Oil Almeida Theatre, 7th October to 26th November Ella Hickson is one of a group of young women playwrights emerging over the past 10 years—she’s still only 31—who weigh the harsh realities of contemporary life in Britain against lyrical, sometimes macabre, backgrounds. In her new play she considers the history of oil, from its discovery to its role in the economy today, through the eyes of a mother and daughter played by Anne-Marie Duff and Yolanda Kettle in Carrie Cracknell’s production. The epic sweep across a century, embracing the crash of an empire and a family drama, may be new territory for Hickson—but she has already experimented with interactive monologues. And in Precious Little Talent (2009) she anatomised a privileged middle-class generation floundering in a world stripped of opportunity. Like her slightly older contemporary, Lucy Prebble (author of ENRON and The Effect), Hickson was educated at Guildford High School and university, she’s also scored a Royal Shakespeare Company hit with a magical revision of JM Barrie in Wendy and Peter Pan (2013), which has played two seasons at Stratford-upon-Avon.
The Dresser Duke of York’s, London, 26th March to 2nd May Ronald Harwood’s 1980 play about an old actor laddie, “Sir,” preparing to play Lear while attended by his pernickety dresser, Norman, during the Blitz, is a love letter to Harwood’s old employer, Donald Wolfit, and a study in fear and uneasy friendship. Ken Stott and Reece Shearsmith are an unexpected and adventurous casting in a play that bears the imprint of Freddie Jones and Tom Courtenay in the original (Albert Finney replaced Jones in the 1983 film) and, only last year for the BBC2, Anthony Hopkins and Ian McKellen.
Breaking the Code Royal Exchange, Manchester, 28th October to 19th November Another fine play from the 1980s, Hugh Whitemore’s study of Bletchley Park code-breaker Alan Turing which grapples with cryptographic puzzles and his homosexuality, is revived with Robert Hastie, recently appointed artistic director of Sheffield Theatres in succession to Daniel Evans, directing Daniel Rigby in a role first played by Derek Jacobi and latterly by Benedict Cumberbatch in the 2014 movie The Imitation Game.