Entertainment & Arts

Theatre in 2016 is all about William and Harry

Potter bard Image copyright Nimax/Getty Images

A look at some of the highlights of what theatres around the UK have to offer in 2016.

Two names are set to dominate the theatre landscape over the coming months: William Shakespeare and Harry Potter.

A wealth of productions marking the 400th anniversary of the Bard's death will be taking place across the UK, including high-profile offerings from Shakespeare's Globe and the RSC.

Meanwhile, Jack Thorne's new play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child will receive its world premiere in London's Palace Theatre in July, with previews from late May.

The two-parter features an adult Harry (played by Jamie Parker), who now works at the Ministry of Magic, and his youngest son Albus Severus Potter.

Noma Dumezweni, who recently stepped in at the last minute to replace Kim Cattrall in Linda at the Royal Court, will play Hermione Granger. Paul Thornley plays their old school friend Ron Weasley.

The plays look set to spark the kind of Potter-mania that surrounded the release of the books and films about JK Rowling's boy wizard.

Image copyright Simon Annand
Image caption (L to R) Noma Dumezweni, Jamie Parker and Paul Thornley will play adult versions of Hermione, Harry and Ron

Among the year's Shakespearean highlights is Kenneth Branagh's Romeo and Juliet - opening at London's Garrick Theatre in May - with Richard Madden and Lily James as the star-crossed lovers, and Derek Jacobi as Mercutio.

The Branagh season also sees the return - in January - of Red Velvet, with Adrian Lester reprising his role as pioneering African-American Shakespearean actor Ira Aldridge.

Featuring everything from the bloodbath at the end of Hamlet to the poisonous asp in Antony and Cleopatra, Northampton's Royal & Derngate's 2016 season includes a preview of Spymonkey's The Complete Deaths which has its official premiere at the Brighton Festival in May.

In April, two-time Olivier nominee Michael Pennington will play King Lear at the Northampton venue ahead of a national tour.

Don Warrington will play another King Lear at Manchester's Royal Exchange (1 April - 7 May) and Birmingham Rep (19 to 28 May), directed by Talawa Theatre Company's Michael Buffong.

At Shakespeare's Globe in London, the anniversary weekend on 23-24 April will see the return of a two-year world tour of Hamlet, which will have its four final performances back on the Globe's open-air stage after travelling to some 195 countries.

The RSC's A Midsummer Night's Dream: A Play for the Nation sees local theatre actors from around the UK play the "rude Mechanicals" alongside a professional cast. In Glasgow, Bottom will be played by an estate agent. In Truro, a rugby coach. The 12-week tour kicks off in Stratford-upon-Avon in February.

Elsewhere, Barrie Rutter directs and appears as Falstaff in The Merry Wives.Set in the North of England in the 1920s, this new production opens at the New Vic Theatre, Newcastle-under-Lyme in February.

Carrie Cracknell and Lucy Guerin's dance-theatre version of Macbeth, starring John Heffernan and Anna Maxwell Martin, arrives at Birmingham Rep in January following its premiere at London's Young Vic.

Star names

Image copyright Brigitte Lacombe
Image caption Glenn Close will make her West End debut in Sunset Boulevard at the ENO

Among the star names arriving in London's West End in 2016 is Glenn Close, making her West End debut as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard at the English National Opera (ENO) in April.

After rave reviews at London's Menier Chocolate Factory, Sheridan Smith stars as comedian and singer Fanny Brice in Funny Girl at the Savoy Theatre in April.

She told the BBC earlier this month it was her "dream role". The musical hasn't been seen in the West End since Barbra Streisand starred in the original London production 50 years ago.

Pixie Lott stars as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in London's West End in June following a UK and Ireland tour starting at Leicester's Curve Theatre in March.

And Gemma Arterton takes the lead in Nell Gwynn as Jessica Swale's play - which starred Gugu Mbatha-Raw at Shakespeare's Globe - transfers to the Apollo in February.

Image copyright Simon Turtle
Image caption Gemma Arterton will tell the rags-to-riches story of the actress and royal mistress of King Charles II's court

One of the most anticipated West End openings is the transfer of the National Theatre's powerful rehab drama People, Places and Things, starring Denise Gough as addict Emma, to Wyndham's Theatre in March.

Expect plenty of political humour in Monster Raving Loony at the Theatre Royal Plymouth in February. James Graham's new comedy taps into the life and exploits of Screaming Lord Sutch to tell the story of British democracy.

Nick Payne, the award-winning writer of Constellations, returns to the subject of science in Elegy at London's Donmar Warehouse in April. His latest work is set in the near future where medical science has made it possible to extend life.

Roy Williams's drama Soul, a play about the life and death of Motown legend Marvin Gaye, has its world premiere in Northampton's Royal & Derngate in May.

Also that month, Sutton Theatres presents the world premiere of the new Edward Bond play Dea.

Musical moments

Image copyright Joan Marcus
Image caption Sydney Morton, Valisia LeKae and Ariana DeBose as The Supremes in Motown the Musical

Fans of musicals have plenty to choose from, both in London's West End and around the country.

Motown the Musical opens at the Shaftesbury Theatre in February while Disney's Aladdin has its West End premiere in June at the Prince Edward Theatre.

At the Young Vic in March, Jane Horrocks sings a selection of new wave hits in If You Kiss Me, Kiss Me - a show described as "part dance piece, part gig".

Also in March, London's St James Theatre hosts the world premiere of Miss Atomic Bomb, set in Las Vegas in 1952, and inspired by the nuclear tests and beauty pageants of the era.

Groundhog Day, based on the 1993 comedy film with Bill Murray, opens up the road at the Old Vic in June before going to Broadway.

Coming the other way over the Atlantic is Andrew Lloyd Webber's new Broadway show School of Rock - The Musical which opens at the London Palladium in the autumn.

Image copyright Marc Brenner
Image caption Sheridan Smith as Fanny Brice in Funny Girl

Musicals on tour include the West Yorkshire Playhouse production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang which begins at the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton in February with Jason Manford and Lee Mead sharing the role of Caractacus Potts.

Sister Act, directed and choreographed by Craig Revel Horwood, begins its tour at Leicester's Curve in July.

Billy Elliot the Musical and Sunny Afternoon are also touring after successful stints in the West End.

Around London

Among the National Theatre's 2016 highlights is Lorraine Hansberry's Les Blancs, in which Danny Sapani plays a man from England who returns to his African homeland for his father's funeral and finds himself caught up in colonial tensions.

Director Yael Farber's production begins at the Olivier theatre in March.

Hansberry's final drama was written 11 years after her groundbreaking family drama A Raisin in the Sun (1959), which Eclipse Theatre will tour in 2016, starting in January at The Crucible, Sheffield.

The playwright Sarah Kane (1971-99) receives her National Theatre debut with an "unflinching" new production of Cleansed in February on the Dorfman stage.

The Royal Court's 60th anniversary programme - dubbed Sixty Years New - kicks off in January with a new Caryl Churchill play, Escaped Alone. with Linda Bassett, Deborah Findlay, Kika Markham and June Watson in the cast.

It's followed in March by Alistair McDowall's space drama, X, which tells the story of the crew of a lone research base on the dwarf planet who have lost contact with Earth.

At the Almeida theatre in February , Robert Icke follows his reimagining of Oresteia with a new production of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya with Paul Rhys in the title role.

Around the UK

There will be two vastly different takes on the Cyrano de Bergerac story.

First to arrive - in February - is Glyn Maxwell's adaptation of Edmond Rostand's classic at London's Southwark Playhouse. Kathryn Hunter leads an all-female ensemble as Cyrano - the soldier, fighter and lover with an abnormally large nose.

In April, Gavin and Stacey star Steffan Rhodri takes on the role with an all-Welsh company at Theatr Clywd. Anthony Burgess's adaptation of the epic love story will be in English and will feature Welsh-language poetry by Twm Morys.

Staying in Wales, a UK tour of the musical Tom: A Story of Tom Jones kicks off at the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff, in March. The show about the Welsh singing legend originally premiered in his home town of Pontypridd in 2014.

The first half of the National Theatre of Scotland's 10th birthday programme includes the world premiere of comic musical I Am Thomas (with lyrics by poet Simon Armitage) which tells the story of Thomas Aikenhead, the last person in Britain to be executed for blasphemy. It opens at Edinburgh's Royal Lyceum Theatre in March.

Image copyright Theatre Royal Bath
Image caption Helen George will star in After Miss Julie

Another new piece of music theatre is 306: Dawn - about the 306 British soldiers who were executed for cowardice and desertion during World War One. Directed by NTS artistic director Laurie Sansom, it will be staged in a barn in the Perthshire countryside in May and June.

Call the Midwife and Strictly Come Dancing star Helen George is to star as a sexually-charged aristocrat in a UK tour of the erotic thriller After Miss Julie. Patrick Marber's adaptation of August Strindberg's 1888 work Miss Julie sets the story in 1940s England. The tour opens at Theatre Royal Bath in May ahead of a West End run.

Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse's spring season kicks off with The Massive Tragedy of Madame Bovary! in which Gustave Flaubert's novel is "lovingly derailed" by theatre company Peepolykus. It premieres at the Everyman in February.

If you prefer things with the lights out, Max Stafford-Clark's production of All That Fall - Samuel Beckett's one-act radio play - will see its audiences blindfolded as the cast move about them in the auditorium. It starts in March at Bristol Old Vic before moving on to Wilton's Music Hall in London.

Sock shock

A significant departure in 2016 is the West End production of War Horse - the most successful play in the National Theatre's history - which gallops out of the New London Theatre in March after a seven-year run. A UK tour will begin in autumn 2017.

Meanwhile, a puppet of a very different kind to those seen in War Horse arrives in the West End a month earlier. Over from Broadway, Hand to God features a Satanic sock puppet called Tyrone.

Described by The New Yorker as "Sesame Street meets The Exorcist" - and with a cast that includes Janie Dee, Neil Pearson, Harry Melling and Jemima Rooper - the five times Tony award-nominated play opens at the Vaudeville Theatre in February.

Image copyright Nimax
Image caption Tyrone the puppet in Hand to God

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