From Pygmalion to Vanya: the best theatre to see in September in London

Strategic Love Play  (Pamela Raith )
Strategic Love Play (Pamela Raith )

From fresh adaptations of beloved classics to original thought-provoking shows, London is heaving with new theatre productions this summer.

But with so many to choose from, picking what to see in the capital can feel like a dramatic epic. So we’ve done the heavy lifting for you with a list of our top picks to watch this September.

Already open

La Cage Aux Folles, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre will host the classic play (David Jensen)
Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre will host the classic play (David Jensen)

Harvey Fierstein’s classic, with music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, is primed for a major revival at Regent’s Park this summer. Georges, Albin and their son Jean-Michel re-discover the true meaning of family, and the sacrifice of putting their dreams last so that their loved ones can shine. Prepare to experience the surreal moment of hearing I Am What I Am belted out while you’re surrounded by the breezy trees and the resident ducks quacking along.

To September 16; Book tickets here

A Mirror, Almeida

Sam Holcroft’s new play about free speech, censorship and authorship, begins with a marriage conducted under uncomfortable circumstances: “This performance is being staged without a licence from the Ministry. We recognise the risk that each and every one of you is taking by attending, and we salute your courage,” teases the Almeida online.

Jeremy Herrin (Best of Enemies) directs a cast of stars including Jonny Lee Miller (Trainspotting), Tanya Reynolds (Sex Education) and Micheal Ward (Top Boy) for this exciting world premiere.

To September 23; Book tickets here

The Effect, National Theatre

Paapa Essiedu and Taylor Russell in Lucy Prebble’s The Effect (National Theatre/Marc Brenner)
Paapa Essiedu and Taylor Russell in Lucy Prebble’s The Effect (National Theatre/Marc Brenner)

In this new rendition of Lucy Prebble’s The Effect, Taylor Russell (Bones and All) and Paapa Essiedu (I May Destroy You) star as Connie and Tristan, two volunteers at a clinical drug trial who start to fall in love. Their secret relationship gets off to a rocky start as neither volunteer can be absolutely sure it’s love that they are feeling and not the trial’s new antidepressant.

The award-winning play was widely praised when it originally premiered at the National Theatre’s Cottesloe Theatre in 2012, and its writer, Prebble, went on to be an executive producer and writer on Succession. This time Jamie Lloyd (Cyrano de Bergerac) directs.

To October 7; Book tickets here

Next to Normal, Donmar

Next to Normal, the three-time Tony Award-winning 2008 American rock musical, will enjoy its UK premiere at the Donmar Warehouse this month. The Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, whose music was written by Tom Kitt with book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey, follows the trials and tribulations of suburban housewife Diana Goodman (Caissie Levy), as she grapples with bipolar disorder as well as her memories. The Donmar’s artistic director, Michael Longhurst, oversees the production.

To October 7; Tickets are now sold out

Dr Semmelweis, Harold Pinter Theatre

Mark Rylance on the stage is always an event, and here he returns to the West End as one of medicine’s great (and little-known) pioneers, Ignaz Semmelweis. In 19th century Vienna, the Hungarian doctor wants to halt the thousands of deaths of women in childbirth each year by using a groundbreaking antiseptic procedure. But to do so he has to persuade his colleagues to admit culpability and approve change. Already a critical and audience hit during its run at the Bristol Old Vic.

To October 7;

As You Like It, Shakespeare’s Globe

Shakespeare’s 400-year-old comedy continues to delight. This time, director Ellen McDougall, whose recent credits include Watch on the Rhine (Donmar) and Insurrection: A Work in Progress (Royal Opera House), makes her Globe debut with this adaptation of the beloved pastoral comedy.

To October 29; Book tickets here

Crazy for You, Gillian Lynne Theatre

This musical about a theatre-mad banker who sets out to rescue a small town venue from destruction is directed and choreographed by Tony and Olivier award-winner Susan Stroman. It stars Charlie Stemp as plucky hero Bobby Childs, and follows him as he stages a glitzy new show in a bid to save the day.

To January 20, 2024; Book tickets here

Mrs Doubtfire, Shaftesbury Theatre

Mrs Doubtfire kicks off in June 22 (Handout)
Mrs Doubtfire kicks off in June 22 (Handout)

After a run in Manchester, this comedy musical adaptation of the hit Robin Williams film has finally arrived in the West End. After losing custody of his children, out-of-work actor Daniel disguises himself as a Scottish nanny to stay in their lives, and... well, you know the rest. The beloved story now has added songs.

To January 24, 2024; Book tickets here

Opening this month

Strategic Love Play, Soho Theatre

Succession writer Miriam Battye’s latest work, Strategic Love Play, made with award-winning director Katie Posner, was a smash hit when it premiered at Edinburgh Fringe last month, raking in a load of four and five-star reviews. Now the dark comedy about an awkward date, which puts modern romance under the microscope, has transferred to Soho Theatre.

The Standard spoke to Battye and Posner about dates, romance and the Fringe in this week’s Evening Standard Theatre Podcast.

September 6 to 23; Book tickets here

Pygmalion, Old Vic Theatre

Olivier Award-winner Richard Jones directs Bertie Carvel (The 47th, The Crown) and Patsy Ferran (Summer and Smoke, A Streetcar Named Desire) in Pygmalion, the 1913 George Bernard Shaw play which My Fair Lady is based on. The well-known story never gets old: flower seller Eliza Doolittle meets Professor Henry Higgins and Colonel Pickering who make a bet over whether she can be turned into a lady.

September 6 to October 28; Book tickets here

Red Pitch, Bush Theatre

Francis Lovehall, Emeka Sesay and Kedar Williams-Stirling in Red Pitch at the Bush Theatre in 2022 (Craig Fuller)
Francis Lovehall, Emeka Sesay and Kedar Williams-Stirling in Red Pitch at the Bush Theatre in 2022 (Craig Fuller)

Tyrell Williams’ award-winning play returns to the Bush Theatre for a three-week run along with its original cast Francis Lovehall, Emeka Sesay and Kedar Williams-Stirling. By telling the story of childhood friends Omz, Bilal and Joey, who have ambitions to be football players, Williams also explores gentrification, race and adolescence.

“Tyrell Williams’ footie debut plays a blinder,” said the Standard in February last year. “Daniel Bailey’s production demands deft footwork and a high level of fitness as well as verbal agility from his likeable cast: it’s 90 minutes of end-to-end stuff.”

September 7 to 30; Book tickets here

Infamous, Jermyn Street Theatre

April De Angelis’ latest play stars Caroline Quentin and her daughter Rose as two versions of Emma Hamilton, the professional mistress who married Sir William Hamilton, the Kingdom of Naples’ British ambassador in 1791 aged 26. She became influential at the Italian court, and ended up having an affair, and a baby, with Horatio Nelson.

Promising to “set the record straight on one of the most famous figures in Georgian society”, Infamous, which has been directed by Michael Oakley, looks at Hamilton’s extraordinary life.

September 7 to October 7; Book tickets here

Anthropology, Hampstead Theatre

Anthropology tells the story of an acclaimed Silicon Valley software engineer whose young sister Angie goes missing. Beset by sorrow, Merril decides to build a virtual replacement, which ends up bringing more to her life than she had bargained for.

The play has been directed by longtime Hampstead Theatre collaborator Anna Ledwich (Dry Powder, Four Minutes) and written by American playwright Lauren Gunderson. Gunderson is known as one of America’s most popular playwrights after an astonishing 24 of her plays were produced between 2001 and 2021.

September 7 to October 14; Book tickets here

Frank and Percy, The Other Palace Theatre

Percy (Ian McKellen) and Frank (Roger Allam) in Frank and Percy (Jack Merriman)
Percy (Ian McKellen) and Frank (Roger Allam) in Frank and Percy (Jack Merriman)

Ben Weatherill’s Frank and Percy was a huge success when it premiered at the Theatre Royal Windsor in June: “With bark and bite in the most unexpected places, the play nips at the heels of those who claim sexual fluidity is the pleasure of just the young,” said the Standard. Now the play, which stars Ian McKellen and three-time Olivier award winner Roger Allam as two lonely men who connect over a love of dogs and develop a deep relationship, is transferring to The Other Palace Theatre for a 12-week run.

September 8 to December 3; Book tickets here

Beautiful Thing, Theatre Royal Stratford East

Raphael Akuwudike and Joshua Asaré play neighbours and lovers Ste and Jamie in this new imagining of Jonathan Harvey’s pioneering play, which is being revived at the Theatre Royal Stratford East for its 30th birthday. Anthony Simpson-Pike (deputy artistic director at the Yard Theatre) is directing the moving play which explores class, abuse, ambition, family and love.

September 8 to October 7; Book tickets here

The Father and the Assassin, National Theatre

Paul Bazely (Mohandas Gandhi) and Shubham Saraf (Nathuram Godse) in The Father and the Assassin at the National Theatre in 2022 (Marc Brenner)
Paul Bazely (Mohandas Gandhi) and Shubham Saraf (Nathuram Godse) in The Father and the Assassin at the National Theatre in 2022 (Marc Brenner)

Anupama Chandrasekhar’s highly-acclaimed play looks into India’s independence by exploring the life of Nathuram Godse, Mahatma Gandhi’s killer. Described by critics as “gripping”, “exhilarating”, “stirring” and “brilliantly entertaining”, it’s no real wonder that the play is back for a second run at the National Theatre. Paul Bazely (Cruella) returns to play Gandhi, while Olivier award-winner Hiran Abeysekera (Life of Pi) joins the cast to play Godse.

September 8 to October 14; Book tickets here

That Face, Orange Tree Theatre

Polly Stenham’s debut play at 21, That Face made a splash when it premiered at the Royal Court Theatre in 2007. It told the story of the intertwining lives of three members of a privileged family: daughter Mia, who is expelled from boarding school, her brother Henry and their mother Martha (their father Hugh is living it up in Hong Kong with a new girlfriend).

Now the award-winning play, is being revived by director John Seymour, with Niamh Cusack leading the cast as the complicated Martha.

September 9 to October 7; Book tickets here

Death of England: Closing Time, The National Theatre’s Dorfman Theatre

Writers Clint Dyer (Othello) and Roy Williams (Sucker Punch) reunite for the third and final act of their Death of England trilogy. They continue to explore race and class in Britain, but this time its through a female lens: Jo Martin (Doctor Who) and Hayley Squires (I, Daniel Blake) play Denise and daughter-in-law Carly who have to work together after they lose their family shop.

September 13 to November 11; Book tickets here

Mlima’s Tale, Kiln Theatre

Miranda Cromwell (Death of a Salesman) directs Pulitzer Prize-winner writer Lynn Nottage’s 2018 play which explores capitalism and corruption through the story of the ivory trade and Mlima, one of the last ‘Great Tusker’ elephants. When Mlima (Ira Mandela Siobhan) is murdered, his ghost won’t leave those responsible alone.

When Mlima’s Tale first premiered in New York, it was described by the New York Times as “beautiful” and an “endlessly echoing portrait of a murder and its afterlife”.

September 14 to October 21; Book tickets here

King Stakh’s Wild Hunt, Barbican

The world premiere of King Stakh’s Wild Hunt is running for just three days at the Barbican. Based on one of Belarusian writer Uladzimir Karatkievich’s most popular novels, the gothic noir has been directed by the co-founding artistic directors of the Belarus Free Theatre, and features opera singers, musicians and actors from Ukraine and Belarus.

September 14 to 16; Book tickets here

Vanya, Duke of York’s Theatre

Andrew Scott will star in the one-man play this month (Oliver Rosser Feast Creative)
Andrew Scott will star in the one-man play this month (Oliver Rosser Feast Creative)

The hot priest himself, Andrew Scott, is to star in a radical version of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya in which he plays all eight characters. As no one can get enough of Scott, this is sure to be theatrical catnip, so get a ticket fast.

September 15 to October 21; Book tickets here

Stephen Sondheim’s Old Friends, Gielgud Theatre

Originally a night only event staged by choreographer Matthew Bourne and actor Maria Friedman, this concert was created to celebrate the life of legendary composer Stephen Sondheim, who died in 2021 aged 91. The show immediately sold out and went on to win the WhatsOnStage Award for Best Theatre Event; now it’s back for a 16-week run at the Gielgud Theatre.

September 20 to January 6, 2024; Book tickets here

untitled f*ck m*ss s**gon play, Young Vic

New York-based playwright Kimber Lee takes audiences on a journey through time, looking at Asian stereotypes. Described by the Young Vic as a “powerful new satire”, the play won the The Bruntwood Prize International Award in 2019 and has been met with near-universal acclaim. Directed by Roy Alexander Weise (The Mountaintop), the story follows Kim, who is having “one of those days”.

September 18 to November 4; Book tickets here

Close-Up: The Twiggy Musical, Menier Chocolate Factory

Written and directed by Ben Elton (The Beautiful Game and We Will Rock You), Close-Up tells the story of Sixties superstar model Twiggy’s life as she transformed from, as the show puts it, “a skinny kid from Neasden” to “the most famous teenager on the planet”.

September 18 to November 18; Book tickets here

Compositor E, Omnibus Theatre

Set in 1623, Compositor E tells the story of one extremely thrilling internship: 17-year-old apprentice typesetter John (Tré Medley) is working on Shakespeare’s first-ever complete works. Written by Charlie Dupré (iTalk at the Platypus Theater) and directed by Marie McCarthy, the play marks 10 years of the Omnibus Theatre and 400 years since Shakespeare’s First Folio was published.

September 19 to October 7; Book tickets here

LUNG and The North Wall: Woodhill, Shoreditch Town Hall

In this collaborative project between award-winning theatre companies LUNG and The North Wall, real-life family testimony, thumping beats and choreography are used to investigate the true story of three men who died in Woodhill prison in Milton Keynes.

The play first premiered last month in Edinburgh and raked in some absolutely scorching reviews. The Standard gave it five stars, saying: “All that music, that movement, the cloud of ashes that’s tossed into the air each time the name of one of the Woodhill dead is announced, it meets the senses on a deep, aching level.”

September 20 to October 7; Book tickets here

Imposter 22, Royal Court Downstairs

Written by Molly Davies (God Bless The Child, A Miracle) and directed by Hamish Pirie (Living Archive, Rare Earth Mettle), Imposter 22 is a play about the politics of neurodiversity that has been co-created alongside its performers Kirsty Adams, Cian Binchy, Housni Hassan (DJ), Dayo Koleosho, Stephanie Newman, Lee Phillips and Charlene Salter.

September 23 to October 14; Book tickets here

You Heard Me, Battersea Arts Centre

Written and performed by Luca Rutherford (The Answers, A Really Small Dance), directed by Maria Crocker (The Sorcerers Apprentice at Northern Stage) and devised with an all-female creative team, You Heard Me is about sexual violence, healing, strength and freedom.

September 27 to October 14; Book tickets here