It’s fair to say that London’s reputation as the world capital for theatre is well-deserved and well-earned. We all know how many astonishing plays run here – from the tiny fringe productions above pubs to the blockbuster musicals to the ‘erudite’ creations of Ibsen, Pinter and Prebble. Yes, in London there’s truly a play or musical for everyone….whatever your mood and whatever your budget.
This March, in the capital, there’s some wonderful theatre to see and since La Gaffe is a mere 15 minutes from the West End by Underground, and also round the corner to some very jolly little setups, we thought we’d give you readers the lowdown on what to see when you come to visit. Some of these plays are also stretching into the summer, so fear not if you haven’t booked your accommodation yet!
Here we are – five plays that we can’t help but recommend to you, this coming spring…
- Leopoldstadt – Tom Stoppard
Tom Stoppard has been called “Britain’s greatest living playwright” and his latest drama – intimate with an epic quality “ was to it – doesn’t disappoint. What is even more touching is how personal it is – a play about Jews in Europe, before the holocaust, Stoppard only found out ten years earlier that his family had been Czech Jews (the Straussler) and that his four grandparents had all died in concentration camps.
‘’Leopoldstadt” is named after the old Jewish district of Vienna and the play spans six decades of Jewish life. It is the story of Jews who had been granted full rights by the Emperor Josef and were determined to integrate.
Vienna, at the turn of the 20th century, was the centre of European intellectual discourse and as the play develops, we see these successful people around the dinner table, basking in their prosperity. Hermann, a factory owner, remarks “My grandfather wore a caftan. My father went to the opera in a top hat and I have the singers to dinner.”
How could they foresee that by the 1930’s, their world would be turned upside down? The play deals with enormous questions – identity, religion and terror. And by its end, the cast is dwindling and the audience knows (without it being said) that some of the participants are not going to be alive by the end of World War II.
Probably the last play he will ever write, this is a Stoppard masterpiece. Miss it at your peril.
Leopoldstadt is playing at the Wyndham’s Theatre until June 2020.
- Tina: the Tina Turner Musical
Born in modest circumstances, in Tennessee, Tina Turner rose to fame and became a world Queen of Rock, going on to sell more concert tickets than any other solo artist. And now you can witness her remarkable story for yourself, in a new stage musical (in which she’s had a lot of input).
The 23 songs throughout the musical show what a fighter she was – growing up singing in a local Baptist church, she endured abuse from her husband and, as a woman of colour, has to fight insidious racism at every turn. Yet still she is defiant and whilst some would give up, aged 40 and divorced, she takes this opportunity to reinvent herself.
Grab a ticket and settle down in your seat, travelling with Tina through the highs and lows of her career and leave the theatre thinking to yourself “this is a triumph over adversity – what a woman!”
‘Tina’ is playing at the Aldwych Theatre until January 2021.
- Love, Love, Love – Mike Bartlett
With the Beatles’ song “All you need is love” playing in the background, Mike Bartlett’s play opens to a home in which we meet Sandra and Kenneth. Having met back in the 60’s, they’re now about to retire, with an empty nest. They’ve witnessed social change and experienced personal prosperity, but it seems their marriage is crumbling.
As the play bounces between decades, we witness political turbulence in a changing world, the misery of their disgruntled children and a sense that this couple are really too self-involved to understand why everything’s falling to bits. From the free love of the 60s, to the beginning of a new millenium, their disgruntled daughter Rose sums up the situation with a great line – “You didn’t chance the world – you bought it.”
Love, Love, Love is playing at the Lyric Hammersmith until 4th April.
- The Dumb Waiter – Harold Pinter
Sixty years after it first premiered in Hampstead (January 1960) as part of the Hampstead Theatre Club’s first season, Harold Pinter’s comedy returns to north London. Widely considered to be one of his best early plays, it has been described as “small but perfectly formed.”
Gus and Ben are two hit men, sitting in a derelict, dingy basement, waiting for news of their next ‘job.’ Gus, who is the younger of the two, is constantly asking Ben questions. But as the evening takes some unexpected turns, we are all left asking ‘what is the cost of their quest for meaning?’
This hilarious and menacing play is as much about nihilism and despair as anything else – and shows us that, for much of the time, we’re as much prey to unconscious forces as we are in control of our own lives.
The Dumb Waiter is playing at the Hampstead Theatre until 18th April.
- Uncle Vanya – Anton Chekov
In a Russian countryside estate, Sonya and her Uncle Vanya pass stiflingly hot summer days quite idly. The estate belongs to his brother-in-law, Serebruyakov, a retired Professor, and the year s 1898. When Dr Astrov is summoned to the estate to tend to the Professor’s aches and pains, disruption and discontent break out.
Uncle Vanya is a sad tale of aging and unrequited love, with a very mournful Chekovian feel to it. It is hard to remember that Chehov wrote it as a comedy, when throughout the play there are so many poignant moments.
“God will smile on us” remarks Sonya at the play’s end. She knows that they are both unhappy but is determined to live out her natural life, assured that in the next life she will know peace.
It is wonderfully Russian – gloom and a smidgen of uncertainty bound up together!
Uncle Vanya is playing at the Harold Pinter Theatre until 2nd May.