mon 23/05/2022

theatre reviews, news & interviews

My Fair Lady, London Coliseum review - tasteful revival powered by stirring performances

Mert Dilek

First staged in 2018, Bartlett Sher’s Lincoln Center Theater production of My Fair Lady is London’s latest import from Broadway, coming here hot on the heels of Oklahoma!. In returning to the city where its story is set, Lerner and Loewe’s iconic musical from 1956 receives a dashing treatment from a cast and creative team in their top form.

The Father and the Assassin, National Theatre review - Gandhi's killer puts his case in a bold, whirlwind production

Heather Neill

The young Indian man stepping towards us on the vast Olivier stage is unremarkable enough, slight and boyish in manner. When he speaks he is direct, even cheeky: he wants us to like him. But this is Nathuram Godse, Gandhi's blood-stained murderer. He surely has a tough task ahead if he is going to persuade his listeners that he had the least justification for brutally killing the father of his nation (Bapu to his followers), the universal byword for peaceful protest.

The House of Shades, Almeida Theatre review -...

Rachel Halliburton

Anne-Marie Duff blazes across the stage like a meteorite in Beth Steel’s excoriating drama about the changes sweeping through a Northern mining town...

Grease, Dominion Theatre review - a super night...

Gary Naylor

Barry Gibb was at the considerable peak of his era-defining songwriting powers when he provided the song that played over the opening titles of the...

The Breach, Hampstead Theatre review - profoundly...

Rachel Halliburton

Jude is the kind of girl that no-one would want to mess with – she can dance like a demon to Eric Clapton, skewer an ego in seconds and hit an apple...

Julius Caesar, Shakespeare's Globe review - the Bard buried in bad choices

Gary Naylor

Intrusive 21st century agenda and dismal staging waste an opportunity

The Patient Gloria, Brighton Festival review - an electric exploration of the control and manipulation of women

Katie Colombus

Laying bare the authority and entitlement of misogyny

Unchain Me, Brighton Festival review - Dostoevsky-inspired theatre through the streets of Brighton

Katie Colombus

Democracy, justice and personal agendas create chaos and fun with dystopian overtones

Age of Rage, Internationaal Theater Amsterdam, Barbican review - shattering assault on all the senses

David Nice

Happiest in home-territory epics, Ivo van Hove pulls off a Greek-tragedy stunner

House of Ife, Bush Theatre review - an Ethiopian-British family struggle to decide where 'home' is

Helen Hawkins

Playwright Beru Tessema makes a striking stage debut

Oklahoma!, Young Vic review - a stunning, stripped-down version of the classic musical

Helen Hawkins

Rodgers and Hammerstein revival goes to the dark heart of the story

The Misfortune of the English, Orange Tree Theatre review - don't fret, boys, it's only death

Laura De Lisle

Pamela Carter’s slippery tale of a school trip to Nazi Germany explores the price of a stiff upper lip

Middle, National Theatre review - a bit of a muddle

Aleks Sierz

David Eldridge’s follow up to his 2017 hit, ‘Beginning’, is disappointing

Much Ado About Nothing, Shakespeare's Globe review – a perfect piece of escapism for our uncertain summer

Rachel Halliburton

This production carries as much emotional heft as it exudes riotous comedy

Jerusalem, Apollo Theatre review - Mark Rylance blazes in this astonishing revival

Mert Dilek

Jez Butterworth's 2009 play is evergreen in its excellence

Prima Facie, Harold Pinter Theatre review - Jodie Comer sears the stage

Mert Dilek

'Killing Eve' star's stage debut is a triumph

Punchdrunk's The Burnt City, One Cartridge Place review - thrilling, discombobulating vision of an ancient world

Rachel Halliburton

You go into a dimension where you operate through instinct as much as intellect

Marys Seacole, Donmar Warehouse review - frustrating yet unflinching

Matt Wolf

Off Broadway hit builds to a furious climax in London bow

The Corn Is Green, National Theatre review – Nicola Walker teaches a life lesson

Aleks Sierz

Dominic Cooke’s imaginative revival improves on Emlyn Williams’s 1938 play

First Person: playwright Naomi Wallace on finally hearing her work performed in English

Naomi Wallace

Set in America, 'The Breach' was first seen in Paris, as its author explains

Lava, Soho Theatre review - silences, secrets and lies

Tom Birchenough

James Fritz’s play explores the spoken and unspoken ripples of grief with fine naturalism

Bonnie & Clyde, Arts Theatre review - great songs, but plot fires too many blanks

Gary Naylor

Iconic couple shoot for West End success

For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When The Hue Gets Too Heavy, Royal Court review - Black joy, pain, and beauty

Laura De Lisle

With boisterous lyricism, Ryan Calais Cameron explores what it means to be a Black man

Scandaltown, Lyric Hammersmith review - Restoration-comedy-style take on 21st Century shamelessness

Rachel Halliburton

Mike Bartlett's raucous chronicle of London in the age of Boris Johnson

Zorro the Musical, Charing Cross Theatre review - struggling to find the right tone

Gary Naylor

Swordplay and songs never quite hit their stride

Wolf Cub, Hampstead Downstairs review - haunting solo play about the American nightmare

Helen Hawkins

Ché Walker directs his savage play, with a stellar turn from Clare Latham

Persuasion, Alexandra Palace Theatre review - graphic-novel-style Austen

Rachel Halliburton

The soundtrack features musicians ranging from Robyn and Dua Lipa to Cardi B

The 47th, Old Vic review - ambitious Trump satire doesn't quite hit its target

Rachel Halliburton

As a playwright, how do you handle an arse-fixated arch-disrupter?

'Daddy' A Melodrama, Almeida Theatre review - production exuberance carries a new play of promise

Tom Birchenough

Jeremy O Harris's scintillating drama poses questions about possession, in life and art

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


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

The Wreckers, Glyndebourne review - no masterpiece, but vivi...

Interesting for the history of music, but not for music? Passing acquaintance with Ethel Smyth’s The Wreckers, a grand opera by a woman...

Music Reissues Weekly: Patty Waters - You Loved Me

“Touched by Rodin in a Paris Museum” is a 14-minute consideration of exactly what its title says: the impact of encountering Auguste Rodin’s work...

DVD/Blu-ray: Parallel Mothers

Parallel Mothers unfolds at a daringly slow pace, and there are moments in the first half of...

The Deathless Woman review - the overlooked persecution of t...

One of the more heartwarming images in the news recently has been seeing Ukrainian refugees being welcomed by their eastern European neighbours....

My Fair Lady, London Coliseum review - tasteful revival powe...

First staged in 2018, Bartlett Sher’s Lincoln Center Theater production of My Fair Lady is London’s latest import from...

Benediction review - the world's worst wounds

Terence Davies’s Benediction is a haunting but uneven biopic of the...

Album: Harry Styles - Harry's House

Harry Styles’ previous two albums sounded like someone rifling pleasantly through the history of...

MØ, Heaven, London review - snappy, sexy and energised

“I live to survive another heartache/I live to survive another mistake,” roars a sold-out Heaven. It’s a new song but everyone seems to know it....

'How that music was created remains to me a complete my...

It has been a difficult couple of years for us in the world of opera, losing several of our most respected and admired colleagues who have...

Top Gun: Maverick review - Tom Cruise defies age and gravity

Only 36 years later, Tom Cruise is back with his eagerly-awaited Top Gun sequel (it was delayed a couple of years by Covid), and there...