wed 27/09/2023

theatre reviews, news & interviews

Frank and Percy, The Other Palace review - two-hander fails to escape a very short leash

Demetrios Matheou

Two elderly men meet in the park while walking their dogs, and become friends. Even when friendship turns to love, the hounds tend to dominate the conversation. It’s hardly the most scintillating set-up for a play.

Untitled F*ck M*ss S**gon Play, Young Vic review - committed and important play let down by heavy-handed writing

Gary Naylor

Seldom can a title have given so much away about the play to follow, not just in terms of the subject matter but also in terms of the sledgehammer approach to driving home its points. Kimber Lee, who won the inaugural Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting 2019, International Award, certainly does not say anything once if she can say it twice or thrice nor leaves any ambiguity about every element of her stance regarding Orientalism.

Octopolis, Hampstead Theatre review - blue, blue...

Aleks Sierz

How many hearts does an octopus have? Answer: three. This pub quiz clincher is just one of the many fascinating facts that emerge from Octopolis,...

Mlima's Tale, Kiln Theatre review - simple,...

Helen Hawkins

The work of the double Pulitzer-winning Black American dramatist Lynn Nottage has thankfully become a fixture in the UK. After its award-winning...

Rebecca, Charing Cross Theatre review - troubled...

Gary Naylor

There are times when it’s best to know as little as possible before taking one’s seat for a show – this new production of Rebecca would be a perfect...

Operation Epsilon, Southwark Playhouse review - alternative Oppenheimer

Aleks Sierz

Revival of Alan Brody’s award-winning 2013 history play is solid but plodding

It's Headed Straight Towards Us, Park Theatre review - indigestible mix of fact and fiction

Helen Hawkins

Adrian Edmondson and Nigel Planer have muddled aims for a tale of warring actors

The White Factory, Marylebone Theatre review - what price dignity in hell?

Ismene Brown

Dazzling Russian production finds fresh relevance in the Lodz ghetto massacre

Pygmalion, Old Vic review - zappy wit and emotional intelligence

David Nice

Patsy Ferran's vibrant Eliza Doolittle sparks Bertie Carvel's Henry Higgins into human life

anthropology, Hampstead Theatre review - AI thriller runs out of code

Demetrios Matheou

Lauren Gunderson’s new play is timely, tantalising but doesn’t quite hit its mark

The Little Big Things, @sohoplace review - real-life story movingly realised onstage

Paul Vale

An original British musical delivers, and then some

The Old Man and the Pool, Wyndham's Theatre - Mike Birbiglia makes a big splash

Helen Hawkins

The affable American humourist proves death becomes him

The Father and the Assassin, National Theatre review - Gandhi's killer given an outstanding star turn

Jane Edwardes

Indhu Rubasingham's sweeping production returns to the National

That Face, Orange Tree Theatre review - in-yer-face family drama

Aleks Sierz

Revival of Polly Stenham’s 2007 punk extravaganza stars Niamh Cusack

Infamous, Jermyn Street Theatre review - Lady Hamilton challenges the patriarchy and loses

Gary Naylor

A clever, sexy, confident woman woos the aristocracy but is disowned when she needs help

Private Lives, Ambassador's Theatre review - classy revival lacking physical excess

Heather Neill

Mature actors bring style and poignancy to Coward's brittle comedy

God of Carnage, Lyric Hammersmith review - a dark piece is lightened with slapstick

Helen Hawkins

Yasmin Reza's savage study of the middle-classes becomes a farce lacking in danger

As You Like It, Shakespeare's Globe review - vibrant, ebullient fun in a forest where anything goes

Rachel Halliburton

A production that feels as if it could erupt into cabaret at any moment

Next to Normal, Donmar Warehouse review - terrific cast in a punchy musical

Helen Hawkins

Twin miseries of bipolar disorder and grief are given an unusual treatment

The Odyssey: The Underworld, National Theatre review - community effort with real heart and a great staging

Helen Hawkins

The Public Acts project creates a model mix of high and low for a modern ensemble

Edinburgh Fringe 2023 reviews: CHOO CHOO! / Blood of the Lamb

David Kettle

Intrusive thoughts and US abortion policy come under scrutiny in two Fringe shows

A Mirror, Almeida Theatre review - unconvincing and contrived

Aleks Sierz

Jonny Lee Miller stars in a problematically dystopian story of creativity and censorship

Edinburgh Fringe 2023 reviews: Distant Memories of the Near Future / Soldiers of Tomorrow

David Kettle

Government-mandated coupledom and intractable conflicts in two Fringe shows at Summerhall

Edinburgh Fringe 2023 reviews: Dark Noon / Concerned Others

David Kettle

A brutal history of America and an intimate examination of Scottish drug-related deaths in two powerful shows

Edinburgh Fringe 2023 reviews: The Insider / Sensuous Governing

David Kettle

Two strong shows in the Fringe's #DANISH strand offer financial temptation and otherworldly interactions

Dimanche, Edinburgh International Festival 2023 review - troubling and bewildering

David Kettle

Climate change gets an exquisitely beautiful, gently humorous treatment by two Belgian puppetry and mime companies

Edinburgh Fringe 2023 reviews: Maureen / Common Dissonance

David Kettle

Warm-hearted wisdom from an 80-something plus ambitious circus at House of Oz

Makeshifts and Realities, Finborough Theatre review - Edwardian dramas with a pinch of Chekhov

Gary Naylor

Plays that show that much may have changed for women in the last 100 years, but much remains the same

Edinburgh Fringe 2023 reviews: PLEASE LEAVE (a message) / Shadow Kingdom

David Kettle

Communicating with the far future and dream-like shadows for children in two contrasting shows

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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