Where to watch celebrities onstage in the West End
The industry rallied incredibly during lockdown, keeping in touch with audiences via fundraising events and digital work, and bringing you closer to the stars than ever (in some cases, even giving you a tantalising glimpse of their homes). Now, as buildings start to reopen, there are plenty of chances to catch your favourite celebrities in person – albeit from a safe distance! – as well as virtually.
Here are some of the starry performances on offer.
Andrew Scott is an acclaimed stage and screen actor, best known for TV hits Sherlock, in which he played the villainous Jim Moriarty, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag, inhabiting international heartthrob the Hot Priest. He also appears in the HBO/BBC adaptation of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. In theatre, he’s received Olivier Award nominations for his Hamlet at the Almeida, and for Noël Coward’s Present Laughter at the Old Vic.
Speaking of which, the Old Vic kicked off its digital "In Camera" livestreams of socially distanced performances with a right royal pair: The Crown’s Claire Foy and Matt Smith in Lungs. Next up is Stephen Beresford’s new play Three Kings, which sees the unexpected return of an absent father. The show was originally meant to take place 29 July-1 August, but was postponed twice when Scott was taken ill. Thankfully, he’s now recovered, and the play will premiere on 3-5 September.
Equally adept at comedy and drama, Tamsin Greig has impressed with everything from sitcoms Black Books, Green Wing, Episodes and Friday Night Dinner and Julian Fellowes’s period drama Belgravia to her Olivier Award-winning performance in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Much Ado About Nothing, gender-swapped Malvolia in the National’s Twelfth Night, and beloved turn as Debbie Aldridge in Radio 4’s The Archers.
Most recently, she tackled Nights in the Garden of Spain, one of Alan Bennett’s revered Talking Heads monologues that enjoyed a revival on the BBC. Originally performed by Penelope Wilton, it’s a study of quiet desperation: a lonely, neglected housewife who is compelled to assess her situation following a neighbourhood tragedy. You can see Greig perform the piece live at the Bridge Theatre from 30 September-24 October.
Boy band The Wanted, which scored hits with songs like “Glad You Came,” was Jay McGuiness’s route into show business. He then proved he had the moves, too, winning Series 13 of Strictly Come Dancing with Aliona Vilani; their Pulp Fiction jive was a particular fan favourite. McGuiness has since combined those passions into a career in musical theatre. He starred in the West End version of Tom Hanks movie Big, and toured the UK with Rip It Up.
Now, he’s leading the premiere of Sleepless, the musical adaptation of another Hanks film, Sleepless in Seattle, about widower Sam who finds a new chance at love thanks to son Jonah calling into a radio show. This eagerly anticipated show, also starring Girls Aloud’s Kimberley Walsh, plays at the Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre until 27 September.
Lesley Manville’s impressive career includes numerous collaborations with Mike Leigh, including All or Nothing and Another Year. She was nominated for an Academy Award for Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread, while on the small screen, her hits include sitcom Mum and period drama Harlots. In theatre, she won an Olivier Award for Ghosts at the Almeida, and was nominated for Long Day’s Journey into Night, plus she starred in the original RSC production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses, and led Tony Kushner’s recent The Visit at the National.
Manville also featured in the BBC revival of Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads, taking on the monologue originally made famous by Dame Maggie Smith. She will reprise her performance of Bed Among the Lentils at the Bridge Theatre on 7-22 September, playing the unhappy, self-medicating wife of a rural vicar whose life takes an unexpected turn following a late-night shopping trip.
Giles Terera became a household name when he took on the role of Aaron Burr in the West End production of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton; his electrifying performance won him the Olivier Award. Terera also originated the role of Gary Coleman in London’s Avenue Q, and starred in The Book of Mormon, Rosmersholm, and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom at the National. He appeared in movie The Current War, and his BBC documentary Muse of Fire – for which also composed the score – featured interviews with Judi Dench, Ian McKellen, Jude Law, and Baz Luhrmann.
Now, Terera is starring in Clint Dyer and Roy Williams’s Death of England: Delroy, the National Theatre’s first live production since lockdown. This new one-man show follows on from the Rafe Spall-led Death of England. The focus now is on Delroy, a black working-class man searching for truth and confronting his relationship with Great Britain.
Ralph Fiennes has numerous iconic films on his CV, including Schindler’s List, The English Patient, The Constant Gardener, In Bruges, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Skyfall and the Harry Potter movies, in which he played the terrifying Lord Voldemort. He made his directorial debut with a film adaptation of Coriolanus, and also became renowned for his Shakespearean work on stage; he won a Tony Award for his Hamlet on Broadway, and an Evening Standard Award for the National’s Antony and Cleopatra.
Fiennes will star in David Hare’s new play, Beat the Devil, directed by Nicholas Hytner. Hare’s work is about his own experience of contracting Covid-19, as well the UK Government’s delayed response to the outbreak. This is the first really significant live theatre depiction of Coronavirus, and it plays at the Bridge Theatre on 27 August-31 October.
One of the biggest hits during lockdown was the adaptation of Sally Rooney’s Normal People, thrusting Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal – who played on/off lovers Marianne and Connell – into international stardom. TV viewers will also have seen Edgar-Jones in the reboot of Cold Feet, as well as period drama Gentleman Jack and sci-fi adventure War of the Worlds.
But Edgar-Jones has trodden the boards, too, appearing in The Reluctant Fundamentalist at the Yard Theatre and in Albion at the Almeida. The latter play, written by Mike Bartlett (Doctor Foster, King Charles III), was praised for capturing the zeitgeist of a nation divided by the Brexit vote when it first premiered, and has proved no less resonant upon its recent revival. You can now watch the production on BBC iPlayer.
Kristin Scott Thomas
The supremely elegant Kristin Scott Thomas won a BAFTA Award for Four Weddings and a Funeral, and was Academy Award nominated for The English Patient. Her screen work also includes Gosford Park, The Horse Whisperer, Nowhere Boy, Fleabag and the upcoming film adaptation of Rebecca, while on stage, she won an Olivier Award for The Seagull at the Royal Court, starred in Harold Pinter’s Old Times and Betrayal, and played Queen Elizabeth II in The Audience.
She, too, is part of the starry line-up for Talking Heads, reprising her performance at the Bridge Theatre on 9-26 September. Scott Thomas performs The Hand of God, in which antiques shop owner Celia complains about her rivals and gradually reveals her bitterness and disappointment. It’s a superb new interpretation of a role originally inhabited by Dame Eileen Atkins.
Russell Tovey rocketed to fame as one of the original cast of Alan Bennett’s The History Boys. He’s since starred in shows like Doctor Who, Being Human, Him & Her, Sherlock, Looking, Quantico and Years and Years, as well as pioneering movie The Pass. On stage, he appeared in His Dark Materials and Angels in America at the National, as well as A View from the Bridge and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? on Broadway.
Tovey’s latest venture is Theatre Royal Stratford East’s No Masks, which dramatises the experiences of frontline key workers during the Covid-19 pandemic. The virtual production, written by Nadia Fall and Rebecca Lenkiewicz, will be broadcast on Sky Arts Freeview this September, when the channel becomes free to everyone in the UK, and will also be available on streaming service NOW TV.
Layton Williams made his West End debut aged 12 in the title role of Billy Elliot the Musical. Since then, he’s appeared in TV comedies Bad Education, Beautiful People and Benidorm; and, in theatre, he’s starred in Thriller, Matthew Bourne’s The Car Man, the UK tours of Hairspray and Rent, Sheffield Crucible’s Kiss Me, Kate, and, most recently, leading the West End and tour productions of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie.
Williams has been keeping very busy during shutdown, so there are multiple chances to catch him. First up is West End Musical Drive-In at Troubadour Meridian Water: Williams is headlining the concert on 29 August, along with Les Misérables’s Shan Ako and SIX’s Maiya Quansah-Breed. He’s part of the Everybody’s Talking About Jamie virtual reunion on 4 September, and he stars in the concert version of Hair on the Turbine Theatre’s jetty from 4-6 September.
Star of stage and screen, Imelda Staunton has won Olivier Awards for Gypsy, Sweeney Todd, Into the Woods, A Chorus of Disapproval and The Corn is Green; she was also nominated for her recent turn in Follies, and is due to star in Hello, Dolly!. On film, her work includes Mike Leigh’s Vera Drake, as well as Shakespeare in Love, Pride, Downton Abbey, and playing Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter movies. She will take over as Queen Elizabeth II in Series 5 and 6 of The Crown.
Before that, you can see her in Talking Heads, reprising her performance in Lady of Letters at the Bridge Theatre on 28 September-31 October. She plays Irene Ruddock (originally portrayed by Patricia Routledge), who writes furious poison pen letters – her own frustration, resentment and impotent fury unleashed into angry complaints. Bennett’s peerless monologues have proved their enduring power during lockdown, and it’ll be a treat to see great actors like Staunton deliver them on stage.