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Jess Thom in Not I

The Best Theatre in London this February

2 February 2018 Will Rathbone

Ah February. It’s always nice to see you: short, chirpy and signalling the beginning of the end for winter. Theatre-wise, things are also starting to heat up, with this month featuring three highly anticipated openings: Carey Mulligan stars in Girls and Boys, punk-rock opus Jubilee shakes up West London and the National Theatre’s heavyweight Macbeth opens, starring Anne-Marie Duff and Rory Kinnear.

First up: Breach Theatre, one of the UK’s most exciting young theatre companies, who create slick, politically engaged multimedia theatre that entertains and informs in equal measure. The Drill, which opens at Battersea Arts Centre on 5 February, is a reaction to our current bag-checking high-risk security status, which looks at how society prepares for emergencies through practice scenarios and drills. For inventive and original devised theatre, look no further. On the other side of the spectrum, the Royal Court prepare for their first megawatt production of 2018 with Girls and Boys, opening 8 February. This one-woman show stars Carey Mulligan in her first London stage appearance since 2014, and follows the slow deterioration of a once-passionate relationship. Just in time for Valentine’s Day.


Carey Mulligan in rehearsals for Girls and Boys at the Royal Court (c) Johan Persson
 

The Bush Theatre has one of the most exciting new writing line-ups of 2018. The B*easts, which opens on 12 February, comes from the pen of BAFTA-winning actor Monica Dolan. It focuses on the sexualisation of children and 21st Century porn culture through the story of a mother who is prepared to do anything to make her daughter happy. To lighten the mood, try Party Skills for The End of The World. Opening on 13 February at Shoreditch Town Hall, the Edinburgh Fringe hit is an immersive celebration of everything that makes life worth living. It’s a party to spite the constant doom mongering we face each and every day, and is almost guaranteed to bring a smile to your face.


Monica Dolan in B*easts

After that brief sojourn of jollity, back to the darker side of theatre from the master of twisted humour Phillip Ridley. Angry premieres at Southwark Playhouse on 14 February and combines six different gender-neutral monologues, each designed to challenge our perceptions of male and female reactions to the same situations. Performed by Olivier-nominated Tyrone Huntley and Georgie Henley - who will alternate monologues each night - this is a well-timed look at gender bias through scenarios as fantastic as they are foreboding.


Georgie Henley and Tyrone Huntley in Angry
 
Jubilee, opening on 15 February at the Lyric Hammersmith, received rave reviews in Manchester last year, and now London audiences can find out why. Renegade theatre maker Chris Goode has re-imagined the cult 1977 punk movie for today, and with its themes of a rising alt-right movement and an establishment fast losing the faith of the people, it’s not hard to see the modern relevance. Toyah Wilcox - who stared in the original movie - takes to the stage as a time travelling Elizabeth I, caught up with a murderous all-girl gang from the future. Now that’s a scenario you don’t see every day.


Jubilee cast photo (c) Johan Persson
 
Across town, Soho Theatre bring us Dust - a fringe hit from bright young writer Milly Thomas which opens on 20 February. A young woman commits suicide, and is forced to watch the repercussions of her decision from beyond the grave. This smart comedy is a one-woman show tackling sex, life and youth from a voice with ‘one to watch’ written all over it.


Milly Thomas in Dust at Edinburgh Fringe
 
The star-studded Shakespeare revival of the month comes in the form of Macbeth at the National Theatre, opening on February 26. Anne-Marie Duff - a magnetic stage presence if ever there was one - stars alongside Rory Kinnear in Rufus Norris’ production. Expect scenery chewing and mountains of tension as the murderous couple grapples with political ambition and its many pitfalls. Tickets are flying off the shelves, so book fast or try the National’s Friday Rush to claim your seat.


Ann-Marie Duff and Rory Kinnear in rehearsal at the National Theatre (c) Brinkhoff and Moegenburg
 
We’ll come full circle and end up where we started, at the Battersea Arts Centre, as they provide London audiences with two more of last year’s Edinburgh hits. The Shape of the Pain, opening on 20 February, is a collaboration between theatre maker Chris Thorpe and Rachel Bagshaw which looks at pain, and the difficulty of translating the feeling and truly communicating. Not I, opening on February 28, stars the fantastic Jess Thom (of Touretteshero fame) performing Samuel Beckett’s notorious monologue for a single, spot lit mouth. Jess shines a light on society’s unspoken rules for who can say what with her inimitable performance style and genuine commitment to inclusivity. Marvelous stuff.
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