Regular reviews of new London theatre, from the West End and the National Theatre to the fringe, plus occasional dispatches from around the UK and beyond.

Saturday 13 July 2013


Untitled matriarch play (or seven sisters), Royal Court, London

The actors don’t seem convinced by the comedy and there’s a faintly apologetic air to the whole night. It feels like we’re watching a soon-to-be-cancelled sitcom; even the audience’s laughter sound canned.

Thursday 27 June 2013

An offence to the senses

Tutto Bene, Mamma? The Print Room, London

And then there are the smells, which consistently undermine the action. Laura Donnelly, as the worn out mother, mentions a burnt birthday cake. The smell of burnt toast duly wafts through the venue.

Wednesday 26 June 2013

A heart so exposed you can practically see it beating

The Night Alive, Donmar Warehouse, London

No one could have directed this piece better than Conor McPherson. He holds back way more than anyone else would dare. This is acting that doesn’t feel like acting, a play that doesn’t feel put on.

Saturday 22 June 2013

Beneath his skin

Race, Hampstead Theatre, London

That surreal shine permeates Race - in the tidy plot, sharply angled characters and ice-pick edgy dialogue. But the dialogue is so fierce and the emotions generated so intense that these exposed machinations do not matter. This is a top notch New York law firm, after all. If you can’t get a bit of grand-standing theatrics in this place, then you might as well head to the blooming theatre

Friday 14 June 2013

When America ran out of West

Mission Drift, Shed Theatre, London

It is so useful to see America’s history boiled down to this simple journey with a tangible end point. It renders the complex bleedingly obvious. Of course America was going to hit a dead end – it’s written down in the map of the world! America’s arrested development was never a question of if – only when.

Monday 29 April 2013

From bragging boys to haggard men

The Weir, Donmar Warehouse, London

Conor McPherson writes plays that feel simple but are tied together with such skill, the themes as delicate as silk, lightly binding everything together but never squeezing too tight.

Sunday 28 April 2013

Gleeful, distilled creativity

Orpheus, Battersea Arts Centre, London

The show pulses with the kind of knowing naivete that is now Little Bulb’s trademark. Everything – even the hugely sophisticated and high-end stuff – is performed with a great big twinkle in the eye.

Tuesday 16 April 2013

Every twitch, moan and flicker of the eyes

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Apollo Theatre, London

There are no tangible divisions or barriers in Christopher’s world. When he walks about the streets, trying to track down the murderer of the neighbour’s dog, the houses have no walls. Christopher’s world is a without boundaries – or, at least, without divisions that he can easily recognise or understand.

Sunday 7 April 2013

Bloody exposing

The Trial, Shoreditch Town Hall and beyond, London

But for much of the time, we’re simply badgered and bullied by a number of aggressive types, the threat of execution held – ridiculously – over our heads. It feels silly. It also feels completely out of synch with Kafka’s novel, which doesn’t look death in the eye until the very final moment.

Saturday 23 March 2013

Fill in the gaps

Steptoe and Son, Lyric Hammersmith, London

The classic Kneehigh touches - the karaoke sessions, a moon that doubles up as a clock and the spooky cold music that trembles beneath every scene - only make the dialogue sound weaker still. While these kooky visual and aural touches scream out ‘THEATRE’, the dialogue whispers ‘television’.

Gruesome and abstract

Ring, Battersea Arts Centre, London

This disorientating disconnect between sound and reality lies at the heart of this show. At first, we resist the obvious inconsistencies between what we hear and what we know to be possible. But the 3D soundscape, which is so convincing and so overwhelming, gradually wears us down

Sunday 24 February 2013

No need to shout

If you don't let us dream, we won't let you sleep, Royal Court Theatre, London

Everything becomes grindingly over-explicit, as the ‘austerity’ measures are picked apart by an angry throng. There are a few gems of economic insight in here but it’s really tough to stay engaged.

Thursday 21 February 2013

Brilliantly complex perspectives

The Paper Cinema's Odyssey, Battersea Arts Centre, London

When Odysseus and Penelope are finally reunited, the stark black and white set is suddenly flooded with colour. It feels like nothing less than the beginning of a new and better world.

Wednesday 13 February 2013

A museum of oddities

In the Beginning Was The End, Somerset House, London

Suddenly we expect to be led; for the show to have a beginning, middle and end and for our questions to be answered. Expectations are raised and disappointed. 

Saturday 8 December 2012

Dissociating from life

The Promise, Trafalgar Studios, London

His jaw muscles clench as he chews over his options. Watch his left hand – the one his opposite number is missing – and it every move is pointed. It rests on the table or drops gracefully on the back of a chair.

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