West End theatre shows on now
Toby Stephens ('Oslo', 'Lost in Space') and Claire Skinner ('Outnumbered') co-star in this new production of a perennially-revived black comedy. They'll play the parents who cope with the demands of looking after a severely disabled daughter by losing themselves in bizarre games. 'A Day in the Death of Joe Egg' comes to Trafalgar Studios in a production directed by Simon Evans, who was at the helm of 'Killer Joe' at the venue last year.
When ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ is trotted out so regularly – in London alone, there are three big ones on this summer – you can see why a director would want to make their version memorable. And if there’s one thing for certain to say about Sean Holmes’s production at the Globe, it’s that it definitely doesn’t fade into the background. The entire show is pitched somewhere between a first-week freshers’ party and the birthday celebration of a really spoilt five-year-old. There are piñatas, streamers, glitter face paint, pink hair, loads of deely boppers, audience interaction on the level of a Christmas show and giant balloon letters. Members of the Hackney Colliery Band proudly toot and drum throughout with an impressive energy similar to that of the band that follows the England football team to matches. The real talking point, though, is Jean Chan’s costumes. Theseus (Peter Bourke) struts on stage like a sugarplum dictator in a pink satin military costume, while his wife Hippolyta (Victoria Elliott) is done up as Elizabeth II in a psychedelic fantasy. The Athenians are in cosplay Tudor with their ruffs turned into asymmetric wings or shoulder pieces. Oberon (also Bourke) is dressed as a fancy chair. And the rest look like various versions of that person you really, really want to avoid camping next to at a festival. Sometimes the ‘everything in the party box and then more more more’ vibe works, the crowd get behind it and it’s genuinely funny. At other points it doesn
This review is from 2018. ‘As You Like It’ returns for 2019. Casting TBA, but liable to be different. Anybody expecting the Globe to become a chintzy Shakespeare museum, in the wake of the untimely end of Emma Rice’s boisterous regime, doesn’t know the Globe. Actor-director Michelle Terry is kicking off her time in charge with a rep season of ‘As You Like It’ and ‘Hamlet’ that features, as she recently said to Time Out, ‘a gender-blind, race-blind, disability-blind’ company of actors. With a hodge-podge visual aesthetic that’s equal parts trad Elizabethan, Victorian vaudeville and bang-up-to-date modern, it’s also a pointed break with the period-accurate Mark Rylance and Dominic Dromgoole regimes. Terry may be banned from using the beefy light and sound rigs that threw Rice into conflict with the Globe’s board, but she’s clearly her own artistic director. So does it work? There are some peculiarities to this production of beloved comedy ‘As You Like It’, but the pointed diversity is not going to be an issue for the worldly 2018 theatregoer. Indeed, the boldest stroke, the casting of deaf actor Nadia Nadarajah in the role of feisty noblewoman Celia, is fantastic – signing her lines, she provides a smart, sardonic comic foil to the loquacious sadsacks around her, and there are a couple of nice pickups on Shakespeare’s text that even support the idea the character might be non-verbal. A bit weirder is the ostentatious non-deployment of Terry: she pops up in a variety of smal
How can we tell true stories, when the truth is so much messier and more absurd than the stories we make up? How can you craft satisfying narratives about a world in which objectively amusing idiots are an existential threat to our democracy and planet, and in which small acts of tremendous bravery don’t add up to much? Lucy Prebble tries to answer these questions in her long-awaited fourth play ‘A Very Expensive Poison’, which grapples fearlessly with the inherent absurdity of the assassination of Russian defector Alexander Litvinenko: poisoned in 2006 via the use of the rare radioactive element polonium in London on the orders of the Russian state. Based on Luke Harding’s journalistic book of the same name, it initially plays a fairly straight bat, despite Prebble’s wilfully zinger-heavy dialogue. Critically ill from what he does not yet know to be radiation poisoning, the superb Tom Brooke’s deadpan Alexander is brought into hospital by his resilient, worried wife Marina (MyAnna Buring). Eventually he is questioned by British police, sparking a lengthy flashback in which we meet the Litvinenkos in the chaos of ‘90s Russia, where anti-corruption officer Alexander falls foul of the authorities by refusing to assassinate flamboyant oligarch Boris Berezovsky (Peter Polycarpou, who enters doing the robot, and doesn’t tone it down thereafter). Hounded by the authorities, Alexander hopes things will change when he gets a new boss, a young protégée of Berezovsky’s. Unfortuna
This all-singing adaptation of the beloved 1988 Tom Hanks body-swap comedy long predates the recent glut of musical adaptations of ‘80s flicks – ‘Big the Musical‘ (officially styled ‘BIG the Musical’) actually premiered on Broadway in 1996. The long-delayed British production finally had a try out at Theatre Royal Plymouth in 2016, and now books in for a very limited run at one of the West End’s very biggest theatres. Jay McGuiness stars as Josh Baskin, the 12-year-old who becomes trapped in an adult’s body – to heartwarming effect – after an encounter with a mysterious fortune teller machine. Tickets on sale April 2
John Malkovich: ‘I can’t tell you what it is. You can tell me what it is’ Really, what is the point? Why stage this? I write with weariness, not anger. Because it’s all too tiresome, and too predictable. Turns out, nope, we really didn’t need a Harvey Weinstein play, written by a man and from a male perspective. The whole thing leaves you feeling… grubby. David Mamet, once our prime chronicler of macho males and power struggles, has written a play about a movie mogul called Barney Fein. It is scathing and cynical – it doesn’t ask for sympathy for Fein. But it does ask that we listen to his story. It does ask that we re-hash all those harrowing #MeToo revelations for entertainment, that we re-stage these abuses of power again, laughing at them perhaps (although it’s not that funny) but hardly shedding any new light. Incidentally, Fein’s film company is called Find a Light Films, because it sells schmaltzy Oscar-winning entertainments about triumph over adversity, so maybe there’s a Mamet mock in here of the idea of a serious, do-gooder #MeToo play. But we certainly don’t need this easy satire either. John Malkovich has been tempted back to the West End to star in it, and although he plays Fein as wholly unpleasant, he’s not nuanced. Fein is a nasty piece of work all right – but Malkovich’s rantings are one-note, even monotonous. He’s in a fat suit, and Mamet – who also directs – makes many dispiriting attempts to wring laughs out of the fact that this character is overweig
Musicals don’t come much more low-key, wholesome or Canadian than ‘Come from Away’. Writers Irene Sankoff and David Hein cook up the straightforward world of the Newfoundland town of Gander using a very straightforward set of ingredients. The cast wear sensible shoes and lumberjack shirts. They tramp across a wood-decked stage that evokes the huge skies of their tiny island. They sing their way through a set of folk-tinged songs that tell stories of the five days after 9/11, when 38 planes made emergency landings on the island’s huge, disused airstrip. And it’s all totally, soul-feedingly wonderful. ‘Come from Away’ has been a massive sleeper hit across North America, Broadway included, and it’s easy to see why: it mixes down-home authenticity with the desperate intensity that comes in times of crisis. This is a moment where 7,000 temporary arrivals join a community of just 9,000 people. Logistics might not be the sexiest of topics for a musical, but one of the many surprising joys of this show is how gripping it makes things like the struggle to rustle up transport at a time when the local school bus drivers were on strike and had to be coaxed into crossing the picket line. Then there are beds, food, medication and interpreters to be sourced for passengers from across the world: one non-English-speaking couple communicates by cross-referencing Bible verses. Based closely on interviews with real Newfoundlanders, this is a picture of a community that stretches itself to bre
‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’ is a burst of joy in the heart of the West End. This new British musical, transferring from the Sheffield Crucible, is the real deal. Watch out, tired revivals: there’s a new kid in town. Inspired by a 2011 BBC documentary about a teenager who wanted to be a drag queen, the show follows 16-year-old Jamie on his journey to be himself – out of a classroom in a working-class part of Sheffield, away from the bigotry of a deadbeat dad, and into high heels. Director Jonathan Butterell’s production is a high-impact blaze of colour, combining video projections with seamless scene changes and a live band above the stage. It captures the frenetic energy of being a teenager. Every element of this show works beautifully together. The music, by The Feeling frontman Dan Gillespie Sells, is a deft mix of irresistibly catchy, pop-honed foot-tappers – try not to hum ‘And You Don’t Even Know It’, I dare you – and truthful, heart-wrenching numbers. This is Sells’s first foray into writing for musicals, but he’s always excelled at telling stories in song. He is matched by the show’s writer and lyricist Tom MacRae. Apart from notable exceptions like Punchdrunk’s ‘Doctor Who’-themed kids’ show ‘The Crash of Elysium’, he’s largely written for TV, but this works well here. His dialogue is punchy, funny and often lands with a sting. While most of the characters exist to orbit Jamie, they still have their own stories and these are crisply told. As Pritti, Jamie’
Forget everything you know about ‘Evita’: this one properly rocks. Gone are the romanticised shots of sun-soaked South America, sliced out are the filler numbers clogging the score and deleted is the simpering, blonde starlet. Instead, Jamie Lloyd’s production wipes the gloss off Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s musical, creating a pumping, sped-up ‘Evita’ edged with dirt, rust and grime. It starts literally with a bang. Grey confetti falls like funeral ashes blasted from a cannon, marking Eva Peron’s death. From there, it’s a mass celebration of blue-and-white streamers, flares, cheerleaders and names on placards. The feel is more Maradona than Madonna, a tribute perhaps to a country England knows best through the World Cup. Or, a clever nod to the overlap between the unified chanting and colour coordination of a political rally and the behaviour inside a football stadium. It’s a more critical portrayal of the Peróns than, for example, Alan Parker and Oliver Stone’s film provides. Yet one of the best aspects is how Samantha Pauly’s Evita owns her reputation and herself. Bounding around in a white slip dress and sneakers – the costume department definitely got the ’90s revival memo which also includes boyband braces and baggy suit pants – Pauly looks like an Insta influencer who gives no fucks about other people’s snark. Trent Saunders’s Che-in-a-Che-T-shirt has flashes of an earnest Political Science undergrad just returned from a summer in Cuba. At times it seems like
Director Alexander Zeldin and his hardhitting dramas have been one of the real success stories of the Rufus Norris-era National Theatre, ever since his play about zero hours contracts ‘Beyond Caring’ was plucked from the stage of The Yard. That was followed by ‘LOVE’ and now the (apparent!) trilogy is acomplete as ‘Faith, Hope and Charity’ brings together a truly excellent cast – including Cecilia Noble and Susan Lynch – to devise a drama about a struggling community centre.
Almost 40 years since the original film, 37 since the TV show, and 31 since the theatrical version was first staged, it increasingly looks like ‘Fame’ really might live forever. The stage musical is now back in theatres with a slick, suitably energetic production. It follows the pupils at the High School of Performing Arts in New York, as they’re taught to sing, dance and act their way to stardom – finding their true selves along the way. Nick Winston’s choreography is absolutely on the money: pert, sprightly and a blast to watch. But the story hasn’t exactly got better with age. Loosely woven around three couples, the plot feels virtually non-existent in the first half and descends into mawkishness in the second. The will-they-won’t-they romantic trials of these talented teens – all hard-working, hard-bodied and hard with ambition – nonetheless feels fairly aimless for much of the show. Then there’s a sudden lurch after the hot-headed Carmen (Stephanie Rojas) quits school and follows a sleazy agent to LA – and gets punished for being too impatient for celebrity with a quickly cooked up descent into drug addiction. There are also storylines about a dancer who can’t stop eating, and a young black man from the ’hood who’s unable to read, which have all the subtlety of… well, of a 1980s children’s TV show. But while the earnest theatre majors might spout lessons from Stanislavski and Chekhov dialogue, no-one’s really here for the drama: ‘Fame’ is all about belting tunes and d
Britain’s greatest living playwright Caryl Churchill is back at her usual haunt the Royal Court with four short plays, which will be directed by James Macdonald and designed by Miriam Buether. (There were originally going to be just three – ‘Imp’ was announced after the rest, its existence apparently taking the Court by surprise as much as anyone). As ever with Churchill, expect the boundaries of language to be firmly pushed and challenged. In terms of what the plays are about: we don’t know, and possibly won’t after seeing them, although for what it’s worth the official description of ‘Glass. Kill. Bluebeard. Imp.’ runs: ‘A girl made of glass. Gods and murders. A serial killer’s friends. And a secret in a bottle’.
Mischief Theatre are pretty much synonymous with comedy on the West End, with a string of hits including long-runners 'The Play That Goes Wrong' and 'The Comedy About a Bank Robbery'. Now, they're embarking on a year-long residency at Vaudeville Theatre, as facilitated by top West End producer and co-owner of the Nimax theatre group, Nica Burns. Things kick off with 'Groan Ups', a millennial-friendly comedy that follows a bunch of kids at ages six, 13, and 30. It'll star the original Mischief theatre crew, comprising Dave Hearn, Henry Lewis, Charlie Russell Jonathan Sayer, Henry Shields and Nancy Zamit, alongside newcomer Bryony Corrigan.
Okay, let’s just get this out of the way. ‘Hamilton’ is stupendously good. Yes, it’s kind of a drag that there’s so much hype around it. But there was a lot of hype around penicillin. And that worked out pretty well. If anything – and I’m truly sorry to say this – Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical about Alexander Hamilton, the first secretary of the US Treasury, is actually better than the hype suggests. That’s because lost in some of the more waffly discourse around its diverse casting and sociological import is the fact that ‘Hamilton’ is, first and foremost, a ferociously enjoyable show. You probably already know that it’s a hip hop musical, something that’s been tried before with limited success. Here it works brilliantly, because Miranda – who wrote everything – understands what mainstream audiences like about hip hop, what mainstream audiences like about musical theatre, and how to craft a brilliant hybrid. Put simply, it’s big emotions and big melodies from the former, and thrilling, funny, technically virtuosic storytelling from the latter. ‘Alexander Hamilton’, the opening tune, exemplifies everything that’s great about the show. It’s got a relentlessly catchy build and momentum, a crackling, edge-of-seat sense of drama, and is absolutely chockablock with information, as the key players stride on to bring us up to speed with the eventful life that Hamilton – the ‘bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman’ – led before he emigrated to America in 1772 as a teenager
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. ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ is an absolute hoot, a joyous, big-hearted, ludicrously incident-packed and magic-heavy romp that has to stand as one of the most unrelentingly entertaining things to hit the West End. Writer Jack Thorne, director John Tiffany and a world-class team have played a blinder; if the two-part, five-hour-plus show is clearly a bit on the long side, it’s forgivable. ‘The Cursed Child’ emphatically exists for fans of Harry Potter, and much of its power derives from the visceral, often highly emotional impact of feeling that you’re in the same room as Rowling’s iconic characters. There’s also a sense that this story of wizards and witches is being treated with the respect its now substantially grown-up fanbase craves. No disrespect to D-Rad and chums, but the leads here are in a different acting league to their film counterparts’: Jamie Parker and Alex Price are superb as battered, damaged, middle-aged versions of old enemies Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy. Sam Clemmett and Anthony Boyle are a fine, puppyish, sympathetic engine to the play as their awkward sons Albus and Scorpius, trying to escape their parents’ shadows. It is a bit of a sausage (wand?) fest in terms of the lead parts, although in the mos
Cooked up by the producers of kitschy smash hit Riverdance, 'Heartbeat of Home' takes Irish dance in some international new directions. A 33-strong international cast will take inspiration from salsa, hip hop and Latin dance, in a big budget spectacle concieved and directed by John McColgan.
Michelle Terry leads the return of her Globe Ensemble from the front: the actor-artistic director’s all-guns-blazing take on rebel lord Henry ‘Hotspur’ Percy is the clear highlight of her rep company’s second season.Hotspur is usually interpreted as a noble idealist whose tragedy is that he’s more decent than the king he clashes with, but Terry pretty much goes the other way. Her Hotspur is an angry, sardonic young man whose main motives appear to be bloodlust and boredom. Sure, Terry’s going against the text a bit. But she does so dazzlingly. The tender scenes with Hotspur’s young wife Lady Percy are hysterically rewired into masterclasses in alpha male douchiness – Hotspur seems to be barely even listening to her as she waxes eloquent about her fears for him.The overall effect is to unify the tone of a play that usually comes across as divided between the serious political bits, and the comedy bits where the young Prince Harry (Sarah Amankwah) bums around with his disreputable mentor Sir John Falstaff (Helen Schlesinger).Instead, you’re never far from a laugh in a show that could borderline be described as ‘a romp’. Indeed, Terry is effortlessly funnier than anybody else: Amankwah and Schlesinger never really click. Without Terry, it would be a lot less good. But directors Federay Holmes and Sarah Bedi do some good work here: there is a striking intro, in which the identically clad ensemble sing a stirring song while donning their costumes; in the second half there is an en
Unstoppable stage and screen legend Sir Ian McKellen has spent the best part of 2019 touring an autobiographical stage show – formerly called ‘Tolkien, Shakespeare, others …and you!’, now subtitled that – to 80 venues across the nation, each of which meant something special to him. Naturally even the slew of London dates sold out pretty much immediately: but now he’s bringing it back to to the capital for a proper West End run, with all money going to theatre charities. The show – directed by Sean Mathias – is effectively McKellen’s greatest hits, in which he talks about his life, answers questions and performed bits of his most famous roles, notably Gandalf and the Bard.
Magic Mike on stage feels a bit like dating in London in my thirties: all the young, hot people got it on while I sat on the sidelines. But as a voyeur at this expensive strip-meets-cabaret show, there was some serious titillation: pains are taken to remind you that it has very much been made with the female gaze in mind. The romp unfolds in a faux-club built in Leicester Square’s already-slightly-seedy (in a good way) Hippodrome Casino, based upon the Xquisite strip joint from Steven Soderbergh’s surprise 2012 cinematic smash. The movie’s star Channing Tatum – whose IRL undressing escapades originally informed the film’s plot – is behind this theatrical reimagining, with London the second destination of ‘Magic Mike Live’ following a hugely successful run in Vegas. But it’s important to note that co-director Tatum (who, alas, merely lends his voice to the performance) has worked with a gender-balanced team and the sense that this is a safe space for women enshrouds the entire show, despite it being filled with semi-naked men. The plot (in the loosest sense) centres on Michelangelo – Mike to you – a waiter plucked from the crowd and trained in showing a woman a (consensual) good time by our female emcee, played by actor Sophie Linder-Lee. She sounds a bit like Jane Horrocks and makes a lot of jokes about ‘jizz’ and the tightness of her own vagina. Most of the ladies pulled to the stage for some public gyration were mega hot (so hot, it almost felt like they’d been planted
Judy Craymer's bold idea of turning the insanely catchy songs of ABBA into a musical has paid off splendidly, in every sense – box office figures for 'Mamma Mia!' are as eye-watering as its outfits. This is largely because Catherine Johnson had the sense to weave the 1970s into her script, and director Phyllida Lloyd to cast accordingly. Heroine Donna Sheridan lived the free love dream (if only because her boyfriend ran out on her), wound up pregnant and survived to see her daughter, Sophie, reject all her principles in favour of a white wedding and the kind of certainty that comes from knowing which of your mother's three consecutive lovers ought to be walking you down the aisle. If you wanted to, you could see this as a conversation about feminism. But you'll look pretty silly debating patriarchal oppression while on your feet clapping to 'Dancing Queen'. Some of the songs are oddly static, but when the choreography does get going – for instance, when Donna's friend Tanya stylishly quashes a libidinous local puppy in 'Does Your Mother Know?' – it's terrific, and makes great use of props: I wonder if the producers can assure us that no electric drills or hairdryers were harmed in the making of this musical? The current cast appear to have been chosen more for their singing voices than their serious acting ability. But who needs dramatic conviction when you have purest pop to do the convincing for you? Given the songs, a story just about solid enough to stay upright on its
After spending some time searching around for a venue (it was, ironically, deemed too noisy for Waterloo) Björn Ulvaeus’s immersive experience ‘Mamma Mia! The Party’ has finally found a home. The show –a night of eating, drinking and Abba songs set in a taverna on the same Greek island as Ulvaeus’s smash hit musical ‘Mamma Mia!’ – has now claimed a corner of the O2; not super atmospheric, but at least the neighbours won’t complain. Plus by all accounts no expense is being spared in making it as convincing as possible, with the build overseen by Steve Tompkins of omnipresent architects Haworth Tompkins. Already a massive hit in Sweden, the English edition of ‘Mamma Mia! The Party’ will feature a script adapted by Britain’s favouite Scandinavian, Sandi Toksvig. The admittedly steep entry price naturally includes a meal, presumably of the Greek variety. Plus some sort of story, told via ‘dialogue and Abba songs’.
There's been a bit of a resurgence of interest in apartheid-era South African playwright Athol Fugard lately, with recent off-West End revivals of dramas including 'Blood Knot' and 'A Lesson from Aloes'. Now the NT is getting in on the act with a big name production of Fugard's semi-autobiographical study of friendship and prejudice. It's headed up by director Roy Alexander Weise, who was at the helm of big NT hit 'Nine Night', and stars returning actors Lucian Msamati ('Amadeus') and Hammed Animashaun ('Barber Shop Chronicles'). ''Master Harold'...and the boys' is set in 1950 South Africa, in a sleepy tea room whose two employees practice ballroom dancing steps while they wait for customers. The tea room's owners' son strikes up a friendship with them, but under apartheid, their bond becomes painfully complicated.
If there’s a screen still flickering in the UK at the end of the world, it’ll probably be playing on loop that bit where Derek ‘Del Boy’ Trotter falls through the bar. John Sullivan’s ‘Only Fools and Horses’ has long since transformed from being just a TV show into a cultural phenomenon, annually topping those breathless audience polls as ‘Best British Comedy Ever, Ever, Ever’. It’s on that tidal wave of public adoration that this musical version of the misadventures of wheeler-dealer Del Boy, his hapless brother Rodney and their granddad, living together on a Peckham council estate at the tail end of the ’80s, sails into the West End’s Theatre Royal Haymarket. It’s co-written by Jim ‘son of John’ Sullivan and comic actor extraordinaire Paul Whitehouse (who’s also on stage as Granddad). Director Caroline Jay Ranger sets out her market stall early, as Del Boy (Tom Bennett) promises ‘plonker’ Rodney (Ryan Hutton), ‘This time next year, we’ll be millionaires.’ What follows is a blizzard of catchphrases, quotes and characters. Boycie and Marlene, Trigger, Mickey and Denzil are all crammed on stage and into the Nags Head. When Del tries hawking dodgy Eiffel Towers to the audience, he’s also selling us easy nostalgia. His battered Reliant car turns up like a guest star. It’s affectionate fun. There are some good gags – including an early tease of Del’s bar fall – and the sitcom's iconic theme tune works well as a refrain (sung by the cast) for the twinkly cheekiness of this sh
Grand old institution though it is, on a sunny day the National Theatre’s repertoire can still look obscenely fresh and youthful. But it does have at least one portrait mouldering away in its attic. And by ‘portrait’ I mean the increasingly trying works of the playwright David Hare. And by ‘attic’ I mean the theatre at the top of the building, the 1,100-seat Olivier, where it sometimes seems Hare would keep getting programmed if all life on the planet were wiped out. I am being a bit unfair: as well as being one of the great writers of the late twentieth century, in some respects Hare’s chief crime is being masochistic enough to regularly take on the cavernous Olivier, perhaps the most difficult stage in the entire country. Nonetheless, there is very little about ‘Peter Gynt’ – his craftily-titled new version of Ibsen’s ‘Peer Gynt’ – that really screams ‘necessary’. His version underscores how goofy the original was, without really finding a raison d’être for a 2019 incarnation. There are good things about Jonathan Kent’s production. In the title role, James McArdle is a megaton bomb of an actor. Still only 30 years old, this is his sixth play on the Olivier stage and he effortlessly owns it as swaggering dickhead Gynt, who goes from almost-loveable fantasist to very-hatable capitalist to embittered old douchebag over the course of the play’s titanic three-and-a-half hours. Richard Hudson’s lurid, slightly queasy forced-perspective set designs are pretty cool, as Gynt jour
A 63-year-old woman shooting down the Niagara Falls in a barrel in 1901 – the hook for ‘Queen of the Mist’ at Charing Cross Theatre – maybe isn’t your typical premise for a musical. But lyricist, book-writer and composer Michael John LaChiusa’s work has always been more interested in the drama of an idea than in conventional tales of doe-eyed lovers. ‘Queen of the Mist’ is what the real-life Anna Edson Taylor (Trudi Camilleri) had emblazoned on the barrel she had especially made for her plunge from the heights. In LaChiusa’s hands, Taylor is a fascinating, mercurial character: a school teacher and a hustler, owing money to everyone, but also hemmed in and frustrated by a small-minded society. Where others, like her scandalised sister, crave a quiet life, Taylor battles sexism and ageism to do her ‘deed’ – a money-making scheme but also an existential leap. The barrel plunge took advantage of a leery American public’s morbid fascination with the fad for elaborately fatal attempts by others to go over the Falls. She would survive. But that’s only half this musical’s story. The truly tragic fall happens in the second act, as Taylor learns that fame is fickle. Her sense of accomplishment means nothing to the increasingly bored readers of her book and dwindling audiences at her speaking engagements, who only thirst for sensationalism and tales of terror. She won’t satisfy them. Camilleri is a strong presence as Taylor, imbuing a woman who was in so many ways – good and bad – b
Underbelly Festival's final headliner for the summer is 'Rouge', a circus-cabaret night from Australia that mixes aerial hoop, fire-eating, and raunchy dancing galore.
‘Six’ returns to Arts Theatre in January 2019. This review is from August 2018. ‘Remember us from your GCSEs?’ It’s Henry VIII’s six wives – and they’ve back, bitch, to re-tell ‘her-story’ as a slick, sassy girl band. Think Euro-pop remixes of ‘Greensleeves’, Anne Boleyn spouting tweenage text-speak (‘everybody chill/it’s totes God’s will’), and K-Howard warbling #MeToo tales of gropey employers. ‘Hamilton' looms large here, and although ‘Six’ has its own moments of clever-clever hip-hop rhymes, it’s a tough comparison: this musical started life as a student show (Cambridge, obvs). But its creators, Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, have succeeded in crafting almost brutally efficient pastiche pop songs – here a ballad, there a ballsy, blinging R&B number – performed with snappy dance routines by a talented, diverse cast (and all-female band). Since inception the show seems to have been given a good lick of gloss, too; it stands up in the West End. But beneath its super-shiny surface, ‘Six’ is totes vacuous. And so basic in its feminism that it’s hard to believe it’s written by, like, actual Millennials. The whole thing is staged as a deeply unsisterly competition, each wife getting a song in which to prove they’re the biggest victim, the one who suffered the most at Henry’s hands. This is treated weirdly as comedy though, OTT shrieks and snarks escalating until they’re actually in a catfight, pulling each other’s hair. Several of the wives are characterised as dim and ditzy;
Stephen Fry’s first UK tour in over 40 years is naturally not a set of balls-to-the-wall stand-up, but an evening of typically erudite national treasure-ising. ‘Mythos – A Trilogy’ is a loosely-scripted trio of shows in which the former ‘QI’ jockey holds court with stories of gods, heroes and men that still resonate today. Each is a standalone show; at time of writing the only performance with tickets officially left is the bonus performance of ‘Gods’ added on Tuesday 17 September.
If you’re a plucky producer hoping to get your new show into the Criterion Theatre, you’re flat out of luck once again. Because less than nine months after 'The 39 Steps' shuttered after almost a decade glowering over Piccadilly Circus, it’s now home to the brand new comedy by Mischief Theatre, which, if there’s any justice in the theatre world, will run for even longer. 'The Comedy About A Bank Robbery' is the latest play by the bogglingly prolific and talented team behind 'The Play That Goes Wrong' (or more accurately the 'Play That Goes Wrong' franchise) and it’s their best and funniest work yet. A genre pastiche, screwball comedy and classic farce that’s as clean and clear as its brassy branding, it spins with a manic energy from Two Ronnies-esque wordplay through surreal set-pieces to slapstick stunts prepped to bring the house down. The story of a bungled jewel heist in a sleepy Minneapolis bank branch, it features a host of hilarious but well-drawn characters who roar across the stage and tumble into disaster after disaster, each one more elegantly drawn than the last. The writers’ ability to snatch a laugh out of every line, and to intricately prime each scenario with zinging punchlines and pay-offs is stunning, as call-backs and running gags pile up into teetering edifices of absurdity. The entire cast is bang on the money, but Mischief Theatre’s own Henry Lewis and Jonathan Sayer are the standouts as booming bank manager Robin Freeboys and hapless loser (and eter
The posters have been plastered around the London Underground for years – long enough for this show to become the most successful musical of all time – but nothing prepares you for the sheer impact of 'The Lion King's opening sequence. With the surge of 'Circle Of Life' reverberating through your chest, Julie Taymor's animal creations march on, species by species. Gazelles spring, birds swoop and an elephant and her child lumber through the stalls. It's a cacophonous cavalcade that genuinely stops you breathing. You'd think Noah's Ark had emptied onto the stage. For a global blockbuster, 'The Lion King's absolute theatricality is astonishing. Techniques from all over the world – African masks, Japanese Kabuki costumes, Malaysian shadow puppetry – are smashed together in an explosion of spectacle. It's perfect for a musical, allowing both distinct flavours and an eclectic carnival spirit. Admittedly, things deflate when it sacrifices this defiant originality for subservient approximation of the film. Timon and Pumba (Damian Baldet and Keith Bookman), though impressively like their screen counterparts, step into the savannah from a different dimension. The hyena-infested elephant's graveyard swaps menace for goofiness and the famous stampede scene, so delicately handled and moving in the film, is merely ticked off with a sigh of relief. The familiarity of the film is a root cause of the show's commercial success. But, ironically, 'The Lion King' can't afford such compromis
At the end of this elegant Agatha Christie thriller, the newly uncovered homicidal maniac steps into a sinister spotlight and warns everyone never to reveal his or her identity. The production recently celebrated its 60th birthday and although Wikipedia and Stephen Fry have both blown the murderer's cover, there is a remarkable conspiracy of silence over 'The Moustrap'. The real mystery of the world's longest-running theatre show is not whodunit but, in its currently mediocre state, whydoit at all? 'The Mousetrap's ticket prices are the only element of this show that isn't stuck fast in the 1950s – although the actors' strained RP does make the odd break for the twenty-first century. Otherwise, this is a walking, talking piece of theatre history and – at £39 for a full-price stalls seat – the most expensive museum exhibit in London. Christie's neat puzzler of a plot is easier to defend. It has defied the inevitably mummifying process of more than 25,000 performances and still possesses an uncanny precision worthy of the mistress of murder's chilling geriatric creation, Miss Marple. In the 60 years since it premiered, its premise, in which six Cluedo-like middle-class stereotypes are imprisoned by snow in a country house while they try to fathom which of them is a raving murderer, has become a cliché, just as the authorities' response to adverse weather conditions (skiing coppers? In Berkshire?) have become a nostalgic memory. It's fascinating to glimpse the ghost of Peter
Interview: Clive Owen – ‘I’m a sucker for punishment’ Tennessee Williams’s wild, cracked, frequently hilarious 1961 drama ‘The Night of the Iguana’ really doesn’t get staged all that often, at least not compared to the big ones. And for a good three-quarters of its hefty running time, James Macdonald’s Clive Owen-starring revival makes you wonder what the hell is wrong with people that this is the case.It is ‘40s Mexico, and at a shabby coastal hotel – set on a vertiginous cliffside, stunningly rendered in Rae Smith’s towering set – there is a scene of utter chaos. Reverend Shannon (Owen), a fallen American priest and regular visitor, has returned after a couple of weeks away to discover that the hotel’s erstwhile owner – and his friend – has passed away, leaving the struggling business to his epically unbothered widow, Maxine (Anna Gunn).Shannon has other things to worry about, though: he’s struggling with his sanity, and has just ditched the coach party of prim American ladies he’s supposed to be acting as guide to at the bottom of the mountain, having committed an act of statutory rape on the youngest member of the group. He is losing his shit, basically, and matters are not helped by the obnoxious group of Germans staying at the hotel, who are probably literally Nazis. The only possible lifeline is Hannah Jelkes (Lia Williams), a well-spoken but penniless artist from Nantucket, travelling with her 97-year-old grandfather Nonno (Julian Glover), a frail old poet.If that
I’m not sure any show ‘deserves’ to be the most successful entertainment event of all time, but I’ll hand it current holder of that title, ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ – it still works hard for its audience. Sure, chunks of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s opus have never left 1986. But whereas describing a musical as ‘stuck in the ’80s’ is usually shorthand for cheap, thin synth orchestration, nothing could be further from the truth here: the portentously swirling keyboards and crunch of hair metal guitar that powers ‘Phantom’s title song have a black hole-like immensity, sucking you in with sheer juggernaut bombast. Mostly, though, ‘Phantom…’ remains strong because its high production values haven’t been allowed to sag. The late Maria Björnson’s design is a heady barrage of ravishing costumes and lavish sets that change frequently, working in everything from pastoral jollity to an ancient Carthaginian theme on the way to the Phantom’s stunning underground lair. It’s totally OTT – in one scene the Phantom zaps at his nemesis Raul with a staff that fires actual fireballs – and anybody who describes the plot (homicidal lunatic grooms girl) as romantic should probably be put on some sort of register. But its blazingly earnest ridiculousness and campy Grand Guignol story are entirely thrilling when realised with the show’s enormous budget. And while Hal Prince’s production may have been hailed as rather gauche back in the day, in 2013 it all comes across as rather more tasteful than the a
Well you have to admire the chutzpah: the creators of long-running immersive London hit ‘The Great Gatsby’ have followed up with an interactive adptation of Jordan Belfort’s hit memoir ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’. It details how the former Wall Street trader made a colossal amount of money in the ’90s while behaving extremely poorly, before being put away for fraud for 22 months and reinventing himself as a motivational speaker. Given Belfort is chiefly famous for making millions while taking monumental amounts of drugs plus breaking the law and being jailed, it will be intriguing to see exactly what this show involves. Exact details are somewhat opaque at present, but the show will take place in a four storey building in central London that will house a recreation of various locations from the memoir. You can either play an amoral Wall Street trader or an FBI agent, which sounds noticeably less like actual fun. The tickets are pricey but there will be a £10 and £25 day-seats lottery, or VIP packages for people who want to spen Belfort-like levels of cash.
It's been decades since this skillful adaptation of Susan Hill's 1983 Gothic horror story first started setting West End audience a-shiver. 'The Woman in Black' remains perennially popular – particularly, it seems, with generally hard-to-please teenagers – which is testament to its rough-theatre appeal and the extraordinary and enduring potency, not of guts, gore or special effects, but of simple suggestion. Ageing Arthur Kipps is haunted by sinister events that befell him 30 years earlier. In an effort to exorcise his demons, he hires an actor to help him tell his story for an invited audience. As they rehearse, though, their staging itself becomes prey to supernatural visitations from the titular hatchet-faced, whip-thin, funereally garbed woman. Stephen Mallatratt's dramatisation and a deft production by Robin Herford exploit the peculiarly spooky atmosphere of an empty theatre, making us, as an audience, feel almost like spectral voyeurs. And the chills are irresistibly effective: swirling fog, a creaking rocking chair, a locked door, a pale visage looming out of the gloom. Only occasionally does the staging show its age. The projected image of the gaunt, sinister house of Kipps' tormented memory looks hopelessly cheap and crude, and a graveyard conjured with dust sheets struggles to convince, even within the low-tech aesthetic parameters of the piece. Yet the shrieks and gasps that greet the performance demonstrate that, even in the twenty-first century, this doughty
Step inside the Lyric foyer and you'll be greeted by a gleaming Michael Jackson memorial. Enter the auditorium and you'll find another in 'Thriller', a shining homage to The King of Pop. This is a sparkling, singing and shimmying conveyor belt of more than 30 of Jackson's greatest hits. It's a bit like watching an extended episode of 'The X Factor' – except the performers are actually very good and they've all picked Jacko. What really hits home in this jubilant jukebox show, which recently celebrated its thousandth performance, is the range of repertoire available. 'Thriller' is a reminder of Michael Jackson's versatility and the unique gloss he lent to pop, rock, dance and even the ballad. 'Heal the World' is crooned by a throng of suitably seraphic kids, 'Beat It' is blasted into the gods and a silver-gloved groover glides majestically through 'Smooth Criminal'. The show, held together by the loosest of narratives, begins with a selection of Jackson 5 numbers. These earlier songs are among the best of the night: pure, funky, relatively simple and uniformly upbeat. Salient facts are flashed furiously across the screens (750 million records sold worldwide!) and the show segues into Jackson's solo career. Some of these later songs are terrifyingly idiosyncratic – made and moulded for the man himself – and the lead vocalists struggle with the quirkier numbers, such as 'Jam' and 'Dirty Diana'. But it is the dancing that dazzles, no more so than Michael Duke's confident and w
Is a feelgood jukebox musical the absolute best medium to tell a story about domestic abuse? Put crudely, that is the problem at the heart of big-budget global premiere ‘Tina – The Tina Turner Musical’. The erstwhile Anna Mae Bullock’s eventful life and beloved back catalogue are perfect subjects for adaptation. But too often Phyllida Lloyd’s production struggles to make a sensitive synthesis of the two.Where ‘Tina’ undoubtedly succeeds is in the casting of its lead. Broadway performer Adrienne Warren is virtually unknown over here, but it’s instantly apparent why she was tapped up for this. She doesn’t so much imitate Turner as channel her: her technically dazzling but achingly world-weary gale of a voice feels like it should be coming out of a woman decades, if not centuries, older. And while Warren doesn’t really look anything like Turner, she perfectly captures that leggy, rangy, in-charge physicality. From a musical standpoint, she virtually carries the show, singing nigh-on every song and even giving us an encore at the end.Almost as good is heavyweight Brit actor Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, who brings a demonic charisma to the role of Ike Turner. Tina’s abusive bandleader and husband is monstrous in his self-pitying, manipulative rage, but it’s not hard to see the appeal of his raw wit and powerful sense of certainty. It is a deadly serious performance.But the talented creative team of director Lloyd and writer Katori Hall never really crack the correct way to use their lea
Backwoods Barbie, rhinestone queen and all-round country music legend Dolly Parton has her glittering fingerprints all over this musical. She’s written all the songs, bar the iconic title track, especially for the show (this definitely isn’t a jukebox affair). She’s basically in it, as thinly disguised poodle-coiffed doppelgänger Doralee. And in case this escaped you, Parton pops up in video footage to introduce this whole bonkers confection to an audience of mad-keen fans. ‘9 to 5’ is a musical theatre version of the 1980 movie of the same name, which involves Parton, Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda running round an office and outwitting their dastardly male boss. And although this show started out in LA in 2005, it feels (shudder) pretty post-Weinstein, with its uncompromising focus on male shitness and violent retribution. Doralee (Natalie McQueen) can’t so much as climb a stepladder without her sleazy boss theatrically ogling her – and climbing any kind of career ladder is out of the question. Meanwhile Judy (Amber Davies, of ‘Love Island’ fame) is struggling to get to grips with some delightfully ’80s office tech, including a malevolent photocopier that attacks her with sheets of paper. And Violet – played by Caroline Sheen, subbing in for an injured Louise Redknapp who returns to the role next month – is a natural leader who’s longing for the promotion she deserves. The plot, when it shows up, is about as ridiculous as these women’s ultra-glam interpretation of ‘office wea
This review is from the Edinburgh International Festival, August 2019. Tim Crouch essentially only writes plays about writing plays, and in doing so he’s not headed down an indulgent cul de sac but crafted one of the most thrilling bodies of work in contemporary British theatre. And in the snappily-titled ‘Total Immediate Collective Terrestrial Imminent Salvation’ he pushes one of his most audacious formal experiments to date, even if it ultimately proves itself to be fairly lightweight by his sometimes harrowing standards. In Karl James and Andy Smith’s production, each audience member receives a book. It is the playtext. Sort of. It contains pictures too. And it is a work of prophecy, written by Miles, a bereaved father who founded an apocalyptic cult that appears to be utterly bound to the book. Does this mean Miles’s words are ‘true’, that he has the power of prophecy? Or has he simply brainwashed everyone into thinking that? Or is it ridiculous to even be thinking such things – we are of course just watching a play written by Tim Crouch, in which we appear to have been cast as members of the cult. But is being an audience member being a member of a cult of sorts? These are the kinds of thoughts that flicker through one’s head whilst watching a Crouch play, which invariably operates on two levels – an interrogation of the meaning of authorship and something else; in this case, a drama about a cult. Though the two are intertwined, and put through an audacious formal wr
Zoë Wanamaker and Zrinka Cvitešić stars as Hélène and Sophia, the first ladies of France and the US, in this new drama from Nancy Harris that sees the two women firnd themselves alone together in a side room, unsure if they're friends or enemies. Exactly what bearing this has on the current first ladies of the two countries remains to be seen, though the fact Croatian actor Cvitešić has been cast as (one assumes) the US first lady suggest the character is intended to have a Melania Trump vibe, given the IRL first lady is from neighbouring Slovenia. Bridge boss Nicholas Hytner directs.
Encore - Stars on Stage Widget
See the brightest stars on stage with Time Out
Snap up exclusive discounts in London
Time Out's handpicked deals — hurry, they won't be around for long...