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What to watch: best theatre to see this week

We round up the hottest openings across the UK

Cecilia Noble in Nine Night, Charlotte Josephine in Romeo and Juliet and Alexandra Burke in Chess
(clockwise from left) Helen Murray, Topher McGrillis © RSC and © BrinkhoffMögenburg

Gender-swapped Shakespeare is all the rage this week as Othello and Romeo and Juliet open across the country with reconfigured lead roles. Down in London Chess makes its return to the West End, while Natasha Gordon and Joe Penhall debut new shows at the National and the Old Vic – read our top openings below.

Golda Rosheuvel
© Dan Wooller for WhatsOnStage

5. Othello

Liverpool Everyman, until 10 July

Golda Rosheuvel takes on one of Shakespeare's most iconic roles in the third show as part of the Liverpool Everyman's rep company 2018 season. A lesbian Othello isn't the first time Rosheuvel has played a gender-swapped part in a Shakespeare play, having played the role of Mercutio in the Globe's production of Romeo and Juliet last year, so it'll be intriguing to see what she brings to the tragic military figure. Given the award-winning company's reputation of late, Othello, directed by the venue's artistic director Gemma Bodinetz, looks like it's full steam ahead up in Liverpool.

Read our review of the previous show in the rep season, A Clockwork Orange

Charlotte Josephine and Josh Finan in Romeo and Juliet
Topher McGrillis © RSC

4. Romeo and Juliet

Royal Shakespeare Theatre, until 21 September

Speaking of gender fluid in Shakespeare, Charlotte Josephine (Blush) takes on the very same part in Erica Whyman's new production of Romeo and Juliet, which opens this week at the RST in Stratford. Karen Fishwick and Bally Gill play the titular star-crossed lovers in the show, which features young people from RSC associate schools. For any London-based punters, the show also comes to the Barbican in November.

See the full casting announcement for Romeo and Juliet

Seána Kerslake and Ben Chaplin in Mood Music
© Manuel Harlan

3. Mood Music

Old Vic, until 16 June

Writer Joe Penhall has been responsible for some fantastic pieces recently – including the musical Sunny Afternoon, the Netflix show Mindhunter and the film The Road. He now comes to the Old Vic with new play Mood Music, starring Seána Kerslake and Ben Chaplin. Based on the intriguing idea of a musician and her producer battling it out for the rights to a hit song, the show continues the venue's 200th-anniversary season, which is being celebrated with a special gala weekend on 12 and 13 May.

See the cast of Mood Music in rehearsals

Cecilia Noble and Ricky Fearon in Nine Night
© Helen Murray

2. Nine Night

National Theatre, until 26 May

Way back at the start of 2018 (four months ago!) we named Natasha Gordon as one of our faces to watch in 2018 – and now her debut play Nine Night comes to the stage in the National's Dorfman theatre. Directed by JMK Award-winner Roy Alexander Weise (who recently oversaw a bold production of Br'Er Cotton at Theatre503 and was one of our faces to watch in 2017) the piece follows a traditional Jamaican wake and explores the rituals of family. Considering the Dorfman's recent streak of successes, the piece is definitely one to watch.

See the most recent season announcement for the National Theatre

Tim Howar and the company of Chess
© BrinkhoffMögenburg

1. Chess

London Coliseum, until 2 June

You might 'know it so well', but it seems ridiculous that it's been 30 years since Chess was last in the West End. It returns now for a limited 5-week run, touting names including Michael Ball, Cassidy Janson, Alexandra Burke and Tim Howar (who had a very dramatic experience during the show's first preview). It'll be intriguing to see how Laurence Connor brings the musical to the cavernous Coliseum on St Martin's Lane but, if the production images are anything to go by, it will be laden with neon and video effects.

Have a first look at Chess in the West End

Last chance to see: Frozen (Theatre Royal Haymarket), The Encounter (Barbican), The Grinning Man (Trafalgar Studios), Kiss of the Spider Woman (Menier Chocolate Factory), The Inheritance (Young Vic)