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The UK’s best theatre: what to book now, with Emma Thompson, Juliette Binoche and Mark Strong
February 20, 2015 | By:

This spring and summer are set to be blockbuster seasons for the stage, with a host of home-grown and international talent treading the boards, including stars in their prime. Lucy Handley reports

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Bradley Cooper and Alessandro Nivola in Elephant Man. Photo by Joan Marcus

Emma Thompson (55), Mark Strong (51) and Juliette Binoche (50) are the hot stars lined up to perform this spring and summer. Here’s our list of the top shows to book now.

Antigone, Barbican, London 4 to 28 March

Juliette Binoche stars as Antigone, the daughter of Oedipus, whose brother has died a traitor. She buries him, defying her uncle in the process, and shows herself to put family before politics.

This promises to be one of the theatrical year’s high notes, with the last few tickets sure to be snapped up fast.

Tickets for Antigone at the Barbican

Wonder.land, Palace Theatre, Manchester 29 June to 12 July

A musical reworking of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, this is Damon Albarn’s third outing at the Manchester International Festival. Starring 12 year-old Aly, familiar characters such as the Cheshire Cat and the Red Queen inhabit her online world, but she soon finds her digital and real life colliding.

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Wonder.land is Damon Albarn’s third outing at the Manchester International Festival

If you miss out on tickets for the Manchester performances, the production will visit the National Theatre in November and the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris next year.

Tickets for Wonder.land at the Manchester International Festival

Hay Fever, Duke of York’s Theatre, London 29 April to 1 August

The critics loved last year’s Theatre Royal, Bath production of Noel Coward’s play, and it transfers to London this spring.

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Felicity Kendal with Alice Orr-Ewing and Edward Franklin in Hay Fever. Photo by Nobby Clark

Starring Felicity Kendal as Judith Bliss, an actress who was once a glittering star, it is set over an outrageous and hilarious weekend at the Bliss family’s country pile, where family members and guests vie for the limelight.

Tickets for Hay Fever at the Duke of York’s Theatre

McQueen, St James Theatre, London 12 May to 6 June

McQueen is a ‘journey into the visionary imagination and dark dream world of Alexander McQueen, fashion’s greatest contemporary artist’. It’s set over a night in London and features a girl in a tree, a break-in and of course, a dress.

It follows the Savage Beauty exhibition of McQueen’s work, showing at the V&A from 14 March.

Tickets for McQueen at St James Theatre

A View from the Bridge, Wyndham’s Theatre, 10 February to 11 April, and in cinemas on 26 March

If you can’t make it to London’s Wyndham’s Theatre to see the ‘brooding’ Mark Strong in this Arthur Miller classic, then head to your local cinema from 26 March where it will be broadcast live.

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Mark Strong (can you believe he’s 51?) stars in A View from the Bridge. Photo by Jan Versweyveld

Reviewers raved over his performance this week, but The Guardian warned: “It’s like watching a runaway train hurtle towards you and being unable to move. It runs uninterrupted for two hours and leaves you as broken as the characters.”

Tickets for A View from the Bridge at Wyndham’s Theatre

Tickets for A View from the Bridge at cinemas through NT Live

Sweeney Todd, English National Opera, London Coliseum 30 March to 12 April

One of High50’s favourite actresses, Emma Thompson, stars as Mrs Lovett to Bryn Terfel’s demon barber Sweeney Todd, as he murders his customers and she bakes them into pies.

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Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel as Mrs Lovett and Sweeney Todd. Photo by Chris Lee

The ENO orchestra will appear on stage with the cast in this musical version, just as the New York Philarmonic did in last year’s production at Avery Fisher Hall. And can Thompson sing? ‘Could she ever,’ said the New York Times.

Tickets for Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street at the London Coliseum

The Elephant Man, Theatre Royal Haymarket, London 19 May – 8 August

Oscar-nominated actor Bradley Cooper is to hit our shores this spring for a limited run in The Elephant Man, based on the real life story of Brit Joseph Merrick who became a freak-show star.

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Bradley Cooper in Elephant Man on Broadway. It transfers to the West End this May. Photo by Joan Marcus

He got pretty good reviews for his currently-running Broadway performance; according to The Guardian: “He gives a bravura performance and occasionally quite a moving one. He might as well clear trophy space on his mantel now.”

Tickets for The Elephant Man at the Theatre Royal Haymarket

His Dark Materials, Nuffield Theatre, Southampton 26 June to 11 July

Philip Pullman’s epic creation runs in two parts this summer at Southampton’s Nuffield Theatre, winner of regional theatre of the year at last month’s The Stage awards. The production will be performed by Nuffield’s youth theatre group.

Tickets for His Dark Materials at the Nuffield Theatre, Southampton