Critic’s Choice: London’s 10 Best New Plays 31 July 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!

Bradley Cooper is The Elephant Man at The Theatre Royal Haymarket

Bradley Cooper is The Elephant Man. Photo: Joan Marcus

1. The Elephant Man
At first glance it is a simple historical tale with a couple of central star turns; unremarkable fodder but capable of reaching glitzy heights. Ellis sees beyond that though, and although the casting is undeniably starry, this is a thoughtful, incisive and ultimately shattering meditation on tolerance, convention, acceptance and love.
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Richard II at Shakespeare's Globe

2. 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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As Is at Trafalgar Studios

3. As Is – Last Chance – Closes Tomorrow
Viewed one way, Hoffman’s play is not a play about AIDS and its repercussions; it is a play about ignorance, discrimination and fear. Viewed that way, it is still a play of enormous power and relevance. Indeed, viewed as an AIDS play it is still an important piece – the research today suggests that levels of misapprehension and misunderstanding about AIDS are almost as high now as they were in the 80’s.
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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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The Curious Incident Of The Dog In the Night-Time. photo: Brinkhoff-Mogenburg

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In the Night-Time. photo: Brinkhoff-Mogenburg

5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night
This remarkable production will remain with you long after you have left the theatre. It’s one of the most innovative and incredible pieces of theatre you are likely to see in the West End.
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1984 by George Orwell at the Playhouse Theatre

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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Hay-Fever

7. Hay Fever – Last Chance – Closes Tomorrow
Felicity Kendal is a triumph as the effervescent, self-indulgent diva that is Judith. Her throaty, raspy tones; the endless lighting and stubbing out of cigarettes; the casual, but persistent, flick of tousled curls; the innocent eyes and the naughty remark and the naughty remark and the innocent eyes; the devilment, the wild abandon, the sneaky confidence, the haughty indifference. Every aspect of the performance is beautifully judged by Kendal.
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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 Adrian Noble 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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Let us know your choices when it comes to London’s top new plays.

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