Bridge Theatre, 14 September – 26 October
Former National Theatre boss Sir Nick Hytner has been at the helm of the Bridge for two years now and this just might be his biggest production yet. Zoë Wanamaker and Croatia’s Zrinka Cvitešić star as the first ladies of France and the United States as the two countries are plunged into diplomatic crisis. The character names on the press release (Hélène and Sophia) suggest we’re in a fictional universe – hopefully playwright Nancy Harris can make it as thrilling and unsettling as the real one.
Touching the Void
Duke of York’s, 9 November – 29 February
Adapted from the acclaimed docudrama (itself based on a climber’s memoir), Touching the Void tells the stomach-churning story of a near-fatal mountain climb in Peru. Ordinarily I’d be a bit nervous about the ability of a play to handle the sheer physicality of a story like this, but given the show won five star reviews when it premiered in Bristol I think we’re on safe ground here. Expect the pubs on St Martin’s Lane to be happy about this one – if it’s anything like the film, a post-show brandy will be practically compulsory.
Old Vic, 14 October – 9 November
Now here’s a well-timed play. Hot on the heels of Prince Harry’s announcement that the Sussexes intend to stick to two children, Duncan Macmillan’s comedy turns its spotlight on a couple who want to go even further – and rule out breeding altogether. In a strange coincidence the lead actors (Matt Smith and Claire Foy) just happen to be famous for playing another Royal couple – Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth in The Crown. The Netflix duo will no doubt bring the punters in, but here’s hoping the play itself can move beyond the novelty and deliver something memorable.
How Love Is Spelt
Southwark Playhouse, 4 – 28 September
The charming Southwark Playhouse will shortly be moving to two new homes – a 300-seater just south of the Elephant and Castle, and a smaller venue underneath London Bridge. This autumn sees its relaunch with the standout play being a rival of Chloe Moss’s coming-of-age drama How Love is Spelt, which scooped a new writing prize back in 2004. Moss’s 20-year-old heroine flees a dead-end job for a London bedsit and some ill-advised flings with older men. It sounds like a good plan-B for anyone who failed to get Fleabag tickets…
We Anchor in Hope
The Bunker, 25 September – 19 October
Newcomer The Bunker has quickly established itself as one of the big-hitters of the off-West End scene, with the likes of James Graham and Poppy Stenham supporting its new writing schemes. We Anchor In Hope captures the last hurrah in a London boozer killed by gentrification – a story sadly ever relevant in these parts. The company behind it scored one of the sleeper hits of last year with The Political History of Smack and Crack. If this is even half as good, it will be well worth a watch.
Soho Theatre, 24 October – 30 November
Plays by comedians are notoriously hit and miss, but I suspect this one – the debut play from David Baddiel – will be one of the better ones. Why the confidence? Baddiel’s last live show, My Family: Not the Sitcom, blended theatre, storytelling and comedy to powerful effect, bagging a West End transfer and national tour in the process. There’s no autobiographical element here: it’s about a physics student who stumbles across proof of God. Television’s Alan Davies, a stage virgin incidentally, stars as a dumbstruck professor who renounces his atheism.
National Theatre, 15 October – 18 December
For whatever reason, Brian Friel seems to have fallen out of fashion in theatre-land. Translations – which returned to the National last year – is one of only two decent revivals since the Irish playwright’s death in 2015. After selling out last year, it returns to the Olivier. Game of Thrones’ Ciarán Hinds plays a rural Irish schoolteacher whose community is uprooted by the arrival of British administrators looking to translate the local map from Gaelic to English.