Advertisement

The best theatre to see in April in London, from Player Kings to Spirited Away

The original Japanese production of Spirited Away (Handout)
The original Japanese production of Spirited Away (Handout)

From fresh adaptations of beloved classics to thought-provoking original shows, London is heaving with new theatre productions this year.

But with so much to choose from, picking what to see in the capital can feel like a dramatic epic. So we’ve done the heavy lifting for you with a list of our top picks to watch this April...

Opening this month

Long Day’s Journey Into Night

Brian Cox and Patricia Clarkson in Long Day’s Journey into Night (Johan Persson)
Brian Cox and Patricia Clarkson in Long Day’s Journey into Night (Johan Persson)

In Jeremy Herrin’s new rendition of Eugene O’Neill’s autobiographical, Pulitzer Prize-winning play, the ever-magnetic Brian Cox stars alongside the wonderful Patricia Clarkson, Daryl McCormack and Laurie Kynaston. “I promised myself I wouldn’t make too many comparisons between Cox’s sublime turn in the best TV show in recent years, and his towering performance here,” said the Standard. “But, you know, f**k it: this is O’Neill for the Succession generation.”

Wyndham’s Theatre, to June 8; buy tickets here

Underdog: The Other Other Brontë

“This is not a story about well-behaved women,” says the National Theatre, introducing Sarah Gordon’s new play. A retelling of the life of the Brontë sisters, Natalie Ibu directs Gemma Whelan (Game of Thrones), Rhiannon Clements (Vera) and Adele James (Casualty).

NT’s Dorfman Theatre, April 4 to May 25; buy tickets here

Two Strangers (Carry a Cake Across New York)

Transferring to the West End after a sell out run at Kiln Theatre (which the Standard described as a “charming two-person musical that riffs on New York romcoms”) this new piece from Jim Barne and Kit Buchan, directed by Tim Jackson, is about the blossoming friendship between upbeat Brit Dougal and New Yorker Robin, his new aunt courtesy of his dad’s second marriage.

Criterion Theatre, April 4 to July 14; buy tickets here

Player Kings

This new adaptation from director Robert Icke combines parts one and two of Shakespeare's beloved Henry IV plays. The 84-year-old Ian McKellen stars as roguish knight Falstaff alongside Toheeb Jimoh (Ted Lasso) as Hal and Richard Coyle (Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore) as King Henry IV.

Noël Coward Theatre, April 11 to June 22; buy tickets here

The Comeuppance

Eric Ting directs the UK premiere of award-winning American playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins‘ 2023 Off-Broadway play, which depicts a group of friends getting together hours before their high school reunion. Anthony Welsh (The Flatshare; The Great) stars alongside Yolanda Kettle (Patriots; The Crown), Ferdinand Kingsley (Silo; Reacher), Tamara Lawrance (The Silent Twins; King Charles III) and Katie Leung (Harry Potter; White Pearl).

Almeida Theatre, April 12 to May 18; buy tickets here

London Tide

This exciting reimagining of Charles Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend, has been directed by Ian Rickson (Translations), adapted by Ben Power (The Lehman Trilogy), and boasts original songs throughout written by PJ Harvey. It stars Bella Maclean, who will be seen later this year in Disney+’s adaptation of Jilly Cooper novel Rivals.

NT’s Lyttelton, April 17 to June 22; buy tickets here

Machinal

 (© Foteini Christofilopoulou)
(© Foteini Christofilopoulou)

Sophie Treadwell's 1928 play, which was showered with praise when it opened at the Theatre Royal Bath's Ustinov Studio in late October last year, arrives in London. Directed by Richard Jones (Endgame, The Hairy Ape) and starring Rosie Sheehy (Oleanna, Romeo and Juliet), Machinal reimagines the true story of Ruth Snyder, a 32-year-old American woman who was sentenced to death in 1928 for murdering her husband.

Old Vic Theatre, April 18 to June 1; buy tickets here

The Cord

Bijan Sheibani writes and directs this new play about a couple’s changing relationship following the birth of their baby.

Bush Theatre, April 18 to May 25; buy tickets here

Boys on the Verge of Tears

This Verity Bargate Award winning play, written by Sam Grabiner and directed by James Macdonald, is an exploration of modern day manhood. Five actors play 50 roles and it is “set entirely in the confines of a men’s public toilet”.

Soho Theatre, April 18 to May 18; buy tickets here

The Ballad of Hattie and James

It’s a scene most Londoners will have seen before: someone plays a public piano installed in a station, crowds gather. In Samuel Adamson’s play, a woman sings the ballad of Hattie and James, a song about two people inextricably linked. Adamson proceeds to tell the story of the lifelong friendship.

Kiln Theatre, April 18 to May 18; buy tickets here

Testmatch

Kate Attwell’s provocative play is about games, history and fair play. A Women’s Cricket World Cup match (England vs India) at Lord’s is delayed due to rain, and all sorts of strange things start happening in the locker room as the players wait.

Orange Tree Theatre, April 24 to May 18; buy tickets here

What (Is) A Woman

This ambitious piece directed by Michael Strassen, written by and starring Andrée Bernard, is a one-woman musical set over four decades. Described by Arcola as “blistering” and “thrilling”, the play asks questions about what it means to be a woman today.

Arcola Theatre, April 24 to May 4; buy tickets here

Minority Report

Philip K. Dick's 1956 novella is adapted for the stage play by David Haig (yes Bernard from Four Weddings) and directed by Max Webster (Life of Pi). It’s 2050 and neuroscientist Dame Julia Anderton’s divisive pre-crime programme is about to turn on her. The book was turned into a Tom Cruise-starring sci-fi blockbuster in 2002.

Lyric Hammersmith, April 29 to May 18; buy tickets here

Bryony Lavery’s Frozen

Kerrie Taylor (Hollyoaks, The Bay), Indra Ové (Sex Education) and James Bradshaw (Endeavour, Primeval) star in this new staging of Bryony Lavery’s 1998 stellar thriller about a 10-year-old girl’s mysterious disappearance.

Greenwich Theatre, April 29 to May 19; buy tickets here

Spirited Away

Olivier and Tony Award-winning Canadian director John Caird’s sell-out Japanese stage adaptation of Spirited Away, based on Hayao Miyazaki’s acclaimed 2001 animation, is finally arriving in London.

Featuring some original cast members – including Kanna Hashimoto and Mone Kamishiraishi, who both play Chihiro – the play will be presented in Japanese with English-language captions. A live orchestra will play Joe Hisaishi’s original music, which has been specially arranged by Brad Haak (Disney’s Mary Poppins, Elton John’s Lestat).

London Coliseum, April 30 to August 25; buy tickets here

Already open

The Lonely Londoners

The company in The Lonely Londoners at Jermyn Street Theatre (Alex Brenner)
The company in The Lonely Londoners at Jermyn Street Theatre (Alex Brenner)

Award-winning playwright Roy Williams adapts Sam Selvon’s iconic novel about the Windrush Generation into a play that the Standard has described as “a bold and timely” drama, which “crams seven characters, a large swathe of social history and a lot of rage, pride and hurt onto the tiny Jermyn Street stage.”

Ebenezer Bamgboye directs Tobi Bakare (Kingsman: The Secret Service), Gamba Cole (The Outlaws), Shannon Hayes (Ted Lasso) and Gilbert Kyem Jnr (Rivals).

Jermyn Street Theatre, to April 6; buy tickets here

An Enemy of the People

Another West End coup as Matt Smith stars in visionary German director Thomas Ostermeier’s take on Henrik Ibsen’s 1882 classic about what happens to truth in a society driven by power and money. An Ibsen unlike one you’ve seen before (unless you saw Ostermeier’s original production).

Duke of York's Theatre, to April 6; buy tickets here

Bronco Billy – The Musical

Set in 1979, Bronco Billy tells the story of members of a travelling Wild West show who are trying to make ends meet. When the troupe leader Billy meets an heiress on the run, things get interesting.

A much needed overhaul of Clint Eastwood’s 1980 Western comedy-drama original, this silly and uplifting stage adaptation has been directed by Hunter Bird, has a book by Dennis Hackin, and music and lyrics by Chip Rosenbloom and John Torres.

Charing Cross Theatre, to April 7; buy tickets here

Othello

Othello by Shakespeare, Director - Ola Ince (Johan Persson)
Othello by Shakespeare, Director - Ola Ince (Johan Persson)

In this new take on Shakespeare's tragedy, 16th-century Venice becomes modern-day London. Ola Ince, who directed Romeo and Juliet at the Globe in 2021, makes her debut in the venue's candle-lit Sam Wanamaker space.

Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, to April 13; buy tickets here

The Human Body

A new play by Lucy Kirkwood is always an event. Her latest play is a romantic drama set in Shropshire in 1948, that explores political and private passions. Starring Keeley Hawes (Bodyguard) and Jack Davenport (The Talented Mr. Ripley) it is directed by Michael Longhurst in his final season as the Donmar’s artistic director.

Donmar Warehouse, to April 13; donmarwarehouse.com

Uncle Vanya

Madeleine Gray and James Lance in Uncle Vanya at the Orange Tree Theatre (Manuel Harlan)
Madeleine Gray and James Lance in Uncle Vanya at the Orange Tree Theatre (Manuel Harlan)

It’s no real surprise that directing legend Trevor Nunn’s adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s 1897 play has been picking up fantastic reviews. An intimate and human revival, it inspired The Standard’s Nick Curtis to say “it unlocks undercurrents in the work I’ve never registered before and when it counts it’s quietly devastating.”

Orange Tree Theatre, to April 13; buy tickets here

Faith Healer

Lyric Hammersmith artistic director Rachel O’Riordan (A Doll's House) revives Brian Friel’s cerebral 1979 play of four monologues. This time, Declan Conlon (The Tudors, Hot House) plays the unpredictable Frank Hardy.

Lyric Hammersmith Theatre, to April 13; buy tickets here

Cruel Intentions, the ‘90s Musical

 (Pamela Raith)
(Pamela Raith)

Based on the 1999 teen drama with Reece Witherspoon and Selma Blair, itself a take on Dangerous Liaisons, this reimagining uses tunes by Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, TLC and more to bring to life the musical about a cruel bet and its aftermath.

The Other Palace, to April 14; buy tickets here

Nachtland

This satire on marriage, legacy and the rise of the new right is written by German playwright Marius von Mayenburg (Martyr), directed by Patrick Marber (Habeas Corpus, Leopoldstadt), and stars Jane Horrocks (Absolutely Fabulous) and John Heffernan (The Banishing).

Young Vic, to April 20; buy tickets here

A Mirror

Sam Holcroft’s ingenious play about censorship and repression of art transfers from the Almeida with most of the cast intact, including Johnny Lee Miller (Trainspotting, The Crown) and Tanya Reynolds (Sex Education), with Samuel Adewunmi taking over from Micheal Ward.

Trafalgar Theatre, to April 20; buy tickets here

Bear Snores On

With a book by actor and writer Cush Jumbo and Katy Sechiari, and music and lyrics by composer Harry Blake, this stage adaptation of the kid’s story Bear Snores On is nothing but lovely. It’s suitable for ages 4+, runs at 50 minutes, and performances are all in the afternoon.

Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, to April 21; buy tickets here

The Divine Mrs S

Nearly 200 years after her death, Sarah Siddons is still regarded as one of the greatest actors of all time. Described by William Hazlitt as "tragedy personified", she became an indisputable cultural icon, heralded in particular for her portrayals of Shakespeare’s heroines.

Now April de Angelis (Kerry Jackson, Infamous) has written a comedy about Siddons’ life, which sees Anna Mackmin (Di and Viv and Rose) directing two-time Olivier Award-nominee Rachael Stirling.

Hampstead Theatre, to April 27; buy tickets here

Instructions for a Teenage Armageddon

Charithra Chandran in Instructions for a Teenage Armageddon (Danny Kaan)
Charithra Chandran in Instructions for a Teenage Armageddon (Danny Kaan)

Bridgerton season two’s Charithra Chandran makes her West End debut in this one-woman play about a 17-year-old dealing with love, life and school. An adaptation of Rosie Day’s play-turned-novel, it is directed by Georgie Staight (Operation Mincemeat).

Garrick Theatre, Sundays, to April 28; buy tickets here

Mind Mangler: Member of the Tragic Circle

This new limited-run comedy from the creators of The Play That Goes Wrong is about a mentalist’s show that spirals into chaos.

Apollo Theatre, to April 28; buy tickets here

For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When The Hue Gets Too Heavy

For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Hue Get's Too Heavy, Previous Cast (Ali Wright)
For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Hue Get's Too Heavy, Previous Cast (Ali Wright)

Returning to London’s West End following three previously sold-out runs, For Black Boys... weaves together the discussions that come out of a group therapy session shared by six young Black British men – but in a way that grips and moves and entertains.

“It’s a mosaic of young British black men’s experience, often laugh-out-loud funny and physically exuberant, occasionally poetic, but with a recurring undertow of dread,” said the Standard in 2022.

Garrick Theatre, to May 4; buy tickets here

Red Pitch

Tyrell Williams’ acclaimed coming-of-age story transfers to @sohoplace after enjoying two sold-out, award-winning runs at the Bush Theatre. In February 2022 the Standard described his debut play as “a blinder”.

@sohoplace, to May 4; buy tickets here

The Picture of Dorian Grey

Sarah Snook in The Picture of Dorian Grey (handout)
Sarah Snook in The Picture of Dorian Grey (handout)

Succession’s Sarah Snook plays all 26 roles in this witty, headlong update of Oscar Wilde's classic tale.

Royal Theatre Haymarket, to May 11; trh.co.uk

Harry Clarke

Billy Crudup (The Morning Show, Almost Famous) makes his West End debut in David Cale’s one-man comic thriller, which is transferring to London after sell-out runs in New York and Berkeley.

Ambassadors Theatre, to May 11; buy tickets here

Nye

Michael Sheen in Nye at the National Theatre (Johan Persson)
Michael Sheen in Nye at the National Theatre (Johan Persson)

The jury is still out over this play written by Tim Price (Teh Internet is Serious Business) and directed by Rufus Norris (Small Island) about the life of Aneurin Bevan, the man who founded the NHS. Although reviewers found some elements of the play overly earnest and a little syrupy, Michael Sheen’s charismatic performance has been widely celebrated.

Olivier Theatre, to May 11; buy tickets here

Power of Sail

Dominic Dromgoole (ex-artistic director of Shakespeare's Globe) directs this play about a Harvard professor who causes major upset at work when he invites a white nationalist to his yearly symposium.

Written by TV writer Paul Grellong (Law and Order), it stars Julian Ovenden (Bridgerton, Trigger Point), Tanya Franks (Family Affairs), Michael Benz (For All Mankind) and Giles Terera (Hamilton, NT’s Macbeth).

Menier Chocolate Theatre, to May 12; buy tickets here

The Grand Expedition: The Incredible, Edible Journey

A dance, acrobatic, food mashup doesn’t necessarily sound like the cleanest way to have a night out. But, given the stellar reviews, it might be worth taking a risk with The Grand Expedition. Self-described as an “incredible edible journey” that pushes “the boundaries of what a dining experience can be”, expect to be taken on an utterly bonkers culinary adventure.

Film Shed Dalston, to May 12; buy tickets here

The Hills of California

Jez Butterworth (Jerusalem, The Ferryman) is back with frequent collaborator Sam Mendes for this new play about family, time and guilt. The Webb sisters gather in their mother’s Blackpool guesthouse during the summer of 1976 as she lies dying upstairs. The Standard called it a “flawed masterpiece on a par with Jerusalem”.

Harold Pinter Theatre, to June 15; buy tickets here

Standing at the Sky’s Edge

This glorious musical, which has already won an Olivier award and enjoyed sold-out runs at the National Theatre and the Crucible in Sheffield, is now in the West End. Set in Sheffield, it follows the lives of three generations in the brutalist Park Hill housing estate over six decades.

Gillian Lynne Theatre, to August 3; buy tickets here

Stranger Things: The First Shadow

Stranger Things: The First Shadow (Netflix)
Stranger Things: The First Shadow (Netflix)

The blockbuster opening of last year was this prequel to the ridiculously popular Netflix show. Set in the small town of Hawkins in 1959 – “before the world turned upside down” – it finds some of the much-loved characters in their youth, and when a new student arrives, the shadows of the past arrive too.

The Phoenix Theatre, booking to August 25; buy tickets here

Sister Act

First it was a well-loved 1992 crime comedy starring Whoopi Goldberg, then it became a hit 2006 musical, with music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Glenn Slater, book by Bill and Cheri Steinkellner. Now enjoying its tenth production – its fifth in the UK – Sister Act, which is about a mobster’s girlfriend who is placed under witness protection disguised as a nun, remains a total hoot.

In its latest iteration, Olivier Award-winner Beverley Knight (who cedes the role of Deloris to Alexandra Burke from June 10) stars alongside Gavin and Stacey co-creator Ruth Jones, Lesley Joseph (Birds of a Feather), Clive Rowe (The Story of Tracy Beaker), and Lizzie Bea (Hairspray).

Dominion Theatre, to August 31; buy tickets here

MJ The Musical

MJ the Musical on Broadway (Publicity Picture)
MJ the Musical on Broadway (Publicity Picture)

An exercise in separating the art from the artist: two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage and Tony Award-winning director Christopher Wheeldon have made a jukebox musical about Jackson’s life that has been pulling in mixed reviews, but has been adored by the fans. After premiering on Broadway in 2021, over 1.1 million people went to see the New York production.

Prince Edward Theatre, to September 14; buy tickets here

Priscilla The Party

Described as an “all-singing, all-dancing immersive party and musical theatre extravaganza”, Priscilla The Party (which is an updated version of the musical adaptation of the 1994 film, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert) comes to Outernet as a sensory all-funs-blazing “experience”. A riot.

Here @ Outernet, to September 29; buy tickets here

Hadestown

This multi-Tony award-winning musical by Anaïs Mitchell is based on the Orpheus and Eurydice myth. After running at the National Theatre a few years back it’s finally getting its time in the West End.

Lyric Theatre, to December; buy tickets here