The best of this summer’s theatres, festivals and shows

The best of this summer’s theatres, festivals and shows

Leaving London can lead to some serious stagey starvation for UCL’s theatre lovers. In London, theatre is often quite literally on our doorsteps; I used to pass at least three theatres on my walk to Uni from Camden. Plus, now that term is over, there’s no more student theatre to enjoy, or laugh at.

Not to worry. Here at Pi Arts we have many a recommendation for those of you sitting at home listening to the Les Mis soundtrack on repeat and dreaming a dream of cheap tickets.


The Hook by Arthur Miller
 (Northampton till 27th June, Liverpool till 25th July)

The Hook is a never-before-performed Arthur Miller play, written as a screenplay in 1947, but suppressed by the FBI as they deemed it too provocative, claiming it would cause unrest among dockworkers. Miller is a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright (he wrote The Crucible and A View From The Bridge) and the performance is the first premiere of his work since his death in 2005. It’s premiering in Northampton, before moving to Liverpool in July.


Matthew Bourne’s The Car Man
(various locations, tour ends 9th August)

If you’re not familiar with Matthew Bourne, you’ve probably been living under a rock. He’s most famous for his all-male Swan Lake (which is the ballet that Billy stars in at the end of Billy Elliot – see, NOW you know who he is) and his spectacular production of the Nutcracker. Based on Bizet’s opera Carmen, it follows a strapping mechanic who begins a secret, and eventually tragic, affair with his boss’ wife. The portrayal of sex and hyper-masculinity through ballet is really interesting, and as with all of Bourne’s work, the blend of styles is stunning. It will be excellent.


The Skriker by Caryl Churchill
(Manchester Royal Exchange Theatre, 1st July – 1st August)

The Independent has called Caryl Churchill Britain’s greatest living playwright, and The Skriker is one of her best known works, adapted from an ancient folk tale in a story that combines fantasy and shape shifting to portray a broken England. Churchill’s writing style is always lively and engaging. Especially, if you’re interested in socio-political theatre, then this is the top recommendation for you.


Mrs. Warren’s Profession by Bernard Shaw
(touring 30 June-1 August, tickets here)

A young woman arrives home to her parents after going away for university and is horrified to discover that her mother has funded her degree through sex work. Written by Bernard Shaw, it explores the complex relationship between mother and daughter, intertwined with some (feminist?) social criticism. It’s set in the late 1800’s so I don’t imagine Shaw’s views on sex work would be considered progressive today, but his critique of the limited employment opportunities available to women at the time could be quite thought-provoking.
This summer could equally be a chance to see some ex-West End shows at a fraction of the price, such as Twelve Angry Men (Theatre Royal Glasgow, soon to be touring), The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time (touring July – November), and East is East (touring till 15th August).

There are also a lot of regional festivals going on, besides the obvious Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Birmingham Repertory Theatre’s BE Festival (23rd – 27th June) is perhaps not for theatre newbies (it looks pretty intense and experimental), and boasts a remarkable variety, with physical theatre, contemporary dance, mime, socio-political pieces, and trapeze artistry.

The four shows on the programme for Cardiff’s Everyman Open Air Festival (24th June – 1st August) are practically guaranteed audience favourites, the tickets are cheap, and the joy of theatre at sunset is indisputable. There’s even a weeklong Fringe Festival (11th-16th August) in Ventnor on the Isle of Wight, inspired by the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

If classical music’s your thing, you might want to check out the Iford Arts Festival (June – August) taking place in the grounds of an old manor house just outside Bath. There’s opera, cloister concerts, and proms, including a midsummer jazz night featuring Get The Blessing, a cool four-piece jazz/rock collective whose founding members are the rhythm section from Portishead.


Featured image credit: Frédéric Raspail

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