sun 18/08/2019

Theatre Reviews

The House of Bilquis Bibi, Hampstead Theatre

Carole Woddis

What makes a good piece of theatre? Is it the atmosphere generated? Is it the acting? Or is it the ability to communicate ideas clearly? I don’t mind if sometimes I can’t hear or understand words. In the past, I have been overwhelmed by Polish versions of Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot. I have watched open-mouthed at Kabuki without surtitles and when Federico Garcia Lorca’s Yerma was first seen in this country, in Peter Daubeny’s World Theatre seasons, back in the Sixties, you...

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The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Chichester Festival Theatre

bella Todd 'Like Animal Farm in reverse': The workforce play their exploiters in 'The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists'

If you could boil down Robert Tressell’s brilliant socialist novel to a single observation, it would be that rich people do nothing, while the poor work their (ragged-trousered) arses off. So it’s a very clever conceit on the part of Howard Brenton’s new adaptation for the Chichester Festival, as well as a thrifty move for what must be one of its lower-...

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Danton's Death, National Theatre

james Woodall

The longest and most densely historical play by Georg Büchner (1813-37) is a potential monster. In German, Dantons Tod can run to four hours or more. There's little action and much speechifying. In plays by his equally wordy, history-obsessed predecessor, Friedrich von Schiller, there are at least fights, battles, a lot of love - and some sex.

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The Beauty Queen of Leenane, Young Vic

Carole Woddis

The Martin McDonagh phenomenon is a curious one. He burst upon the world in 1996, aged 26, born in Camberwell, the son of Irish parents. The quirk of fate that placed him in south east London may or may not have been the making of him. But by pure accident, and whether he actually knew the people involved or not, it aligned him with what was to become the abiding zeitgeist of the mid-Nineties: BritArt and Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin.

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The Secret of Sherlock Holmes, Duchess Theatre

alexandra Coghlan

How do you construct a compelling play about the greatest of fictional detectives without either mystery or reveal? The cryptic answer, in the form of Jeremy Paul’s 1988 theatrical two-hander The Secret of Sherlock Holmes, is far from elementary.

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Pygmalion, Chichester Festival Theatre

bella Todd

Revivals of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion are generally too busy making an artistic case for the play over the My Fair Lady musical to worry about listening out for contemporary resonances. But in many ways Simon Cowell is the Henry Higgins of our day: betting with his fellow X-Factor judges that he can pass off such-and-such under-privileged teen as a pop star; putting them through their paces before a rigorous public test; and showing little regard for what...

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Lingua Franca, Finborough Theatre

aleks Sierz Italy gives us the hots: Chris New and Natalie Walker in Peter Nichols's 'Lingua Franca'

While films frequently spawn sequels and prequels, theatre — with the spectacular exception of the Bard’s history plays — tends to go for one-offs. In Peter Nichols’s new play, which opened at the tiny Finborough fringe theatre last night, the main character is called Steven Flowers — and yes, those of you who are paying attention have by now correctly guessed that is a follow-up to Privates on Parade, Nichols’s hit play of 1977 (last revived at the Donmar in 2001). But as well as...

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Henry IV Parts One & Two, Shakespeare's Globe

james Woodall

Shakespeare’s two-part Henry IV cycle locks together the first modern plays in English. They strive for something quite new in drama, retaining a structural boldness and complexity seldom encountered in contemporary theatre. That's how "modern" they are (or seem).

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Aspects of Love, Menier Chocolate Factory

Matt Wolf

The Menier Chocolate Factory could scarcely be on mightier form, or so it seems, punching far beyond its weight as a small, out-of-the-way south London playhouse that is nonetheless responsible at the moment for five commercial transfers between London and New York.

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The Prisoner of Second Avenue, Vaudeville Theatre

Sheila Johnston

Jeff Goldblum is a big guy, 6'4" tall to be precise, and, though his character inhabits an improbably spacious, high-ceilinged New York apartment, he roves around it like a crazy caged animal in this intensely athletic and entertaining revival of Neil Simon's disturbing 1971 comedy.

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