Ampersand's Travels...

Ampersand's Spotlight on... London Theatre

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By Lucy Marshall

London is on fire at the moment. Not in a “London’s burning, London’s burning…” way, as goes the nursery rhyme that tells the story of the Great Fire in 1666.

No.

In recent years London has become one of the major creative hubs of the world, and has possibly the most enriching and diverse theatre scene that there is.

From Bradley Cooper in The Elephant Man to the newly-announced year-long residence of Kenneth Branagh’s Plays at the Garrick, don’t miss Ampersand's selection of the best shows the capital has to offer.

1.      The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

The Gielgud Theatre and Nationwide Tour Venues, Ongoing dates 

Curious New Banner With Title2
Based on the namesake novel by Mark Haddon (2003) and adapted by Simon Stephens, this play was originally performed at the National Theatre for a limited run. However, sell-out audiences and rave reviews meant that the show has moved to a permanent home in the West End. Unsurprisingly, the production has won seven Olivier Awards, including Best Play in 2013.

The story follows Christopher, a young teenager who comes across the corpse of his neighbour’s dog in the back garden. With himself as a main suspect, Christopher goes on an extraordinary journey to work out who the murderer is. Touching, enthralling and mind-blowing, the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is one not to miss. The phenomenal set and lighting design is reason enough to go.

2.      Plays at the Garrick

Garrick Theatre, October 2015 – November 2016

Last week Kenneth Branagh announced that his new theatre company, the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company, would be taking a year-long residence at the Garrick Theatre. Keen to use a space for longer than just a one-off show, Branagh has compiled a series of plays including Romeo and Juliet and The Entertainer to seduce theatre audiences. If that weren’t enough, huge stalwarts of the British stage and screen will star in the shows, including Judi Dench in The Winter’s Tale, and Lily James (star of the current Cinderella film and Lady Rose in Downton Abbey) in Romeo and Juliet.

The season will last from October 2015 – November 2016 and it is worth booking seats now before they sell out.

3.      The Merchant of Venice

Stratford-upon-Avon, 14th May – 2nd September 2015

Whilst in London, it would be silly to miss a trip to Stratford-upon-Avon to check out this legendary play about justice, race and morality in Shakespeare’s hometown.

The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) is world-renowned and although the company will be putting on many shows this summer, we think that The Merchant of Venice will be one of the stars.

The cast includes Makram J. Khoury, who is one of the most celebrated actors in Israel and makes his debut as Shylock, and the flourishing actress, Patsy Ferran (winner of Most Promising Newcomer at the 2015 Critics Circle Awards) as Portia will also making her RSC debut.

Expect a corker of a show.

4.      The Elephant Man

Theatre Royal Haymarket, 19th May – 8th August 2015

Elephant Man London
Bradley Cooper stars in what is to be the most sought-after ticket in London this summer. There isn’t much more to say to guarantee bottoms-on-seats other than his co-stars include the incomparable Patricia Clarkson (Shutter Island, Goodnight & Good Luck) and the sizzling Alessandro Nivola (American Hustle).

The plot revolves around the real-life story of Joseph Merrick (Cooper), a 19th Century man who becomes the star of a travelling freak show. His astonishing intelligence, faith and desire surprise Dr Treves (Nivola) who takes him under his care, whilst the actress Mrs Kendall (Clarkson) becomes touched by his pure and genuine spirit.

5.      The 39 Steps

Criterion Theatre, Ongoing dates

For something completely and absurdly hilarious, Alfred Hitchcock’s classic comedy thriller, The 39 Steps proves time and again that sometimes all you need is a great big laugh.

The story follows the handsome and staunchly British hero, Richard Hannay as he encounters awful murders, secret agents and of course, beautiful women. A perfectly British comedy, the show pokes fun at its characters and the plot alike, and doesn’t take itself too seriously; this is the beauty of The 39 Steps.

Be prepared to be swept up in a whirlwind, and feel suitably drained and relaxed from the magic of laughter as the curtain falls.

6.      Gypsy

Savoy Theatre, until 28th November 2015

Gypsy

Legendary actress, Imelda Staunton leads this classic Broadway musical about the true story of Gypsy Rose Lee, one of America’s most famous Burlesque strip artists in the 1920s. The plot revolves around Momma Rose (Staunton) and her two daughters as they tour America in their family vaudeville act. As the times change in the States, so do the attitudes of audiences and the girls alike, and nothing will be the same for Momma…

Lyrics by Steven Sondheim, music by Jule Styne and the book by Arthur Laurents, this production of Gypsy has transferred to London’s West End after its sell-out run at the Chichester Festival Theatre, and is still as relevant today as it was when it was first shown.

For more theatre tips or to start planning your tailor-made vacation to London and across the British Isles, phone + 44 (0) 20 7819 9770 or email info@ampersandtravel.com.