Top 10 London Fringe Shows You Have to See This Autumn
From the other side of the August Bank Holiday the summer period certainly looks less bright, and whilst we can at least hope for an Indian Summer later in September, the change in season brings with it a new crop of fantastic productions all across London.
Whilst the West End continues to serve up a varied collection of new writing, revivals and musicals, the London Fringe continues to thrive with an exciting mix of theatre to suit all tastes and budgets. From high profile UK premieres to star-led revivals, the London Fringe offers one of the most exciting seasons in recent memory.
Below is our Top 10 picks of the London Fringe this autumn.
1. Lazarus - King's Cross Theatre
(25 October to 22 January)
If anyone deserves a brand new purpose built theatrical venue, it's David Bowie. As fans all over the world continue to be shocked by his departure from earth earlier this year, his final project, a new musical co-written with Irish playwright Enda Walsh, lands in London following a sold-out New York premiere last year. Lazarus is inspired by the book 'The Man Who Fell To Earth' and focuses on Thomas Newton, as he remains still on Earth - a 'man' unable to die, his head soaked in cheap gin and haunted by a past love. The show brings together a collection of freshly arranged David Bowie songs from throughout his career alongside a number of new songs written specifically for the show itself. Directed by celebrated Tony Award-winning director Ivo Van Hove, who was recently behind the international hit revival of A View From the Bridge at the Young Vic and the West End, this is a highly unique opportunity to see an exciting and challenging new piece of work.
Dexter star Michael C. Hall reprises his role in London alongside original cast members Michael Esper and Sophia Anne Caruso. Described as a "beautifully nuanced production" by Rolling Stone, Lazarus is certainly unlike any other musical you have seen before, and will certainly be one of the most talked about productions of the year.
2. Ragtime - Charing Cross Theatre
(8 Oct - 10 Dec 2016)
Genius director Thom Southerland presents his second production in his first season as Artistic Director at the Charing Cross Theatre, bringing the 1997 musical Ragtime back to London in a new actor-musician production. Whilst the show, which features a Tony Award-winning score by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, has been seen numerous times in London, this is set to be a unique and highly innovative production following in the footsteps of the 5-star Titanic which was seen earlier this year at the same venue. Broadway and West End vet Earl Carptenter leads the cast in what promises to be the version of Ragtime that London audiences have been waiting for. With a fantastic book, powerful score and emotional central story, Ragtime is one classic musical that you should be racing to.
3. Side Show - Southwark Playhouse
(21 Oct - 3 Dec)
A musical about Siamese Twins Daisy and Violet Hilton may not sound like a hit on paper, but trust me - you will not want to miss the UK premiere of this fantastic and challenging show from the creators of Dreamgirls. Having been seen twice on Broadway, once in the iconic 1997 original production starring Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner and once in an adapted revival in 2014, the show has never been seen in the UK and this London production will use the revisions from the most recent Broadway production. Telling the story of the Hilton Sisters as they are rescued from a roadside freak show to become a huge vaudeville act in their own right, the show follows their epic quest for love and acceptance as they go from curiosity acts to stars. The Southwark production will star Louise Dearman and Laura Pitt-Pulford in the featured roles -- expect epic belting and to be moved in a way you never thought possible. "Come look at the freaks" and see this slice of Broadway history in London.
4. The Boys in the Band - Park Theatre
(4 Oct - 30 Oct)
A new revival of Mart Crowley’s play The Boys in the Band runs at The Park Theatre in north London with a cast that features Olivier Award-winner Mark Gatiss and his husband Ian Hallard. Having not been seen in London for almost 20 years this new production is directed by Adam Penford and runs in London ahead of a UK tour. Set in an apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, nine men gather for a birthday celebration. Harold, a self-confessed ‘Jew fairy’, receives a surprise birthday gift - a beautiful male hustler dubbed Cowboy. As the men begin to drink, the party takes an inevitable turn and the mood swings from hilarity to heart-break. This powerful play premiered in 1968 just before the Stonewall riots and shocked contemporary audiences. It gained attention after being adapted into a film in 1970 and has enjoyed numerous runs in New York and around the world. This important new production brings the play back to London with a fantastic cast and creative team, and should certainly be on your October radar.
5. Things I Know to be True - Lyric Hammersmith
(10 Sep - 1 Oct 2016)
Frantic Assembly and State Theatre Company of South Australia come to the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith later this month with Things I Know To Be True, a new play by Andrew Bovell. As beautifully touching as it is funny and bold, it tells the story of a family and marriage through the eyes of four grown siblings struggling to define themselves beyond their parents’ love and expectations. Co-directed by Frantic Assembly's Tony and Olivier Award nominated Artistic Director Scott Graham and State Theatre Company's Artistic Director Geordie Brookman, the production is described as "a complex and intense study of the mechanics of a family that is both poetic and brutally frank". With a cracking cast including Natalie Casey, Richard Mylan, Kirsty Oswald, Ewan Stewart and Imogen Stubbs, this is a truly original theatre experience which will also tour the UK following the London run.
6. 27 - Cockpit Theatre
(8 Sep - 22 Oct 2016)
Original musicals are certainly a rarity, and this new production by Sam Cassidy at the Cockpit Theatre is certainly set to be a challenging new piece. Described as a "modern fable of our time, a dark interpretation of one of humanity’s oldest stories", 27 looks at musical heroes such as Hendrix, Joplin, Cobain, Morrison and Winehouse: all music legends whose lives were tragically cut short at 27. A new rock musical, co-directed and choreographed by Arlene Phillips, this modern day morality tale features an excellent cast including Ryan Molloy, Cassie Compton, Greg Oliver and Jack Donnelly, This show will speak to performers and fans of all ages, offering a valuable insight into a world behind the curtain and the fragility of performers that is rarely never seen or questioned. An exciting and vital new musical that's certainly worth a look.
7. Floyd Collins - Wilton's Music Hall
(21 Sep - 15 Oct 2016)
Composer Adam Guettel is one of modern musical theatre's most impressive and innovative collaborators. His 1996 Lucille Lortel and Obie Award-winning musical is based on the true story of caver Floyd Collins who died near Cave City, Kentucky in the winter of 1925. The show explores how a media circus is able to get out of hand and a small-town community can suddenly find themselves as headline news...sound familiar? Having only been seen twice in London before, this haunting musical features an excellent cast including Ashley Robinson and Rebecca Trehearn and is performed in the stunning setting of Wilton's Music Hall in east London, a perfect match of production and venue. With stunning music, memorable characters and some finely tuned performances, this is one musical revival you won't want to miss the autumn.
8. Waiting for Waiting for Godot - St James Studio
(30 Aug - 24 Sep 2016)
Beckett's classic play gets a behind-the-scenes treatment in Dave Hanson's comedy that follows two understudies trying to occupy themselves backstage during a performance of Waiting for Godot. Based on Hanson's own experience as an understudy, the play ponders Beckett, showbiz and just what on earth it’s all about...The production is directed by The Play That Goes Wrong and The Comedy About a Bank Robbery's Mark Bell and features a cast that includes 'The Fast Show'’s Simon Day. A quick witted and eye-opening companion to for fans of Beckett and those who have never quite understood what all the fuss was about.
9. Punkplay - Southwark Playhouse
(07 Sep - 1 Oct 2016)
Originally staged in the US by Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Gregory S. Moss’s punkplay is described as "a riot of a play told at breakneck pace with a killer soundtrack, a coming-of-age story about subcultures, friendship and not-fitting-in - all on rollerskates!" Running at the Southwark Playhouse in south London, this new production is directed by Tom Hughes with a cast that includes Matthew Castle, Aysha Kala, Sam Perry and Jack Sunderland. The drama follows Duck and Mickey, the 'kids of America' stuck in the 80s apocalypse. They hate their parents and are finding their way in a life that includes guitars, girls, love, fury, heartbreak and noise noise noise. As Punk becomes their escape from suburbia they find out it's fast, it's alive, and it's already dead. An exciting new play for London audiences and for punk fans everywhere.
10. Good Canary - Rose Theatre
(16 Sep - 8 Oct 2016)
Slightly further afield at the beautiful Rose Theatre in Kingston, award-winning actor and director John Malkovich makes his London theatre directing debut in this English speaking premiere of Zach Helm’s gripping play Good Canary. Set in New York, this hard-hitting and darkly witty play explores the spiral of self-destruction and the cost of creativity and is written by Californian writer Zach Helm whose work as a screenwriter includes the films 'Mr Magorium’s Wonder Emporium', 'Stranger Than Fiction' and the forthcoming 'Jumanji'. Malkovich’s previous productions of the play have enjoyed sell-out performances in Mexico City and Paris, where it was nominated for six French Moliere Awards, and comes to London to be enjoyed by an English speaking audience, and will certainly be worth the trip out of central London to enjoy.