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Orange Tree Theatre

  • Theatre
  • Richmond
  • Recommended
Orange Tree Theatre

Time Out says

Formerly London's chintziest theatre, the Orange Tree is now one of its hippest

Starting life as a lunchtime pub venue in Richmond in 1971, the Orange Tree Theatre graduated to a bigger, 170-seat space across the road in the early ’90s, with a permanently in-the-round set up. The building's labyrinthine interior now sprawls across a Victorian gothic former primary school, and a monolithic, appropriately tangerine-hued extension. Founder Sam Waters, who ran the theatre for 42 years, deserves an enormous amount of credit, and in its day the theatre gave a leg-up to everyone from Martin Crimp to Sean Holmes.

However, the later days of Waters's reign saw the Orange Tree become rather moribund, with a programme based upon revivals of obscure period dramas that played well with the loyal, elderly audience but seriously lacked diversity, and probably played a large amount in the Arts Council scrapping all funding to the theatre.

Since then, his successor Paul Miller has completely turned the theatre around, with a programme that still makes the odd nod to the period works of the past (Miller himself specialises in directing taut Bernard Shaw revivals) but combines it with a formidable commitment to new writing and reaching out to younger and more diverse audiences. Alistair McDowell's mad dystopian thriller 'Pomona' scored acres of acclaim and tranferred to the National Theatre, sealing the theatre's resurrection.

The Orange Tree Theatre has also come up with new ways of bringing home the bacon, relying on donations, memberships and sponsorships from its West London community. Its success is shown in a perpetually heaving foyer, full of wine-toting theatregoers who spill out onto the Richmond streets outside. 


Clarence Street
Rail/Tube: Richmond
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That Face

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Comedy

Polly Stenham is so famous for writing her debut play aged 19, that it sometimes feels like it’s become subliminally accepted that her youth was the reason ‘That Face’ was so successful. Was its West End-storming success purely industry excitement at her youth? No!  I recently saw a revival of another zeitgeisty ‘00s smash, ‘God of Carnage’, and it had very clearly lost its edge with the passage of time. By contrast, ‘That Face’ still feels like a sharp knife to the guts. It’s a howl of betrayal, a dark comedy about two teenagers all but abandoned by their narcissistic mother and wealthy father, an attack on posh parenting by somebody barely older than her protagonists Mia and Henry. The fact it’s somewhat autobiographical certainly gives it an added punch. But ‘That Face’ isn’t good just because it has the rawness of personal experience. It’s also beautifully structured, a perfect weighted balance of comedy and tragedy. It begins at a girls’ boarding school, where Mia (Ruby Stokes) and her performatively posh, vaguely sinister friend Izzy (Sarita Gabony) are inflicting a hazing ritual upon their new dorm mate. But a giggling Mia has fed the young girl a massive dose of Prozac that she’s swiped off her mum… as it dawns on Izzy how serious this is, they enter panic mode. So far, so ‘Mean Girls’, but when a suspended Mia turns up at the flat her brother Henry (Kasper Hilton-Hille) and mother Martha (Niamh Cusack) live in, it puts a new spin on things. Martha is a mess, estrange

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