(Lyn Gardner’s article appeared in the Guardian, 5/27.)

1 Les Blancs

Lorraine Hansberry is best known for her play A Raisin In The Sun and for inspiring Nina Simone’s To Be Young, Gifted And Black. She died, aged 34, before she could complete Les Blancs, a huge sprawling indictment of colonialism and the mess it left behind. Centred on a Christian mission in a bitterly divided African country, the play was later pieced together by her ex-husband Robert Nemiroff. Director Yaël Farber delivers a production that drips with atmosphere, both febrile and haunted. It’s one of the best shows you’re likely to see on a British stage this year, and these are your last chances to catch it.

National Theatre: Olivier, SE1, to Thu

2 Hamlet

Twenty-five year-old Paapa Essiedu’s superb performance in Simon Godwin’s revival sees him become the first black Hamlet in RSC history. Convincingly young, his cockiness gives way to confusion in a production that transposes Elsinore to a modern African country. Excellent support comes from Tanya Moodie as Gertrude and Natalie Simpson as Ophelia.

Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, to 13 Aug

3 The James Plays

Rona Munro’s epic trilogy, which spans the turbulent reigns of James I, II and III of Scotland, comprises seven-and-a-half hours of history leavened by puppetry, song, dance and fierce debate. Munro’s script is chewy and muscular and Laurie Sansom does it proud in a production that has a stylish swagger and knows how to tell a good, complex story.

Theatre Royal, Plymouth, Sat & Sun; touring to 3 Jul


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