The Art of Illusion (Hampstead)
Alas poor Hampstead. First it lost its Arts Council funding and now it appears to have carelessly lost its artistic director – the estimable Roxana Silbert – following the board’s hasty decision to swerve the theatre away from its new writing remit and what makes it both distinctive and necessary as part of the wider ecology... A shame, and I fear a mistake. Under Silbert, its downstairs programme has been a wonderful thing – mostly recently boasting a hit with Joe White’s greatly admired Blackout Songs. Silbert directed Edmond, a play by Anglo-French wunderkind Alexis Michalik while she was at Birmingham Rep, and now Hampstead gets the UK premiere of Michalik’s Moliere-winning Parisian hit inspired by the father of modern magic, Jean-Eugene Robert-Houdin. There will be enchantments and conjuring tricks. Prepare to be mesmerised.
The Wife of Willesden (Kiln)
She’s back in all her mouthy, gaudy glory. Yes, Clare Perkins and the 21st century reincarnation of Chaucer’s the The Wife of Bath return to Kilburn for some Christmas merriment in a show in which high literature meets bawdy low art and explodes with vim, vigour and naughtiness. Robert Jones’ design transforms the Kiln into a pub, Ben and Max Ringham supply the bewitching sounds and Perkins takes us by the hand and as soon as she opens her mouth makes the past (Chaucer) seem eerily present and surprisingly alive and well on the Kilburn High Road.
One Night Stands (Royal Court)
Jasmine Naziha Jones' Baghdaddy, a coming of age story set in 1991 during the Gulf War, continues downstairs at the Royal Court but during the coming week you can also take your pick in the theatre upstairs from a series of one-night stands showcasing the work and talents of a wildly different bunch of artists. Join a Jewish soiree with Ray Filar and Dex Chait Grodner, or get trapped with performers Siobhan McSweeney and Amalia Vitale, or watch how the wonderful, always watchable Chris Thorpe manages to weave Christmas memories with nuclear catastrophe or join Jade Anouka and Grace Savage on a musical beatboxing journey of love and heartbreak. A box of Christmas surprises.
Cover image of the cast in rehearsals for The Art of Illusion at Hampstead Theatre. Photo by Chiara Wakely.