tue 24/10/2017

theatre reviews, news & interviews

Witness for the Prosecution, London County Hall review - favourable verdict on Agatha Christie classic

Aleks Sierz

Some site-specific theatre feels like a really good fit. You could say, in this case, that it seems like poetic justice.

Of Kith and Kin, Bush Theatre, review - comic but confused gay surrogacy drama

Aleks Sierz

A new baby is like an alien invasion: it blows your mind and it colonises your world. For any couple, parenthood can be both exalting and devastating, with the stress hugging the relationship so tightly that eventually all its lies pop out.

The Best Plays in London


London is the theatre capital of the world, with more than 50 playhouses offering theatrical entertainment. From the mighty National Theatre to the...

The Lady from the Sea, Donmar Warehouse review -...

David Nice

What a profoundly beautiful play is Ibsen's The Lady from the Sea. It stands in relation to the earlier, relatively confined A Doll’s House, Ghosts...

The End of Hope, Soho Theatre review - initially...

Katherine Waters

In David Ireland's new hour-long two-hander – a co-production between Soho Theatre and west London's Orange Tree – two strangers...

Venus in Fur, Theatre Royal Haymarket review - pain and pleasure in a starry two-hander

Marianka Swain

It's Fifty Shades of Auditioning in this tricksy erotic comedy

Albion, Almeida Theatre, review – Victoria Hamilton’s epic performance

Aleks Sierz

Doctor Foster writer explores Englishness with enormous metaphoric zeal

Fierce: the Birmingham festival which reaches out to Europe and beyond

Aaron Wright

The new artistic director of the international showcase of live art and performance says what's coming

A Woman of No Importance, Vaudeville - Eve Best is superb as a woman scorned

Veronica Lee

Dominic Dromgoole's Oscar Wilde seasons opens with a winner

David Oakes: 'I haven’t done anything as bad as my characters'

Jasper Rees

The actor stars opposite Natalie Dormer in Venus in Fur. Why is he always exploring the dark side?

Beginning, National Theatre review - assured, intimate, but short of surprises

Sam Marlowe

David Eldridge's wry-warm two-hander on the unsexy side of singledom

The Seagull, Lyric Hammersmith review – is Lesley Sharp's Irina a sex addict?

Ismene Brown

Chekhov's classic bird updates entertainingly, even if lopsidedly, as a play for today

The Busy World Is Hushed, Finborough Theatre review - new play puts the G-word centre stage

Jenny Gilbert

Religious faith, family tragedy and gay love make an unholy trinity in this European premiere

Young Frankenstein review - Mel Brooks musical is blissfully bonkers

Matt Wolf

Broadway misfire finds chuckles aplenty, and a heart, at the Garrick Theatre

Saint George and the Dragon, National Theatre review – a modern folk tale in the Olivier

Heather Neill

England’s patron saint travels through time to demonstrate changing views of heroism

The Best Musicals in London


We recommend the top shows in musical theatre

'I come from there': how the Royal Court brought home plays from Ukraine, Chile and Syria

Elyse Dodgson

The Court's international director explores the roots of this autumn's international season

Nikki Amuka-Bird interview: 'There’s huge enthusiasm among actors of colour'

Heather Neill

Ibsen hits the Caribbean in 'The Lady from the Sea' at the Donmar. Its star explains

Heisenberg: The Uncertainty Principle, Wyndham’s Theatre review – paradoxically predictable

Aleks Sierz

Anne-Marie Duff and Kenneth Cranham in unconvincing rom-com

Victory Condition, Royal Court review - Ballardian vision of the contemporary

Aleks Sierz

New two-hander is a stylised account of a nihilistic reality

The Lie, Menier Chocolate Factory review - fake news, real feeling

Marianka Swain

The war on facts takes marital form in Florian Zeller's comedy

h.Club 100 Awards 2017: The Winners


News from The Hospital Club's annual awards for the creative industries, plus theartsdesk's Young Reviewer of the Year

Labour of Love, Noël Coward Theatre, review - Martin Freeman and Tamsin Greig labour in vain

Aleks Sierz

Comedy about Labour Party history is starry, but tediously overblown

B, Royal Court review - intriguing, ironical, but flawed

Aleks Sierz

New Chilean play about terrorism is satirical, but ends up non-committal

'First read-throughs have magic': Simon Stephens on Heisenberg: The Uncertainty Principle

Simon Stephens

The playwright describes the first day of rehearsal of a new play produced by a new company

After the Rehearsal/Persona, Toneelgroep Amsterdam, Barbican - van Hove reconfigures Bergman

David Nice

Two dramas about acting and being, illusion and reality, form an inseparable whole

'I’d never written a play as a single action before': David Eldridge on 'Beginning'

David Eldridge

The playwright explores the gestation of his new play for the National Theatre

Young Reviewer of the Year Award: the four finalists are...


Announcing the shortlist of our critics' competition, with extracts from each entry

Jane Eyre, National Theatre review - a dynamic treatment that just misses

Jenny Gilbert

Athletic adaptation of Charlotte Brontë's novel doesn't quite fly

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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