mon 24/09/2018

theatre reviews, news & interviews

Eyam, Shakespeare's Globe review - plague drama, dark and loose

Tom Birchenough

The end-of-season contemporary writing slot at the Globe must be a proposal as full of promise for playwrights as it is perhaps intimidating.

Henry V, Tobacco Factory Theatres, Bristol review - the pity of war

Mark Kidel

Henry V is a play shot through with martial energy and the terrible chaos of war.

James Graham: 'the country of Shakespeare no...

James Graham

Thank you. It’s an honour to have been asked to speak here today. Although looking at the h100 List this year, I’ve no idea why I’m presumptuously...

The Outsider, Print Room at the Coronet review -...

Rachel Halliburton

As the Syrian conflict enters its final convulsions, renewing memories of how the Sykes-Picot agreement – between an Englishman and a Frenchman –...

Heathers The Musical, Theatre Royal Haymarket...

Marianka Swain

This London premiere of Kevin Murphy and Laurence O’Keefe’s 2010 musical (based on Daniel Waters’ oh-so-Eighties cult classic movie, starring...

Anil Gupta and Richard Pinto: 'We figured Molière would have toyed with it too'

Anil Gupta And Richard Pinto

The co-adaptors of the RSC's new 'Tartuffe' talk about translating a French classic to our times now

The Best Plays in London


From Hogwarts School to Lehmans bank: theartsdesk's stage tips

The Human Voice, Gate Theatre review - unrelenting and sad

Katherine Waters

The end of the line at the end of a telephone line

The Prisoner, National Theatre review - Peter Brook's latest falls sadly flat

David Kettle

The British master-director settles for vaguely Beckett-inflected bafflement

An Adventure, Bush Theatre review - epic but flawed

Aleks Sierz

Deeply felt show about love, marriage and migration doesn’t quite work

Foxfinder, Ambassadors Theatre review - too ponderous by half

Matt Wolf

One time fringe success flounders in West End upgrade

Jeanie O'Hare: 'The play taught me how European we really are'

Jeanie O'Hare

The playwright introduces 'Queen Margaret', her new play for the Royal Exchange, Manchester

The Woods, Royal Court review - Lesley Sharp triumphs again

Aleks Sierz

Overwhelmingly powerful new play about motherhood and psychological collapse

Sir Peter Hall: a day of thanksgiving and celebration for a colossus of culture

Matt Wolf

A year after his death, the great director was honoured by the stars at Westminster Abbey and the National Theatre

'You won't be able to handle this lady': remembering Fenella Fielding

Jasper Rees

The vampish comic actress has died at 90 not long after receiving an OBE

Holy Shit, Kiln Theatre review - what's in a name?

Aleks Sierz

The old Tricycle Theatre is transformed with a name change and a great opening play

Unexpected Joy, Southwark Playhouse review - fully predictable fun

Laura De Lisle

New all-female musical might not be entirely unexpected, but it’s a solid enough evening

Underground Railroad Game, Soho Theatre review - scratching the American wound

Tom Birchenough

A furious, darkly comic riff on race, this frenetic two-hander dazzles

Square Rounds, Finborough Theatre review - the science behind warfare, told in verse

Heather Neill

Didactic theatre piece stronger on facts than drama

The Humans, Hampstead Theatre review - a riveting family portrait

Marianka Swain

Stephen Karam uses domestic drama to tell a contemporary American horror story

Dance Nation, Almeida Theatre review - a tarantella through the convulsions of the teenage psyche

Rachel Halliburton

Humour used too often as a substitute for perception

Love's Labour's Lost, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse review - in praise of a fantastical Spaniard

Tom Birchenough

The ladies of France shine in a production that otherwise makes over-emphatic weather

theartsdesk at bOing! International Family Festival - the best of European children's theatre

Katie Colombus

Visual and aural adventures at well-programmed weekend introduce the young to the arts

Neil Simon: 'I don’t think you want it really dark'

Jasper Rees

The great technician of stage comedy, who has died at 91, recalls writing the likes of Sweet Charity and The Odd Couple

Pericles, National Theatre review - a fizzingly energetic production

Rachel Halliburton

Celebrates multicultural diversity with a zing

Edinburgh Festival 2018 reviews: Home / The Prisoner

David Kettle

Playful visual trickery and gnomic bafflement at the International Festival

h 100 Young Influencers of the Year: Hannah Greenstreet on Three Sisters

Hannah Greenstreet

The third finalist in theartsdesk's award in association with The Hospital Club addresses her review to the creators of a Chekhov production

Edinburgh Festival 2018 reviews: La maladie de la mort / The End of Eddy

David Kettle

Two striking explorations of sexual identity stop short of grabbing the emotions

Edinburgh Festival 2018 reviews: Orpheus / Bottom / Backup

David Kettle

Three intimate storytelling shows at Summerhall offer mixed insights

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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