wed 25/04/2018

theatre reviews, news & interviews

Strictly Ballroom: The Musical, Piccadilly Theatre review - largely naff

Matt Wolf

A much tinkered-with show needs to go back to the drawing board, if this latest iteration of Strictly Ballroom: The Musical is any gauge.

Kathleen Turner: Finding My Voice, The Other Palace review - a familiar name in freshly exciting form

Matt Wolf

A one-time Martha and Maggie the Cat in the theatre, and a screen siren of the sort they don't make any more, might not be the first person you expect to see swaggering on to a London stage in a dark pantsuit ready to offer up two hours of song and chat.

Rasheeda Speaking, Trafalgar Studios review -...

Tom Birchenough

Conflict and comedy can be unpredictable bedfellows, and Chicago playwright Joel Drake Johnson’s 2014 play occasionally risks overstretching itself...

Bat Out of Hell, Dominion Theatre review - the...

Marianka Swain

Back by feverishly popular demand, Jim Steinman’s mega-musical is no longer in danger of alarming unsuspecting opera-goers. A year on from its...

Tina, Aldwych Theatre review - new Tina Turner...

Marianka Swain

It is, perhaps, a tale that suffers from overfamiliarity. Tina Turner’s rags-to-riches story – from humble beginnings as little Anna Mae Bullock in...

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From the Ides of March to modern monologues: theartsdesk's stage tips

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We recommend the top shows in musical theatre

Instructions for Correct Assembly, Royal Court review - Jane Horrocks in Middle England 'Westworld'

Aleks Sierz

New sci-fi drama about suburban perfection lacks the necessary human touch

The Moderate Soprano, Duke of York's Theatre review - love and opera with a flinty edge

David Nice

Roger Allam and Nancy Carroll serve David Hare's iron fist in velvet glove to perfection

Chicago, Phoenix Theatre review - baggy revival picks up later pace

Laura De Lisle

Cuba Gooding Jr hardly rises, but his co-stars shine in a show stronger on wit than tunes

Quiz, Noël Coward Theatre, review - entertaining confection

Veronica Lee

James Graham tells of the 'coughing major' who wanted to be a millionaire

10 Questions for Performer Seth Kriebel

Thomas H Green

Rising star of the interactive theatrical experience explains where he's coming from and what he's up to

The Country Wife, Southwark Playhouse review – knowing Restoration update

Heather Neill

Wycherley’s sexy comedy transplanted to the Roaring Twenties

Pressure, Park Theatre review - David Haig terrific in his own drama

Aleks Sierz

Documentary drama about the weather on the eve of D-Day is a success

White Guy on the Bus, Finborough Theatre review - a moral tale of Pennsylvania's divisions

Katherine Waters

Race, wealth and class collide in American thriller

The Inheritance, Young Vic review - a long day’s journey into light

David Benedict

One part Angels in America to six parts Howards End

Black Men Walking, Royal Court review - inspiring and exhilarating

Aleks Sierz

Yorkshire hikers reclaim the English countryside - and their identities

Misty, Bush Theatre review - powerful meditation on how we tell stories

Laura De Lisle

Arinzé Kene writes and stars in a witty, hard-hitting play about race and culture in modern London

Sir Matthew Bourne remembers Scott Ambler 1960-2018 – 'A prince among men'

Matthew Bourne

New Adventures Artistic Director's tribute to his core collaborator and star performer

The Plough and the Stars, Lyric Hammersmith review - trenchant reimagining of Irish classic

Jenny Gilbert

O'Casey's injunction to love thy neighbour above thy country hits home in timely update

Kiss of the Spider Woman, Menier Chocolate Factory review - brilliantly performed and imaginatively staged

Matt Wolf

A familiar title transcends the schematic to land with renewed force

Caroline, or Change, Hampstead Theatre review - Sharon D Clarke conquers

Matt Wolf

The award-winning musical returns in all its ferocity and glory

The Great Wave, National Theatre review - moving epic of global loss

Aleks Sierz

Brilliant, and epic, new thriller about Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea

Hamlet, RSC, Hackney Empire review - Paapa Essiedu's winning Dane

Matt Wolf

RSC's touring Hamlet is well worth catching anywhere en route

Vivaldi's The Four Seasons: A Reimagining, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse review - a gentle exploration of life, love and death

Alexandra Coghlan

A beguilingly beautiful show from the UK's most exciting puppeteers

Female Parts: Shorts, Hoxton Hall review - women speak out

Katherine Waters

Adulteress, mother and immigrant tell their stories in three monologues

Antony Sher: Year of the Mad King - extract

Antony Sher

The actor's Lear Diaries tell of his preparation to clamber up theatre's tallest peak for the RSC

Humble Boy, Orange Tree Theatre review - love, death and science in Middle England

Aleks Sierz

Spirited revival of Charlotte Jones's 2001 hit buzzes with fun

Brief Encounter, Empire Cinema review – poignant, hilarious revival

Heather Neill

Emma Rice's lauded stage version of the film returns with charm and inventiveness intact

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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