London Theatre Preview: January 2016

Another year’s end is in sight, and as always, people are looking back at the year in theatre and discussing the best (and worst) of what 2015 gave us.

Rather than focus on what’s now behind us, let us instead look at what lies ahead as a new year means many, many new shows, and new treats in store. There’s so much to look forward to over the next twelve months: the Menier Chocolate Factory’s revival of Funny Girl (starring Sheridan Smith) is set to enter the West End in 2016, along with Mrs Henderson Presents, the Broadway transfers of School of Rock and Aladdin, the West End premiere of Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds and even the first ever computer generated musical, Beyond the Fence.

In addition to the musical delights awaiting theatre-goers in 2016, Matthew Perry is bringing his debut play, The End of Longing, to the London stage, while Broadway hit Hand to God is set to make its West End debut, Gemma Arterton is taking on the title role in Nell Gwynn and J K Rowling’s Harry Potter saga continues with the stage plays Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts I & II. All that is just the tip of the iceberg! There’s so much more on its way in 2016, but for now, let’s look a little more closely at what the very first month of the New Year will bring as we preview some of the shows opening in the West End in January 2016.


Comedian, actor, marathon runner and sometime escapologist, Eddie Izzard has been flexing his funny bone particularly hard these past few years with his live comedy show, Force Majeure. Following his arena dates back in 2013, he embarked on an extensive world tour that saw him visit 28 countries (performed in four languages), and now, nearly three years after first debuting the show, he is bringing his unique brand of ‘Izzardism’ entertainment to London’s West End for a limited time only. The reloaded version will play a four-week residency at the Palace Theatre on Shaftesbury Theatre. Force Majeure Reloaded will open cold on 18th January 2016 and continue through to 13th February 2016.


Nothing to do with The Lego Movie, Henrik Ibsen’s acclaimed play exploring power, control, death and life comes to the London stage in an all-new adaption by the award-winning David Hare. Halvard Solness is the title character, a self-made man whose architectural achievements have seen him rise to dominate the town, but is increasingly frightened of being toppled from his perch by the young. What will happen when he is confronted by country girl Hilde with claims of a promise made to her ten years ago? Matthew Warchus directs this in-house production which stars Ralph Fiennes as ‘the master builder’ Halvard Solness. Also featured in the cast are Sarah Snook as Hilde Wangel, Linda Emond as Aline Solness, James Laurenson as Knut Brovnik, Charlie Cameron as Kaja Fosli and James Dreyfus as Dr Herdal. The Master Builder begins previews at the Old Vic Theatre from 23rd January 2016, with an official opening night to follow on 29th January 2016 and a closing date set for 19th March 2016.


A true classic from the golden age of musicals, the critically acclaimed CFT revival of Guys and Dolls plays a West End season following its original sell-out Chichester run. The show, which is based on a story and characters by Damon Runyon, has music/lyrics by Frank Loesser and a book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows. It’s a story of gambling in love and a love of gambling, centred on four main characters which includes Sky Masterson and Miss Adelaide, played once again by original Chichester cast members Jamie Parker and Sophie Thompson. They are joined in the West End cast by David Haig as Nathan Detroit and Siubhan Harris as Sarah Brown, alongside Lucy Jane Adcock, Abigail Brodie, Cornelius Clarke, Momar Diagne, Lavinia Fitzpatrick, Lorna Gale, Nic Greenshields, Selina Hamilton, Ian Hughes, Frankie Jenna, Jacob Maynard, Neil McCaul, Genevieve Nicole, William Oxborrow, Max Parker, Carl Patrick, James Revell, Giovanni Spano, Gavin Spokes, Jonathan Stewart, Lucie Mae Sumner and Liam Wrate. The production is directed by Gordon Greenberg and has choreography by Carlos Acosta and Andrew Wright and orchestrations by Larry Blank. It also features musical supervision, musical direction and dance arrangements by Gareth Valentine. Guys and Dolls is produced in the West End by Chichester Festival Theatre / Tristan Baker and Charlie Parsons for Runaway Entertainment, Oliver Royds for BOS Productions, Richard Darbourne Ltd and Tulchin Bartner Productions. The show’s limited 13-week run at London’s Savoy Theatre started with previews from 10th December 2015. It is set open on 6th January 2016 and will play its final performance on 12th March 2016.


‘What gets me through is knowing I took this pain, and saved all of you from suffering the same.’ Presented by Sherman Cymru, this powerful drama by Gary Owen is inspired by the Greek myth and tells the story of Effie, a girl whose life is a mess of drink, drugs and drama until one night gives her the chance to be something more. The production is directed by Rachel O’Riordan and stars Sophie Melville in the role of Effie. Iphigenia in Splott begins previews at the Temporary Theatre, NT from 27th January 2016 and opens on 29th January 2016. It will continue to play there until 20th February 2016.


As part of the ‘King and Country’ season at the Barbican Centre, David Tennant is set to reprise his role as the title character in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s critically acclaimed production of William Shakespeare’s classic play. ‘Richard is King. A monarch ordained by God to lead his people. But he is also a man of very human weakness. A man whose vanity threatens to divide the great houses of England and drag his people into a dynastic civil war that will last a hundred years.’ During the month of January, David Tennant will play a strictly limited nine performances in the RSC’s Richard II which is directed by Gregory Doran. These performances will take place at the Barbican Centre between 7th and 10th January 2016, with Tennant also appearing on the ‘Complete Cycle’ dates (part of a 4-play package for supporters and members) on 12th, 15th, 19th and 22nd January 2016.

(IN PREVIEW) Also worth mentioning are several productions which begin their preview periods this month ahead of their February opening nights, starting with Lolita Chakrabarti’s Red Velvet (starring Adrian Lester) which begin previews at the Garrick Theatre from 23rd January 2016 as the next play in The Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company Season. Previews also begin for the National Theatre’s in-house production of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, which stars Sharon D. Clarke in the title role, from 26th January 2016, while Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre stage their own version of The Winter’s Tale at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse with previews beginning from 28th January 2016.

By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25

Wednesday 30th December 2015

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