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London theatre critics' choice

Our theatre critics recommend the best London theatre of the moment

A Midsummer Night's Dream

Critics' choice

‘Did Emma Rice send you?’ spits Lucy Thackeray’s Tina Quince as Margaret Ann Bain’s Philostrate tries to confiscate her tambourine. ‘I’ll have you know this was given to me by Mark Rylance’. For all the blithe interviews in which new Globe boss Rice – the theatre’s third leader after Rylance and Dominic Dromgoole – has said how little she knows about Shakespeare, let’s make one thing clear: she knows exactly what she’s doing…

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Shakespeare's Globe , South Bank Until Sunday September 11 2016

Elegy

Critics' choice

Four years ago, brainbox playwright Nick Payne’s breakthrough ‘Constellations’ blazed into the West End like a thousand suns…

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Donmar Warehouse , Covent Garden Until Saturday June 18 2016

Show Boat

Critics' choice

They really don’t make ‘em like this anymore: this marvellous production of one of the all-time great musicals – already festooned in praise from a run at the resurgent Sheffield Crucible – feels like a strangely brave choice to put in the West End of 2016…

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New London Theatre , Covent Garden Until Saturday August 27 2016

We're Going on a Bear Hunt

Critics' choice

‘We’re going on a bear hunt, we’re going to catch a big one, what a beautiful day, we’re not scared.’ Michael Rosen’s rhythmic tale about a family which goes looking for bears is addictively popular with tots…

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Little Angel Theatre , Islington Wednesday May 25 2016 - Sunday June 26 2016

Boy

Critics' choice

After a week in which our rulers have blithely exposed how isolated from us they are by their wealth, it’s at least a vague silver lining to note that this is the year the anti-austerity play seems to have come of age…

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Almeida Theatre , Barnsbury Until Saturday May 28 2016
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Boy

Critics' choice

After a week in which our rulers have blithely exposed how isolated from us they are by their wealth, it’s at least a vague silver lining to note that this is the year the anti-austerity play seems to have come of age…

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Almeida Theatre , Barnsbury Until Saturday May 28 2016

Elegy

Critics' choice

Four years ago, brainbox playwright Nick Payne’s breakthrough ‘Constellations’ blazed into the West End like a thousand suns…

Read more
Donmar Warehouse , Covent Garden Until Saturday June 18 2016

We're Going on a Bear Hunt

Critics' choice

‘We’re going on a bear hunt, we’re going to catch a big one, what a beautiful day, we’re not scared.’ Michael Rosen’s rhythmic tale about a family which goes looking for bears is addictively popular with tots…

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Little Angel Theatre , Islington Wednesday May 25 2016 - Sunday June 26 2016

The Book of Mormon

Critics' choice

Brace yourself for a shock: ‘South Park’ creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s Broadway-munching musical is not particularly shocking. Sure, there are ‘fucks’ and ‘cunts’ and gags about baby rape – but beneath it all, this is a big-hearted affair that pays note-perfect homage to the spirit of Broadway’s golden age as much as the sounds. The strapping young Latter Day Saints missionaries in ‘The Book of Mormon’ are as cartoonish as any ‘South Park’ character, with the endearing alpha-male woodenness of the ‘Team America’ puppets.

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Prince of Wales Theatre , Piccadilly Circus Until Saturday August 20 2016

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Critics' choice

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

Critics' choice

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 October 29 2016

Guys and Dolls

Critics' choice

Frank Loesser’s ‘Guys and Dolls’ is routinely referred to as the greatest musical of all time, which is, frankly, a heckuva lot to live up to…

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Phoenix Theatre , London Until Sunday October 30 2016

In the Heights

Critics' choice

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 Until Sunday October 30 2016

Jersey Boys

Critics' choice

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 Blancs

Critics' choice

Director Yaël Farber is an extraordinary talent, a South African whose work combines European grandeur with boilingly passionate emotion and an almost religious sense of ritual…

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National Theatre , South Bank Tuesday May 31 2016 - Thursday June 2 2016

Les Miserables

Critics' choice

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

Critics' choice

'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

People, Places and Things

Critics' choice

Before I really get busy with the hyperbole, it may be worth noting that second time around, one of the best things about Denise Gough’s astounding performance in Duncan Macmillan’s addiction drama is how understated it is…

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Wyndham's Theatre , Covent Garden Until Saturday June 18 2016
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