The sky is a confusing shade of grey – blue, I think they call it – there’s a delicate bouquet of sun-cream, sweat, chargrilled meat and optimism in the air, and more flesh on show on the streets than in Miss Saigon’s Dreamland. It doesn’t take a seasonal mastermind to conclude that summer must be here.
For us at Official London Theatre, summer doesn’t just mean Friday icecreams in the office, a frivolous attitude to wearing shorts and thanking our lucky stars for air conditioning, it also means a whole host of new theatrical treats to look forward to.
With that in mind, we thought we’d help you out with a rundown of the shows you could be seeing during the next few months.
See the stars
A clear summer night’s sky offers the perfect chance to lay back, gaze up and be entranced by the beauty and wonder of the stars. London’s summer theatre offers the same opportunity.
Right now you can see model-turned-activist-turned-actress Lily Cole taking her first major stage role in The Last Days Of Troy at Shakespeare’s Globe and British shining lights in Hollywood Carey Mulligan (The Great Gatsby) and Bill Nighy (Love Actually) in the revival of David Hare’s Skylight.
By the end of the month they’ll be joined by Meet Joe Black and Mallrats star Claire Forlani, who makes her London stage debut in the world premiere of high society black comedy The Colby Sisters Of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at the Tricycle Theatre.
Olivier Award-winning comedian and actress Maureen Lipman returns to the West End in Daytona alongside Harry Shearer, who you may know from This Is Spinal Tap or as the voice of many characters from The Simpsons. They’ll be starring as long-time lovers whose lives get shaken up by a returning sibling.
Richard Armitage – previously Guy Of Gisborne in Robin Hood, an MI5 agent in Spooks and dwarf king Thorin Oakenshield in The Hobbit films – plays John Proctor in Arthur Miller’s tale of witch trials and a community in panic, The Crucible, at the Old Vic.
There’s classic comedy at the Harold Pinter Theatre, where everyone’s favourite gentleman with a twinkle, Nigel Havers, stars alongside Martin Jarvis and Cherie Lunghi in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance Of Being Earnest. If you’re thinking he may be a little older than usual to play this particular lead, you’re not entirely wrong. They’ve given the show a twist, framing it with the idea that it is actually about a group of veteran players putting on a production of Wilde’s comedy.
When we hit July, Gillian Anderson, star of Great Expectations and hunter of aliens in The X-Files, takes on the classic role of Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire at the Young Vic.
Relax with a little music
You can’t move for music festivals in the summer, can you? Of course, we have our own free festival – West End LIVE on 21 & 22 June – which brings London theatre’s finest to Trafalgar Square without the need for welly boots and camping, but there are other musical options to take in throughout the warmer months.
For tuneful head bobbing and unrestrained twisting and shouting, Let It Be, The Beatles’ musical extravaganza, is headed back to the capital to play in its third different theatre. This time it will bring some of the world’s catchiest pop songs ever and a band of Beatle-alikes to the Garrick Theatre.
At the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, which is always worth a visit in the summer, they’re staging classic folk opera The Gershwins’ Porgy And Bess. What better way to spend a warm July/August evening than listening to Summertime as a warm breeze whispers gently through the trees.
If the traditional music festivals are more your scene you might fancy popping along to see Medea at the National Theatre. It’s not a musical – no, it’s a Greek tragedy starring Helen McCrory as a wife moved to take a terrible revenge – but it does feature a score by Goldfrapp’s Alison Goldfrapp & Will Gregory.
Spend time with the family
With schools closed for six weeks, summer’s the time for holidays and day trips with the family, isn’t it? We’ve got a host of shows to suit any taste.
For the littlest theatregoers, try The Tiger Who Came To Tea, the story of a big cat who’s feline hungry, the underwear-stealing antics of Aliens Love Underpants or the pachyderm-tastic The Elephantom, which all bring hit picture books to the stage.
For older kids there’s more book-inspired shows in the form of London theatre regular Horrible Histories, which brings the gruesome goings-on of Barmy Britain Part 2 back to the Garrick Theatre, Jacqueline Wilson’s tale of a feisty Victorian girl in search of her family, Hetty Feather, and Michael Morpurgo’s tale of the power of books I Believe In Unicorns.
At the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre there’s even a version of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night adapted for theatre fans aged six and older, if you fancy giving your littl’un their first taste of the great playwright.
Of course, there’s also Kids Week, which runs throughout August – though tickets go on sale from 17 June – which offers the chance to take a child to the theatre with every full price adult ticket bought. A host of London shows are taking part and there are also free activities on offer to give kids the chance to learn more about the shows and life in the West End.
Enjoy a Bard-cardi
What do you mean that’s a tenuous pun?! I love a lovely cool glass of rum and coke in the summer as much as I enjoy a Shakespearean production.
There is obviously a wealth of said productions on offer at Shakespeare’s Globe. You can already see the faint-inducing Titus Andronicus and the surprisingly light-hearted Antony And Cleopatra at the iconic venue. They’ll be joined in July by the tale of dictatorship and rebellion Julius Caesar.
At the Trafalgar Studios, Jamie Lloyd’s acclaimed Trafalgar Transformed returns for a second season opening with Richard III. The tale of a scheming royal who uses cunning, guile and murder to plot his way to the throne stars Martin Freeman, who’s better known for playing the far more trustworthy Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit films and Watson in Sherlock.
There’s also the small matter of the stage adaptation of Shakespeare In Love, which brings the Oscar-winning film’s tale of the Bard’s writer’s block and the noblewoman whose love helps him fight it to the stage.
There really is more choice in London’s theatres this summer than in the barbecue section of Sainsbury’s, and that’s without mentioning Mr Burns, Hobson’s Choice, To Kill A Mockingbird, Wonderland or the return of The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time.
You can see everything we have tickets for this summer here.