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London theatre: the best plays and shows on now

Telegraph Reporters
Our guide to the best shows in the West End and beyond...

From Hamilton to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, this is our regularly updated guide to the best plays and musicals in the West End and beyond

The Divide ★★★★☆

Where: Old Vic

Address: The Cut, London SE1 8NB

Until: February 10

Erin Doherty as Soween Credit: Manuel Harlan

In a nutshell: "I think many teenagers would love it – it deals, in a Romeo and Juliet meets Nineteen Eighty-Four way, with forbidden desire, repressive authority, young love, sexual awakening." Read the full review

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The Brothers Size ★★★☆☆

Where: Young Vic

Address: 66 The Cut, Waterloo, SE1 8LZ

Until: February 14

The Brothers Size at the Young Vic Credit: Alastair Muir

In a nutshell:"Florida-born playwright called Tarell Alvin McCraney, whose writing inspired last year's Oscar-winning film Moonlight, returns with quirky, charming, light-on-its-feet drama about two African-American brothers who are reunited after the younger comes out of prison on parole, only for their tense sibling relationship to come under further strain." Read the full review

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Annie ★★★★☆

Where: Piccadilly Theatre

Address: 16 Denman Street, London, W1D 7DY

Booking until: February 18

Credit: Remier

In a nutshell:"This is just what London needs right now. Young girls belting out 'Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya, tomorrow!' at the tops of their voices, full of life, full of hope, fists clenched, boots stamping in defiance." Read the full review

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Barnum ★★★☆☆

Where: Menier Chocolate Factory

Address: 53 Southwark St, London SE1 1RU

Until: March 3

Laura Pitt-Pulford as Charity, and Marcus Brigstocke as Barnum Credit: Nobby Clark

In a nutshell: "Marcus Brigstocke, stand-up and Radio 4 regular, is inviting us to roll up to see his PT Barnum, 'The Greatest Showman', the embodiment of American showbiz hucksterism... Brigstocke wobbles, and is outshone by Laura Pitt-Pulford as his wife Charity... The ensemble hoof with lightning-fast finesse and deliver the rough and tumble acrobatic goods. This isn’t the greatest show on earth... But it does offer the chance to run away to the circus for the night." Read the full review

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John ★★★★☆

Where: National Theatre (Dorfman Theatre)

Address: Upper Ground, South Bank, London SE1 9PX

Until: March 3

John at the National Theatre Credit: Stephen Cummiskey

In a nutshell:  "John, by the Pulitzer Prize-winning Annie Baker, centres on a young couple taking time out to stay in a creepy Gettysburg bed and breakfast filled with toys and dolls the week after Thanksgiving... at more than three hours, it's a down-beat, high-risk project, but it asks big questions about human loneliness." Read the full review

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Dry Powder ★★★☆☆

Where: Hampstead Theatre

Address: Eton Avenue, NW3 3EU

Until: March 3

Hayley Atwell in Dry Powder at the Hampstead Theatre Credit: Alastair Muir

In a nutshell:"Hayley Atwell, fresh from in a dazzling turn in the TV adaptation of EM Forster’s Howard End, is the best thing about this sprightly but undernourished comedy by Sarah Burgess, set in a New York private equity firm that’s been plunged into a public relations disaster after the director throws a lavish engagement party the same day as laying off workers from a company he has just acquired." Read the full review

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Cirque du Soleil: Ovo ★★★★☆

Where: Royal Albert Hall

Address: Kensington Gore, London, SW7 2AP

Until: March 3

Ovo

In a nutshell: "Coursing through Ovo – Portuguese for 'egg' – lies something I haven’t detected in Cirque extravaganzas for many a moon: a winning sense of humour, a quality of absurdity almost rivalling the tongue-in-cheek spirit of British circus at its best." Read the full review

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The Captive Queen ★★★☆☆

Where: Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, The Globe

Address: 21 New Globe Walk Bankside London SE1 9DT 

Until: March 4

Angela Griffin and Barrie Rutter in The Captive Queen Credit: Alastair Muir

In a nutshell: "Aureng-Zebe is set in Agra during the days of the Mughal Empire. It deals with two brothers’ battle for power as their ageing Emperor father sits in his dotage as the outside world collapses and “people live like drones at public cost”. The title character Idamora, a symbol of the uneasy political situation, tries as best she can to extract herself from the human folly that surrounds her." Read the full review

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The Exorcist ★★★★☆

Where: Phoenix Theatre

Address: Charing Cross Rd, London WC2H 0JP

Booking until: March 10

Credit: Pamela Raith

In a nutshell: "We’re not short-changed in terms of visceral atmosphere: there’s abundant darkness, with bursts too of retina-dazzling light, much unsettling use of projection to suggest scuttling shadows, and Anna Fleischle’s set pulls out all the stops in evoking a domicile beset by recalcitrant doors and electrics that go kaput in the night." Read the full review

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Five Guys Named Moe ★★★★☆

Where: Marble Arch Theatre

Address: Marble Arch, London, W1C 1CX

Until: March 24

Credit: Alastair Muir

In a nutshell: "There isn’t a feel-bad bone in Five Guys Named Moe. The 1990 jukebox musical, which showcases the songs of the jazz and R&B pioneer Louis Jordan, is back in a witty new production directed by its creator – and star of TV drama The Wire – Clarke Peters." Read the full review

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Girl From the North Country ★★★★★

Where: Noel Coward Theatre

Address: 85-88 St Martin's Lane, London, WC2N 4AU

Booking until: March 24

Girl From the North Country Credit: Alastair Muir

In a nutshell: "Not very often, a piece of theatre comes along that radiates an ineffable magic. Conor McPherson’s musical play is one such show. It’s not a perfect piece by any means, but the rare alchemy with which McPherson fuses a dustbowl drama set in Depression-era Minnesota with the keening mysticism of Bob Dylan’s back catalogue makes it almost glow." Read the full review

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Network ★★★★☆

Where: Lyttelton Theatre, National Theatre

Address: Upper Ground, South Bank, London SE1 9PX

Until: March 24

Network

In a nutshell: "Lee Hall's adaptation of Paddy Chayefsky's 1976 satire on the corrupted, ratings-chasing state of American news. Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston makes his UK stage debut in style as Howard Beale, the anchorman who goes rogue, and aside from a few script muddles and directorial excesses, this dusty celluloid classic emerges as a trenchant play for today." Read the full review

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Mary Stuart ★★★★☆

Where: Duke of York's Theatre

Address: 45 St Martin's Lane, London, WC2N 4BG

Until: February 23 (then touring Bath, Salford and Cambridge until March 31) 

Juliet Stevenson and Lia Williams in Mary Stuart Credit: Manuel Harlan

In a nutshell: "Robert Icke’s dynamic, adrenal new version of Schiller’s Maria Stuart boasts two exceptional actresses (Juliet Stevenson and Lia Williams) as Mary Stuart (also known as Mary, Queen of Scots) and Elizabeth I (who doomed her to execution). There's a further eye-catching spin: which actress plays which character on any night is decided at the start of each performance by the toss of a coin." Read the full review

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Lady Windermere's Fan ★★★☆☆

Where: Vaudeville Theatre

Address: 404 Strand, WC2R 0NH

Until: April 7

Lady Windermere's Fan at the Vaudeville Theatre Credit: Marc Brenner

In a nutshell:"Jennifer Saunders is treading the boards in the West End for the first time in 25 years, in Kathy Burke’s revival of Oscar Wilde’s 1892 breakthrough social comedy... Saunders steals the show in the minor but pivotal part of the Duchess of Berwick." Read the full review

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Long Day’s Journey into Night ★★★★☆

Where: Wyndham’s Theatre

Address: 32-36 Charing Cross Road, London, WC2H 0DA

Booking until: April 7  

Jeremy Irons stars as James Tyrone in Richard Eyre's production of Long Day's Journey Into Night Credit: Wyndham's Theatre

In a nutshell:  "Jeremy Irons  returns, almost triumphant, as the biggest ostensible draw in Richard Eyre’s deluxe revival of Eugene O’Neill’s immense, autobiographically rooted drama of soul-searching and blame-shifting under the roof of an unfulfilled actor and his empty-shell wife." Read our full review

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The Grinning Man ★★★★☆

Where: Trafalgar Studios (Studio One)

Address: 14 Whitehall, London, SW1A 2DY

Booking until: April 14

The Grinning Man at Trafalgar Studios Credit: Helen Maybanks

In a nutshell: "This pungent, grimacing musical fairy tale, based on a Victor Hugo novel, is directed by Tom Morris, still known most for his global smash hit War Horse. It's a dark-harted Christmas treat: the story of Grinpayne, an orphan who as a boy was scarred forever when an unknown assailant carved a smile onto his face." Read the full review

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The Birthday Party ★★★★★

Where: Harold Pinter Theatre

Address: 6 Panton Street, London, SW1Y 4DN

Booking until: April 14

Toby Jones in The Birthday Party Credit: Johan Persson

In a nutshell: "Harold Pinter’s comedy of psychological receives a superlative 60th anniversary revival from Ian Rickson. Not a line is wasted by a cast that includes Zoë Wanamaker as the fragile housekeeper, Stephen Mangan as one of two sinister interlopers and Toby Jones as a desperately lost man-child lodger." Read the full review

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Julius Caesar ★★★★☆

Where: Bridge Theatre

Address:  3 Potters Fields Park, SE1 2SG

Until: April 15

Ben Whishaw in Julius Caesar at the Bridge Theatre Credit: Manuel Harlan

In a nutshell: "Director Nicholas Hytner brings us a Julius Caesar that plugs into the turbulent age of Trump. And what a mighty body of actors Hytner has assembled for the leads: David Morrissey as Mark Antony, Ben Whishaw as Brutus, Michelle Fairley (Lady Stark in Game of Thrones, among other credits) – as Cassius, and RSC veteran David Calder as the assumed tyrant who must be felled."Read the full review

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The Book of Mormon ★★★★★

Where: Prince of Wales Theatre

Address: Coventry St, London, W1D 6AS

Booking until: April 28

The Book of Mormon

"The songs may not be memorable, but it is exuberant, and, like the colourful extravaganza that the Africans put on at the end (stringing together all of the lies the naughty Mormon has told them) it works in a way that is rather mystifying." Read the full review

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Amadeus ★★★★★

Where: Olivier Theatre, National Theatre

Address: Upper Ground, South Bank, London SE1 9PX

Until: April 24

Credit: Marc Brenner

In a nutshell:"Shaffer’s riveting 1979 psychodrama, probably known to most from the 1984 film, takes the form of a deathbed confessional from Salieri, the foreign-born court composer to Austria’s snooty, Imperial court tormented by the way he engineered Mozart’s fatal descent into penury and madness at the age of 35." Read the full review

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The Ferryman ★★★★★

Where: Gielgud Theatre

Address: Shaftesbury Avenue, Soho, London W1D 6AR

Until: May 19

Credit: Johan Persson

In a nutshell: "British playwriting’s king-pin Jez Butterworth (Jerusalem) serves up the full Irish in The Ferryman, taking us to Armagh and the harvest of late August 1981 – time of ongoing Troubles, height of the Hunger Strikes – with director Sam Mendes bringing it to table with élan and a crack ensemble... The suspenseful plot hinges on the grisly discovery of a 10-years-absent brother, opening the door to sinister overtures from menacing members of the IRA... miss this and you've missed a marvel." Read the full review

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Dreamgirls ★★★★☆

Where: The Savoy Theatre

Address: Savoy Court, Strand, London WC2R 0ET

Booking until: June 20

Ibinabo Jack, Liisi LaFontaine and Amber Riley in Dreamgirls at the Savoy Theatre Credit: Brinkhoff/Moegenburg

In a nutshell: "What does this show fundamentally offer? Tremendous gusto of soul and gaiety of spirit. Given the sort of jittery year we’ve had, who’d not want a piece of that?" Read the full review

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Aladdin ★★★☆☆

Where: Prince Edward Theatre

Address: Old Compton St, Soho, London W1D 4HS

Booking until: June 30

Credit: Deen van Meer

In a nutshell: "There are some good gags and serviceable work from other leads, Jade Ewen’s plucky Jasmine and Don Gallagher’s cackling villain Jafar among them. The flying carpet hovers without a hitch. But you don’t need to be a patriotic nut to miss old Widow Twankey, Wishy-Washy and the time-honoured British slant on this tale." Read the full review

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The Lion King ★★★★☆

Where: Lyceum Theatre

Address: 21 Wellington St, London WC2E 7RQ

Booking until: July 1

The Lion King

In a nutshell: "In theory it should all feel contrived - you've got Elton John and Tim Rice's anthemic pop efforts sharing the same terrain as earthy, soul-stirring African arrangements. The human presence creating the animal magic is openly signalled in the costumes and puppetry. And yet, for all that calculation, the over-riding impression is one of freshness – of potentially incongruous elements flowing together quite naturally." Read the full review

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Hamilton ★★★★★

Where: Victoria Palace Theatre

Address: 126 Victoria Street, SW1E 5EA

Booking until: July 28

Hamilton at the Victoria Palace Theatre

In a nutshell:"Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical phenomenon – the most talked-about musical of the century – retells the life and times of Alexander Hamilton (c1755 – 1804), first Secretary of the US Treasury, using a predominantly non-white cast and a welter of rap music." Read the full review

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Witness for the Prosecution ★★★★☆

Where: London County Hall

Address: Belvedere Road, London, SE1 7PB

Booking until: September 16

Credit: Alastair Muir

In a nutshell: "Lucy Bailey directs this entertaining adaptation of Agatha Christie's Twenties courtroom murder mystery, in which a man is accused of killing a widow in order to inherit her wealth. Staged in chambers at London's magnificent County Hall, this production puts the audience right at the heart of the action." Read the full review

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Young Frankenstein ★★★★☆

Where: Garrick Theatre

Address: 2 Charing Cross Road, London, WC2H 0HH

Booking until: September 29

Credit: Alastair Muir

In a nutshell: "At the age of 91, Mel Brooks is still making people howl with laughter. Howl, you might say, like werewolves. Audiences are rising to their feet in thanks for the mirth he has given the world over the years, and for what he has now done with Young Frankenstein, his celebrated spoof Thirties horror film. So what has he done? Well, stuck songs in it, obviously. This is an entertaining musical rehash of a celluloid comedy masterpiece." Read the full review

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Everybody’s Talking About Jamie ★★★★☆

Where: Apollo Theatre

Address: 31 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, W1D 7ES

Booking until: October 6

Credit: Getty

In a nutshell:"Is Everybody’s Talking About Jamie the new Billy Elliot for our times? It tells the story of Jamie New (John McCrea: sharp, sassy, and delightfully out there and vulnerable), a gay teenager at a northern comprehensive, who, platinum-blond cropped hair shining like a beacon, decides to make his name as a transvestite." Read the full review

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42nd Street ★★★★☆

Where: Theatre Royal Drury Lane

Address: Catherine Street, London, WC2B 5JF

Booking Until: October 20

Credit: Alastair Muir

In a nutshell: "42nd Street is the tyrannosaurus rex of tap-dancing. What its creators did back in the day (1980) was take a neglected Warner Bros 1933 classic, strip it down its essentials with only residual traces of the originating novel, and stuff in as many pleasure-giving songs from the gilded back-catalogue of Harry Warren and Al Dubin as possible, including that Depression-era paean to newfound wealth, We’re In the Money...  This is an American classic right royally revived. I loved it in the way one can’t help loving achingly beautiful things." Read the full review

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Les Misérables ★★★☆☆

Where: Queen's Theatre

Address: 51 Shaftesbury Ave, Soho, London W1D 6BA

Booking until: October 20

Credit: Deen van Meer

In a nutshell: "The long evening commands respect for its size, scale of ambition and great Gallic reservoirs of rousing bombast. Yet aside from a handful of numbers, mostly concentrated early on, genuine pathos gets lost in the hurly-burly of undistinguished, if dramatically efficient, bits of filler music." Read the full review

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Motown the Musical ★★★★☆

Where: Shaftsbury Theatre

Address: 210 Shaftesbury Ave, London WC2H 8DP

Booking until: January 5, 2019

Motown the Musical Credit: Alastair Muir

In a nutshell: "Never mind the sometimes clunky script – superb performances and a gilded back-catalogue make this musical an urgent rallying cry for us all to rediscover our Motown mojo." Read the full review

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child ★★★★★

Where: Palace Theatre

Address: Shaftesbury Ave, London W1D 5AY

Booking until: January 13, 2019

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Credit: Manuel Harlan

In a nutshell: "Tremors of excitement at the premiere of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – the first Potter play, and the eighth story in the publishing phenomenon that made J K Rowling’s name and fortune – are being felt across the world... The big news is that this is just what was needed, will raise the benchmark for family entertainment for years to come and may even usher in a whole cycle of Potter-world stories." Read the full review

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School of Rock ★★★★★

Where: New London Theatre

Address: 166 Drury Lane, London, WC2B 5PW

Booking until: January 13, 2019

Credit: Alastair Muir

In a nutshell: "Andrew Lloyd Webber and Julian Fellowes have made the grade in turning this much-loved 2003 Hollywood comedy into a musical. The stage version cleaves closely to the celluloid storyline, following the misadventures of Dewey Finn, a rock-loving slob who wangles an illicit gig as a supply teacher (faking his best friend’s identity) at a posh prep school. Once there, he courts the risk of exposure while giving his over-regimented charges a liberating education in rock... It's the most enjoyable few hours money can buy."  Read the full review

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Matilda: The Musical ★★★★★

Where: Cambridge Theatre

Address: 32-34 Earlham Street, London, WC2H 9HU

Booking until: February 10, 2019

Matilda

In a nutshell: "The RSC’s hilarious, moving and magical production of Matilda has now arrived in the West End, where I suspect it will delight audiences for years to come... It is the best new British musical since Billy Elliot. Dennis Kelly has adapted Roald Dahl's famous story for the stage, while Aussie comedian Tim Minchin has come up with a smashing score that combines take-home melodies with delicious lyrical wit."

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Wicked ★★★☆☆

Where: Apollo Victoria Theatre

Address: 17 Wilton Rd, Pimlico, London SW1V 1LG

Booking until: May 25, 2019

Credit: Tristram Kenton/Bloomberg News

In a nutshell: "No one could accuse Wicked of being a great musical - indeed at times it's a bit of a mess - but it proves far more enjoyable than I had dared to hope, and deserves a wider audience than adolescent schoolgirls." Read the full review

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