sat 04/07/2015

theatre reviews, news & interviews

Measure for Measure, Shakespeare's Globe

Alexandra Coghlan

If Simon McBurney’s Measure for Measure for the National Theatre and Declan Donnellan’s recent Cheek By Jowl production mined deep for darkness, Dominic Dromgoole’s for the Globe is content to skim the play’s sunny surface – the comedy manqué that Shakespeare didn’t quite write. It’s a decision that makes sense of a difficult work on the Globe’s own terms, playing to a summer crowd, but one that also generates its own confusions and inconsistencies.The heat on press night only added to the...

The Importance of Being Earnest, Vaudeville Theatre

Alexandra Coghlan

Geoffrey Rush has done it, Gyles Brandreth has done it, Stephen Fry came close to doing it, and now David Suchet is giving it a go – donning drag and a perpetually disgusted expression to play everyone’s favourite drawing-room gorgon, Lady Bracknell. Having completed its tour around England, Adrian Noble’s affectionate production of The Importance of Being Earnest now sets up home in London’s Vaudeville Theatre, cucumber sandwiches at the ready, hoping to charm summer audiences with an English...

{150}, National Theatre Wales/Theatr Genedlaethol...

Dylan Moore

The brackets around {150} are ambiguous, almost apologetic. The 150th anniversary of Y Wladfa (The Colony), the semi-legendary "oasis of Welshness"...

Positive: Introducing a comedy about HIV/AIDS


Of all the art forms, theatre has been most attentive to the story of HIV/AIDS. Leading the way in America there was Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart...

The Trial, Young Vic

David Nice

Kafka and Jones, the names above this little shop of horrors, would be a marriage made in off-kilter theatreland had the Czech genius written any...

Keeping up with the Joneses

Jasper Rees

The epic story of Welsh Patagonia finds Wales's two national theatres collaborating

The Seagull, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre

Marianka Swain

Strikingly staged Chekhov continues a strong season in the park

Bend It Like Beckham The Musical, Phoenix Theatre

Veronica Lee

Successful transfer to stage for feelgood show

An Oak Tree, National Theatre

Marianka Swain

Tim Crouch's experimental meditation on performance is indelibly powerful

Luna Gale, Hampstead Theatre

Marianka Swain

Topical and thought-provoking child neglect play is hampered by sensational twists

The Motherf**ker with the Hat, National Theatre

Matt Wolf

Stephen Adly Guirgis's Broadway hit is entertaining if a bit too studied in its UK debut

Hang, Royal Court Theatre

Aleks Sierz

Latest play from debbie tucker green is powerful, but lacks both drama and story

We Want You To Watch, National Theatre

Marianka Swain

Theatrical attack on pornography is well-intentioned, but disappointingly superficial

Gallery: The Drowned Man of Punchdrunk


Stunning images from a new book celebrating the site-specific company's big Hollywood hit

Arise, Sir Van, Sir Lenny and Sir Kevin. Dame who?

Jasper Rees

Public school actors do well in the Queen's birthday honours, but women in the arts fare less well

Six of the best: Theatre


A bit of everything in theartsdesk's stage tips

An Audience with Jimmy Savile, Park Theatre

Marianka Swain

Controversial play offers responsible reconstruction, but minimal drama

The Red Lion, National Theatre

Veronica Lee

Patrick Marber's latest is a game of two halves

Violence and Son, Royal Court Theatre

Aleks Sierz

New play about fathers and sons is very hard to stomach, but impossible to forget

Waiting for Godot, Barbican

Marianka Swain

Sydney Theatre Company offers a stylish and humane take on Beckett

Now This Is Not the End, Arcola Theatre

Aleks Sierz

New play about an old Berliner and her family is consistently interesting and moving

Oresteia, Almeida Theatre

David Nice

Lia Williams stands firm on the bones of Aeschylus in uncertain makeover

Fiddler on the Roof, Grange Park Opera

Kimon Daltas

Bryn Terfel is superb in this not-quite-operatic production of the classic musical

Buckets, Orange Tree Theatre

Jenny Gilbert

New play about life, death and the pressure of the bucket list is clever but curiously weightless

Stop! The Play, Trafalgar Studios

Marianka Swain

New meta-theatrical comedy is a fun but lightweight industry romp

The Elephant Man, Theatre Royal, Haymarket

Matt Wolf

Bradley Cooper's star power transfers to the stage

Temple, Donmar Warehouse

Aleks Sierz

New play about the Occupy movement starring Simon Russell Beale is deep but undramatic

The Beaux' Stratagem, National Theatre

Alexandra Coghlan

Energetic and irreverent comic delight from start to finish

Margaret Atwood and Graeme Gibson, Corn Exchange, Brighton

Nick Hasted

Canadian literary great and author husband talk birds, and each other

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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The Independent



Time Out


The international five-star smash hit production of Orwell's dystopian masterpiece 1984 is now back in London for a limited West End season. Now seen by a quarter of a million people, theatre's most powerful event will run until 5 September. Don't miss out.


April, 1984. 13:00. Comrade 6079, Winston Smith, thinks a thought, starts a diary, and falls in love. But Big Brother is always watching.


Orwell's ideas have become our ideas; his fiction is often said to be our reality. The "definitive book of the 20th century" (The Guardian) is re-examined in this radical and much lauded staging exploring surveillance, identity and why Orwell's vision of the future is as relevant now as ever.


For more information and to book tickets, visit 


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