Bradley Cooper is Joseph Merrick, the Kenneth Branagh Company at The Garrick, Benedict Cumberbatch returning to the stage as Hamlet… London theatregoers are in for a treat for the rest of 2015. Here are 11 shows you simply cannot miss

1 Gypsy

Sassy Imelda Staunton has been highly praised for presenting what has been dubbed the best performance of her career. Loosely based on the memoirs of famous striptease artist Gypsea Rose Lee, for the first time in 40 years Gypsy has returned to the West End. The show is fresh off the back of its five-star run at Chichester Festival Theatre and tells the story of Momma Rose and her two daughters travelling across America in their family vaudeville act. The show will also see stage and screen actors Peter Davison and Lara Pulver take on the roles of Herbie and Louise. It’s been such a hit that they have just announced the run is to be extended from July to November.

On now until 28 November 2015 at the Savoy Theatre; gypsythemusical.uk

11 theatre shows not to miss in London

Imelda Staunton is astonishingly good in Gypsy (photo by Johan Persson)

 2 American Buffalo

Starring Homeland’s Damian Lewis and acclaimed actors John Goodman and Tom Sturridge, American Buffalo heads to London’s stage for a limited season at the Wyndham’s Theatre this April. Three small-time criminals – Walter ‘Teach’ Cole, Don Dubrow and Bobby – plan a big time heist that soon spins out of control. Since his breakthrough role in HBO’s Band of Brothers, Lewis has become one of today’s most in demand actors. This return to the stage will see him working with director Daniel Evans, whom he trained with at Guildhall School of Music and Drama. The play explores how relationships, loyalty and money intertwine, with stunning performances expected from three brilliant actors.

27 April-27 June 2015 at Wyndham’s Theatre; delfontmackintosh.co.uk

3 The Vote

Set in a fictional London polling station, The Vote is a poignant look at the final hour and a half before the polls close during this year’s actual general election. The brilliant thing about this show is that it will take place in real time as the general election is coming to a close. The show will be both performed live and broadcast on television, and will star some of Britain’s most loved and talented actors, including Judi Dench, Catherine Tate and Mark Gatiss. The play, by James Graham, will show some of the diverse and personal insights into voting centres across the country.

Broadcast live on More4, 8:30-10pm, Thursday 7 May 2015; donmarwarehouse.com

11 theatre shows not to miss in London

The Vote looks set to add even more drama on 7 May 2015

4 Everyman

Everyman confronts one of life’s unanswered questions – is it only in death that we can understand our lives? The title role is played by BAFTA winner and Academy Award nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor, who captures the dilemmas of a man who, once successful and popular, is now facing death and must abandon the life he leads in an attempt to find someone to speak in his defence. Directed by the National Theatre’s Rufus Norris, Everyman is a new adaptation of what has been named a cornerstone of English drama since the 15th century.

30 April-16 July 2015 at the National Theatre; nationaltheatre.org.uk

11 theatre shows not to miss in London

Everyman looks at a big question

5 The Audience

For a limited season from 21 April Kristin Scott Thomas will play Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in The Audience. This insightful show seeks to imagine the weekly audiences between Prime Ministers and the Queen at Buckingham Palace – meetings that are so private, no-one truly knows what has been said. The play, written by Peter Morgan, charts the Elizabethan age and confessions of decades of Prime Ministers. The title role was originally played by Helen Mirren in 2013, where she continues to perform on Broadway. This year’s updated show will see Mark Dexter play the roles of Tony Blair and David Cameron.

21 April-25 July 2015 at The Apollo Theatre; theaudienceplay.com

11 theatre shows not to miss in London

Kristin Scott Thomas looks the part as HM The Queen

6 The Elephant Man

The record-breaking stage adaptation of The Elephant Man has arrived in London. Starring Hollywood’s Bradley Cooper as Joseph Merrick, and Alessandro Nivola as Dr. Frederick Treves, The Elephant Man will play for a limited 12 weeks, beginning on 19 May. The role is particularly important to Cooper, who has said the story has been compelling to him since he was a child. His performance has been highly applauded throughout the play’s season on Broadway, where instead of using prosthetics to achieve the look of Joseph Merrick’s deformities, Cooper suggests them by warping his body for the performance.

19 May-8 August 2015 at the Theatre Royal Haymarket; elephantmanlondon.com

11 theatre shows not to miss in London

Rather than use prosthetics, Bradley Cooper is using his body to suggest Joseph Merrick’s deformities

7 Beautiful Thing

A glorious modern love story, Beautiful Thing returns for its 21 year anniversary. Jonathan Harvey’s hilariously heartbreaking play is an award-winning depiction of two young men falling in love amongst the backdrop of an inner-city housing estate. The play explores acceptance, pressures, and friendship through attitudes towards homosexuality in the 21st century. For its short six week stint in London, Beautiful Thing will have a brand new cast, with multi-award winning actress Charlie Brooks taking the title role of Sandra. Thomas Law will play Ste alongside Sam Jackson as Jamie.

3 June-11 July 2015 at the Arts Theatre; beautthing.com

8 Hamlet

London has gone mad for Benedict Cumberbatch’s highly anticipated portrayal of Hamlet at the Barbican Theatre this August. In an exclusive 23-week run of the classic Shakespearean play, Cumberbatch will star alongside Leo Bill as Horatio and Sian Brooke as Ophelia in a rendition of Hamlet that has been dubbed the most in-demand theatre production of all time. Gaining a cult of fans from his BBC television portrayal of Sherlock Holmes, Cumberbatch will return to his roots on the stage in London to perform for those lucky enough to hold a ticket.

5 August-31 October 2015 at the Barbican Theatre; hamlet.barbican.org.uk

11 theatre shows not to miss in London

Ever since it was announced that Benedict Cumberbatch would be playing Hamlet, the hype has been huge

9 The Mentalists

Multi award-winning actor Stephen Merchant makes his theatrical and West End debut in The Mentalists. The actor will play the role of Ted, who tapes a utopian message to the world with friend Morrie, a hairdresser who acts as Ted’s cameraman. Written by Richard Bean, this play has been described as hilarious and darkly poignant, delving into the decline of social values, with each man being forced to confront their friendship’s darker side while holed up in a Finsbury Park hotel room.

3 July-26 September 2015 at Wyndham’s Theatre; thementaliststheplay.com

10 Farinelli and the King

Celebrated stage actor Mark Rylance will return to Duke of York’s Theatre in September to play King Philippe V of Spain in Farinelli and the King. The West End production runs for a strictly limited period from its sell-out run at Shakespeare’s Globe in March. London is excitedly anticipating Shakespeare’s Globe Artistic Director and Olivier Award winner Rylance’s return to this role, with talented countertenors Iestyn Davies and William Purefoy sharing the role of Farinelli.

14 September-5 December 2015 at Duke of York’s Theatre; dukeofyorkstheatre.co.uk

11 theatre shows not to miss in London

Our greatest stage actor? Mark Rylance returns to theatre after wowing all in TV’s Wolf Hall

11 The Winter’s Tale

The Garrick will be hosting the inaugural season of the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company. The Company presents Plays at the Garrick, a series of plays that bring together an exciting group of actors, led by Rob Brydon, Judi Dench, Lily James and Richard Madden. The Winter’s Tale opens the season on 17 October, where Shakespeare’s timeless tragicomedy of obsession and redemption is reimagined, co-directed by Rob Ashford and Kenneth Branagh following their triumphant staging of Macbeth in Manchester and Manhattan. Judi Dench will play Paulina, with Branagh playing Leontes.

See what the season holds in store at branaghtheatre.com

11 theatre shows not to miss in London

A meeting of minds: Rob Brydon will be part of the inaugural season of the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company

Words: Phillipa Rust

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