tue 21/11/2017

theatre reviews, news & interviews

Tiger Bay, Wales Millennium Centre review - ambitious but flawed spectacle

Owen Richards

During the 19th century, Tiger Bay in Cardiff was the beating heart of the Industrial Revolution and the most multicultural area in Britain. Visit today and the only signs remaining are the odd gothic buildings that sit between Doctor Who exhibitions and Nandos.

Network, National Theatre review - Bryan Cranston’s searing London stage debut

Matt Wolf

Outrage knows no time barrier, as the world at large reminds us on a daily basis.

Poison, Orange Tree Theatre review - study of...

Jenny Gilbert

Should Brexit ministers need help understanding the cultural mindset of their continental counterparts, they might consider a subscription to the...

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...

Coriolanus, Barbican review - great, late...

James Woodall

Coriolanus is post-tragic. It never horrifies like Macbeth or appals like King Lear, though its self-damaging protagonist is disconcerting enough....

Glengarry Glen Ross, Playhouse Theatre review - Christian Slater is gently charismatic

Aleks Sierz

All-star cast in modern American classic celebrate the ideal of the deal

Soldier On: a theatrical treatment of PTSD

Jonathan Lewis

Jonathan Lewis on working with ex-servicemen and women to tell their stories through drama

Mother Courage, Southwark Playhouse review - this production is not one for our times

Katherine Waters

Uninspired treatment of Brecht's 1939 antiwar tract

The Retreat, Park Theatre, review - funny but a bit flat

Aleks Sierz

New play about getting away from it all by 'Peep Show' writer fails to enlighten

Douglas Henshall: 'You can get stuck when you’ve been in the business for 30 years' - interview

Jasper Rees

The Scottish actor on the National Theatre staging of 'Network' and going back to Shetland

'This is how it happened': Tom MacRae on writing Everybody's Talking About Jamie

Tom MacRae

How the musical about a boy who wanted to go to the school prom dressed as a girl was created

The Best Musicals in London


We recommend the top shows in musical theatre

Heather, Bush Theatre review - Harry Potter satire burns bright

Aleks Sierz

New play about storytelling examines a children’s book craze - and its repercussions

Romantics Anonymous, Shakespeare's Globe review - box of delights

Peter Quantrill

Emma Rice exits with a sweet-toothed musical in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

The Exorcist, Phoenix Theatre review - see the movie

Adam Sweeting

It probably seemed like a good idea at the time

The Slaves of Solitude, Hampstead Theatre review - crude, over-dramatic and under-motivated

Aleks Sierz

New adaptation of Patrick Hamilton novel is thinly written and poorly staged

Insignificance, Arcola Theatre review - once-iconic play feels overwrought

Will Rathbone

The generational torch gets passed in off-kilter Terry Johnson revival

Young Marx, Bridge Theatre review - fast-moving but over-complicated

Aleks Sierz

Brand-new London theatre is wonderful, but its first show is disappointing

The Lorax, Old Vic Theatre review - a sage tale for young theatre goers

Katie Colombus

A brilliantly British take on the Dr Seuss kids' classic

Witness for the Prosecution, London County Hall review - favourable verdict on Agatha Christie classic

Aleks Sierz

This site-specific revival of 1953 courtroom drama works like a treat

Of Kith and Kin, Bush Theatre, review - comic but confused gay surrogacy drama

Aleks Sierz

New play about gay parenthood suffers from an identity crisis

The Lady from the Sea, Donmar Warehouse review - Nikki Amuka-Bird luminous in a sympathetic ensemble

David Nice

Ibsen's great human comedy weathers a sea-change from fjord to Caribbean island

The End of Hope, Soho Theatre review - initially bold but not quite enough

Katherine Waters

Darkly comic two-hander opens daringly and goes nowhere

Venus in Fur, Theatre Royal Haymarket review - pain and pleasure in a starry two-hander

Marianka Swain

It's Fifty Shades of Auditioning in this tricksy erotic comedy

Albion, Almeida Theatre, review – Victoria Hamilton’s epic performance

Aleks Sierz

Doctor Foster writer explores Englishness with enormous metaphoric zeal

Fierce: the Birmingham festival which reaches out to Europe and beyond

Aaron Wright

The new artistic director of the international showcase of live art and performance says what's coming

A Woman of No Importance, Vaudeville - Eve Best is superb as a woman scorned

Veronica Lee

Dominic Dromgoole's Oscar Wilde seasons opens with a winner

David Oakes: 'I haven’t done anything as bad as my characters'

Jasper Rees

The actor stars opposite Natalie Dormer in Venus in Fur. Why is he always exploring the dark side?

Beginning, National Theatre review - assured, intimate, but short of surprises

Sam Marlowe

David Eldridge's wry-warm two-hander on the unsexy side of singledom

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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