thu 20/09/2018

theatre reviews, news & interviews

Heathers The Musical, Theatre Royal Haymarket review - a sardonic take on teen angst

Marianka Swain

This London premiere of Kevin Murphy and Laurence O’Keefe’s 2010 musical (based on Daniel Waters’ oh-so-Eighties cult classic movie, starring Christian Slater and Winona Ryder) had a development period at The Other Palace – no critics allowed – before cruising into the

Anil Gupta and Richard Pinto: 'We figured Molière would have toyed with it too'

Anil Gupta And Richard Pinto

Back in June 2017, in the days when English summertime was a lazy idyll rather than an apocalyptic inferno, RSC artistic director Greg Doran met us at his office in Stratford-upon-Avon and asked whether we wanted to write a new version of Molière’s Tartuffe.

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...

The Human Voice, Gate Theatre review -...

Katherine Waters

It’s night, and the woman (Leanne Best) is waiting for a phone call. She’s desperate for the voice of her lover – or rather ex-lover: they split...

The Prisoner, National Theatre review - Peter...

David Kettle

Of the Edinburgh International Festival’s three productions by 2018’s resident company, Paris’s Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord, The Prisoner ...

An Adventure, Bush Theatre review - epic but flawed

Aleks Sierz

Deeply felt show about love, marriage and migration doesn’t quite work

Foxfinder, Ambassadors Theatre review - too ponderous by half

Matt Wolf

One time fringe success flounders in West End upgrade

Jeanie O'Hare: 'The play taught me how European we really are'

Jeanie O'Hare

The playwright introduces 'Queen Margaret', her new play for the Royal Exchange, Manchester

The Woods, Royal Court review - Lesley Sharp triumphs again

Aleks Sierz

Overwhelmingly powerful new play about motherhood and psychological collapse

Sir Peter Hall: a day of thanksgiving and celebration for a colossus of culture

Matt Wolf

A year after his death, the great director was honoured by the stars at Westminster Abbey and the National Theatre

'You won't be able to handle this lady': remembering Fenella Fielding

Jasper Rees

The vampish comic actress has died at 90 not long after receiving an OBE

Holy Shit, Kiln Theatre review - what's in a name?

Aleks Sierz

The old Tricycle Theatre is transformed with a name change and a great opening play

Unexpected Joy, Southwark Playhouse review - fully predictable fun

Laura De Lisle

New all-female musical might not be entirely unexpected, but it’s a solid enough evening

Underground Railroad Game, Soho Theatre review - scratching the American wound

Tom Birchenough

A furious, darkly comic riff on race, this frenetic two-hander dazzles

Square Rounds, Finborough Theatre review - the science behind warfare, told in verse

Heather Neill

Didactic theatre piece stronger on facts than drama

The Humans, Hampstead Theatre review - a riveting family portrait

Marianka Swain

Stephen Karam uses domestic drama to tell a contemporary American horror story

Dance Nation, Almeida Theatre review - a tarantella through the convulsions of the teenage psyche

Rachel Halliburton

Humour used too often as a substitute for perception

Love's Labour's Lost, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse review - in praise of a fantastical Spaniard

Tom Birchenough

The ladies of France shine in a production that otherwise makes over-emphatic weather

theartsdesk at bOing! International Family Festival - the best of European children's theatre

Katie Colombus

Visual and aural adventures at well-programmed weekend introduce the young to the arts

Neil Simon: 'I don’t think you want it really dark'

Jasper Rees

The great technician of stage comedy, who has died at 91, recalls writing the likes of Sweet Charity and The Odd Couple

Pericles, National Theatre review - a fizzingly energetic production

Rachel Halliburton

Celebrates multicultural diversity with a zing

Edinburgh Festival 2018 reviews: Home / The Prisoner

David Kettle

Playful visual trickery and gnomic bafflement at the International Festival

h 100 Young Influencers of the Year: Hannah Greenstreet on Three Sisters

Hannah Greenstreet

The third finalist in theartsdesk's award in association with The Hospital Club addresses her review to the creators of a Chekhov production

Edinburgh Festival 2018 reviews: La maladie de la mort / The End of Eddy

David Kettle

Two striking explorations of sexual identity stop short of grabbing the emotions

Edinburgh Festival 2018 reviews: Orpheus / Bottom / Backup

David Kettle

Three intimate storytelling shows at Summerhall offer mixed insights

Emilia, Shakespeare's Globe review - polemic disguised as a play

Laura De Lisle

Great performances save this uneven tribute to a forgotten Elizabethan poet

F Off: National Youth Theatre puts social media on trial

Tatty Hennessy

NYT's new work is aimed at digital natives. Its playwright introduces it

The Best Musicals in London


We recommend the top shows in musical theatre

Greed as the keynote: Robert Carsen on the timelessness of 'The Beggar's Opera'

Robert Carsen

The director brings his contemporary take on John Gay's satire to the Edinburgh Festival

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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