A Day In The Death Of Joe Egg, Nottingham

Bri and Sheila are a youngish married couple who still display affection and tenderness towards each other even though they’ve been together for a long time. But their marriage is under strain as they care for their severely disabled 10-year-old daughter, Josephine. The couple try to relieve the stress by playing fantasy games in which Josephine is reinvented in the persona of Joe Egg. But when well-meaning but crass friends Pam and Freddie are invited back to the house, things reach crisis point. Inspired by his own experience of living with a disabled child, Peter Nichols’s savagely and painfully funny 1967 classic should take on more potency in an era in which mercy killing is regularly in the news. It’s not an easy evening in the theatre, but for all its seriousness and hurt, this is a comedy about people struggling to survive and do the right thing, however difficult that may seem.

Nottingham Playhouse, to 3 Apr

Lyn Gardner

Polar Bears, London

Much anticipation for the next production at the Donmar, since it marks the theatrical debut of Mark Haddon, whose The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-time was one of the must-reads for all ages in 2003. With a fine cast including Richard Coyle, Celia Imrie and Jodhi May, Polar Bears suggests that it will be treading some of the same ground as Haddon’s bestseller about a boy with Asperger’s as it charts the relationship between a woman with a mental illness and her philosophy lecturer husband. It is a family drama, a psychological thriller and an adult fairytale all wrapped up with Haddon’s brand of black comedy.

Donmar Warehouse, WC2, Thu to 22 May

Mark Cook

Behud, Coventry

Back in December 2004 one of British theatre’s most shameful episodes took place. At its centre was the Sikh playwright, Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti, and her play, Behzti, which was being performed at the Birmingham Repertory’s Door Theatre. Some members of the local Sikh community objected to the work and organised protests outside the Rep which was staging its Christmas show in the main house. The protest became so vigorous that the theatre caved in and cancelled the rest of Behzti’s run. Protest had won out over free speech. Five years on, Bhatti revists the controversy with a new piece that aims to be a playful and provocative response to the issues of censorship, offence and free speech that arose out of the affair. The play is directed by Lisa Goldman of London’s Soho Theatre, where the production will head after its Coventry run, to be accompanied by talks on freedom of expression in theatre.

Belgrade Theatre, Sat to 10 Apr

Lyn Gardner

The Comedy Of Errors, Manchester

The first performance of Shakespeare’s delightful comedy didn’t please all of its audience; written for their end-of-term revels, a group of Gray’s Inn law students enjoyed themselves so much that the senior lawyers left in disgust. In fact it’s hard not to enjoy this tale of two sets of twin brothers, lost to each other and lost in the strange city of Ephesus, which has had memorable productions over the years from Adrian Noble and Tim Supple among many. This one is directed by Roxana Silbert, until recently the artistic director of Paines Plough and now an RSC associate.

Royal Exchange, Wed to 8 May

Lyn Gardner

Finborough 30th Anniversary Season, London

The Finborough Theatre in Earls Court marks its 30th anniversary with a season of 37 productions, including 30 new works by 30 different writers. It kicks off with the London premiere of The Notebook Of Trigorin (Tue to 24 Apr), Tennessee Williams’s adaptation of Chekhov’s The Seagull. The Northerners (4-19 Apr) is a rarely seen drama from 1914 by Harold Brighouse, the man who wrote that old warhorse Hobson’s Choice. Janet Suzman stars in Dream Of The Dog (27 Apr-22 May), by South African Craig Higginson, which runs alongside Jack Klaff’s Nagging Doubt (2-17 May), marking the 50th anniversary of the Sharpeville massacre. Central to the season, which also includes many staged readings, is the world premiere of The Man (25 May-19 Jun), by James Graham. A dark comedy, it will be performed by a different actor, and in a different order, every night.

Finborough Theatre, SW10, Tue to 19 Jun

Mark Cook

The Tempest, Bristol

After a great start to the season with a Midsummer Night’s Dream that made Peter Hall’s production look dull, Andrew Hilton turns his attention to The Tempest, which also includes magic but has a much darker undertow. Ian Barritt, excellent recently as the Professorin Uncle Vanya at Bristol Old Vic, plays Prospero, the usurped duke of Milan, who gets a second chance. But only if he can learn to change and relinquish the magic powers upon which he’s come to rely.

Tobacco Factory, to 1 May

Lyn Gardner

Huxley’s Lab, Edinburgh

Two fine companies come together for this site-specific promenade theatre piece. Grid Iron has forged a worldwide reputation for its site-specific work and Lung Ha is a pioneer in creating inclusive theatre. Huxley’s Lab investigates genetic engineering in a world where only perfection is valued, and this series of dream-like installations takes the audience behind the closed doors of a laboratory which is working on science that may determine the future of the human race.

Informatics Forum, Thu to 8 Apr

Lyn Gardner

The Gift & Glory Glory, Lancaster

Just two years ago, the Dukes Theatre in Lancaster was in real trouble. The Arts Council had halved its funding citing lack of ambition and not enough public benefit, and audiences stayed away. But good things have come out of the crisis. Joe Sumsion, previously with young people’s theatre company Action Transport, took over at the helm and the theatre’s fortunes have been completely transformed. Sabbat, a play about the Pendle witches, was a big success for the theatre, and now the company turns its attention to two further new plays inspired by the local landscape and the Lake District fells. John Moorhouse’s The Gift tells the story of two men, friends over a lifetime who have frequently walked the fells together, who decide to take a journey off the beaten track. Glory Glory by Lisa Evans concentrates on two women in their 60s who walk the same route as the men in the first play and face their own crisis as the mist falls, making it hard to know which way to go.

The Dukes, Wed to 24 Apr

Lyn Gardner

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