FringeReview UK 2023
“Death is the most natural thing in the world.” Not to five—year-old Gracie, whose life of resistance as Gracie, Grace but mostly Graciela Jacob Marx Rice traces in A Brief List of Everyone Who Died. Yet again Finborough have mounted – and nurtured – a first-class work miles from larger fare that fades. Do rush to see it.
Enough questions with the child, cruelty and othering, to raise questions that don’t dissolve in a dream. Yet there’s light enough to resolve this too. A warmth between the lovers somehow drags us out from the mask of branches Terry revealingly doffs at the end. Absorbing and a must-see.
This is a far more ambitious work than Sam Holcroft’s Rules For Living, and grounded in things she’s wished to write for a decade. It’s ingenious, necessary and occasionally at the end needs a tweak more to land. It’s still unmissable.
The adage that farce is tragedy speeded up met its greatest progenitor in Dario Fo. In a ferocious new version by Tom Basden of Franca Rame’s and Fo’s Accidental Death of an Anarchist, directed by Daniel Raggett in a stunning production now at the Haymarket, the target here is squarely the London Met. And if you slowed down Basden’s brilliant, no-holds-unbludgeoned telling, details prove tragic enough.
It’s the trio of cousins and lover who ensure this production enjoys its fathoms-deep in love. An As You Like It with an inviting new prologue by Travis Alabanza, underscoring the forest’s healing as well as magical inversions; but shorn of its Epilogue. When you see how that Epilogue’s so rich in queerness and transgression it seems an own goal to the fluffier part of this production’s vibes.
Fringe-historical gold, which means very good indeed. It doesn’t mean Copenhagen, with Frayn’s subtle collisions and collusions. It’s a different, desperately joyous animal that signs its truth and shames the world.
A flawless cast and creative team gather to a point in Josie Rourke’s often meticulously faithful revival, and disperse. This is the only play this year I’d willingly see again soon. Outstanding.
There’s a sacramental thrill as you enter the NT’s Olivier: both sci-fi and ancient Greek. James Graham Dear England, directed by Rupert Goold, is like that: tackling something seen as almost too sacred, at once transcendent for many; but so impacted by nationalist hubris it’s become sclerotic. We enter the game at a historically pivotal moment. Where English football will never be the same. Outstanding.
Kempinski has crafted an enduring drama of what it’s like to lose the joy of a life worth living.
This is certainly the best attempt yet to revive this musical with a new accent, and the way to see this musical. With such a company, see it anyway. It’ll prod you with questions and send you singing for answers.
Emma Hamilton, mother and ward. Expect spats. Nine months since her National Theatre Kerry Jackson opened, April de Angelis arrives at Jermyn Street with the three-hander Infamous, directed by Michael Oakley, till October 7th. Even though the earlier play was staged in the smaller Dorfman, Infamous is chamber music by comparison. As in Kerry Jackson, De Angelis avoids tragedy where it clearly offers itself. The final two scenes though offer more; it’s piquant, momentarily uplifting, a little sad. And dramatically right it’s expressed in dance.
The strangeness of this Macbeth wraps in those three Witches/Murderers plus Seyton, slowly perambulating their trolleys around. The eerie, in Schmool’s sustained chords, remains. The horror, elsewhere.
Mates in Chelsea is definitely worth seeing, and apart from adaptations surely the best thing this writer’s produced in a decade. Royal Court Theatre
This compact one hour 45 show must run again. The most inventive, best-written and possibly best-sung panto in Town.
Musically directed by Ellie Verkerk the six-strong cast play instruments throughout. They’re a phenomenal team, singing beautifully a capella or in solo. With six young actors mostly fresh out of drama school absolutely at the top of their first game, we’re treated to acting both hungry to prove and yet touched by the world they’ve entered. This is an outstanding production.
A mesmerising play, one that won’t fade and whose topicality will only reverberate more. The dialogue’s consummate and touching, the gradual reveals of blindness – and blandness - to racism on a memory-trip with a disastrous family album, releases a slow detonation of all that’s wrong still. One of my comedies of the year. Pretty outstanding.
Tom Littler’s team reveal rare mettle and sincerity in a classic that can take some (if not all) updating. The 1930s must prove the very limits of belief in such class confusion, but this triumphs with the snap of a cracker, or (as here) the smash of Wedgwood. Outstanding.
It’ll remain one of the break-out, breakthrough, certainly ground-breaking shows this year.
An important work, not just for historical reasons; you’ll leave cheering.
Essential theatre. Five singer-actors, memorably punchy music, witty and heartbreaking – most of all groundbreaking – storytelling. 90 minutes of this and you’ll know just what to do with the patriarchy.
Wiebke Green possesses the measure and tempo as well as delicacy of Bjorn Vik’s work. An exquisite gem worth seeing more than many larger, longer, louder shows.
This is a top, not just first-rate cast; a riveting, rethought revival. There’s not a weak link - and some vocal surprises. The end is almost unbearably moving. Some still come over mountains as here, some in small boats. You might not feel the same about something you thought you knew. An outstanding revival.
An absorbing play, as breathtaking as one of its surfing epiphanies. The Swell will break over your head. Let it. You’ll come up for air changed. A small masterpiece.
An outstanding must-see, and with Dancing at Lughnasa and, to a lesser extent Watch on the Rhine, The Wind and the Rain is the finest 20th century revival I’ve seen this year.
An enormously satisfying reading that happens to be groundbreaking. It’s Sean Holmes’ finest production yet.
The Book and Lyrics are peerless for this scale, or indeed anywhere: and we can only look forward to much more from Orton and Robyns. This is a heart-rending, heart-warming piece. Laughter certainly, tears, yes those too. The must-see musical of the summer.
One of the Globe’s most lucid recent productions; and the most consistently-realised aesthetic. It knows what it is: a stunningly thought-through, musically inspired production.
There’s no doubt this is an offbeat, brilliant, rude, absolutely necessary musical. Its acid test will come from younger Millennials and Zoomers. But then that’s the point: the winners rewrite history. History has just struck back, and it’s a blast.
Trouble in Butetown deserves many revivals. It’s a theatrical gem
There’s much to learn here, and as theatrical spectacle this is the intimate intimating the epic. Clarisse Makundul has given us a powerful work, and I’d urge you to see it.
Hellman’s uneasy drama, reaching out to our own quandaries, has answers that stay news. A must-see.
An absorbing, layered, superbly entertaining two-and-a-half hours that couldn’t be more relevant. Set against The Motive and the Cue, it also proves how history allows Jack Thorne to be even more versatile than we imagined.
90 minutes of pure wild-ride theatre.