CRITICS CHOICE: Top 10 Plays November 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!

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1. The Hairy Ape
O’Neill’s play has lost none of its power or resonance. It still feels as shocking and new today as no doubt it did in 1922. Jones’ revelatory and evocative production is not just beautiful to look at, easy to follow and enthralling – it also reminds that the questions of oppression, disparity and injustice which concerned O’Neill then are still pertinent. The world may not turn to the tune of industrialists quite so much in the 21st Century, but there is still a clear, powerful and rich elite and workers whose lives are made hideous while the rich get richer.
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Encounter at Above The Stag

Alexander Huetson, Adam Lilley, Christopher Hines Photo credit: PicsByGaz.com

2. Encounter
Evocations of famous films can tip over into parody or unintended comedy very easily but thanks to the skill of the writing and the carefully graded, fully inhabited acting, this production is a triumph on all fronts and deserves a very successful run.
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Mark Rylance in Farinelli at the Sam Wanamker Playhouse

Mark Rylance as Philip V of Spain Photo: Marc Brenner

3. Farinelli And The King
It is a slight, but quite beautiful, play, perfectly suited to the intimate grandeur of the space, and quite intoxicating, so perfectly judged is everything about it. . The gifted Sam Crane takes on the acting burden of Farinelli , but when it comes time to sing, he is either joined onstage or replaced there by Purefoy, costumed precisely to match Crane. Purefoy has a strong, rich and agile counter-tenor. He is a delight to hear.
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Piaf by Pam Gems at the Bridewell Theatre

4. Piaf
Given its inherent flaws, the play cannot hope to succeed without a powerhouse performance from its star and here Laasko has struck gold. Leigh is outstanding in every respect. Her voice is powerful and bewitching, full of throaty sensuality and ardent guttural flourishes. You have no trouble believing that she could sing loudly enough to be heard over the traffic on the streets of Paris.
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Read the Jane Eyre, National Theatre review on BritishTheatre.com
5. Jane Eyre
This is a fully compelling night at the theatre. You do not feel the time dragging and can only be impressed at the way the cast finds new meanings in material that we all think we know backwards. This is a true ensemble production with scope for individuals to shine and the whole to resonate with something greater than their individual contributions too. It impressed hugely, made me laugh often, but in the second half rarely touched me as it should.
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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

6. 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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RoosevElvis at the Royal Court Theatre

7. RoosevElvis
Despite its visual confusion at the outset, this is an extremely watchable piece of theatre. It is a must see this Autumn.
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5 Guys Chillin' at King's Head Theatre

8. 5 Guys Chillin'
It both shines a light on a corner of society which is misunderstood and unfairly vilified and, examines the rules, conventions, habits and language of a particular form of sexual expression. When you realise, as I did at some point in the latter part of the play, that the kinds of experiences the characters were discussing were the sorts of experiences that might be discussed in a football locker room or a banker’s pub on a Friday night or a Hen’s do in Malaga – not the specifics, obviously, but the spectrum of experiences, desires and passions – you appreciate the real value of works like this.
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Oresteia at the Almeida Theatre

Oresteia at the Almeida Theatre. Photo: Alastair Muir

9. Oresteia
This is Oresteia, not The Oresteia, the trilogy of plays (Agamennon, The Libation Bearers, The Eumenides) which won Aeschylus a prize in 458BC and which is considered the “original family drama” and the launching pad for all modern drama, but the free-wheeling, self-indulgent, filmic, and loose “adaptation” by Robert Icke which is now playing at the Almeida, kicking off Rupert Goold’s Greeks season. There are some wonderful images, some potent exchanges, some brilliant flashes of inspiration – but, overall, it does not hold together dramatically. For a production which lasts three hours and forty minutes, many many minutes are spent biding time.
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Plaques and Tangles at Jerwood Theatre Upstairs

10. Plaques and Tangles
As Young Megan, whom we first meet when she is recovering from the one-night-stand night before, is brought to complex, life-embracing realisation in a startlingly good performance by Rosalind Eleazar. Eleazar makes every moment sing with honesty, and sets up beautifully the challenges Megan will face/ignore/be overcome by in her life. Her scenes with Robert Lonsdale’s Young Jez are far and away the most involving of the production.
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What do you think of our choices?

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