tue 16/08/2022

theatre reviews, news & interviews

Room, Edinburgh International Festival 2022 review - decadent, extravagant, and somewhat mystifying

David Kettle

"I feel I owe you an explanation." That much James Thierrée concedes partway through his sprawling, freewheeling, dream-like, hallucinatory Room in Edinburgh’s King’s Theatre. By which stage, most of the audience was probably in agreement. It’s a proposal he comes back to again and again during the rest of the show – but, of course, no explanation ever materialises, save a few strangulated noises, which seem about the best Thierrée can manage.

Counting and Cracking, Edinburgh International Festival 2022 review - ambitious, powerful, but sadly under-attended

David Kettle

First, a bit of housekeeping. Maybe it was the three-and-a-half-hour duration, or maybe the unfamiliar Sri Lankan subject matter, or maybe even the very un-festival-like hot weather that put people off an evening inside Edinburgh’s Lyceum Theatre. Or maybe (very possibly) continuing Covid concerns.

Edinburgh Fringe 2022 reviews: Temping / Work.txt

David Kettle

Temping, Assembly George Square Studios ★★★★Sarah Jane is away in Hawaii. But don’t worry – she’s left plenty of instructions for your day temping in...

Edinburgh Fringe 2022 reviews: Afghanistan Is Not...

Veronica Lee

Afghanistan Is Not Funny, Gilded Balloon ★★★★ Henry Naylor’s Arabian Nightmares trilogy - about the West’s misadventures in Syria and Iraq...

Edinburgh Fringe 2022 reviews: Every Word was...

David Kettle

Every Word was Once an Animal, Zoo Southside ★★★★Ghent-based theatre company Ontroerend Goed have been prodding and provoking Fringe audiences for...

All of Us, National Theatre review - revelatory, but problematic

Aleks Sierz

Francesca Martinez’s debut play about disability politics entertains - and frustrates

Edinburgh Fringe 2022 reviews: The Last Return / Psychodrama / Exodus

David Kettle

Three shows at the Traverse take in gritty realism and no-holds-barred farce

Edinburgh Fringe 2022 reviews: Kathy and Stella Solve a Murder! / Hiya Dolly!

Veronica Lee

A musical whodunnit and an ovine origin story

Burn, Edinburgh International Festival 2022 review - bold, risky, sometimes baffling

David Kettle

Strong constituent parts in Alan Cumming's Burns dance show - but do they add up?

Edinburgh Fringe 2022 reviews: Boy / Intruder|Intruz

David Kettle

Two shows at Summerhall explore issues of identity - though with contrasting outcomes

Edinburgh Fringe 2022 reviews: Les Dawson: Flying High / Boris III

Veronica Lee

'World king' as a young man; and a comedy legend

South Pacific, Sadler's Wells review - strong singing in Daniel Evans's fast-paced production

Helen Hawkins

After a hard-hitting 'Oklahoma!', the latest Rodgers & Hammerstein revival stays on the sunnier side

The Tempest, Shakespeare's Globe review - occasional gales of laughter drown out subtlety

Gary Naylor

If you think a fat man wearing yellow swimming trunks is funny, you're on the right island

Tasting Notes, Southwark Playhouse review - whining in the wine bar

Gary Naylor

Not much goes right for a show whose characters are similarly ill-fated

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Gillian Lynne Theatre review - the puppetry is all part of the magic

Rachel Halliburton

Multi-talented musical cast delivers va-va voom in Sally Cookson’s reimagined Narnia

Sister Act the Musical, Eventim Apollo review - the West End meets the Westway

Gary Naylor

Crowdpleasing musical retains its glitz and charm (and cheese, too)

Chasing Hares, Young Vic review - militant mix of politics and fantasy

Aleks Sierz

New award-winning political play is warmly idealistic, if a bit too obvious

101 Dalmatians, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre review - puppets rule in patchy musical

Matt Wolf

Long-aborning musical still has a leg or two further to go

The Darkest Part of the Night, Kiln Theatre - issues-led drama has its heart in the right place

Gary Naylor

The didactic vies with the dramatic in Zodwa Nyoni's incident-packed new play

Much Ado About Nothing, National Theatre review - Shakespeare’s comedy goes Hollywood musical

Helen Hawkins

Simon Godwin delivers an unexpectedly conventional production, larky and fluffy

Closer, Lyric Hammersmith review - still sordid and sexy 25 years on

Gary Naylor

Lovers come together, split apart and come together again

Anything Goes, Barbican review - shipboard frivolity still fizzes, mostly

Matt Wolf

Recasting offers pluses and minuses in return of last year's musical smash

Jack Absolute Flies Again, National Theatre review - fluffy as a cloud but hugely entertaining

Demetrios Matheou

Caroline Quentin leads a sparkling cast in Richard Bean’s latest comedy romp

Patriots, Almeida Theatre review - a brilliant drama from Peter Morgan about rampant Russian power games

Rachel Halliburton

Tom Hollander as powerbroker Boris Berezovsky switches between brazen charm and hubristic rage

theartsdesk at the Ravenna Festival 2022 - body and soul in perfect balance

David Nice

Completion of the city’s big Dante project with 'Paradiso' is only one of three wonders

The Tempest, Theatre Royal, Bath review - multi-dimensional Shakespeare classic overpowered by comedy

Mark Kidel

An evocation of magic that falls short of enchantment in Deborah Warner's Ustinov Studio debut

The Dance of Death, Arcola Theatre review - hate sustains a marriage in new version of Strindberg classic

Gary Naylor

Fine acting and bleak humour barely ameliorates a grim slog through a broken relationship

Favour, Bush Theatre review - Ambreen Razia's punchy new tug-of-love drama

Helen Hawkins

A brilliant balance of raucous comedy and immense pathos

The Making of Pinocchio, LIFT 2022, Battersea Arts Centre review - witty, ingenious exploration of gender transition

Rachel Halliburton

How physical transition is etched into the story of our world

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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