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Black History Month: what shows to see

From Twelfth Night at the Young Vic to Ear for Eye at the Royal Court, find out where to find the shows to celebrate Black History Month

Jade Anouka, Ralph Fiennes and Sophie Okonedo and Don Warrington
© L&R: Dan Wooller, Centre: Johan Persson

The entire month of October marks Black History Month. To celebrate, we thought we'd point you in the direction of some absolutely cracking shows out there at the moment led by black men and women. From the West End's first play by a black British female playwright, to Motown heading out on tour, here's what not to miss.



Ear for Eye

Excellent playwright Debbie Tucker Green directs her new play, which is running at the Royal Court from 25 October. The piece focuses on the idea that patience is running out when it comes to change for black British and African American communities. It has an excellent cast and marks a return for Tucker Green to the Court following her production of A Profoundly Affectional Passionate Devotion to Someone (-noun). Royal Court, 25 October to 24 November



Death of a Salesman

Don Warrington
© Dan Wooller for WhatsOnStage

Arthur Miller's coruscating, intense and Pulitzer Prize-winning American classic is staged at the Royal Exchange in Manchester, with Don Warrington in the lead as Willy Loman. The play is about a moment in the lives of exhausted travelling salesman Loman and his wife when they are visited by their son Biff. Royal Exchange, 11 Oct to 17 Nov



Misty

Arinze Kene in Misty
© Copyright Helen Murray 2018

The award-winning Arinzé Kene stars in the transfer of his own new play in the West End (amazingly only the second black British playwright to have got to the West End so far). It's a funny, startling, completely madcap piece, which playfully unravels themes such as gentrification, what it means to be a writer and growing up in inner city London. He gives a full-throttle and hugely engaging performance. Plus if you book through us, you could save a whooping 44 per cent on the ticket price. Trafalgar Studios, until 21 Oct



Underground Railroad Game

Underground Railroad Game
© Aly Wright

Provocative, funny, deeply unsettling and totally fearless, this new piece opened at the Edinburgh Fringe this year to huge acclaim, including a five star review from Sarah Crompton. Created by Jennifer Kidwell and Scott R Sheppard, the piece explores race, sex and power through the prism of two middle school teachers who are teaching their pupils about the Civil War and slavery. It's got some fairly shocking scenes, so maybe don't take your mum with you. Soho Theatre, until 13 October



Queen Margaret

Jade Anouka in Queen Margaret
© Johan Persson

Shakespeare gets a shake up in this production, which stars one of our brightest young actors Jade Anouka. The piece is adapted by Jeanie O'Hare from the Bard's War of the Roses plays, and O'Hare reframes them to focus on Margaret of Anjou. If you want a history play from the point of view of a woman, for once, this is where it's at. Royal Exchange, until 6 Oct



Tina

Adrienne Warren in Tina the Musical
© Manuel Harlan

The amazing Tina Turner got the musical treatment with this new show which tells the story of how she went from humble beginnings in Tennessee to the Queen of Rock 'n' Roll. Adrienne Warren stars as the lady herself and by all accounts she gives a ferocious, hugely convincing turn. Award-winning playwright Katori Hall wrote the book and Mamma Mia! director Phyllida Llloyd directs. Shaftesbury Theatre, until 16 February 2019



Caroline, or Change

Me'sha Bryan and Sharon D Clarke in Caroline, or Change
(© © Alastair Muir)

Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori's epic, intense musical was revived at Chichester Festival Theatre last year with a virtuosic turn at its heart. Sharon D Clarke played the eponymous lead, the black maid who runs the Gellman's home. It's 1963 and although change is in the air, Caroline Thibodeaux is far from it. The Olivier Award-winning musical has a remarkable and unique sound and is now, very deservedly, transferring to the West End. Playhouse Theatre, 20 Nov to 9 Feb



Antony and Cleopatra

Ralph Fiennes and Sophie Okonedo
© Johan Persson

Based on the story of the relationship between Mark Antony and the Queen of Egypt, Cleopatra, Shakespeare's play is a raunchy affair. Here it's staged by Simon Godwin with Sophie Okonedo starring as the queen. Her previous work includes Hotel Rwanda and Criminal Justice as well as Mrs Mandela. She's no stranger to the stage either, having won a Tony Award for her role in A Raisin in the Sun. WhatsOnStage's review was a five star rave, so there's another reason to get to it. National Theatre, 18 Sep to 19 Jan



Twelfth Night


© Young Vic

Brilliant director Kwame Kwei-Armah is bringing over his euphoric, musical-infused version of Shakespeare's comedy from across the pond to his new gaff. Twelfth Night was conceived by Kwei-Armah and Shaina Taub and originally opened at the Public Theater in New York and transports the events to London's Notting Hill. It features a 30-strong community chorus along with R 'n' B, jazz and soul. Young Vic, 2 Oct to 17 Nov



White Teeth

Naomi Frederick, Ayesha Antoine and Tony Jayawardena who will star in White Teeth
(© Dan Wooller)

That bestselling novel by Zadie Smith, a hit in the early noughties, is adapted for the first time for the stage at the newly refurbished, and renamed, Kiln Theatre. Set in Kilburn, the piece is about all the different lives and backgrounds there and how they live alongside each other, it's also shot through with music and dance. Kiln Theatre, 26 Oct to 22 Dec



Porgy and Bess

Porgy and Bess
© Rachell Smith

The Gershwin brothers' hit American opera is revived at the Coliseum by ENO for the first time. The piece is soaring, intense and heady, and tells the story of 1920s South Carolina where a disabled beggar called Porgy attempts to rescue his love Bess from the draw of her drug dealer. It features classics such as "Summertime" and "I Loves You, Porgy". London Coliseum, 11 Oct to 14 Nov



Motown the Musical

Motown The Musical West End cast
©Tristram Kenton

When Berry Gordy founded record label Motown in 1959, even he couldn't predict how far its influence would reach. It kickstarted the careers of the likes of Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, The Supremes and Marvin Gaye, and the label's story is now told onstage for the first time. Having run successfully in the West End (and continuing at the Shaftesbury Theatre), it's now heading out on tour and you best believe that it will feature all those classic tunes you know and love. Birmingham Alexandra, 11 Oct to 3 Nov and then touring



Nine Night

Rebekah Murrell as Anita in Nine Night
© Helen Murray

Natasha Gordon is primarily an actress, but her first play has also now established her as a writer of note, not least because she'll become the first black British female playwright to have a play on in the West End. Nine Night is about the Jamaican traditional ritual of mourning and it garnered great reviews at the National Theatre where it first opened in May. Trafalgar Studios, 1 Dec to 9 Feb

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