Discover new ideas at thought-provoking shows in the West End
The only thing better than seeing a fantastic theatre show is discussing it with your friends and family afterwards over drinks, dinner or on the journey home. The best ones keep you talking for days, even weeks afterwards. Did you agree with how that character acted, or how the show ended? Did the right couple end up together, or was justice served?
Happily, London is chock full of thought-provoking plays and musicals that tackle big issues in enthralling, challenging, entertaining and heartbreaking ways. Whether you want to dig into ethical questions around medicine, law and identity, explore religious ideology and heritage, examine the roots of our capitalist systems, or reflect on the treatment of the queer community, you’ll find a show doing just that.
So, brush up your best arguments, gather your most opinionated friends, and prepare to get stuck into some properly juicy drama. Here’s our recommendations for the best thought-provoking theatre to see in London right now.
A West End favourite since 2013, this riotous musical from Robert Lopez (Frozen) and South Park’s Matt Stone and Trey Parker is still one of the most provocative shows in town. Two Mormon missionaries are sent to a village in Uganda, where they come up against an intimidating warlord and indifferent locals.
The show is an unflinching satire of the Mormon church in particular, and organised religion more generally, comparing ancient texts and beliefs with the needs of a modern society. But, as you’d expect from that creative team, it makes those points via wacky, rude jokes and catchy songs, so you’ll be laughing hysterically while engaging with big ideas.
Book The Book of Mormon tickets on London Theatre.
Judaism plays a key role in Sam Mendes’ magnificent piece of modern history, too. After winning five Tony Awards for its Broadway run, this epic show returns to London. It begins with three brothers emigrating to America, where they begin a business that will grow into a financial empire – and then collapse in devastating fashion in the 2008 crash.
Just three actors then play multiple roles as we follow the brothers’ descendants and see how they evolve, from traders of goods and a close-knit clan through to an investment bank trading in the stock exchange and abandoning Jewish traditions like sitting shiva. It’s an astonishing tale of capitalism and the American Dream, told like the greatest theatrical conjuring act. You won’t be able to talk about anything else.
Book The Lehman Trilogy tickets on London Theatre.
What would you do if you were stranded in the ocean, everyone else lost to a shipwreck, and you discovered a Bengal tiger in your life raft? It’s quite the conversation starter, and once you’ve run through “Scream” and “Try to run”, you’ll be fascinated to see how teenager Pi manages it – and how this jaw-dropping piece of theatre makes this seemingly unstageable tale work magnificently.
Yann Martel’s Booker Prize-winning novel smuggles plenty of philosophical and religious ideas into this survival story. Pi ponders logic and faith, mathematics and morality, as he bonds with his animal companion. The whole piece works as a rich metaphor, plus a thrilling example of theatrical creative brilliance. That’s definitely worth talking about.
Book Life of Pi tickets on London Theatre.
There’s a reason why Harper Lee’s novel is so enduring. It’s a phenomenally powerful tale that gets to the heart of who we are as a society and how our justice system should reflect that – plus it captures the belief that a child has in their father, and the belief that that father has in his fellow man.
Aaron Sorkin’s courtroom-style adaptation of Lee’s 1930s-set story conveys all of that and more in this thrilling West End production. You’ll come out furiously debating not just the historical events, as lawyer Atticus Finch defends a falsely accused black man, but how those themes apply to us today – such as the privilege of passive white liberalism, empathy versus entrenched ideas, or the objective truth versus passionate feeling.
Book To Kill a Mockingbird tickets on London Theatre.
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