thu 21/09/2017

theatre reviews, news & interviews

We're Still Here, National Theatre Wales review - powerful protest and heartfelt theatre-making

Dylan Moore

Port Talbot (population 38,000) is a town on the south Wales coast famous for two things: steel and actors. The birthplace of Richard Burton, Anthony Hopkins and Michael Sheen made a rare foray into the national consciousness at the beginning of last year when Tata Steel threatened to close the plant that employs 10% of the town.

Oslo, National Theatre review - informative, gripping and moving

Aleks Sierz

Documentary theatre has a poor reputation. It’s boring in form, boring to look at (all those middle-aged men in suits), and usually only tells you what you already know. It’s journalism without the immediacy of the news. But there are other ways of writing contemporary history.

Thebes Land, Arcola Theatre - meta-theatre at...

Will Rathbone

Thebes Land returns to the Arcola Theatre as part of the wider CASA Latin American Theatre Festival, following a short 2016 run that resulted in an...

The Best Plays in London


London is the theatre capital of the world, with more than 50 playhouses offering theatrical entertainment. From the mighty National Theatre to the...

Prism, Hampstead Theatre review - a life through...

Adam Sweeting

Jack Cardiff was one of the all-time greats of cinematography, the man who shot such Powell and Pressburger classics as The Red Shoes and A Matter of...

Boudica, Shakespeare's Globe review - ancient history made compellingly contemporary

Tom Birchenough

A British queen brought to life: Tristan Bernays’s new play fits its venue perfectly

What Shadows, Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh review - compelling, urgent, unashamedly provocative

David Kettle

Enoch Powell's 'rivers of blood' speech re-examined in flawed but timely play

The March on Russia, Orange Tree Theatre review – vividly funny amid the bleakness

Ismene Brown

David Storey skilfully probes troubled relations inside a Yorkshire bungalow

'Making it new' - Blake Morrison on adaptation, and how his new play came to life

Blake Morrison

The writer on working with Northern Broadsides on 'For Love or Money'

The Blinding Light, Jermyn Street Theatre, review – Jasper Britton is fascinatingly febrile

Aleks Sierz

Playwright August Strindberg goes psychotic in Howard Brenton’s latest

Peter Hall: A Reminiscence

Matt Wolf

The colossus who founded the RSC and took the National to the Southbank is fondly remembered

'No matter where our intersections lie, we are all fundamentally connected'

Tanya Moodie

Tanya Moodie on the inspiration of Alice Childress's 'Trouble in Mind', opening at the Print Room

'We're Still Here': Rachel Trezise on her NTW play about Port Talbot steelworkers

Rachel Trezise

The novelist and playwright introduces her new verbatim play about the last industrial outpost in Wales

Extract: Peter Brook - Tip of the Tongue: Reflections on Language and Meaning

Peter Brook

The wisdom of a great theatre-maker: on Shakespeare and the 'empty space', and thinking between English and French

The Best Musicals in London


We recommend the top shows in musical theatre

Aspiration, ecstasy, melancholy: 'The Tale' of Torbay

Philip Hoare

Three weekends of performance, sound and vision on the English Riviera

Follies, National Theatre review - Imelda Staunton equal first in stunning company

David Nice

Glitter and be sad as Sondheim's former showgirls gather for a momentous reunion

'The kaleidoscope of an entire lifetime of memories'

Maggie Bain

Maggie Bain on discovering the world of Manfred Karge's newly-revived 'Man to Man'

The 'self-experimenter': Howard Brenton on Strindberg in crisis

Howard Brenton

Brenton's new play 'The Blinding Light' tells the story of August Strindberg’s Paris breakdown

Richard III review - Temple Church venue is the star of the show

Veronica Lee

The Richard III Society needn't worry - more humour than menace here

Late Company, Trafalgar Studios review - visceral production of Jordan Tannahill's lean, pained drama

Tom Birchenough

Family trauma stripped back to the barest bones

Loot, Park Theatre review – dizzyingly enjoyable

Aleks Sierz

Anniversary revival of Joe Orton’s farce is a delight from start to finish

Knives in Hens, Donmar Warehouse review – Yaël Farber not symbolic enough

Aleks Sierz

The star director’s revival of a Nineties classic is atmospheric but unconvincing

Edinburgh Festival and Fringe 2017 reviews round-up


theartsdesk recommends the shows to catch this August

Against, Almeida Theatre review - Ben Whishaw is a modern-day Jesus

Aleks Sierz

New American drama about God and violence is baggy, but often brilliant

Edinburgh Festival 2017 reviews: Meet Me at Dawn / The Shape of the Pain / Wild Bore

David Kettle

Grief, loss, unending pain - and critics talking out of their backsides

King Lear, Shakespeare's Globe - Nancy Meckler's Globe debut is unusually subdued

Alexandra Coghlan

Kevin R McNally stars in a tragedy so quiet it proves almost inaudible at times

The Majority, National Theatre review – a minority interest

Aleks Sierz

New play about democracy is entertaining, but a bit too tricksy

Edinburgh Fringe 2017 reviews: Pike St / Box Clever / Sugar Baby

David Kettle

Comedy, tragedy and a whole lot more at Paines Plough's pop-up Roundabout

Footnote: a brief history of British theatre

London theatre is the oldest and most famous theatreland in the world, with more than 100 theatres offering shows ranging from new plays in the subsidised venues such as the National Theatre and Royal Court to mass popular hits such as The Lion King in the West End and influential experimental crucibles like the Bush and Almeida theatres. There's much cross-fertilisation with Broadway, with London productions transferring to New York, and leading Hollywood film actors coming to the West End to star in live theatre. In regional British theatre, the creative energy of theatres like Alan Ayckbourn's Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, the Bristol Old Vic and the Sheffield theatre hub add to the richness of the landscape, while the many town theatres host circling tours of popular farces, crime theatre and musicals.

lion_kingThe first permanent theatre, the Red Lion, was built in Queen Elizabeth I's time, in 1576 in Shoreditch; Shakespeare spent 20 years in London with the Lord Chamberlain's Men, mainly performing at The Theatre, also in Shoreditch. A century later under the merry Charles II the first "West End" theatre was built on what is now Theatre Royal Drury Lane, and Restoration theatre evolved with a strong injection of political wit from Irish playwrights Oliver Goldsmith and Richard Brinsley Sheridan. Catering for more populist tastes, Sadler's Wells theatre went up in 1765, and a lively mix of drama, comedy and working-class music-hall ensued. But by the mid-19th century London theatre was deplored for its low taste, its burlesque productions unfavourably contrasted with the aristocratic French theatre. Calls for a national theatre to do justice to Shakespeare resulted in the first "Shakespeare Memorial" theatre built in Stratford in 1879.

The Forties and Fifties saw a golden age of classic theatre, with Sir Laurence Olivier, Sir Ralph Richardson and Sir John Gielgud starring in world-acclaimed productions in the Old Vic company, and new British plays by Harold Pinter, John Osborne, Beckett and others erupting at the English Stage Company in the Royal Court. This momentum led in 1961 to the establishing of the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford, and in 1963 the launch of the National Theatre at The Old Vic, led by Olivier. In the late Sixties Britain broke the American stranglehold on large-scale modern musicals when Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice launched their brilliant careers with first Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and then Jesus Christ Superstar in 1970, and never looked back. The British modern original musical tradition led on to Les Misérables, The Lion King and most recently Matilda.

The Arts Desk brings you the fastest overnight reviews and ticket booking links for last night's openings, as well as the most thoughtful close-up interviews with major creative figures, actors and playwrights. Our critics include Matt Wolf, Aleks Sierz, Alexandra Coghlan, Veronica Lee, Sam Marlowe, Hilary Whitney and James Woodall.

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