Helen McCrory as Medea
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Medea, National Theatre, London

Euripides may have written his play two and half thousand years ago but it still shocks, because the woman at the heart of it commits such an unthinkable crime: she murders her own children.

How do you play her? Helen McCrory tackles the problem in a new version by Ben Power that reveals her as a highly intelligent woman, disempowered by the society she inhabits, but also the product of years of brutalising war. Carrie Cracknell, who directed a fine production of A Doll’s House at London’s Young Vic, now takes on this more extreme domestic tragedy.

nationaltheatre.org.uk, 020 7452 3000, opens Monday to September 4


Holy Warriors, Shakespeare’s Globe, London

David Eldridge becomes the latest contemporary playwright to tackle the challenge of writing a new drama for the Globe, a great space for epic work about big public issues. Eldridge has certainly picked a weighty current subject. His play, directed by James Dacre, covers war in the Holy Land and ranges from the time of Richard the Lionheart to today in a fast-moving, epoch-spanning, study of conflict, conviction and casualties. It’s a history play, but not confined to history.

shakespearesglobe.com, 020 7401 9919, from today to August 24


The Nether, Royal Court, London

While Privacy at the Donmar Warehouse examined the increasingly complex and controversial relationship between governments, corporations and the online activity of ordinary citizens, Jennifer Haley’s play explores another challenging aspect of new technology.

Receiving its UK premiere here, in a co-production with Headlong theatre company directed by Jeremy Herrin, The Nether creates a virtual world in which people can indulge their darkest fantasies in an alarmingly lifelike way, and asks what such consequence-free activity means for our sense of morality. For over-18s only.

royalcourttheatre.com, 020 7565 5000, to August 9


The Crucible, Old Vic, London

Arthur Miller’s haunting masterpiece about the Salem witch hunts is a timeless warning about the power of paranoia. In her stunning new staging, Yaël Farber leaves it in its context: a hardworking, God-fearing, rural 17th-century community. Staged in the round, the play fuses the particular with the parable to produce a terrifying world in which hysteria takes hold and neighbour is soon trading neighbour as witch. Led by a gruff, tormented Richard Armitage as John Proctor, Farber’s terrific ensemble release the harrowing power of this brilliant play.

oldvictheatre.com, 0844 871 7628, to September 13


The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon

In this genial comedy two young men, Valentine and Proteus, travel to Milan and fall in love with the same woman – though Valentine doesn’t meet her father’s approval and Proteus is already contracted to another. Mayhem ensues and everyone ends up in the woods where, eventually, all is revealed. Simon Godwin directs this RSC production, with Mark Arends and Michael Marcus as the two young gadabouts.

rsc.org.uk, 0844 800 1110, runs to September 4


Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, London

Queen Anne is strangled with a telephone cord, Clarence drowned in a fish tank, Rivers has a hypodermic needle plunged into his neck. Jamie Lloyd’s fast, bloody staging transposes Shakespeare’s tragedy to a dystopian version of 1970s Britain in which a military junta takes control. Here the recognisable and the fantastical fuse, as in a nightmare. There are certainly problems arising from the updating and the staging struggles with a rather awkward set, but still this is chilling stuff, delivered with the speed and creeping horror of a thriller. A fine ensemble is led by a quietly stealthy Martin Freeman, a master of expediency.

trafalgartransformed.com, 0844 871 7632, to September 27


Thomas Tallis, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, London

Members of ensemble The Sixteen sing works by the English composer Thomas Tallis and interweave them into a commissioned piece by Jessica Swale about his life and tumultuous times. Brendan O’Hea plays Tallis, Simon Harrison plays Henry VIII, Susan Trayling Elizabeth I and Guy Amos Edward VI in Adele Thomas’s production in this intimate candlelit venue.

shakespearesglobe.com, 0207401 9919, July 27-August 10

Photograph: Richard Hubert Smith

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