Stage and screen highlights of 2015

We pick the plays, music, dance and films we're looking forward to this year.


The Ruling Class
From January 16
Trafalgar Studios, London SW1
(0844 871 7632)
James McAvoy returns to the venue on which he played Macbeth to star in a long-overdue revival of Peter Barnes’s 1968 carnival-esque comedy: one that lifts the spirits while disturbing the peace in showing a 14th Earl who imagines himself to be divinely blessed.

Man and Superman
From February 17
Lyttelton Theatre, London SE1
(020–7452 3000)
Ralph Fiennes and Indira Varma star in Shaw’s greatest play, which embraces sexual politics, romantic adventure and a dream debate between Heaven and Hell. Simon Godwin, who last year staged a remarkable Two Gentlemen of Verona at Stratford, directs.

From March 4
Barbican, London EC2
(020–7638 8891)
Sophocles’s study of heroic resistance to tyranny is timeless. This new version is directed by Ivo van Hove, whose celebrated revival of A View From The Bridge moves into Wyndham’s in February, and stars Juliette Binoche, who is every bit as accomplished on stage as on the big screen.

Death of a Salesman
From March 26
Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-Upon-Avon
(0844 800 1110)
To mark the centenary of Arthur Miller’s birth, the RSC revives his most famous play. Antony Sher plays the tragically deluded hero who has pursued the American dream and Harriet Walter is his patient wife who utters the immemorial line: ‘Attention must be paid.’

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Carmen Disruption
From April 10
Almeida, London N1
(020–7359 4404)
A new play by the prolific Simon Stephens, which re-imagines Bizet’s Carmen and explores the possibility of love in a fractured, modern world. Michael Longhurst, who lately did a first rate job on ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, directs a play that shows the mythic appeal of Bizet’s opulent heroine.



The Berlin Philharmonic
The Barbican, February 10–12; Royal Festival Hall, February 14–15
(020–7638 8891; 0844 875 0073)
The legendary ensemble, under Sir Simon Rattle, plays all seven Sibelius symphonies at the Barbican, then comes south of the river for two performances of Mahler’s mighty Second Symphony, ‘Resurrection’, with vocal soloists Kate Royal and Mag-dalena Kozená.

The Barenboim Project
April 20–21, May 27–June 2
Royal Festival Hall
(0844 875 0073)
In the latest of his celebrated annual visits, Daniel Barenboim conducts the Staatskapelle Berlin in Beethoven’s First Piano Con-certo, with Martha Argerich, and Elgar’s Second Symphony, then, in May and June, plays all Schubert’s solo piano sonatas.

Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny
March 10–April 4
Royal Opera
(020–7304 4000)
For its first-ever staging of Brecht and Weill’s satiric, tuneful 20th-century classic, the Royal Opera assembles a starry cast headed by mezzos Christine Rice and Anne Sofie von Otter, with John Full James directing.

The Pirates of Penzance
English National Opera
May 9–June 27
London Coliseum
(020–7845 9300)
An ENO classic in the making: Gilbert and Sullivan’s madcap opera-parody staged by eminent film director and G&S aficionado Mike Leigh, featuring a stellar cast including Andrew Shore as Major-
General Stanley and Jonathan Lemalu as the Sergeant of Police.

The Cure/The Corridor
June 12, 14, 15
Aldeburgh Festival
(01728 687110)
Aldeburgh is establishing almost as strong a connection with Sir Harrison Birtwistle as Benjamin Britten. This year’s festival opens with a double bill of typically rich, intense Birtwistle one-acters drawn from Greek myth, including the world premiere of The Cure, featuring tenor Mark Padmore.



Frantic Assembly
January 13 to February 7
Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith W6
(020–8741 6850)
Framed by Yorkshire’s 2001 race riots, brutal choreography and a former kickboxer in the title role transform the timeless play into a fierce commentary on contemporary society.

Richard Alston Dance Company
January 26 and 27
Sadler’s Wells
(0844 412 4300)
Working with Ajani Johnson-Goffe, his first choreographic collaborator, who will also perform, Richard Alston marks his company’s 20th anniversary with a première, setting hip-hop to Romany and electronic music.

Modern Masters
English National Ballet
March 10–15
Sadler’s Wells, London
(0844 871 0090)
Sadler’s Wells’s first Associate Ballet Company boldly adds William Forsythe’s electrifying In the Middle, Somewhat Ele-vated and John Neumeier’s lyrical Spring and Fall to its widening repertory.

Carmina Burana and Serenade
Birmingham Royal Ballet
March 19–21
London Coliseum
(020–7845 9300)
Celebrating 25 years in Birmingham and David Bintley’s 20th anniversary as director, the company revives Mr Bintley’s ambitious staging of Carl Orff’s sensual score alongside Balanchine’s first American creation, choreographed for students.

Bayadère—The Ninth Life
Shobana Jeyasingh Dance
March 25–28
Linbury Studio Theatre, Royal Opera House
(020–7304 4000)
Shobana Jeyasingh’s dramatic take on Petipa’s exotic ballet weaves together the story that inspired the original 1877 production and the initial visit to Europe by Indian dancers in 1838.


Regional Theatre

From January 20
Touring to Glasgow, London, Liverpool, Oxford, Exeter, Newcastle
The weird sisters will ‘operate a strange collection of electronic musical apparatus… Macbeth is invited in to play’ in what promises to be an innovative production from Filter, a company that has been earning its reputation in the past few years.

Crouch, Touch, Pause, Engage
From February 19
Opens at Cardiff, then touring to Wales, Leeds, Watford, Hull, Liverpool, Felsted, Peterborough, Cambridge, Lincoln, Exeter, London
Out of Joint and National Theatre Wales present a play about rugby star Gareth Thomas and the drama surrounding the moment he was ‘outed’ as gay by The Sun newspaper and his story since then.

King Lear
From February 27
Opens at Halifax, then touring to Hull, Bath, Cheltenham, Leeds, Scarborough, Liverpool, Salford, York, Kingston, Newcastle under Lyme
If there is one production that can be described as ‘must-see’ in early 2015, this is it. Barrie Rutter is the great and shattered king in a production directed by Jonathan Miller.

Uncle Vanya
From February 28
West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds
(0113–213 7700)
Samuel Adamson’s new version of Chekhov’s classic is directed by Mark Rosenblatt. West Yorkshire Playhouse remains one of the most consistent and reliable of the regional theatres, in an industry where touring theatre is now leading the way artistically.

From March 13
Opens at Nottingham; then Leeds, Mold, Richmond, Cardiff, Southampton, Edinburgh, Watford, Oxford
Shared Experience, in association with Nottingham Playhouse, presents a bold reimagining of the classic Hans Christian Andersen tale of love, loss and desire. Polly Teale directs. Dark, erotic, mythic power is promised, with a chorus of local women creating an unearthly musical landscape as the mermaids.


Contemporary dance review: JOHN & Dancing Away

Country Life's dance critic reviews JOHN and Dancing Away, two new contemporary productions.