Matt Trueman: ten shows I'm looking forward to in 2017

Looking for theatre inspiration in 2017? Look no further

1) Angels in America

National Theatre, from 11 April

As Tony Kushner‘s extraordinary fantastical epic returns to the National, it brings a handful of old favourites with it. Andrew Garfield, back on the British stage for the first time in a decade, former History Boy Russell Tovey, Olivier winner Denise Gough and American legend Nathan Lane. It’s quite a cast for quite some play and Kushner’s reflections of a nation and its needy, lands at a moment when America might just need its angels once again.

Oscar Batterham (King) and the Chorus of The Suppliant Women
Oscar Batterham (King) and the Chorus of The Suppliant Women
© Stephen Cummiskey

2) The Suppliant Women

Manchester Royal Exchange, from 11 March

Last time David Greig and Ramin Gray worked with a community chorus, the result was devastating. The Events still sticks in the mind, a haunting and hard to stomach encapsulation of a political extremist’s killing spree.

By all accounts, their version of Aeschylus’s rarely-seen tragedy about an ancient refugee crisis is much the same. Its Edinburgh premiere won rave upon rave this autumn and its democratic spirit should sit perfectly in the round at the Royal Exchange.

3) The Everyman Rep Company

Liverpool Everyman, from 17 February

Pete Postlethwaite, Julie Walters, Bill Nighy – just three of the greats to have lifted Liverpool’s rep company of old. Its return, after 25 years, is an inspired move from artistic director Gemma Bodinetz. The thinking’s impeccable: a diverse company that positions theatre at the heart of a community and makes it a source of real local pride. Amongst a pick-and-mix programme, there’s Fiddler on the Roof (from 17 February), Brian Patten’s children’s classic The Story Giant (from 13 April) and Romeo and Juliet (from 27 May).

Shakespeare's Globe
Shakespeare's Globe

4) Othello x2

Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, 23 February; Bristol Tobacco Factory, from 16 February

Two of Britain’s best young directors go head to head with one of Shakespeare’s slipperiest plays. Both Ellen McDougall and Richard Twyman have a way with form and both are taking their first forays into the folio. It’s a good one for the moment – arguably the ultimate post-truth play – so I wouldn’t be surprised to find something quietly revelatory at either the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse (McDougall) or the Tobacco Factory in Bristol (Twyman).

5) Seventeen

Lyric Hammersmith, from 4 March

Could 2017 be the year of the OAP? Caryl Churchill’s octogenarians are off on tour in Escaped Alone and Improbable are improvising with oldies in Lost Without Words. Meanwhile, at the Lyric – a theatre that prides itself on its youthfulness – six seventy-somethings are turning back time to play 17 year-olds in Matthew Whittet’s coming-of-age drama. Directed by Sydney Belvoir’s Anne-Louise Sarks, who reimagined Medea from a child's-eye-view, expect young heads on old shoulders – and a sprinkling of Taylor Swift.

6) Paul Auster’s City of Glass

HOME, Manchester , from 4 March; Lyric Hammersmith, from 20 April

If theatre is undergoing a digital revolution, 59 Productions are its rebel leaders. Mark Grimmer and Leo Warner’s video design agency has overhauled what’s possible onstage: expanding the real into the virtual in shows like wonder.land and The Haunting of Hill House.

Now, they’re directing their first show, not just designing, and Paul Auster’s City of Glass is a great shout: a detective novel that’s never clear where reality stops and fiction begins.

7) good dog

Watford Palace Theatre, from 14 February, then touring

In November, Arinze Kene was crooning at Donmar Warehouse audiences as the soul singer and civil rights activist Sam Cooke. The actor also happens to be a mean playwright, someone I’ve looked out for since his startling debut Little Baby Jesus at Ovalhouse five years ago. He writes with rhythm and flair, making the prospect of this monologue enticing, especially since it charts the community tensions beneath and the fall-out from the riots that shook this country to the core in 2011, and yet changed so very little.

8) Double Double Act

Unicorn Theatre, from 20 June

A mini Made In China? Yes, please. Jessica Latowicki and Christopher Brett Bailey are two of the most watchable performers in British experimental theatre. They may be about to get some competition – and from fun-sized versions of themselves too. Double Double Act pairs them up – or pits them against – their own child star doppelgangers and promises chaos, puns and a lot of green slime. I mean, what’s not to like?

© Blast Theory

9) 2097: We Made Ourselves Over

Various venues across Hull, throughout 2017

A stint in the cultural limelight can be rejuvenating. Witness Liverpool, capital of culture in 2008: a place of giant spiders, naval acrobats and Pete Postlethwaite’s King Lear. Now it’s Hull’s turn and local artists like Richard Bean, Barrie Rutter and Bryony Lavery are at the heart of a year that could change the city for good. Interactive theatremakers Blast Theory believe so. In 2097: We Made Ourselves Over, they’re invading phone boxes across the city to imagine Hull as it might be 80 years from now.

Hamilton on Broadway
Hamilton on Broadway
©Joan Marcus

10) Hamilton

Victoria Palace Theatre, November 2017

Word to the wise. Apparently there’s this little American musical by some guy called Lin-Manuel Miranda. Your guess is as good as mine, but it’s called Hamilton, right, and it’s a rap retelling of the American War of Independence. I know, I know, it sounds ludicrous, but the word from New York is, like, really quite good. Tickets go on general sale on 30 January. You can thank me for the tip-off then…

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