Coming soon: An unsettling start to the theatrical new year

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The Independent Culture

The beginning of January is always eerily quiet in terms of big opening nights, but this is followed by a flurry of productions.

Ian McDiarmid stars in the National Theatre of Scotland’s touring adaptation of Be Near Me, Andrew O’Hagan’s novel about a priest who forges dangerous friendships with adolescents. This kicks off at Kilmarnock’s Palace Theatre (0870 060 0100, 14 to 17 Jan), then heads swiftly to London’s Donmar Warehouse (0870 060 6624, 22 Jan to 14 Mar).

Complicite fans will come flocking when the highly inventive Simon McBurney brings Shun-kin – his latest collaboration with Japanese actors – to our shores. Playing at London’s Barbican, this is inspired by Jun’ichiro Tanizaki’s short story: an unsettling tale about devotion, artistic talent and cruelty (0845 120 7550, 30 Jan to 21 Feb).

On the London fringe, Theatre 503 has landed a futuristic thriller by Fraser Grace of Breakfast with Mugabe renown. The Life savers is about a scary nanny state and a couple desperate for a child (020-7978 7040, 27 Jan to 21 Feb).

In Leicester, sleek new theatre the Curve hosts Shakespeare’s As You Like It, directed by Tim Supple. His recent Indian-inspired A Midsummer Night’s Dream was bewitching (0116 242 3595, 26 Feb to 28 Mar).

Meanwhile, NT artistic director Nicholas Hytner will premiere England People Very Nice in the Olivier. Writer Richard Bean offers the long view on multicultural Britain, following four waves of immigrants in London’s East End (020-7452 3000, from 4 Feb).

Round in the Lyttelton, in Burnt by the Sun, Ciaran Hinds, Rory Kinnear and Michelle Dockery will be caught up in a love triangle and facing the menace of Stalin’s rule (from 24 Feb).

At Islington’s Almeida, Juliet Stevenson and Henry Goodman team up for Tom Kempinski’s Duet for One, about an ailing concert violinist and a psychiatrist (020-7359 4404, 22 Jan to 14 Mar).

And at the Apollo, Shaftesbury Avenue, screen star James McAvoy treads the boards in Three Days of Rain, a revival of Richard Greenberg’s chamber play about bereaved siblings (0844 412 4658, 30 Jan to 9 May).