The Wild Duck, Barbican, London
Following An Enemy of the People and Peer Gynt here’s another contemporary take on Ibsen. This time it is the Belvoir St Theatre from Sydney with The Wild Duck, Ibsen’s domestic tragedy about what happens when a man bent on telling the truth intervenes in the messy family affairs of his old friend. Idealism and pragmatism, hypocrisy and truth clash – with painful results. Director Simon Stone has, together with Chris Ryan, reimagined the original and created a brisk, slimmed-down version that transposes the action to the modern day.
barbican.org.uk, 020 7638 8891, October 23 to November 1
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Memphis, Shaftesbury Theatre, London
Beverley Knight (The Bodyguard) stars in the Broadway musical about a young black singer, trapped by the segregation afflicting 1950s Memphis, Tennessee. When she meets a white DJ who sees past the prejudice and the barriers, her career seems set – but the two of them have many battles yet to fight. The show won four Tony Awards, including Best Musical.
shaftesburytheatre.com, 020 7379 5399, booking to March 28 2015
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The Father, Theatre Royal (Ustinov Studio), Bath
Kenneth Cranham and Lia Williams star in the British premiere of a new translation by Christopher Hampton of French writer Florian Zeller’s intriguing black comedy. Andre is 80 years old and is finding it difficult to work out who he is. Is he a former tap dancer living with his daughter and her husband? Or a former engineer, whose daughter lives far away in London? James Macdonald, master of the elusive drama, directs this production.
theatreroyal.org.uk, 01225 448844, to November 15
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The Play That Goes Wrong, Duchess Theatre, London
Looking for a half-term outing? Some theatrical uproar might go down well, with this amiably ridiculous show from Mischief Theatre. A hapless crew of would-be thespians battle through a pedestrian murder mystery, regardless of mistimed sound cues, garbled lines and a spectacularly flimsy set. What begins with a few minor mishaps – a stuck door, a misplaced prop – ends with several actors out cold and the entire edifice collapsing around the rest. It’s a long joke (extended for the West End, not for the better) and would be funnier if it started more subtly. The cast’s physical skill is delightful, however, and the production, directed by Mark Bell, builds to a delirious climax.
theplaythatgoeswrong.com, 0844 412 4659, booking to February 2015
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Gypsy, Chichester Festival Theatre
Imelda Staunton, so superb in Sweeney Todd, reunites with director Jonathan Kent to play Momma Rose in Sondheim’s great musical. Based on the memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee, it follows the turmoil as she tries to get her younger, shyer daughter Louise (Lara Pulver) to step into the shoes of her older sister in a vaudeville act. Louise climbs her way to success – but in a burlesque striptease, becoming Gypsy Rose Lee.
cft.org.uk, 01243 781312, to November 8
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Henry IV, Donmar Warehouse, London
Phyllida Lloyd’s second all-female Shakespeare production (condensing both parts of Henry IV into one) is a revelation. Again the setting is a women’s prison, which accounts for the casting but also throws up parallels and dissonances between the text and the context. Questions about leadership, family, fathers, honour and loyalty take on new layers. But it’s remarkable too how the central storyline about fathers, sons and integrity sings out, particularly with superb performances from Harriet Walter as the stern, uneasy king, Clare Dunne as Hal, Jade Anouka as Hotspur and Ashley McGuire, quite brilliant, as Falstaff.
donmarwarehouse.com, 0844 871 7624, to November 29
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Neville’s Island, Duke of York’s, London
Tim Firth’s popular comedy about an outdoor team-building exercise for four unfit businessmen was revived at Chichester last year and now comes to the West End. Adrian Edmondson, Miles Jupp, Neil Morrissey and Robert Webb play the hapless explorers who find themselves marooned on an island in the Lake District with only a sausage to sustain them. Angus Jackson directs the resultant confusion.
nevillesisland.co.uk, 0844 871 7623, booking to January 3