wed 29/03/2017

theatre reviews, news & interviews

The Wipers Times, Arts Theatre review - 'dark comedy from the trenches'

Veronica Lee

You may be having a moment of déjà vu, as Ian Hislop and Nick Newman’s new play (which lands in the West End after a UK tour) was previously a BBC film (shown in 2013), and a very fine one too, covering as it does a true story from the First World War.

Anna Maxwell Martin: 'I like playing baddies' - interview

Heather Neill

She was Lyra in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials at the National, she has shared the stage with Eileen Atkins (in Honour and The Female of the Species), played Isabella in Measure for Measure, Regan in King Lear and Sally Bowles in Cabaret.

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...

theartsdesk Q&A: Writer David Storey, pt 1

Jasper Rees

David Storey, who has died at the age of 83, was the last of the Angry Young Men who, in fiction and drama, made a hero of the working-class...

theartsdesk Q&A: Writer David Storey, pt 2

Jasper Rees

In Radcliffe, an early novel by David Storey, one character murders another with a telling blow from a hammer. The author was later advised that...

The Kid Stays in the Picture, Royal Court, review – ‘sad, bad and sprawling’

Aleks Sierz

Cut! Simon McBurney muddles the story of Hollywood mogul Robert Evans

An American in Paris review - 'stagecraft couldn't be slicker'

Jenny Gilbert

Christopher Wheeldon's staging at the Dominion is the most glamorous escape in town

The Best Musicals in London


We recommend the top shows in musical theatre

Love in Idleness, Menier Chocolate Factory

Tom Birchenough

Eve Best shines in wartime Rattigan rarity which riffs on 'Hamlet'

Roman Tragedies, Toneelgroep Amsterdam, Barbican

David Nice

Acting becomes being in Ivo van Hove's six-hour Shakespeare epic

Stepping Out, Vaudeville Theatre

Veronica Lee

Maria Friedman's revival of frothy comedy

A Dark Night in Dalston, Park Theatre

Aleks Sierz

Michelle Collins stars in haunting account of belief and loneliness

The Miser, Garrick Theatre

Tom Birchenough

Molière at full throttle: Griff Rhys Jones and Lee Mack appeal

Romeo and Juliet, West Yorkshire Playhouse

Graham Rickson

Shakespeare with added smartphones

'Backstabbing, betrayal and love': Ryan Craig on Filthy Business

Ryan Craig

The birth of a very personal new work at Hampstead Theatre about a small family business

My Country; A Work in Progress, National Theatre

Aleks Sierz

The poet laureate’s verbatim play about Brexit sinks into banality

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Harold Pinter Theatre

Heather Neill

Humour and vitriol contend in a tightly orchestrated production of Albee's celebrated play

Limehouse, Donmar Warehouse

Aleks Sierz

Docudrama about the 1981 Labour Party split is a treat – for politicos

I'm Gonna Pray for You So Hard, Finborough Theatre

Tom Birchenough

Conflicts in a theatre family: sharp writing in a new American two-hander

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Old Vic

Matt Wolf

Stoppard's breakout play gets a giddy 50th anniversary revival

A Profoundly Affectionate, Passionate Devotion to Someone (–noun), Royal Court Theatr

Aleks Sierz

New play by debbie tucker green is too abstract for its own good

Othello, Tobacco Factory, Bristol

Mark Kidel

Othello as Iago's tale: sex, violence and misogyny

Refugees and referendums: Ramin Gray on staging Aeschylus's The Suppliant Women

Ramin Gray

The second oldest play, adapted by David Greig for the Actors Touring Company, bursts with contemporary resonance

Ugly Lies the Bone, National Theatre

Aleks Sierz

American play about virtual reality therapy is a bit thin

Othello, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

David Nice

Kurt Egyiawan's Moor takes arms against a sea of production troubles, but in vain

10 Questions for Director Ellen McDougall

Heather Neill

On directing 'Othello' at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, and taking over at the Gate

Hamlet, Almeida Theatre

David Nice

Andrew Scott, predictably unpredictable, is subject to Robert Icke's slow-burn clarity

Speech & Debate, Trafalgar Studios

Matt Wolf

Tony winner's first play couples awkwardness and charm

A Midsummer Night's Dream, Young Vic

Alexandra Coghlan

Shakespeare's comedy gets bogged down in this messy production

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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