sun 28/05/2017

theatre reviews, news & interviews

An Octoroon review - slavery reprised as melodrama in a vibrantly theatrical show

Tom Birchenough

Make no mistake about it, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins is a playwright to watch.

Deposit, Hampstead Theatre Downstairs review - capital's housing crisis lands centre-stage

Will Rathbone

Matt Hartley's personal take on London's housing crisis returns to the Hampstead Theatre's studio space downstairs and is sure to hit audiences where, so to speak, they live.

Twelfth Night, Shakespeare's Globe review -...

Alexandra Coghlan

The Globe’s artistic director Emma Rice has made no secret of her desire to go out with a bang, in this, the final season of her brutally truncated...

The Mikado review - Sasha Regan's all-male...

David Nice

Men playing boys playing girls, women and men, all female parts convincingly falsettoed and high musical standards as backbone: Sasha Regan's single-...

Woyzeck, Old Vic review - John Boyega’s...

Aleks Sierz

Welcome back, John Boyega. Less than a decade ago, he was an unknown budding British stage actor, then he took off as a global film star thanks to...

The Best Plays in London


Catch David Tennant, Eve Best, John Boyega and Damian Lewis in theartsdesk's stage tips

Tristan & Yseult, Brighton Festival review - playful and inventive storytelling

Veronica Lee

Emma Rice's revival of Kneehigh classic is a wonderful synthesis of artforms

The Gabriels, Brighton Festival review - hilarious drama in the shadow of Trump

Nick Hasted

Richard Nelson's Election Year in the Life of One Family is a sprawling Chekhovian saga

Meow Meow's Souvenir, Brighton Festival review – subversive but evocative new song-cycle

Bella Todd

Post-modern cabaret star plays mischief with the ghosts of Brighton’s historic Theatre Royal

Richard III review - Greg Hicks gruesomely impressive as power-crazed ruler

Jenny Gilbert

Arch machination and misogyny in its hero lift an otherwise under-nuanced production

Lettice and Lovage, Menier Chocolate Factory review - Peter Shaffer's star vehicle sags

Matt Wolf

Felicity Kendal follows with difficulty where Maggie Smith once gloriously led

No Dogs, No Indians, Brighton Festival review – poor production shoulders too big a task

Bella Todd

World premiere of Siddhartha Bose's new play empties seats by packing too much in

Life of Galileo, Young Vic review - shared-experience Brecht is powerful, timely

Heather Neill

Reason versus dogma under the stars: Joe Wright goes in-the-round

Manwatching, Royal Court review - the vagina manologues

Veronica Lee

Female sexuality – as voiced by a male comic

Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour review - West End transfer hits all the right notes

Marianka Swain

Lee Hall's sublimely foul-mouthed choristers storm the Duke of York's Theatre

Casus Circus Driftwood, Brighton Festival review - eye-boggling gymnastic theatre

Thomas H Green

Cheerful, physically extraordinary Australian outfit enthrall at the Theatre Royal

The Best Musicals in London


We recommend the top shows in musical theatre

Three Sisters, Sovremennik review - over-conscious of its legendariness

Ismene Brown

Celebrated Moscow company makes Chekhov far from contemporary

Medea, Bristol Old Vic - formulaic feminism lets Greek classic down

Mark Kidel

Greek tragedy stripped of its ambiguity and depth

Salomé, National Theatre review - Yaël Farber’s version is verbose and overblown

Aleks Sierz

New twist on the biblical story gets bogged down in a portentous production

Occupational Hazards, Hampstead Theatre review - vivid outline in search of a fuller play

Matt Wolf

Rory Stewart's Iraq nation-building memoir makes for fluent if sketchy theatre

10 Questions for sound designer Adam Cork

Jasper Rees

Meet the sound magician behind 'Enron', 'London Road' and now Yaël Farber's 'Salomé'

All Our Children review - shameful historical period horrifies anew

Saskia Baron

Stephen Unwin's debut play explores Nazi Germany and eugenics

Angels in America, National Theatre review - Andrew Garfield and company soar in seismic revival

Matt Wolf

Tony Kushner's great work arrives anew in London

Three Comrades, Sovremennik review - well-oiled Russian take on 1920s Berlin

David Nice

Classic Moscow adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque's no-hope novel

The Ferryman, Royal Court, review - ‘Jez Butterworth’s storytelling triumph’

Aleks Sierz

New epic from the ‘Jerusalem’ playwright is a breathtaking experience

The Cardinal, Southwark Playhouse review - 'rarely produced play has renewed punch'

Will Rathbone

Caroline-era play makes a compelling return to the stage

Charlie Sonata, Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh review – 'too much of everything'

David Kettle

Well-meaning but uneven comedy bursts at its seams with mismatched themes

theartsdesk at The Hospital Club


Announcing a new partnership with the most creative club in London

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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Win a Luxury Weekend for Two to Celebrate Brighton Festival!

Kate Tempest

Prize includes a boutique hotel stay, dinner for two and tickets to Brighton Festival’s hotly anticipated events!

Brighton Festival is a fantastic, exhilarating and leading annual celebration of the arts, with events taking place in venues both familiar and unusual across Brighton & Hove for three weeks every May. This year, the Festival an eclectic line-up spanning music, theatre, dance, visual art, film, comedy, debate and spoken word. With the acclaimed recording artist, poet, playwright and novelist Kate Tempest serving as Guest Director.

Enter this competition for a chance to win a fantastic break for two over the opening weekend of Brighton Festival (Saturday 6 - Sunday 7 May).

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