wed 28/09/2022

theatre reviews, news & interviews

The Wonderful World of Dissocia, Theatre Royal Stratford East review - wild trip gets a welcome revival

Gary Naylor

Lisa has lost an hour in a (somewhat contrived) temporal glitch. As a consequence, her world is always sliding off-kilter, not quite making sense, things floating in and out of memory. A watchmaker (himself somewhat loosely tethered to reality) tells her that she needs to get it back as a lost hour wields great power and can fall into the wrong hands. Lisa embraces her quest and travels to the strange land of Dissocia.

'The first thing I do when I wake up is write.' Hilary Mantel, 1952-2022

Jasper Rees

Hilary Mantel, who has died at the age of 70, was a maker of literary history. Wolf Hall, an action-packed 650-page brick of a book about the rise and rise of Thomas Cromwell, won the Man Booker Prize in 2009. Three years later its successor, Bring Up the Bodies, became the first sequel ever to win the prize in its 44-year history.

Clutch, Bush Theatre review - new comedy-drama...

Gary Naylor

Max is big and black and Tyler is slight and (very) white, an odd couple trapped in a dual-control car as Max barks out his instructions and Tyler...

Bright Half Life, Kings Head Theatre review - ups...

Helen Hawkins

A tender love story has arrived at the Kings Head theatre from the US, where its author, Tanya Barfield, is an award-winning playwright for both...

Handbagged, Kiln Theatre review - triumphant...

Helen Hawkins

It’s only nine years since Moira Buffini’s Handbagged had its premiere at Kilburn’s Tricycle theatre (renamed the Kiln in 2018), but it triumphantly...

The P Word, Bush Theatre review - persecution and pride

Aleks Sierz

Two-hander about a contrasting pair of gay Pakistanis is beautifully wrought

The Snail House, Hampstead Theatre - perplexing new drama that lacks bite

Rachel Halliburton

The central character is put in the dock but has ample evidence to get out

The Two Popes, Rose Theatre review - sparkling with wit and pathos

Gary Naylor

Funny, poignant and stimulating, a delightfully welcome piece of intellectual escapism

Antigone, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre review - Sophocles rewritten with purpose and panache

Heather Neill

Inua Ellams adds contemporary political thrust to a well-loved classic

The Clinic, Almeida Theatre review - race and the status quo

Helen Hawkins

Dipo Baruwa-Etti pits a fiery outsider activist against the British-Nigerian middle-class

Walking with Ghosts, Apollo Theatre review - a beguiling Gabriel Byrne opens up

Demetrios Matheou

The acclaimed Irish actor adapts his memoir into a stirring one-man show

Who Killed My Father, Young Vic review - Hans Kesting excels in this solo show

Mert Dilek

Édouard Louis’s book is brought to life in a fierce performance

Silence, Donmar Warehouse review - documenting disaster

Aleks Sierz

Dramatisation of Kavita Puri’s Partition Voices is moving and compelling

I, Joan, Shakespeare's Globe review - a non-binary retelling that's as ebullient as it's irreverent

Rachel Halliburton

The fact is that Joan of Arc was, by anyone’s standards, unique

Ride, Charing Cross Theatre review - A true story of female empowerment

Gary Naylor

New musical about a barrier-breaking woman freewheels into the West End

Into The Woods, Theatre Royal Bath review - If you go down to the woods today, you're sure of a big surprise

Gary Naylor

Prepare to be dazzled and disoriented in a phantasmagorical festival of theatrical magic

Treason The Musical In Concert, Theatre Royal Drury Lane review - plenty of musical gunpowder but not enough plot

Gary Naylor

Semi-staged production shows promise - and problems

The End of Eddy, Edinburgh International Festival 2022 review - powerful but lacking compassion

David Kettle

An energetic, lithe gig-theatre adaptation of Édouard Louis’s 2014 trauma memoir can't escape the book's limitations

Edinburgh Fringe 2022 review: The Stones

David Kettle

A slow-burn gothic horror plays with our sense of reality to intelligently creepy effect

Edinburgh Fringe 2022 reviews: Ode to Joy / Wilf

David Kettle

Two plays by Scottish writer James Ley set out to shock, provoke – and provide belly laughs too

The Trials, Donmar Warehouse review - chillingly compelling

Aleks Sierz

A jury of young people hold their elders to account for climate change

Wonderville Magic and Cabaret review - fast-paced show delivers the promised wonder

Gary Naylor

Leave memories of Paul Daniels at the door and embrace the sweet deception inside

Room, Edinburgh International Festival 2022 review - decadent, extravagant, and somewhat mystifying

David Kettle

James Thierrée joyfully collides together dance, mime, acrobatics, music and more - but what does it all mean?

Counting and Cracking, Edinburgh International Festival 2022 review - ambitious, powerful, but sadly under-attended

David Kettle

A multi-layered, multi-generational theatrical epic is one of this year's stand-out offerings

Edinburgh Fringe 2022 reviews: Temping / Work.txt

David Kettle

Two performer-less shows on the theme of work set the audience to - well, work

Edinburgh Fringe 2022 reviews: Afghanistan Is Not Funny / Yippee Ki Yay / Eh Up, Me Old Flowers!

Veronica Lee

War as entertainment, Die Hard as an epic poem, and a potted biography

Edinburgh Fringe 2022 reviews: Every Word was Once an Animal / Tim Crouch: Truth’s a Dog Must to Kennel

David Kettle

Theatre about theatre? There's plenty of it at the Fringe: here are two fine examples

All of Us, National Theatre review - revelatory, but problematic

Aleks Sierz

Francesca Martinez’s debut play about disability politics entertains - and frustrates

Edinburgh Fringe 2022 reviews: The Last Return / Psychodrama / Exodus

David Kettle

Three shows at the Traverse take in gritty realism and no-holds-barred farce

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

newsletter

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

This England, Sky Atlantic review - how Boris's No 10 g...

From underneath the messy ash-white thatch of hair, a strange mooing suddenly issues: Sir Kenneth Branagh is wrestling with Boris Johnson’s odd...

Kim Noble, Soho Theatre review - final part of trilogy about...

A dead pigeon. A dead squirrel. A dead fox. Lots of maggots – very much alive. I might be describing your worst nightmare (throw in a rat or two...

In Front of Your Face review - a day in the life

Twenty-four hours in the life of a Korean woman, Sangok (Lee Hyeyoung), are caught in scenes which feel like real time in Hong Sangsoo’s latest....

Purcell's Playhouse, Bevan, Barokksolistene, Eike, Purc...

“What about the communication with the audience?” asked violinist and impresario Bjarte Eike in his First Person piece for theartsdesk...

Hallyu! The Korean Wave, V&A review - frenetic but fun

Remember Gangnam Style, the music video that went viral in 2012? PSY’s cheeky lyrics and daft moves attracted 1.6 billion hits on YouTube...

Bronwyn Adcock: Currowan review - a fire foretold, a warning...

In 2019 Australia endured the hottest, driest year since records began and their bushfire season escalated with unprecedented intensity. The fires...

Blu-ray: Love (Szerelem)

Károly Makk’s Love (Szerelem...

Igor Levit, Wigmore Hall review - titanic talent shows his l...

It probably tells you all you need to know about Igor Levit that when a mobile phone pinged just before his encore, he neither ignored it, nor...

Marina Abramović: Gates and Portals, Modern Art Oxford and P...

I have powerful memories of performances by Marina Abramović. Back in 1977 at Documenta in Kassel,...

Aida, Royal Opera review - dour but disciplined

No gods, ancient Egyptian or otherwise; no sinister priest along the lines of Russia’s antichrist Patriarch Kiriil, sending soldiers to their...