Things to do
The silent disco phenomenon reaches new heights at these exclusive Time Out events. Pick your channel and choose your side as three DJs battle it out over separate wireless channels, playing the best in pop, rock and party classics, while you dance the night away at 1,000ft. The View from The Shard is the visitor attraction at the top of Western Europe's tallest building, The Shard. With unparalleled, panoramic views, it offers visitors a unique perspective on the capital.
The Social Fun and Games Club is making a welcome return to Roof East in 2019, swapping winter sports for summertime gaming. Head up to the roof to have a shuffleboard showdown with your mates or to while away evenings playing Jenga, table tennis or table-top curling. The three bars will be fully stocked and street food from Eat Chay, Kolkati and The Burger Shack will ensure you’re suitably fuelled for VR foosball tournaments.
South Bank pop-up The BBQ Club returns next month, and this year you can reserve a private picnic spot right by the Thames - plus a gourmet hamper for four. This summer barbecue bonanza created and helmed by chef Jimmy Garcia shows off his 7-course grilled barbecue creations on the rooftop terrace. Besides good food, you'll be able to get competitive with include Giant Jenga, Boules, Skittles, Beach Tennis and Swingball. Bookings open today. Be sure to nab your spot here.
Immersive film aficionados Secret Cinema have pulled out the big guns for their summer season and it’s 007-flavoured extravaganza. While the location is, of course, hush hush, you can be sure to expect all the experiential cinema mastery that has made Secret Cinema one of London's most sought after experiences. The film, ‘Casino Royale’, is, of course, the best of the Daniel Craig-era Bonds and will offer some fantastic fancy-dress opportunities for Secret Cinema-ees. You can slip into some super-tight swimming trunks – gym work may be required for that one – dry-clean your chicest tux, or just turn up as a giant ‘M’. Prices start at £49 and go all the way up to (gulp) £175, excluding booking fees. Head to the official site for all the info.
The latest adventure from immersive dining gurus Gingerline sees audiences play the roles of dimension-hopping gourmands, putting their own lives in peril in an effort to secure the best eats in the multiverse. Now’s your chance to see it all in action, as they’ve just released new tickets for October. Tickets start from £55 and you’ll get five courses and time to explore five unique environments, each representing a different dimension. Email to book: email@example.com
Getting on the London property ladder is like chasing a unicorn-shaped pipe dream. Rents are high, deposits are higher and gentrification means even the fringes of the M25 are unattainable. This is the climate ‘The Viewing’ – a nine-room immersive experience occupying the upper floors of Catford’s Ninth Life pub – cleverly plays with. Entering the boozer on a busy Friday night, I head for a mock estate agents called ‘Morgan Turnkey’, which is squeezed next to the bar and plastered with pictures of dodgy listings – there’s a bedroom full of creepy china dolls and a kitchen with a shower next to the oven. Here I meet Larry, a slimy estate agent full of glib phrases and oily charm, who greets me as an eager first-time buyer looking to view a flat above the pub. I’m given a form to fill in – asking how many bedrooms I’m looking for as well as my favourite song and my pet’s name – and a hard hat, before being whisked upstairs with my group to view the newly refurbed real estate. As we look around, it emerges that Billy, a builder working on the site, has gone missing. Following a series of clues that lead us from the drab world of property-viewing into a labyrinth of psychedelically decorated, Lewis Carroll-esque rooms, it’s our job to find the lost contractor by collecting a trail of keys he’s left behind. Part immersive theatre show, part escape room, ‘The Viewing’ is full of madcap characters who help you perform physical tasks and solve bizarre puzzles (all with a fun pe
Part of the London Design Festival, these week-long forums brings together some of the biggest names and thinkers in contemporary design. Join this very special talk by Dame Vivienne Westwood as she speaks out on climate change and over-consumption. Tackling the topic of ‘Sustainability revolution: The role of activism in designing a sustainable future’. Over the years, she's tirelessly used her collections and catwalk shows as a platform to campaign for positive activism. As well as working with ecological bodies such as Cool Earth, Greenpeace, The UN, British Fashion Council, Friends of the Earth and The Mayor of London. Listen in on how to join forces, take action and affect real change.
Watch more than 100 models of all sizes, sexualities, genders and abilities sashay down the runway in show-stopping, gender-fluid outfits made by LGBTQ+ designers. Ru Paul’s Drag Race alumni Courtney Act will be hosting the proceedings, Club Kid DJ Prince Jay Jay will be providing the soundtrack and the likes of Tess Holiday, Rain Dove, Saara Aalto and Jamie Windust will be modelling the fierce looks.
Are you prepared for a bloody good time in aid of raising funds to help Bloody Good Period, an organisation aiming to tackle period poverty in the UK? If the answers yes, then come along for a barrel of laughs at this extra special maxi-packed evening full of menstrual centred comedy. Hosted by Jen Brister from Bloody Good Period, laugh along to stand-up from Felicity Ward, Josie Long, Sophie Duker, Bridget Christie, Rosie Jones, Rose Matafeo, Ingrid Dahle and Jess Fostekew, it's guaranteed to make you leak out loud. All funds raised will help supply period products to asylum seekers, refugees and to those who can’t afford them.
This October sees the 63rd BFI London Film Festival, undoubtedly the capital’s – the UK’s – biggest celebration of international cinema from the past year. On the programme is an astute mix of the best movies from Cannes and the other major festivals, and prestige awards contenders from the major US studios. Opening the festival is Armando Iannucci’s ‘The Personal History of David Copperfield’ starring Dev Patel, Ben Wishaw and Nikki Amuka-Bird.
Experience one of our signature silent discos at the SEA LIFE London Aquarium. Don a pair of glowing headphones and tune into one of three channels as you immerse yourself in the world of water. Tickets are just £29 and include the silent disco, welcome drink and guided tours of the brand new jellyfish exhibition.
The Harry Potter studio tours get a festive makeover once more for Christmas. See the Great Hall dressed for the Yule Ball with dripping icicles, snow-covered Christmas trees, an orchestra playing on silver instruments and turkeys and burning Christmas puddings laid out on the table. The Gryffindor Common Room will be dressed with original props including handmade Christmas cards created by the cast members during production. The Weasley burrow and the Leakey Cauldron will also be getting the Christmas treatment and the Hogwarts castle model will be covered in a layer of glistening snow made by the prop team. Remember to wrap up warm. Personalised knitted jumpers optional. Hogwarts in the Snow is included in the standard ticket price.
Kew's incredible botanical gardens will be undergoing another magnificent seasonal makeover in 2019, as Christmas at Kew lights up the space’s iconic buildings and the weird and wonderful plants that call it home. This year, the mile-long, twinkling trail holds some new surprises. Visitors new and old will be guided along a different route from previous editions, but expect it to be just as lit. There will be a shower of silvery vines at the Treetop Walkway while down below you'll be able to spy folkloric illuminations of mythical fairy creatures and Will-o’the Wisps. And if that wasn't enough, there will also be new glittering spiral tree installations and laser projections illuminating the iconic Temperate House. But if you can’t get enough of the old favourites, they’ll also be making a triumphant return. Listen to the singing holly bushes, walk through the Tunnel of Light and its thousands of pea-lights, warm yourself by the fire garden and gawp at the jets of light dancing above the Palm House Pond. Santa and his elves will also be in attendance, while grown-ups can take advantage of the festive shopping, seasonal snacks and warming mulled wine. Find more festive fun with our guide to Christmas in London
Fancy whizzing around one of London’s most famous landmarks? Located in the dry moat, the Tower of London ice rink offers a grand historical setting for seasonal skating sessions, along with views of London's ancient fortress and the river Thames. There will be food and drink on the sidelines for tired skaters as well as those who just prefer to watch the fun. Special events will also be announced closer to the time. Booking is recommended. Find out more here. Find more places to go ice skating in London
The Alexandra Palace Fireworks Festival is easily one of the biggest, baddest displays in town. In fact, it's so lofty, this year it's happening TWICE. This year the display will be set to music curated by former Radio 1 DJ and Bestival founder Rob da Bank, so there's even more reason to see the always impressive fireworks exploding with a glittering panoramic view of London as its backdrop. The nights will also include a pagan fire-lighting ritual, funfairs, comedy, cabaret, live music and more. Catch the fireworks at 9pm on Fri Nov 1 and 8pm on Sat Nov 2.
This year, Harrow’s illuminations will be set to tunes from the movies. There’ll also be a section dedicated to the borough’s Indian community celebrating Diwali. During the day, expect Bollywood dancers, Indian food, a funfair, Diwali art, Mehndi and henna hand art stands. The fireworks will begin at 7:45pm. Find more fireworks displays in London
Award-winning pyrotechnicians are behind the illuminations set to fire up the Wandsworth skies. Tickets almost always sell out in advance, so get booking early to see bonfire-torching and an eye-popping 22-minute display. This year there’s also an exclusive afterparty just for ticket holders. Gate opens at 6pm, the bonfire begins to blaze at 7.30pm and fireworks kick off at 8pm. The afterparty is directly after the display at 8:30pm. Find more fireworks displays in London
The Wild Wolf Explorer Scouts are behind the sparkles set off in the bucolic surroundings of Bounds Green park. There’ve pulled in an impressive selection of food stands, letting you snack on everything from Norwegian waffles to falafel while watching the professional display. Little hands can toast marshmallows on the bonfire and there’s also a special toddler and autism-friendly display. We reckon it’ll be a cracker – Scout’s honour. Low noise display is at 4pm, feature display is at 8pm. Find more fireworks displays in London
Alongside the bangs and sparkles at 8pm at Kingston Fireworks, there’ll be traditional fairground rides and all profits will be donated to local charities going towards good causes in the community. Find more fireworks in London, here.
Every Londoner deserves to feel like a kid who’s been accidentally left alone in a toy shop after closing time. Slightly freaked out, with a slow dawning of uncontrollable excitement. When done right, a museum ‘late’ can have the same abandoned-in-a-toy-shop effect. It’s that moment you realise you’ve been let loose in a major institution, holding a full drink, next to some priceless artefacts. Culture ‘lates’ are such an important part of London nightlife that, until recently, there was a four day festival dedicated to them – Museums at Night. It’s not happening in the capital this year, but we may have something even better. From its ashes comes Emerge Festival, a similar concept, but with a kind of endurance challenge. With Emerge, your ticket is swapped for a wristband that will get you into as many of the 30 ‘late’ events as you can make on the night (or two nights, if you can swing for a full weekend ticket). Best start mapping out the logistics now, because there are some real crackers planned. Ever noticed the big stone curve at Hyde Park Corner? You can go inside, and for Emerge, that Wellington Arch is transforming into a gin bar. Just four minutes walk away, you can find a debauched regency soiree inside the stunning eighteenth century Apsley House. Cross the river to London Bridge and catch a gory Victorian surgery taking place inside the Old Operating Theatre – blunt saws and all. It’ll be like trying to make every gig at Glastonbury, with a little help from
It might have been knocked from its heady heights as the world’s tallest ferris wheel – you’ll have to head to Las Vegas for that – but the London Eye remains an iconic part of the London skyline. Snap-happy tourists arrive here in their droves, so be prepared to queue for one of the spacious 25-person pods. Once you’re airborne, take in those far-reaching views of the Thames and beyond. On a clear day, you might even see if the Queen’s opened the curtains at Buck House.
What was once a prosaic council building on the South Bank is now full to the brim with sharks, penguins and other water-loving wildlife, thanks to this world-class, world-famous aquarium. The finned predators prowling the Shark Walk are a definite highlight, as are the billowing jellyfish in the fairly recent Ocean Invaders addition. This is the perfect place to keep the sprogs entertained on a morning or afternoon.
The Warner Brothers studio may be way out west, but it’s worth the trip to see the magic of the Boy Who Lived come alive – and to try a flagon of butterbeer, too.
You know how Instagram makes everything look prettier in photos than IRL? Well, you don’t need to worry about that with the Queen’s pad, which is a stunner in the flesh as well as all those postcards. All year round, you can take a gander at pieces from the Royal Collection at the Queen’s Gallery, while from February to November you can check out the Queen’s horses in the Royal Mews.
As long as you leave plenty of ticket-collecting time, your trip to the Tower of London should be a blast. It starts with a 50-minute tour led by a Beefeater where you’ll learn about the 900-year history of this imposing fortress (in short: torture, prisoners, weapons and exotic animals). Feast your eyes on the crown jewels and prisoner graffiti – you’ll even meet the raven keeper. If you want to get eyeballs-deep in London’s bloody history, then put the Tower of London on your bucket list.
If you’re interested in UK politics or just want a better understanding of it, the Houses of Parliament isn’t to be missed. Seriously – this is where laws get passed, y’know! Book an audio tour and soak up the history of this grand old nineteenth-century building and if you’re feeling flush, stay for afternoon tea overlooking the Thames.
The zoological gardens that reside in Regent’s Park have been entertaining the crowds since Victorian times – but it’s in the last 15 years that the Zoological Society London has really given it an overhaul. The 36-acre park has been refashioned to support conservation, with the welfare of its inhabitants a high priority, and visitor’s encounters more informative than just point-and-stare.
There are more than eight million artifacts within the British Museum’s walls and every single one of them has a story to tell. You could easily spend hours here losing yourself in thousands of years of culture and history from the world over. Its big hitter is the Egyptian mummy, which pulls in gawping kids and adults alike. If you’d rather dodge the crowds, head to the newly re-opened Sir Joseph Hutong Gallery: a treasure trove of objects from China and South Asia.
The Dungeon spent four decades under the railway arches on Tooley Street at London Bridge. Then, in 2013, it upped sticks to a new home on the South Bank. It may lack the mucky, subterranean charm of the former site – but believe us, all the frights and gross-out moments inside are still just as icky.
Not just one for nerdy trainspotting types – TfL’s transport museum offers a genuinely compelling and enjoyable journey trhough the history of getting around in London.
‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’ is a burst of joy in the heart of the West End. This new British musical, transferring from the Sheffield Crucible, is the real deal. Watch out, tired revivals: there’s a new kid in town. Inspired by a 2011 BBC documentary about a teenager who wanted to be a drag queen, the show follows 16-year-old Jamie on his journey to be himself – out of a classroom in a working-class part of Sheffield, away from the bigotry of a deadbeat dad, and into high heels. Director Jonathan Butterell’s production is a high-impact blaze of colour, combining video projections with seamless scene changes and a live band above the stage. It captures the frenetic energy of being a teenager. Every element of this show works beautifully together. The music, by The Feeling frontman Dan Gillespie Sells, is a deft mix of irresistibly catchy, pop-honed foot-tappers – try not to hum ‘And You Don’t Even Know It’, I dare you – and truthful, heart-wrenching numbers. This is Sells’s first foray into writing for musicals, but he’s always excelled at telling stories in song. He is matched by the show’s writer and lyricist Tom MacRae. Apart from notable exceptions like Punchdrunk’s ‘Doctor Who’-themed kids’ show ‘The Crash of Elysium’, he’s largely written for TV, but this works well here. His dialogue is punchy, funny and often lands with a sting. While most of the characters exist to orbit Jamie, they still have their own stories and these are crisply told. As Pritti, Jamie’
Explaining what exactly is going on with ‘Les Miserables’ in 2019 is a complicated and possibly fruitless task. But a very short answer is that the original incarnation of the world’s longest running musical closed in July 2019, and a new version will reopen in December. In between, there’s a third, bridging version: ‘Les Miserables – The Concert’ is indeed a concert, and has quite the cast: Michael Ball (Javert), Alfie Boe (Jean Valjean), Carrie Hope Fletcher (Fantine) and Matt Lucas (Thénardier). Be warned that it is absolutely not a fully-staged musical, but presumably you’ve clocked that already, and what it lacks in fancy sets it clearly more than makes up for in celebrity firepower, a veritable who’s who of the most famous actors to have performed in it in recent times.
Musicals don’t come much more low-key, wholesome or Canadian than ‘Come from Away’. Writers Irene Sankoff and David Hein cook up the straightforward world of the Newfoundland town of Gander using a very straightforward set of ingredients. The cast wear sensible shoes and lumberjack shirts. They tramp across a wood-decked stage that evokes the huge skies of their tiny island. They sing their way through a set of folk-tinged songs that tell stories of the five days after 9/11, when 38 planes made emergency landings on the island’s huge, disused airstrip. And it’s all totally, soul-feedingly wonderful. ‘Come from Away’ has been a massive sleeper hit across North America, Broadway included, and it’s easy to see why: it mixes down-home authenticity with the desperate intensity that comes in times of crisis. This is a moment where 7,000 temporary arrivals join a community of just 9,000 people. Logistics might not be the sexiest of topics for a musical, but one of the many surprising joys of this show is how gripping it makes things like the struggle to rustle up transport at a time when the local school bus drivers were on strike and had to be coaxed into crossing the picket line. Then there are beds, food, medication and interpreters to be sourced for passengers from across the world: one non-English-speaking couple communicates by cross-referencing Bible verses. Based closely on interviews with real Newfoundlanders, this is a picture of a community that stretches itself to bre
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
I’m not sure any show ‘deserves’ to be the most successful entertainment event of all time, but I’ll hand it current holder of that title, ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ – it still works hard for its audience. Sure, chunks of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s opus have never left 1986. But whereas describing a musical as ‘stuck in the ’80s’ is usually shorthand for cheap, thin synth orchestration, nothing could be further from the truth here: the portentously swirling keyboards and crunch of hair metal guitar that powers ‘Phantom’s title song have a black hole-like immensity, sucking you in with sheer juggernaut bombast. Mostly, though, ‘Phantom…’ remains strong because its high production values haven’t been allowed to sag. The late Maria Björnson’s design is a heady barrage of ravishing costumes and lavish sets that change frequently, working in everything from pastoral jollity to an ancient Carthaginian theme on the way to the Phantom’s stunning underground lair. It’s totally OTT – in one scene the Phantom zaps at his nemesis Raul with a staff that fires actual fireballs – and anybody who describes the plot (homicidal lunatic grooms girl) as romantic should probably be put on some sort of register. But its blazingly earnest ridiculousness and campy Grand Guignol story are entirely thrilling when realised with the show’s enormous budget. And while Hal Prince’s production may have been hailed as rather gauche back in the day, in 2013 it all comes across as rather more tasteful than the a
In the unlikely event you were worried a leap to the stage for JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series would result in it becoming aggressively highbrow, self-consciously arty or grindingly bereft of magical high jinks, just chill the hell out, muggle. ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ is an absolute hoot, a joyous, big-hearted, ludicrously incident-packed and magic-heavy romp that has to stand as one of the most unrelentingly entertaining things to hit the West End. Writer Jack Thorne, director John Tiffany and a world-class team have played a blinder; if the two-part, five-hour-plus show is clearly a bit on the long side, it’s forgivable. ‘The Cursed Child’ emphatically exists for fans of Harry Potter, and much of its power derives from the visceral, often highly emotional impact of feeling that you’re in the same room as Rowling’s iconic characters. There’s also a sense that this story of wizards and witches is being treated with the respect its now substantially grown-up fanbase craves. No disrespect to D-Rad and chums, but the leads here are in a different acting league to their film counterparts’: Jamie Parker and Alex Price are superb as battered, damaged, middle-aged versions of old enemies Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy. Sam Clemmett and Anthony Boyle are a fine, puppyish, sympathetic engine to the play as their awkward sons Albus and Scorpius, trying to escape their parents’ shadows. It is a bit of a sausage (wand?) fest in terms of the lead parts, although in the mos
The film world continues its love affair with werewolves, vampires and all things 'Twilight'. But theatre types have always known witches are where it's at. After its 2006 opening at Apollo Victoria, Oz prequel 'Wicked' continues to fill this massive theatre with an international crowd of voracious consumers (glass of champagne and a choccy for £16 anyone?). But this stylish and bombastic musical still delivers, sailing over its patchy score thanks to a gravity-defying performance from its current leading lady Rachel Tucker, as the intense green-skinned undergrad who goes on to become the Wicked Witch of the West. 'Wicked' is a spectacle that rises or falls around its central performance. In the midst of a gigantic production full of bangs, bells and whistles Tucker, with her small frame and searing vocal ability, simply flies off with the show. She's closely followed by Gina Beck, who plays good girl, Glinda. Glinda and Elphaba's relationship forms the heart of this story and, as the Good Witch, Beck is a consummate clown, playing up the silliness of her character at every turn. But she can raise a tear, too, and her final duet with Tucker, 'For Good', is genuinely heart-rending. The Tim Burton-inspired ensemble oscillate between the hypnotic and grotesque and a sweet but thin voiced Matt Willis charms as the rather superfluous Prince. As in classical ballet, this is all about the women and, even by previous lead Idina Menzel's standards, they are in soaring form here. T
'My mummy says I'm a miracle,' lisps a pampered mini-me at a purgatorial kiddies' birthday party at the outset of this delicious, treacly-dark family show. The obnoxious ma and pa of its titular, gifted, pint-sized heroine are not, of course, quite so doting. But 'Matilda' must be making its creators, playwright Dennis Kelly and comedian-songsmith Tim Minchin, a very pair of proud parents. Opening to rave reviews in Stratford-upon Avon before transferring to the West End in 2011 and snatching up Olivier Awards with all the alacrity of a sticky-fingered child in a sweetshop, Matthew Warchus's RSC production remains a treat. With hindsight, Kelly and Minchin's musical, born of the 1988 novel by that master of the splendidly grotesque Roald Dahl, is a little too long and, dramatically, a tad wayward. But like the curly-haired little girl in the famous nursery rhyme, when it is good, it is very, very good. And it's even better when it's horrid. The past few months have seen some cast changes, including, alas, the departure of Bertie Carvel's tremendous Miss Trunchbull, headmistress of the dread Crunchem Hall School, former Olympic hammer-thrower and a gorgon of monumental nastiness, complete with scarily Thatcher-esque tics of purse-lipped gentility and faux concern. David Leonard doesn't quite match the squirm-inducing, hair-raising detail of Carvel in the role, but his more butch, granite-faced version is fantastically horrible nonetheless. And if Paul Kaye as Matilda's loat
If you’re a plucky producer hoping to get your new show into the Criterion Theatre, you’re flat out of luck once again. Because less than nine months after 'The 39 Steps' shuttered after almost a decade glowering over Piccadilly Circus, it’s now home to the brand new comedy by Mischief Theatre, which, if there’s any justice in the theatre world, will run for even longer. 'The Comedy About A Bank Robbery' is the latest play by the bogglingly prolific and talented team behind 'The Play That Goes Wrong' (or more accurately the 'Play That Goes Wrong' franchise) and it’s their best and funniest work yet. A genre pastiche, screwball comedy and classic farce that’s as clean and clear as its brassy branding, it spins with a manic energy from Two Ronnies-esque wordplay through surreal set-pieces to slapstick stunts prepped to bring the house down. The story of a bungled jewel heist in a sleepy Minneapolis bank branch, it features a host of hilarious but well-drawn characters who roar across the stage and tumble into disaster after disaster, each one more elegantly drawn than the last. The writers’ ability to snatch a laugh out of every line, and to intricately prime each scenario with zinging punchlines and pay-offs is stunning, as call-backs and running gags pile up into teetering edifices of absurdity. The entire cast is bang on the money, but Mischief Theatre’s own Henry Lewis and Jonathan Sayer are the standouts as booming bank manager Robin Freeboys and hapless loser (and eter
The posters have been plastered around the London Underground for years – long enough for this show to become the most successful musical of all time – but nothing prepares you for the sheer impact of 'The Lion King's opening sequence. With the surge of 'Circle Of Life' reverberating through your chest, Julie Taymor's animal creations march on, species by species. Gazelles spring, birds swoop and an elephant and her child lumber through the stalls. It's a cacophonous cavalcade that genuinely stops you breathing. You'd think Noah's Ark had emptied onto the stage. For a global blockbuster, 'The Lion King's absolute theatricality is astonishing. Techniques from all over the world – African masks, Japanese Kabuki costumes, Malaysian shadow puppetry – are smashed together in an explosion of spectacle. It's perfect for a musical, allowing both distinct flavours and an eclectic carnival spirit. Admittedly, things deflate when it sacrifices this defiant originality for subservient approximation of the film. Timon and Pumba (Damian Baldet and Keith Bookman), though impressively like their screen counterparts, step into the savannah from a different dimension. The hyena-infested elephant's graveyard swaps menace for goofiness and the famous stampede scene, so delicately handled and moving in the film, is merely ticked off with a sigh of relief. The familiarity of the film is a root cause of the show's commercial success. But, ironically, 'The Lion King' can't afford such compromis
It's been decades since this skillful adaptation of Susan Hill's 1983 Gothic horror story first started setting West End audience a-shiver. 'The Woman in Black' remains perennially popular – particularly, it seems, with generally hard-to-please teenagers – which is testament to its rough-theatre appeal and the extraordinary and enduring potency, not of guts, gore or special effects, but of simple suggestion. Ageing Arthur Kipps is haunted by sinister events that befell him 30 years earlier. In an effort to exorcise his demons, he hires an actor to help him tell his story for an invited audience. As they rehearse, though, their staging itself becomes prey to supernatural visitations from the titular hatchet-faced, whip-thin, funereally garbed woman. Stephen Mallatratt's dramatisation and a deft production by Robin Herford exploit the peculiarly spooky atmosphere of an empty theatre, making us, as an audience, feel almost like spectral voyeurs. And the chills are irresistibly effective: swirling fog, a creaking rocking chair, a locked door, a pale visage looming out of the gloom. Only occasionally does the staging show its age. The projected image of the gaunt, sinister house of Kipps' tormented memory looks hopelessly cheap and crude, and a graveyard conjured with dust sheets struggles to convince, even within the low-tech aesthetic parameters of the piece. Yet the shrieks and gasps that greet the performance demonstrate that, even in the twenty-first century, this doughty
Step inside the Lyric foyer and you'll be greeted by a gleaming Michael Jackson memorial. Enter the auditorium and you'll find another in 'Thriller', a shining homage to The King of Pop. This is a sparkling, singing and shimmying conveyor belt of more than 30 of Jackson's greatest hits. It's a bit like watching an extended episode of 'The X Factor' – except the performers are actually very good and they've all picked Jacko. What really hits home in this jubilant jukebox show, which recently celebrated its thousandth performance, is the range of repertoire available. 'Thriller' is a reminder of Michael Jackson's versatility and the unique gloss he lent to pop, rock, dance and even the ballad. 'Heal the World' is crooned by a throng of suitably seraphic kids, 'Beat It' is blasted into the gods and a silver-gloved groover glides majestically through 'Smooth Criminal'. The show, held together by the loosest of narratives, begins with a selection of Jackson 5 numbers. These earlier songs are among the best of the night: pure, funky, relatively simple and uniformly upbeat. Salient facts are flashed furiously across the screens (750 million records sold worldwide!) and the show segues into Jackson's solo career. Some of these later songs are terrifyingly idiosyncratic – made and moulded for the man himself – and the lead vocalists struggle with the quirkier numbers, such as 'Jam' and 'Dirty Diana'. But it is the dancing that dazzles, no more so than Michael Duke's confident and w
It is the ultimate musical about male privilege, a show about an under-qualified, over-entitled white guy who shambles his way to public adoration by blithely inflicting bankrupt baby boomer values upon a bunch of impressionable people who don’t know any better. ‘School of Rock – The Musical’ is also quite good fun. I dunno if it’s the state of the world today, the fact I haven’t seen the Jack Black-starring film, the fact that so much has changed – musically and politically – since the film came out in 2003, or simply the knowledge that it’s written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Julian Fellowes, a couple of Tory lords in their late ’60s, but I felt a bit politically uneasy about ‘School of Rock’, which follows schlubby charlatan Dewey (David Fynn) as he masquerades as a teacher and proves a hit by tearing up his sensitive young charges’ syllabus and making them play old person music. Its big, catchy number is called ‘Stick It to the Man’. Yet there’s something both problematic and ironic about the fact that in Laurence Connor’s production The Man is represented by two women – Florence Andrews’s hard-working, professional headmistress Rosalie and Preeya Kalidas’s Patty, a hard-working, professional wife-to-Dewey’s best friend Ned – while in the blue corner we have... Dewey, a self-absorbed bum who everything turns out brilliantly for. Despite apparently being somewhere in his thirties – so presumably born around 1980 – Dewey exclusively loves classic rock bands, and mocks
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