From Margo Channing to Tom Hiddleston: What to See in London in 2019

From Margo Channing to Tom Hiddleston: What to See in London in 2019
Tom Hiddleston, Lily James and Gillian Anderson, Fisayo Akinade and Jack McBrayer
(Photos: Charlie Grey and James C. Peru)

A new year brings with it the promise of theatrical bounty, nowhere more so than in London where the calendar buzzes across the year. From a flotilla of musical transfers from Broadway on to starry revivals and provocative-sounding new plays, 2019 promises excitement aplenty on and off the West End. Below are five openings within the first few months of the year guaranteed to set the pulse racing.

1. When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other
National Theatre/Dorfman, opens January 23

Cate Blanchett has appeared before on the London stage, in the West End in Plenty and at the Barbican in Big and Small. But only now is the two-time Oscar winner making her National Theatre debut in an ominously titled new play from the maverick playwright Martin Crimp in which Blanchett stars alongside Tony winner Stephen Dillane (The Real Thing); the director is a further English theater renegade in Katie Mitchell. To accommodate predictably high demand in the smallest of the National’s three stages, tickets are being sold via lottery.

2. All About Eve
Noel Coward Theatre, opens February 13

As it happens, Cate Blanchett was first announced to headline this stage adaptation of the venerable Bette Davis/Anne Baxter film that won the Best Picture Oscar in 1950. But the part of Margo Channing will instead go to Gillian Anderson, with Lily James (a recent West End Juliet in Shakespeare’s play) as the conniving young actress, Eve Harrington, who worms her way into Margo’s life. The bustling supporting cast includes musicals name Julian Ovenden, Sheila Reid and Stanley Townsend, with heavyweight Ivo van Hove on hand to direct, fresh from his Broadway triumph with the Bryan Cranston-led Network.

3. Shipwreck
Almeida Theatre, opens February 19

The American writer Anne Washburn has become something of a house regular at north London’s Almeida Theatre, between the controversial U.K. debut of her play Mr. Burns and her Christmas 2017 entry, The Twilight Zone, which transfers in March to the West End. But one can only begin to wonder what awaits at Shipwreck, which promises a story of dinner with, of all people, Donald Trump. Adam James, Raquel Cassidy, and Tara Fitzgerald head a starry cast and the director is the venue’s artistic chief, Rupert Goold, who heads straight from this to Broadway to direct the Almeida-spawned Ink.

4. Waitress
Adelphi Theatre, opens March 7

The West End is poised to be awash with Broadway musical hits during a year that also finds Come From Away and Dear Evan Hansen jumping the pond: London and New York becoming ever more interchangeable. Arriving in between both those titles is the British premiere of Waitress, the Sara Bareilles musical that will allow Katharine McPhee to reprise the part of the pie-serving Jenna that she has previously played on Broadway. Her co-stars include 30 Rock’s Jack McBrayer, Dreamgirls alum Marisha Wallace, and English actor-singer David Hunter, the last of whom recently appeared at this same theater as Charlie in Kinky Boots.

5. Betrayal
Harold Pinter Theatre, opens March 13

After a lengthy season at the playhouse bearing his name that was devoted to his various, lesser-known one acts, the Harold Pinter Theatre is mounting an extended run of the Nobel Laureate’s frequently performed 1978 masterwork, Betrayal. The director is Jamie Lloyd and his star is Tom Hiddleston in the movie actor’s first London stage appearance in more than five years. This very play last appeared at this same address in June 2011, with Ben Miles in the role of the cuckolded husband, Robert, being taken by Hiddleston this time out: expect crowds for return tickets, not to mention at the stage door.