Autumn is well and truly upon us.
It’s the season of golden leaves, shiny new stationary, and finding warm theatres to shelter us from increasingly volatile weather systems and rolling news cycles.
Hopefully you’re here because you’d prefer to spend your hour-or-so inside the theatre with artists who engage in challenging the evil systems behind the apocalyptic atmosphere of this world right now. If so, you are in the right place. We’ve got so much good stuff to energise and soothe your activist souls.
Open your diaries and prepare to make space for these treats to take you through Halloween-season and beyond…
SHOWS TO SEE THIS SEASON
Apphia Campbell’s tour-de-force solo show Woke, about Black women from two different generations of activism, is at Stratford Circus on Oct 4 – 5, and Black Is The Colour Of My Voice, her play inspired by Nina Simone, is currently touring, heading to London, Hull, Basingstoke, and the Netherlands in November.
Chiaroscuro marks Lynette Linton’s directorial debut as AD of The Bush has been making waves of all the best kinds. The new gig-theatre production of Jackie Kay’s 1986 play celebrates the lives of queer women of colour across generations with spoken word and a live score by Shiloh Coke. You only have a couple of days left to catch it – until Oct 5.
Glass. Kill. Bluebeard. Imp., Caryl Churchill’s new collection of short plays inspired by stories and myths are showing at the Royal Court until Oct 12. Also at the Royal Court, Sabrina Mahfouz’s new play A History Of Water In The Middle East uses poetry and music to share stories of women across the Middle East. Directed by Stef O’Driscoll, A History Of Water will explore how the water of the Middle East has enabled British power through the ages, via Sabrina’s experience as a British Egyptian applying to be a spy.
Marking 25 years since the Rwandan genocide, Our Lady of Kibeho is latest work from Olivier Award-winning writer Katori Hall, whose previous plays include Tina: The Tina Turner Musical and The Mountaintop. At Theatre Royal Stratford East until Nov 2.
[Blank] by Alice Birch is Clean Break’s latest production, described as a “theatrical provokation” exploring the impact of the criminal justice system on women and their families at The Donmar Warehouse until Nov 30.
Lilly Burton’s All Aboard At Termination Station is the funniest show we’ve ever seen about abortion. Lilly’s extraordinary energy and glorious comic timing hold her in perfect stead as she articulates the arguments for access and challenges stigma through a frank account of her own abortion experiences. At Clapham Fringe Oct 7 – 8. Lilly is also appearing at Abortion Rights Abortion Cabaret at Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club on Nov 6.
Part cabaret clown show, part autobiographical concept-album, Andrea Spisto’s Butch Princesa offers a new perspective on pansexuality, penetration, and Harry Potter. Andrea fills every performance she makes with a heart that beats so loudly you can’t help but dance in your seats. At The Wardrobe Theatre in Bristol as part of Papaya Festival on Oct 11.
Omnibus Theatre’s fifth year of Perception Festival is taking place throughout October in their gorgeously welcoming space by Clapham common. This year’s theme for the festival is Nasty Women, with a focus on feminist theatre. The festival’s headline show Femme Fatale (Oct 8 – 27) imagines a 1968 meeting between two pop culture icons Nico and Valerie Solanas. Also on at Omnibus: The Cocoa Butter Club cabaret (Oct 18), Somalia Seaton’s play I’d Rather Go Blind (until Oct 5), and Havisham (Oct 15 – 19).
Soho Theatre is the London home to some of our favourite transfers from this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, from comedy and theatre to cabaret and live art. We recommend checking out:
Lemon by Catherine Bohart. Catherine named her show for a woman in a yellow cardigan who objected to her previous show’s merest mention of her bisexuality. In Lemon, she addresses her sexuality in more detail (just to make sure there are no more bigots lingering in her audience), jokes about her relationship with fellow comic Sarah Keyworth, and delivers a feminist revelation about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (until Oct 5).
Shit Theatre’s “excuse to drink on stage” Drink Rum With Ex-Pats. It’s actually a fury-inducing politically charged documentary, in which the duo’s holiday to Malta turns into a searing wake-up-call to government corruption, organised crime, press silencing, and the horrific treatment of refugees occurring on EU shores (Oct 8 – 19).
Venus is super-smart comic and long-time Bechdel fave Sophie Duker’s debut stand-up hour. She recounts her lifetime of seeking Black representation in the media (from kids TV to adult movies) through the medium of rolling punchlines and ridiculously satisfying call-backs, all the while staying wonderfully on-brand by cheerily taking the white guys of the front row down a peg or two. (Oct 29 – Nov 2).
In Desiree’s Coming Early, Desiree Burch weaves an existential journey out of a storytelling stand-up show. At her trademark break-neck gallop pace, she whisks us with her on a trip to Burning Man which (unlike any of the “gap yah” versions of the drugs-and-soul-seeking narrative you’ve heard before) is not only uproariously hilarious, but resonates emotionally and politically, and packs a philosophical punch. (Nov 11 – 23).
Lucy McCormick’s Post Popular is a blistering parody of Basic White Feminist takes on “women’s history”. Smothered in several sticky layers of self- and audience-awareness, Lucy uses her popstar vs art-wanker persona to play into and then explode expectations of both cabaret-camp-fun-show and Serious Political Art Piece. The diva/backup dancers trope is the sharpest tool in this whole show, with genius performances from Rhys Hollis and Samir Kennedy elevating the irony to supreme levels and subverting Post-Popular’s “Herstory” theme to the max (Dec 3 – 14).
As well as hosting many of our Edinburgh Fringe faves’ London transfers this year, there’s some exciting looking brand new work to check out at Soho: Shuck N Jive (Oct 2 – 26) is a collaboration between opera singer Simone Ibbett-Brown and actor Cassiopeia Berkeley-Agyepong with music, laughter and searing honesty, and Not F**kn’ Sorry (Oct 29 – Nov 1) is a shameless sexy punk crip cabaret from Not Your Circus Dog collective.
The Pleasance Theatre are showcasing some of the shows from their Edinburgh Fringe 2019 programme at their Islington theatre over the coming months. Our favourites include: Algorithms (Oct 8 – 10) a bisexual Bridget Jones for the online generation; Bible John (Nov 2 – 3) a frantic and furious investigation into male violence and women’s fascination with true crime; and Madame Ovary (Nov 8 – 12) a heartbreaking life-affirming love-letter to the NHS by cancer survivor Rosa Hesmondhalgh.
This autumn Camden People’s Theatre will be home to some of the most original and inspiring solo shows of 2019. Forbruker, Frankie Thompson’s ingenious clown/drag show satirises advertising and consumerism with intense commitment and flawless lip-syncing. It had us crying with laughter (and just a tiny bit of terror) when we saw it earlier this year. It’s back for just two nights this month, 15 – 16 Oct.
In November at CPT we’re looking forward to Teddy Lamb’s Since U Been Gone (Nov 19 – 20) . In a nostalgic pop-culture mash-up about grief and healing – Teddy reaches out over the years to remember a lost friend and ends up making a disarmingly sincere (but never sentimental) connection with their own past self. Listen to our podcast interview with Teddy Lamb and Mika Johnson.
In I, AmDram Hannah Maxwell’s inimitable wit and charm bridge the gap between the worlds of amateur dramatics and edgy live art as she recounts a life lived straddling two very different performance worlds. This cosy gem of a show is arriving at CPT in perfect time to warm your cockles as winter closes in, Nov 26 – 30.
Burnt Lemon’s new musical Tokyo Rose is one of the freshest productions to come out of Edinburgh Fringe this year. This 1940s tale of fake news and American racism feels unmistakably modern and incredibly timely. It tells the story of a Japanese American woman accused of treason on returning home after the war. The winner of the New Diorama & Underbelly Untapped 2019, Tokyo Rose has all the makings of a Hamilton-meets-Six cult classic, so catch it before it goes global at New Diorama Oct 8 – 12.
Travis Alabanza’s rallying cry for allyship, Burgerz is on tour across the UK and Ireland until Dec 1. Locations include Dublin (Oct 6-12), Newcastle, Glasgow, Warwick, Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge and London’s Southbank Centre. Book quickly or prepare to queue for returns because most dates are selling out fast. Listen to our podcast interview with Travis.
Bait Theatre are performing their brilliantly bizarre anti-fairytale clown-riot Kill The Princess at Trestle Arts Base in St Albans on Oct 11 (where they’re also running a workshop on the shows themes and devising process). Back in London, they are hosting their cabaret night The Office Party (for those without an office) at VFD in Dalston on Oct 19.
Multi-talented Zawe Ashton is best known as an actor, but she’s also an accomplished writer (she recently published her first novel). Her new play for all the women who thought they were Mad examines the myriad of forces that collide and conspire against black women living in contemporary Britain today. It premieres with Hackney Showroom at Stoke Newington Town Hall and runs Oct 14 – Nov 9.
Out Of Sorts is the latest play by Danusia Samal, in which a British Muslim millennial woman living a double life is forced to confront her real identity. It won the International Playwrighting Award 2018 and is running at Theatre503 from Oct 9 – Nov 2.
Emma Frankland’s post-apocalyptic ritual for survival, Hearty, was one of our highlights of Edinburgh Fringe 2019. For her next project, We Dig, she is bringing together a company of trans femmes (including Travis Alabanza – see Burgerz above) to literally smash the system, as they demolish South London’s Ovalhouse building prior to the theatre’s relocation to their new premises in Brixton. Oct 5 – 19.
I’m A Phoenix, Bitch is Bryony Kimmings latest and boldest show to date. It takes the autobiographical performance style that she’s become legendary for and blows it up to epic scale with devastating emotional impact. Dealing with a chapter of Bryony’s life that involves her breakdown in the throes of new-motherhood, and subsequent recovery, Phoenix is food for the soul as well as a multimedia feast for the senses. At HOME in Manchester Nov 26 – 30.
It’s True, It’s True, It’s True – Breach Theatre’s battlecry adaptation of a Renaissance-era rape trial had a huge impact on us, and just about everyone else who saw it at Edinburgh Fringe 2018, and is now on UK tour until Nov 23. Locations include Manchester, Doncaster, Sheffield, Nottingham, Newcastle, East Riding, Warwick, Salisbury York, Plymouth, Oxford, Halifax and Leeds.
Queens of Sheba Nouveau Riche’s magnetic poetic exposé of misogynoir has gone from sell-out to sell-out since debuting in 2017 (listen to our podcast episode talking about the Queens’ first outing back then). Now with a new cast, it’s on tour across the UK until Nov 29. Stops include Derby, Nottingham, Warwick, Manchester, Sheffield, Bristol, Essex, and London’s Battersea Arts Centre.
Trojan Horse by Lung Theatre is adapted from real testimonies of those involved in a widely-reported investigation into Muslim teachers accused of radicalising school children. It takes a critical look at media scapegoating, “British values”, and the government’s toxic Prevent strategy, examining both the political motivations behind the accusations and reports, and the devastating impact on the communities involved. It’s on UK tour this Autumn, going to Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, Halifax, Liverpool, Huddersfield, Doncaster, Hull, Lancaster, Norwich, Mold, Bradford, London, and Birmingham from Oct 8 – Nov 21.
Fringe Wives Club are the cabaret collective you can count on for a raucous night of sparkly patriarchy-slamming. They’re on tour across the UK throughout October with their disco-dazzling feminist party show Glittery Clittery, heading to Nottingham, Sheffield, Exeter and Wellingborough.
Red Palace is the latest show from Shotgun Carousel, the team behind last year’s mythical Divine Proportions. This immersive dining experience is inspired by the dark side of fairytales, and stars some of London’s finest cabaret, circus, burlesque and theatre performers. At The Vaults until Jan 12.