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