Sherlock Holmes, The History Boys, Race: what to see at the theatre this week


The TV series starring Benedict Cumberbatch has brought Arthur Conan Doyle's detective to a new generation, and West Yorkshire Playhouse is cannily building on that success with this brand-new Holmes adventure.

Sherlock Holmes: The Best Kept Secret, Leeds

Set two years after the famous encounter between Holmes and his arch-villain nemesis Moriarty on the Reichenbach Falls, Holmes is bankrupt but refusing to take on any new cases as he struggles with his own demons. But he (and Watson, of course), are spurred into action when Holmes's brother, Mycroft, is arrested for treason. Nikolai Foster, whose successes include recent revivals of Annie and Beautiful Thing, directs.

West Yorkshire Playhouse, to 8 Jun; touring to 29 Jun


Race, London

Twenty years ago, David Mamet's Oleanna – a combative piece concerning sexual politics – ignited frenzied dinner-party debate among the chattering classes. Now comes an equally provocative Mamet piece entitled, simply, Race. Unlike the subtle comedy of racism in Bruce Norris's Clyborne Park, this pulls no punches, featuring the case of a black woman allegedly raped by a white man. To add to the equation, two lawyers – one black and one white – are asked to defend him. Terry Johnson directs this UK premiere, staring Clarke Peters and Jasper Britton as the legal eagles. Race met with mixed reviews in New York, but its barbed one-liners and plot twists should make for thought-provoking viewing.

Hampstead Theatre, NW3, Thu to 29 Jun


The History Boys, Sheffield

This month brings two major revivals of Alan Bennett's hit play, set among the sixth-form boys at a northern grammar school in the 1980s. One opens on Thursday at the Mercury Theatre, Colchester (to 8 Jun), but the Sheffield production will bring a play which premiered at the National Theatre in London back to home turf. It's the first revival since the untimely death of the great Richard Griffiths who originated the role of the flawed but kindly Hector, the schoolteacher who instills his pupils with a love of language and poetry and understands that there is more to education than facts and passing exams. Whichever production you choose, this is undoubtedly one of Bennett's best and most tender plays.

Crucible Theatre, to 8 Jun


Chimerica, London

The term Chimerica was first coined by economists to describe the symbiotic relationship between China and the US, and how Chinese investment, low interest rates, and US overspending combined to bring about the global financial crisis of 2008. It's also the title of a new play by Lucy Kirkwood, whose most recent work was NSFW, concerning the corrosive effects on readers and journalists of men's and women's magazines. In Chimerica, the changing fortunes of the two countries are revealed through the story of a US photojournalist who captures a historic image at the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. Twenty years later – as he covers a US presidential election focusing on the loss of domestic jobs to Chinese factories – the image comes back to haunt him.

Almeida Theatre, N1, Mon to 6 Jul


Life And Times, Norwich

The highlight of this year's Norfolk and Norwich festival is likely to be this quirky show created by New York's Nature Theater of Oklahoma. Inspired by the ordinary life of a young woman, its five lengthy segments traverse different styles, from musical theatre through 1980s pop video to illuminated manuscript. Next Saturday's 12-hour marathon performance includes the world premiere of a new episode, and will incorporate a barbecue for the audience cooked by the cast. Reviews from New York have been ecstatic, suggesting a show that's off-the-wall but always watchable, with the New York Times' critic claiming it as "one of the most unforgettable adventures of my theatre-going experience". Here's hoping.

Norwich Playhouse, Tue to 25 May


Far Away, Glasgow

It begins like a fairytale, but things turn to nightmare in Caryl Churchill's shocking play set in a world eternally at war. A child is woken by noises – possibly screaming – from outside her house. But when her aunt attempts to offer comfort it becomes increasingly obvious that something very nasty indeed is going on in the woodshed. Fast forward, and the child is now grown up and working in a hat factory creating bizarre creations whose significance only gradually becomes apparent. The play lasts only 47 minutes, but it is epic in every way, and in a good production this glimpse into a dystopian future will chill to the marrow. Far Away is presented here in a double bill with Seagulls, Churchill's short about a girl's telekinetic gifts.

Citizens Theatre, Thu to 8 Jun


Powered by article was written by Mark Cook & Lyn Gardner, for The Guardian on Saturday 18th May 2013 06.00 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010