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London theatre critics' choice

Our theatre critics recommend the best London theatre of the moment

Mary Stuart

Recommended

A family emergency on press day stopped me seeing both versions of Robert Icke’s stunning take on ‘Mary Stuart’…

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Almeida Theatre , Barnsbury Until Saturday January 28 2017

Hedda Gabler

Recommended

Starring an incandescent Ruth Wilson, Ivo van Hove’s modern production of Ibsen’s ‘Hedda Gabler’ rejects the usual, comforting, proto-feminist reading wherein its heroine does the terrible things she does because she is a victim…

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National Theatre, Lyttelton , South Bank Thursday January 19 2017 - Tuesday March 21 2017

This House

Recommended

James Graham’s surprise hit about the fraught Westminster wranglings of the 1970s – first seen in London at the National Theatre in 2012 – has made its long-awaited West End transfer against a starkly changed political climate…

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Garrick Theatre , Covent Garden Until Saturday February 25 2017

Lazarus

A wealthy recluse, dying but somehow not dead, sits atop his New York tower, hallucinating his past and the music of David Bowie. If it was difficult to see where Thomas Newton, the stranded alien protagonist of the 1976 film 'The Man Who Fell To Earth' ended, and Bowie – who played him – began, then that goes double for its musical sequel, ‘Lazarus’.Co-written by Enda Walsh and the late Bowie, 'Lazarus', catches up with Newton (Michael C Hall) in the present day, as he morosely drinks gin in his featureless apartment. There is little actual plot, but a sense of events finally coming to a head, as Newton’s hope and despair become manifested as ingenue the Girl (Sophia Anne Caruso) and the psychotic Valentine (Michael Esper). Meanwhile his new PA, Elly (Amy Lennox), finds her personality is being overwritten by that of Thomas's lost love, Mary-Lou.Ivo van Hove's claustrophobic production is more like a mood than a story, a homage to Nicholas Roeg's hallucinatory film, but also, presumably, a window into the decade of secluded ill health that followed Bowie's withdrawal from public life in 2005.Does this make it a good musical? I dunno: it's weirdly caught between aggressive artiness and a certain triteness. If you haven’t seen – and liked – the film, you’ll quite possibly be totally at sea here. If you do love its brooding vibes, you may cringe at a couple of moments where its icy aloofness is punctured by overly-sincere, ‘X Factor’-style performances of a couple of numbers. 

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King's Cross Theatre , King's Cross Until Sunday January 22 2017

The Red Barn

Recommended

‘The Red Barn’ is billed as a thriller. And it kind of is. Though if you’re hoping for explosions, gun battles or large numbers of aggressively exciting events you may start to freak out a bit…

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National Theatre, Lyttelton , South Bank Tuesday January 17 2017
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Mary Stuart

Recommended

A family emergency on press day stopped me seeing both versions of Robert Icke’s stunning take on ‘Mary Stuart’. Fortunately it was a fairly minor family emergency compared to the one depicted in Schiller’s play…

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Almeida Theatre , Barnsbury Until Saturday January 28 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 June 3 2017

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 Wednesday January 18 2017 - Sunday December 10 2017

Hedda Gabler

Recommended

Starring an incandescent Ruth Wilson, Ivo van Hove’s modern production of Ibsen’s ‘Hedda Gabler’ rejects the usual, comforting, proto-feminist reading wherein its heroine does the terrible things she does because she is a victim…

Read more
National Theatre, Lyttelton , South Bank Thursday January 19 2017 - Tuesday March 21 2017

An Inspector Calls

Recommended

Did Stephen Daldry know something we didn’t? This revival of the director’s landmark 1992 National Theatre production of JB Priestley’s 1945 play ‘An Inspector Calls’ opened a day after the result of the US election…

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Playhouse Theatre , Charing Cross Until Saturday March 25 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 October 15 2017

The Red Barn

Recommended

‘The Red Barn’ is billed as a thriller. And it kind of is. Though if you’re hoping for explosions, gun battles or large numbers of aggressively exciting events you may start to freak out a bit…

Read more
National Theatre, Lyttelton , South Bank Tuesday January 17 2017

This House

Recommended

James Graham’s surprise hit about the fraught Westminster wranglings of the 1970s – first seen in London at the National Theatre in 2012 – has made its long-awaited West End transfer against a starkly changed political climate…

Book now Read more
Garrick Theatre , Covent Garden Until Saturday February 25 2017
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