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Royal Court Theatre

  • Theatre
  • Sloane Square
  • Recommended
Royal Court Theatre
© Helen Maybanks

Time Out says

London's edgy new writing powerhouse

The Royal Court will reopen November 12 with ‘Living Newspaper’.

London's premiere new writing theatre, the Royal Court made its name in the 1950s when it was synonymous with kitchen sink dramas and the Angry Young Men, and has scarcely looked back (in anger) since.

The commercially successful reign of Dominic Cooke was famously marked by his stated mission to acknowledge the nature of the Sloane Square theatre's audience and 'explore what it means to be middle class'. The quote probably came back to haunt him, coming to define a reign that was marked by lots of new writing from BAME playwrights, plus such towering West End transfer successes as 'Enron' and the peerless 'Jerusalem'.

Current Royal Court artistic director Vicky Featherstone has taken the theatre down a much more experimental route that occasionally baffles but frequently thrills, while still managing to score the odd transfer smash via older associates of the theatre: Jez Butterworth’s ‘The Ferryman’ was a monster of a hit. She has also taken something of a leadership role in the London theatre community in the #MeToo era, being the driving force behind a new code of behavious designed to challenge abuse of power within the theatre community.

There are two venues, the tiny Upstairs and large Downstairs, plus a welcoming bar kitchen that's a fabulous place to visit for a gander at the cream of London's playwrights and creatives, who inexorably drift through throughout the day.


Sloane Square
Tube: Sloane Sq
Opening hours:
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What’s on


  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Experimental

One problem with taking over a famous new writing theatre is that everyone is expecting your first season to be some great statement of intent, but you’ve actually only had about five minutes to cobble together a programme (and you’re not allowed to just bung on a revival).  What new artistic director David Byrne’s first main house Royal Court show ‘Bluets’ definitely does show us about him is that he can call upon big name directors – the eternally hip auteur Katie Mitchell – and actors – Ben Whishaw, who co-stars with Emma D’Arcy and Kayla Meikle.  It is, however, not a new show, but rather an English language remount of one that premiered in Hamburg in 2019. I’d say a bit of massaging has been done to present it as new writing in the same way as the rest of Byrne’s inaugural season: this a new adaptation from rising star Margaret Perry, but the words are very much those of author Maggie Nelson, this being a staged arrangement of her 2009 experimental poetry collection of the same name.  The source text is a dense and complicated thing that consists of over 200 mini poems, with the main thematic obsessions the loss of a lover, a quadriplegic friend, and the colour blue.  In performance it definitely feels closer to a single oblique narrative in which desire, anxiety and the colour blue intermingle into an unknowable, often strangely alluring whole. In a memorable early passage the narrator - or narrators - talks about their collection of blue objects and how they just put t

ECHO (Every Cold Hearted Oxygen)

  • Comedy

The ‘big’ show in this year’s LIFT 2024 programme is the latest from Iranian theatremaker Nassim Soleimanpour, who has become a global cult success for works in which rehearsed actors are absent and an unrehearsed performer – often a celebrity – receives mischievous instructions that usually build into a powerful socially important narrative.   Made in collaboration with leftfield director Omar Elerian, the point of Soleimanpour’s shows is that what happens in them is a surprise to everyone present – especially the performer – so the content of ‘ECHO’ is basically unknown, though we’re promised it will ‘push the boundaries of Soleimanpour’s signature unrehearsed cold reads to the next level’ and will ask us ‘to confront what it feels like to be an immigrant in time’. In any case, his previous shows – notably the sleeper enormo-hit ‘White Rabbit, Red Rabbit’ have been excellent, and you wouldn't bet against a few big names to turn up amongst the readers. 


  • Drama

Even though it was actually commissioned for the Bridge Theatre – which has been unable to stage it because of the blockbuster success of ‘Guys and Dolls’ – Mark Rosenblatt’s ‘Giant’ looks set to be the defining piece of programming of David Byrne’s Royal Court tenure, or certainly of the first year. There’s the director, for a start: Bridge and former National Theatre boss Nicholas Hytner seemed to be the antithesis of what the previous Court regime stood for – he’s not boring, but he’s certainly mainstream. And then there’s the subject: first-time playwright Rosenblatt’s play is about beloved children’s author Roald Dahl’s notorious antisemitism, something most of us are familiar with in the abstract while being vague about the exact details. Not only is it a potentially incendiary subject at a time when Dahl’s back catalogue is being milked on stage and screen like never before, but a play calling out antisemitism feels like a statement intent for Byrne’s time at the Court given the theatre has diced with several antisemitism scandals over the years. Intriguingly ‘Giant’ has a link back to the biggest of those scandals. It co-stars actor Elliot Levey as Dahl’s horrified Jewish agent; Levey is the son-in-law of Ken Loach, director of the scandalous drama ‘Perdition’ that Court shelved in 1987 in the face of protests that it was antisemitic; in 1999 a young Levey actually staged a scrubbed up version of ‘Perdition’ at the Gate Theatre. All very fascinating, though for most n

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