thu 26/11/2015

theatre reviews, news & interviews

Pericles, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

Alexandra Coghlan

Pericles is a play of voyages. Lands and landscapes crowd in, one after the other – Tyre, Tarsus, Ephesus, Antioch, Mitylene –  until our dramatic sea-legs are decidedly unsteady. The demands are great for any theatre, but for the Globe’s tiny, candle-lit Sam Wanamaker Playhouse they are impossible, freeing director Dominic Dromgoole to ignore spectacle and visual dislocation in favour of an emotionally-driven, chamber take on this late romance.Designer Jonathan Fensom’s visuals may be...

Six of the best: Theatre


PLAYSThe Winter's Tale ★★★, Harlequinade/All On Her Own ★★★★, Garrick Theatre Kenneth Branagh's season begins with flawed Shakespeare, riotous Rattigan and a boozy unburdening. Until 16 JanJane Eyre, National Theatre ★★★★ An ardent theatrical reimagining of a classic novel. Until 10 JanHusbands & Sons, National Theatre ★★★★ The clever merging of three DH Lawrence mining plays creates a quiet triumph. Until 10 FebThe Homecoming, Trafalgar...

Evening at The Talk House, National Theatre

Matt Wolf

A lot of people are going to be enraged, frustrated, or confused by Evening at The Talk House, and in the authorial world of Wallace Shawn, wasn't it...

Ben Hur, Tricycle Theatre

Marianka Swain

Hollywood took 365 speaking parts, 50,000 extras and 78 horses to tell this epic tale in 1959; here at the Tricycle, it’s a cast of four and some...

The Homecoming, Trafalgar Studios

Marianka Swain

Welcome to the hellmouth. In Jamie Lloyd’s startling 50th anniversary revival, the seething, primal hinterland of Pinter’s domestic conflict is made...

The Divided Laing, Arcola Theatre

Aleks Sierz

New RD Laing drama is a surreal tribute to a great 20th-century thinker and radical

Flowering Cherry, Finborough Theatre

Tom Birchenough

A husband and father goes to seed in Robert Bolt's first play

Derren Brown: Miracle, Palace Theatre

Veronica Lee

Astonishing new show from master illusionist

Measure for Measure to music

Ellie Nunn

The star of 'Desperate Measures', a new Shakespeare musical at Jermyn Street Theatre, explains all

10 Questions for playwright Patrick Barlow

Jasper Rees

After world conquest with 'The 39 Steps' and four actors, his next challenge is 'Ben Hur'

Henry V, RSC, Barbican Theatre

Ismene Brown

Gregory Doran's shallow postmodern production has a wincing King at its centre

Four Minutes Twelve Seconds, Trafalgar Studios

Marianka Swain

A compelling but contrived new play tackles revenge porn

The Session, Soho Theatre

Aleks Sierz

New play about cultural differences is too short, too small and too intellectually cramped

Waste, National Theatre

Aleks Sierz

Stylish revival of Harley Granville Barker’s political classic can’t disguise the play’s defects

The Winter's Tale, Harlequinade/All On Her Own, Garrick Theatre

Marianka Swain

Kenneth Branagh's season begins with flawed Shakespeare, riotous Rattigan and a boozy unburdening

Thomas Tallis, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

Alexandra Coghlan

A beautiful concept of a show can't quite come alive in performance

Elf, Dominion Theatre

Marianka Swain

Syrupy and overpriced Christmas musical is instantly forgettable

Pig Farm, St James Theatre

Veronica Lee

Latest from creator of Urinetown falls into the mire

As You Like It, National Theatre

Alexandra Coghlan

A magical Forest of Arden indeed, though not without its thorns

Xanadu, Southwark Playhouse

Marianka Swain

This retro roller-skating musical comedy is divinely bonkers

When Hamlet came to a Syrian refugee camp

Matthew Romain

The Globe's epic two-year world tour has just performed in a Jordanian camp. One of the company reports

Dinner With Friends, Park Theatre

Marianka Swain

An astute American play puts marriage under the microscope

The Hairy Ape, Old Vic

David Nice

A fine-tuned engine from Richard Jones, but is Eugene O’Neill’s diatribe a good one?

The Moderate Soprano, Hampstead Theatre

Alexandra Coghlan

This Glyndebourne play will charm Glyndebourne's core audience, but is that enough?

Husbands & Sons, National Theatre

Marianka Swain

The clever merging of three DH Lawrence mining plays creates a quiet triumph

First Person: Writing about the transgender experience

Jon Brittain

Jon Brittain on gender, sexuality and the journey of researching his new play

10 Questions for Director Roger Michell

Jasper Rees

Harley Granville Barker's 'Waste' still resonates, says the director reviving it at the National

Plaques and Tangles, Royal Court Theatre

Aleks Sierz

New drama about Alzheimer’s and genetic testing is fully felt and emotionally riveting

An Open Book: David Lan

Marianka Swain

The Young Vic's artistic director on Steinbeck, his love of social history, and the only theatre book 'that really matters'

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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