Happy New Year, Bechdel testers!
2018 was a fairly decent one when it came to stage-watching. We rode through the year powered by the energy of what seemed like a wave of FEMINIST BATTLECRY THEATRE, featuring killer ensemble casts filling stages across the country. Shout out to I Have A Mouth And I Will Scream, Collective Rage, Jubilee, Hot Brown Honey & Hive City Legacy, The Sweet Science of Bruising, Dance Nation, Six, Hole, Emilia, and Queens of Sheba. We also saw a TON of gloriously political, personal and stigma-smashing shows at theatres of all genres and sizes – special love to Scene, Everything I Am, Leave Taking, Trojan Horse, Baby Daddy, F**k You Pay Me, Miss Venezuela, Coconut, The Year of The Rooster Monk, Spun, A Small Place and It’s True, It’s True, It’s True.
We hosted post-shows at The Park, Ovalhouse, and VAULT, held workshops at The Mono Box and The Pleasance, and appeared on panels at Theatre 503 and Oxford Playhouse. We celebrated International Women’s Day with Racheal Ofori, Fuel Theatre, and a team of incredible artists in a night full of Equalitini cocktails raising money for Refugee Women. We hosted our very own drag night at Styx bar which raised enough to fund our trip to Edinburgh Fringe. And we fulfilled a dream of ours at the UK premiere of Fun Home when we chatted to our hero and inspiration, the ACTUAL Alison Bechdel and got her nod of approval for using her surname on literally everything we do… PHEW.
While this year has raised our expectations, it was by no means perfect. We continued to hear about numerous seasons, festivals, and shows jumping on the #feminist bandwagon without noticing that their “all female” or “gender balanced” line-up looked like a showcase of white, straight, posh, cis, able-bodied, thin, youthful privilege. Needless to say we haven’t been wasting time shining a light on those poor efforts, and our hope for 2019 is to see a more intersectional approach to representation on stage, everywhere from the fringe and subsidised theatre to commercial tours and West End shows.
With that in mind, here’s where we’re placing our high hopes at the beginning of 2019. Get your calendar out, these are the shows we think you should be booking for this week/month/year…
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Shows to see in 2019
The Convert continues at the Young Vic. 2018’s biggest-banking film actor Letitia Wright takes to the stage in her fellow Black Panther star Danai Gurira’s play about faith and identity.
Pulitzer Prize-winning Sweat by Lynn Nottage is on at the Donmar Warehouse, directed by Lynette Linton, and has just been extended until Feb 2. They also have FREE tickets for young people, so if you’re 25 or under snap those up asap.
Six is the musical about a group of Queens united in their mistreatment by one man (we don’t wanna say his name – it begins with H and ends with VIII). It was one of the biggest word-of-mouth hits of 2018, and returns to The Arts Theatre on Jan 17 for an epic diva-worthy run with tickets on sale until 2020.
Rhum and Clay’s new adaptation of The War of The Worlds was written with Isley Lynn, so of course (unlike its previous film, radio and stage adaptations) it passes the Bechdel test fantastically. It’s at New Diorama Theatre until Feb 9.
Some of the most fun shows we saw at Edinburgh Fringe this year are returning in January. Heather and Harry is at Camden People’s Theatre on January 15 & 16. Six the musical is at The Arts theatre from Jan 17, booking until May. Bitches In The Ford Ka is at Rosemary Branch Theatre on Jan 24 & 25 and Pegasus Theatre Oxford on Jan 26.
This year’s VAULT Festival is running Jan 23 – Mar 17, and has some exciting offerings, which we’ll be covering in more detail on our podcast & social media – but if you’re booking ahead we suggest checking out some of the shows we loved most when we saw them at Edinburgh Fringe: Queens of Sheba (Jan 30 – Feb 3), Ladykiller (Feb 27 – Mar 3), The Half (Feb 6 – 10), Len Blanco: Firing Blancs (Feb 7, 8, 28 & Mar 1), and Finding Fassbender (Mar 15 & 16).
Some other shows we highly recommend include: Inside Voices (Jan 23 – 27), Juniper and Jules (Jan 23 – 27), Dangerous Lenses (Jan 23 – 27), Lola (Jan 23 – 27), 17 (Jan 23 – 27), Salaam (Jan 30 – Feb 3), Fatty Fat Fat (Jan 30 – Feb 3), Hear Me Howl (Jan 30 – Feb 3), Elf Lyons: Love Songs To Guinea Pigs (Feb 14 – 15), i will still be whole (when you rip me in half) (Feb 27 – 28), Can I Touch Your Hair? (Mar 8 – 9), and 10 (Mar 13 – 17).
We’re also looking forward to spending some late nights at VAULT with some of our cabaret faves. It’ll definitely be worth staying up for Pecs: King for a Night (Feb 2), Shotgun Carousel: Eat Your Heart Out (Feb 16), Brazilian Wax XXL (Mar 2) and The Family Jewels (Mar 8).
Camden People’s Theatre has partnered with China Arts Now to present previous podcast guest Jennifer Tang’s show based on her personal experience Ghost Girl // Gwei Mui 鬼妹 from Jan 22 – Feb 9. You can see it in a double bill alongside some other brilliant artists for a bargain price, we recommend Alissa Anne Jeun Yi’s Love Songs on Jan 22-26, or Paula Varjack’s The Cult of K*nzo Feb 5 – 9.
Also part of Chinese Arts Now, we’re looking forward to seeing London-based Chinese artist and drag king Whiskey Chow’s The Moon Is Warmer Than The Sun at Toynbee Studios on Jan 31 & Feb 1.
Flight Paths is a multi-media co-production between Extant and Yellow Earth inspired by the Goze: blind female performers who travelled around medieval Japan making a living from telling epic tales. The show combines movement, music, narrative and creative audio description using new sound technology, and is on tour from Feb 5.
Natasha Gordon’s Nine Night, fulfilled our expectations of brilliance in 2018 and has transferred to the West End where it’s playing at Trafalgar Studios in Aldgate until Feb 23.
The new stage adaptation of one of our most beloved childhood books, The Worst Witch is getting rave reviews on tour across the UK throughout 2019, with upcoming dates in Sheffield, Derby, Canterbury, Dartford, Southampton and more.
Smack That (a conversation), Rhiannon Faith’s extraordinary show by and for women who have experienced domestic abuse, is back in 2019. It’s a party, a dance performance, a supportive safe space, and an engaging piece of truly live art. It’s touring in 2019 to locations including Essex, London, Portsmouth, Oxford, Salford, Newcastle, and Salisbury.
Adjoa Andoh and Lynette Linton are directing Richard II at The Globe from Feb 22 – Apr 21. In one of 2019’s first “Seriously, theatre – how has this taken so long?!” moments (we’re sure it won’t be the last) this production features the first all-WOC company in a major UK Shakespeare staging.
The Globe’s last big feminist moment from last summer came in the form of Emilia. After only a short run in 2018 – followed by impassioned demand for its return, Morgan Lloyd Malcom’s rallying cry of a play is opening at the Vaudeville Theatre on March 8.
Tatty Hennessey’s coming of age story with polar bears, A Hundred Words For Snow, is returning after a hugely successful VAULT run last year. You can catch it at Trafalgar Studios Mar 5-30.
Our Drag King faves Pecs have a 2 week long run of their new show Sex Sex Men Men at The Yard Theatre in Hackney, so if their King For The Night party at VAULT whets your appetite for more, you’ll have plenty of chances to catch the boys Feb 26 – Mar 9.
Barbarian Collective are a theatre company which puts “the outsider” are the forefront of storytelling – their The Castilla Sisters tells the story of two sisters in contemporary Mexico after one of them goes missing, and is at the Bread and Roses Theatre in Clapham Mar 26 – 30.
The Royal Court’s upcoming season includes Superhoe directed by the wondeful Jade Lewis (Jan 30 – Feb 16), Clean Break’s brand new show Inside Bitch (Feb 27 – Mar 23), a highly anticipated London run for Selina Thompson’s inimitable salt. and Lynette Linton’s series of filmed monologues Passages: A Windrush Celebration, focusing on British West Indian experiences, which will be released weekly online and culminate in a screening and day of celebration on April 13.
In case you’ve got this far down the list and not noticed yet: 2019 BELONGS to Lynette Linton. As well as having work on at the Globe, the Donmar, and the Royal Court, Lynette has just taken up a new job as The Bush Theatre’s Artistic Director. We’re super-hyped to hear what she programmes in 2019. In the meantime, you can catch these phenomenal shows in their upcoming season: And The Rest of Me Floats (Feb 20 – 16), The Trick Feb 19 – Mar 23), Yvette (May 14 – June 1), and Babylon a 2 week long festival celebrating the contemporary global influences and experiences of Black and Brown people, presented by Tobi Kyeremateng and Ruthie Osterman (Feb 4 – 16).
The Bunker is also presenting an entire season of incredible looking work, including some shows we HEAVILY recommend, having seen them in previous incarnations: Boots (Feb 19 – Mar 16), Box Clever (Mar 26 – Apr 13), Funeral Flowers (Apr 15 – May 4), and F**k You Pay Me (May 7 – 19), along with Rachel De-Lahay’s letter writing project: My White Best Friend, in which writers (including 2 of the most exciting creative minds we know, Matilda Ibini and Travis Alabanza) are commissioned to write letters engaging with racial tensions, microaggressions and emotional labour, which will be read aloud for the first time by performers live on stage each night.
The second in Koko Brown’s trilogy of colour plays (following last year’s White): Grey, will be performed as part of Camden People Theatre’s spring season on April 11. This show explores depression and black women’s mental health with Koko’s signature loop pedal and fully integrated BSL.
Bryony Kimmings’ cathartic and touching return to solo performance: I’m A Phoenix Bitch is returning to its origin at the beautifully restored Battersea Arts Centre Feb 20 – Mar 9 and heading down to Brighton at The Attenborough Centre May 3-7.
Possibly the best ‘straight play’ we saw last year, Ella Road’s The Phlebotomist, is transferring this year from the Hampstead Theatre’s studio space (where it sold out after word-of-mouth spread like wildfire) to their main stage Mar 19 – Apr 20. Jade Anouka returns to play the title role after a triumphant year of rave reviews for her performances in Manchester Royal Exchange’s Queen Margaret, and ITV’s Cleaning Up.
Libby Liburd’s new show Fighter is at Stratford Circus Apr 25 – 27. It tells the story of a single mum plunged into the world of boxing, features a cast of young boxers, and will provide a free crèche available for any parents watching the matinee performance.
Theatre 503 has two excellent loo king shows coming up in spring 2019: Damsel Productions’ The Amber Trap (Apr 24 – May 18), and J’Ouvert: A timely reflection on the Black British experience set during Notting Hill Carnival (May 29 – Jun 22).
In July we’ll be seeing in the summer with Brainchild Festival in Sussex. Brainchild is the place where we’ve seen our first glimpses of some of the most exciting companies and performers we’ve seen over the past couple of years, so we’re majorly hyped to see what they have in store for 2019 – their first year with full Arts Council support. If you just can’t wait for summer, you can check out the Brainchild team’s regular scratch night: Hatch at Platform in Southwark.
That’s all for now! If you bump into us at once of these shows come and say hi, and let us know what you think of our recommendation – you’ll know us by the Bechdel Theatre badges, stickers, tote bags and whatever other branded clothing we can afford in 2019.