It’s that time of year again, as the school year ends and six whole weeks of school-free summer stretch ahead of us. It can be hard to keep children entertained for such a long period of time, but London’s West End is lending a helping hand this summer as a host of new kid-friendly shows open in August, providing fun-filled entertainment for all the family. What better way to spend the holidays than spending time together at the theatre? And it’s not just the young generation that are being catered for, as there is also a wide variety of dramas, musicals, Shakespeare plays and more coming to the West End for the summer season. So take a look at some of the best new shows opening in the West End throughout August, and see which theatrical treat tickles your taste buds.
ALIENS LOVE UNDERPANTS:
A story every kid will love, Aliens Love Underpants is all about a bunch of mischievous aliens who come to Earth on an important mission: to steal underpants. The hugely successful children’s book by Claire Freedman and Ben Cort was recreated as a pantastic live stage show, which is landing in the West End for the summer. Adam Bampton-Smith adapted the story for the stage and also directs the production, which features stunning effects, madcap action and original music and is produced by Big Wooden Horse and Nick Brooke Limited. Helping to bring this ‘zany and hilarious’ tale to life are the four-strong cast of Abigail Carter-Simpson (Veronica), Mark Collier (Mr Stevens), Eve Pearson-Wright (Mum) and James Ellison (Timmy). The show also includes choreography by Emma Clayton. Suitable for ages 3+, this family-fun production opens at the Dominion Theatre on 1st August 2015 and runs throughout the summer, playing its final performance on 5th September 2015 before going on to visit other venues around the UK.
I BELIEVE IN UNICORNS:
Many of Michael Morpurgo’s children’s stories have been adapted for the stage, the most famous of which is War Horse, and the enchanting stage version of his much-loved book, I Believe In Unicorns, is the latest to enter the West End. Produced by Wizard Presents and directed by Dani Parr, I Believe In Unicorns is an interactive family show about the power of books and a young boy’s bravery. Tommy hates school and hates reading and would much rather be playing in the mountains where he lives, but meeting the Unicorn Lady in the library is the start of a journey that reveals a newfound love for the written word, and leads to a heroic act in his war-torn village. The Olivier Award-nominated show returns to the West End for a second season with Danyah Miller starring as the Unicorn Lady. It opens at the Vaudeville Theatre on 4th August 2015 (previews from 1st August) and runs there until 30th August 2015.
Joining both shows in the West End this summer is the stage adaption of another popular children’s story: Jacqueline Wilson’s Hetty Feather. Hetty takes on Victorian London and overcomes all in her search to find her real mother and a true family of her own in this story-telling adventure, which was nominated for an Olivier Award after its sell-out West End run in 2014. Adapted for the stage by Emma Reeves, the production features thrilling circus and aerial skills and includes an original score by Benji Bower, with Sally Cookson directing. Phoebe Thomas reprises her role as the plucky title character, and can be seen at the Duke of York’s Theatre this summer when Hetty Feather returns from 7th August 2015 (preview performance on 6th August) to 6th September 2015.
Coming off the back of a successful UK Tour, this brand new stage production is transferring into the West End for a strictly limited summer season. Based on Roger Mortimer’s best-selling book, Dear Lupin, Letters to a Wayward Son, which was named the Sunday Times Humour Book of the Year, Michael Simkins’ stage adaption brings to life the ‘brilliantly hilarious, often touching and always generous letters to his unruly son Charlie’, which form a memoir of relationship over the span of twenty-five years. Directed by Philip Frank, the comedic drama stars the real-life father and son team of James and Jack Fox. Dear Lupin begins previews at the Apollo Theatre from 30th July 2015 and opens there on 3rd August 2015, running through until 19th September 2015.
‘In the opulent drawing room of the Presidential Palace, a Western photojournalist awaits the return of the dictator. She is here to take his portrait. The dictator’s wife, her best friend and an interpreter wait with her. Prada shoes, vodka glasses and light fingers tap out the time. He is late, very late…All four women harbour secret and suspicions. All four are in danger. This is the day that revolution comes to the streets.’ A glimpse into the minds of four women as their world turns, Abi Morgan’s devastating play is a fast-moving story that makes the audience think about the very nature of women. The Donmar Warehouse production is directed by Robert Hastie and stars Zawe Ashton, Sinead Cusack, Michelle Fairley and Genevieve O’Reilly. Following previews from 30th July 2015, Splendour opens at the Donmar Warehouse on 4th August 2015 and continues to run there until 26th September 2015.
Replacing The Elephant Man at the Haymarket Theatre Royal is this new play by James Phillip, which transfers into the West End after a highly successful world première at the St James Theatre earlier in the year. Set on a single London night, the play is a journey into the visionary imagination and dark dream world of British designer Lee Alexander McQueen, fashion’s greatest contemporary artist. ‘A mysterious girl has been hiding in a tree in McQueen’s Mayfair garden for the past eleven nights, secretly watching him as he struggles to find inspiration for his new collection. Tonight she climbs down and breaks into his house to steal a dress she could never afford to buy, in the hope of becoming someone special. Together, they go out onto the streets of London and into the whirlwind of McQueen’s life. As the girl begins to unravel before him, it becomes clear that she needs more than her dream dress to see her through the night. With its beauty, the world invites us all to live another day, and with each other, two troubled souls may just find the comfort they so desperately crave.’ Stephen Wight reprises his role as McQueen from the original production, alongside fellow original cast members Tracy-Ann Oberman (Isabella Blow) and Laura Rees (Arabella). Joining them in the revised West End production is Carly Bawden, who takes over from Dianna Agron in the role of Dahlia, and Michael Bertenshaw as Mr Hitchcock. John Caird directs the production, which features choreography by Christopher Marney and is presented by Robert Mackintosh, AMIR Ltd, Hilary A. Williams, Deborah Negri, with Julian Stoneman as executive producer, for and on behalf of McQ Productions Ltd. McQueen is a beautiful and haunting tale that steps into the fairy story landscape of McQueen’s mind, the landscape seen in his immortal shows. It begins previews at the Haymarket Theatre Royal from 13th August 2015 and opening night follows on 27th August 2015, with the production set to run until 7th November 2015.
THE THREE LITTLE PIGS:
This re-imagining of the beloved children’s fable comes huffing and puffing into town for a five-week run in London’s West End, as the award-winning British composing duo of George Stiles and Anthony Drewe première their latest musical. In this new version, the three little pigs have left home and become superstar performers and renowned celebrities. The whole world adores them – especially their mother, who misses giving them ‘hogs and kisses’ – with the exception of one animal. Will the three little pigs be able to stand on their own four trotters and outwit the big bad wolf? Former Blue band member Simon Webbe plays the Wolf in this stage adaption, joined by Daniel Buckley as Q, Leanne Jones as Bee, Taofique Folarin as Bar and Alison Jiear as Mother Pig. Anthony Drewe also directs the show, produced by Kenny Wax and also featuring choreography by Ewan Jones. Stiles and Drewe’s The Three Little Pigs breathes modern day life into this children’s classic, and makes its West End première at the Palace Theatre on 5th August. With a host of day performances scheduled, it will continue to run alongside The Commitments there throughout the summer, playing its final performance on 6th September 2015.
OUR COUNTRY’S GOOD:
Set in Australia in 1788, Timberlake Wertenbaker’s play is a story of hope, redemption and art, based on the novel, The Playmaker, by Thomas Keneally. ‘Observed by a lone, mystified Aboriginal Australian, the first convict ship arrives in Botany Bay in 1788, crammed with England’s outcasts. Colony discipline in this vast and alien land is brutal. Three proposed public hangings incite an argument: how best to keep the criminals in line, the noose or a more civilised form of entertainment? The ambitious Second Lieutenant Ralph Clark steps forward with a play. But as the mostly illiterate cast rehearses, and a sense of common purpose begins to take hold, the young officer’s own transformation is as marked and poignant as that of his prisoners.’ The National Theatre’s production of the1988 stage play is directed by Nadia Fall, and stars Jonathan Coote, Matthew Cottle, Jonathan Dryden Taylor, Caoilfhionn Dunne, Peter Forbes, Jason Hughes, Ellie James, Shalisha James-Davis, Paul Kaye, Jonathan Livingstone, Ashley McGuire, Graeme McKnight, Jodie McNee, David Mara, Tadhg Murphy, Cyril Nri, Debra Penny and Lee Ross. It also features choreography by Arthur Pita and sees Cerys Matthews make her début as a composer for the stage writing the play’s musical score. Our Country’s Good begins previews at Olivier, NT from 19th August 2015 and opens there on 26th August 2015. It closes on 17th October 2015.
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING:
Following its successful run last year, the Globe’s production of this classic Shakespeare play returns for summer 2015. Much Ado About Nothing is a timeless comedy about love in all its complicated glory. Best friends Claudio and Benedick are both in love. Claudio and Hero love each other and nothing can keep them apart, while Benedick and Beatrice love each other yet nothing can bring them together. Only the intrigues of a resentful prince force Benedick to prove his love for Beatrice – by vowing to kill his best friend. Aaron Anthony and Christopher Harper star as Claudio and Benedick respectively, joined by Joanne Howarth (Margaret/Borachio), Jim Kitson (Don Pedro), Alex Mugnaioni (Don John/Dogberry), Emma Pallant (Beatrice), Robert Pickavance (Leonato) and Jessica Warbeck (Hero/Conrade). The production is directed by Max Webster and features musical compositions by John Barber. Much Ado About Nothing opens at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre on 10th August 2015 and is performed on a small-scale Elizabethan-style stage, as renaissance touring theatre is reinvented for the 21st century. It runs at the Globe until 13th September 2015.
This brand new production is one of the most hotly anticipated shows of 2015, as stage and screen actor Benedict Cumberbatch takes on the iconic title role in what is one of, if not the, most famous of all Shakespeare’s works. The playwright’s great tragedy comes to the West End for a strictly limited twelve-week run, directed by Lyndsey Turner and produced by Sonia Friedman Productions. ‘As a country arms itself for war, a family tears itself apart. Forced to revenge his father’s death, but paralysed for the ask ahead, Hamlet rages against the impossibility of his predicament, threatening both his sanity and the security of the state.’ Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Hamlet, famously played on stage in previous productions by such revered actors as John Gielgus, Sir Laurence Olivier, Henry Irivng, Jonathan Pryce, Simon Russell Beale, Ralph Fiennes, Mark Rylance and David Tennant, to name just a few. He leads a cast that also features Leo Bill (Horatio), Sian Brooke (Ophelia), Anastasia Hille (Gertrude), Ciaran Hinds (Claudius), Kobna Holdbrook-Smith (Laertes), Jim Norton (Polonius), Barry Aird (Solider), Eddie Arnold (Danish Captain, Servant), Nigel Carrington (Servant, Cornelius), Ruairi Conaghan (Player King), Rudi Dharmalingam (Guildenstern), Colin Haigh (Priest, Messenger), Paul Ham (Official), Diveen Henry (Player Queen), Karl Johnson (Ghost of Hamlet’s father), Amaka Okafor (Official), Dan Parr (Barnardo), Jan Shepherd (Courtier), Morag Siller (Voltermand), Matthew Steer (Rosencrantz), Sergo Vares (Fortinbras) and Dwane Walcott (Marcellus). Choreography is by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. Hamlet begins previews at the Barbican Theatre from 5th August 2015 and has its official opening night on 25th August 2015. The play’s closing date is 31st October 2015.
By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25
Tuesday 28th July 2015