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Les Miserables – The Staged Concert, Sondheim Theatre, 2020
Photo by Matt Murphy Alfie Boe (Jean Valjean)

London theatre for 2020 – must see shows, still happening

Our pick of the best socially-distanced plays, shows and musicals still coming to London’s theatres in 2020

By Andrzej Lukowski
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It’s been a tough year for London’s theatres. However, many are now reopening with socially-distanced productions, from tiny fringe shows to full-scale musicals. Here’s our round-up of what you can see now and what’s coming up – all of course subject to the latest changes to the law.

What it's like to go to a socially distanced theatre

What’s on in October

Adam Kay
Adam Kay
© Idil Sukan

Adam Kay: This Is Going To Hurt

Comedy Musical Apollo Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue

Comedian Adam Kay wrote a hugely successful book about the NHS and being a junior doctor. His live version of the show was due to run in the West End earlier this year, but got derailed for ‘obvious reasons’. However, it has the distinction of being the piece that will formally reopen Theatreland to audiences…

The Ballad of Corona V, The Big House, 2020
The Ballad of Corona V, The Big House, 2020
Photo by The Big House

The Ballad of Corona V

Theatre Drama The Big House, De Beauvoir

Working with young people who’ve had experience of the care system, Big House theatre company was never going to let a pandemic stop it. Indeed, it’s grasped the bull by its horns with ‘The Ballad of Corona V’, a darkly comic drama about the ’rona performed by a cast of 19. 

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Beat the Devil, Bridge Theatre, 2020
Beat the Devil, Bridge Theatre, 2020
Manuel Harlan

Beat the Devil

Theatre Drama Bridge Theatre, Tower Bridge

A fiery Covid monologue performed by Ralph Fiennes.

C-o-n-t-a-c-t, 2020
C-o-n-t-a-c-t, 2020
Photo by Pamela Raith

C-o-n-t-a-c-t

Theatre Outdoor theatres Monument, City of London

A charming headphones adventure in some of London’s most scenic spots.

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Dante's In Furlough, The Vaults, 2020
Dante's In Furlough, The Vaults, 2020
Photo by The Vaults

Dante’s In Furlough

Theatre Interactive The Vaults, Waterloo

Is it a terrible name? Is it a brilliant name? Is an immersive theatre show based on Dante’s ‘Inferno’, the Shel Silverstein’s epic 1977 poem ‘Billy Markham and the Devil’, and our present, ah, ‘situation’ exactly what we need right now or just too many things to even really contemplate? 

Death of England: Delroy, National Theatre, 2020
Death of England: Delroy, National Theatre, 2020
Photo by National Theatre

Death of England: Delroy

Theatre Drama National Theatre, South Bank

Here we go then: the National Theatre is back! Playwrights Roy Williams and Clint Dyer began writing this sort-of-sequel to last year’s ‘Death of England’ back in March. But their decision to pen a follow-up to their play about white English identity in which a working-class Black Englishman squares up to white Englishness feels nothing if not timely. Michael Balogun stars as the eponymous Black best friend to Michael, the deeply self-destructive protagonist played by Rafe Spall in the first play. 

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Stephen Tompkinson  as Frank. Jessica Johnson as Rita
Stephen Tompkinson  as Frank. Jessica Johnson as Rita
Photo by Nobby Clark

Educating Rita

Theatre Drama Rose Theatre Kingston, Kingston

This production of Willy Russell's timeless two-hander about a jaded tutor whose life is turned around by an unorthodox news student named Rita has had a busy summer: it and stars Stephen Tompkinson and Jessica Johnson were one of the first things back on a UK stage this year, after performing a memorable summer season at Cornwall’s stunning outdoor Minack Theatre. 

Flicker, Colab Tavern, 2020
Flicker, Colab Tavern, 2020
Photo by Colab

Flicker

Theatre Interactive Colab Tavern, Borough and London Bridge

‘Flicker’, from Colab Theatre, is an immersive horror for small socially-distanced audiences. We don’t know a huge amount about it, but it concerns a haunting in south London, and the efforts of one Reverend Parks to banish it.

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The Great Gatsby
The Great Gatsby
Photograph: Helen Maybanks

The Great Gatsby

Theatre Off-West End Gatsby's Mansion, Mayfair

From relatively humble beginnings at the 2017 Vaults Festival, The Guild of Misrule’s adaptation of F Scott Fitzgerald’s seminal novella has become the longest-running immersive theatre show in London.

The Last Five Years, Southwark Playhouse, 2020
The Last Five Years, Southwark Playhouse, 2020
Photograph: PAMELA RAITH

The Last Five Years

Theatre Musicals Southwark Playhouse, Elephant & Castle

‘The Last Five Years’ reopens a socially-distanced Southwark Playhouse. Molly Lynch and Oli Higginson will reprise their roles.

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Nine Lives

Theatre Drama Bridge Theatre, Tower Bridge

‘Nine Lives’ ran at the Arcola in 2016 and now transfers to the Bridge for it season of socially-distanced monologues.

Coming soon

GHBoy, Charing Cross Theatre, 2020
GHBoy, Charing Cross Theatre, 2020
Photo by GHBoy

GHBoy

Theatre Drama Charing Cross Theatre, Covent Garden

The Charing Cross Theatre is the latest London venue to spring back to life, reopening as a socially-distanced 105-seater with Paul Harvard’s drama addressing ‘misconceptions around gay culture and promiscuity’.

Living Newspaper, Royal Court, 2020
Living Newspaper, Royal Court, 2020
Photo by Royal Court

Living Newspaper

Theatre Experimental Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square

The Royal Court returns with six weekly editions of its ‘newspaper’, each ‘edited’ by a collective of writers and offering employment to actors, designers, stage managers, technicians and choreographers as they create work that responds to the issues of the day.

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Private Peaceful, Garrick Theatre, 2020
Private Peaceful, Garrick Theatre, 2020
Photo by Eve Eunlop

Private Peaceful

Theatre Drama Garrick Theatre, Charing Cross Road

‘War Horse’ scribe Michael Morpurgo’s yarn about a virtuous young First World War transfers to the West End just in time for Remembrance Day – the socially distanced production will have a special performance at 11.01am on November 11.

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Six the Musical

Theatre Musicals Lyric Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue

The sassy mini-musical about the six wives of Henry VIII will be the first big show back in the West End.

The Play That Goes Wrong, Duchess Theatre, 2020
The Play That Goes Wrong, Duchess Theatre, 2020
Photo by Robert Day

The Play That Goes Wrong

Theatre Comedy Duchess Theatre, Covent Garden

‘The Play That Goes Wrong’ returns to its longterm home the Duchess Theatre in a new, socially-distanced production from November 19. We’re hopeful the show’s safety measures will at least go according to plan.

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The Ghost Light, Barbican, 2020
The Ghost Light, Barbican, 2020
Photo by the Barbican

The Ghost Light

Theatre Experimental Barbican Centre, Barbican

The Barbican’s first theatre show back post-lockdown is a unique experience for one (plus up to five guests), and will see a performer perform a special, half-hour piece just for them.

A Christmas Carol, Bridge Theatre, 2020
A Christmas Carol, Bridge Theatre, 2020
Photo by Bridge Theatre

A Christmas Carol

Theatre Drama Bridge Theatre, Tower Bridge

Nicholas Hytner directs Simon Russell Beale, Patsy Ferran and Eben Figueiredo in an ‘exuberant’ 90-minute devised take on the yarn in which the trio play all the roles. 

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everybody's talking about jamie
everybody's talking about jamie
Photograph: Alastair Muir

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

Theatre Drama Apollo Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue

‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’ returns to the West End in a socially-distanced production from November 2021.

'The Gruffalo's Child' at Lyric Theatre
'The Gruffalo's Child' at Lyric Theatre
© Toby Mitchell

The Gruffalo's Child

1 out of 5 stars
Theatre Children's Alexandra Palace, Alexandra Palace

Tall Stories' musical adaptation of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler's award-winning sequel to 'The Gruffalo' is packed with inventive storytelling…

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Les Miserables – The Staged Concert, 2019
Les Miserables – The Staged Concert, 2019
© Matt Murphy

Les Misérables – The Staged Concert

Theatre Musicals Sondheim Theatre, Soho

We had assumed we wouldn't hear the people sing again in 2020. But here’s something – this concert version of the world’s longest-running musical is returning for an eight-week festive stint, reuniting last summer’s starry cast of Michael Ball (Javert), Alfie Boe (Jean Valjean), Carrie Hope Fletcher (Fantine) and Matt Lucas (Thénardier). 

Death Drop, Garrick Theatre, 2020
Death Drop, Garrick Theatre, 2020
Photo by Death Drop

Death Drop

Theatre Comedy Garrick Theatre, Charing Cross Road

‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ stars Courtney Act (pictured) and Monét X Change anchor this all-drag take on that campest of theatrical traditions, the West End murder mystery.

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The Comeback, Noel Coward Theatre, 2020
The Comeback, Noel Coward Theatre, 2020
Photo by Oliver Ross

The Comeback

Theatre Comedy Noël Coward Theatre, Covent Garden

Some chuckles for Christmas as rising star comedy duo The Pin present their first-ever play. Staged under the auspices of super-producer Sonia Friedman (her first show since March), ‘The Comeback’ follows a pair of up-and-coming comics booked to warm up on tour for a fading double-act’s comeback tour…

'Potted Panto'
'Potted Panto'
© Gabrielle Motola

Potted Panto

Theatre Panto Garrick Theatre, Charing Cross Road

'Potted Panto' returns for 2020 in a socially distanced run at the Garrick Theatre.

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 Christmas Carol, Dominion Theatre, 2020
 Christmas Carol, Dominion Theatre, 2020
Photo by A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol

Theatre Musicals Dominion Theatre, Bloomsbury

West End regular Brian Conley plays miserly grump Ebeneezer Scrooge, alongside more than 50 musicians and actors ina big West End staged concert revival of Alan Menken’s 1994 musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’s beloved ghost story. 

'Stick Man'
'Stick Man'
© Steve Ullathorne

Stick Man

Theatre Off-West End Rose Theatre Kingston, Kingston

This popular and long-running adaptation of Julia Donaldson's book returns for a socially-distanced Christmas 2020 run in Kingston.

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Dick Whittington, National Theatre, 2020
Dick Whittington, National Theatre, 2020
Photo by National Theatre

Dick Whittington (National Theatre)

Theatre Panto National Theatre, South Bank

Can the National Theatre’s ‘Dick’ save Christmas? For only the second time in its storied history the NT stages a Christmas pantomime, plugging the gap left by the absence of most of London’s major pantos with an updated version of the Lyric Hammersmith’s 2018 spin on ‘Dick Whittington’…

Pantoland, London Palladium 2020
Pantoland, London Palladium 2020
Photograph: Pantoland, London Palladium

Pantoland

Theatre Panto London Palladium, Soho

It’s been rumoured for a while and here we are: the London Palladium’s annual panto is back on, with regular stars Julian Clary, Paul Zerdin, Nigel Havers and Gary Wilmot all present and correct, alongside first-time returnees Ashley Banjo & Diversity and Charlie Stemp, and debutants Beverley Knight and Jac Yarrow.

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Iphigenia In Splott
Iphigenia In Splott
Photo by Mark Douet

Iphigenia in Splott

Theatre Drama Lyric Hammersmith, Hammersmith

‘Iphigenia in Splott’ will be restaged at the Lyric Hammersmith in front of a socially distanced audience.

'Sancho: An Act of Remembrance' at Wilton's Music Hall
'Sancho: An Act of Remembrance' at Wilton's Music Hall
Photo by Robert Day

Sancho: An Act of Remembrance

Theatre Drama Lyric Hammersmith, Hammersmith

‘Sancho’ will be restaged at the Lyric Hammersmith in front of a socially distanced audience in 2021.

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Doctor Who: Time Fracture, Immersive London, 2020
Doctor Who: Time Fracture, Immersive London, 2020
Photo by Doctor Who: Time Fracture

Doctor Who: Time Fracture

Theatre Interactive Immersive | LDN, Mayfair

This immersive adventure in the company of everyone's favouite Time Lord was first announced in a simpler era, and exactly what the London theatre scene is really going to look like in 2021 very much remains to be seen. But as you’d imagine with The Doctor, Tom Maller’s fully BBC licensed production has been made future proof, ie it’s socially distanced, whether such a thing is required or not.

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