Through The Leaves, Colchester
This is a terrific play. Dating from 1978, Franz Xaver Kroetz's story of the destructive relationship between a woman who runs the local butcher's shop and a factory worker has already had a number of successful revivals, including one that rather amazingly made it into the West End for a brief run. I say amazingly because this is not cosy viewing, rather a gripping but gruelling dissection of a relationship that flounders on mismatched desire, conditioned responses and the utter failure of language. Kroetz's plays are fascinatingly detailed studies of small-town life and people who are unable to voice their deep despair at the situations that they find themselves in, and this two-hander – translated by Anthony Vivis – is one of his best plays and well worth catching. Tony Casement directs a cast including Mercury artistic director Dee Evans, who here makes her acting debut for the company.
Mercury Theatre Studio, Wed to 28 Nov
The Fahrenheit Twins, London
Welcome back to Told By An Idiot and its new production The Fahrenheit Twins, which sees founders Hayley Carmichael and Paul Hunter in a two-hander. It's based on a bizarre short story by Michel Faber about a brother and sister who live with their scientist parents on a remote Arctic station. All is fine as they play, recording events in The Book Of Knowledge, until their mother is suddenly confined to bed, ending their charmed existence and forcing them towards adulthood.
Barbican: Pit, EC2, Wed to 5 Dec
Traverse Autumn Festival, Edinburgh
The Traverse's new mini-festival offers work that brings together some of the most innovative companies working in the UK, much of it operating on the edges between different artforms including music, dance, puppetry and opera. It includes a chamber-opera version of Isabel Allende's Letters Of A Love Betrayed produced by Music Theatre Wales. Later in the month you can catch Billy Cowie's 3-D film installation, Ghosts In The Machine, and a puppetry cabaret created by Puppet Animation Scotland.
Traverse, Tue to 29 Nov
Where We Live And What We Live For/The Post-Show Party Show, Manchester
Since Ursula Martinez presented her parents on stage in A Family Outing, artists have increasingly brought in their relatives to investigate and deconstruct family history and turn it into performance. This double-bill offers an opportunity to see two contrasting shows involving family members: in the fresh and touching Where We Live And What We Live For, Simon Bowes and his 75-year-old father delve into the family archive in a piece that was the hit of this year's Spill platform. More knowing is Michael Pinchbeck's The Post-Show Party Show in which the artist's parents are on stage to help recreate the 1970 party that took place after an amateur production of The Sound Of Music and which marked the occasion of their first meeting. Both shows investigate what is remembered and what is invented and in the process excavate the nature of performance.
Green Room, Fri
Jiggery Pokery, On tour
The son of a car mechanic, Charles Hawtrey liked to suggest that he was actually the son of the famous Victorian actor-manager. There was a great gap between appearance and reality in the life of the man who starred in 23 Carry On films before alcoholism got the better of him. Like many funny men, Hawtrey had a much sadder private life: homosexual in an era when such activity was criminalised, he was also the sole carer for his mother who suffered from dementia. Perhaps it's not surprising that he took to the bottle, later dying in 1988 from complications from gangrene. Amanda Lawrence recreates the story of the diminutive star in this devised show directed by Told By An Idiot's Paul Hunter.
Unity Theatre, Liverpool, Sat; Tobacco Factory, Bristol, Tue & Wed; Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry, Thu & Fri
Cock/The Priory, London
A busy week at the Royal Court with two openings, and impressive casts in both. Upstairs, Cock is the provocatively titled work about sexual choice from Mike Bartlett. It stars Ben Whishaw (currently in the film Bright Star, in which he plays Keats) as a man who takes a break from his long-term boyfriend only to find himself hooking up with a woman (Katherine Parkinson of IT Crowd fame). Who will he choose? Extra performances have been added to cope with demand. On the main stage, The Priory is Michael Wynne's contemporary comedy, set in an idyllic, converted priory in the country at a New Year's Eve party. Among the assembled celebrating, stressed, city thirtysomethings are such names as Jessica Hynes, Rupert Penry-Jones, Charlotte Riley and Rachael Stirling.
Royal Court, SW1, to 19 Dec, upstairs (Cock); Thu to 9 Jan (The Priory)
Mercury Fur, Glasgow
How far would you go to keep someone you love safe? Would you sacrifice someone else if you thought it would protect your child or brother? These questions are at the heart of Mercury Fur, Philip Ridley's play set in the near future on an east London housing estate. Here in a world where only the fittest survive, a group of teenagers try to ensure their future by arranging parties for rich clients willing to pay to play out their most debauched fantasies of sex and death. It's a savage play, which encountered hostility when it premiered in a production by Paines Plough, with Ridley's then-publisher, Faber, refusing to publish the play. It needs a mightily sensitive production to make it work.
Ramshorn Theatre, Mon to 21 Nov
The Black Album, Coventry
The year 1989 was a momentous one. It was the year that communism collapsed and that Prince released and then withdrew his Black Album. And perhaps most importantly in Hanif Kureishi's novel-turned-stage play, it was the year that Ayatollah Khomeini pronounced his fatwa on Salman Rushdie. This production got thoroughly slated when it was at the National Theatre earlier this year, but it remains an interesting piece much less for its theatrical value and far more because, in this story of a young British-Asian student torn between liberalism and Muslim fundamentalism, Kureishi is raising pertinent questions about the roots of fundamentalism and how we got from then to now. Prior to Wednesday's performance is a chance to meet Kureishi and director Jatinder Verma, and hear them expand on their thoughts behind the production.
Warwick Arts Centre, Tue to 21 Nov
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Guardian: This week's theatre previews
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