tue 20/08/2019

theatre reviews, news & interviews

Edinburgh Fringe 2019 reviews: The Red/ Gone Full Havisham

Veronica Lee

The Red Pleasance Dome ★★★★

Edinburgh Fringe 2019 review: How Not to Drown

David Kettle

Urgent, fast-paced, seemingly never pausing for breath, How Not to Drown is a real-life boy’s own adventure, an appeal for compassion towards refugees, and an interrogation of nationality and identity. That’s quite a mix for a show of 100 minutes.

Once on This Island, Southwark Playhouse review...

Marianka Swain

As British summer really kicks in (umbrellas at the ready), our thoughts might turn fondly to the sunny Caribbean. Good timing, then, for the return...

Edinburgh International Festival 2019 review:...

David Kettle

It’s the end of the world as we know it. At least according to Miles, scientist turned messiah, who lost his son in an accident at a frozen lake, and...

Edinburgh International Festival 2019 review:...

David Kettle

A fat cat who gobbles up everything in sight. A king who tests his wife’s fidelity with increasingly horrific trials. A man whose flatmate is Poverty...

Edinburgh Fringe 2019 reviews: Darren McGarvey AKA Loki: Scotland Today / Scottee: Class

David Kettle

Two vicious dissections of class and identity might just leave you reeling

Edinburgh Fringe 2019 reviews: Sea Sick / Vigil / When the Birds Come

David Kettle

Three contrasting shows tackling climate change and mass extinction

Edinburgh Fringe reviews 2019: On the Other Hand, We're Happy / Daughterhood / The Shark Is Broken

Veronica Lee

More from the world's biggest and best arts festival

Evita, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre review - a diva dictator for 2019

Marianka Swain

Both literal and figurative fireworks in Jamie Lloyd's innovative musical revival

Edinburgh Fringe 2019 reviews: Deer Woman / Pathetic Fallacy / Blind Date

David Kettle

Three contrasting shows at CanadaHub tackle racism, climate change and clowning

Edinburgh Fringe 2019 review: Birth

David Kettle

Ravishing physical theatre on the beginnings of life from Theatre Re

Go Bang Your Tambourine, Finborough Theatre review - out-dated and long-winded

Aleks Sierz

Rare Philip King play turns a farce into a serious drama - and it doesn't work

Edinburgh Fringe 2019 review: Crocodile Fever

David Kettle

Pantomime excess in Meghan Tyler's wild but unconvincing new comedy

The Best Plays in London


What to see where and until when: theartsdesk's stage tips

The Best Musicals in London


We recommend the top shows in musical theatre

Edinburgh International Festival 2019 review: La reprise

David Kettle

Intellectual playfulness in Milo Rau's recreation of a gay hate crime

Edinburgh Festival 2019 review: Rich Kids - A History of Shopping Malls in Tehran

David Kettle

Confusion reigns in an overly ambitious take on technology, time and climate catastrophe

Edinburgh Festival 2019 reviews: Enough / Spliced

David Kettle

Two compelling examinations of femininity and masculinity at the Traverse Theatre

Mr Gum and the Dancing Bear the Musical, National Theatre review – gleefully subversive family musical

Bella Todd

Madcap and menace as Andy Stanton adapts his cult children's books for the stage

The Girl on the Train, Duke of York's Theatre review - boozy psycho-thriller rolls clunkily into town

Heather Neill

Samantha Womack lurches valiantly through this scarcely credible crime drama

Peter Pan, Troubadour White City review - off to a flying start

Tom Birchenough

New West London venue opens with a zestful spectacular to suit all ages

Barber Shop Chronicles, Roundhouse review - riotous theatre at its best

Katherine Waters

Must-see show takes place in barber shops in London, Lagos, Accra, Harare, Kampala, Johannesburg

Blues in the Night, Kiln Theatre review - hard times, hot tunes

Marianka Swain

Sharon D Clarke leads a steamy, soulful musical revue

The View UpStairs, Soho Theatre review - well-intentioned but needs a rewrite

Matt Wolf

Name-heavy cast powers baggy, repetitive Off Broadway musical

The Bridges of Madison County, Menier Chocolate Factory review - Iowan romance fizzles

Marianka Swain

Trevor Nunn's busy production competes with Jason Robert Brown's exquisite score

The Night of the Iguana, Noël Coward Theatre review - Clive Owen and Lia Williams burn bright

Aleks Sierz

Star cast deliver a terrific revival of Tennessee Williams's last masterpiece

Equus, Trafalgar Studios review - passionate intensity

Tom Birchenough

Lean and hungry brilliance in Ned Bennett's production of Peter Shaffer

Tao of Glass, Royal Exchange, Manchester review - brilliant, enchanting tales fascinate

Robert Beale

Phelim McDermott's show about the bits that were left over

Whitewash, Soho Theatre review - a wild-at-heart linguistic joy-ride

Rachel Halliburton

Energetic two-hander offers a sparky portrait of a transforming city

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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