Five of the Best… Theatre Shows This Week

The Guardian / Lyn Gardner

1 Us/Them

A show for young people about the 2004 Beslan school siege may sound an unlikely proposition, but Belgium company Bronks pull it off in this extraordinary piece of theatre starring two young actors. This is an engrossing and galvanising performance full of unexpected playfulness, with an emphasis on storytelling and the relationship between reality and fantasy.

Summerhall, Edinburgh, to 28 Aug

2 Matilda: The Musical

If you’re looking for a late summer holiday treat for the family, then Tim Minchin and Dennis Kelly’s witty musical version of Roald Dahl’s story should fit the bill. It’s a high-energy, brilliantly comic evening, and one that banishes all thought of both book and Hollywood movie. Matthew Warchus’s production puts the children centre stage, as Matilda takes control of her own story in the face of the horrors thrown at her by her parents and headteacher.

Cambridge Theatre, WC2, to 28 May

3 Heads Up

The apocalypse is big on the Edinburgh fringe this year, but the end doesn’t always come with a bang. Kieran Hurley has proved himself previously with two wonderful shows, Hitch and Beats, and now consolidates his reputation with this table-top storytelling piece that acts as a warning of what might befall us if we don’t change and take care of each other – or at least look up from our phones occasionally. It’s a terrific piece of writing, both urgent and lyrical, and Hurley performs it with quiet authority.

Summerhall, Edinburgh, to 28 Aug

4 Always Orange

The RSC’s Making Mischief festival has invited playwrights to say the unsayable. Fraser Grace has taken them up on the offer, with a play set in a city plagued by terrorism. As the infrastructure breaks down, a place that once worried about cold brew coffee and cycle lanes is brought to its knees. The writing is sharp and the acting fine, but it’s Donnacadh O’Briain’s very smart production that lends this both coherence and an explosive power.

The Other Place, Stratford-upon-Avon, to 27 Aug

5 Young Chekhov

Michael Billington has described this as one of the greatest all-day theatregoing experiences of his life, and one that allows us to re-evaluate Chekhov and his works. David Hare’s fine versions of a trio of early plays – the rarely performed Platonov and Ivanov, and the better-known The Seagull – are directed with a nuanced delicacy by Jonathan Kent. You can either see the plays over a single day or pick them off one by one.

The National Theatre, SE1, to 8 Oct