A Streetcar Named Desire might have dominated the culture pages of late, but there are a wealth of other new London theatre shows to catch this spring. From long-anticipated productions starring and directed by heavyweights including Sam Mendes, Lenny Henry and, of course, Paul Mescal, to bold new writing and emerging talent, these are the new London theatre shows to have on your radar this Spring.
New London theatre shows
Harold Pinter Theatre
Until 18 March
Starring Jenna Coleman (The Serpent, Victoria) and Aidan Turner (Poldark, The Lieutenant of Inishmore) and directed by the inimitable Josie Rourke, Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons was always going to be a seat-filler. The West End revival of Sam Steiner’s play – which was originally at Edinburgh Fringe – tells the story of divorce lawyer Bernadette and musician Oliver who are trying to get their heads around the Quietude Act, a draconian law which forbids people to speak more than 140 words of speech per day. As these new language restrictions unfurl, so too does their relationship in a production that’s at once a charming rom-com but also a deep-dive into communication and control.
Until 8 April
The formidable Janet McTeer (Ozark, The Menu) takes the titular role in writer-director Simon Stone’s dramatic reimagining of Seneca’s tragedy, Phaedra. The production – Stone’s National Theatre debut – is a modern spin on the famous myth which sees McTeer play a successful, super-focused stateswoman whose power and status is undermined with the reappearance of her stepson. As lust and loneliness, long buried, start to surface, everything that she’s worked so hard for begins to unravel. Also stars Mackenzie Davis and Assaad Bouab (who you’ll likely recognise from Call My Agent).
10 February - 22 April
The ancient Greek tragedy Medea, written by Euripides and based upon the myth of Jason and Medea, was first produced in 431 BC. Now, some 2500 years on, acting heavyweights Sophie Okonedo and Ben Daniels take the lead roles in a production that promises to mesmerise in its depiction of a woman laid bare by grief and rage, hell bent on exacting revenge against the men who have abandoned her. This is one of the inaugural productions to be staged in Soho Place, the West End’s first new-build theatre in 50 years; the state-of-the-art venue, which took 12 years to come to fruition, is part of a £300m regeneration of the area.
Duke of York’s Theatre
17 February - 3 June
Many of us will well remember Lewis Gilbert’s 1989 romantic comedy-drama Shirley Valentine, starring the brilliant Pauline Collins, Alison Steadman and Tom Conti. For those who don’t, the story follows Shirley who – trapped in a world of domesticity – goes on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to a Greek island where she falls in love with a taverna owner and begins to smile again. Now this heart-warming, life-affirming tale comes to the stage in what is sure to be one of the hottest new theatre shows in London, with the multi-award-winning Sheridan Smith playing Shirley in the one-woman adaptation written by Willy Russell (which saw him garner his third Olivier Award).
10 February - 25 March
A world premiere by the award-winning playwright Diana Nneka Atuona (Liberian Girl) and directed by Tinuke Craig (Jitney, Old Vic), Trouble in Butetown tells the story of Gwyneth Mbanefo. Mbanefo – who is played by acclaimed television actress Sarah Parish (Bancroft) – toils night and day at her illegal boarding house in the port town of Butetown in Cardiff to keep the wolf from the door. But her world turns upside down when African American GI Nate (Samuel Adewunmi) escapes his barracks and flees to Tiger Bay. But in this new world without segregation, is he safe and who can he trust?
11 February - 25 March
The edge-of-your-seat period drama Women, Beware the Devil is set in the 17th century, with England on the brink of civil war. Hellbent on protecting her family’s legacy and the ancestral home, Lady Elizabeth enlists the help of Agnes, a young servant suspected of witchcraft. But Agnes has her own dark dreams for the house… Written by the Sunday Times playwriting award winner Lulu Raczka and directed by the Almeida’s Artistic Director Rupert Goold, this is a play that promises treachery and trickery in equal turns.
14 February - 1 April
Director Rachel O’Riordan reunites with Welsh writer Gary Owen to deliver Romeo and Julie, a new production being billed as a modern love story inspired by Shakespeare’s original. It follows two Welsh teens who, growing up streets apart, fall head over heels in love. But as their lives take very different paths – Romeo (Callum Scott Howells; It’s a Sin, Cabaret) is a single dad who is hanging on by a thread, Julie (Rosie Sheehy; Oleanna Arts Theatre, King John, RSC) is fighting to follow her dream of studying at Cambridge – will all their plans be scuppered in a world of unequal opportunity?
20 March - 29 April
A Streetcar Named Desire was the fastest-selling play to date in any Ambassador Theatre Group venue (tickets sold out in two hours). But then again, it’s hardly surprising as it stars Paul Mescal, who we all fell in love with in Normal People, and who has just been nominated for a BAFTA and an Oscar for his role in his new film Aftersun. The Tennessee Williams play – which dramatises the experiences of former Southern belle Blanche DuBois – also stars Olivier Award winner Patsy Ferran (Summer & Smoke), Anjana Vasan (We Are Lady Parts) and Dwane Walcott (One Night in Miami, Our Girl). Sign up to streetcarwestend.com to find out when more tickets become available for what is surely one of the most-anticipated new theatre shows in London.
25 March - 7 May
It sold out at both the Royal Court Theatre and New Diorama Theatre and now For Black Boys Who Considered Suicide When The Hue Gets Too Heavy transfers to the West End for a six-week run. Inspired by Ntozake Shange’s seminal work For Colored Girls… the bold, vibrant play is about six young Black men who meet for group therapy and let their hearts – and imaginations – run wild. So follows a production alive with music, movement, storytelling and verse as these young men discuss everything from father figures and fashion tips, lost loves and jollof rice, African empires and illicit sex.
6 April - 27 May
The dazzling Josie Rourke (City of Angels) directs a new revival of Brian Friel’s Olivier Award-winning 1990 Ulster-set play Dancing at Lughnasa, with a cast including Siobhán McSweeney (Derry Girls), Ardal O’Hanlon (Father Ted) and Tom Vaughan-Lawlor (Translations). It’s 1936 and outside the small village of Ballybeg, the five Mundy sisters battle poverty to raise seven-year-old Michael, as well as caring for their Uncle Jack. During the Festival of Lughnasa – when Pagan and Christian meet – the sisters fight each other, love each other, dance, yearn and survive in what is described as “an astonishing evocation of a family’s world on the brink of change.”
Harold Pinter Theatre
25 March - 18 June
James Norton (who has had us enthralled in recent weeks with his depiction of villain Tommy Lee Royce in Happy Valley) treads the boards in Belgian director Ivo van Hove’s production of Hanya Yanagihara’s bestseller A Little Life. The play follows four college friends in New York City: aspiring actor Willem (Luke Thompson), successful architect Malcolm (Zach Wyatt), struggling artist JB (Omari Douglas) and the play’s central character, the prodigious but deeply troubled lawyer Jude (Norton). Although ambition, addiction and pride threaten to pull the friendship apart, they find themselves bound by their love for Jude and the mysteries of the past.
15 March - 1 April
Award-winning, international touring theatre company Complicité returns to the Barbican stage with a Drive Your Plow Over The Bones of the Dead. Conceived and directed by the company’s Artistic Director and Co-Founder Simon McBurney, it’s based on Polish Nobel prize-winning writer Olga Tokarczuk’s novel. The tale – described as a murder mystery-meets-dark feminist comedy – is set in the depths of winter in a small community living on a remote Polish mountainside. As men from the local hunting club begin dying in mysterious circumstances, the protagonist Janina (Olivier Award-winning actress Kathryn Hunter) begins to have her suspicions. She’s been watching the animals who share their mountainside and they’re acting strangely…
8 April - 27 May
The new musical The Secret Life of Bees promises great things – its writers and composers are littered with Pulitzer Prizes and Tony Awards. Based on the best-selling novel by Sue Monk Kidd, the story is set in South Carolina in 1964, and follows Lily, a restless teenager desperate to escape her merciless father, and Rosaleen, her caregiver who is fighting for her right to vote. In search of a brighter future, they flee their small town and seek salvation at a honeybee farm run by the characterful Boatwright sisters. Here they seek solace in the mesmerising world of bees, but the question is… will their past catch up with them?
20 April - 10 June
The Motive and the Cue is up there as one most highly-anticipated new London theatre shows. The brand-new play, by Jack Thorne and directed by Sam Mendes, tells the story of Richard Burton (Johnny Flynn) who – newly married to Elizabeth Taylor (Tuppence Middleton) – decides to take on the title role in an experimental new production of Hamlet under the direction of John Gielgud (Mark Gatiss). But as these creative greats meet and rehearsals get underway, the collaboration between actor and director begins to unravel.
28 April - 10 June
The one and only Lenny Henry brings his prodigious talent to the Bush Theatre with August in England, which is written and performed by the actor and comedian (it’s his playwriting debut). The story centres around August Henderson, a character described as “charming, flawed and with the gift of the gab”. With his three kids, devoted wife-to-be and part-ownership of a fruit and veg shop, August is content with the life he’s built since arriving in West Bromwich. But when he’s threatened with deportation, to a country he has no memory of, he isn’t prepared to go quietly. Poignant yet laugh-out-loud, this is an insight into the lives of those impacted by the Windrush scandal.
Noel Coward Theatre
26 May - 19 August
The gripping Patriots from Peter Morgan (Netflix’s The Crown, Frost/Nixon) transfers to the West End with BAFTA-winning actor Tom Hollander reprising his role as Boris Berezovsky. The production is set in 1991, during the fall of the Soviet Union, when a new generation of oligarchs are fighting to seize control and follows billionaire businessman Berezovsky as he slowly finds himself ousted from the president’s inner circle to become public enemy number one. Ruper Goold directs a cast which sees Will Keen (His Dark Materials) return to play Putin, and Luke Thallon as Abramovich. “If the politicians cannot save Russia, then we businessmen must. We have not just the responsibility but the duty to become Russian heroes”
23 May - 18 June
After sell-out runs in Manchester and the Park Theatre in London, Martin Sherman’s one-woman show Rose transfers to the Ambassador’s Theatre for 28 performances. Olivier Award-winning and West End favourite Maureen Lipman returns to the titular role and will once again have audiences mesmerised as she tells the story of Rose’s journey, from the devastation of Nazi-occupied Europe to the allure of the American dream. A moving reminder of the harrowing events that shaped the last century.