2020 looks set to be another stellar year for London theatre. Here’s our pick of the most anticipated shows coming to the West End.
4000 Miles, Old Vic, 6 April – 23 May
Child actor turned LGBT heartthrob Timothée Chalamet stars alongside West End veteran Dame Eileen Atkins in what looks set to be one of the biggest events of the theatrical year. The play is 4000 Miles – a family drama from American playwright Amy Herzog, who last gave us the tense domestic thriller Belleville (starring television’s James Norton). This one’s a slightly softer affair, with Chalamet playing a 21-year-old adventurer who decides to visit his estranged grandmother during a cross-country cycling trip – and ends up staying longer than planned. Expect to see the great and the good of the West End turn out for this.
The Doctor, Duke of York’s, 20 April – 18 July
The Doctor, a modern adaptation of a 1912 play by Austrian writer Arthur Schnitzler, was one of the biggest hits of 2018, selling out its entire Almeida run with ease and bagging a prestigious Evening Standard award for its director Robert Icke. Unsurprisingly it’s been picked for a West End transfer, with the fabulous Juliet Stevenson returning to the title role – as a Jewish physician who is pilloried by Viennese high society when a Catholic patient dies in her care before receiving their last rites. Expect another round of five star reviews – although, with a much longer run, it should at least be possible to get tickets this time.
A Doll’s House, Playhouse, 10 June – 5 September
It’s red carpet time again as Golden Globe winner and Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain arrives in London for her West End debut. She’ll be playing the lead role in a big ticket adaptation of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. Jamie Lloyd – the man with the Pied Piper-like ability to attract the A-listers into theatreland – produces and directs, hoping no doubt to follow the acclaim that greeted his recent production of Cyrano de Bergerac. Looking to reach beyond the usual well-heeled audiences, Lloyd’s company has launched its own scheme to offer 15,000 free tickets for first-time theatre goers – as long as they get the memo about being dead silent during the performance (unlike in the cinema, where chattering is increasingly permitted) things should be fine.
To Kill a Mockingbird, Gielgud, 21 May – 5 September
On the 60th anniversary of its publication, Harper Lee’s Pulitzer-winning novel has been re-adapted for the stage by legendary screenwriter Aaron Sorkin. As the master of small-screen intensity, Sorkin narrows the focus slightly, turning the plot into a courtroom drama, as a linen-suited Atticus Finch fights to clear the name of his wrongly-accused client. When the play opened in New York last year – having finally obtained permission from Lee’s estate to tinker slightly with the characterisation – it bagged a prestigious Tony award (the Broadway equivalent) for the best directed production. Can it do the same in London?
Manor, National Theatre, 7 April – 6 June
Having been criticised for not programming enough women writers, the National looks to Moira Buffini – writer of Handbagged, the smash hit play about Margaret Thatcher and the Queen – for its big new drama for spring 2020. The setting is a prestigious manor house, which becomes a makeshift safe-house when the local town is ravaged by dangerous floods. Things take an unexpected turn when the enigmatic leader of a far-right organisation (played by House of Cards’ Ben Daniels) turns up looking for shelter. Buffini’s best play – Dinner – employed a similarly claustrophobic set up. If this is even half as good, it will be well worth a watch.
The Watsons, Harold Pinter Theatre, 8 May – 26 September
Another West End transfer – although this time it’s one from an even smaller stage. Laura Wade’s The Watsons went down an absolute storm at the charming Menier Chocolate Factory in Southwark last year. As with Wade’s previous smash hit (Home I’m Darling), the premise alone is delightful. The play begins as a faithful adaptation of Jane Austen’s abandoned 1803 novel of the same name, only for the characters to be left in charge of their own fate when Austen’s plot comes to an abrupt end. When it opened last year, the critics said it deserved to be seen by a much bigger audience – with a whopping four-and-a-half-month run they’ve certainly got their wish.
“Daddy”, Almeida, 30 March – 9 May
“Daddy” – a new play by American writer Jeremy O. Harris – generated a fair bit of a fuss when it opened in New York last year. And how could it not? Not only does it feature a full-size on-stage swimming pool (which apparently sloshes over the front row), it also has a naked Alan Cumming serenading his love interest by singing George Michael. As outrageous as it sounds, it packs a serious punch too, telling the story of a demonic art collector seeking to possess a young black artist. The Almeida hasn’t announced the casting for the London run – although it’s worth noting that the timings just about fit with Cumming’s return to London to appear at the Old Vic. And who else could you possibly get to sing karaoke in the buff anyway?
Leopoldstadt, Wyndham’s Theatre, 25 January – 16 May
His first new work since 2015, Tom Stoppard’s latest play – Leopoldstadt – examines the rise of antisemitism in early 20th century Europe. Inspired by Stoppard’s own history, the play follows a Jewish family living in Vienna in the early 20th century, as the world around them starts to change beyond recognition. To understand why the play has got literary types so excited, just look to Stoppard’s interview with Douglas Murray, published in the Spectator last year , in which he explains the genesis of the play and why, at 82 years old, he finally feels ready to write about himself.