On Stage This Month: January

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Sex, intrigue, betrayal, and Michael Barrymore - January's theatre offerings are dark and brooding, kind of like January itself. There's some big names (The Birthday Party, Mary Stuart), some exciting fringe experiments (NOW 18, Paines Plough Roundabout), and even an opera thrown in (The Return of Ulysses). Why not, eh?
10 Jan-14 Apr
We commemorated our tenth year by peeing our pants and eating half-melted ice cream cake 'cause our mum left it out of the freezer for too long. But Harold Pinter's birthday nightmare makes our tenth b-day look like roaring success - the classic play follows a seemingly innocuous birthday party as the arrival of two menacing strangers casts a sinister shadow over the gathering. A darkly comic exploration of the absurdity of the everyday, The Birthday Party is the late, great Pinter's best-known and most-performed play.
10-21 Jan
Grab your monocle and buckle up for a wild fucking ride into the world of Baroque opera and Greek mythology. Does that sound dull to you? Then you're not living right. This production from the big boys at The Royal Opera promises more thrills and chills than University Challenge. The narrative centres on Ulysses as he returns to Ithaca after the Trojan Wars, only to discover that a bunch of migrants fleeing the same war are flexing on his lady, Penelope. It's an epic romance to rival When Harry Met Sally, punctuated with a classic tale of vengeance.
15 Jan-31 Mar
Siblings are a total drag, right? Especially when they're trying to claim your kingdom. Mary Stuart - the classic play by German playwright Friedrich Schiller - gets a fancy new adaptation by the genius that is Robert Icke (currently Associate Director at Almeida Theatre, where he has overseen 1984, Hamlet, and other triumphs), now being transferred to the West End after a sold-out run at Almeida. The play follows Mary, Queen of Scots, in her final days, imprisoned by her jealous and vengeful cousin Elizabeth I.
16 Jan-17 Feb
If you were to put Theatre on a scale, fancy schmancy West End shows would be at one end and NOW '18 would be at the other. This annual happening is all about explosive, wild and strange tales from theatre companies and artists so close to the cutting edge we're a bit concerned they might fall over it, never to be seen again. Every week for 5 weeks, a double bill takes place in the makeshift, DIY surrounds of Yard Theatre out in the Wick.
17 Jan-3 Mar
This play imparts an important life lesson: never, ever take your decaying relationship on holiday. Elias (Tom Mothersdale) and Jenny (Anneika Rose) are a young couple on the outs, driving back to their home in Brooklyn after visiting Jenny's parents. They make a stopover in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania (home of problematic civil war reenactments), taking up lodging in a chintzy B&B packed to the brim with creepy dolls and other geriatric accoutrements. It's here - in this uncanny, claustrophobic space - that we witness the dissolution of their relationship.
25 Jan.-3 March
Every year, we tell ourselves we'll go to Edinburgh Fringe; but every year, August comes and goes, and we spend it firmly on London soil. We will continue this well-meaning charade until we finally realise that we don't need to go to the Fringe - the London theatre scene is #blessed year-round with the festival's highlights that make the prestigious trip down to the Big Smoke. Paines Plough Roundabout is a fine example of this - one of the most talked-about happenings at the Fringe, the Roundabout showcases works by up-and-coming young things making waves in the stage game.
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