FringeReview UK 2017
Tim Key, Paul Ritter and Rufus Sewell dazzle in this Old Vic revival of ‘Art’ directed by Matthew Warchus. Reza joked of her Olivier Comedy award: ‘I’m surprised, I thought I’d written a tragedy’ and this visceral but almost (dare one say, given the subject) cubist probing of the hairline crack between the two both affirms and denies Reza’s claim she’s not a cerebral writer. She asks dangerous questions of just what the ‘art’ of friendship consists of, and why.
Definitely worth seeing if you don’t know the story, and want to experience this live. We should hail Rendell adaptations, as thrillers with depth with much to say socially about the damaged and easily-damned, brooding on injustices.
Sam Shepard declared that the wrong play got the Pulitzer. Buried Child was he felt crude by comparison with the later 1985 A Lie of the Mind. It joins the other meta-myths of America in the chopped sentences of demented individuals we see too much of. The extraordinary convergence of the ending seems not quaint and outdated but prescient again.
Starring Ben Whishaw as rocket-billionaire-turned-visionary Luke, Christopher Shinn’s Against furnishes a brave sad update to Simon and Garfunkel’s 1960s refrain: They’ve All Come to Look for America. Luke looks for answers in the heart of violence. The ballad of Luke and helpmeet Sheila though haunts its refrain.
Victoria Hamilton dominates, but Albion’s a fine ensemble piece. Goold has given Albion the air it needs, and it breathes back: chilly, autumnal, an unsettling parable on forcing an identity of ourselves.
Carol Harrison’s written the band proud and plangent; her split hero strategies work to make this one of the best possible storylines of a British band, given hell-bent Marriott burning his talent at both ends, just like the decade.
Of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ brilliance there’s no doubt whatsoever. With such a wonderful cast led by the stunning Nwosu this makes the most persuasive and certainly comical case for a re-fashioning that’s now (almost) the only way we can look at the Boucicault original of this play.
Seeing Part Two reinforces the impression that in its virtues and a few vices, there’s nothing like this in theatre. An epic conveying a generational anger undergoing criminal abandonment, it blazons all corners of a nation. And the almost national multitude of cast and creatives Marianne Elliott’s assembled stands proud in this, almost beyond praise.
Marianne Elliott with her superb cast and ramped-up effects towards the end ensure this episodic freewheeling fantasia hooks you compulsively, beating you over the head with angels’ wings as Part One shuts them hypnotically and we’re suspended.
This is above all Josette Simon’s play as Cleopatra, with Antony Byrne nobly matching her by the hilt of something at least. Even at a late stage, Shakespeare dissolves all our previous assumptions. This production allows us to see them plain. It’s worth the illumination.
Barber Shop Chronicles is a breath-taking revelation for those of us who had small inkling of a world in miniature. The act of barbering is more than an exchange of service with fringe benefits: it’s a profound act of human adjustment, including that vital glance in the mirror.
Beginning is the kind of play we all know we need: wincingly heartwarming, devastatingly joyous. It’s quite wonderful. Don’t miss it.
Nine stories about our deepest desires
There’s no swift way to convey duende, the spirit of flamenco, passion and tragedy so unrelentingly – and there’s not a hint of comedy here, no shading to hide in. This hugely challenging drama stamps out its soul in this courageous, literally no-prisoners production.
Franzmann’s intellectual clarity and tropes in this production are crystalline: just like the circular window as a womb showing the surrogate’s womb and embryo. For clarity and suggestive obliquity – language as mis-communicator – it’s an exemplary play ranging beyond the scope of most surrogacy dramas into the dark heart of desires becoming nearly ruthless, and those on both side of the exploitative border of becoming human.
Do see this, a magnificent and largely successful attempt to revive History plays, with an energy and on occasion subtlety that with justice should bring us more large-scale Tristan Bernays.
D C Moore’s Common set in 1809 twists language in a collision of cultures as landed land-grabbers of Enclosure expel the last gleaners from common land. Comedy radiates from Anne-Marie Duff’s downright siren Mary. A sexier Mother Courage crossed with Churchill’s protean fairy Skriker, she’s plausible without magic. Common will continue to gnarl and root beyond its run. It’ll be well worth seeing how it ages.
Raine balances articulate ferocity with its opposite: a broken plea. Exceptionally well-written Consent’s clean logic and logic-chopping with consequences, amplified with a pinch of myth, indeed poltergeists, might well become a small classic.
It’s a Coriolanus memorable for its patient elaboration of the political as well as personal forces the central character’s torn apart by, and an active interrogation of the nature of democracy. We’re left with a broken Coriolanus between the twin pillars of what he loves most.
The clarity and truth Jonathan O’Boyle and his cast bring to this tricky, infinitely moving and sometimes maddening play, couldn’t be bettered. It’s a magically sad examining of how we limit ourselves, shutting off the forest of possibilities. Quite outstanding.
Levin’s fiendish cleverness tightropes between real thriller and comedy. Paul Bradley’s a tour-de-force of jocular unpleasantness. Beverley Klein’s turn as psychic ten Dorp steals the show and wraps it in nebulous wails of ‘danger’. The production’s a triumph of tone too. Be very – entertained.
Don David Tennant’s priapic thrusts might rise above the title but of course he’s in the classic armour (aka condoms) of two guvnors, Moliere and updater Patrick Marber; it’s exhilarating. This is one play you must see, so transcendent in its theme it asks you the same questions.
It’s back again. Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran’s nine-year dream Dreamboats and Petticoats returns to Theatre Royal, Brighton with a cast and creatives deserving high praise for creating the lightest touch out of slight narrative. Those who’ve seen it should start marvelling at the musicianship, and those who haven’t will increasingly join in.
This production of the 1987 small classic full of wondrous pathos furnishes theatre gold, as Griffiths’ tenderness and Phillips’ motions of trust produce a riveting diminuendo. It’s the version to see.
Sizzling standout revival of Berkoff's first play, revived.
Escaped Alone frames four women chatting in deckchairs in this everyday talk of tea and catastrophe - just as one of them steps into the void to prophesy a smorgasbord of Armageddons. The protean Churchill touches yet another dimension too. Do we have to wait to her eightieth in 2018 to proclaim her our greatest living playwright?
Evans allows this musical theatre to breathe on his own big-hearted terms whilst allowing the bones to show, as it does with a breath-taking diminuendo that seems to raise and settle the dust of emigration as we watch. For sheer penetration, heart and balance it’s as definitive as we’re likely to see for many years.
It took a visit into past and pastiche to propel Sondheim’s language into a modernity no-one foresaw. This is the finest realisation of this Janus-faced masterpiece, ringing with towering performances: Staunton, Bennett, Dee, Quast and Forbes simply at the head. This must be the definitive production.
Alan Bennett’s 1968 debut play Forty Years On is a Janus-faced cavalcade pretending it’s a school pageant. This production emphasizes nostalgia ahead of satire. Here the school pageant almost takes over. It’s a fine unbalancing edging us back from 1968 since we’re rather more regressive than perhaps we like to admit. This is brave, inclusive, slightly fudged, and symptomatic of our times. Forty Years On might yet transcend them.
A finely-balanced play, not on the issues, which Beaton takes as open-and-closed. But in shading the opposition to Anne Reid’s reluctant campaigner Beaton shows warmth, humour and touches of compassion. Anne Reid comprises dignity and resolute panache in equal measure. James Bolam, apparently a beat behind, charms and rivets attention by turns. Harry Hadden-Paton’s PR Joe is a magnificent, unrepentant performance of sheer nastiness and Michael Simkins’ hapless oilman surprisingly sympathetic. A play that sharpens our tools for thinking and falling about with blunt laughter.
A first-rate revival of perhaps the classic stage thriller. Young and Blackledge bring fine characterful energy to their roles, as does Anderson, but the evening belongs to the range Tointon brings to her psycho-Cindarella role, and the gravelly improbable Prince Charming ‘old enough to be your grandfather’ Keith Allen. Banks’ pace never slackens: everyone’s given enough rope at the end to manage anything.
This Hamlet shouldn’t be remembered just for Scott’s improvisatory humanity, though that’s key to what follows. This work emerges infused with family tragedy, intimate disquiet and treachery slant.
Ayckbourn’s genius shows how literally times are changing in this early masterpiece portraying a sexual liberation more pervasive than the noisier one raging all around 1969: it shows how far the revolutions has as it were penetrated. Strachan’s brilliance is so complete, so identified with this particular play, you forget how superbly founded it is.
James Graham’s Ink persuades us of the combustion following a challenge to a cornered editor with everything to lose; and the irony of the most ruthless media operator in living memory given a desperate, humbling masterclass. In their friction it’s not only the Sun that bonfires every liberal vanity, but our naked selves.
This masterly ensemble piece affirms relativity as a human agency, for which physics provides analogues but no solutions. Insignificance will be signifying for a long half-life, and this pacey production ensures its probing at fragility won’t be lost in brilliant collisions.
What’s so distinctive in Torben Betts is his misleading us into an almost farcical comedy that turns darker. Just as stereotypes settle, plots unravel them. The climax is devastating, not explosively but in revelatory shudders. A fine unexpectedness marks both this superb play and outstandingly-acted revival.
It’s what you’d not expect that thrusts this version before anything else you’ll imagine before hurrying back to the novel. An extraordinary exhausting ultimately incandescent in all senses version of this classic.
Andrew Jackson’s backgrounding of current events in his production is shrewd: by suggesting film-sets with subtle obliquity he backs us into the glare of a Trump stadium, those overarching lights playing on all of us. It’s a superb conception, in some respects outstanding; in one, definitive.
Gary Owen’s known for snagging at those twists fathers transmit to sons: more screw-up than helix. In this raw three-hander Killology’s a virtual game where you score points for creatively torturing those you’re about to kill. The snag: you suffer moral consequences. Sean Gleeson’s lean hungry voice saws into hurt with a rasp of desolation. Richard Mylan exudes the sociopathic svelte of privilege. Dave’s narrative which bifurcates in Sion Daniel Young’s consummate yawp.
A play easily moving to classic status, this production supremely re-affirms its poetic ambivalence, opening up more than itself, even the play’s medieval setting. It persuades of a world crookedly trekking straight towards us.
La Cage aux Folles one might say comes home to Brighton’s Theatre Royal in this revival by Bill Kenwright Productions directed by Martin Connor. There’s no mystery why Brighton gets two weeks of this.
Amanda Whittington’s feelgood Ladies' Day finds Seaford Little on fine turf. Wright and James particularly together are a delight, and Faulkner’s pitch-perfect Donegal Patrick not only brings the whiff of paddock and angst but allows Forshaw to glint, contrasting her well-founded characterisation. Picott paces a sterling production from a small house, with moments of brilliance.
Thrilling, especially Brendan Cowell in the lead role. It’s unlikely we’ll see another Life of Galileo with the scale and reach of this for a long time, though perhaps for no better reason than we’re almost alienated from Brecht at a time when at least looking up and asking questions is what keeps us on our toes, when people talk of strong leaders.
How do you tell if you’re starting afresh or writing a longer suicide note than Labour’s 1983 manifesto? Even if he can’t nail the specifics of the volte-face, Waters comes tantalisingly close to defining such a political moment in this short drama of the founding of the SDP. With acting as superb indeed commanding as this, it’s a privilege to come away watery-eyed from raw leeks.
Claire McIntyre’s Low Level Panic might seem a slight play at seventy-five minutes of apparently low-key plotting and vestigial images, but after thirty years it loses nothing in impact. Time’s conferred both an indictment and uneasy classic status to this masterly first sliver of a much-missed dramatist.
This is outstanding for is peerless characterising of the four legends with their unexpected female singer, the acting of Duncan and above al for the way the structure allows such extraordinary musicianship its head.
Shaw’s 1910 extraordinary Misalliance starts as fizzing drawing-room verbosity and comes to rest only after an aircraft’s crashed in on it, with two aviators – one a feminist acrobat – and a gun-toting clerk pops out of the home’s Turkish bath. Often vintage Shaw, half English drawing-room, half French farce.
Mosquitoes is as ever with Kirkwood hugely ambitious, says far more about emotion than its dazzling light-lectures, and humanizes a whole scientific race in depth. Colman and Williams provide a mesmerising sister act that others might wish to follow after a suitable interval, and Colman it’s hoped will return to the stage more often now.. Anything Kirkwood does now must be awaited with the same breathlessness that switching on CERN’s collider provides.
Slapstick comedy is difficult to bring off, even more fiendish to write. Tomlinson’s cast turn in here a performance as fine as anything I’ve seen in Lewes. Most of all, Kelly’s superb play in their hands lowers not a tap in one of Franklin’s thermometers to any professional production.
Swale’s unique: she writes a play of feline-scratching wit that’s a feelgood hommage, where intellectual pyrotechnics never feel out of place. We’ve recently enjoyed The Libertine’s brilliantly-lit darkness revived too, and revived Nell Gwynn is the antipode to Jeffreys’ profound masterpiece. Just as clever, as fiendishly witty, Swale’s orange-girl raillery refuses the other’s command to dislike. It ends too, in a startling reality, and tenders a shock.
Richie’s layered and occasionally skewed avuncularity brings a troubled warmth to Grace, a baffled tenderness. Nothing is as it seems and though McKenna has telescoped and altered the ending as such, the plot as presented falls apart in impossibilities. James is praised for exceptional plotting and vital elements – perhaps mere moments - are missing. It makes for a thrilling if improbably ending.
Oslo is the kind of recent-history thriller to place with Michael Frayn’s Democracy, the riven vagaries of Copenhagen, or more distantly, of a scope not so far removed from Rona Munro’s James Plays trilogy. You’ll soon see why it won a Tony.
If we’re impressed with overwrought maleness then finally it’s the women who impress most, who render service to a tragedy mired in the perennial soldier’s fear: betrayal.. Invigorating, and a future mine to other productions, this Othello opens a trap door.
Out of Order is a superbly revised first-rank farce with not a weak link, furiously paced featuring perhaps the only time the window (in person?) gets a curtain call.
It’s perhaps no coincidence both Queen Anne and the Almeida’s Mary Stuart should be revived simultaneously. You have to go back to Schiller to find such a historic power struggle between two women on stage. This small miracle of historic compression and power-play reaches a dramatic conclusion worthy of someone fatter than the maligned Anne. Her voice is her journey, worthy of attendance.
Sad prostitute meets superannuated virgin in 1962. A fine thoughtful and very welcome revival, with Leah Mooney and Des Potton bravely baring all their vulnerabilities at the least.
An exemplary revival of Jim Cartwright’s Road, with uniformly memorable performances. Michelle Fairley (particularly) Mark Hadfield and June Watson with Lemm Sissay enjoy one or several memorable parts, Shane Zaza’s and Fay Marsay’s long duetting is the most riveting scene. Cartwright refuses to judge directly, though his obliquity writes deprivation and abandonment in invisible ink that won’t fade.
Daniel Radcliffe’s Rosencrantz is the box-office draw, all bemusement, beautifully drawn out in a hollow-cheeked slow horror of his lot. But it’s as Guildenstern that Joshua McGuire’s sashay from affront to despair through bemusement encompasses the open-mouth ‘lads’ Hamlet greets both with. And David Haig’s Player knowing he’s the opposite of a person insulates his reflective volatility from extinction. On the fiftieth anniversary of its Old Vic debut, Stoppard’s early masterpiece still startles in such a first-rate revival, protesting life to the black-out.
Sam Holcroft modestly demurs her comedy Rules for Living is truly Ayckbournesque: she merely aspires to master some of his technique. It’s Season’s Greetings designed for robots. It’s a variation worth nailing though, not least because it interrogates a therapy many believe works.
This is an unsettling, unsettled play. Creating its own world, it asks something of substance no-one else is quite doing – not even Rory Mullarkey previously in The Wolf From the Door. His adaptation of the Oresteia for the Globe has after all come between. It’ll be intriguing to see where this big-boned, big-themed dramatist will venture next.
Rourke directs a wonderfully lean vehicle for Shavian dialectic as furious power-play. Aterteron bestrides the board table as a scruffy colossus who brings it values to collapse all shares in any market. She has to burn. It’s something we need reminding of.
Here’s a great divider of critical heads. Yael Farber who made a great impact last year directing Lorraine Hanbury’s Les Blancs returns with her own Salomé at the Olivier. Anyone who saw the Hanbury will recognize the ritualistic use Farber makes of the Olivier, though Susan Hilferty’s set is stripped for swoops of spectacle.
Sand in the Sandwiches is a haunting study, given stature by Edward Fox’s conjuration of an erotically disturbed gentility mocking itself. It reminds us, now Betjeman’s faded from aural as well as visual memory, what he was, what he might yet become.
Prenger’s brought depth, perfect timing and the art of the comic pause. Above all her orchestration of risk, raunch and recovery comes like a peroration, an enormous yes as someone over in Hull once said. Launched into comic stardom beyond her singing roles, Prenger like Shirley Valentine is ready for anything now.
What Yellow Earth manage so well is to forge a contemporary life for Tamburlaine. Stylised, stylish and sassy in the best sense, this touring production make Tamburlaine accessible. With caveats noted, it renders the first early modern English language play the greatest service: a horrible relevance.
Quilter’s best known for Glorious! and End of the Rainbow. His output’s devoted to theatrical experience; his obsession’s fed into performative actors, mainly women. Quilter doesn’t allow obvious endings, or neat ones in this touchingly funny homage to theatrical living. This production does as much for The Actress as any revival anywhere.
It’s a cruel joke Vidal died shortly before the era of Trump. How cruelly he’d have joked about it. But we have this classic political thriller. It’ll last, horribly.
The Buddy Holly Story is a superb show, the fast-track to know Buddy Holly’s world with storyline and songs that influenced and were influenced in turn. Alex Fobbester’s Buddy Holly inhabits his role with verve and heart-stopping sensitivity. There’s room to craft an even more compelling story, but as a show its generosity good-humoured inclusiveness proves irresistible.
A joyful sadness more nearly than most strikes the balance Chekhov mockingly prescribes in The Cherry Orchard: a comedy, grasping a clutch of infernos. Jade Wlliams’ grief-clenched crumpling as Varya perhaps steals the show but Simon Scardfield’s misery-infused Epikhodov, Abhin Galeya’s weedily gauche Trofimov and Sian Thomas’s giddy Ranevsky round out a memorable whirligig of a production.
This masterpiece of courageous refusal gets one of its finest performances in recent memory. Proctor’s decision and Slattery’s delivery of his great lines: ‘Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life!’ rings down this supreme testament to honesty – to bear false witness and incriminate others to save oneself - in the face of tyranny. Slattery defines this role in a way very few have; his energy radiates through a superbly lucid, passionately argued production.
Pat Boxall paces this production with the pause and sudden rush Rattigan often asks for. Emmie Spencer’s subtle anguish as Hester carries the arc of this production superbly; with the twist of a half-smile she makes Hester vulnerable, indeed loveable, less heroine, more human. Happily her consummate Hester is answered here: in the scale of production, in Jeremy Crow’s empathic, passionate plea for life as Miller; and a host of supporting foils from cast members.
A fine curtain-raiser to a year of Massinger, a later Jacobean whose career took a while to fly, was always poor and eleven of whose plays ended as pie-liners. There’s fifteen solo-authored and many collaborations to discover, several in this year’s RND. Frances Marshall ensures a superbly spirited ensemble piece, with apposite small props and a freshness you can smell. Though three hours with a break this never once even falters; it’s as realized a performance as you could ever wish, touched with scenic brilliance.
Butterworth’s masterpiece The Ferryman rightly draws comparison with Sean O’Casey, for one, Conor McPherson and Brendan Behan’s The Hostage. It’s a homage taken boldly by a mainland British dramatist who stands in this play worthy of comparison with any of them.
Led by Cherry Jones and Michael Esper, Williams’ fresh map of hopeless chances freshly realized, in a revival whose pitch is as perfect as the flowers picked off Amanda’s mouldy dress.
Ian Rickson more than revives Edward Albee’s 2002 masterpiece The Goat, at the Haymarket. What emerges in one hundred-odd minutes is a deadly tread of Greek tragedy, pitched in a slow build punctuated by the shattering of plates.
Mid-period Pinter’s almost superseding the early ground-breaking works in popularity, and for good reason. Along with the later Old Times and No Man’s Land, The Homecoming’s recently been revived and re-appraised. Culann Smyth’s interaction with John Tolputt fascinates; and Smyth’s terrors jump out with reality. O’Shea has paced this with a tread that we follow down to the last triangle of light. A superb revival.
David Ahmad’s anchoring central performance is enhanced by Jo Ben Ayed’s physical one. Theirs is a remarkable chemistry, radially informed by Doorgasingh and Faroque Khan’s reactions. It’s a potent, heartwarming and heartrending story, spellbindingly translated to the stage and here with more power even than before. Don’t miss it.
Happy endings don’t seek the sun, though it helps. This production’s memorable not just for the matching of locale and rationale with the original, but gently aligning the two other couples into the clearer optimism of the married couple. If not all the misty tension of the original emerges, there’s certainly something to be said for allowing such light to brighten the facets of this one jewel of affirmation in Ibsen’s mature output.
Dorothea Myer-Bennett is simply outstanding in her unravelment from uffishness as the heroine Sylvia, to a self-discovering naked passion prepared to offer anything. That’s the essence of a playwright too-little seen who’s provoked the most blissful comedic production this spring affords. Outstanding in nearly every way, it’s another gem from Richmond’s Orange Tree.
Gorky’s 1902 The Lower Depths is a vividly long evening, and holds the attention, but a huge challenge to pull into the shaggy shabby masterpiece it is. We emerge drier-eyed from this production, but it’s a bracing winter play, and all too grimly calls us out to act. It’s a seminal drama too, rarely seen, making this an essential pilgramage.
If Rob Drummond’s /Bullet Catch/ charmed and alarmed at NT’s The Shed and Brighton Festival in 2013, here Drummond starts his odyssey of political immersion in a prison cell; for throwing a punch at a neo-Nazi. Opening three days after the Charlottesville murder, the timing’s eerily prescient and more charged than even Drummond might have imagined.
There’s a current trend in American playwrighting, post-Mamet, that favours hyper-naturalism. David Storey though got there before anyone, in this and other plays. Storey has much to tell us of distress and how it’s denied, displaced, coped with. He’s got as much to say about the slag-heaps of social history too, and refuses the obvious. It’s time he was more thoroughly revived. We need more of this.
This Mikado not only redefines but rescues the operetta from an edgy oblivion, where we could never lose the melodies, yet increasingly hesitate to stage the work. It’s back.
The famous adage of farce as tragedy played at breakneck speed begs questions of how much pathos Moliere wished to inject, how fast he wanted to go in The Miser. All teeters towards the tragedy of the absurd. This may not be 1668 very exactly, but it’s the nearest to one side of Moliere we’ve seen for years, and conveys something of the shock of his new.
The play really is worth seeing, a credit to Trafalgar Studio’s courage in continually taking risks – ironically with an established drawing-room comedy.
It was the third and last act mingling high farce and near-tragedy as it does, that pitches this part of the already superb performance to outstanding by any standard. The legendary production by Druid Theatre Galway in 2009 came to mind. This part of the night is on a par with it. There can be no higher praise.
To luxuriate in a witty play with valiant emotional gambits, you’ll have to see The Real Thing for yourself. Fox bestrides this production like a hopeful monster who’s got lucky. He’s irresistible, and especially in the second half, enjoys the support of an energised cast. Do see this.
Lenny Henry’s magnificent, physically menacing deserves his place alongside Henry Goodman’s at least. If the cabaret and audience-rich production mightn’t replicate that production’s chill, it’s of its time, serves as a timely marker of a new nadir of western degradation. That gives it permanent Brechtian relevance.
In one of the most radical productions ever mounted of Aeschylus indeed any Greek tragedy we’re literally taken to its roots: as in Greece, a community chorus of fifty, twenty-one of them the suppliant women of the play’s title. In this outstanding production, everything to resurrect this astonishing vision has been invoked.
You won’t forget the spectacle. But it’s the lonely spectators of their own powers that’ll beat on your mind. Gregory Doran’s RSC production realizes that more fully than ever before. Simon Russell Beale’s riven letting-go of a man’s potency relinquished along with his moral son sounds deeper plummets still.
Aisling Loftus’ Anne has chosen to have her experiences dramatized, to become a commodity of herself. She’s in flight. It’s the way Anne’s airbrushed out of her own story but also out of her life before this concludes, disappearing because the story’s more real than Anne is, that carries such a deadly sting nearly a quarter of a century later.
I’d like to see a more thorough-going homage to Serling’s work in particular and it’s good he’s at least well-represented here. His acute questioning, exploration of a more human agency and refusal to play too much with inexplicable spectacle marks him out as a more earthy but far more imaginative writer too. His stories are still absolutely contemporary ones: the others have dated as the future often does.
This is an outstandingly-conceived show, generous to cast and audience alike, superbly choreographed and performed in what might seem challenging spaces. The last blast of summer’s breath: enjoy.
The gender-slashing part of Vittoria demands venom and defiance as well as passion in verse. Joseph Timms and Kate Stanley-Brennan as Vittoria shine delivering Webster’s verse, pointing up with defiant splendor or self-delighting braggadocio tinged with Trainspotting. Ryan’s pacey revival is timely, thrusting us to Webster’s sadly timeless themes. But misogyny’s purged of its merely temporal strut with the force of such verse inhabited, which lays its living sinew bare.
A necessary piece of theatre, the band are superb; a couple of numbers will take residence in your ear. Theatrically it’s almost achieved too, and if it feels slightly clunky it’s that the brilliant conceit of political trickery can’t be sustained over the sombre facts the second act introduces us to. The end’s overwhelming. Two audience members sat quietly weeping together and could not move for minutes after. Others sat stunned.
Plews and Wicks have created a musical powerhouse literally all-singing and dancing, of the highest West End standards. The quintet – and they blend magnetically together – of Clifton, Barrett, Rush, Glover and McDuff have stamped character and stomped bliss on this musical.
The nadir in this ‘wilderness of tigers’ of late Rome is laughter. It’s devastating. Tears can’t express it any more. The production restores the centrality of Titus’ and Lavinia’s suffering against a moral and military decay about to sweep a ruined country. It’s a land where decent military advisors can no longer operate. We don’t need to look far for parallels in a world where this drama’s unpredictability seems everyday news. A Titus for our times, yes but this Titus fits all times, and restores the terrible to stare back at us. It’s what we hope to avoid, which makes it essential.
Together with textual revisions making this a newly-definitive production, with the cast re-moulding it and above all Hollander’s superbly faltering diffidence, this is the outstanding revival of a play in the West End this season.
Tamsin Greig’s extremes as Malvolia mark the first intimations of the terrible and define this production The only caveat with this predominantly youthful cast is that January’s chilly ivy hasn’t pricked more fingers. But the ground’s shifted.
Lindsey Ferrentino’s 2015 play Ugly Lies the Bone confronts three issues in one. PTSD and military women power many debates, as does virtual reality therapy. The play’s double thread means fruitful collisions in this open-ended approach suggest a scope that can’t be worked out in either. Despite slightly pat consolations, this drama that readily breaks out of those intentions. Fleetwood’s on stage virtually as it were the whole time, overwhelming in her shuddery defiance.
This eco-warning musical can hardly be billed as feel-good but the music is. Mark Hollmann’s music and lyrics are as fresh as they were in 2001, and Greg Kotis’ book and lyrics are sadly prescient. This ambitious professional standard musical is something we almost take for granted with BLT. In festival time, we lose sight of some regular theatre work But this is overall the finest Fringe theatre event I’ve seen so far.
This is a stunning production, developed much like an opera, musical in its scoring of how two people torture each other with devastating, often destructive love. Imelda Staunton as Martha might be the starriest name in this stunning revival of Edward Albee’s 1962 Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf directed by James MacDonald; but she’s matched by Conleth Hill’s George and given exemplary support by Luke Treadaway as biologist Nick and Imogen Poots – in her particularly ungrateful role as his hapless wife Honey.
Winter Solstice, Schimmelpfennig’s apparently naturalistic fable is more than timely. As a dead-of-winter warning, it urges us to recalibrate, rewind our imaginations to the point where we might stop the tide of reasonable boundaries tightening into a noose.
Erin Doherty gives a quite brilliant portrayal of someone rendered nearly voiceless who on occasion has to find a desperate authority and at other moments, aspire. Rarely have the terrible antimonies of work and benefits system been so precisely notated, and never the combined effect calibrated to crush out young lives so mapped. It’s an essential play that charts the betrayal of a generation.
Some fine and one excellent performance in this Lewes Little production of Woman in Mind – Ayckbourn being a house speciality. Despite the occasional lack of shadows, there’s much to bask in and it’s more than worth seeing this production if you don’t know the play, or refreshing your memory if you do.
The ingredients are there: it’s a magical idea, and just needs a quieter rationale and – to make it a great show - a few more memorable numbers. But if you care for musicals, see it for an outstanding clutch of performers and a dream of something perennial.
Boyega might be the key but Greene too takes on a centrality Marie’s never enjoyed before; the only pity is that this adaptation ducks adultery, making her too decent when the original Marie’s just trying to snatch a better life and a little joy. Still caveats aside, this is an interpretative milestone paving the way for even more fearless versions.
It was a canny idea to kick off the first commercial theatre venture in years with a new comedy by the Marx Brothers – albeit set in 1850, and by a zany ancestor of Groucho’s band. Rory Kinnear’s Karl Marx is a gloriously edged reading of selfishness and fundamental idealism sitting uneasily with insensitivity