Theatre highlights of 2015: From Benedict Cumberbatch to Bend it Like Beckham

Your guide to the unmissable plays opening this year

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The Hard Problem

The Hard Problem is consciousness in Tom Stoppard’s first new play for nine years. It’s set in a brain science institute and directed  by Nicholas Hytner, who steps down at the National Theatre  after a glorious reign, in April.

National Theatre, London,  21 January to 16 April


Farinelli and the King

Mark Rylance stars in this fascinating real-life story, dramatised by his wife Claire van Kampen,  about Philippe V of Spain and  the castrato whose voice cured him of insomnia and despair.

Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, London, 11 February to 8 March


The visionary Flemish director Ivo van Hove brings us Sophocles’s great tragedy in a modern version starring Juliette Binoche.

Barbican, London, 4 to 28 March; King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, 9 to  22 August

The Vote

James Graham aims for a media coup with his drama set in a fictional London polling booth in the last 90 minutes of Election Day 2015. The run culminates in a live broadcast on More4 on the day.

Donmar Warehouse, London, 24 April to 7 May

The Hook

To celebrate the Arthur Miller  centenary, James Dacre directs  a world premiere, adapted by  Ron Hutchinson from Miller’s FBI-suppressed screenplay  about mobsters in the dockyards  of 1950s Brooklyn.

Royal & Derngate, Northampton,  5 to 27 June; Liverpool, Everyman, 1 to 25 July

Bend It like Beckham

Gurinder Chadha directs a musical adaptation of her film about a Sikh girl who defies her family for football, scored by Howard Goodall. We’re promised a celebratory state-of-the-nation comedy.

Phoenix Theatre, London,  from 15 May


The advance sales broke  records, but there will be 100  £10 tickets held back for each day’s performance of the most hotly anticipated classical  production of the year: Benedict Cumberbatch as Shakespeare’s brainiest hero, directed by Lyndsey (Chimerica) Turner.

Barbican, London, 5 August  to 31 October