Latest theatre reviews

Find out what our theatre team made of London's new openings

As Good a Time As Any

It’s impossible not to think you’re the protagonist of your own life. Yeah, you. Reading this. Veteran writer/director Peter Gill’s new play is a gentle and moving reminder that, although we can’t escape our own self-importance, we actually all think about the same stuff: friends who annoy us; wishing we could bring back the past; wondering what’s in the fridge for dinner; whether to get a dog.

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Print Room Until Saturday May 23 2015

A Mad World My Masters

It may come as a surprise that the sauciest thing on in London right now is a 400-year-old play. Thomas Middleton’s 1605 comedy, here directed by Sean Foley for the RSC, is raucously, hilariously and unashamedly filthy.

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Barbican Centre Until Saturday May 9 2015

The Merchant of Venice

Jonathan Pryce is electrifyingly good as Shakespeare's contrversial Jewish money lender Shylock

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Shakespeare's Globe Tuesday May 5 2015 - Sunday June 7 2015

Blood

What is it about a Nando’s reference that’s guaranteed to have audiences guffawing into their production notes? Whatever it is, there’s a moment near the start of ‘Blood’ – as a pair of courting college kids ease the first-date tension by discussing the merits of peri-peri sauce – where it looks like things could go horribly wrong. But thankfully mentions of Portuguese grilled chicken are just about the only tiresome element of this wonderfully sharp, poignant two-hander from theatre group Tamasha, written by Emteaz Hussain.

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Soho Theatre Tuesday May 5 2015 - Sunday May 17 2015

Everyman

One day, maybe in the not too distant future, Rufus Norris will create a show where he simply gives everyone in the audience a really strong pill, then blows up a couple of actual skyscrapers. The National Theatre’s new boss is a master of bombast and spectacle, and though he’s been a regular at the NT for years, his first production as head honcho is so seismically OTT that it’s hard to imagine where he could possibly go next other than down the ‘blowing shit up’ route.

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National Theatre Thursday May 7 2015 - Thursday July 16 2015

Closer to Heaven

A vast number of taut six-packs, red feather boas, clouds of white powder, fluorescent disco lighting and thumping dance music: this is the world of ‘Closer to Heaven’, the Pet Shop Boys’ musical, here given its first London revival since its opening in 2001. It’s a high-camp underworld with the occasional great tune and a story that’s as predictable as disco balls in Soho.

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Union Theatre Tuesday May 5 2015 - Saturday May 23 2015

Bugsy Malone

While it is a truth universally acknowledged that anybody who doesn’t like ‘Bugsy Malone’ is a dangerous weirdo who needs to be stopped (or at least splurged to buggery), you can also see why creator Alan Parker has mostly refused to reciprocate the love for his 1976 kiddie gangsters musical film by allowing professional stage productions.The temptation is to be twee.

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Lyric Hammersmith Until Saturday August 1 2015

Eclipsed

Danai Gurira’s remarkable play is an epic of war and suffering, compressed into the story of four women’s harsh and stunted lives, painted with warmth, humour and rage. Like the four Trojan Women of Euripides, the sisterhood at the heart of ‘Eclipsed’ have been displaced and subjugated, chewed up by a conflict of men on men.Here the land is Liberia, battered by a civil war that rolls on endlessly outside the compound where these women live as ‘wives’ to a powerful commanding officer.

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Gate Theatre Until Saturday May 16 2015

American Buffalo

It would be mean, cheap and generally a bit dickish to say that Damian Lewis’s big post-‘Homeland’, post-‘Wolf Hall’ return to the London stage is overshadowed by some comedy facial hair. Nonetheless: if you think the above photo of his moustache is a bit on the distracting side then seriously, you should see the thing live.

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Wyndham's Theatre Until Saturday June 27 2015

Bomber's Moon

It’s care assistant David’s first day looking after war veteran Jimmy and things are not going well. In fact, the only time that Jimmy stops swearing is to accuse David of his incompetence. Before long, though, these two will be waltzing beneath the night sky. ‘Bomber’s Moon’ is a beautifully performed two-hander, which explores the comfort that male companionship can bring in both wartime and peace.

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Trafalgar Studios Until Saturday May 23 2015

Light Shining in Buckinghamshire

Rufus Norris, the new artistic director of the National Theatre, has clearly got balls. To open his very first season with a debate-laden play about the English civil war is more than a bit brave. Caryl Churchill’s 1976 play ‘Light Shining in Buckinghamshire’ is a brilliant, sharply political bit of writing that illuminates a fascinating moment in our history. It’s also pretty dense and not really all that fun.

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National Theatre Thursday May 7 2015 - Monday June 22 2015

Ah, Wilderness!

Up there with Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams and Bruce Springsteen as one of the great American tragedians of the last century, playwright Eugene O’Neill was notoriously not a bundle of laughs.It’s no surprise, then, that his one and only comedy, ‘Ah, Wilderness!’ is infrequently revived and hardly belly laughs a go go.It is, however, extremely charming.

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Young Vic Tuesday May 5 2015 - Saturday May 23 2015

Clarion

Immigrant bashing, swaggering alcoholism, foul-mouthed rants, the promotion of new cheap ambition over old talent – there’s plenty for hacks to recognise in this satire written by Mark Jagasia, the former showbusiness editor of The Daily Express. If you take the view that journalism is dying, then this is a whirling St Vitus’ dance on its grave – a gleefully vitriolic piss-take on the idiocies and excesses of tabloid culture and its potentially apocalyptic consequences.

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Arcola Theatre Until Saturday May 16 2015

Carmen Disruption

From Andrew Scott’s doomed rock star in ‘Birdland’ to ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’s autistic Christopher Boone, all of playwright Simon Stephens’s heroes are defined by their hazardous detachment from society.The prolific writer’s latest work, ‘Carmen Disruption’, takes this to extremes via a series of five interlocking monologues about lost souls drifting through mainland Europe.

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Almeida Theatre Until Saturday May 23 2015

Each His Own Wilderness

Critics' choice

Like the novels for which she was best known, the great Doris Lessing’s obscure 1958 play strips the veneer from British society with merciless precision. In it, Lessing, who died in 2013, lays bare the gaping generational gulf dividing a country still reeling from war and struggling with the future.No wound is left un-prodded when Myra’s son, Tony, returns, traumatised, from National Service. His disgust at the men she entertains and contempt for the causes she supports sets the scene for an explosive conflict of values.

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Orange Tree Theatre Until Saturday May 16 2015

Golem

Critics' choice

'Golem' transfers to the West End from April. This review is of the show's run at the Young Vic. With new show ‘Golem’, the animated vistas conjured by theatre company 1927 have become so stunning that the story could be about pretty much anything – the dos-and-don’ts of grouting; a short history of sponges; a Nick Clegg biopic – and still be essential viewing.

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Trafalgar Studios Until Friday May 22 2015

The Generation of Z: Apocalypse

If, like me, you’ve already planned what you’d do in an end-of-the-world scenario (gather together a reliable clan, run from the cities, head to high ground, since you ask), then you too will have high hopes for London’s latest immersive theatre experience.Kiwi show ‘The Generation of Z: Apocalypse’ shoves you right in the middle of a zombie invasion. In a huge warehouse in east London, humans are being infected by a nasty illness that turns them into brain-munchers.

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Dept W Tuesday May 5 2015 - Sunday July 5 2015

I Wish to Die Singing - Voices From the Armenian Genocide

This year marks the centenary of the Armenian genocide, during which 1 million to 1.5 million (the vagueness is horrifying) Armenians were slaughtered by the Turks. The term ‘genocide’ was invented to describe this massacre – and yet most nations, including Great Britain, refuse to refer to it in such terms. ‘I Wish To Die Singing’ is an attempt to dramatise this shameful moment in history, which – in the words of playwright Neil McPherson – is ‘still not over’ today.

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Finborough Theatre Tuesday May 5 2015 - Saturday May 16 2015

Shock Treatment

Critics' choice

A cult buried within a cult, ‘Shock Treatment’ is the oft-maligned, more often forgotten 1981 film follow-up to ‘The Rocky Horror Show’. It’s a deeply weird, startlingly prescient satire on the rise of reality television, rampant commodification and the cult of the everyday, talentless celebrity. It swaps the fishnets and sexual liberation of ‘Rocky’ for a world of hospital corridors, straightjackets and gameshow hosts playing doctors and nurses.

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King's Head Theatre Tuesday May 5 2015 - Saturday June 6 2015

A Simple Space

You probably don’t go to the circus expecting stripping, but that’s (part of) what you get in this Australian acrobatic show: after shedding item after item of clothing, a hairy, tree-trunk-thighed man then skips around a lot while in the buff. That image may fill you with terror, but it’s just one of the witty, family-friendly (I promise) moments in this imaginatively no-frills circus from Down Under.

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Udderbelly Wednesday May 13 2015 - Sunday May 24 2015

Gypsy

Critics' choice

There are moments when ‘Gypsy’ feels like a lovely indulgence. Not seen in London for 40 years, Jonathan Kent’s revival of this 1959 musical is like a collector’s loving restoration job on a beautifully-made vintage car. With a full, jazzy orchestra doing total justice to Jule Styne’s brassy score, some beautifully Gene Kelly-ish choreography, a discretely sumptuous set, clockwork stage management, and a huge cast, it purrs like a dream.

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Savoy Theatre Until Saturday November 28 2015

Shock Treatment

Critics' choice

A cult buried within a cult, ‘Shock Treatment’ is the oft-maligned, more often forgotten 1981 film follow-up to ‘The Rocky Horror Show’. It’s a deeply weird, startlingly prescient satire on the rise of reality television, rampant commodification and the cult of the everyday, talentless celebrity.

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King's Head Theatre Tuesday May 5 2015 - Saturday June 6 2015

Stand

Critics' choice

‘Activist’ is one of those tricky words that, more often than not, make people think ‘troublemaker’. In his new verbatim play ‘Stand’, Chris Goode reclaims the word, repositioning it as a complex, aspirational label, and a force for good that doesn’t necessarily mean a person who stages protests in the middle of Trafalgar Square stark bollock naked.Goode is a master of making real people’s voices come out of actor’s mouths, and here he yet again comes up trumps with the verbatim format. He has interviewed six people who have all chosen to act – to make a stand, to do something they believe in – and edited these interviews into this play. For the entire piece, six actors sit on stools in a line with their scripts on music stands in front of them. Occasionally they read the script, occasionally they don’t, and together they  embody the voices of six ordinary people who are all remarkable in their own way. We hear from a woman who stuck herself to the floor of Bell Pottinger – the notorious PR company that counts troubled governments, fracking companies and post-phone hacking Rebekah Brooks among their clients. There’s an 82-year-old man who stands outside an animal testing laboratory with a placard once a week (he’s prevented by law from being there any more than that). Another is a mother who adopted an eight-year-old child from Russia, and is trying to teach her to be a responsible, practical and independent woman.  It’s a very simple format, but the stories are subtle, poign

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Battersea Arts Centre Until Saturday May 9 2015

Against Captain’s Orders: A Journey into the Uncharted

Critics' choice

Avast! Those of you still trying to work out what the bejesus was going on in Punchdrunk’s cryptic odyssey ‘The Drowned Man’ will be relieved to discover that the latest show from the immersive theatre gurus ventures into calmer waters.There’s a catch, though: ‘Against Captain’s Orders’ is in fact the work of Punchdrunk Enrichment, the company’s learning-centric spin-off, and is running not in a hip abandoned warehouse but the basement of the Greenwich Maritime Museum.

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National Maritime Museum Until Monday August 31 2015
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