Get us in your inbox

Search
Mad House, Ambassadors Theatre, 2022
Photo by Marc BrennerBill Pullman and David Harbour in ‘Mad House’

A-Z: West End theatre shows on now in London

Every single play currently running in Theatreland, in a handy alphabetical order

Written by
Time Out London Theatre
Advertising

It can be diffiult to keep up with everything on in London’s West End, which is full of more theatre shows, musical productions and ticket offers than you can shake an interval ice cream at. So where to start? We’ve pulled together literally everything currently running in the West End, from new plays to long-running musicals, for YOUR delight.

Want to shortcut to the good stuff? Check out our pick of the top ten West End theatre shows in London.

West End theatre shows on now

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Drama
  • South Bank

Performer-turned-playwright Francesca Martinez’s bold, sprawling investigation of disability starts with a powerful reversal. We're so used to seeing disabled people receiving care. But here, Martinez plays Jess, a therapist with cerebral palsy who’s forever looking after people around her, starting with her vulnerable clients. Bullish alcoholic Aidan (Bryan Dick) doesn’t believe that someone with cerebral palsy could possibly help him, but soon, they build up a witty, teasing rapport. At home, Jess looks after her pregnant lesbian friend Lottie (Crystal Condie), listening as she figures out whether to go back to her partner. But Jess's endless patience is challenged by 21-year-old Poppy (a wonderfully fiery Francesca Mills), who’s fed up with everything disabled people are expected to put up with: especially after her PIP assessment cuts her night-time care, forcing her to go to bed at 9pm in a nappy. Gradually, Poppy chips away at Jess's doormat ways. Why shouldn't disabled people be able to go out partying at night? Why should they have to beg for every crumb of help?  ‘All Of Us’ seethes with righteous anger. It’s huge and ambitious, stretching out to encompass many different kinds of disabled experiences. The main thing these people have in common is that they’re all being screwed over by a government that would rather they didn’t exist. It builds to a climactic confrontation with the local Tory MP who’s totally in thrall to the ideology of austerity, wilfully ignoring t

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Charing Cross Road

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 break

Advertising
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Regent’s Park

Adapted direct from Dodie Smith’s 1956 kids’ book – ie, absolute not a Disney production – ‘101 Dalmatians’ is a scrappy affair. It’s the first ever original musical from the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, and it boasts charming puppetry, big-name writers and a scream of a turn from Kate Fleetwood as the evil Cruella de Vil. But by the towering standards of the OAT – known for its revelatory musical revivals – it’s pretty uneven.  If you just view it as a fun kids’ show, you’d be more forgiving. In fact, I was pretty forgiving: I skipped press night and took my children the following afternoon. However, I wouldn’t say it’s really been pushed as a show for youngsters: historically the OAT’s musicals are aimed at an adult audience, the evening finish is certainly too late for my children, and the foregrounding of Fleetwood’s villainous Cruella de Vil in the publicity recalls Disney’s more adult-orientated spin-off film of last year (‘Cruella’). Anyway: my kids had fun at Timothy Sheader’s production. I mean, it starts with a protracted bottom-sniffing scene, for crying out loud, as grown-up dalmatians Pongo (Danny Collins and Ben Thompson) and Perdi (Emma Lucia and Yana Penrose) meet for the first time, give each other a good honk up the backside, fall in love and nudge their bookish, introverted human owners Dominic (Eric Stroud) and Danielle (Karen Fishwick) into starting a relationship. Skip forward a bit and humans and hounds have moved in together, and the latter have pro

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Covent Garden

This wildly hyped Broadway hit musical is basically ‘Faust’ for high-schoolers. A nerdy, anxiety-ridden teenage boy sells his soul (well, his integrity, anyway) for the popularity and appreciation he’s spent his whole life craving. But his guilt makes every YouTube follow or Twitter retweet become excruciating – and then the whole fragile edifice comes crashing down. It’s easy to see why ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ has won so many fans since it first premiered in 2015: it mixes agonising tension with surgingly catchy songs by songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who’ve also worked on movies ‘La La Land’ and ‘The Greatest Showman’. The standout numbers are emotive rock ballads like ‘You Will be Found’, the kind of thing you’d wave your lighter along to if the West End’s theatres weren’t imperilled enough already. But the score’s also stuffed with inspirations from emo to bluegrass, and Evan’s mum gets a gravelly howl of frustration that could be straight out of Alanis Morissette’s back catalogue.   The intense emotionalism of the score is characteristic of a musical where everything’s dialled up to 11. Evan Hansen isn’t just your archetypal teen movie loser; he’s as fragile as a peeled egg, bouncing from humiliation to humiliation in a high school that’s like a machine designed to slice him up. A West End newcomer, 21-year-old Sam Tutty glows with sweat and goodness, bringing integrity to a storyline that’s somewhere between ingenious and tortuous. Evan’s mother gets him treatment f

Advertising
Jean Paul Gaultier: ‘Fashion Freak Show’ review
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Chalk Farm

This review is from the Southbank Centre, 2019. ‘Fashion Freak Show’ returns in ‘upgraded’ form to run at the Roundhouse over the summer of 2022. Jean Paul Gaultier has found the perfect format for his autobiography. A grand, genderqueer, tits-out revue in the tradition of the Folies Bérgere, where this show ran in Paris prior to its London debut.  As a piece of catwalk spectacle, it’s a roaring success. As a cabaret, less so. Typically in cabaret, the costumes are the weakest element of the show. If you’ve got an eye for that sort of thing, it’s not uncommon to clock crooked seams and loose sequins as a singer belts her soul out, or as an aerialist hangs in midair.  Here, the opposite is true. The costumes are so staggering in their originality, wit and construction, they outshine everything else on the stage. And in this big-budget production, with its towering screens and 18-strong cast, there’s always a lot going on on stage.  Written and directed by Gaultier (who doesn’t himself perform), the show’s structure is loosely chronological. We begin with a surreal surgical scene – doctors in silk organza ‘rubber gloves’ – projected onto a huge screen. A young Jean Paul is sewing that iconic, conical bra on to his beloved teddybear. Then, the screen lifts and a troupe of furries emerge for a raucous dance number. Amidst the faux fur and glitter, Maud’Amour, who acts as a sort of emcee for the show, is clad in a bear suit with ‘fur’ made of real feathers, and a silk corset.  Vid

‘Frozen’ review
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Covent Garden

Alas poor Marshmallow! The inscrutable, inept snow monster that ice mage heroine Elsa conjures to guard her palace is the highest-profile casualty of ‘Frozen’s journey from screen to stage. Michael Grandage’s musical version of Disney’s animated enormo-smash is almost identical to the film in terms of plot beats. But he dials down the wilder fantasy, steering the show – within obvious constraints – to something a little closer in tone to ‘The Snow Queen’, the Hans Christian Andersen tale that it’s based upon. It’s still a dazzling spectacle that the film’s legions of kiddie fans will love. But adults will note that it’s more serious, sadder and wiser than the film. Some New York critics didn’t seem to be entirely happy with this when it opened on Broadway in 2018, criticising it for being dour. But I liked Grandage’s more melancholy spin, which is written by the film’s screenwriter and director Jennifer Lee, with new songs (and old songs) from the film’s songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez. To be clear, the talking snowman and the goofy reindeer are still in it, but it does land a bit differently.  In particular, it feels like less of an ensemble piece and more focused on the relationship between Samantha Barks’s troubled, sensitive Elsa and Stephanie McKeon’s loveable goofball sister Anna. There’s more about their lives in the royal palace where they grew up, first as best friends, and then kept separate by their over-protective parents after Elsa's growing m

Advertising
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Shaftesbury Avenue

Blessed with a megastar turn from Arinzé Kene and what is surely the loudest bass ever heard in the West End, ‘Get Up, Stand Up!’ is one heckuva Bob Marley tribute concert.  And that is underselling it: aside from a sound quality (and volume!) that most scrappy tribute bands could only dream of, Kene’s performance is genuinely towering stuff, a febrile mix of messianic charisma and puppyish charm that feels like it should be able to solve armed conflicts. Yes, he’s putting on the Jamaican patois, prodigiously dreadlocked wig, and several of Marley’s mannerisms - notably a delicately fluttering hand when making an earnest speech. But there is a molten core of joy and pride in performing this extraordinary music that is all Kene’s. Long established as a gifted musical performer – in leftfield works like ‘Been So Long’ and ‘Girl from the North Country’ – and having recently stormed the West End with his own brain-melting play ‘Misty’, ‘Get Up, Stand Up!’ sees Kene try his hand at something more mainsteam and pull it off with aplomb: he looks delighted to be here, and we’re delighted that he is. And yet, despite his performance, and the unrelenting surge of energy that is Clint Dyer’s production, there’s ultimately something a bit lacking about ‘Get Up, Stand Up!’. It covers an enormous amount of ground, from Marley’s childhood to his death from cancer at the peak of his fame. But it never really drills down into any of it. We first meet Marley as a youngster, sent away by his mo

‘Hamilton’ tickets and review
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Victoria

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. (

Advertising
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child review
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Drama
  • Charing Cross Road

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 most

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Comedy
  • South Bank

‘Jack Absolute Flies Again’ is a very funny play. But it’s not an especially great one, or to be fairer, its greatness is definitely not in proportion to how funny it is. It’s relentlessly chucklesome, but almost aggressively lacking in wider purpose as co-authors Richard Bean – who wrote ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’ – and Oliver Chris – who starred in ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’ – transpose Sheridan’s 1775 classic comedy ‘The Rivals’ to the romantic goings on in a squadron of RAF pilots staged at an English stately home during the Battle of Britain. There’s maximum focus on the gags – minimum focus on emotional weight or satirical message. In some respects that’s fair: as various fourth wall-breaking characters remind us – most especially Kerry Howard’s hard-bitten maid Lucy – Restoration comedies* are pretty dumb. Dumb and less amusing by modern standards than ‘Jack Absolute’, which maintains the basic structure of the original while amping it up. Thus Caroline Quentin’s Mrs Malaprop still mangles up her words, but a lot more smuttily: at one point she inadvertently describes another character as ‘the cunt of Monte Cristo’. (*There is an extremely strong argument for ‘The Rivals’ being written almost a century too late to be a Restoration comedy, but it’s in the style of, and that’s what ‘Jack Absolute’ actually refers to it as, so whatever). Did I say it’s funny? It’s funny! As is James Corrigan’s Bob Acres, a dopey Australian fighter pilot who the play’s eponymous hero Jack Absolute

Advertising
  • Theatre
  • Immersive
  • City of London

Think the past couple of years have been rough? Try surviving a Martian invasion only to be captured by an enormous fighting machine and having your blood harvested, ‘The Matrix’-style, in a stifling capsule. That’s the 1898 envisaged by H.G. Wells in his pioneering sci-fi thriller ‘The War of the Worlds’, which was then adapted by Jeff Wayne in his 1978 prog sci-fi album, which imbues Wells’s Victorian tale with rock-opera camp and steampunk kitsch. It’s this rather Marmite pop culture relic that forms the basis of this immersive theatre experience. It launched back in 2019, but it’s changed a fair bit since then. Presumably, techy immersive theatre company Layered Reality has finessed the VR and AR (augmented reality) tech, because now it’s slick AF. In fact, at times it’s terrifying… in the best possible way.  Take for example the moment that I stood, ensconced in a VR-enhanced Fighting Machine capsule, and felt something actually pinch me. I screamed into what (through my VR goggles) I perceived as a hellish Martian human-blood farm. I heard other screams in the distance – my fellow survivors in the booths beside me.  But it’s not all jump scares. The 24 scenes that make up the experience are incredibly varied; as per Jeff Wayne’s album, we follow the path of The Journalist, starting with his first glimpse through a telescope of noxious green gas emerging from Mars. We duck through tunnels, climb through windows and ride hot air balloons, encountering actors who are, for

‘& Juliet’ review
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Shaftesbury Avenue

A new cast featuring ‘The Greatest Showman’s Keala Settle as Nurse will take over from March 29 2022. ‘& Juliet’ is a heavily ironic Shakespeare rewrite based on the songs of super-producer Max Martin. And with the gift of that knowledge, I can fairly confidently state that you’ll probably like ‘& Juliet’ almost precisely as much as you expect to like ‘& Juliet’. Me, I grew up with Martin’s greatest hits: Britney Spears and Backstreet Boys dominated the radio when I was at school, and while I’ve never spent a single penny on his music, I’ve probably spent days of my life listening to it. These were Big Tunes to start with, and in ‘& Juliet’ they sound immense, reconfigured into lush new Tudor-nodding arrangements (a harpsichord features prominently). Most crucially, in a musical that Martin is heavily involved with, they’re deployed in ways that always find some emotional connection to the plot (by no means a given in a jukebox musical – *takes a long, hard stare at ‘Mamma Mia!’*).  The plot is fun provided you refuse to take any of what happens seriously. It’s basically ‘Romeo & Juliet’ rewritten into a sort of woke panto. The Bard of Avon (Oliver Tompsett, channelling a mid-tier ‘Love Island’ contestant) is very pleased with himself for having written the play. But his wife Anne Hathaway (Cassidy Janson, scene-stealingly bolshy) has other ideas. She browbeats Will into allowing Juliet to survive then persuades him to let her rewrite the play as an empowering feminist road t

Advertising
  • Theatre
  • West End
  • London

This annual event promoting West End theatre for children returns – though don't be confused by the title - it's running for a whole month (August 1-31 2019). Participating shows allow one child (aged 17 and under) per adult to see the performance for free, and up to two extra children can go for half price with no booking fees. Various theatres will also be organising free activities and events on stage and backstage, including dance workshops, theatre tours, and cast Q&As.  This year's participating shows include recent West End arrivals ‘Life of Pi’, ‘Back to the Future’ and ‘Frozen’, and it’s also a good chance to introduce older kids to long-running shows like 'Mamma Mia!' or 'The Phantom of the Opera' (there are a few hold outs like ‘Harry Potter’, ‘Hamilton’ and ‘The Book of Mormon’, but basically every other major West End show is covered). Younger kids are well catered to with dedicated childrens' shows like 'Horrible Histories', 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show', or 'Midsummer Mechanicals' at the Globe. Tickets go on sale from 10am on June 14 – the bolt-on activities tend to sell out, though you’re usually good to buy the tickets for a long time, if not until the end of the month. For full info and to book, visit the Kids Week website.

‘Les Misérables’ review
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Soho

I would seriously question whether any other show on the planet bar ‘Les Misérables’ could get away with junking its original production and carrying on as if nothing had changed. But ‘Les Mis’ could be transposed to space, or underwater, or to the height of the Hittite empire and it would basically be the same show as long as the singing was on point. In case you missed it: the world’s longest-running musical that’s still playing shut for six months recently while the Sondheim Theatre (née Queen’s Theatre) was renovated by proprietor and producer Cameron Mackintosh. It has returned, not in the original Trevor Nunn RSC production, but a new(ish) one from Laurence Connor and James Powell that has already been rolled out around the globe, with London the last bastion of the ‘classic’ ‘Les Mis’. The ditching of the original has caused disgruntlement in certain quarters: hardcore stans distraught that the exact show they grew up with no longer strictly exists; and the original creative team, notably director Nunn, who understandably feel a little betrayed by the whole affair. All I can say is: yup, I really dug the old revolving stage too, but its loss is bearable. The songs are the same, the score is the same (accepting that it was tweaked to make it a bit less ’80s a few years back), the costumes are the same, many of the current cast are veterans of the original production, and the text is still Nunn and John Caird’s adaptation of Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil’s o

Advertising
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Drama
  • Charing Cross Road

This stage version of Yann Martel’s Booker Prize winner has to stand as one of the most visually stunning theatre shows I’ve ever seen, especially in the feverishly beautiful second half in which eponymous hero Pi finds himself adrift in the Pacific on a lifeboat inhabited only by him and a ferocious tiger named Richard Parker. Max Webster’s production is an out-and-out triumph for the technical team. Tim Hatley’s versatile set – for which the Wyndham’s stage and stalls have been physically remodelled – thrusts out into the crowd, full of hidden trickery, notably the lifeboat that pops out of the ground in a matter of seconds. Tim Lutkin’s lighting and Andrzej Goulding’s video are sublime, conjuring the unimaginably vast strangeness of the ocean. And then there are Nick Barnes and Finn Caldwell’s puppets. In the post-‘War Horse’ era we obviously expect a lot from our puppet pals, but this really is the good stuff: a vibrantly realised menagerie of beasts whose every breath is immaculately choreographed. From the terrifying, dominating, unknowable Richard Parker – who has six puppeteers assigned to him in various rotations – down to the shoals of luminescent flying fish, every puppet is a knockout. And when the light, the video, the set and the puppets are working in concert, the effect is extraordinary, out of this world, like being plunged into a waking dream or strange alien landscape. It is incredible. Less mindblowing is the story. I read the 2001 novel sometime around i

‘Magic Mike Live’ review
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Comedy
  • Charing Cross Road

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),

Advertising
Mamma Mia!
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Aldwych

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 pl

‘Mamma Mia! The Party’ review
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Immersive
  • Greenwich Peninsula

For the price of a ticket to ‘Mamma Mia! The Party’, an immersive Abba-themed dinner experience set in a ropey taverna on an idyllic Greek island, you could fly out to an actual idyllic Greek island and probably find a ropey taverna playing Abba songs.Okay, there are some practical reasons why you probably wouldn’t do that on a school night. And sure, it’s not like these are the only expensive theatre tickets in town. But the fact is most London theatre shows have a bottom price of £15 or thereabouts; ‘Mamma Mia! The Party’ starts ten times higher than that.Of course, dinner theatre is a somewhat different game to theatre theatre. And the fact is that there are plenty of people who can afford it: the London debut of ‘Mamma Mia! The Party’ is a roaring sellout success already. Masterminded by Abba’s Björn Ulvaeus, it’s an established hit back in Stockholm. Which is not really a surprise: people love Abba, and ‘Mamma Mia! The Party’, though not formally affiliated to ‘Mamma Mia!’ (the blockbuster musical), is pretty much the same idea, except with the plot mostly replaced by food. After a prodigious wait to get in, we’re spirited away to an attractive, convivial mock-up of a taverna on the island of Skopelos, where the ‘Mamma Mia!’ movie was filmed. The wittiest touch of the whole production is to make it ‘post’ the film: the walls are bedecked with dodgy mocked-up Polaroids of the cast of the show posing with Meryl Streep et al, and the wafer-thin plot revolves around the prem

Advertising
‘Mary Poppins’ review
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Soho

Much like ‘Paddington’, ‘Mary Poppins’ is a gorgeously warm kids’ story that’s burrowed deep into the hearts of Londoners of all ages. It creates a seductive myth of a city that’s awash with cheery cockneys and lovable upper-crust eccentrics who roam picturesque tree-lined streets with a spring in their step. Cameron Mackintosh’s returning 2004 musical version couldn’t look more magical; the Banks family’s Cherry Tree Lane residence becomes a giant doll’s house of wonders, opening up to reveal charming Victorian interiors and plenty of magical surprises. Writer Julian Fellowes (‘Downton Abbey’) is clearly in familiar territory here. Where the 'Paddington' movies updated the setting to a warm, inclusive vision of 21st century London, his script opts for period-drama archness. The story is a hodgepodge of the movie, PL Travers’s original books and a few ideas of Fellowes’s own: he shifts the setting back a few decades to Queen Victoria’s heyday, and makes Mrs Banks a frustrated former actress instead of a militant suffragette. The effect is jarring at first, especially if you’re a fan of the movie: many of its most memorable scenes get scrapped, like the bit where Poppins summons up a hurricane to whisk away rival nannies, or the bit with the dancing penguins and carousel horses, or the ‘I Love to Laugh’ tea party where everyone ends up giggling on the ceiling. They get replaced with much, much weirder interludes that presumably come from Travers’s original book. The kids’ supp

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Soho

The friend who was supposed to come with me to ‘Moulin Rouge! The Musical’ dropped out because of a migraine, and honestly, hard relate: director Alex Timbers’s dementedly maximalist ‘remix’ of Baz Luhrmann’s smash 2001 film is pure sensory overload. Frequently I found myself cackling hysterically at it, on my own, for no particularly good reason, other than how *much* it all is. If you can remember any of the 2001 film’s music beyond ‘Lady Marmalade’ (here present and correct as show opener, complete with sassy, snappy choreography from Sonya Tayeh) you’ll remember that the soundtrack largely consists of medleys of other people’s songs. So we have ‘Sparkling Diamonds’, aka ‘Diamonds are Forever’ smushed into ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ or the semi-infamous ‘Elephant Love Medley’, a wilfully preposterous amalgam of the cheesiest lines from myriad famous pop tunes, a veritable one-track sex mix. You have to think that it’s essentially this that drew Timbers and music supervisor Justin Levine to ‘Moulin Rouge!’, as they’ve gone absolutely nuts with the idea, pumping the story full of pop songs old and new, fragmented and whole. Like a glittery cow jacked up with some fabulous experimental growth hormone, ‘Moulin Rouge!’ is now bulked into a veritable behemoth of millennial pop bangers. There are the ones that were in the film. There are some that were around when the film was made but weren’t included (‘Torn’; no kidding, the theme from ‘Dawson’s Creek’). Then there are

Advertising
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Leicester Square

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 show’s

‘Pretty Woman: The Musical’ review
  • 1 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Strand

Yes, it is a big mistake. Yes, it is a huge mistake. It wafted over from Broadway on a miasma of bad reviews, so I was braced for this musical version of the clearly quite dated 1990 Julia Roberts smash to be a touch problematic.  In fact, ‘Pretty Woman: The Musical’ is so witless that it defies any serious attempt to scrutinise its politics. Telling the story of Edward, a ruthless businessman whose life is changed on a visit to LA after he picks up Vivian, a free-spirited hooker, it is in fact no more about capitalism or sex work than it is about sports cars or cruise liners – all of these things are just plot points as Gary Marshall and JF Lawton’s book hauls itself wearily through its ‘Pygmalion’-like paces.  The film, of course, had Julia Roberts and Richard Gere to style it out. With the best will in the world, leading man Danny Mac is no Gere. But he doesn’t have much to work with. His Edward is a respectful, teetotal, pleasant guy whose only discernible personality traits are a fear of heights and being a remorselessly destructive vulture capitalist, something that is vaguely intimated as being down to daddy issues, but goes unexplored.  By the same token, Aimie Atkinson can hardly hold a candle to Roberts. But her Vivian is winningly goofy and the clear highlight of the production. Yet bulked out with songs, the whole set-up is baffling. Edward hires Vivian for six days on the grounds that he needs a dinner date, and a live-in hooker is less hassle than a girlfriend; 

Advertising
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Hammersmith

Basically, this big-budget revival of the musical version of ‘Sister Act’ is more-or-less happening because Whoopi Goldberg was going to star in it. Having previously done a stint as the disapproving Mother Superior in the show’s first West End run, the comic-turned-Hollywood-star-turned-mega-successful-chatshow-host had been persuaded to take part in a new production. However, as the programme notes explain, she agreed on the condition she could return to the role she played in the original 1992 film: heroine Deloris van Cartier, the nightclub singer who goes into hiding in a convent after witnessing her mobster boyfriend execute a snitch.  It sounds like rewrites were afoot to make the character older, and it would have been fascinating to see exactly how that would have played out. But sadly you can guess what happened next. The pandemic put paid to both the original 2020 dates and its 2021 reschedule, and Goldberg had to drop out, leaving a curious production: staged at the vast Hammersmith Apollo for a relatively short spell in order to maximise the time of a star no longer performing in it. To be fair, it’s hardly lacking in names: Jennifer Saunders remains on board from the initial casting as Mother Superior, while Clive Rowe (Eddie Souther), Lesley Joseph (Sister Mary Lazarus) and Keala Settle (Sister Mary Patrick) are all decently big names. And Beverly Knight makes a very respectable replacement for Goldberg: retaining her Arkansas accent from her recent run in ‘The

‘Six the Musical’ review
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Strand

‘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; some also as sexually provocative and vain. But by adopting the contemporary pop conce

Advertising
The Book of Mormon review
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • West End
  • Leicester Square

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 most of it is deployed ironically; beneath it all, this is a big-hearted affair that pays note-perfect homage to the sounds and spirit of Broadway’s golden age. 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. In other words, they are loveable, well-intentioned idiots, traversing the globe like groups of pious meerkats, convinced they can convert the heathen through sheer politeness. And if they have doubts, then as Stephen Ashfield’s scene-stealingly repressed Elder McKinley declares in glorious faux-Gershwin number ‘Turn it Off’, ‘Don’t feel those feelings – hold them in instead!’ His advice is ignored by the show’s heroes, narcissistic, highly strung Elder Price (Gavin Creel) and dumpy, lying Elder Cunningham (Jared Gertner). The pair are sent to Uganda in an effort to convert a village to Mormonism, a religion that essentially tells the penniless villagers how great distant America is. The locals are not keen: Price cracks and unwisely clashes with a crazed local warlord; Cunningham makes up his own version of Mormonism which involves fucking frogs to cure oneself of Aids. ‘The Book of Mormon’ is, above all, very funny, breathing

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Charing Cross Road

This review is from November 2021. Felicia Boswell has taken over the role of Faye Treadwell. If you think it’s a stretch to make The Drifters’ female manager the lead character in a musical about the famously all-male vocal group… then you don’t know The Drifters. Yes, some of their songs are incredibly famous: ‘Under the Boardwalk’, ‘Saturday Night at the Movies’, etc. But the turnover of members has been truly bewildering, with some 60 individuals passing through their ranks over the decades. There was only one constant: their manager, Faye Treadwell. She didn’t do any singing. But in a musical it’s hardly a massive flex to give her some songs and make ‘The Drifters Girl’ a vehicle for Brit soul star Beverley Knight. And as a musical it certainly has its moments: basically any time Knight gets to sing. Her hardworking supporting cast – Adam J Bernard, Tarinn Callender, Matt Henry and Tosh Wanogho-Maud – are gifted multitaskers with fine voices who nail the many incarnations of the band’s mannered, lovelorn, doo-wop harmonies. But her voice is the big one, an elemental force that sets the air aflame – truly a master at work. However, she doesn’t actually get to sing that often, because it’s a musical based on the songs of, y’know, The Drifters. Tunes are rearranged for Knight’s voice and she nails them, but as a singer she’s only really here as a guest star. In fact, she’s mostly employed to act, which she does decently: her Arkansas accent sounded fine to me, and she imbu

Advertising
‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ review
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Children's
  • Covent Garden

This review is from 2019. ‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe’ returns for 2022 in a production based upon Sally Cookson’s original that’s redirected by Michael Fentiman, with set and costume design by Tom Paris. Samatha Womack stars as the White Witch. Kind of caught halfway between ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘The Wind in the Willows’, it’s fair to say that CS Lewis’s ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ – with its well-spoken child heroes, twee talking animals and heavy Christian vibes – can be left looking a bit old-fashioned. Endlessly adapted long before the current era of sophisticated CGI-driven fantasy, has its time passed now that everything from ‘His Dark Materials’ to ‘The Wheel of Time’ is being adapted for the telly? Truthfully, the answer to that question probably lies with the fate of Netflix's imminent lavish adaptation. But for now, we have a very smart stage version from Sally Cookson, that balances the stiff-upper-lipped charms of the book with a real sense of the encroaching wildness – even madness – of the fantastical kingdom of Narnia.  The opening section is jolly hockey sticks à gogo, with the audience cast as wartime child evacuees, spirited away from the Blitz on the same train as Lewis’s young heroes the Pevensies. By the end, it’s become something that feel rapturously wild, as Narnia awakes in a frenzy of colour and feeling from the century-long magical winter placed on it by Laura Elphinstone’s sleekly malevolent White Witch. Yes, Lewis shoved lo

The Phantom of the Opera review
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • St James’s

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 av

Advertising
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Drama
  • Leicester Square

Both tuned down and cranked up, Jamie Lloyd’s long-delayed production of Chekhov’s ‘The Seagull’ does for samovars, scenery and, indeed, seagulls what his recent production of ‘Cyrano de Bergerac’ did for big noses - ie it scraps them entirely. Lloyd made his name as a flamboyant alt-West End showman: he used to direct a lot of musicals, and his productions were invariably spattered with vivid sprays of gore. But these last couple have pared things right down: he fills the room with the characters’ feelings and humanity, and cuts away everything else: no props, no period costumes, no fancy choreography. Soutra Gilmour’s set is an unadorned chipboard box with a row of plastic chairs, the only stage trickery at work a couple of disorientating surprises from lighting designer Jackie Shemesh.  The entire cast spends most of the play on stage, which conveniently means that audience members here for the West End debut of ‘Games or Thrones’ star Emilia Clarke are profoundly unlikely to feel short-changed.  Moreover, the fact all of the cast members are almost constantly sat next to each other – regardless of whether their characters are actually in a given scene – gives the production a wilfully uncomfortable, claustrophobic intimacy. The whole thing takes on the agonising closeness of a long family dinner, or an interminable church service. Or, indeed, being stuck on a stultifying small island together, which is exactly the case with the characters in ‘The Seagull’. They’re thrown

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Drama
  • Tower Bridge

This painfully funny play by Stephen Beresford, up from the Chichester Festival Theatre, is the best West Country drama I’ve seen since ‘Jerusalem’. But it will divide people - triggering them along the fault lines which split the seaside parish it describes, where mildewed institutions and trad public service values are spliced with offense culture, zero-hours poverty, and a loss of meaningful purpose and employment in both middle and working-class life. Unfashionably, Beresford’s theme is the Church of England. It dominates the play and the set, a sketch of an ancient spired church building filling the backdrop of the stage, drawn austerely with odd, imposing angles, like a memento mori, its perspective visibly at odds from the warmer world below. The action happens below in a threadbare vicarage kitchen, where all comers are welcome and every shade of human trouble is played out between the tea kettle and the whisky bottle. This is the grace and favour (ie temporary) home of vicar David Highland: middle-aged, witty, humane, exasperatingly stubborn and frequently a bit pissed. When Highland refuses to allow the bereaved family of a dead schoolgirl to fill his church with Disney balloons for her funeral, all hell breaks loose: turds through the letterbox, social pile-ons, death threats, ‘TNU’ daubed between the shabby front window curtains (read it backwards). And the arrival of a shiny new young gay vicar sent by the ‘grieved’ church bosses to assist David in his fall from

Advertising
‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show’ review
  • Theatre
  • Children's
  • Hammersmith

This review is from December 2017. ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar' plays the Lyric Hammersmith in summer 2022.  Now in its second festive run, this kaleidoscopic hour-long adaption of four of Eric Carle’s classic children’s stories is a pure, kid-quelling joy. The titular chow-lusting larva doesn’t appear until the final quarter – the big diva – but there’s plenty of colourful puppets, dancing and music to entrance youngsters until then. They can muse on themes of birth, metamorphosis and the existential inner life of the firefly, or like us, just gawp as a shower of bubbles introduces the subsea realm of Mister Seahorse, gently floating down over a rapt audience. They should try this during the drier bits of Ibsen.  A word of caution: changing facilities are thin on the ground at the scruffy Ambassadors Theatre, and the ground is where we ended up changing our little one. The adjacent St. Martin’s Theatre, home to ‘The Mousetrap’, does serve as a handy overflow car park for prams. But for anyone with little ’uns under the age of six or seven, this show is well worth the effort. 

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Drama
  • Covent Garden

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 lit

Advertising
  • Theatre
  • Children's
  • Belgravia

This review is from 2017; ‘Tiddler & Other Terrific Tales’ returns for 2022. This adaptation of a medley of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler kids' stories for ages three-plus is a delight from start to finish. Taking a seat in an auditorium of toddlers and school trips might fill you with horror, but the cast has the entire audience captivated from the moment the lights dim. The performance includes dramatisations of four books: 'Tiddler', 'Monkey Puzzle', 'The Smartest Giant in Town' and 'A Squash and a Squeeze'. The three-strong cast are all great – hugely animated, dancing through well-choreographed set pieces on the simple but cleverly-used set. Props endlessly appear as if from Mary Poppins' handbag and are all utilised in hilarious ways. The show is full of memorable jingles with some lovely three part harmonies, some with live instrumentation: saxophone and harmonica great, unmiked ukulele and clarinet less so (they were barely audible). The actors put on an array of excellent voices for the multiple live characters and hand held puppets and in quieter moments make use of some great mime. It is great to hear a room of children laughing hysterically, all totally mesmerised by the action on stage and all four stories do just that. So head along and join in the fun.

‘Tina – The Tina Turner Musical’ review
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Aldwych

Aisha Jawando and Jammy Kasongo star as Tina and Ike as ‘Tina’ returns from closure in 2021. 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 tea

Advertising
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Drama
  • Soho

Meet Atticus Finch: centrist dad. Aaron Sorkin’s smash Broadway stage version of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ makes a fair few tweaks to Harper Lee’s 1960 literary masterpiece.  Most predictably, there’s the ‘West Wing’ mastermind’s trademark sparkling dialogue. Yes, he remains faithful to the idea that we’re in ’30s Alabama, but his polished wit is very much present and correct, most especially in the goofily pinging three-way narration provided by his child characters: plucky Scout (Gwyneth Keyworth), chippy Jem (Harry Redding) and dorky Dill (David Moorst). The narrative structure has been tinkered with: the climactic trial scene is now parcelled up into chunks throughout the play rather than included as a single sweeping sequence.  The plot, however, is essentially unchanged. By far Sorkin’s most significant intervention via Bartlett Sher’s production is to pointedly reimagine the play’s white lawyer hero Atticus Finch. Rafe Spall’s interpretation of the role steers well clear of Gregory Peck’s immortal screen version and, to a large extent, the book. Peck’s Finch was famously sonorous-voiced and saintly. In both book and film, Finch was explicitly seen through the adoring eyes of his daughter Scout. Here, with his chipmunk Alabama twang, Spall simply *sounds* less like a wise statesman than Peck ever did. And his behaviour is different: he’s thinner-skinned and more erratic as he sets about defending Jude Owosu’s resigned Tom Robinson, a young Black man accused of rape. Atti

Witness for the Prosecution
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Drama
  • South Bank

It wasn’t all about Poirot’s little grey cells or Miss Marple solving murders at the vicarage. In her lifetime, crime writer extraordinaire Agatha Christie wrote 16 plays and a massive 73 novels. Apart from the immortal ‘Mousetrap’, ‘Witness for the Prosecution’ – which Christie adapted in 1953 from an earlier short story – is one of the most famous. Like most of Christie’s work, you can’t say much for fear of ruining the ending. Leonard Vole (a butter-wouldn’t-melt Jack McMullen) is on trial for murdering an older woman who has left everything to him in her will. He insists he’s innocent, but it all rests on the testimony of his wife, Romaine. What will she say on the stand? When Christie adapted her original story, she shifted the focus almost exclusively to the Old Bailey courtroom. Here, Lucy Bailey’s production has the gift of being in the main chamber of London County Hall. Big, austere and grand, it’s the perfect setting for the legal theatrics of Christie’s forensically precise plotting. Some audience members are even addressed as the jury. If the courtroom is a stage, this play is all about performance. Few are as good as Christie at leading us down the garden path, expectations-wise. She constructs her plot like Vole’s barrister, Sir Wilfrid Robarts QC (a charismatic David Yelland), builds his case, before knocking over apparent ‘revelations’ like dominoes. Bailey plays up the melodrama beautifully, in some scenes lighting the judge’s bench like something from a ho

Recommended
    You may also like
      Bestselling Time Out offers
        Advertising