By Jamie Moore
With the impending summer solstice comes a fistful of theatrical gems in London’s East. Slip on something suitably loose, and lope down to your nearest empathy factory; there’s plenty of East London theatre to enjoy this June
Flinch – Old Red Lion Theatre
Playing until 15 June
The much-lauded theatre company Sounds Like Thunder bring Emma Hemingford’s debut play Flinch to the Old Red Lion Theatre this June. The writer also acts in the play, fittingly, as a young actor fresh out of drama school. She plays opposite Joseph Reed as Mark, a city boy whose brittle masculinity is brought to bear. An unseemly encounter with a mugger sends the couple into centrifugal spin, which threatens to tear them asunder. Be sure to catch this before it closes on 15 June.
Old Red Lion Theatre, 418 St John St, Islington, London EC1V 4NJ
020 7837 7816
King Hedley II – Theatre Royal Stratford East
Playing until 16 June
The penultimate play in August Wilson’s (of Fences fame) 10-play cycle about the African American experience, King Hedley II is now playing at the Theatre Royal Stratford East. This pressure-cooked drama delves into the lives of African Americans living in the Hill District of Pittsburgh. The multiplicity of narrative strands interweave and play out explosively among Christopher Shutt’s dream-like back yard set, which stretches back into a shadowy mist. The cast deliver Wilson’s text with commendable zeal, making the ominous 3 hour and 10 minute running time entirely bearable. Be sure to catch it before it closes on 16 June.
Theatre Royal Stratford East, Gerry Raffles Square, London E15 1BN
020 8534 0310
The Sweet Science of Bruising – Wilton’s Music Hall
Playing until 29 June
Before Joy Wilkinson had written a single word of The Sweet Science of Bruising, she dreamed of seeing it play at the Grade 2 listed marvel that is Wilton’s Music Hall, built in 1859. After a successful run at the Southwark Playhouse last October, this timely story of Victorian female boxers returns this June. Wilkinson’s exhaustively researched play is an enrapturing affair, exploring the tumultuous lives of four women from across the social strata who find liberation in these historically unprecedented pugilistic endeavours. An excellent cast and evocative setting make for an exquisite evening of theatre.
Wilton’s Music Hall, 1 Graces Alley, Whitechapel, London E1 8JB
020 7702 2789
Armadillo – The Yard Theatre
Playing until 22 June
Set in small-town America, Sarah Kosar’s new play Armadillo tells the story of a young women who, fifteen years earlier, was abducted and held captive. This mercurial, and profoundly kinetic, production explores how this young woman’s desire for safety and empowerment brings her closer to danger and mortal peril. Some excellent performances, and director Sara Joyce’s expert curation of this staccato drama, make it one to watch this June.
The Yard Theatre, Unit 2A, Queen’s Yard, Hackney Wick, London E9 5EN
020 3111 0570
The Damned (Les Damnés) – Barbican Centre
Playing 19 – 25 June
Renowned director Ivo van Hove helms Comédie-Française’s The Damned (Les Damnés) at Barbican Centre from the 19th to 25th June. This spectacular work is based on Luchino Visconti’s screenplay for the 1969 film of the same name. A 30-strong throng of actors and technicians conjure up the tragic story of a family of German industrialists who find themselves perilously in cahoots with a burgeoning Nazi regime. This is van Hove’s first collaboration with the respected French theatre company. Boasting a throbbing sound design and dazzling visuals, this production’s a must-see.
Barbican Centre, Silk St, Barbican, London EC2Y 8DS,
020 7638 8891
Riot Act – Arcola Theatre
Playing until 30 June
Following a sold-out West End run, Alexis Gregory’s Riot Act offers up a zeitgeistian exploration of the history of the LGBTQ rights movement. Rikki Beadle-Blair directs this uplifting and boisterously merry piece of verbatim theatre, constituted of interviews conducted by the show’s creator with individuals involved in the movement, including Michael-Anthony Nozzi, one of the few remaining survivors of the Stonewall riots. Riot Act honours the 50th anniversary of the riots –– be sure to catch it before it heads off on its UK tour.
Arcola Theatre, 24 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, +44 20 7503 1646
The Glass Menagerie – Arcola Theatre
Playing until 13 July
Tennessee William’s memory play The Glass Menagerie is realised with gut-wrenching aplomb at the Arcola Theatre this June. Set in 1930s St Louis, this production sees the Wingfield family depicted as African American; an intriguing twist, given the matriarch, Amanda, hails from the American South where she was wooed by a deluge of gentleman callers. Femi Elufowoju Jr’s propulsive production does justice to the poignancy of Williams’s tragedy. Many a hastily wiped tear at the curtain call attest to raw power of this production. This is one to watch.
Arcola Theatre, 24 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL,
020 7503 1646
Afterglow – Southwark Playhouse
Playing until 20 July
Asher Gelman’s Afterglow found rampant success during its extended Off-Broadway run, and now comes to the Southwark Playhouse for its UK premiere. The play explores the intricate, and potentially fraught, dynamics of the chimerical open relationship. The play delves into the labyrinthine web of emotional, physical and intellectual connections forged between three men as they navigate the triangle of their affection. Book a ticket before the show closes on 20 July.
Southwark Playhouse, 77-85 Newington Causeway, London SE1 6BD
020 7407 0234