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London theatre critics' choice

Our theatre critics recommend the best London theatre of the moment

Good Canary

Recommended

Hollywood iconoclast John Malkovich makes his London stage directing debut in fine style with a poignant drama from Zach Helm about drug addiction and genius…

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Rose Theatre Kingston , Kingston Upon Thames Until Saturday October 8 2016

No Man's Land

Recommended

At this stage in their august careers, Sirs Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart could pretty much star in any old bollocks and get praised to high heaven…

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Wyndham's Theatre , Covent Garden Until Saturday December 17 2016

Party Trap

Recommended

Thirty-eight minutes. That’s how long it takes for Ross Sutherland’s bamboozling play to pull itself together…

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Shoreditch Town Hall , Shoreditch Until Saturday October 1 2016

The Alchemist

Recommended

Idolatrous breeches! Roaring boys! Smock-rampant! Quarrel him out of the house! Even without the famous speeches – the sham spells, the preposterous visions of ever-inflating lust – Ben Jonson’s ‘The Alchemist’ is a treasure trove of sparklingly silly quotes…

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Barbican Theatre , Barbican Thursday September 29 2016 - Saturday October 1 2016
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Good Canary

Recommended

Hollywood iconoclast John Malkovich makes his London stage directing debut in fine style with a poignant drama from Zach Helm about drug addiction and genius…

Read more
Rose Theatre Kingston , Kingston Upon Thames Until Saturday October 8 2016

Party Trap

Recommended

Thirty-eight minutes. That’s how long it takes for Ross Sutherland’s bamboozling play to pull itself together…

Read more
Shoreditch Town Hall , Shoreditch Until Saturday October 1 2016

The Alchemist

Recommended

Idolatrous breeches! Roaring boys! Smock-rampant! Quarrel him out of the house! Even without the famous speeches – the sham spells, the preposterous visions of ever-inflating lust – Ben Jonson’s ‘The Alchemist’ is a treasure trove of sparklingly silly quotes…

Read more
Barbican Theatre , Barbican Thursday September 29 2016 - Saturday October 1 2016

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Recommended

A luminous roller-coaster ride of colour, spectacle and fantastical happenings, Sam Mendes’s stage version of Roald Dahl’s adored children’s book is still as entertaining as ever, two years and a couple of casts down the line. And though a lot of that comes down to the show’s garishly-hued stage tricks, it’s also due to the main attraction.

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Theatre Royal Drury Lane , Covent Garden Until Saturday January 7 2017

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Recommended

Three theatres, three casts, one major disaster and seven Olivier Awards on, the National Theatre’s adaptation of Mark Haddon’s novel about Christopher Boone, the teenage ‘mathematician with some behavioural difficulties’ remains a thing of unbridled wonder.The occasion for this re-review is the end of the enforced layoff inflicted upon ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’. The show figuratively blew the roof off when it transferred from the NT to the Apollo Theatre, but unfortunately the ageing ceiling responded by literally collapsing, necessitating a change of venue and months off.

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Gielgud Theatre , Soho Until Saturday April 22 2017

Doctor Faustus

Recommended

If you were going to put money sight unseen on which of this year's two major revivals of Kit Marlowe's diabolical tragedy 'Doctor Faustus' was going to be the best, you'd have been brave to put your cash on this one…

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Barbican Theatre , Barbican Until Saturday October 1 2016

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Recommended

In the unlikely event you were worried a leap to the stage for JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series would result in it becoming aggressively highbrow, self-consciously arty or grindingly bereft of magical high jinks, just chill the hell out, muggle…

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Palace Theatre , Soho Until Sunday December 10 2017

In the Heights

Recommended

A rap-meets-salsa musical set in the Latino community of Manhattan’s Washington Heights, it remains as colourful, refreshing and full of Puerto Rican zing as a frozen fruit Piragua slurped between lovers on the sidewalk.

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King's Cross Theatre , King's Cross Thursday September 29 2016 - Sunday January 8 2017

Jersey Boys

Recommended

Here's the 'Jersey Boys' concept. Take one gleaming back-catalogue – that of Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons, whose Bob Gaudio-penned songs have become so woven into the fabric of Western pop culture that it's easy to forget who actually wrote them. Next, instead of torturously extrapolating a zany plot out of the lyrics, simply make the story of 'Jersey Boys' the story of the Four Seasons. Get a top-notch book, written by Rick Elice and Woody Allen collaborator Marshall Brickman.

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Piccadilly Theatre , Piccadilly Circus Until Sunday April 16 2017

Les Miserables

Recommended

If the second longest running show in the West End was looking a little tired, a rejuvenating orchestral facelift was just what the doctor ordered. Cameron Mackintosh's 'little girl' has shaken off that 1980s synth vibe and finally woken up to the organic noughties. This is a new, richer sound with strong operatic undertones and even the faint echoes of chamber music. Led by compelling ex-'Phantom…' Ramin Karimloo as Jean Valjean, this dynamic cast blows a whirlwind through the Queen's Theatre, hurtling along Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg's famous melodrama.

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Queen's Theatre , Soho Until Saturday March 4 2017

Matilda the Musical

Recommended

'My mummy says I'm a miracle,' lisps a pampered mini-me at a purgatorial kiddies' birthday party at the outset of this delicious, treacly-dark family show. The obnoxious ma and pa of its titular, gifted, pint-sized heroine are not, of course, quite so doting. But 'Matilda' must be making its creators, playwright Dennis Kelly and comedian-songsmith Tim Minchin, a very pair of proud parents. Opening to rave reviews in Stratford-upon Avon before transferring to the West End in 2011 and snatching up Olivier Awards with all the alacrity of a sticky-fingered child in a sweetshop, Matthew Warchus's RSC production remains a treat.

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Cambridge Theatre , Covent Garden Until Sunday May 28 2017
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