fri 28/04/2017

theatre reviews, news & interviews

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

Aleks Sierz

Playwright Duncan Macmillan has had a good couple of years. In 2015, his play People, Places and Things was a big hit at the National Theatre, winning awards and transferring to the West End.

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

Jenny Gilbert

There is a distinctive look, feel, even sound to a stage production directed by Ivo van Hove, which is becoming rather familiar to London theatregoers after two cult hits, A View From the Bridge and Hedda Gabler.

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...

'What did you do?' Actors reveal their...

Julian Curry

Much of the brilliance of Shakespeare lies in the openness, or ambiguity, of his texts. Whereas a novelist will often describe a character, an action...

Nuclear War, Royal Court review - ‘deeply felt...

Aleks Sierz

Text can sometimes be a prison. At its best, post-war British theatre is a writer’s theatre, with the great pensmiths – from Samuel Beckett, John...

The Philanthropist, Trafalgar Studios review - 'Simon Callow's direction is underpowered'

Veronica Lee

Revival of Christopher Hampton's academic satire lacks energy

Whisper House, The Other Palace review - 'a delicately calibrated human story struggling to be heard'

Jenny Gilbert

Scary? Not this ghost-story rock musical, sadly

Guards at the Taj, Bush Theatre review - ‘powerful but ethically troubling’

Aleks Sierz

New writing venue reopens with a play about another architectural marvel

Carousel, London Coliseum review - 'Katherine Jenkins is game, Boe out-acted by wig'

David Benedict

Star power isn't the reason to catch ENO's Rodgers and Hammerstein pricey co-production

The Winter's Tale, Barbican review - Cheek by Jowl's latest wavers in tone

Tom Birchenough

A clear, considered production, but the updated comedy's uncertain

Fracked! Alistair Beaton on his anti-fracking satire

Alistair Beaton

The playwright explains the genesis of his fiery comedy starring Anne Reid and James Bolam

Tim Pigott-Smith: from The Jewel in the Crown to King Charles III

Jasper Rees

The actor played pillars of the establishment, but there was much more to him than that

The Best Musicals in London


We recommend the top shows in musical theatre

The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?, Theatre Royal Haymarket review - 'Damian Lewis devastates'

Heather Neill

Revival of Edward Albee's gripping late play echoes Greek tragedy

Expensive Shit, Soho Theatre, review - 'strong but slender'

Aleks Sierz

A tale of two toilets: Edinburgh Fringe First winner comes to Soho Theatre

Brighton Festival 2017: 12 Free Events

Thomas H Green

Brighton Festival CEO Andrew Comben's guide to this year's best free stuff

Consent, National Theatre, review - 'thrilling revenge drama'

Aleks Sierz

Anna Maxwell Martin stars in Nina Raine's compelling play about rape and justice

42nd Street, Theatre Royal Drury Lane, review - 'sheer synchronised splendour'

Matt Wolf

Lavish revival delivers dazzle aplenty if not much depth

The Lottery of Love, review - 'the fragile charm of artifice'

Tom Birchenough

Marivaux via John Fowles, through the prism of Jane Austen

There's more to Karen Blixen than Meryl Streep

Paul Tickell

A new play celebrates the Danish storyteller. Its adapter explores her unique appeal

Don Juan in Soho, Wyndhams Theatre review - 'David Tennant is Marber-Molière playboy'

Aleks Sierz

David Tennant charms and excites in Patrick Marber’s energetic rewrite of Molière

The Wipers Times, Arts Theatre review - 'dark comedy from the trenches'

Veronica Lee

Ian Hislop's engaging First World War play reaches the West End

Anna Maxwell Martin: 'I like playing baddies' - interview

Heather Neill

She's been Sally Bowles, Lady Macbeth and Elizabeth Darcy. Now for a gritty courtroom drama about rape

theartsdesk Q&A: Writer David Storey, pt 1

Jasper Rees

The playwright on rugby league, Lucian Freud's dog and bashing Billington

theartsdesk Q&A: Writer David Storey, pt 2

Jasper Rees

This writing life: second instalment of biographical interview with the Royal Court's Booker winner

The Kid Stays in the Picture, Royal Court, review – ‘sad, bad and sprawling’

Aleks Sierz

Cut! Simon McBurney muddles the story of Hollywood mogul Robert Evans

An American in Paris review - 'stagecraft couldn't be slicker'

Jenny Gilbert

Christopher Wheeldon's staging at the Dominion is the most glamorous escape in town

Love in Idleness, Menier Chocolate Factory

Tom Birchenough

Eve Best shines in wartime Rattigan rarity which riffs on 'Hamlet'

Roman Tragedies, Toneelgroep Amsterdam, Barbican

David Nice

Acting becomes being in Ivo van Hove's six-hour Shakespeare epic

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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