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Nine Night. Image: Trafalgar Studios via Facebook

The Best Of Theatre At The End Of 2018

12 December 2018 Will Rathbone

Congratulations! You’ve made it to the end of another year. December is here, and a sure-fire way to spark that festive feeling is to dip into a theatre and reacquaint yourself with the spirit of the season: shared experiences, laughter and good company.

We’ll start with the obvious: pantomime. There’s only one king of the London panto, and that’s the London Palladium. 2018 brings us Snow White starring Dawn French as the Wicked Queen in her panto debut. Julian Clary and Nigel Havers return alongside Charlie Stemp for added West End star value. It opens on 1 December. Acclaimed director Matthew Xia turns his hand to pantomime at Theatre Royal Stratford East, where Sleeping Beauty opens on 1 December. Stratford East have a reputation for keeping the form relevant whilst losing none of the magic, and this year’s offering looks set to maintain that standard. A Pair of Pantos opens at The Albany on 21 December. It’s a non-binary queer mash-up for the 21st century, as Jack’s two dads work to figure out what show they’re in, and how to defeat the Rat King. For more pantomime fun, check out our Top 5 London Pantos 2018 here.
Image: The Royal Court Theatre via FacebookOver at Trafalgar Studios, a celebration of a different kind. Nine Night opens on 1 December, a transfer of Natasha Gordon’s brilliant debut play following a traditional Jamaican nine-night wake. The original production was hailed as one of the plays of the year, so don’t miss your second chance to see why. A new Mark Ravenhill play is always worth celebrating, and The Cane - opening at the Royal Court on 6 December - is no different. It follows recently retired teacher Edward, whose estranged daughter arrives to investigate exactly why his house is under siege from furious students. The Donmar Warehouse are debuting Lyn Nottage’s Pulitzer-winning play Sweat from 7 December. The result of two years’ research in one of America’s poorest cities, Reading, Pennsylvania, it’s the story of two friends pitted against each other by circumstances out of their control, in a coruscating attack on the American Dream. The Young Vic’s tremendous programming continues with a revival of Romola Garai’s colonial examination The Convert, which opens on 7 December starring Letitia Wright and Papa Essiedu. Set in 19th century Zimbabwe, the play questions the true cost of faith when a young woman begins working for a Catholic priest after escaping an arranged marriage.
Image: Marc BrennerIt’s a traditional time of year, with a fitting number of classic revivals this month. The atmospheric, candlelit Sam Wanamaker Playhouse presents Doctor Faustus from 1 December. Christopher Marlowe’s ever-timely exploration of humanity’s thirst for power sees the eponymous doctor make a deal with the devil before inevitably realising the price of his ambition. On the subject of ambition, Simon Russell Beale takes to the Almeida Theatre’s stage from 10 December in The Tragedy of King Richard the Second, with Joe Hill-Gibbins directing. Orange Tree Theatre have a habit of creating exemplary productions of lesser-known historical plays, and it’s a safe bet that in director Selina Cadell’s hands, William Congreve’s The Double Dealer, opening on 7 December, will be no different.
Returning to Christmas to round off, Nativity! The Musical will be at the Eventim Apollo from 19 December, with Danny Dyer starring opposite daughter Dani in a genius piece of casting. Jo Brand also features in this adaptation of the hit movie, where teacher Mr Maddens struggles to present St Bernadette’s school nativity while keeping both the kids and a Hollywood producer happy. Finally, the Southbank Centre host hit Australian company Windmill Theatre’s re-telling of Rumpelstiltskin from 13 December. A gorgeously designed show starring Australian cabaret legend Paul Capsis, this is family entertainment of the highest order. Music, stunning visuals and vibrant characters - trust us, you won’t find anything else quite like it in London this Christmas. 

Images top to bottom: Snow White via Facebook, The Royal Court Theatre via Facebook, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse via Facebook, Rumpelstiltskin

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