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The Best Theatre in London this August

3 August 2017 Will Rathbone

When the majority of theatre companies in the UK head to Edinburgh for the International and Fringe festivals, it can seem a little quiet on the theatre front here in London. Fear not, for there are still some fine productions that deserve your attention. August sees the return of an Olivier-winning musical to Regent’s Park Open Air, the always watchable Ben Whishaw tread the boards once more and the Donmar Warehouse host one of the hottest directors around.

We’ll start with the welcome return of Ben Whishaw to London theatre. Not seen since 2015’s The Bacchai, also at the Almeida Theatre, Whishaw teams up once again with director Ian Rickson - the pair having worked together on Mojo, where Whishaw’s performance as the psychotic gangster Baby was one of the years highlights and won him a WhatsOnStage Award nomination for Best Actor. Against sees him play a Silicon Valley billionaire setting out to change the world - and don’t be surprised to see more nominations come around after it opens on August 12.


Ben Whishaw in Against at the Almeida Theatre

A similarly heavyweight pairing sees acclaimed director Yaël Farber team up with the tiny powerhouse that is Covent Garden’s Donmar Warehouse to present a new production of David Harrower’s modern classic Knives in Hens. A poetic masterpiece, the play is both a love triangle and a study of the power of knowledge and the freedom it grants. It’s an extraordinary play that works on metaphysical and emotional levels, as we follow a nameless peasant woman who undergoes a transformative journey when she meets a hated miller, and seeing how Farber interprets the multiple layers is an extremely exciting prospect. It opens on August 17.

August’s other major opening sees Stephen Sondheim’s Follies presented at the National Theatre for the first time on August 22. Starring the sensational Imelda Staunton - fresh from two stellar performances in Gypsy and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? - the musical tells the story of an on stage reunion between three actors at the soon-to-be-demolished Weismann Theatre in New York, 1971. If musicals are your bag, then make sure you get a seat at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, where Jesus Christ Superstar returns for a second year on August 11. The multi-award winning revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 70s rock opera features an unmissable performance from one of the stars of the future, Tyrone Huntley, as Judas.


Tyrone Huntley as Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar. Image credit: Johan Persson

There’s another triumphant return down at the Southwark Playhouse, as Kiki’s Delivery Service opens for four weeks on August 10. The children’s show is an adaptation of Eiko Kadono’s best-selling book (rather than the Studio Ghibli film which also took the book as source material) and is a fantastic show aimed at ages 7+. It’s a beautiful production, and follows the story of young witch Kiki and her cat, who set out to find a new home and use her powers to benefit the world. Looking for another production to keep the sprogs happy? Try Around The World in 80 Days at Cadogan Hall, opening August 2. Part of a major national tour, the talented cast of 8 play over 125 different characters as they recount the classic story of the eccentric Phileas Fogg and his loyal butler Passepartout on their journey around the world.

On a similarly international note, Lions and Tigers is set on the eve of Indian Independence, and examines the complex negotiations taking place between the leaders of the Indian National Congress, seen through the eyes of radical young freedom fighter Dinesh Gupta. Written by celebrated playwright Tanika Gupta - Dinesh was her great-uncle - the play forms part of the Festival of Independence at Shakespeare’s Globe, curated by Gupta. The intimate Sam Wanamaker Playhouse hosts the play from August 23.


Lions and Tigers at Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

We’ll round off with two shows centred around growing up and troubled adolescence. Late Company transfers from West London’s Finborough Theatre into the West End on August 24 at the Trafalgar Studios smaller space. When the middle-class parents of a young gay boy bullied for his sexuality invite the tormentor and his parents to dinner, there follows a series of explosive political and social discussions that examine 21st century parenting. Theatre 503’s Sid and Viv, meanwhile, sees reclusive Dunney find peace at the home of the equally hermit-like Sid and Viv. This coming of age story about lost children opens on August 30.
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