mon 14/06/2021

theatre reviews, news & interviews

After Life, National Theatre review - thanks for the memories

Helen Hawkins

Limbo, in Jack Thorne’s latest play, is a room lined ceiling-high with drawers, a sort of morgue rebooted as a vast filing system.

Extract: David Lan's As If By Chance

David Lan

In June 2001 the London Festival of International Theatre brought Amir Nizar Zuabi’s Alive from Palestine to the Royal Court Theatre for one performance. The Guardian said, “How often do you see a piece of necessary theatre? These 'stories under occupation' fall precisely into that category. We are used to the idea of theatre as a diversion.

First Person: Director Maria Aberg on drawing...

Maria Aberg

When theatres in the UK closed last March, I found myself in a vacuum. Having been a freelance theatre director for over 15 years, I was used to busy...

First Person: playwright Tanika Gupta on being...

Tanika Gupta

On the first day of rehearsals for Out West at the Lyric Hammersmith in May, myself and fellow playwrights Roy Williams and Simon Stephens stood,...

The Death of a Black Man, Hampstead Theatre...

Rachel Halliburton

This blistering, fearless play about an 18-year-old black entrepreneur on the King’s Road raises a myriad of uncomfortable questions that resonate...

Four Quartets, Theatre Royal Bath review - Ralph Fiennes gives a compelling performance

Veronica Lee

Premiere of solo stage production of TS Eliot's work

Walden, Harold Pinter Theatre review – where’s the emotion?

Aleks Sierz

Debut play about siblings, climate change and space travel is full of ideas

A Midsummer Night's Dream, Shakespeare's Globe review - a blast of colour from our post-vaccine future

Rachel Halliburton

A production that revels in the joyously absurd while hinting at the play's darker edges

Bergen International Festival, 26 May - 9 June preview - Norway meets America


Around 30 digital events to watch from anywhere around the world

Harm, Bush Theatre review – isolation, infatuation and intensity

Aleks Sierz

New monologue is a complex and ambiguous account of a digital obsession

Romeo and Juliet, Creation Theatre online review - game version falls between stools

Heather Neill

Live performance, film and digital play combine in this misfired interactive experience

Being Mr Wickham, Original Theatre Company online review - an uncontroversial apologia

Laura De Lisle

Adrian Lukis proves himself far better at portraying Austen's rake than he is at writing him

Money, Southwark Playhouse online review - ethical dilemmas for the Zoom generation

Rachel Halliburton

A vivid and credible production that is also limited by its form

Tarantula, Southwark Playhouse online review – spine-tingling love and trauma

Aleks Sierz

Philip Ridley’s new monologue is a dazzling masterclass in storytelling

The Winter's Tale, RSC, BBC Four review - post-war poise colours a solid production

Tom Birchenough

Overcoming lockdown challenges, a broadcast first for Stratford

The Importance of Being Earnest online review - Oscar Wilde updated for the Nando's generation

Veronica Lee

Yasmeen Khan's spoof has a big heart

A Splinter of Ice, Original Theatre Company online review - Graham Greene and Kim Philby are friends reunited

Tom Birchenough

Affectionate aplomb from Oliver Ford Davies and Stephen Boxer in Ben Brown's new play

Helen McCrory: 'If there's one interesting thing about acting it's trying to lose your ego'

Jasper Rees

Three encounters with the great actor who has died at the age of 52

Romeo and Juliet, National Theatre online review - a triumphant hybrid

Heather Neill

Simon Godwin's debut film is part dressed-down rehearsal, part cinematic flourish

Living Newspaper, Edition 3, Royal Court online review – bleak news, sharp words

Laura De Lisle

Third instalment of the irreverent series takes on Boris, star signs, and casual sexism

A Midsummer Night's Dream, SHAKE Festival livestream review - a star turn from Luisa Omielan makes this 'Bottom's Dream'

Tom Birchenough

Jenny Caron Hall's production, with sister Rebecca starring, offers 'mechanical' treats

Angela, Sound Stage online review - tender and time-shifting

Aleks Sierz

Mark Ravenhill’s new play is a fragmentary audio autobiography

Assembly, Donmar Warehouse online review - the future is coming, ready or not

Laura De Lisle

The theatre's local community assembles a strange little show about the apocalypse

The Picture of Dorian Gray, Barn Theatre online review - a dazzling adaptation

Aleks Sierz

Film version of the Oscar Wilde classic is a brilliant critique of the digital age

The Band Plays On, Sheffield Theatres online review – to Sheffield with love

Aleks Sierz

Latest show from Chris Bush is a celebration of local stoicism and wry humour

Dream, RSC online review - gaming version unleashes revolutionary potential

Rachel Halliburton

Co-production brings Shakespeare's metaphor to life

First Person: Clare Norburn on how she came to write her ambitious Zoom-era drama, 'Love in the Lockdown'

Clare Norburn

Writer-producer Clare Norburn elaborates upon her self-isolation online play

Typical, Soho Theatre online review - powerfully poetic and painful

Aleks Sierz

Film version of 2019 monologue about institutional racism is brilliant

Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Hung Parliament review – choose-your-own whodunnit

Laura De Lisle

Playful interactive show casts audience members as amateur detectives

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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