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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
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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

  • 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

  • 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

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‘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

  • Theatre
  • Drama
  • Leicester Square

David Tennant’s near-obsessive latter-day penchant for playing antiheroes continues with Dominic Cooke’s revival of Scots playwright CP Taylor’s great 1982 play ‘Good’. It charts the moral downfall of John Halder, a decent German professor with a Jewish best friend, Maurice, as he slowly internalises and accepts the ideology of the Third Reich. Tennant stars as Halder, alongside Elliot Levey, fresh from West End smash ‘Cabaret’, in a new outing for Fictionhouse, a new production company from Cooke and Kate Horton, who worked with him at the Royal Court. Design is from Vicki Mortimer. This is the third set of dates scheduled for ‘Good’ after it was delayed twice, cancelling runs in 2020 and 2021. Monkeypox permitting, however, third time should be the charm.

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‘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. (

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

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  • 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

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

Although there’s some pretty fruity early stuff featuring dancing elves and whatnot, dour Norwegian stage legend Henrik Ibsen is that rare beast: a playwright so good that even his obscure plays are mostly bangers.   Finally revived by Nicholas Hytner at the Bridge after years of pandemic-related delays, the relatively little-seen ‘John Gabriel Borkman’ feels less like an Ibsen tragedy, more an epilogue to one of them.  Eponymous Norwegian businessman Borkman is a former high flyer, whose messianic belief in his ability to steer the country down the right path led to him committing a massive act of fraud that he was jailed for. As the play begins, Borkman has served his sentence. But he’s nowhere in sight, barely spoken of. The production is set in his elegant but extremely un-cosy brutalist house – a great set from Anna Fleischle – which was saved from the debtors after his ex-lover Ella (Lia Williams) stepped in and purchased it. The ground floor is inhabited by Gunhild (Clare Higgins), Borkman’s wife. She is aghast when there’s a knock at the door and her estranged sister turns up: Ella. The siblings confront each other. Williams’s Ella is ethereal and wild, Higgin’s Gunhild earthbound and grumpy. There is bitterness between them, particular over possession of Gunhild and Borkman’s son Erhart, who Ella raised as her own after Borkman was jailed. Eventually it becomes apparent that the clanking noise that has disconcertingly reverberated in the background ever since the sta

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‘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

  • 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

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‘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),

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

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‘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

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‘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

  • Dance
  • Contemporary and experimental
  • Holborn

Argentinian tango master German Cornejo is back at the West End with another raunchy dance spectacle. 'Tango After Dark' features two singers, seven musicians, and a crew of ten expert performers, ready to deliver a night of old-school sexual sizzle. 

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  • 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

‘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

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‘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

  • 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

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‘The Upstart Crow’ review
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Comedy
  • Shaftesbury Avenue

This review is from February 2020. ‘The Upstart Crow’ will return in 2022 with David Mitchell and Gemma Whelan returning in the cast. I made it approximately ten minutes into the pilot episode of the Ben Elton-penned David Mitchell vehicle ‘Upstart Crow’ before being unable to take it any more. So you could say that I came to this inexplicably definite-articled stage version of their Shakespeare sitcom with a doubt or two. But whether it’s an improvement in quality, me mellowing in my old age, or simple Stockholm syndrome from being stuck in a theatre with it for two-and-a-half hours, ‘The Upstart Crow’ grew on me.  It doesn’t start well: all cheap populist laughs about the variable quality of Shakespeare’s plays (by all means make a coherent argument about why you think ‘Measure for Measure’ is shit, but if you go for the king, you’d better kill the king, and Elton’s script absolutely does not kill the king). With the cast almost entirely made up of returnees from the telly, the early scenes are fairly dependent upon you knowing who everyone is, with big rounds of walk-on applause for Gemma Whelan’s Kate and Rob Rouse’s Ned. That everyone says ‘futtock’ when they mean ‘fuck’ is irritating to the point of distraction. The ‘joke’ that Shakespeare’s daughters have OTT Midlands accents is lazy and contemptible (it’s hard to imagine any other accent being mocked this way in 2020). There are discussions about race, sexuality and gender that are probably well-meaning but come acro

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

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