Jerusalem, Beckett and Bridget Christie: theatre, comedy and dance to book in 2021

Harriet Walter, Mandy Colleran, Naomi Wirthner and Mat Fraser feature in six online plays written by a new generation of D/deaf and disabled artists. Filmed on Zoom, they follow the success of a quirky original series by Graeae Theatre Company that was streamed during lockdown.
graeae.org, 19 January-23 February

Lolita Chakrabarti’s play about masculinity and ambition stars Adrian Lester and Danny Sapani as two men who meet at a funeral, and whose lives as fathers, sons and brothers are illuminated through music and song. Blanche McIntyre returns to the Almeida, following her directorial success with The Writer.
Almeida theatre, London, 29 January-27 February

Staged in the round in the Olivier theatre, this is Larry Kramer’s largely autobiographical play about the Aids epidemic in 1980s New York, which has not been professionally performed in London since its European premiere in 1986. It stars Ben Daniels as Ned Weeks, the firebrand gay founder of an Aids advocacy group, with cast members including Danny Lee Wynter, Daniel Monks and Stanley Townsend.
National Theatre, London, February

Samuel Beckett’s play about a stoical woman almost entirely buried in a mound of earth may not sound like upbeat theatre but this 60th-anniversary production promises to be nothing less than sensational; it stars Lisa Dwan, a celebrated Beckett actor, and is directed by Trevor Nunn, who brought us a winning trio of the Irish playwright’s short plays last year, one of which, featuring Dwan’s haunting voice, stole the show.
Riverside Studios, London, 16 February-28 March

Adura Onashile’s story revolves around a young 18th-century Glaswegian protagonist who takes us on a 500-year journey deep into the city’s slave-trading past. This drama is delivered as an immersive augmented reality experience on an app that aims to use music and visual effects in striking ways to explore the “myth of the collective amnesia of slavery and racialised wealth”.
National Theatre of Scotland, Glasgow, 26 February-12 March

A satirical new play by the award-winning screenwriter Steven Moffat (Doctor Who and Sherlock). Its comedy of manners takes swipes at the value that the British middle-classes place on “niceness” and promises much barbed humour. Moffat’s longtime collaborator Mark Gatiss directs; the cast includes Reece Shearsmith, Amanda Abbington and Frances Barber.
Chichester Festival theatre, dates to be confirmed

CP Taylor’s searing political drama, originally commissioned by the RSC in 1981, dramatises a friendship between a Jewish psychiatrist and a gentile professor in prewar Germany and shows how, over the years, Nazi ideology seduces a “good” man. Dominic Cooke has reimagined the play for our times in this revival that stars David Tennant and promises to be powerfully resonant.
Harold Pinter theatre, London, 21 April-17 July

Noël Coward’s vitriolic study of the rich and reckless starred Coward himself, alongside Laurence Olivier, in its original staging. The story of divorcees Elyot and Amanda who find themselves on honeymoon with new partners in the same hotel, is the inaugural show for the Nigel Havers Theatre Company. Directed by Christopher Luscombe, Patricia Hodge plays Amanda alongside Havers as Elyot, whom Coward played in 1930.
Theatre Royal Bath (followed by UK tour), 23 September-2 October

This new musical tells the story of Faye Treadwell, the trailblazing African American music manager who helped to turn the Drifters into a global sensation. Beverley Knight, after great acclaim for her performances in the musicals Sylvia, Cats and Memphis, plays Treadwell and the score is filled with one hit after another. Prepare to hum along.
Newcastle Theatre Royal and then Garrick Theatre, London, 9 October-26 March 2022

Jez Butterworth’s play set the theatre world alight when it premiered in 2009. Regarded as a modern masterpiece, it is set to be revived at a West End venue with Mark Rylance reprising the role of Rooster Byron and Ian Rickson once again its director. We do not yet know exactly when or where but its producer, Sonia Friedman, is committed to staging it in 2021. It will indisputably be a highlight of the year, whenever it lands.
Stage/date to be confirmed

Dramatising Marley’s life story set in its bigger political context, this is backed by his daughter, Cedella Marley, and has unlimited access to his catalogue of music. There is a dream team behind it too: Lee Hall as writer, Arinzé Kene playing reggae music’s biggest icon and Clint Dyer – fresh from the National Theatre success of his two Death of England plays – as director.
Lyric Theatre, London, 28 May to 19 December

Whoopi Goldberg and Jennifer Saunders will take this show on the road in a UK tour following a London run, which features Goldberg in the role she made her own in the original film – as a singer hiding under cover of a nun’s habit in a convent – while in another stroke of inspired casting, Saunders will star as Mother Superior in selected performances for the tour, while Lesley Joseph will play the part in some venues.
Mayflower Theatre, Southampton, followed by UK and Ireland tour, from 7 September

Six days, six different shows, from debut Holmes & Watson via Edinburgh comedy award nominee The Reunion to 2018’s joyful Commitment. The multi-role playing double act (Max Olesker and Ivan Gonzalez) celebrate the 10-year anniversary of one of comedy’s sparkiest partnerships by reviving each and every one of their shapeshifting, quickfire two-man comic plays.
Pleasance, London, 19-24 January

Lucky Leicester comedy festival, whose slot in the annual calendar saw it narrowly precede the beginning and (fingers crossed!) follow the end of Covid theatre closures. This year’s edition of the UK’s second-biggest comedy knees-up sees some adjustments to Covid realities, and more digital shows than before. But there are plenty of live gigs too, from Rosie Jones, Phil Wang, Stewart Lee and others.
Various venues, Leicester, and online, 3-21 February

In 2020, comedy went digital, politics went even more crazy than before – and Michael Spicer went stratospheric. The Room Next Door, his series of online videos in which he plays an exasperated adviser prompting politicians via an earpiece, hoovered up views, securing him airtime on James Corden’s Late Late Show and BBC Two’s The Mash Report. Now he takes the concept on tour.
Oxford Playhouse, 6 February, then touring

There’s no stopping the ascent of Mo Gilligan, viral video star turned TV darling, now announced as the new judge on ITV’s The Masked Singer. But comedy is his first love, as anyone who saw his excellent recent documentary Black, British and Funny will know. His planned 2020 tour, There’s Mo to Life, showcasing his easeful brand of everyday character comedy, finally makes it into theatres from September.
Reading Hexagon, 15 September, then touring

Who Am I?, asks the title of Bridget Christie’s new touring show, postponed in 2020, now touring in autumn 2021. To comedy-lovers, she is among the last decade’s most blissfully funny, ridiculous and radical standups. But you can expect Christie herself to make more of a meal of the answer, in a show which, she promises, she’ll rewrite entirely before hitting the road
Octagon theatre, Yeovil, 16 September, then touring.

A dance-theatre piece giving voice to the vulnerable, lonely and isolated sounds like the product of Covid times, but Rhiannon Faith’s Drowntown has been much longer in the works. Faith’s extensive research took her to deprived coastal towns including Jaywick and Great Yarmouth and her cast of six draw on autobiographical testimony to tell hard-hitting stories of community, identity, social exclusion and suicide.
UK spring tour, dates and venues to be confirmed

Sergei Polunin is known for being a brilliant ballet dancer who doesn’t always seem to make great choices. But the decision to team up with choreographer/director Johan Kobborg and his partner, the incredible ballerina Alina Cojocaru, seems a wise one indeed. Kobborg has created his own Romeo & Juliet, set to the masterful Tchaikovsky score, with Polunin dancing Romeo opposite Cojocaru’s Juliet.
Royal Albert Hall, London, 6 May

The absolute tonic to 2020, Cole Porter’s Anything Goes is ready to transport you into a fantasy of days gone by where a troupe of tap-dancing sailors can make your problems disappear. Megan Mullally (AKA Karen from Will & Grace) and Robert Lindsay star, under the direction of Kathleen Marshall who won a Tony award for her choreography of this show on Broadway.
Barbican, London, 8 May-22 August

Following 2014’s Dust and his acclaimed reimagining of Giselle, choreographer Akram Khan creates a third work for ENB, inspired by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Creature draws on Shelley but also Georg Büchner’s play Woyzeck, to explore ideas of ambition, exploitation, outsiderdom and belonging. Khan collaborates again with Oscar-winning designer Tim Yip (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) and lighting designer Michael Hulls.
Sadler’s Wells, London, 23 September-2 October

Postponed from 2020, a new tale of the wizard Merlin, harnessing his magic for the power of good. Heartbreak, humour and epic adventures are promised in this major family-friendly ballet from Olivier award-winning choreographer Drew McOnie (Jesus Christ Superstar, Strictly Ballroom, In the Heights). Northern Ballet is known for its strong storytelling mixed with classical dance, and McOnie always brings originality to the stage. Book for December 2021.
Southampton Mayflower, 2-4 December. Then touring