CRITICS CHOICE: Top 10 New London Plays – September 1, 2015

What play should you see first in London?

We have compiled this list to save you the trouble of working it out! It’s just our view – and everyone has one – based on our Reviewers’ thoughts. We will update the list regularly so new productions get on your radar and when original casts change that is factored in.

Plays which have been running for more than three years are not included – this is a list for new or relatively new productions running in London.

So go see them!

Briefs at London Wonderground

1. Briefs
This gender, race and sexual politics canvas stretches across the entire platform of the performances, from the sharp opening patter of Fez Fa’anana which happily offends everyone equally, through the “pretty doesn’t mean dumb” antics of the cheeky Louis Briggs and the vignettes with an increasingly more naked Lucky Charm (Lachy Shelley) to the various satirical and ironic numbers involving the remarkable Dallas Dellaforce, whose take on gender roles in society is razor sharp and strikingly bold.
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The Bakkhai at the Almeida Theatre

2. Bakkhai
This is Whishaw’s show – no question. He is a force of nature, fiercely unearthing every moment of nuance, humour and purpose from the text and giving a totally committed, undeniably powerful and persuasive performance. Every moment is fascinating, thought through and skilfully played. Dionysius was the God of the theatre, as well as wine, song and dance. Whishaw makes this part of the very fabric of his turn as the vengeful God, and offsets that performance with two remarkable cameos – as Tieresias and the Messenger. He is magical in every way.
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Richard II at Shakespeare's Globe
3. Richard II
The result here is that this is more the Comedy of Richard II than the Tragedy of Richard II. There is an unseemly pursuit of laughter – characterisations are extreme, language is tossed aside in favour of quick laughs and the deeper, darker side of text and situation is left largely unconsidered. This is not to say that production is not entertaining – it is – but it is not a production which seeks to achieve anything in particular or which attempts to enliven or illuminate. In rather the same way as an accomplished school performance can leave you satisfied, so too does this production. It’s a great introductory point; if this is your first taste of Shakespeare, you won’t be disappointed. But if you come looking for insight or new perspectives, you will find none.
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Three Days In The Country at the National Theatre
4. Three Days In the Country
So often the press night comes too early in a run to fully assess a production’s potential. This welcome and ambitious new version has not yet attained greatness but certainly has the makings of it.
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Sion Daniel Young as Christopher in The Curious Incident Of The Dog In the Night-Time. photo: Brinkhoff-Mogenburg

Sion Daniel Young as Christopher in The Curious Incident Of The Dog In the Night-Time. photo: Brinkhoff-Mogenburg

5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night
Simon Stephens’ adaptation of Mark Haddon’s best-selling novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time received seven Olivier Awards in 2013, including Best New Play, Best Director, Best Lighting Design and Best Sound Design and the 2015 Tony Award for Best Play.
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1984-playhouse-3
6. 1984
This adaptation of 1984 is a modern masterpiece. Get your tickets now, before they take you to Room 101.
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Fucking Men at the King's Head Theatre

Euan Brockie and Jonathan McGarrity in F*cking Men. Photo: Christopher Tribble

7. F*cking Men
DiPietro’s character studies vere dangerously close to stereotypes at times but ultimately the truth of the characters and their circumstances win out. There’s drama and humour aplenty, but DiPietro is skilled at lulling the audience into a sense of false comfort through the use of sex, leaving us to realise the loneliness and despair that some of these characters feel.
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gruffalo2
8. The Gruffalo
Matilda this show is not – the original and the adaptation are thin fare in comparison with the disturbing and multi-layered creations of Dahl and his later creative adapters. But on its own terms this show achieves exactly what it sets out to do and fully deserves the appreciation of reviewers, whether aged eight or eighty.
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The Red Lion at the National's Dorfman Theatre
9. The Red Lion
Marber is not writing just about football. The play is fundamentally about notions of masculinity as well as about modern society. The trio represents a kind of football holy trinity – all connected and representing father, son and spirit. Which of the trio fulfils which role is not always clear, sometimes shifts, and this is perhaps the most interesting aspect of Marber’s play. Calvin Demba is adept at displaying Jordan’s naivety as well as his darker, more complex side. Peter Wight is compelling as the sad, lonely, committed club man, Yates, whose life is entirely centred on the game and The Red Lion.
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The Importance Of Being Earnest at Vaudeville Theatre
10. The Importance of Being Earnest
Director AdrianNoble strikes gold in the quartet of lovers: Gwendolyn, Jack, Cicely and Algernon. Without any question, Emily Barber and Imogen Doel are utterly exquisite, fabulously surprising, and inventively adorable as, respectively, Ms Fairfax and Ms Cardew. I have never seen better performances of those roles on any professional stage. Algernon is here played by Philip Cumbus, whose hunger and enthusiasm for Cicely matches his fervour for muffins. The gifted Michael Benz is a spiffing Jack/Earnest.
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What do you think of our choices?

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