tue 13/11/2018

theatre reviews, news & interviews

War Horse, National Theatre review - still touching after all these years

Tim Cornwell

War Horse at the National Theatre on Sunday’s Armistice Day centenary: there were medalled veterans and at least one priest in the rows in front, dark suits and poppies all around, and scarcely a youngster in sight.

The Simon & Garfunkel Story, Vaudeville Theatre review - more tribute act than theatre piece

Liz Thomson

What to make of The Simon & Garfunkel Story, which began a week-long residency at London’s Vaudeville Theatre last night and which tours in the new year? A success “from Sydney to Seattle” apparently, with Elaine Paige having called it “amazing” and various regional newspapers offering superlatives.

Robert Hastie: 'a seam of love runs through...

Heather Neill

Robert Hastie is a little late for our meeting. Directing Shakespeare's darkest tragedy in London while also running Sheffield Theatres must...

Dramatic Exchanges review - a brilliant slice of...

Marina Vaizey

Dramatic Exchanges is a dazzling array of correspondence, stretching over more than a century, between National Theatre people. It’s a...

The Hoes, Hampstead Theatre review - sex and...

Aleks Sierz

Because of the #MeToo movement, and the revival of feminist protest, the theme of sisterhood now has a much stronger cultural presence than at the...

The Hoes, Hampstead Theatre review - sex and drink and grime

Aleks Sierz

Girls just wanna have fun in the sun - smart, funny but slender debut play

Don Quixote, Garrick Theatre review - riotous revival of Cervantes' much-loved chivalric tale

Heather Neill

A crowd-pleasing mix of metatheatrical comedy and music, mingled with melancholy

Romeo and Juliet, Barbican review - plenty of action but not enough words

Alexandra Coghlan

Erica Whyman's RSC production finds youthful energy but not clarity

Don Quixote rides again, and again

Jasper Rees

The RSC's stage version reaches the West End, while Terry Gilliam's film is stuck in a legal vortex

White Teeth, Kiln Theatre review - tuneless hymn to Kilburn High Road

Aleks Sierz

Imaginative adaptation of Zadie Smith's 2000 classic let down by unnecessary music

The Best Plays in London


What to see where and until when: theartsdesk's stage tips

Still No Idea, Royal Court review - spiky, funny, and politically pointed

Matt Wolf

Disability-themed two-hander suggests that little has changed in eight years

ear for eye, Royal Court review - powerful and passionate anti-racism

Aleks Sierz

New epic compares the experience of black people in the US and the UK

Honour, Park Theatre review - an assault on complacency

Rachel Halliburton

This scalpel-sharp drama anatomises marital breakdown with cold-eyed clarity

I and You, Hampstead Theatre review - Young Adult drama packs emotional punch

Veronica Lee

Two-hander stars Maisie Williams and Zach Wyatt in striking stage debuts

theartsdesk Q&A: Theatre Producer Elyse Dodgson

James Woodall

Remembering the unsung heroine of new theatre in translation, who has died aged 73

The Wild Duck, Almeida Theatre review - meta, merciless and altogether brilliant

Matt Wolf

Robert Icke reaches a new career plateau with his Ibsen adaptation

A Very Very Very Dark Matter, Bridge Theatre review - black comedy falls flat

Aleks Sierz

Martin McDonagh's latest is poorly written and lacking in imagination

Macbeth, RSC, Barbican review - Shakespeare's blood-boltered tragedy, tense but flawed

Heather Neill

Horror flick echoes fail to meet all the play's challenges

Wise Children, Old Vic review - Emma Rice in fun if not quite top-flight form

Matt Wolf

Angela Carter adaptation strains to sustain its high spirits

A Guide For The Homesick, Trafalgar Studios review - warmly funny and deeply moving

Rachel Halliburton

Ken Urban's play is a psychological thriller crossed with a love story

Company, Gielgud Theatre review - here's to a sensational musical rebirth

Marianka Swain

Marianne Elliott's gender-swapped Sondheim is a revelation

Stories, National Theatre review - comic conception capers

Aleks Sierz

Nina Raine's follow-up to her very big hit Consent is often funny but rarely deep

Measure for Measure, Donmar Warehouse review - Shakespeare twice-over packs a partial sting

Matt Wolf

Double vision as Angelo and Isabella swap roles

The Inheritance, Noël Coward Theatre review - tangled knot of gay fairy-tale and reality

David Nice

A virtuoso ensemble justifies this youthful baggy monster's West End transfer

Parents' Evening, Jermyn Street Theatre - chemistry so negligible it's antiseptic

Rachel Halliburton

A disappointing portrait of middle-class hypocrisy

The Height of the Storm, Wyndham's Theatre review - Eileen Atkins raises the elliptical to art

Matt Wolf

Florian Zeller puzzle-play benefits from two potent stars

I'm Not Running, National Theatre review - puzzling political drama

Aleks Sierz

David Hare’s latest is set in an alternative reality that is more 2008 than 2018

Twelfth Night, Young Vic review - Kwame Kwei-Armah makes a big-hearted return home

Matt Wolf

Shakespeare sings in buoyant if sometimes strenuous UK premiere

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.

Close Footnote

Advertising feature


Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters

latest in today

Pinters Three and Four, Harold Pinter Theatre review - doubl...

The West End is specialising in two-parters of late. To...

Thibaudet/Batiashvili/Capuçon Trio, Barbican review – a supe...

Even in a large hall, very good things can come in small packages. In advance, partisans of the Wigmore Hall or some other dedicated chamber space...

The Simon & Garfunkel Story, Vaudeville Theatre review -...

What to make of The Simon & Garfunkel Story, which began a week-long residency at London’s...

theartsdesk on Vinyl 44: Thom Yorke, Primal Scream, Elvis, N...

Enough hyping! This month, without further ado, let’s head straight to the reviews…



CD: Imogen Heap - The Music of Harry Potter and the Cursed C...

London’s Palace Theatre this week celebrated the thousandth...

They Shall Not Grow Old, BBC Two review - Peter Jackson...

Peter Jackson has form when it comes to re-examining cinema history. In 1995 he made Forgotten Silver, a...

Robert Hastie: 'a seam of love runs through the play...

Robert Hastie is a little late for our meeting. Directing ...

LSO, Roth, Barbican - not enough pathos, but a remarkable st...

Missa in Angustiis. Mass in troubled times. There was a logic in...

Edward Burne-Jones, Tate Britain review - time for a rethink...

When, in 1853, Edward Burne-Jones (or Edward Jones as he then was) went up to Exeter College, Oxford, it could hardly have been expected that the...