Kunene and the King Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, 21st March to 23rd April
Marking the 25th anniversary of South Africa’s first democratic elections, John Kani (above), co-creator of Sizwe Banzi is Dead, has written a blistering post-apartheid two-hander for himself and Antony Sher, partly derived from their slave/master relationship as Caliban and Prospero in the RSC’s 2009 production of The Tempest. Director Janice Honeyman has rehearsed the play at the Fugard Theatre in Cape Town, where the co-production will return after the Stratford run.
West Side Story Royal Exchange, Manchester, 6th April to 25th May
Knife crime, gang warfare, racial tension, yearning for a better life… nothing dates in this classic musical re-write of Romeo and Juliet. Director Sarah Frankcom has won rare approval from the estate to create a new version in the round of the Exchange, with choreography by Aletta Collins and orchestrations of Leonard Bernstein’s great score by Jason Carr. “I want to be in America,” sings the feisty Puerto Rican Anita, an anthem for many Mexicans today, too.
Orpheus Descending Theatr Clwyd, Mold, 15th to 27th April
Tennessee Williams’s last great play was re-worked in 1957 from an earlier piece to tell a modern Orpheus and Eurydice story in the Deep South. A middle-aged Italian immigrant woman is rescued, for a while, by a guitar-strumming gigolo played in the movie by Marlon Brando. Her mythical hell is a general store populated by gossips, guard dogs and the Ku Klux Klan. It’s a rich, raw drama, co-produced with the Menier Chocolate Factory in Southwark, where it turns up in early May.