wed 23/04/2014

theatre reviews, news & interviews

Dorian Gray, Riverside Studios

Fisun Güner

Adapted by Linnie Reedman and with music by Joe Evans, Oscar Wilde’s only novel – the more scandalous original version serialised in 1890, which Wilde himself later expurgated – finds a new lease of life narrated by one of its minor characters: theatre impresario and Sibyl Vane’s manager Mr Isaacs. In this production he may not be “fat” but, scraping and bowing at every turn with “pompous humility”, he is certainly played, uncomfortably at times, as stereotypically Jewish, albeit in not quite...

A Will of My Own

Steven Berkoff

I hardly knew anything about Shakespeare as a schoolboy and it was only when attending my first acting classes, when we sallow and uncouth students were required to do a speech each week to be tested on, that I had my first awakenings. At the very first I found the dense text too complex and remote for my taste, but persevered, swallowed the language in great chunks and then heaved it out. But from the outset I felt that something had bit. The text, so sinuous, so entwined in metaphors, slowly...

Privacy, Donmar Warehouse

Aleks Sierz

How careless are we about the details of our private life? Well, unsurprisingly the answer is “very”. To make this point, playwright James Graham...

The School for Scheming, Orange Tree Theatre

Caroline Crampton

Usually, to describe a play as "of its time" is a criticism. It is suggestive of drama that hasn't aged well, that doesn't work quite as well for...

A View From the Bridge, Young Vic

Matt Wolf

What is it with the London theatre and this particular Arthur Miller play? In 1987, Michael Gambon reached a career-best peak playing the Italian-...

Relative Values, Harold Pinter Theatre

Alexandra Coghlan

Trevor Nunn is back on form in a straight production that lets Coward's play do the talking

10 Questions for Director Dmitry Krymov

Thomas H Green

Moscow's theatrical vanguardist talks Shostakovich, Shakespeare and more

Oh My Sweet Land, Young Vic Theatre

Naima Khan

Politics and cooking coalesce in Syrian-themed solo show

A 21st-century Three Sisters

Anya Reiss

The playwright Anya Reiss on modernising Chekhov for Southwark Playhouse

theartsdesk in Sydney: Strictly Ballroom's back

Jeremy Eccles

Baz Luhrmann's film has become a musical at last, after a 30-year journey

Olivier Awards 2014: Mormons, Ghosts, and Chimerica

Matt Wolf

Women prosper in an unusually egalitarian celebration of London theatre

Maudie's Rooms, Bute Street, Cardiff Bay

Elin Williams

Inventive site-specific family entertainment reclaims an abandoned dockside customs house

What Graeae did next

Jenny Sealey

The company director for deaf and disabled performers introduces their collaboration with a Brazilian circus troupe

Listed: Top 10 Children's Theatre Shows

Katie Colombus

Looking for a spot of cultural activity for your family this Easter hols?

King Charles III, Almeida Theatre

Sam Marlowe

The meaning of royalty cleverly probed by Mike Bartlett

Six of the best: Theatre


Emil and the Mormons: a bit of everything in theartsdesk's tips

Birdland, Royal Court Theatre

Aleks Sierz

Andrew Scott stars in Simon Stephens’s flawed new play about rock superstardom

The Beautiful Game, Union Theatre

Veronica Lee

Spirited revival of Lloyd Webber's football musical

Let The Right One In, Apollo Theatre

Sam Marlowe

A triumphant transfer for the beautiful, melancholy vampire drama

A Small Family Business, National Theatre

Aleks Sierz

Alan Ayckbourn’s 1987 play about small-business cheats is fun but superficial

Arcadia, Tobacco Factory Theatres, Bristol

Mark Kidel

Stoppard's 20-year-old classic has more head than heart

Another Country, Trafalgar Studios

Aleks Sierz

Julian Mitchell’s 1981 masterpiece comes to the West End in an engrossing and moving production

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Savoy Theatre

Edward Seckerson

Film-to-stage musical will leave no one feeling conned

Eldorado, Arcola Theatre

Heather Neill

War in the home, on the screen - and as a financial opportunity

Much Ado About Nothing, Royal Exchange, Manchester

Philip Radcliffe

Casting redresses male bias in 1945 setting for Shakespeare's merry war

Barry is ready for her close-up

Bridget Keehan

The town that gave us Gavin and Stacey investigates its past in a new site-specific piece, all aboard a bus

Listed: Celebrating Dylan Thomas

Jasper Rees

As the great Welsh poet turns 100, theartsdesk lists 10 must-see centenary events

Thérèse Raquin, Finborough Theatre

Caroline Crampton

Lust, deceit and depravity unite in this musical version of Zola's novel

Inner Voices, Barbican

David Nice

Toni Servillo towers in De Filippo's Neapolitan tragicomedy, but his company's fine too

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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