thu 26/05/2016

theatre reviews, news & interviews

Romeo and Juliet, Garrick Theatre

Marianka Swain

Trouble remembering in which country Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers cross paths? Branagh’s panting paean to Fellini will sort you out. Stylish as a monochromatic Vogue spread, and as self-consciously Italian as Bruno Tonioli guzzling lasagne in a gondola, it’s not exactly a triumph of cultural nuance. Capulet is a sharp-suited mafia don who makes an affected entrance sipping espresso, the Prince is a fascist enforcer, al-fresco dining is interrupted by fiery gesticulation, and every loss is...

A View from Islington North, Arts Theatre

Aleks Sierz

Is there any point to political satire? The great thing about the glory years of this genre in, say, the early 1960s was that the jokes punctured people’s deepest held beliefs in a deferential society, or that, as in say the 1980s, they had a target that was an unbearable person, Maggie Thatcher.But today, when cynicism about politics is widespread and nobody trusts any authority, reality often seems to be more crazy than any satire: Donald Trump, the Brexit campaign... Director Max Stafford-...

Running Wild, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre

Miriam Gillinson

Running Wild is a theatrical safari with no expenses spared. This latest stage adaptation of a novel by Michael Morpurgo (of War Horse fame) boasts a...

Human Animals, Royal Court Theatre

Aleks Sierz

As I sit down to write this, a crow is cawing outside my window while night falls; for an awkard moment I think it might be a raven, and this reminds...

Alistair Beaton: 'If you’re bored, it’ll be...

Alistair Beaton

It’s either serious or it’s funny. That’s a view I quite often encountered when working in Germany. A theatre professional there once advised me to...

King John, Rose Theatre, Kingston

Ismene Brown

EU waverers should enjoy Trevor Nunn's production of a variable play about cynicism

Six of the best: Theatre


A thrilling revival of contemporary classic 'Blue/Orange' leads theartsdesk's stage tips

Blue/Orange, Young Vic

Aleks Sierz

Revival of Joe Penhall’s contemporary classic is superbly staged and brilliantly performed

The Invisible Hand, Tricycle Theatre

Jenny Gilbert

New play that examines global economics and radical Islam is right on the money

First Person: Tackling FGM

Charlene James

In 'Cuttin' It' the Young Vic confronts female genital mutilation. Playwright Charlene James explains her approach

Monster Raving Loony, Soho Theatre

Aleks Sierz

Screaming Lord Sutch biog-play is raucously entertaining, but rather superficial

The Philanderer, Orange Tree Theatre

Marianka Swain

Modern-dress Shaw is resonant but long-winded

'We played to the Queen of Denmark. We did a turn for Barack Obama'

Matthew Romain

After two years with the Globe's 'Hamlet' world tour, a company member attempts to sum up an experience like no other

Brighton Festival: The Complete Deaths, Theatre Royal

Thomas H Green

Superb comic catalogue of Shakespearean murder and mayhem

Brighton Festival: The Encounter, Attenborough Centre for Creative Arts

Alexandra Coghlan

A magical aural journey into the Amazonian jungle

The Busker's Opera, Park Theatre

Alexandra Coghlan

'The Beggar's Opera' gets a 21st-century makeover

10 Questions for Playwright Joe Penhall

Jasper Rees

As Blue/Orange is revived, its author explains the link to the Kinks and the FBI

Brighton Festival: Smoke and Mirrors, Corn Exchange

Thomas H Green

New Mexican circus duo are impressive but deadly serious

Brighton Festival: Digging for Shakespeare, Roedale Allotments

Bella Todd

The Bard is reseeded in this community promenade inspired by an eccentric scholar

Brighton Festival: Operation Black Antler, secret location

Bella Todd

The audience go undercover at a pub party in this intense piece about police surveillance

10 Questions for Artistic Director Emma Rice

Jasper Rees

The new fairy queen of Shakespeare's Globe takes on the Bard

Lawrence After Arabia, Hampstead Theatre

Aleks Sierz

New history play about T E Lawrence is more of a mirage than an oasis

A Midsummer Night's Dream, Shakespeare's Globe

Marianka Swain

New artistic director Emma Rice makes a joyfully irreverent start

An Enemy of the People, Chichester Festival Theatre

Bella Todd

Hugh Bonneville returns to the stage after more than a decade in Ibsen's political comedy

A Midsummer Night's Dream, Middle Temple Hall

David Nice

Mendelssohn's incidental music adds to an enchanted Shakespeare evening

The Iliad, Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh

David Kettle

A fast-moving, thoughtful Homer adaptation marks Mark Thomson's last production in charge of the Lyceum

Elegy, Donmar Warehouse

Aleks Sierz

New drama which explores brain science and female relationships is a bit too slight

Travels with My Aunt, Chichester Festival Theatre

Bella Todd

Patricia Hodge is 70 years young as she globe-trots through musical adaptation of Graham Greene

Show Boat, New London Theatre

Matt Wolf

Iconic musical sails into the West End

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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Groundhog Day
The Old Vic
11 July – 17 September
Groundhog Day is the story of Phil Connors (Andy Karl), a cynical Pittsburgh TV weatherman who is sent to cover the annual Groundhog Day event in the isolated small town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, when he finds himself caught in a time loop, forced to repeat the same day again and again…and again. As each day plays out exactly the same as before Phil becomes increasingly despondent, but is there a lesson to be learnt through his experiences, will he ever unlock the secret and break the cycle?
Director Matthew Warchus, composer and lyricist Tim Minchin, choreographer Peter Darling and designer Rob Howell, four of the creators of the international sensation Matilda The Musical, have joined forces with writer Danny Rubin to collaborate on this new musical based on his 1993 hit film.
Andy Karl’s numerous Broadway credits include On the Twentieth Century, Rocky, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Jersey Boys, Wicked, 9 to 5, Legally Blonde, The Wedding Singer and Saturday Night Fever.

Andy Karl is appearing with the support of UK Equity, incorporating the Variety Artistes’ Federation, pursuant to an exchange program between American Equity and UK Equity.


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