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 8 December 2012

Fish fingers in the oven, peas on the hob

Medea, Richmond Theatre, London

Her head’s a mess and her hair’s in an even worse state. No wonder that prying neighbours and colleagues keep popping over to check up on her; Rachael Stirling looks like she’s shortcircuiting and set to blow.

Very Etchells indeed

Sight is the Sense that Dying People Tend to Lose First, Battersea Arts Centre, London

And what a pleasure it is to mull such vagaries in Fletcher’s company. He has an extraordinary capacity to engage, doling out eye contact around an audience in such a way that makes you feel certain statements are intended for you alone, sometimes accusatory, sometimes almost a gift.

Friday 30 November 2012

Dazzling and laughter

Kiss Me, Kate, Old Vic Theatre, London

Yes, it’s there in the central love story between ‘Katherine’ and ‘Petruchio’ but this musical isn’t really about the love between a man and a woman. It’s about Cole’s love for theatre. As the two gangsters find their groove, their eyes light up. And, when the applause comes, they take endless encores.

Thursday 15 November 2012

The impression of love?

The Effect, National Theatre (Cottesloe), London

There’s a glorious and typically pertinent scene, when the two escape to a nearby loony asylum. It’s no coincidence that it is here – in this abandoned mad house – that the two patients fall in love. As every good writer will tell us, the line between love and insanity is an absurdly fine one.

Monday 12 November 2012

A tiny crumb of comfort

All That Fall, Arts Theatre, London

It all sounds horribly miserable – but that’s the thing about Beckett, he piles up the despair with such care and such a twinkle that rich humour always glistens between those packed layers of sadness.

Monday 5 November 2012

Symbols and signifiers

NSFW, Royal Court, London

The younger characters feel less textured and more self-conscious. All the boxes are carefully ticked; there’s the posh and self-entitled chap, the sensitive lad and the savvy girl. But when the three banter together it feels too clinical, the manufactured punchlines landing rather heavily.

Wednesday 31 October 2012

Cruel anticipation

The River, Royal Court, London

We begin in a cozy log cabin, where Dominic West’s ‘Man’ is holed up with Miranda Raison’s ‘Woman’. The atmosphere feels odd but that’s mainly down to a strange lack of chemistry. It’s as if these two lovers have just had sex in a fridge.

Wednesday 17 October 2012

Traumas take twice as long

Lungs, Shoreditch Town Hall, London

M and W avoid responsibility at all costs. They treat the world as a set of circumstances to be navigated. MacMillan’s smart enough to give us a glimpse into why.

What journalism fails to do?

Enquirer, Barbican off-site, London

Protecting your sources is one thing. Melding cherry-picked statements into a singular voice is another entirely. It is inexcusably poor practice and a gross over-simplification that, given Enquirer’s stated aims, amounts to outright hypocrisy

Gesticulation rather than gesture

Desire Under the Elms, Lyric Hammersmith, London

It leaves the play bald; too bald for me and, judging from the titters that increase throughout the second half, I wasn’t alone. This wasn’t laughter of discomfort, but of disbelief; one of ridicule in the face of contrivance.

An ethical and aesthetical treatise. With jokes.

I Malvolio, Unicorn Theatre, London

The more he talks, the more rational he seems. If madness is simply being out of step with the majority, then, yes, Malvolio is mad. But what if it is the majority that are themselves mad? This is how Crouch positions Malvolio; a man stood alone at the top of a slippery slope down which everyone has tumbled.

A wee-tle bit sad and a wee-tle bit sweet

One Day When We Were Young, Shoreditch Town Hall, London

But it’s all so sodding certain. It knows exactly how it wants you to feel. Payne shoehorns loaded but arbitrary echoes and repetitions, so as to knit the pair together, destined for one another despite life deciding otherwise.

Tuesday 2 October 2012

Man’s futile quest for permanence

Three Sisters, Young Vic Theatre, London

The stage hums with meaning, so clear and so urgent you almost want to reach out and shake the characters silly; ‘Look, here you are anew! Here you are in our room and you’re exactly the same! What do you make of your wafty philosophising now, old chum?!’

Monday 24 September 2012

A horse-drawn carriage?

Mademoiselle Julie, Barbican, London

The actors seem completely out of sorts. On film, Binoche positively bleeds with soul; she’s a subtle, quietly alluring and deeply engaging performer. In this production, she’s experimenting with emotions rather than genuinely channelling them.

Friday 21 September 2012

Between Game of Thrones and Star Wars

King Lear, Almeida Theatre, London

Phoebe Fox’s Cordelia is absolutely her father’s daughter and her sisters’ sister, matching their mettle whenever necessary. Fox can be stand-offish and sharp-tongued, where Cordelia so often simply wilts. I couldn’t help but wish for more of the same invention and invigoration elsewhere.

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The Stage
Theatreland’s newspaper

Theatre Monkey
What theatregoers tell you that box-office staff do not

National Theatre
What’s on: plays, exhibitions, music

Royal Shakespeare Company
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet


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