Summer in theatre land is where we usually find pickings most sparse. Yet 2017 theatre here in Bristol and Bath doesn’t seem to have picked up the memo, the seasonal brochures are filled to bursting with work that I think might be worth booking. Here, in date order are the shows that have caught my eye.
Medea- Bristol Old Vic playing until 27 May
Already causing stirs and critical divide opinion is most definitely split on George Mann’s and Chino Odimba’s reimagining of Euripides original Greek myth. For me the style doesn’t land and its politics frustrate (perhaps intentionally). Be prepared to be stirred, for either good or ill
While We’re Here- TF Theatres 9-10 June
Playwright Barney Norris’ miniaturist plays are full of massive heart. Having brought previously his terrific Eventide to Bristol in 2015 this new work sees two past lovers reunite on a park bench and find that there is a spark that still burns between them. His regular collaborator Alice Hamilton for Up In Arms directs.
Julius Caesar- Bristol Old Vic 9 June-1 July
If last year was all about Lear, this year, almost inevitably is taken up with Shakespeare’s political thriller of the overthrow of a powerful Emperor. In what one hopes is now be a yearly project, the graduating students of Bristol Old Vic will get the opportunity to share the stage with acting royalty, this year Game Of Thrones’ Julian Glover while being directed by Simon Dormandy who has already helped nurture the career of Eddie Redmayne among others when he was head of Drama at Eton College.
The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-time- Bristol Hippodrome 13 to 17 June
The National Theatre smash hit adaptation of Mark Haddon’s cult book returns to Bristol again as part of its second UK tour. With the long running West End runcoming to an end, it may be the last opportunity to see this production for a while and so is sure to once again be a hot ticket.
Kirk vs Ming- Wardrobe Theatre 13-17 June
The team behind the Wardrobe Christmas hits come together to bring two other cult characters in a battle to the finish. If you’ve ever seen one of the Christmas shows you know what to expect, load up on the booze, catch up on the films and go in expecting a night of reverent and irreverent fun that should be a perfect excuse to drag you from a beer garden for a few hours.
Racing Demon- Bath Theatre Royal 21 June-8 July
The Bath Summer Season kicks off with arguably David Hare’s greatest work and with the magnificent David Haig front and centre. New Artistic Director Jonathan Church made a success of his running of the Chichester Festival, and if his first season in Bath looks very much like what has come before- handsomely mounted, star driven canon pieces- its seasons that work very much to its target audience. Expect more work than ever before to make the move to the West End.
13- TF Theatres 23 June- 1 July
The second of BOVTS graduating shows is Mike Bartlett’s powerful, profound and epic play 13. Director David Mercatali, who did such profound work last year on Caryl Churchill’s Blue Heart will be at the helm of a play that was much praised for its ambition when it premiered at the National Theatre in 2011.
Translunar Paradise- TF Theatres 4-8 July
Theatre Ad Infinitum’s work about love, death and enduring love has toured the world and now comes back to Bristol, the city artistic directors George Mann and Nir Patel now call home. This 75 minute work of physical theatre and mask work should suit directors Mann’s vision, his work in studio theatres feel particularly charged.
Tristan & Yseult- Bristol Old Vic 4-15 July
This Cornish company are basically taking residency at BOV this year. Alongside a return visit of Flying Lovers of Vitebsk (9-12 May) and an eagerly awaited Autumn production of The Tin Drum, first we are presented with arguably the companies greatest hit. It’s a show that Lyn Gardner claims has to be loved by anyone who has even a passing interest in theatre. Be sure to find out.
Goldilocks, Stock and Three Smoking Barrels- Wardrobe Theatre 20-28 July
Christmas comes early with a return visit of perhaps The Wardrobe’s most successful seasonal show to date before it takes up residency North of The Border for the Edinburgh festival. As previously mentioned, grab a pint, a mate and expect to laugh until you cry at this mashup of Guy Ritchie and three sleepy bears.
North By Northwest- Bath Theatre Royal 21 July- 12 August
Jonathan Church’s brief sojourn to Sydney may not have worked out, but luckily for us does mean he is bringing over one of Australia’s biggest hits from the past couple of years. Promising spectacle, thrills and laughs, if this draws strong reviews expect it to get further life. It’s the show I’m most excited by this season.
Young Company Show: Bristol Old Vic at St Brendans Sixth Form College 2-5 August
The young company at BOV are surely among the finest in the country. Their work is always daring, full of challenges for its members and this latest work, that explores the relationship between youth and power, sounds fascinating. It deserves an audience far beyond that of friends and family.
Looking at Lucian- Ustinov Studio 3 August- 2 September
A great actor in Henry Goodman tackles a great artist in Lucian Freud. Polymath Alan Franks- journalist, musician, writer- has been a feature writer for The Times and The Guardian amongst others and so has got up close and personal with many famous faces. Let’s hope that this experience to burrow deep within his subjects allows him to craft a play full of insight and not meaningless celeb worship.
Sister Act- Bristol Hippodrome 7-12 Aug
Alexandra Burke dons the habit in Alan Menken’s musical of the hit 1992 film. It’s a show that doesn’t seem to have stopped playing since its original West End run in 2009, both touring and in amateur circles, a sure fire sign that we have a feel-good populist hit.