sun 21/09/2014

theatre reviews, news & interviews

Albion, Bush Theatre

Aleks Sierz

Opening on the day after the Scottish Referendum, Chris Thompson’s new play has a timely, even incendiary, title. It also recalls the sad little song ‘Albion’ by Pete Doherty and Babyshambles. This time, however, The Albion is the name of an East End pub which is the home of the English Protection Army, a far-right outfit that is both stupid and more than a touch sinister. If these groups weren’t currently on the rise, cashing in on public disquiet about militant Islamism, it would be much...

Romeo and Juliet, Victoria Baths, Manchester

Philip Radcliffe

Instead of that small well-worn stone balcony in that courtyard in Verona, picture an extended well-worn cast-iron balcony in the Victoria Baths in Manchester. The young lovers have ample room to move in the labyrinthine interior of the old building, with its three disused tiled swimming pools and ecclesiastical stained glass windows. Romeo is the length of a cricket pitch away as he addresses Juliet on the balcony and, for some reason, is moved to do a take on “Love Me Do”.The old changing...

Doctor Scroggy’s War, Shakespeare’s Globe

Aleks Sierz

The number of plays commemorating the outbreak of the First World War continues to grow, with some already falling casualty to critical fire or to...

Ballyturk, National Theatre

Heather Neill

In his masterly essay in the programme for Enda Walsh's latest play, Colm Tóibín warns against attempting to pin his work to a particular...

Hamlet, Royal Exchange, Manchester

Veronica Lee

One of the oddities about theatre is that there can be a gripping performance at the heart of an underwhelming production – and so is the case with...

Ghost from a Perfect Place, Arcola Theatre

Aleks Sierz

Powerful revival of Philip Ridley’s 1994 shock-fest proves that it’s a contemporary classic

Forbidden Broadway, Vaudeville Theatre

David Nice

Fearless foursome spoofs the poker-faced and the overblown in magnificent Menier transfer

King Charles III, Wyndham's Theatre

Ismene Brown

Pigott-Smith is the jewel in the crown of a provocative political comedy

Six of the best: Theatre

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Let the right Mormons in: a bit of everything in theartsdesk's tips

Fully Committed, Menier Chocolate Factory

Marianka Swain

Revived one-man show serves up a smorgasbord of comic treats

True West, Tricycle Theatre

Demetrios Matheou

Sam Shepard’s tale of sibling rivalry and the sad underbelly of the American Dream prevails against almost too much mayhem

10 Questions for Playwright Nicholas Wright

Jasper Rees

Great war story: on adapting Pat Barker's 'Regeneration' for the theatre

Breeders, St James Theatre

Marianka Swain

A witty dissection of modern parenthood shies away from real taboos

theartsdesk in Limerick: A Royal Visit From Grandma

Veronica Lee

Royal de Luxe put on gigantic show in City of Culture

The Flouers o'Edinburgh, Finborough Theatre

Heather Neill

A comedy in Scottish Referendum season that fails to cross the border

theartsdesk Q&A: Actress Sofie Gråbøl

Jasper Rees

The face of Nordic noir on The Killing, cancer and playing a queen for two national theatres

The Comedy of Errors, Shakespeare's Globe

Marianka Swain

A family reunion makes for jolly slapstick in one of the Bard's early works

Little Revolution, Almeida Theatre

Aleks Sierz

New verbatim play about the summer riots of 2011 is more tedious than revealing

First Person: Disabled artists take on the world

Jo Verrent

Introducing Unlimited, the Southbank's festival of work by deaf and disabled artists

Toast, Park Theatre

Caroline Crampton

Richard Bean's play about a bread plant in Hull in the 1970s rises to the occasion

Crystal Springs, Park Theatre / Little Stitches, Theatre503

Naima Khan

Cyberspace goings on and reports from the frontline of FGM

The Lion, St James Theatre Studio

Matt Wolf

Benjamin Scheuer's stirring solo show has both heart and heft

See Rock City & Other Destinations, Union Theatre

Marianka Swain

The emotional voyage takes literal form in this heartfelt if generic new musical

Dogfight, Southwark Playhouse

Marianka Swain

This irresolute jarhead musical is a lover, not a fighter

Jezebel, Soho Theatre

Marianka Swain

Irish sex comedy plays it safe with cosy sitcom laughs

Edinburgh Fringe 2014: Cuckooed/ The Carousel/ Julie Burchill: Absolute Cult/ So It Goes

Veronica Lee

More from the world's biggest and best arts festival

Lauren Bacall: 'Just put your lips together and blow'

Matt Wolf

The screen made her, but she would become a stage tigress, not least when she sang

The James Plays, Edinburgh Festival Theatre

Veronica Lee

Rona Munro's enthralling history cycle bursts with Scottish regal life

Lady Windermere's Fan, King's Head Theatre

Caroline Crampton

Oscar Wilde's comedy of Victorian morals receives an uneven update to the 1930s

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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