The October theatre season opens with a bit of a tongue-twister: The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures (until November 26), starring Tamsin Greig sat the Hampstead Theatre. Set in near-contemporary New York, the plot is centred around the always-fruitful and ever-fractious trope of the family reunion, and the play charts their struggle to find meaning in an unfamiliar landscape.
If you thought that was difficult to pronounce, the National Theatre is staging a show with a similarly manifesto-like name: A Pacifist’s Guide to the War on Cancer (until November 29). Directed by performance artist Bryony Kimmings, the play was devised in collaboration with Judith Dimant, producer of theatre company Complicite, who was diagnosed with breast cancer just three weeks after the pair met. In response, they decided to write some big anthems to be sung in glittering costumes, and stage a musical that would tackle the realities of living with cancer.
Over at the Lyric, Sean Holmes has chosen a play with a title that is equally unusual, but not at all difficult to enunciate. A revival of Mark Ravenhill’s iconic work Shopping and Fucking (until November 5), it follows three disconnected young adults whose lives have been reduced to a series of emotionally sparse transactions.
Shopping and Fucking
Playwright Al Smith probes similar territory in her Pinter-esqe play, Harrogate (until November 29), at the Royal Court. Tracing an ominously tangled relationship between father and daughter, it raises a series of uncomfortable questions about identity and sexuality.
Meanwhile, The Old Vic are staging a very familiar work but are approaching it from an unconventional angle. Echoing Phyllida Lloyd, who is currently running the third instalment of her all-female Shakespeare trilogy, Oscar-winning actor Glenda Jackson will return to the stage to play the ageing King Lear (October 25 – December 2), 25 years after quitting the theatre to become a Labour politician.
Up at the Almeida Carrie Cracknell, fresh from her sell-out rendition of Rattigan’s Deep Blue Sea, is directing Ella Hickson’s latest play, Oil (until November 26). Swinging from 1889 to the present day, it links our complex relationship with this finite resource to the themes of empire, history and family.
Anne-Marie Duff in Oil
The triad of family, morality and the environment are also at the centre of Franz Xaver Kroetz’s classic, The Nest (until November 26), which will transfer to the Young Vic after opening in Belfast. Translated by Conor McPherson, it will be accompanied by a score written by Mercury Prize-winner PJ Harvey.
Down at the Donmar, Muhammad Ali’s family have given their blessing to American playwright Kemp Powers’s latest play, One Night in Miami (until December 3). Set in a hotel room, it is a fictional imagining of a real night in 1964 when Ali (then still known as Cassius Clay), celebrated his world heavy weight victory with three friends: Malcolm X, singer Sam Cooke and American football star Jim Brown.—Isobel Thompson
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Credits: Dalle Grave; Miles Aldridge