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What to watch: best shows to see this week

We pick our favourite shows from across the UK that open this week

A Monster Calls and Allelujah!
© Manuel Harlan

Geriatric wards, fallen comedians, ice cream stands and giant tree monsters all feature in our top openings this week – see our selection below.

The cast of End of the Pier in rehearsals
© Simon Annand

5. End of the Pier

Park Theatre, until 11 August

Les Dennis returns to the stage alongside Blake Harrison in this new play from Danny Robins, which charts the life of a faded TV star whose career is chock-full of second-rate panto performances. With a "dark question lurking behind the laughs", expect the unexpected.

See the Park Theatre's full season for the second half of 2018

Gerald Kyd and Lydia Leonard in rehearsals for The Meeting
© Helen Maybanks

4. The Meeting

Minvera Theatre, Chichester until 11 August

Charlotte Jones has some pretty great awards to her name – bagging the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize in 2001 and the Critics' Circle Theatre Award for Most Promising Playwright way back in 1999. The Meeting opening down in Chichester, is her first new play in seven years. It stars Gerald Kyd and Lydia Leonard, with direction by Natalie Abrahami, and has a fascinating premise – set in a Quaker community in the midst of war.

See Chichester's full season announcement

The company of A Monster Calls
© Manuel Harlan

3. A Monster Calls

The Old Vic, until 25 August

After a spell at Bristol's Old Vic, Sally Cookson's stage adaptation of Patrick Ness's bestselling, emotion-laden novel A Monster Calls comes to London's venue of the same namesake. With some innovative use of ropes, a heartwrenching tragedy and a stark white set with major projections, this looks like a big addition to the summer theatre calendar. Oh, and bring tissues, you'll be weeping buckets.

Read our interview with director Sally Cookson

The company of Pity in rehearsals
© Johan Persson

2. Pity

Royal Court, until 11 August

Rory Mullarkey returns to the Royal Court after his award-winning The Wolf from the Door, which premiered there in 2014. Examining our apathy towards tragedy, and what we do when things in the world go awry, Pity looks pretty surreal – a garish green stage, an ice cream stall...we're intrigued. The cast includes Sophia Di Martino, Sandy Grierson and Stage Debut Award winner Abraham Popoola, so Mullarkey's script is in good hands.

See the full casting announcement for Pity

Members of the company of Allelujah!
© Manuel Harlan

1. Allelujah!

Bridge Theatre

Thirteen years later, The History Boys might feel a bit like, well, history, but the wonder team of Alan Bennett, Nick Hytner and cast members Sam Barnett and Sacha Dhawan are all reuniting for Bennett's brand new drama Allelujah!, his first play since 2012. Set on a geriatric ward and following the lives of patients, staff members and more, it looks like Bennett will be serving up his regular cocktail – equal parts hilarious, cutting and chock full of pathos.

Have a first look at the production

Last chance to see: An Octoroon (National Theatre), Jellyfish (Bush Theatre), Machinal (Almeida Theatre), The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives (Arcola Theatre)