The summer holidays are finally here and whether you’re looking for a cultural fix or for somewhere with air conditioning to spend the evening, there is little better than a night at the theatre.
From Ian McKellen’s Hamlet at The Edinburgh Fringe to a drunken performance of Shakespeare and the latest eccentric Punchdrunk production, here is a guide to some of the best British theatre to see this summer.
Hamlet with Ian McKellen
Where: Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Scotland
When: 2 – 28 August
Over the course of his distinguished career, Ian McKellen has played Hamlet twice. The first time, in 1971, and then again last year. Now, aged 83, he is reprising his favourite speeches from Shakespeare’s famed works in the company of a troupe of Ballet dancers at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The ballet troupe is choreographed by Danish ballet dancer, director and choreographer Peter Schaufuss and is set to be one of the best works of theatre to see at The Edinburgh Fringe. Buy tickets here.
Where: Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London
When: 27 July – 28 August
In 1949, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s musical adaptation of Tales of the South Pacific by James A. Michener hit Broadway. Rodgers & Hammerstein had seen potential in Michener’s book for a powerful love story told through song that would also carry a progressive message about racism. Decades later, Chichester Festival Theatre revived South Pacific to critical acclaim and now the musical has made its way to London as part of a UK tour, directed by Jonathan Church. On-off lovers Emile de Becque and Ensign Nellie Forbush are played by Julian Ovenden and Gina Beck and there’s a cast of 30, a full orchestra, and all the classic songs to sing along to. Buy tickets here.
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Punchdrunk: The Burnt City
Where: One Cartridge Place in Woolwich, London
When: Until 4 December 2022
If you have ever experienced Punchdrunk you will know it is no normal theatre experience. Immersive entertainment taken to the extreme, Punchdrunk performances are works of experimental non-linear theatre that place the audience (quite literally) in the middle of the action. There is no stage or seats, just one big set in which the audience and actors co-exist. Their latest offering, The Burnt City, takes audiences back to the fall of troy as a mythical world of Gods and mortals rises from the ashes as Greece teeters on the brink of victory. Nothing could ever prepare you for the world of Punch Drunk… Buy tickets now.
The Glass Menagerie
Where: The Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester
When: Until 2 September – 8 October
Following his smash-hit production of Hobson’s Choice, director Atri Banerjee is back with a reimagined version of Tennessee Williams’ semi-autobiographical masterpiece The Glass Menagerie. The production tells the story of Tom, Laura and their mother Amanda; Tom escapes his home life through cigarettes and long cinema trips, Laura withdraws into her collection of glass animals, whilst their mother obsesses over a better future for them all. When Tom brings home a potential suitor for his sister, a chance to change their fortunes arises in this bruising portrayal of family, love, loyalty and trauma. Buy tickets here.
Where: Ambassadors Theatre, London
When: Until 4 September
This dark comedy stars David Harbour (best known for his role as Hopper in Stranger Things) and Bill Pullman (The Sinner, All My Sons, Independence Day). In rural Pennsylvania, Michael (Harbour), the black sheep of the family, has returned to his childhood home to care for his dying father Daniel (Pullman), a cruel patriarch. Before long, his siblings arrive and each begins to work out how much money their father might be leaving them. This family psychodrama from Theresa Rebeck is directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel. Buy tickets here.
Sh!tfaced Shakespeare presents: Romeo and Juliet
Where: Leicester Square Theatre, London
When: 6 July – 10 September
Ever wondered what it would be like to see a work of Shakespeare performed drunk? Well, now’s your chance. Each night, Sh!tfaced Shakespeare takes one of the Bard’s most exciting works (this one is Romeo and Juliet) and selects a random cast member to drink for four hours prior to showtime. The rest of the actors are stone-cold sober and faced with the difficulty of acting alongside a very drunk castmate. Shakespeare’s work already contains “foul language, partial nudity, simulated acts of a sexual nature, attempted singing, full contact wrestling, full nudity, actual acts of a sexual nature and involuntary ‘tongue stuff,” says the company, “all we’re doing is adding a splash of booze to the mix.” It might not be the best theatre you’ll ever see, but it will definitely be the funniest. Buy tickets here.