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Andrzej Lukowski

Andrzej Lukowski

Theatre & Dance Editor, UK

Andrzej Lukowski has been the theatre and dance editor of Time Out London since 2013.

He mostly writes about theatre and also has additional editorial responsibility for dance, comedy and opera. He has lived in London a decade and has probably spent about a year of that watching productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He covered podcasts for about five minutes during lockdown and gets about a million podcast emails a day now but honestly can’t help you, sorry.

Oczywiście on jest Polakiem.

Reach him at andrzej.lukowski@timeout.com.

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Articles (247)

The top London theatre shows according to our critics

The top London theatre shows according to our critics

Want to know what the best theatre shows running in London right now are? Well you’ve come to the right place. This is our regularly-updated round-up of the very best stage shows, musicals plays and everything in between that you can currently see on London’s stages, from massive West End musicals that have been in place for years, to cool fringe theatre productions that’ll be around for just a few weeks. Our recommendations are all based upon reviews by our team of theatre critics. If you’re interested in preview recommendations – of what we think will be the best shows coming up will be, although we haven’t seen them yet – check out our best shows to book for and best shows coming up this month. 

London theatre reviews

London theatre reviews

From huge star vehicles and massive West End musical to hip fringe shows and more, here’s the very latest London theatre reviews from the Time Out theatre team. RECOMMENDED New theatre openings in London this month. A-Z of West End shows.

The 50 best podcasts to listen to in 2024

The 50 best podcasts to listen to in 2024

There are a million podcasts out there, and 2024’s releases are showing no signs of slowing down. There’s already been a load of bangers since the beginning of the year, and here at Time Out, we’re determined to listen to them all. After all, how else are you going to know which one to choose? We’ve rounded up our favourites, from political podcasts that look behind the news to comedy podcasts with your favourite funny people, and plenty of those all-important investigative whodunnits to keep you up at night. If you’re looking to dig deeper into one genre, we’d recommend trying our specialist lists on for size (you’ll find them below). But for a full list of good, addictive podcasts of every genre, read on.  RECOMMENDED:🎧 The best podcasts on Spotify😂 The best comedy podcasts 🗞️ The best news podcasts💤 The best sleep podcasts🎶 The best music podcasts

The best theatre shows in London for 2024 not to miss

The best theatre shows in London for 2024 not to miss

London’s theatre scene is the most exciting in the world: perfectly balanced between the musical theatre of Broadway and the experimentalism of Europe. Between the showtunes of the West End and the constant pipeline of new writing from the subsidised sector, there’s a whole thrilling world, with well over 100 theatres and over venues playing host to everything from classic revivals to cutting-edge immersive work. This rolling list is constantly updated to share the best of what’s coming up and currently booking: these choices aren’t the be-all and end-all of great theatre in 2024, but they are, as a rule, the biggest and splashiest shows coming up, alongside intriguing looking smaller projects.   They’re shows worth booking for, pronto, both to avoid sellouts but to get the cheaper tickets that initially go on sale for most shows but tend to be snapped up months before they actually open. Want to see if these shows live up to the hype? Check out our theatre reviews. Check out our complete guide to musicals in London.  And head over here for a guide to every show in the West End at the moment.

Richard Gadd on ‘Baby Reindeer’: ‘This show is more important than my duty of care to myself’

Richard Gadd on ‘Baby Reindeer’: ‘This show is more important than my duty of care to myself’

In 2019, we spoke to Richard Gadd about his Edinburgh Fringe solo smash ‘Baby Reindeer’, which later transferred to the Bush Theatre. In 2024, ‘Baby Reindeer’ has been turned into a hit Netflix show. Below is our original 2019 interview with Gadd. In 2016, Richard Gadd won the biggest prize in live comedy, aka the Edinburgh Comedy Award, for ‘Monkey See Monkey Do’, a dazzlingly theatrical stand-up show in which he discussed the sexual abuse he suffered. Three years on and he’s ditched the jokes with ‘Baby Reindeer’, a ferociously honest and unflinching monologue about his ongoing experience of being stalked. Being stalked has been horrible for you – so why make a show about it? ‘I thought there was a duty of care to let the audience and perhaps society in general know just how tricky a situation it is. There were times when it was so life-debilitating that I couldn’t believe it was allowed to get to that point from a legal perspective. And I just felt like that needed to be said and I felt like that was more important than my duty of care to myself, in a way.’ You had to listen back to all of your stalker’s voice messages to you; how was that? ‘It hasn’t been easy. There were hours and hours of voicemails and emails, and I had to remind myself of all the incidents, interview all the people involved. But the excruciating elements and the uncomfortableness are important: I think that’s what a lot of shows lack, that ability to push the audience into an uncomfortable place.’ Ar

The best new restaurants in London

The best new restaurants in London

Every week, a frankly stupid amount of brilliant new restaurants, cafés and street food joints arrive in London. Which makes whittling down a shortlist of the best newbies a serious challenge. But here it is. The 20 very best new restaurants in the capital, ranked.  Go forth and eat, featuring everything from hyped new Mayfair spot The Dover to French bistro bangers at Josephine in Fulham, Med sharing dishes at Morchella in Clerkenwell and Akara, a Michelin star restaurant offshoot in Borough. We also show some love for the sublime small plates at Hackney's Sune, modern Malaysian cuisine at Mambow in Clapton, tasty sausage at Bistro Freddie in Spitalfields, Italian-ish snacks at Forza Wine on the South Bank and Filipino sharing feasts at Donia in Soho.  Leonie Cooper is Time Out London’s Food and Drink Editor. For more about how we curate, see our editorial guidelines. RECOMMENDED: The 50 best restaurants in London.

101 best things to do in London with kids

101 best things to do in London with kids

There's a pretty much limitless array of fun to be had in London, whatever age you are. But this city is extra good for young 'uns, whether you're after theatre shows to blow their minds, free kid-friendly museums to get them learning without realising it, or leftfield activities that they'll be raving about for weeks afterwards, or just a really, really top-notch playground. Everyone from hyperactive toddlers to cynical teens will find something to get excited about. If you’ve got a bit of cash to spend then you can enjoy a glorious day out at the world-famous likes of London Zoo or the London Aquarium. But if you’re on a budget there’s plenty to do that’s free. London is full of outdoor options, from high-concept adventure playgrounds to gorgeous open parks, as well as other family-friendly spots that are free to visit, stretching your budget further for those must-do attractions that aren’t.  RECOMMENDED: Let the kids loose on these incredible adventure playgrounds

The best May half-term activities in London

The best May half-term activities in London

The Easter holidays are still a recent memory, the summer holidays are looming in the background: and now here comes half-term again, with the kids getting a whole week off – and entertainment will be required.  Fortunately, this is London, and there’s a near-infinite number of things for kids to do, from enjoying the city’s many kid-friendly museums and galleries that really come into their own when school is out, to enjoying the possibilities of the warmer weather and the return of outdoor theatre season. Please enjoy our top suggestions for the half-term, from brand new exhibitions and plays to your last chance to see a couple of excellent attractions for younger audiences. When is May half-term this year?  This year, London’s May half-term falls between Monday May 27 and Friday May 31. Other parts of the country will have half-term a different week. Whether you’re after some rainy day fun, outdoor play or some budget-friendly free activities for families, London absolutely has you covered. Here’s our roundup of all the best things to do with your children this May half-term. 

Easter holidays activities for kids in London

Easter holidays activities for kids in London

Kicking off with a whopping four-day bank, chocolate egg-filled holiday weekend, the 2024 school Easter hols stretch from Friday March 29 to Sunday April 14. That’s a lot of child entertaining to do, but with the weather hopefully turning and spring now fully sprung, it’s a great opportunity to go out and have fun with the family and take advantage of the most fun family activities available this April.  Stuck for ideas on how to fill all this free time? That’s where we come in. Below is a list of ideas for things you can get up to in London with the kids this Easter holidays.  RECOMMENDED: Crack open our full guide to the Easter weekend.  

Open-air theatre in London

Open-air theatre in London

There’s perhaps nothing more magical than seeing a play or musical in the open air, and London is absolutely the city for it. In defiance of the weather gods, our outdoor theatre season now stretches from March to late October: we’re are just that tough. Or at least, optimistic about the weather. Substantially it revolves around a few key theatres, notably Shakespeare’s Globe – open March to October and generally boasting a cheeky outdoor Christmas production – and the delightful Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, which is open late spring to the end of summer. The former specialises in Shakespeare plays, while the latter has a musical theatre focus. But there’s plenty of other stuff, especially as the summer reaches its height, from the ambitious street theatre of the Greenwich and Docklands International Festival to the musical theatre blowout of West End Live. Not sure what you'll need for an open-air theatre trip? Then don’t miss our guide to practical open-air theatre info.  If you’re interested in taking in some outdoor cinema this summer, head to our dedicated page.

The top London comedy shows to see in April

The top London comedy shows to see in April

From the return of hipster American clown Doctor Brown with his first show in 12 years to angry ‘journalist’ Jonathan Pie making his West End debut, it's another rib-tickling month in London. The best comedy clubs in London. The best new theatre shows to book for in London.

The best dance and ballet shows in April 2024

The best dance and ballet shows in April 2024

Hipsters are shedding their winter beanies, people are Instagramming pictures of daffodils and wild garlic, and beer gardens are back in full swing. This can only mean one thing: spring has officially sprung in London. We leapt into April with a banger of a four day weekend, and things are kicking off in the dance world this month too. In April, ‘Swan Lake’ continues at the Royal Opera House, Hofesch Shechter comes to the Southbank Centre and Boy Blue opens a world premiere at the Barbican. Here's the best dance in London this month.  MORE STAGE: Dance classes in London Best theatre shows this yearBest theatre shows this monthBest comedy shows this month

Listings and reviews (1028)

Machinal

Machinal

5 out of 5 stars

In a wedge shaped set, bright yellow as bile, a machine does its work.  In Richard Jones’s staggering revival of Sophie Treadwell’s 1928 expressionist classic, our first glimpse of Rosie Sheehy’s Young Woman is the sight of her freaking out in a press of black-clad ’20s New Yorkers, her blue patterned dress frumpy next to their sharp, dark angles. The story cuts to her office. To the strains of what sounds like a demonic metronome, her colleagues gossip about her, repetitive gibberish underscored by their bafflement that the Young Woman is late – why would anyone would want to miss any of this?  Sheehy arrives and she’s not a timid wallflower, but earthy, speaking with a mile-wide Brooklyn accent. She lives with her elderly Irish mother, who is later delighted when her daughter reveals she has had a marriage proposal from her boring, unattractive, much older boss (Tim Frances). Her mum says she should marry him; an upset Young Woman screams like a wild animal; she marries him anyway. Jones’s production is a sort of infernal anxiety machine, percussive and remorseless, each hallucinatory scene immaculately crafted with its own distinct mood. Although the tone of the story changes repeatedly, catharsis is banned here. Hyemi Shin’s retina-searing set is unforgettable, Benjamin Grant’s sound design skin-crawling unnerving, Adam Silverman’s lighting exquisitely unsettling, Sarah Fahie’s movement ravishingly creepy.  Jones’s production is an infernal anxiety machine As much install

The Art of the Brick: An Exhibition of LEGO® Art

The Art of the Brick: An Exhibition of LEGO® Art

3 out of 5 stars

Itinerant attraction ‘The Art of the Brick’ has been trotting around the globe since 2007, and at time of writing had virtually sold out every time slot for the entirety of the Easter holidays at its temporary London home. As I have technically been an adult this entire time I have never previously had cause to visit what is essentially a series of Lego sculptures made by a single man: Nathan Sawaya, whose image and inspirational quotes are slapped all over the place (which is unaffiliated with Lego beyond its bricks being Sawaya’s material of choice). It’s not really art. I took a photo of a Sawaya quote saying ‘fortunately, there are no rules in art!’ and sent it to Time Out’s art editor. He replied saying that he thought I should be ashamed of myself. However, clearly the audience is not actually an art audience. The audience is children. One clue is the room with a gigantic T-rex skeleton in it. Another is the play area at the end, with a big pit of Lego and a big pit of Duplo and a nifty scanner thing where kids can place pictures of objects they’ve coloured in, which then appear in a virtual art gallery on a big screen. If the works lack razzle dazzle, Sawaya’s various humanoid figures are nonetheless technically impressive.  And kids will dig the art. Or models, or constructs, or whatever you want to call it. If the works on the whole lack a little razzle dazzle, Sawaya’s various humanoid figures are nonetheless technically impressive. My nine-year-old loved reading th

London Tide

London Tide

4 out of 5 stars

‘Little fish, big fish/swimming in the water/come back here man/gimme my daughter’ hissed a demonic 25-year-old Polly Jean Harvey in her 1995 hit ‘Down By the Water’.  That was a long time ago. But where so many middle-aged pop stars’ forays into musical theatre feel like bored attempts to crack new markets, the cycle of 13 songs Harvey has written for the National Theatre’s adaptation of Charles Dickens’s ‘Our Mutual Friend’ slot seamlessly into her body of work.  The imagery of water and drowning that flows through Ian Rickson’s production of Ben Power’s adaptation of Dickens’s final finished novel feels of a piece with ‘Down by the Water’ and its iconic video. And where Harvey’s most successful album, ‘Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea’ concerns itself with the Atlantic and with modern, gleaming New York, ‘London Tide’ is almost its negative, steeped in the mud of the Thames and the grime of old London, which is referenced again and again in the lyrics. ‘This is a story of London, death and resurrection’ howl the cast in the opening ‘London Song’. ‘London, forgive me’ they keen in the closing ‘Homecoming’.  The show is billed as a play with songs: the tune count is a bit low for actual musical status, and there’s a conspicuous lack of razzle-dazzle. Anna Morrissey’s stylised movement peps up the numbers, but there’s nothing like actual dancing here. Musically, the keyboard-led songs feel like a hybrid of the Harvey’s eerie ‘White Chalk’ album and the most vocally

Dopamine Land

Dopamine Land

3 out of 5 stars

What is Dopamine Land? Probably the most important thing to know about immersive London experience Dopamine Land, is that it is called Dopamine Land. Where some other, similar events make a slightly cringey play to be viewed as art or informative, Dopamine Land makes no such claim: it’s a series of rooms full of mirrors and balls that broadly exist for you to dick around in and take some sweet selfies. It’s not art, it’s fun: it’s Dopamine Land, baby! What age is Dopamine Land for? When it launched way back in 2022 it was aimed at adults as much as kids, perhaps slightly more. It probably draws a different crowd in the evenings, but the vibes when I visited were distinctly families only - there’s something slightly hilarious about the fact you can buy cocktails at the end, as if one might get hammered in a soft play. Certainly it seems like a truly strange place to go for a first date, culminating as it does in a pillow-fight room. But for your average group of children, it’s undoubtedly a good time, and the staff are slick and good humoured when it comes to herding minors around. It’s not art, it’s fun: it’s Dopamine Land, baby! How long do you need in Dopamine Land? The officially time they recommend is 30 minutes to an hour. We probably spent around 45 minutes there total, which is fairly brisk but we felt like we had enough time in each room. There is a bit of waiting around, although this is a function of your group getting several of the rooms to themselves for a spell

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

4 out of 5 stars

This review is from May 2019. ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ returns for 2024 with casting TBC. Writer-director Jethro Compton strikes fringe gold with this beguiling musical adaptation of F Scott Fitzgerald’s 1922 short story about a man who ages backwards, probably better known for the lumbering 2008 Brad Pitt film. Like the movie, Compton’s take on ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ is a very free adaptation, being a lovably ramshackle and surging folk opera in which the story is transposed from nineteenth-century Baltimore to twentieth-century Cornwall. Benjamin is the son of an ordinary local couple who are horrified to discover that their newborn ‘child’ is – inexplicably – an 80-year-old man, with no memories but fluent English and a smoking habit. Benjamin’s mother is so upset she kills herself; his father keeps Benjamin locked away in the house, assuming he will live out his final years there. In fact, it becomes slowly apparent that Benjamin is getting younger. After some years have passed, James Marlowe’s gentle, troubled Benjamin is allowed to go to the pub on the sly, where he meets a vivacious barmaid named Elowen, who will go on to be the (extremely complicated) love of his life. The production is defined by the wide-eyed brio of the five-strong, all-instrumentalist cast, and director Compton and musical director Darren Clark’s propulsive, harmony-drenched folk songs. And unlike the portentous film, the script is infused with the humour of the shant

Opening Night

Opening Night

4 out of 5 stars

It is, to be clear, fairly nuts that leftfield European director Ivo van Hove has been allowed to plonk what I can only describe as a leftfield European musical in a big theatre in the middle of London’s glittering West End.  Presumably the calculation of producers Wessex Grove is that star Sheridan Smith offers enough commercial clout to underwrite the limited run of a show that feels almost entirely unshackled by genre niceties. But there is truly nothing else like ‘Opening Night’ in Theatreland at the moment – not even close. Like much of Belgian star Van Hove’s output, ‘Opening Night’ is a stage adaptation of a classic arthouse film, in this case John Cassavetes’s 1977 movie of the same name. It concerns the emotional disintegration of Myrtle, a famous actress struggling with alcoholism, the shocking death of a fan, and encroaching middle age – something exacerbated by her inability to connect to ‘The Second Woman’, the Broadway play she is currently rehearsing. In Van Hove’s adaptation, a camera crew is filming the play’s rehearsals – something that doesn’t have much impact on the plot (most of the dialogue is Cassavetes’s dialogue), but does offer a loose real world explanation for the director’s trademark use of live film. As with much of his oeuvre, a big screen dominates proceedings, and what it displays is at least as important as watching the actors directly; the composition of the shots matters as much as the mise en scène. Two particular shots dominate the first

The Comeuppance

The Comeuppance

3 out of 5 stars

It feels like just yesterday that ‘millennial’ was synonymous with ‘young’. But in Branden Jacobs-Jenkins rancorous dark comedy, a group of late thirtysomething American friends marvel at how much they’ve all lived through: 9/11, Iraq, Columbine, the Covid pandemic. And that’s on top of the baggage they’re all still carrying from high school, which they can’t even remember clearly, but has shaped their lives nonetheless. Oh and Death – as in, the actual Grim Reaper – is knocking about, occasionally possessing one of the five pals in order to deliver a monologue to the audience.  The play’s catalyst is Emilio (Anthony Welsh), who has been living in Europe as an artist for over a decade, but is back in town for his twentieth-anniversary high school reunion. Has he moved on from school? He has absolutely not moved on from school: whatever his intention was when he returned, he is soon poking at old trauma, relitigating ancient grudges, and starting fights over things that happened over half his lifetime ago. Not that he lacks reasons. His circle of friends – who used to dub themselves the Multi Ethnic Reject Group or MERGE (‘it’s a soft g’) –  have gathered at the home of Tamara Lawrance’s Ursula for drinks, ahead of taking an ironic prom-style ‘party limo’ to the reunion. But Emilio is dumbfounded by the presence of Paco (Ferdinand Kingsley), the older ex-boyfriend of his erstwhile best friend Caitlin (Yolanda Kettle). Abusive to Caitlin in the past, Paco is now a somewhat piti

Guys and Dolls

Guys and Dolls

5 out of 5 stars

It’s been a year since Nicholas Hytner’s impossibly rousing production of ‘Guys and Dolls’ opened at the Bridge Theatre and made standing up for a three-hour show London’s hottest ticket since the sixteenth century. Now, after 12 months of stomping through Arlene Phillips’s deft choreography across constantly raising and lowering platforms, roughly half of the cast are moving on to pastures new (maybe to just counter the nightly feeling of seasickness) while the rest have found it impossible to drag themselves away from London’s most acclaimed classic stage musical in years. Shipping out are Daniel Mays, who is replaced as the swaggeringly camp Nathan Detroit by Owain Arthur, and Marisha Wallace, who is replaced by Timmika Ramsay as the sensational Miss Adelaide (with Wallace immediately popping up as a ‘Celebrity Big Brother’ contestant). Jonathan Andrew Hume is also a new addition as cheery gambler Nicely-Nicely Johnson, as Cedric Neal bids his farewell. When it comes to core cast, George Ioannides remains in place as the suave Sky Masterson, and Celinde Schoenmaker continues to operatically trill her way through the role of the unsinkable Sarah Brown. Mays was the biggest name, and while the Bangor-born Arthur might not be as instantly recognisable – he’s probably best known for taking over the lead in another Hytner-directed show, ‘One Man, Two Guvnors} – he’s deeply at ease in Detroit’s shoes. Perhaps that’s due to having already filled in for Mays for three months last

Player Kings

Player Kings

4 out of 5 stars

Yes, the presence of soon-to-turn-85 stage and screen legend Ian McKellen tackling Shakespeare’s great character Sir John Falstaff is the big draw in ‘Player Kings’.  But Robert Icke’s three hour-40-minute modern-dress take on the two ‘Henry IV’ plays does not pander to its star, and is unwavering in its view that this is the story of two deeply damaged men, linked grimly together.  McKellen is naturally excellent as an atypically elderly Falstaff, whose continual self aggrandisement is such that even his line about being in his fifties comes across as an improbable boast. But his younger co-star Toheeb Jimoh is equally as good as a bitter, angry Prince Hal, who feels startlingly a piece with the vengeful older version of himself we meet in ‘Henry V’. The usual take is that with his dad recently installed on the English throne, heir Hal is enjoying a classic bout of youthful hedonism. He’s carousing away in Cheapside tavern the Boar’s Head,  living it up with various lowlife eccentrics, foremost among them the rotund rogue Falstaff, who serves as something of a substitute father to Richard Coyle’s cold, formal Henry IV. But in Icke’s version, the tension between the two leads is palpable. Jimoh’s Hal responds coldly to the older man’s attempts at mockery, and there is a palpable sense of danger to him. Hanging out at the Boar, he feels less a pampered princeling out of his depth, more an escaped tiger lying low at a petting zoo. Their relationship never feels truly easy: inde

Gunter

Gunter

3 out of 5 stars

This enjoyably feral offering from all-female, historian-led theatre company Dirty Hare is a very unconventional dramatisation of a very specific historical incident: the strange, lurid tale of Anne Gunter. In 1604, during the early reign of the occult-obsessed James I, Alice’s dad Brian Gunter – the richest man in his Oxfordshire village – killed the two sons of local woman Elizabeth Gregory, understandably igniting a feud between the families. Later, Anne grew sick – or (it’s implied here) she just had heavy periods that Brian seized upon as evidence of witchcraft on behalf of Elizabeth, who was (understandably tbf) poisoning the community against him. What is indisputable is that he turned to the courts in an effort to get Elizabeth prosecuted for witchcraft, something he pursued so aggressively that it ended up being put before the king himself. Hence, there remains a lot of documentary evidence for the case, despite its extreme age.  There probably is a conventional historical drama in all this, but that’s definitely not what Dirty Hare have crafted, something you can probably surmise from the company makeup. ‘Gunter’ is devised by the core Dirty Hare team of director Rachel Lemon, actor Julia Grogan (she plays Elizabeth) and Lydia Higman who is – gloriously! – a historian and multi-instrumentalist.  Supplemented by two further actors – Hannah Jarrett-Scott and Norah Lopez Holden play Brian and Anne – ‘Gunter’ is essentially a wild piece of gig theatre. It’s full of gags

Underdog: The Other Brontë

Underdog: The Other Brontë

3 out of 5 stars

‘What’s your favourite Brontë novel?’ demands Gemma Whelan’s bolshy Charlotte Brontë, as she accosts a succession of random audience members at the start of Sarah Gordon’s new play about the literary sisters. Although really, ‘Underdog’ is mostly a play about the troubled relationship between Charlotte and Anne: the eldest and youngest, most and least famous Brontës. Charlotte is of course forever remembered thanks to her great work ‘Jane Eyre’, while Anne remains the most obscure of the trio - in large part because Charlotte banned further publication of Anne’s hit ‘The Tenant of Wildfell Hall’ after her little sister died at 29.  If it’s not a neat comparison, I’d say there are some parallels with Peter Shaffer’s ‘Amadeus’, with Whelan’s Charlotte the domineering Salieri-style figure, weaving plots against Rhiannon Clements’s gifted but unworldly Anne.  There’s a lot more swearing here, mind: Gordon’s dialogue is blunt, funny and wilfully anachronistic, the sisters goading each other in modern language, in Yorkshire accents so broad you could land a plane on them. Grace Smart’s set begins as a sumptuous, heather-strewn patch of moorland, but this is rapidly, ruthlessly pulled away – no romantic frills here. You are never far from a laugh, and the supremely watchable Whelan devours her part whole: she is wonderful as the wildly insecure but entirely fearless Charlotte, swaggering through the story with the elemental strut of a nineteenth-century Liam Gallagher, but beset by

MJ the Musical

MJ the Musical

3 out of 5 stars

The last Michael Jackson musical to grace the West End was ‘Thriller – Live’, a revue show that was almost endearingly dumb, consisting as it did of the King of Pop’s greatest hits interspersed with a bunch of ripped men bellowing about his sales figures.  ‘MJ the Musical’ is the real deal, however, an estate-endorsed jukebox show that’s gone down a storm on Broadway. Significantly, it has a book by Lynn Nottage, one of the great American playwrights. Her text addresses aspects of Jackson’s life with a frankness that’s refreshing, if selective. It’s set in 1992, during rehearsals for the ‘Dangerous’ world tour and handily a year before child sex abuse allegations were first levelled against Jackson. ‘MJ’ thus avoids any allusion to said controversy. At the same time, it doesn’t do that thing where it pretends there was nothing unusual about him: there are allusions to everything from Bubbles the chimp to Jackson’s changing skin colour.  For the West End debut of Christopher Wheeldon’s production, ‘present day’ Michael is played by the jaw-droppingly talented original Broadway star Myles Frost. To say he’s a triple threat would be an understatement: in the acting department he’s maybe more of a vague menace, but as a dancer and singer he is extraordinary. Yes sir, he can moonwalk, and slip into all of Jackson’s propulsive dance routines effortlessly. His voice isn’t quite as piercing as Jackson’s, but it’s a fair approximation, and frankly remarkable given what he’s doing with

News (550)

‘Oliver!’ is coming back to the West End

‘Oliver!’ is coming back to the West End

It’s been over a decade since Lionel Bart’s beloved musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’s ‘Oliver Twist’ was last seen in London, in a starry London Palladium production that was led by Rowan Atkinson as smalltime criminal mastermind Fagin, and juiced up by a tie-in talent show that cast winner Jodie Prenger as Nancy.  You wouldn’t exactly call its return to London this Christmas ‘low key’. But this new, transferring production of ‘Oliver!’ from the Chichester Festival Theatre doesn’t come with its own supporting TV show, and is in the more modest Gielgud Theatre, with respected comedy actor Simon Lipkin taking on the Fagin role. It’s still a big deal though: West End super-producer Cameron Mackintosh doesn’t put his name to just any revival of one of the handful of treasured classic musicals he owns the rights. This is a major new production of Bart’s adaptation of Dickens’s smash yarn about an orphan boy who flees the workhouse and takes reference in London’s criminal underworld. Directed and choreographed by the great Matthew Bourne, we’re promised that ‘Oliver!’ will be ‘fully reconceived’ for this new run, which will begin its life in Chichester this summer if you’re absolutely jonesing to see it early, before coming to London for the end of the year. However boldly it’s reinvented – and don’t worry, it’s not going to be anything too mad, this is Cameron Mackintosh we’re talking about – the classic songs will all still be present and correct, including ‘Food Glorious F

Elvis Presley will return to life this year as an AI-powered immersive concert experience

Elvis Presley will return to life this year as an AI-powered immersive concert experience

Had Elvis Presley not died young then he might well still be with us: it would be the King of Rock and Roll’s eighty-ninth birthday next week – startlingly youthful for somebody who revolutionised the world back in the ’50s and died in 1977.  The decades since his death have seen the legend of the man almost as busy as Presley himself ever was: in the last couple of years alone he’s been the subject of two major films – 2022’s ‘Elvis’ and Sophia Coppola’s current ‘Priscilla’. There have also been numerous ‘live’ experiences over the years, most notably the long-running Elvis: The Concert, an ongoing concert tour that began in 1997 and had Presley’s ’70s backing band playing live to recorded footage of the King.  However, as Elvis’s sidemen grow older, technology gets more advanced, and other dead or disbanded musicians rack up critical acclaim for brand-new concert presentation, it seems inevitable that the time is right for the Elvis industry to enter a new, immersive era.  ‘Elvis Evolution’ is a new show from Layered Reality, the company best known for its long-running London immersive theatre hits ‘The War of the Worlds’ and ‘The Gunpowder Plot’. Made with the full permission of the Elvis Presley estate, it’s due to launch in London later this year and expand to Tokyo, Berlin and, of course, Las Vegas. The exact nature of the experience is currently a little vague, but we’re promised that it will climax in a full-on concert presentation that will use ‘state-of-the-art AI &

Five things we learned at the 2024 Olivier Awards

Five things we learned at the 2024 Olivier Awards

Last night was the Olivier Awards, aka the London theatre equivalent of the Baftas, or the Oscars, or whatever your major awards ceremony of choice might be. Running at well over three hours and with huge numbers of categories, you can find a full breakdown of everything that happened elsewhere. But for you dear, attention-raddled, Time Out reader here are our main takeaways from the night. ‘Sunset Boulevard’ was the big winner, and quite right too Jamie Lloyd’s swaggering, audacious resurrection of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s flawed ’90s musical was the night’s big winner with seven gongs. Good: it deserved it. Not only that, but Tom Francis stole the show with his performance of the title track, which he started singing to a camera way outside the Royal Albert Hall, before ending up on stage for the final bars. Broadway is lucky to be getting it this autumn, but the scale of its impact at the Oliviers did somewhat beg the question as to why ‘Sunset Boulevard’ only had a limited run – whether or not Francis and co-star Nicole Scherzinger can return with it, it has to come back. ‘Operation Mincemeat’s Best New Musical award is the perfect end to the SplitLip fairytale SplitLip’s quirky indie musical about an improbable wartime MI5 operation has been slowly working its way up through bigger and bigger venues since it debuted a little before the pandemic, finally becoming eligible for the Oliviers after making its West End debut last year. The fact ‘Operation Mincemeat’ clashed with

The producers of the Tom Holland-starring ‘Romeo & Juliet’ have condemned ‘deplorable racial abuse’ towards a cast member

The producers of the Tom Holland-starring ‘Romeo & Juliet’ have condemned ‘deplorable racial abuse’ towards a cast member

The producers of the upcoming West End production of Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo & Juliet’ have put out a statement today (April 5) condemning the ‘deplorable racial abuse put out towards a member of our company’. While the Jamie Lloyd Company hasn’t named the individual subjected to racist abuse, it is understood by pretty much everyone that the person referred to is Francesca Amewudah-Rivers, the young Black actor and rising star who has been cast in the role of Juliet. There was clearly going to be a fair amount of scrutiny over the casting of the co-romantic lead of a play that stars the extremely famous Spider-Man star Holland, who has an equally famous celebrity girlfriend. And this isn’t the Jamie Lloyd Company’s first experience casting a big name. However, the abuse directed at Amewudah-Rivers seems fairly unprecedented in terms of stage casting, instead recalling online campaigns waged against the casting of women of colour in various recent blockbuster movies. As best as we can tell from some fairly grim social media posts is that it has little to do with Holland stans, and instead heavily leans towards an international array of obviously racist internet accounts, most of whom seem profoundly unlikely to have bought tickets for the play (which sold out almost instantly prior to any casting bar Holland). Many of the individuals are clearly based in America, and a not inconsiderable number seem to be under the impression that this is a film version, which it isn’t.  Photo:

The best new London theatre openings in April

The best new London theatre openings in April

Some huge names dominate April in London, as stage legends Ian McKellen and Brian Cox take on colossal roles in plays by Shakespeare and Eugene O’Neill. Neither actor seems to be showing any sign of slowing down, but you have to think this is your last chance to see them in something quite so epic. Music legend PJ Harvey will also get her first major stage credit as songwriter for the National Theatre’s Dickens adaptation ‘London Tide’, in an otherwise eclectic month taking in everything from postcolonial interactive theatre to an adaptation of sci-fi classic ‘Minority Report’.   Photo: Manuel Harlan 1. Player Kings Ian McKellen is truly the David Attenborough of the stage: almost two decades past retirement age, this is something like the acting legend’s sixth stage role since the pandemic alone. And what a role. Aged 84, Sir Ian will take on one of the greatest of all Shakespearean parts to star as the funny, tragic Sir John Falstaff in auteur director Robert Icke’s four-hour modern-dress mash-up of ‘Henry IV’ parts one and two. Truly not to be missed, and if McKellen can get through a four-hour-play then you certainly can. Noël Coward Theatre, Apr 1-Jun 22. Book tickets here.   Photo: Johan PerssonBrian Cox   2. Long Day’s Journey Into Night After becoming a global superstar playing one flawed patriarch, ‘Succession’ stalwart and all-round acting legend Brian Cox cashes in the newfound heights of his fame to tackle another. ‘Long Day’s Journey Into Night’ is, of course

The new musical from the creators of ‘Six’ is coming to the West End this summer

The new musical from the creators of ‘Six’ is coming to the West End this summer

‘Six’ (pictured), the sassy West End show about the wives of Henry VIII, is probably the biggest Brit musical theatre success story of the last ten years. A clever, audacious idea bound to a tight 80-minute runtime and executed in shades of slick modern pop, it famously premiered at the 2017 Edinburgh Festival Fringe and over the next few years went supernova, working its way up through various venues to its current home at the Vaudeville Theatre – where it’s still packing ’em in. Creators Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss have been in no hurry to follow ‘Six’ up: they’ve been busy breaking it on Broadway, where it’s also a hit (they’re probably both minted now). Moss did direct a well-received revival of ‘Legally Blonde’ at the Open Air Theatre in 2022, but that’s been it for extra stuff. Until now. Finally, we’re about to see if lightning can strike twice with the announcement of the pair’s second show, ‘Why Am I So Single?’. Following the romantic exploits of two best friends who can’t find love despite their heroic dedication to the apps, it promises a look at twenty-first century romance tied to ‘epic pop and musical-inspired songs’.  We’ll see how it is when it opens at the West End’s Garrick Theatre this summer, but it certainly has the air of probably appealing to the same girls/gays night out crowd as its predecessor, promising a relatable modern attitude, a music style not stuck in the 1950s, and a stripped down cast and running time.  ‘Why Am I So Single?‘ is booking at th

James Corden and Anna Maxwell-Martin star in new play ‘The Constituent’ at the Old Vic

James Corden and Anna Maxwell-Martin star in new play ‘The Constituent’ at the Old Vic

James Corden. Two words that can strike fear into even the stoutest of hearts. But while the chronically overexposed UK sitcom star and US chatshow host may not be the hippest gunslinger in town, there’s little denying that his two previous stage outings were stone-cold classics: he was in the original cast of Alan Bennett’s epochal ‘The History Boys’, and then returned to the National Theatre a few years later to head up the riotous global comedy smash ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’. Subsequently, his career took off in the US and he essentially became too famous as a talk show host to find time for theatre. But he’s re-engaged with screen acting in recent years, and with his eight-year-run on ‘The Late, Late Show’ now wrapped up it’s not a surprise at all to find him on stage again. ‘The Constituent’ is a new drama by veteran writer Joe Penhall, best known for his classic play ‘Blue/Orange’ and the Netflix series ‘Mindhunter’. Co-starring the wonderous Anna Maxwell Martin (‘Motherland’ etc), the Matthew Warchus-directed play is an examination of British disillusionment with politicians. It will star Maxwell Martin as a hard-working backbench MP who is sorely tested by the demands of a constituent in a state of crisis.  Corden is best known as a comic actor and he’ll presumably have a chance to flex those muscles, though at the same time, the show description actually sounds pretty serious – we’ll find out more in June when ‘The Constituent’ opens. ‘The Constituent’ is at the Old Vi

The National Theatre is giving NHS workers 1,400 tickets to see Michael Sheen in ‘Nye’

The National Theatre is giving NHS workers 1,400 tickets to see Michael Sheen in ‘Nye’

The National Theatre has a hit on its hand with ‘Nye’, Tim Price’s new play about founder of the NHS Aneurin Bevan, which stars national treasure Michael Sheen as the iconic Labour politician. Although the play is, frankly, pretty weird in places – there’s a big song and dance number at one point – and deliberately avoids the type of sentimentality about the NHS that can creep into the national discourse, it also never lets you forget that it was Bevan’s signature achievement. The play is bookended by scenes set in hospital, and even when hopping through time to Bevan’s childhood and his time squaring up to Winston Churchill in the Houses of Commons the set is styled like a hospital. It’s natural then that NHS staff should get a crack at seeing it, and thus it will prove on April 23 – St George’s Day – with 400 NHS workers having been invited to see it live on stage that night to watch the show that will simultaneously be broadcast into cinemas as part of the NT Live programme. London not being the entirety of the UK, a further 1,000 tickets have been given out to NHS workers to watch the live broadcast in Vue cinemas across the country. Says Rufus Norris, NT artistic director and director of ‘Nye’: ‘I am honoured to extend a heartfelt invitation to NHS workers to share in this powerful story. This moment epitomises the National Theatre’s commitment to extending the reach of theatre to audiences wherever they are, both at the South Bank and through National Theatre Live. In c

‘The most distilled, pure version of a Punchdrunk show’ – the immersive legends return with ‘Viola’s Room’

‘The most distilled, pure version of a Punchdrunk show’ – the immersive legends return with ‘Viola’s Room’

Twenty-four years ago, an unknown student theatre company named Punchdrunk staged an elaborate immersive performance for one audience member at a time, based on Edwardian writer Barry Pain’s macabre short story ‘The Moon Slave’. ‘It’s genuinely my favourite thing we’ve ever done’ says company founder Felix Barrett of the show, which he put on as a student at Exeter University, ‘just the sheer intensity of it – the most distilled, pure version of a Punchdrunk show.’ If you’ve heard of Punchdrunk but not ‘The Moon Slave’ then that’s understandable: Punchdrunk has gone on to become the most important immersive theatre company in the world, making their name with colossal, ominous explorable worlds visited by thousands every week. By contrast ‘The Moon Slave’ was staged one chilly night in November 2000… and only four people ever saw it. ‘We saved up and we could still only do it for one evening,’ reminiscences Barrett. Trying to make a name for themselves, the invites were strictly industry: one local journalist, and three local Arts Council reps. ‘We used a marine flare for the finale of each performance, and we literally couldn’t afford more than four,’ sighs Barrett. Quarter of a century on and money isn’t a problem: Punchdrunk is by far the biggest immersive company in the game, with a string of huge international and domestic hits – its most recent was Trojan War epic ‘The Burnt City’, staged at Woolwich headquarters Carriageworks.  For a follow-up, Punchdrunk is bringing ‘

London’s biggest theatre festival has announced it’s closing for good

London’s biggest theatre festival has announced it’s closing for good

The Vault Festival has announced that it’s closing for good after failing to secure the funding needed to relocate to a new site. Founded in 2012, the sprawling festival took its name from the Waterloo Vaults, an atmospheric warren of old railway arches and tunnels underneath Waterloo station. It rapidly established itself as London’s biggest and most eclectic festival of theatre, comedy and other performance, with hundreds of shows packed into its subterranean nooks and crannies from January to March every year. Many big names got an early break there – it’s where Liz Kingsman’s huge smash ‘One-Woman Show’ premiered. However, Vault struggled to bounce back from the pandemic, with the 2022 edition cancelled at relatively short notice. It returned for 2023, but was hit by the hammer blow of being turfed out of the Vaults, which are being redeveloped to more commercial ends. It was announced that a new permanent home and headquarters had been found for the festival in SE1, but this would have required significant investment, and sadly that investment has not materialised. As such Vault would appear to be ending for good, with all future activity scrapped, significant layoffs, and refunds promised to everyone who contributed to a pre-Christmas funding drive. It’s a sad end to a mercurial and invigorating festival that was at one point talked up as London’s answer to the Edinburgh Fringe. The closure sounds pretty final, but Vault Festival without the Waterloo Vaults perhaps alwa

The nominations for London’s biggest theatre awards show are out

The nominations for London’s biggest theatre awards show are out

The nominations are out for this year’s Olivier Awards, aka London’s biggest annual theatre awards ceremony. It had been predicted all year and thus it came to pass, but the big clash is between Jamie Lloyd’s Nicole Scherzinger-starring revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘Sunset Boulevard’ and the Bridge Theatre’s immersive production of ‘Guys & Dolls’ – Time Out’s top two London theatre shows of last year. ‘Sunset Boulevard’ does lead the pack with 11 nominations to nine for ‘Guys & Dolls’, but it is worth saying that the fact ‘G&D’ director Nicholas Hytner didn’t get nominated for best director is a complete and utter travesty. However, it’s far from a two-horse race. The National Theatre’s hugely entertaining, James Graham-penned Gareth Southgate drama ‘Dear England’ came romping home with nine nominations – which is a huge amount for a non-musical – while plucky musical ‘Operation Mincemeat’ capped a years-long journey from the fringe to the West End by netting six nominations (and you have to think it has a fair chance of taking the prestigious best new musical award, where it’s not in conflict with ‘Sunset Boulevard’ or ‘Guys & Dolls’). Those four shows do hoover up an awful lot of the nominations, though the National Theatre has had a good year of it generally with 15 nomination in total (nine from ‘Dear England’ plus noms for ‘The Motive And The Cue’, ‘Till The Stars Come Down’ and ‘The Effect’). As is the way these days, the acting awards are full of famous names whose

Royal Court Theatre season: Nicholas Hytner and Katie Mitchell are the big names in David Byrne’s first season

Royal Court Theatre season: Nicholas Hytner and Katie Mitchell are the big names in David Byrne’s first season

Would it be melodramatic to say this is the most important Royal Court season in decades? Possibly. But the Sloane Square new writing powerhouse has had a difficult few years since the pandemic, with reports of financial difficulties, a string of critical flops, and public criticism from playwrights over its lack of communication with writers.  Incoming artistic director David Byrne – no, not the Talking Heads guy – therefore needs to both turn in a season of exciting new writing that shows the Court is still relevant, while also programming plays that look like hits. If not West End transfer smashes then at least getting bums on seats in the larger Downstairs theatre. And it looks very much like he’s done that, with a season he’s summed up as ‘maximum adventure’. To address the big stuff first, the first Downstairs show will be ‘Bluets’ (May 17-Jun 29), the legendary avant-garde director Katie Mitchell’s adaptation of Maggie Nelson’s meditation on loss, grief and the colour blue (previously staged in Germany, this English version has text by rising star Margaret Perry). While undoubtedly pretty leftfield, Mitchell is a huge name in hipster theatre circles, and if that wasn’t enough, she’s brought along Paddington himself Ben Whishaw to co-star. In the summer it’ll play host to the short run of ‘ECHO (Every Cold Hearted Oxygen)’ (Jul 13-27), a new play from provocative Iranian exile Nassim Soleimanpour that’s part of the LIFT festival. And then in the autumn comes the biggest