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The 15 London theatre shows we loved the most in 2015

Here's our pick of our favourite theatre and musicals of 2015

By Andrzej Lukowski
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Benedict Cumberbatch's much-hyped 'Hamlet' was a splash underwhelming, and it was a bit of an off year for new musicals. But just look at all the other cool stuff that was on the London stage in 2015! Here are our top shows of the year.

RECOMMENDED: Find more plays and musicals in London 

15. Everyman

National Theatre, Olivier

Rufus Norris announced his arrival as National Theatre boss with typical brio: Carol Ann Duffy’s adaptation of this old English folk play saw charismatic star Chiwetel Ejiofor struggle heroically with Norris’s visually overwhelming production that at one point called for him to toot a ten-metre-long line of coke.

15 London theatre shows we loved the most in 2015: Peter Pan, Regent's Park
© Tristram Kenton

14. Peter Pan

Regent's Park Open Air Theatre

This tour-de-force take on JM Barrie’s play was one of the highlights of the summer, a dark, elegiac, visually ravishing World War One-set reformatting of Pan and the gang’s antics. Hopefully we haven’t seen the last of Timothy Sheader’s production.

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13. Bugsy Malone

Lyric Hammersmith

The Lyric emerged from the chrysalis of upgrade works and the self-consciously cool Secret Theatre project it's been running for the last two years with this riotous comeback, a very, very rare revival of Alan Parker’s gunge-tastic kiddie gangsters musical.

12. The Father

Tricycle Theatre and West End

Powered by a great performance from the veteran Kenneth Cranham, this chic, dark French drama that treated dementia like a Pinter-esque mystery was an unexpected but deserved smash for the Tricycle, going on to complete a season in the West End.

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Sweeney Todd
© Bronwen Sharp

11. Sweeney Todd

West End

The sheer chutzpah of transferring this site-specific take on Stephen Sondheim’s gory musical from a pie shop in Tooting to an exact replica of the same pie shop in the West End is basically enough to earn Tooting Arts Club’s wonderful ‘…Todd’ a spot for the second year on the trot.

15 London theatre shows we loved the most in 2015: Bend It Like Beckham
© Ellie Kurttz

10. Bend It Like Beckham

West End

It’s not been a vintage year for new musicals, but the West End’s great British hope was a real charmer, Gurinder Chadha’s ebullient, feelgood adaptation of her own smash Britflick.

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15 London theatre shows we loved the most in 2015: Lines, Yard Theatre
© Marc Douet

9. Lines

Yard Theatre

The Yard cemented its reputation as the most important theatre in east London with Pamela Carter’s unsettling new play about the lives of barrack-bound British soldiers.

8. Here We Go

National Theatre, Lyttelton

One of the last plays of the year and one of the most sharply divisive, the great Caryl Churchill’s short triptych about death is a wantonly challenging gaze into the void that no other writer on earth could have thought of, let alone pulled off.
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15 London theatre shows we loved the most in 2015: ROYALMarianne Jean-Baptiste in 'Hang' COURT: JERWOOD DOWNSTAIRS - HANG BY DEBBIE TUCKER GREEN, J
15 London theatre shows we loved the most in 2015: Photo by Stephen Cummiskey

7. Hang

Royal Court Theatre

The enigmatic Debbie Tucker Green – or debbie tucker green as she prefers – returned with a devastating study of grief and anger in which Marianne Jean-Baptiste starred as a grieving mother being offered to take revenge on the (presumed) killer of her child by a pair of bumbling bureaucrats.

15 London theatre shows we loved the most in 2015: Bull, Young Vic
© Simon Annand

6. Bull

Young Vic

It’s been a big year for Mike Bartlett: his ‘King Charles III’ took Broadway by storm, and he had a big TV smash with ‘Doctor Foster’. Originally seen in Sheffield in 2013, ‘Bull’ was a lower-key work, but certainly not one to be overlooked: a merciless, predatory depiction of workplace bullying set in a boxing ring, audience members were observed passing out from its sheer intensity. It returns recast over Christmas.

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5. Measure for Measure

Young Vic

A blazing turn from Romola Garai, an entirely gratuitous homage to early-‘90s hip hop videos, and sex dolls: lots and lots of sex dolls. Joe Hill-Gibbins’s filthy, chaotic, thrilling take on Shakespeare’s dark morality play was exhilarating, rule-breaking stuff.

15 London theatre shows we loved the most in 2015: Hangmen, Royal Court

4. Hangmen

Royal Court Theatre and West End

After a decade away from theatre, Martin McDonagh effortlessly retook his crown with this pitch-black, precision-tooled comedy about Britain’s last hangmen and the collision of the ’60s dream and an older, bleaker England.

RECOMMENDED: Read an interview with Martin McDonagh 

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15 London theatre shows we loved the most in 2015: Oppenheimer, RSC
© Keith Pattison

3. Oppenheimer

West End

The RSC’s epic drama about Robert J Oppenheimer – the father of the atomic bomb – was a remarkable bolt from the blue by little-known writer Tom Morton-Smith. In a stupendous performance, John Heffernan was less a science boffin, more a shaman, conducting a terrible ritual that would change the world forever.

15 London theatre shows we loved the most in 2015: People, Places and Things, Denise Gough
© Johann Persson

2. People, Places and Things

National Theatre, Dorfman (and West End 2016)

Duncan MacMillan’s ‘People, Places and Things’ is a darn fine piece of writing. But what elevated it into an event was the staggering central performance from Denise Gough as an incorrigible, inscrutable addict hurling herself through rehab with reckless abandon. It is a performance that should to win awards and finally elevate Gough to the big league she deserves: the show and its star transfer to the West End in March.

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1. Oresteia

Almeida Theatre and West End

Following ‘Chimerica’ and ‘King Charles III’, the Almeida tops our end of year list for the third year on the trot. Robert Icke’s epic, harrowing, gorgeous, thoroughly modern rewiring of  Aescylus’s millennia-old trilogy of plays was extraordinary stuff, propelled by a phenomenal performance by Lia Williams as Klytemnestra. But it’s writer-director Icke’s devastating script and chicly avant-garde sensibility that burns brightest in the mind.

Our 2016 London theatre picks

Find cheap theatre tickets in London

Cheap and last minute theatre tickets in London

Theatre

Terrified at the prices of theatre tickets in London? Worried that you can't get tickets to a sold out play or musical? Or just a fan of a good discount? The top prices in the West End can be daunting, but cheap theatre tickets abound in London… if you know how to get them. Here are Time Out’s tips on where to find them, as well as the best ways to score last minute tickets to sold out shows. 

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