The best new London theatre openings in April

Some huge names dominate April in London, as stage legends Ian McKellen and Brian Cox take on colossal roles in plays by Shakespeare and Eugene O’Neill. Neither actor seems to be showing any sign of slowing down, but you have to think this is your last chance to see them in something quite so epic. Music legend PJ Harvey will also get her first major stage credit as songwriter for the National Theatre’s Dickens adaptation ‘London Tide’, in an otherwise eclectic month taking in everything from postcolonial interactive theatre to an adaptation of sci-fi classic ‘Minority Report’.


Player Kings, Ian McKellen, 2024
Photo: Manuel Harlan

1. Player Kings

Ian McKellen is truly the David Attenborough of the stage: almost two decades past retirement age, this is something like the acting legend’s sixth stage role since the pandemic alone. And what a role. Aged 84, Sir Ian will take on one of the greatest of all Shakespearean parts to star as the funny, tragic Sir John Falstaff in auteur director Robert Icke’s four-hour modern-dress mash-up of ‘Henry IV’ parts one and two. Truly not to be missed, and if McKellen can get through a four-hour-play then you certainly can.

Noël Coward Theatre, Apr 1-Jun 22. Book tickets here.


Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Wyndham’s Theatre, 2024
Photo: Johan PerssonBrian Cox


2. Long Day’s Journey Into Night

After becoming a global superstar playing one flawed patriarch, ‘Succession’ stalwart and all-round acting legend Brian Cox cashes in the newfound heights of his fame to tackle another. ‘Long Day’s Journey Into Night’ is, of course, Eugene O’Neill’s posthumously published monolith of a play about the disintegration of the deeply damaged Tyrone family: Cox will star as James Tyrone, the embittered father, resentful of a career spent playing a single stage role.

Wyndham’s Theatre, until Jun 8. Book tickets here.


London Tide, National Theatre, 2024
Photo: Spencer Murphy


3. London Tide

Alt rock genius PJ Harvey has been quietly contributing songs to stage plays for years, largely those directed by Ian Rickson, who also directs her live shows. ‘London Tide’, however, marks her first outing as a headline creative in a stage show: it’s a new adaptation of Dickens’s ‘Our Mutual Friend’ by Ben Power, with songs by Harvey and direction from Rickson. A must for fans of the enduring grunge icon.

National Theatre, Apr 10-Jun 22.


Blue Beard, Battersea Arts Centre, 2024
Photo: Steve Tanner

4. Blue Beard

By all accounts this is another superb show from the brilliant Emma Rice, formerly of Kneehigh and Shakespeare’s Globe. Adapted by Rice from the bloodthirsty French legend about a wealthy nobleman who murders his many wives, her version of ‘Blue Beard’ has received rapturous notices on tour for its mix of her trademark whimsy and a hard-hitting feminist edge that emerges late on.

Battersea Arts Centre, Apr 23-May 18.


The Comeuppance, Almeida Theatre, 2024
Photo: Almeida Theatre

5. The Comeuppance

Cerebral US playwright Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins made a big splash back in 2017 when his superb plays ‘An Octoroon’ and ‘Gloria’ premiere in London at the same time. We’ve not heard much from him since, but hopes are high for the recast transfer of this dark comedy about a group of high school misfits who reconvene at their 20-year reunion and wonder how much they’ve really changed.

Almeida Theatre, Apr 6-May 18.


Machinal, Old Vic, 2024
Photo: Foteini Christofilopoulou

6. Machinal

Sophie Treadwell’s impressionist masterpiece about a young woman who violently snaps one day – inspired by the real-life 1928 case of Ruth Snyder – was last seen in London six years ago, at the Almeida. Now we’re getting a second in a decade: this Theatre Royal Bath production directed by Richard Jones transfers to the Old Vic on the back of excellent reviews, especially for star Rosie Sheehy.

Old Vic, Apr 11-Jun 1. Buy tickets here.

Minority Report, Lyric Hammersmith, 2024
Photo: Marc Brenner

7. Minority Report

You don’t get a lot of sci-fi on the London stage. But a few years ago the Lyric Hammersmith produced an excellent adaptation of Lem Stanisław’s classic ‘Solaris’. And now it takes a fascinating stab at Philip K Dick’s Cold War short story ‘The Minority Report’. Adapted by David Haig, it concerns a future in which crime has been eliminated thanks to a psychic police department that arrests criminals before they act. But things go terribly wrong when the head of the unit is told she will commit a murder.

Lyric Hammersmith, Apr 19-May 18. Buy tickets here.

1884, Shoreditch Town Hall, 2024
Photo: Alex Brenner

8. 1884

Theatre company Coney has long been a byword for clever, interesting interactive theatre. And playwright Rhianna Ilube scored a superb hit at the Yard Theatre with her witty postcolonial drama ‘Samuel Takes a Break…’. Now the two have joined forces for new show ‘1884’, which takes you inside the little-remembered 1884 Berlin Conference in which the European powers formalised their division of Africa. Now you can decide how the continent is colonised, in a show that promises to be both entertaining and provocative.

Shoreditch Town Hall, Apr 17-27.

This is Memorial Device, Riverside Studios, 2024
Photo: Mihaela Bodlovic

9. This is Memorial Device

David Keenan’s hallucinatory novel about a fictional Scottish indie band from the ’80s is a cult modern classic, and now it has a stage version. Having scored warm notices at the 2022 Edinburgh Fringe, the stage version of ‘This is Memorial Device’ finally makes its London debut, again starring Scots actor Paul Higgins.

Riverside Studios, Apr 23-May 11

The Cord, Bush Theatre, 2024
Photo: Marc Brenner

10. The Cord

A decade ago, Bijan Sheibani was tipped to become one of the biggest directors in the UK. That didn’t exactly happen (though don’t rule it out – he still keeps his end in). But what did is more interesting as his writing career took off: he was one of the lead writers on Netflix smash ‘One Day’ and had a hit at the Bush a few years back with debut play ‘The Arrival’. Now he follows it up with ‘The Cord’, an intriguing new drama about a wan who struggles to connect to his first child.

Bush Theatre, Apr 12-May 25. Buy tickets here.

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