From hard-hitting dramas and reinvented classics to toe-tapping musicals, you will find an incredible variety of theatre in 2019 without stepping foot within the M25. From Plymouth to Glasgow, we have selected a few highlights from what has already been announced. Check out our separate article on the UK tours coming up in 2019 which will be published shortly.
In Manchester, we are looking forward to seeing Julie Hesmondhalgh in a new adaptation of Brecht’s classic Mother Courage and Her Children at the Royal Exchange (8 February to 2 March), directed by Amy Hodge, associate director of Headlong theatre company. Tanika Gupta’s version of Harold Brighouse’s classic 1916 comedy Hobson’s Choice will be revived at the Royal Exchange from 31 May to 6 July by director Pooja Ghai, updating the story to the 1980s Uganda-Asian rag trade. Another highlight will be new play There Is a Light That Never Goes Out (25 July to 10 August), created by director James Yeatman and dramaturg Lauren Mooney. It aims to show how the 19th-century anti-technology Luddites helped inspire the birth of Manchester’s radical political identity and how their long-misunderstood protests remain relevant today.
The Royal Exchange will also stage one of two new regional productions of West Side Story. Reimagined for the round with new choreography by Aletta Collins and with new orchestrations by Jason Carr, it will be directed by Sarah Frankcom, running from 6 April to 25 May. The other new production will be at Curve in Leicester from 23 November 2019 to 11 January 2010, directed by Nikolai Foster and choreographed by Ellen Kane.
Back in Manchester, Hope Mill Theatre will be staging a classic musical that has not been seen on the professional UK stage for over 50 years. Mame, with music and lyrics by Hello Dolly’s Jerry Herman, will star Tracie Bennett as the larger-than-life title character and be directed and choreographed by Nick Winston, running from 27 September to 9 November. With Aria Entertainment, Hope Mill will also present the UK premiere of Rags The Musical (2 March – 6 April) about Jewish immigrants arriving in America, with music by Annie’s Charles Strouse and lyrics by Wicked’s Stephen Schwartz.
Over at Bolton Octagon, Jim Cartwright’s enduring hit, Rise and Fall of Little Voice, will be revived from 24 January to 2 February in an actor-musician production directed by Ben Occhipinti with Katie Elin-Salt as the eponymous singing impressionist. A lesser-known classic by Arthur Miller, The Last Yankee, follows from 28 February to 16 March, starring Juliet Aubrey.
Barney Norris’s award-winning 2014 play Visitors, about a younger stranger transforming the lives of a dysfunctional family, comes to the Oldham Coliseum from 18 April to 4 May, directed by Chris Lawson. This year also sees more co-productions for the Coliseum including Moira Buffini’s hit play Handbagged about Margaret Thatcher from 14 May to 1 June, directed by Jo Newman and produced with Salisbury’s Wiltshire Creative and York Theatre Royal where it will run from 24 April to 11 May.
The Coliseum will also stage Howard Goodall and Melvyn Bragg’s musical The Hired Man (20 June to 6 July), directed by Douglas Rintoul, artistic director of Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch in London where it will run from 27 April to 18 May. It will also be at Hull Truck from 23 May to 15 June.
Hull Truck will be reviving Ben Benison’s retelling of Shakespeare’s King Lear, called Jack Lear, directed by and starring Barrie Rutter, from 17 January to 2 February. It tells the story of a wealthy trawlerman and his three daughters, set on the River Humber, with live music by English folk musician Eliza Carthy. It will then go to Northern Stage in Newcastle upon Tyne (12 to 16 February).
In Cardiff, the Sherman Theatre has its last season under artistic director Rachel O’Riordan who is moving to the Lyric Hammersmith in February. The line-up includes plenty of new writing such as Welsh-language play Woof by Elgan Rhys, Lose Yourself by Katherine Chandler and Saethu Cwningod / Shooting Rabbits from its bilingual company in residence, PowderHouse. The season features a bold re-imagining of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew (28 February to 16 March) by leading playwright Jo Clifford in a co-production with Glasgow’s Tron Theatre where it will run from 20 to 30 March.
Another hotbed for Welsh creativity is Mold where Theatr Clwyd’s 2019 season includes a new production of Tennessee Williams’s drama Orpheus Descending, directed by its artistic director, Tamara Harvey. She also directed Theatr Clwyd’s big hit of 2018, Home I’m Darling by Laura Wade, which transfers to the Duke of York’s in London (26 January to 13 April) and then tours to Theatre Royal Bath (16 to 20 April) and The Lowry in Salford (23 to 27 April) before heading home to Mold (30 April to 4 May), with Katharine Parkinson reprising her lead role.
A re-imagining of The Taming of the Shrew also features as part of the 2019 season at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon. Directed by Justin Audibert and running from 8 March to 31 August, this production sees a battles of the sexes in matriarchal England over a woman’s efforts to sell off her sharp-tongued son to the highest bidder, with Claire Moore as Petruchia and Joseph Arkley as Katherine. The RSC also promises a “riotous, exhilarating” version of As You Like It (14 February to 31 August), directed by Kimberley Sykes with Lucy Phelps as Rosalind and David Ajao as Orlando, and a new production of Measure For Measure (28 June to 29 August) directed by artistic director Gregory Doran.
In 2019, the RSC is celebrating the 250th anniversary of actor-manager David Garrick’s Shakespeare Jubilee which established the industry around the playwright in Stratford. It will present two Restoration shows that were hits for Garrick: John Vanbrugh’s The Provoked Wife (2 May to 7 September), directed by Philip Breen and featuring Alexandra Gilbreath, Caroline Quentin and Jonathan Slinger, and Thomas Otway’s Venice Preserved (24 May to 7 September), directed by Prasanna Puwanarajah and with a cast including Jodie McNee. But the RSC maintains its commitment to modern works too, with the world premiere of Kunene and the King (2 May to 7 September), a funny and moving new play by South African actor, activist and playwright John Kani who stars alongside Antony Sher under director Janice Honeyman.
More to come in Part Two
Read Part Three of this series