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The Encounter (c) Gianmarco Bresadola

The Best Theatre in London this April

3 April 2018 Will Rathbone

Spring has finally arrived! Accordingly, there’s a freshness about April’s theatre offering here in the Smoke that has us positively blooming with anticipation. New versions of classic musicals, premieres from some of our finest writers and inventive culinary twists await all who read on.

Andrew Polec as Strat, Christina Bennington as Raven in BAT OUT OF HELL. Photo: Specular

We’ll start with one of the most surprising musical revivals of recent years. The ENO have been dipping their toes in the musical theatre pond since 2016 with mixed success, but this year’s offering has an unexpected relevance. Chess: The Musical stems from a collaboration between musical theatre impresario Tim Rice and ABBA’s Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, and focuses on a battle between two Chess Masters - one American, one Russian - during the height of the Cold War. Starring Michael Ball and Alexandra Burke, it opens at the ENO from 26 April. Elsewhere on the musical front, there’s another chance to see last year’s sleeper hit Bat Out of Hell. Based on the cult movie starring Meat Loaf, the dystopian rock opera returns to the London Palladium from 2 April.
 
The Writer at the Almeida Theatre

Two of our finest female playwrights have new plays opening this month. For epic, politically charged drama, try The Writer - opening at the Almeida Theatre on 14 April - Ella Hickson’s follow up to the fantastic Oil. It’s an excoriating look at the patriarchy and how to challenge the status quo, starring Romola Garai and directed by the prolific Blanche McIntyre. Book early for this one. Over in Richmond, the Orange Tree Theatre has quietly transformed into one of the most forward-thinking playhouses in London. Alice Birch is debuting her latest play [BLANK] at the venue for one night only on 8 April, as part of the National Theatre’s Connections festival. A co-production with female prisoner theatre company Clean Break, it looks at incarcerated parents and their children on the outside.
 
PALMYRA. Photo: Alex Brenner

Last year, Bertrand Lesca and Nasi Voutsas’ EUROHOUSE was an endearing take on the Eurozone crisis, effortlessly humanising some heavily politicised subject matter. Their latest work, PALMYRA, looks at the politics of aggression and can be seen at Battersea Arts Centre from 10 April before moving across town to Shoreditch Town Hall a week later, where it runs alongside Education, Education, Education. One of last year’s Edinburgh Fringe hits, Wardrobe Ensemble’s show transports you back to the nineties, questioning the decision-makers behind Britain’s education system. Controversial Dutch director Milo Rau’s latest show Five Easy Pieces sees seven children aged 9-14 recreate the tale of a notorious Belgian serial killer using real life interviews and transcripts. It’s a fascinating and challenging piece of theatre, opening at the Unicorn Theatre on 27 April.
 
Yomi Sode in COAT (c) Battersea Arts Centre

Always expect the unexpected when it comes to renegade director Anthony Nielson, who returns to the Royal Court’s intimate Upstairs space after the runaway success of 2016’s continuously improvised Unreachable starring Matt Smith. The Prudes follows a middle aged couple as they attempt to reinvigorate their sex life, and opens on 18 April. The equally eclectic Scottee is hosting another Working Class Dinner Party, this time at Camden People’s Theatre on 28 April as part of their Common People festival. Selected working class guests will discuss class and social politics in front of a live audience, before everyone tucks into a takeaway. If that wets your appetite for further culinary experiences, try Yomi Sode’s COAT, opening at Battersea Arts Centre on 26 April. It’s a charming look at masculinity and cultural identity, all delivered whilst Yomi cooks up a storm following his Nigerian grandmother’s famous stew recipe.
 
Frogman by curious directive

Double Fringe First award-winner curious directive are mixing together ingredients of a different kind over at North London’s artsdepot. Frogman, opening 17 April, fuses Virtual Reality and live performance to tell a story containing ghost stories, murder mysteries and the supernatural - all set beneath the waves of the Great Barrier Reef. In a similar vein, Simon McBurney (founding member of world conquering theatre-makers Complicite) takes his multi-award winning immersive experience The Encounter back to the Barbican from 14 April. Audiences don headphones and experience groundbreaking binaural sound as they re-live National Geographic photographer Loren McIntyre’s infamous journey through the Brazilian jungle.
 
 
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