London theatre: The best comedies to see on stage right now

Zoe Paskett
Manuel Harlan

Looking for laughter and release when you go out to the theatre?

London's stages are fit to burst with comedies: from deception to dark humour and silliness to spoof, there's plenty to tickle you this summer.

Here are some of the best comedies to catch on London stages right now.

As You Like It

If there is anyone who knows sharp wit, it’s the Bard himself. As You Like it has all the classic components of a Shakespearean comedy, with cross-dressing disguise, mistaken identity and falling in love. The tale follows Rosalind as she flees from persecution in her uncle’s court, seeking her banished father in the Forest of Arden. Accompanied by her cousin Celia, she disguises herself as a boy, Ganymede, to avoid detection. In the forest, she meets Orlando, who is in love with her but, not recognising the disguise, he appeals to Ganymede to counsel him on the art of love. Everybody falls in love with each other, there’s chaos and confusion but ultimately all’s well that ends well (wait, that’s a different play).

Until July 28, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, NW1, openairtheatre.com

Buy tickets for As You Like It with GO London

Spamilton

No connection to Spamalot, this parodies the hugely successful Hamilton, now showing at the Victoria Palace Theatre. Created and directed by Forbidden Broadway’s Gerard Alessandrini, the spoof takes loving aim at the hype surrounding Hamilton and at musical theatre in general. This means that, even if you haven’t managed to see Lin-Manuel Miranda’s rap musical yet, you can still enjoy the humour of Spamilton - and it’s a lot easier to get tickets. He's even given it the Miranda seal of approval.

Until September 8, Menier Chocolate Factory, SE1??, menierchocolatefactory.com

The Importance of Being Earnest

Most will have Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, Judi Dench and Reese Witherspoon entrenched in our minds with this Oscar Wilde masterpiece. The latest in a season of Wilde works at the Vaudeville Theatre, Michael Fentiman directs this new production, starring Olivier Award-winner Sophie Thompson as the formidable Lady Bracknell. The classic comedy of manners follows Jack, Algy, Gwendolyn and Cecily navigating their tumultuous romances, all under the watchful eye of Lady Bracknell.

Buy tickets for The Importance of Being Earnest with GO London

The Lieutenant of Inishmore

It’s a dark and uncomfortable comedy, but a comedy no less. The revival of Martin McDonagh’s 2001 play has Aidan Turner in the lead role of Mad Padraic, too violent and unhinged for the mainstream terrorist organisations. When he hears the news that his beloved cat, Wee Thomas, has been run over by his hapless neighbour on a bike, he vows revenge. He’s got other things to worry about - pulling out drug dealers’ toenails and fending off enemies - but he’s most upset about his cat.

Until September 8, Noel Coward Theatre, WC2, delfontmackintosh.co.uk

Buy tickets for The Lieutenant of Inishmore with GO London

Young Frankenstein

Mel Brooks rewrote his horror parody for the London stage last year, turning it into an all-singing, all-dancing hit that’s utterly silly and wacky. Hadley Fraser stars as Dr Frederick Frankenstein, who inherits his grandfather’s castle in Transylvania and continues his legacy of bringing a corpse back to life. Obviously, everything goes awry as the monster escapes from the castle, leading to all the sorts of laughs you’d expect from a Mel Brooks show.

Until August 25, Garrick Theatre, WC2, youngfrankenstein.co.uk

Buy tickets for Young Frankenstein with GO London

Allelujah!

The History Boys, but with 80-year-olds: what a kicker that is. Alan Bennett’s new play is set on the geriatric ward of the northern Beth hospital in the midst of an NHS crisis. When the Beth is threatened with closure, a film crew comes in to document the hospital’s fight for survival, showing the audience the old people’s choir and the daily struggle. While keeping Bennett’s characteristic sharp wit, it’s also a timely commentary on the necessity of protecting our health service.

Until September 29, Bridge Theatre, SE1, bridgetheatre.co.uk

Home, I’m Darling

Domestic politics, sexual harassment at work and the struggle to be the perfect wife are all on the menu for discussion in Laura Wade’s new comedy Home, I’m Darling. Katherine Parkinson, of The IT Crowd fame, is no stranger to comedy - if anything, she’s one of the country’s best - so she’s sure to bring laughter to what would otherwise be serious subject matter. It’s all 1950s gingham and cake.

July 24 - September 5, National Theatre Dorfman, SE1, nationaltheatre.org.uk

Holy Sh!t

Simone and Sam are dealing with the age old problem of getting one's kid into a good school. When their friends Juliet and Nick agree to show them the ropes of the local Church of England school, family and friendships are pushed to the limit as it turns out it’s every parent for themself (and their child). In Alexis Zegermen’s sardonic script, Holy Sh!t pokes fun at what will be a familiar subject for many a Londoner.

September 5 - October 6, Kiln Theatre, NW6, kilntheatre.com