Book tickets to West End shows helmed by award-winning directors
London’s theatre scene is teeming with great directors, putting their stamp on new shows and exciting revivals. Many bring a particular vision or individual style to their work, which becomes instantly recognisable to their fans – such as the Belgian auteur Ivo van Hove, who is renowned for revolutionising classic shows, or the thrilling visionary Katie Mitchell.
The West End attracts directors from around the world, including Broadway legends and European marvels, contributing to the bold, diverse and enticing array of shows on offer. Whether you’re a fan of spectacular musicals, family-friendly fare, experimental work or powerful plays, you’ll find exactly what you’re after in London’s cultural melting pot.
Many of these directors have, quite rightly, been rewarded for their work with Oliviers, Tonys and more. If you want to make a beeline for productions helmed by those industry-celebrated geniuses, here are some of the shows helmed by award-winning directors that you can book for in London right now.
Marianne Elliott: Cock
When it comes to British directors, few can boast the astonishing track record of Marianne Elliott. She became a superstar at the National Theatre, where she directed legendary productions (which then transferred to the West End and Broadway, among others) like War Horse, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and Angels in America – racking up three Tonys and two Olivier Awards. She added to her haul with revelatory revivals of Company and Death of a Salesman, and was made an OBE in the 2018 Birthday Honours.
Elliott’s latest project is a starry revival of Mike Bartlett’s provocative 2009 play Cock. The play creates a dilemma for central character John: he’s been in a serious relationship with his boyfriend for seven years, but is now attracted to a woman. Elliott’s vivid production digs into sexuality, identity and gender roles, and reunites her with Jonathan Bailey, who won an Olivier for Company.
Bartlett Sher: To Kill a Mockingbird and My Fair Lady
We’ve got not one but two garlanded productions in town from Broadway director Bartlett Sher. Firstly, there’s the Aaron Sorkin stage adaptation of Harper Lee’s seminal novel To Kill a Mockingbird, which presents the thought-provoking tale as a gripping courtroom drama.
Sher, who has been nominated for nine Tonys, winning in 2008 for South Pacific, picked up one of those nominations for his profound Broadway production, now also a West End hit led by Rafe Spall as Atticus Finch.
Demonstrating his versatility, as well as his talent for revamping a classic to suit a contemporary audience, Sher also brings us the loverly musical My Fair Lady. This acclaimed Broadway revival was nominated for two Tonys and Sher won an Outer Critics Circle Award for his direction. The much-anticipated London run of Lerner and Loewe’s musical sees Harry Hadden-Paton reprising his role as Henry Higgins, alongside Amara Okereke as Eliza and Vanessa Redgrave as Mrs Higgins.
Phyllida Lloyd: Mamma Mia! and Tina – The Tina Turner Musical
British director and producer Phyllida Lloyd has had an extraordinarily diverse career, ranging from musical theatre and plays to opera and Oscar-winning movies. Among her huge successes is the beloved Mamma Mia!: she directed the original West End show and the Bafta-nominated film adaptation. She was Tony nominated for Mary Stuart, won an International Emmy for opera Gloriana, and directed Margaret Thatcher biopic The Iron Lady, which won two Academy Awards, including Best Actress for Meryl Streep.
Lloyd brought her facility with telling real people’s stories, combined with her musical theatre experience, to Tina, which follows the incredible life and career of Tina Turner – from humble beginnings in Nutbush, Tennessee, through her difficult partnership with Ike Turner and finally cementing her legend as a solo rock ‘n’ roll artist. If you love the likes of "Proud Mary" and "River Deep Mountain High", then check out Tina – it’s simply The Best. Or head to a fantasy Greek island for some ABBA-tastic fun with Mamma Mia!
Christopher Ashley: Come From Away
It took a special director to bring the idiosyncratic Canadian musical Come From Away to the stage. At first glance, it’s not exactly an entertaining premise: it tells the true story of thousands of plane passengers who were stranded in Newfoundland on 9/11. But it’s also a tale full of humour and heart, as locals and visitors form lifelong bonds, and we discover the best of humanity in the worst of times.
Christopher Ashley won a Tony Award for his gorgeous direction of the show, which features very little scenery and impressive physical storytelling from the whole ensemble, while the West End production won four Olivier Awards including Best New Musical.
It’s a well-earned triumph for American director Ashley, who had previously received a Drama Desk nomination for Broadway musical Xanadu and a Tony nomination for Memphis. Catch the wonderful West End cast in action now, featuring Alice Fearn as pilot Beverley Bass.
Rebecca Frecknall: Cabaret
One of the big winners of the 2022 Olivier Awards was Rebecca Frecknall’s astounding revival of Cabaret, which brings Kander and Ebb’s musical rocketing into our contemporary experience and immerses the audience in the seedy world of the Kit Kat Club. The production won seven Oliviers, including a record-setting quartet of acting awards (for Eddie Redmayne, Jessie Buckley, Elliot Levey and Liza Sadovy), plus Best Musical Revival and an award for Frecknall’s bold direction.
The British director has been “one to watch” for a few years now. She burst onto the London theatre scene with her gorgeous production of Tennessee Williams’ Summer and Smoke at the Almeida Theatre, which transferred to the West End and earned Frecknall an Olivier nomination.
She continued to impress with Three Sisters and The Duchess of Malfi at the Almeida, as well as Sanctuary City at New York Theatre Workshop, before welcoming us to the cabaret. If you haven’t yet ventured to the Kit Kat Club, come hear the music play…
Photo credit: To Kill a Mockingbird directed by Bartlett Sher and Tina - The Tina Turner Musical directed by Phyllida Lloyd (Photos courtesy of productions)
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