London’s Ten Best Plays – 6 February 2015


10 Best New Plays in London

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.

We’ve included booking links for the shows listed and there are some great offers available on some of these shows.

So go see them!

If you prefer musicals check out our Top 10 Musicals list.

Tree at the Old Vic London

1. Tree – Old Vic
It’s gentle, fascinating stuff. Watching these two very different men bond over nothing really, except their maleness, and trade banter, bad jokes and tidbits of personal history – it’s like eavesdropping on a conversation at a Pub. Except that it is endlessly interesting, very funny and full of insight into the way lives are lived differently depending on circumstance and income.
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2. Taken at Midnight – Theatre Royal Haymarket
This is a terrific piece of new writing; spare, engaging, brimming with interest and history. It does what all great plays about actual historical events do: takes you to the time and lets you experience that time through the souls of the characters who propel the narrative, but in a way that is modern, fresh and zinging with power.
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Ian McDiarmid in The Merchant Of Venice at Almeida Theatre

3. Merchant of Venice – Almeida Theatre
Tom Scutt’s design is overwhelmingly attractive. Seductive blue and gold enhances the structures where the action occurs – a garishly compelling sense of Venice and Las Vegas: time and space are fused in the bauble land where Antonio and Shylock take their commercial risks. Greed and choice become the central focus here.
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My Night With Reg Transfers from the Donmar Warehouse to the Apollo Theatre

4. My Night With Reg – Apollo Theatre
Some of the performances are deliberately bigger, determinedly more overtly comic, less confrontational than they were at the Donmar. This lessens the dramatic sense of the play in unsatisfactory ways, while ostensibly appealing, presumably, to the expected middle class audiences in the West End. Some of the acting remains first-rate and the inherent power of the writing, while diminished, is far from lost. Lewis Reeves, Richard Cant and Matt Bardock are even better than they were at the Donmar.
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5. Shakespeare in Love – Noel Coward Theatre
It is difficult to recall, at least over the course of the last seven years, a commercial production of a new play which has opened directly in the West End and which is as funny, dramatic, enthralling and educational.
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James McAvoy and Kathryn Drysdale in The Ruling Class at Traflagar Studios
James McAvoy and Kathryn Drysdale in The Ruling Class. Photo: Johan Persson

6. The Ruling Class – Trafalgar Transformed
James McAvoy is a true, blistering, white-hot star who lights up every moment he is on stage, whose smile and darting, impressive eyes can say whatever he wants them to say; utterly mercurial, hilarious and wild one moment, malevolent and disturbed in the next, then sad or insane or calculating or sexy – or all of those at once.

Hattie Morahan in The Changeling at the Sam Wannamaker Playhouse
Hattie Morahan in The Changeling. Photo: Marc Brener

7. The Changeling – Sam Wannamaker Playhouse
Dromgoole’s production is detailed and clear, effortlessly moving from the sombre and macabre world of Beatrice-Joanna to the lighter, albeit equally odd, world of Isabella. Hattie Morahan is sheer delight as Beatrice-Joanna. Sarah MacRae is a luminous actress and her work here as Isabella adds further to the lustrous work she delivers.
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Di and Viv and Rose at the vaudeville Theatre, London
Photo: Johan Persson

8. Di and Viv and Rose – Vaudeville Theatre
Russell is the key to the trio, the ebullient, man-hungry, life-grabbing, and casually irritating Rose. Outhwaite is forthright and calming and when her world collapses, the pain is clear, bruising and sensitively conveyed. Her funeral oration in Act Two is especially good. Spiro imbues the most difficult character of the three with insight and understanding. Her final scene with Outhwaite is powerful indeed.
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Behind the Beautiful Forevers at the National Theatre. Photograph: Richard Hubert Smith
Behind the Beautiful Forevers at the National Theatre. Photograph: Richard Hubert Smith

9. Behind The Beautiful Forevers – National Theatre
What Hare has created here is a marvel: a tale of hope, horror and truth on an enormous scale, but rooted firmly in the characters and personalities of a particular culture, a particular place. It is, in every way, epic and at its most epic when looking into the minds of the central characters as they contemplate their existence which is a reflection of all of ours.
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Bad Jews at The St James Theatre, London

10. Bad Jews – St James Theatre
Harmon writes vicious dialogue fearlessly and with potent froth. The characters are clearly defined by their speech and each seems real, accessible – possibly someone you might know. There are several real surprises along the way and not much ends up as it first seems. It is a sharp, clever piece of writing.
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