tue 26/07/2016

theatre reviews, news & interviews

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Palace Theatre

Matt Wolf

Harry Potter lives to see another day. The Hogwarts wizard has made his stage debut in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a two-part play that pushes JK Rowling’s world-beating franchise beyond the realm of fiction and film to embrace live action: the bespectacled boy has become an angsty grown-up, and London theatre is much the richer for it.But are these characters really three-dimensional? The answer is a resounding yes, if a moist-eyed audience following Sunday’s final curtain is any gauge...

Jesus Christ Superstar, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre

Alexandra Coghlan

London’s West End may be the envy of the world, but when it comes to musicals the big-hitting theatres might have to up their game a bit if they’re to keep up with the city’s rival offerings. Compare the summer’s biggest opening, Aladdin (currently failing to pull a genie out of its bottle at the Prince Edward Theatre) with just a few of the current upstart alternatives: the cheeky and charming Bugsy Malone at the Lyric Hammersmith and the thoughtful Into The Woods at the Menier Chocolate...

Some Girl(s), Park Theatre

Marianka Swain

Neil LaBute’s exercise in self-flagellation, first seen in 2005 and adapted for film in 2013, offers his familiar misanthropic take on the battle of...

Into the Woods, Menier Chocolate Factory

Matt Wolf

"Children will listen," or so goes a lyric to one of the most heart-rending numbers in Into the Woods, the Stephen Sondheim/James Lapine musical that...

Unreachable, Royal Court Theatre

Jenny Gilbert

There are obvious reasons why films about the theatre outnumber plays about the movie industry, but here’s a play that bucks that trend. Anthony...

The Stripper, St James Theatre

Marianka Swain

A musical take on pulp noir is frustratingly uneven

Six of the best: Theatre


An utterly compelling revival of Brian Friel's 'Faith Healer' leads theartsdesk's stage tips

Bugsy Malone, Lyric Hammersmith

Marianka Swain

Generation-bridging joy with the return of the mobster musical pastiche

Faith Healer, Donmar Warehouse

Aleks Sierz

Revival of Brian Friel’s 1979 classic is brilliantly acted and utterly compelling

Brian Friel, the private playwright of Ballybeg

Jasper Rees

The Northern Irish stage craftsman celebrated for Dancing at Lughnasa and Faith Healer

As You Like It, The Savill Garden, Windsor

Ismene Brown

All the garden's a stage for an appealing Shakespeare staging of romance and spectacle

Opinion: Post-Brexit, we need theatre more than ever

Marianka Swain

The arts hold the key to our collective humanity

First Person: Boys Will Be Boys

Melissa Bubnic

Melissa Bubnic introduces her new play about women working in a man’s world

Macbeth, Shakespeare's Globe

Marianka Swain

Incoherent vision results in a (Mac)duff production

Henry V, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre

Marianka Swain

Michelle Terry anchors a reflective exploration of leadership and nationhood

Maggie and Pierre, Finborough Theatre

Miriam Gillinson

Challenging one-woman play about first lady of Canadian politics Maggie Trudeau

The Mighty Walzer: ping-pong in the round

Simon Bent

Howard Jacobson's much-loved novel is coming to the stage. Simon Bent explains how he adapted it

Vassa Zheleznova, Southwark Playhouse

Jenny Gilbert

Rarely performed Gorky play re-emerges as a relentless dirge

Wild, Hampstead Theatre

Marianka Swain

Mike Bartlett's ponderous Snowden drama is animated by an astonishing finale

Hobson's Choice, Vaudeville Theatre

Matt Wolf

A bewhiskered Martin Shaw barnstorms his way through an English classic

theartsdesk at the Holland Festival

James Woodall

Dutchness, audio-jungle, dirty minds and Dunsinane at one of Europe's premier arts festivals

Richard III, Almeida Theatre

Matt Wolf

Ralph Fiennes rivets anew as Shakespeare's English psycho of a king

Karagula, Styx

Aleks Sierz

Philip Ridley’s latest is an ambitious fantasy epic that will blow you clean away

Aladdin, Prince Edward Theatre

Edward Seckerson

Disney's latest blockbuster film-turned-stage show remains airborne – just

Haïm: In the Light of a Violin, The Print Room

Jenny Gilbert

Compact, stylish show about a Polish Jew who survived Auschwitz by playing the fiddle

Handle with Care, Urban Locker

Miriam Gillinson

Dante or Die's site-specific show - set in a storage unit - loses its way

Phaedra(s), Odéon-Théâtre de l'Europe, Barbican

David Nice

Huppert and Warlikowski create spellbinding lyric-epic theatre

The Quiet House, Park Theatre

Marianka Swain

Gareth Farr produces an agonising portrait of fertility struggle

Ross, Chichester Festival Theatre

Bella Todd

Joseph Fiennes sizes down the myth of Laurence of Arabia in Rattigan's messy epic

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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