sat 30/05/2015

theatre reviews, news & interviews

Temple, Donmar Warehouse

Aleks Sierz

St Paul’s Cathedral is an icon of national identity. The building that rose up from the fire and smoke of the Blitz has also witnessed the funeral of Winston Churchill in 1965 and the royal wedding of Prince Charles and Di some twenty years later. In October 2011, this temple of God found that the Occupy anti-capitalist movement had set up camp outside its monumental front steps. Steve Waters’s new fictional account of this episode of protest shows how the Dean of St Paul’s responds to this...

The Beaux' Stratagem, National Theatre

Alexandra Coghlan

Between Light Shining in Buckinghamshire and Everyman it was beginning to look like we were never going to get a proper, uncomplicated laugh in Rufus Norris’s National Theatre. Thank goodness for Restoration comedy, stepping into the breach as reliably as it did with The Man of Mode in 2007 (who could forget Rory Kinnear’s Sir Fopling Flutter?). Throwing everything and the ancestral silver at the play, director Simon Godwin delivers an evening generous with wit, joy and affection. There...

Margaret Atwood and Graeme Gibson, Corn Exchange...

Nick Hasted

Margaret Atwood’s Forties childhood was spent knocking around the Canadian backwoods with her forest entomologist, proto-ecologist dad, and it shows...

King Lear, Northern Broadsides, Touring

Ismene Brown

Jonathan Miller’s new King Lear is rustic to its core, spoken in broad Northern accents, and the whole production could be packed onto a travelling...

Peter Pan, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre

Marianka Swain

“All children, except one, grow up.” So begins J. M. Barrie’s iconic tale of arrested development, given new power and poignancy in this high-flying...

McQueen, St James Theatre

Matt Wolf

An excellent Stephen Wight can't salvage torpid bioplay

As You Like It, Shakespeare's Globe

Marianka Swain

Warmly traditional Shakespeare needs more theatrical magic

L'Oublié(e)/The Forgotten, Brighton Dome

Thomas H Green

Conceptual French production that revels in the hallucinatory

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, RFH

Matt Wolf

Frank Loesser musical classic is charming, funny... and long

10 Questions for Actress Pippa Bennett-Warner

Marianka Swain

The rising star talks comedy, corsets and colour-blind casting

Periplum 451, Preston Barracks, Brighton

Thomas H Green

Enthralling and free outdoor spectacular based on Ray Bradbury's dystopian novel

Six of the best: Theatre


A bit of everything in theartsdesk's stage tips

High Society, Old Vic Theatre

Edward Seckerson

Cole Porter film-turned-stage-musical semi-fizzes in latest revival

Skin in Flames, Park Theatre

Heather Neill

Catalan drama examines exploitation in the aftermath of Western intervention

Death of a Salesman, Noël Coward Theatre

Fisun Güner

Stunning performances make Miller's masterpiece burn

The Beautiful Cosmos of Ivor Cutler, Theatre Royal, Brighton

Matthew Wright

Brilliantly devised theatre lights up the life of a musical eccentric

Communicating Doors, Menier Chocolate Factory

Marianka Swain

Ayckbourn produces fusion confusion with his time travel comedy thriller

The Father, Tricycle Theatre

Marianka Swain

Brutally honest portrait of dementia is unmissable theatre

Hay Fever, Duke of York's Theatre

Jenny Gilbert

Noel Coward's hosts-from-hell comedy looks the part, but sounds too modern

Beyond Bollywood, London Palladium

Marianka Swain

New Bollywood musical is more tourist bait than effective dance drama

The Angry Brigade, Bush Theatre

Aleks Sierz

Paines Plough's documentary about the 1970s urban terror group is thrillingly theatrical

The Vote, Donmar Warehouse

Aleks Sierz

Television tie-in features live real-time voting: it’s timely but more a stunt than a drama

The Audience, Apollo Theatre

Marianka Swain

Kristin Scott Thomas is a worthy successor in Morgan's rejigged revival

The Lads In Their Hundreds, Theatre Royal, Brighton

Nick Hasted

Anglo-French poetry and music revives World War One's real voices

The Apple Family Plays, Brighton Dome

Matt Wolf

Soul-searching theatrical quartet puts America under the microscope

Beyond Caring, National Theatre

Aleks Sierz

New play about zero-hour contracts is powerfully authentic, but depressingly unentertaining

Lungs, Roundabout at Regency Square, Brighton

Veronica Lee

Thrilling two-hander about a disintegrating relationship

The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare's Globe

Alexandra Coghlan

Jonathan Munby's Merchant is quiet, but delivers a deadly final blow

Everyman, National Theatre

Marianka Swain

Stylishly updated morality play needs more provocative foundation

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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