james debate
james debate

Sunday 28 January 2024

Welcome back to The Ephemeric's 2024 Hot List. This week we will be having a look at the most exciting theatrical productions coming to the stage in the coming year.

best anticipated new theatre theatrical production 2024 hot list
As many of my most loyal readers will know, I have recently relocated to Zurich. This presents a challenge for this particular Hot List, as Zurich does not have much of a theatre scene compared to London. What it does have, is a beautiful opera house. So don't be surprised if this list takes a more international and opera-tinged flavour going forward. I am nothing, if not open-minded!  

So here it is, our list of the top 10 theatrical productions to keep an eye on in 2024, perhaps with a slight London and Zurich bias, starting with number 10:

10. "Opening Night" by Ivo Van Hove and Rufus Wainwright, at the Gielgud Theatre

london best theatre 2024 opening night john cassavetes ivo van hove rufus wainwright annie lennox
Starting with a bang, we have Opening Night, a bold musical adaptation of the 1977 psychological drama by John Cassavetes. The plot follows a stage actress who, after witnessing the death of a fan, is haunted their recurring apparition, leading to a nervous breakdown as she prepares for a big curtain on Broadway.

This new adaptation is penned by the prolific Belgian director Ivo Van Hove, with music and lyrics from prominent songwriter Rufus Wainwright. The cast is led by Sheridan Smith and Hadley Fraser.

Opening Night begins previews at the Gielgud Theatre in March, and will run until the end of July.

9. "The Hot Wing King" by Katori Hall, at the National Theatre

london best theatre 2024 hot wing king national katori hall
Coming late in the 2024 season, we have the London premier of The Hot Wing King, a 2020 comedy by Katori Hall that follows a group of friends in Memphis Tennessee as they prepare for an annual hot wing festival. 

Despite its original off-Broadway run being cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic, Hall did end up winning the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for this work, earning praise for its humour and sensitive consideration of issues of race and masculinity. 

A full length run on a major stage could bring a new lease of life to a production whose initial release was so tragically curtailed. The Hot Wing King opens in July and runs until mid September.

8. "Carmen" by Georges Bizet, at Opernhaus Zürich

best theatre 2024 zurich opera opernhaus carmen bizet
As long as I am living La Vida Swizzera here in Zurich, I might as well give some love to my new adopted home. 

Zurich is, of course, home to the famous opera house, and their tentpole production in 2024 will be a new production of Georges Bizet's Carmen, a classic opera famed for its passionate melodies and intense drama. 

This new production features the star tenor Saimir Pirgu, known for his close association with the Zurich Opera House, as well as Marina Viotti in the title role. Carmen opens in April and will run through the summer.

"Nye" by Tim Price, at the National Theatre

london 2024 best theatre nye national michael sheen
Heading back to London's National Theatre, Nye is a new play by Tim Price, directed by Rufus Norris delving into the life and legacy of Aneurin 'Nye' Bevan, a monumental figure in British history renowned for his pivotal role in establishing the National Health Service (NHS). 

Michael Sheen will bring Nye Bevan to life, portraying him in a surreal and mesmerizing journey that spans his early days campaigning at the coalfield to his monumental battle to create the NHS. Nye is a co-production between the National Theatre and Wales Millennium Centre, and it promises to be both an epic and deeply personal Welsh fantasia, offering audiences a unique insight into the man who transformed Britain's welfare state.

Nye opens in February and will run until the end of May

6. "Dr. Strangelove" by Armando Iannucci at the Noel Coward Theatre

best theatre london 2024 dr strangelove stanley kubrick armando iannucci noel coward steve cooganShould this be higher up the list? Probably. The London stage is set to witness the theatrical debut of Stanley Kubrick's iconic Cold War satire, Dr. Strangelove, in a highly anticipated adaptation by the acclaimed Armando Iannucci

The production, marking the first-ever stage version of a Kubrick film, will star comedian Steve Coogan, a seven-time BAFTA award winner, who is set to embody several characters. The play, co-adapted and directed by the Olivier Award winner Sean Foley, is expected to be an explosively funny satire that delves into the absurdities and fears of the nuclear age, resonating with the original film’s dark humor and sharp critique of mutually assured destruction.

Dr. Strangelove will play at the Noel Coward Theatre and opens in October.

5. "The Cherry Orchard" by Anton Chekhov, at the Donmar Warehouse

best theatre 2024 london cherry orchard anton chekhov donmar
It seems the London stage will never tire of a good Anton Chekhov production. The Cherry Orchard stands among the most enduring and beloved of these works. The last of Chekhov's plays, The Cherry Orchard is renowned for its exploration of the changing social landscape in Russia at the turn of the 20th century, and the decline of the aristocracy.

This latest production comes from the Donmar Warehouse and Benedict Andrews, a director with a formidable track record of adapting Chekhov, following his recent successful adaptations of The Seagull and Three Sisters. The cast features some recognisable faces in Adeel Akhtar and Nina Hoss

The Cherry Orchard opens in April and will run until June.

4. "My Neighbour Totoro" by Joe Hisaishi and RSC, at the Barbican

london best theatre 2024 neighbour totoro miyazaki barbican rsc
In case you missed it back in its original 2022 run, not to worry, My Neighbour Totoro is making a return to the London stage. This is the Barbican's highly acclaimed stage adaptation of the classic Ghibli film, a magical exploration of the bond between humans and nature, told through the adventures of sisters Satsuki and Mei.

In its initial run, the production was widely praises for creating an innovative visual and aural experience, boasting life-sized puppets to bring the iconic Totoro and other forest spirits to life, set against a backdrop of a lush and immersive scenic design.

Totoro will run at the Barbican until the end of March.

3. "The Hills of California" by Jez Butterworth, at the Harold Pinter Theatre

london best theatre 2024 hills of california jez butterworth sam mendes harold pinter
In the London theatre scene, Jez Butterworth is one of those names that demands your immediate attention. The award winning playwright has produced some extraordinary theatre (and more recently, film and television) including Jerusalem and The Ferryman

In The Hills of California, Butterworth teams up again with his collaborator on The Ferryman, Sam Mendes. Mendes is, of course, the world famous film and theatre director, best known for American Beauty and the recent James Bond films. This new drama unfolds in the sweltering summer of 1976 in Blackpool, the driest in 200 years. Amidst packed beaches and bustling hotels, the narrative delves into the intense, hidden lives of the Webb Sisters in the sweltering backstreets, far from the seaside frivolity.

The Hills of California opens in January and will run until June. Expect this to be one of the hottest tickets of the year.

2. "Mnemonic" by Simon McBurney, at the National Theatre

mnemonic complicite simon mcburney national london best theatre 2023
The National Theatre welcomes back Simon McBurney and his legendary Complicité production company, with this revival of Mnemonic, 25 years after its initial staging. 

Running on the Olivier stage, this production weaves together narratives of personal and historical discovery, including the search for a lost father and a lover, and the intriguing tale of Ötzi the Iceman, a 5,000-year-old body found preserved in ice. Complicité are known for their experimental and immersive storytelling, making this a must see experience.

Mnemonic will open in June and run until mid October.

1. "Stranger Things: The First Shadow" by Jack Thorne, at the Phoenix Theatre

london best theatre 2024 stranger things first shadow phoenix jack thorne harry potter
It would be easy to dismiss Stranger Things: The First Shadow as a bit of an easy money-grab, but the more you look into the work that was done here, the more apparent it is that this is a very ambitious and substantial production.

A prequel to the hit Netflix series, this production is set in 1950s Hawkins and follows a (attempting to avoid spoilers) very prominent character featured in the most recent series, as well as younger versions of the adult characters from the show.

But it's the creative talent behind this show that really stands out. This is an original story written by the show's writers, The Duffer Brothers in collaboration with Jack Thorne, a very accomplished writer best known in the theatre world for creating the Olivier award winning Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Direction comes from Stephen Daldry, the Olivier, Tony and BAFTA winning director known for Billy Elliott, The Crown, The Inheritance, and numerous other works. An outstandingly exciting production for new and old fans alike, one which is hotly tipped for awards this year. 

So there you have it folks: 2024 in theatre. Tune in soon for our next instalment of the Hot List, covering the essential new music coming this year!

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