, for her long-awaited debut. Set in 1930s St Louis, the drama follows the Wingfield family and is told through the questionable memories of grown-up son Tom (played by both Paul Hilton and Tom Glynn-Carney at different stages of the character’s life). Adams plays faded Southern Belle Amanda, frustrated with her shy daughter Laura’s (Lizzie Annis) lack of suitors and longingly awaiting the arrival of a Gentleman Caller (Victor Alli). Bold staging by award-winning director Jeremy Herrin brings a new exploration of the fragility and fallibility of memories to Williams’ semi-autobiographical masterpiece.
Until 6 August 2022
Jerusalem fans, rejoice! Jez Butterworth’s seminal drama – widely heralded as the 21st century’s best play – has returned to the West End with its original creative team, led by director Ian Rickson a decade after its last record-breaking, sell-out run. Mark Rylance returns to reprise his career-defining performance as Johnny ‘Rooster’ Byron, a charming reprobate who spins entertaining yarns at his caravan, while Mackenzie Crook is back as his loyal sidekick Ginger, a role that earnt him both Tony and Olivier nominations. Set at Flintock Fair on St George’s Day, the play offers a vivid portrait of rural life under threat and a poetic lament for lost England, as Rooster faces eviction from his woodland home. Back in its original West End home of the Apollo, audiences can expect the same hyper-real set from 2009, complete with live chickens and elm trees.
To Kill a Mockingbird
The Gielgud Theatre
Until 13 August 2022
While Aaron Sorkin’s stage adaptation of Harper Lee’s courtroom classic may have originally been mired in controversy, following legal wrangles and suggestions that the new version deviated too much from the original book, audiences are clamouring to see the Broadway smash hit (which has proved to be one of the most successful American plays in history) now that it’s finally come to the West End. Rafe Spall plays Atticus Finch, with Bartlett Sher, who directed the Broadway production, taking the reins once again. Sorkin has updated the much-loved classic for the modern day, with The New York Times hailing it as a ‘Mockingbird for our moment’ – expect a dynamic, fast-moving courtroom drama that examines themes of racism and poverty in American society.