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Critic's Pick – Sarah Crompton's top shows to see in 2022

It's time to mark those diaries...

Amy Adams / Ruth Wilson
© Second Half Productions / Matt Crockett

WhatsOnStage's lead critic Sarah Crompton has plenty of productions to look forward to in 2022, but which ones find themselves at the top of her most anticipated list?



A Number

I think I've seen every production of this Caryl Churchill classic since it premiered 20 years ago with Michael Gambon and Daniel Craig, as a father and his sons. Decades haven't altered its impact; it constantly surprises. Lennie James and Paapa Essiedu take the roles in this revival directed by Lyndsey Turner.
Old Vic, from January 24


Cyrano de Bergerac

James McAvoy in Cyrano de Bergerac
© Marc Brenner

Jamie Lloyd's production of Martin Crimp's free adaptation of Edmond Rostand's classic about the warrior poet with a big nose, was one of the sexiest and most absorbing productions of 2019. Its return, complete with a revelatory performance by James McAvoy in the title role, is sure to be a highlight of this year.
Harold Pinter Theatre, from February 3, then Theatre Royal Glasgow, from 18 March


An Unfinished Man

My new year's resolution is to go to see theatre in places I find hard to reach by public transport. Too often such venues drop off my radar, but I am determined to make a point of getting to this enterprising east London venue for a new play by the consistently interesting Channel 4 playwright bursary winner Dipo Baruwa-Etti, directed by Taio Lawson.
The Yard, from February 12


After the End

Ironically best known for the cheery musical Matilda, Dennis Kelly is one of the most provocative and bleakest of playwrights and this new show, about a city under attack from a nuclear blast, sounds like an intriguing addition to his dark oeuvre. It's directed by Lyndsey Turner, who is having a busy 2022.
Theatre Royal Stratford East, from February 25


Straight Line Crazy

Ralph Fiennes
© Dan Wooller for WhatsOnStage

A new play by David Hare is always an event. This one, which is about Robert Moses, the man whose questionable vision reshaped New York from the 1930s to the 1960s, tackles the resonant themes of power, racism and the weaknesses of democracy when faced with a charismatic believer. It stars Ralph Fiennes and is directed by Nicholas Hytner.
Bridge Theatre, from March 16


The Human Voice

Ruth Wilson
© Matt Crockett

The last time director Ivo Van Hove and actress Ruth Wilson collaborated was on an unforgettably committed and radical Hedda Gabler. Their take on Jean Cocteau's The Human Voice looks unmissable, not least because this monologue about a woman saying farewell to her former lover, with its themes of loneliness and depression, seems so relevant to our times.
Harold Pinter Theatre, from March 17


Punchdrunk's The Burnt City

My second new year's resolution is to be less wary of immersive theatre, which always worries me. There's no better way to get over that aversion than with a new show from Punchdrunk, who are returning to London for the first time since 2014 to tell us the story of the Fall of Troy, transposed to a future parallel world.
Woolwich Works, from March 22


Marys Seacole

The UK premiere of new play from Jackie Sibblies Drury, whose Fairview fiercely challenged white audiences about how they see the world. This one, also directed by Nadia Latif, takes the subject of Mary Seacole, the pioneering Jamaican nurse who worked in the Crimean War, and puts the whole idea of biography under a new lens. It sounds fascinating.
Donmar Warehouse, from April 15


Jerusalem

Mark Rylance in Jerusalem
© Simon Annand

Jez Butterworth's Jerusalem is arguably the best play of the 21st century so far, a work whose importance and resonance has only increased since its premiere in 2009. This revival is once again directed by Ian Rickson, with Mark Rylance and Mackenzie Crook returning to the roles they created. I can't wait to see it again.
Apollo Theatre, from April 16


Oklahoma!

The 2019 Broadway cast of Oklahoma!
© Little Fang Photo

The arrival on the London stage of Bartlett Sher's sumptuous production of My Fair Lady (at the Coliseum from May 7) is exciting, but the production that knocked me for six when I saw it in New York, was Daniel Fish's revisionist take on the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic which transforms the way you see and hear its familiar tunes.
Young Vic, from April 26


The House of Shades

Anne-Marie Duff
© Dan Wooller for WhatsOnStage

Thanks to Covid, Beth Steel's play which spans five decades of lives and deaths in one family and through them tells the story of changing attitudes in industrial Britain, didn't get to the stage last year. Now it arrives, still starring Anne-Marie Duff and directed by Blanche McIntyre, and it still feels like an event from the woman whose Wonderland promised so much.
Almeida Theatre, from May 7


The Father and the Assassin

For sheer scope, you've got be interested in Anupama Chandrasekhar's new play whose subject is the story of Nathuram Godse, the man who murdered Gandhi. Slightly worryingly, it's in the Olivier, which has traditionally been an inhospitable environment for new work, but reassuringly it's directed by Indhu Rubasingham whose three previous collaborations with Chandrasekhar have yielded rich rewards.
National Theatre, from May 12


Legally Blonde

I have a very soft spot for Legally Blonde, the musical about fashion-conscious sorority girl Elle Woods who determines to win back her boyfriend's love and respect by overcoming stereotypes and taking on a Harvard law degree. Directed by Lucy Moss, who co-created Six, it should be the perfect way to celebrate the venue's 90th anniversary.
Regent's Park Open Air Theatre, from May 13


The Glass Menagerie

Amy Adams
© Second Half Productions

Another year, another production of Tennessee Williams' play about family dysfunction and the unbearable sadness of being. This one, however, is directed by Jeremy Herrin and stars Amy Adams, as an unusually young matriarch. It also features two versions of the narrator Tom in the shape of Paul Hilton and Tom Glynn-Carney.
Duke of York's Theatre, from May 23


Rock/Paper/Scissors

This ambitious celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Sheffield Crucible takes the form of three new plays by Chris Bush performed across the Crucible, Lyceum, and the Studio simultaneously, with the cast dashing from one setting to another to tell the story of a family that go to war across the generations.
Sheffield Theatres, from June 14


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