The top 10 British productions in 2018
As we approach the end of the year, we take a look back at some of the biggest new British productions to play in the West End and regional theatres over the past 12 months. From Henry VIII’s wives undergoing a pop music makeover in Six to the satirical outlook in The Assassination of Katie Hopkins, British theatre has continued to be radical and innovative.
The best new British productions in 2018
Six puts the ex-wives of Henry VIII at the front of a musical where they tell their story. A historical whirlwind through the Tudor period, the lives of each wife are told in a 75 minute musical theatre extravaganza. After performing at the Edinburgh Fringe, the production took residence at the Arts Theatre throughout September and October 2018 before a nationwide tour.
Home, I’m Darling
Premiering at Theatr Clywd in 2018, Home I’m Darling went on to play in the Dorfman Theatre at the National Theatre soon after. Starring Katherine Parkinson, the play follows Judy as she attempts to become a model 1950s housewife after being made redundant. Balancing the modern world with a fantasy of days gone by, the story of Home I’m Darling provides a comedic look into the value of family relationships and what it means to be a woman. Home I’m Darling transferred to the Duke of York’s Theatre from 26th January 2019.
A Take That inspired musical was always going to be received well by the British public. In the 90s, a group of five school friends go to see “The Band”, a five man pop group. 25 years later, the women reunite to see the band in a hope to relive their childhood memories. With a soundtrack featuring Take That hits including “Relight My Fire” and “The Flood”, The Band came to the Theatre Royal Haymarket in December 2018 as part of a national tour, continuing until 16th March 2019.
Introducing the funeral tradition practiced by Jamaican communities to West End audiences, Nine Night first played in the Dorfman Theatre at the National Theatre for six weeks. The story reflects upon Gloria, a Jamaican matriarch who has recently passed away. As the story develops, a growing amount of mourners come together to commemorate her life over the course of nine nights. Exploring relationships between families and deaths, Nine Night is the first West End play to be authored by a black female playwright: Natasha Gordon. Nine Night recently transferred to Trafalgar Studios and until 23rd February 2019.
Set in the Calais refugee camp, The Jungle immersed audiences into the beating heart of the notorious area where over 7,000 refugees currently call home. The narrative brought the stories of refugees to the West End, with audiences split into sitting in the Afghan café in the stalls or the “White Cliffs of Dover” in the circle. Transforming the Playhouse Theatre, The Jungle told the harsh realities of refugees and those wanting a better life in a captivating play, which began previews in the United States in December 2018.
The Assassination of Katie Hopkins
The provocatively titled musical received its world premiere at Theatr Clywd in Wales, approaching topics of celebrity status and social media. Exploring the potential online reaction if Katie Hopkins were to be assassinated, the story tackles the role of the internet in construing the emotions of a general public with views across the political spectrum discussed. The Assassination of Katie Hopkins was a witty, yet powerful musical which only played for a three-week run.
First performed at the Bush Theatre, Misty transferred to Trafalgar Studios in September 2018. Written and performed by Arinzé Kene, the production took audiences on an emotional journey through London, tackling what British culture means. Anthropomorphising the city as a living creature with blood cells and bodily features, Misty lit up the West End with its innovative, unique take on modern life in London. Combining rap, spoken word and poetry, Misty was a piece of British gig theatre that pushed the boundaries.
The Last Ship
With music and lyrics by British musician Sting, The Last Ship explored the story of Gideon Fletcher, a sailor whose ship-building career has gone down in tatters. With the yard closing and picket lines formed, the strength of the community and the shipbuilding industry allows Gideon to make the most of his situation. First performed in Chicago and Salt Lake City before a Broadway transfer, The Last Ship opened in the UK in 2018 for a three month nationwide tour.
The Liverpudlian songstress formed the centre of a musical named after herself, continuing to entertain audiences in 2018. Featuring Cilla Black’s biggest hits including “Anyone Who Had a Heart” as well as sounds of the 1960s including “Twist and Shout” by the Beatles, Cilla the Musical tells the path of Cilla’s rise to stardom, eventually becoming one of the UK’s most loved entertainers of all time. The show closed on 1st December 2018 at the Swan Theatre in High Wycombe.
A Monster Calls
First released as a novel in 2011, A Monster Calls was adapted for stage in 2018 by Sally Cookson. Bringing the book to life, audiences meet Conor, a thirteen year old boy who is stuck in the middle of a changing family dynamic. One evening, Conor goes to bed and wakes up in the middle of the night, seeing a monster at the end of his bed. Facing his fears, Conor opens up to the monster and finds out more about himself. Performed at the Old Vic, A Monster Calls brought literary storytelling to the stage in a spellbinding production.