mon 22/05/2017

theatre reviews, news & interviews

Richard III review - Greg Hicks gruesomely impressive as power-crazed ruler

Jenny Gilbert

There may never have been a time when Shakespeare’s Richard III did not have contemporary relevance, but surely never more than it does right now.

Lettice and Lovage, Menier Chocolate Factory review - Peter Shaffer's star vehicle sags

Matt Wolf

You have to hand it to Felicity Kendal: this ever-game actress is fearless about treading in the footsteps of the British theatre's grandes dames. In 2006, she starred on the West End quite creditably in Amy's View, inheriting a part originated on both sides of the Atlantic by Judi Dench.

No Dogs, No Indians, Brighton Festival review –...

Bella Todd

A whacking great story has gone largely untold in British theatre: the legacy of colonialism in India, including the cultural ghosts the British left...

Life of Galileo, Young Vic review - shared-...

Heather Neill

Never mind breaking the fourth wall, Joe Wright and the Young Vic have smashed the other three as well. This isn’t simply because their engaging...

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...

Manwatching, Royal Court review - the vagina manologues

Veronica Lee

Female sexuality – as voiced by a male comic

Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour review - West End transfer hits all the right notes

Marianka Swain

Lee Hall's sublimely foul-mouthed choristers storm the Duke of York's Theatre

Casus Circus Driftwood, Brighton Festival review - eye-boggling gymnastic theatre

Thomas H Green

Cheerful, physically extraordinary Australian outfit enthrall at the Theatre Royal

The Best Musicals in London


We recommend the top shows in musical theatre

Three Sisters, Sovremennik review - over-conscious of its legendariness

Ismene Brown

Celebrated Moscow company makes Chekhov far from contemporary

Medea, Bristol Old Vic - formulaic feminism lets Greek classic down

Mark Kidel

Greek tragedy stripped of its ambiguity and depth

Salomé, National Theatre review - Yaël Farber’s version is verbose and overblown

Aleks Sierz

New twist on the biblical story gets bogged down in a portentous production

Occupational Hazards, Hampstead Theatre review - vivid outline in search of a fuller play

Matt Wolf

Rory Stewart's Iraq nation-building memoir makes for fluent if sketchy theatre

10 Questions for sound designer Adam Cork

Jasper Rees

Meet the sound magician behind 'Enron', 'London Road' and now Yaël Farber's 'Salomé'

All Our Children review - shameful historical period horrifies anew

Saskia Baron

Stephen Unwin's debut play explores Nazi Germany and eugenics

Angels in America, National Theatre review - Andrew Garfield and company soar in seismic revival

Matt Wolf

Tony Kushner's great work arrives anew in London

Three Comrades, Sovremennik review - well-oiled Russian take on 1920s Berlin

David Nice

Classic Moscow adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque's no-hope novel

The Ferryman, Royal Court, review - ‘Jez Butterworth’s storytelling triumph’

Aleks Sierz

New epic from the ‘Jerusalem’ playwright is a breathtaking experience

The Cardinal, Southwark Playhouse review - 'rarely produced play has renewed punch'

Will Rathbone

Caroline-era play makes a compelling return to the stage

Charlie Sonata, Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh review – 'too much of everything'

David Kettle

Well-meaning but uneven comedy bursts at its seams with mismatched themes

theartsdesk at The Hospital Club


Announcing a new partnership with the most creative club in London

The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui review - 'Lenny Henry covers Trump's greatest hits'

Marianka Swain

The Donmar Warehouse targets a modern monster via Brecht's Hitler satire

theartsdesk Q&A: Playwright Jez Butterworth

Jasper Rees

Frank and wide-ranging interview as his new play 'The Ferryman' opens at the Royal Court

Sunday Book: Nicholas Hytner - Balancing Acts

Jasper Rees

The National Theatre's former boss is wonderfully insightful about everything but himself

'It was probably the most effective act of resistance in the history of the Third Reich'

Stephen Unwin

Stephen Unwin on 'All Our Children', his play for Jermyn Street Theatre about Nazi persecution of the disabled

The Treatment, Almeida Theatre, review - exhilarating Crimp never more relevant

Aleks Sierz

Colourful and vivid revival of Martin Crimp’s 1993 tale of New York

Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare's Globe review - 'too much brouhaha'

Tom Birchenough

There's vigour and violence, comedy too, but Daniel Kramer's production disappoints

City of Glass, Lyric Hammersmith review - ‘thrilling and enthralling Paul Auster adaptation’

Aleks Sierz

Masterpiece of writer's 'New York Trilogy' is visually amazing, intellectually satisfying on stage

Obsession, Barbican review - Jude Law on serious form in Ivo van Hove's latest

Jenny Gilbert

Cultish staging of the Visconti film disappoints

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.

Close Footnote


Win a Luxury Weekend for Two to Celebrate Brighton Festival!

Kate Tempest

Prize includes a boutique hotel stay, dinner for two and tickets to Brighton Festival’s hotly anticipated events!

Brighton Festival is a fantastic, exhilarating and leading annual celebration of the arts, with events taking place in venues both familiar and unusual across Brighton & Hove for three weeks every May. This year, the Festival an eclectic line-up spanning music, theatre, dance, visual art, film, comedy, debate and spoken word. With the acclaimed recording artist, poet, playwright and novelist Kate Tempest serving as Guest Director.

Enter this competition for a chance to win a fantastic break for two over the opening weekend of Brighton Festival (Saturday 6 - Sunday 7 May).

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters

latest in today

CD: Linkin Park - One More Light

On its release, Linkin Park's recent single, "Heavy", with its lightweight, warbling vocals caused serious distress...

Colm Tóibín: House of Names review - bleakly beautiful twili...

The news that Colm Tóibín has written a novel about Orestes...

Reissue CDs Weekly: Shel Talmy

As the producer of the early Kinks and Who, Shel Talmy’s status as one of British pop’s most important figures is assured. He is, though, American...

The Best Films Out Now

There are films to meet every taste in theartsdesk's guide to the best movies currently on release. In our considered opinion, any of the titles...

CD: The Charlatans - Different Days

Notwithstanding the Stone Roses and Happy Mondays’ underwhelming reunions, it comes as something of a shock to realise that the Charlatans are the...

Highlights from Photo London 2017 - virtual reality meets vi...

At heart, Photo London is a selling fair for expensive photographic prints. You wander through the steamy labyrinth of Somerset...

Inversion review - acutely observed drama of Tehran family s...

Inversion may not be the catchiest of titles, but in the case of...

Y Tŵr, MTW, Sherman Theatre, Cardiff

Until yesterday my only experience of the Welsh language in the...

m¡longa, Brighton Festival review - sensual tango explosion

Watching tango dancers Gisela Galeassi and Nikito Cornejo own the apron of the stage during the second half of m¡longa, the brain finds...