sat 24/08/2019

Theatre Reviews

Bedlam, Shakespeare's Globe

Fisun Güner Country girl May (Rose Leslie) is feasted upon by blood-sucking leeches in 18th-century Bedlam

Nell Leyshon’s new play takes place in a mental asylum closely based on London’s notorious Bethlem Hospital. Set in the 18th century, it is a bizarre fusion of farce, drama and drinking songs. Bethlem, of course, gave its name to the term “bedlam”, and bedlam certainly ensues in this rather chaotic and unfocused work.

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theartsdesk MOT: The 39 Steps, Criterion Theatre

alexandra Coghlan

That an action hero should have many lives at his disposal is a given in these days of bullet-proof Bonds and Bournes. Perhaps greatest in his reincarnatory skills however is Richard Hannay. Originally the cerebral hero of John Buchan’s novel The 39 Steps, Hannay was reinvented in an altogether more comedic vein for Hitchcock’s 1935 film, returned for two more celluloid outings (with a new interest in bomb-disposal), and landed a self-titled TV spin-off.

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If So, Then Yes, Jermyn Street Theatre

aleks Sierz

N F Simpson is a legendary absurdist playwright of 1950s and 1960s vintage. But while his 1957 debut, A Resounding Tinkle, got a revival some three years ago at the Donmar, he was widely believed to have given up writing more than 30 years ago. After all, he has a back catalogue of comic classics, and he celebrated his 91st birthday in January this year! But, true to form, the veteran humorist has surprised us once more.

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Deathtrap, Noël Coward Theatre

Veronica Lee 'Deathtrap': Simon Russell Beale and Jonathan Groff as duelling playwrights

It’s a rather difficult task to describe anything that occurs in Ira Levin’s marvellous old warhorse of a comedy thriller as it contains so many twists, turns, bluffs, double bluffs, triple - even quadruple - bluffs that any description of the plot holds for only a few minutes of stage time. Added to which, nobody and nothing is exactly what they first appear to be.

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Scorched, Old Vic Tunnels

aleks Sierz

Is it an example of our cultural insularity that no one I know has ever heard of Wajdi Mouawad? Born in Lebanon, he’s the most performed contemporary French-language playwright and his 2003 masterpiece, Scorched, has been staged all over the world. You’d think that the National Theatre would be begging to produce it, but no, that honour has fallen to Kevin Spacey’s Old Vic. Not for the first time, a state-funded venue has been trumped by a commercial one. In a bold production by...

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theartsdesk MOT: Dirty Dancing, Aldwych Theatre

ismene Brown 'Dirty Dancing': a class-crossing romance where the Fifties meet the Sixties with alarm

I suspect that more than half the audience that goes to see Dirty Dancing on stage has seen the 1987 movie, and that quite a few of them have seen the stage version more than once. There’s a strange feeling of being at a party where everyone knows everyone, and the party’s held nightly at the same house. It surely is not the misleading title that accounts for the wildly enthusiastic flow of fans - there’s nothing dirty about this squeaky-clean story, and there’s not that much...

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The Thunderbolt, Orange Tree Theatre

Matt Wolf

So much of this London theatre year has been spent watching American work that it's doubly bracing to find some genuine English dramatic rediscoveries interspersed amongst The Prisoner of Second Avenue and La Bête one month, Clybourne Park and (still to open) Deathtrap another.

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Clybourne Park, Royal Court Theatre

aleks Sierz

The American Dream is a great subject for theatre. Not only is it a powerful myth that animates millions, but it is also vulnerable to being subverted by generations of playwrights. Like an aged boxer, it is liable to being floored by a well-aimed punch. In Bruce Norris’s new play, which premiered in New York earlier this year and opened in London last night, comedy is the kick that topples the great giant of the American Dream.

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theartsdesk MOT: Wicked, Apollo Victoria Theatre

Matt Wolf

Wicked is that rare Broadway musical transplant to London that has recouped its costs - and how.

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theartsdesk MOT: Chicago, Cambridge Theatre

Matt Wolf

Chicago, in some ways, remains the great musical theatre surprise success of modern times. Bob Fosse's dissection of sex and violence in the Windy City had a respectable Broadway run back in the 1970s (898 performances in all), featuring a heavyweight cast, two of whose three stars (Gwen Verdon and Jerry Orbach) are, alas, no longer with us.Chicago, in some ways, remains the great musical theatre surprise success of modern times.

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