FringeReview UK

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FringeReview UK 2018

Absolute Hell

This can’t be seen as anything less than a triumph of Ackland’s skein of characters caricatures and remarkable vision – which Hill-Gibbins consummately brings off. We’re not used to this scale, perhaps, from this period either. It’ll take some time to settle, and can’t be essayed too often with such a cast. But it is treasurable.


Allelujah!

Bennett’s exhorting us to fight back with laughter and rage in this riveting, timely play. It’s a sad and angry consolation.


All’s Well That Ends Well

This is an All’s Well to believe in, and plucks, just this once, a happiness Helena so richly deserves with a husband who equally doesn’t.


Antony and Cleopatra

Supremely worth it to see these characters weighing equal in their own balance, perhaps for the first time.


Antony and Cleopatra

Supremely worth it to see a pair so famous weighing equal in their own balance, perhaps for the first time.


Aristocrats

Turner terraces a reading of Aristocrats that heightens Friel’s study in dislocation.


As You Like It

A ripping discovery, a spontaneity and transparent skin to the process makes this thrilling. An As You Like It for the moment, certainly. But a moment of change.


Bad Jews

This is a play supremely worth seeing: for its flayed comedy, acerbic wit, farce-dipped dynamics, monster roles, wincing and raw truths. It’s a triumph from all parties in the best NVT American vein. Don’t miss it.


Belleville

Poots and Norton achieve a quivering fright and tenderness that alone make this a must-see. but if a touch incredible in one choice, it shows Herzog’s ability to combine the new post-naturalism with a rare character-driven ride to apotheosis, recalling dramas more ancient and elemental.


Billy Bishop Goes to War

Overall though, it’s those songs.


Brighton Rock

Greene’s original will continue to tease with its unrelieved religious intensity. Otherwise for a secular age this adaptation, and this production, is as good as it gets.


Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

There have been classic accounts to eclipse this production, but Jack O’Connell in particular throbs with a ferocious identification few can have matched. Here too, director Benedict Andrews takes Maggie literally about who’s now the stronger, and Sienna Miller seizes her chance. It’s a riveting conclusion, for the right reasons.


Confidence

This is a must-see in reviving the theatrical profile of a fine dramatist for too long shrouded in the digital of radio and TV when the acoustic world is claiming her back.


Copenhagen

A superb revival that can hardly be bettered, it’s more than enough to persuade us of Copenhagen’s classic status.


Crazy For You

This is a blast of the purest kind. You have to see it. In terms of talent on display worked to a supreme ensemble pitch, this is quite simply the most stunning pure musical I’ve seen this year.


Dance Nation

As an airborne metaphor for how you get to be grown-ups, what it does to you, Dance Nation takes as it were some beating.


Dealing with Clair

Superb and horribly timely, as we crest the next crash.


Dial M for Murder

This production of Dial M for Murder is in the best traditions of the house. A superb entertainment, suavely and consummately executed with some depth, it must feel reassuring to tread in such a solidly realised black and white world.


Dirty Dancing

There’s a fitting heart-warming climax to a dream of production. And a surprise to those who think they know the film.


Doctor Faust

If this Wanamaker is hell, you should queue for two-and-a-half hours of it.


Dust

This is outstanding. See it.


Emilia

This is a necessary, thrilling play, its energy and message spill straight into the audience.


Evita

Evita lives.


Exit the King

We need such risk-taking theatre back. This outstanding production of Exit the King might just remind us how to get it.


Eyam

A ringing, tolling end to a pioneering season. This play must have a life – and already possesses a miraculous importunity.


Fame

Excellent feelgood musical though there’s superabundant dance content.


Flashdance

It’s Joanne Clifton’s night. She lives Alex, dangerously pushing every routine with an extravagance, a hunger, sexiness and raw power that makes it one of the most memorable dance performances in a musical I’ve ever seen.


Hamlet

In Michelle Terry’s quicksilver, quick-quipping Hamlet, much has been proved, from interpretive to gender fluidity in tragic action, that sets a privilege on being in at a beginning.


Home, I’m Darling

It’s a moment when rejoicing to concur with the general public, as Samuel Johnson once did over Gray’s Elegy, is the only thing to do.


Humble Boy

Jones really deserves her place in the forefront of contemporary dramatists. Humble Boy confirms its own place, pivotal to he oeuvre which has grown more robustly and cleverly than the thematic flora or indeed bees that ululate to the end.


Iolanthe

You’ll have to see this if you care for music theatre at all. it’s unmissable.


I’m Not Running

Compelling dissection of what hampers the mindset of our main progressive party.


John

After Annie Baker’s outstanding The Flick in 2016 also in the Dorfman, her 2015 play John written two years later, has raised expectations that punch the roof of this intimate space. Whatever the premise, her priorities remain: the aching possibility of love in bleak solitudes inside or out, of healing, of forgiveness for the past, recent or historic.


Julie

A revelatory Julie for our time.


Julius Caesar

Together with several definitive and newly-founded interpretations, it’s Hytner’s lithe political thriller that emerges by contrast as a physical assault on the senses. From out of the smoke and flashes of this outstanding production, there’s jumpings-on and off as participants run up from all sides and even jostle people out of the way.


Jumpy

You begin to wonder how life, not the playwright, will treat these playhouse creatures. De Angelis has hit a true vein. You must see this delirious state-of-the-pause play.


King Charles III

This is an outstanding production, one of the two or three finest amateur ones I’ve ever seen. It can hold its head amongst consummate professional ones.


Legally Blonde

You must see this. Apart from the heroic production itself, if there’s one outstanding performer it has to be Lucie Jones with Rita Simons’ superb support. Jones' voice is stunning, stratospheric, above all characterful.


Lonely Planet

If you know Angels in America, you’ll be grateful for Dietz’s concentration and economy. Much reckoning is packed into a little room.


Losing Venice

A play we need, and a production that honours it.


Loves-Lies-Bleeding

A slow-burn wonder. We need the Print Room.


Love’s Labour’s Lost

You really should see this.


Macbeth

There’s a visceral intent and bravery, a willingness to tear though every received nostrum, some wild use of the revolve with an admittedly frantic cast trying to catch a magic roundabout, that suggests something magnificent could be made of it all. The rationale’s an urgent one: in a post-Trump post-Brexit post-climate-refugee state we could even be looking at this world soon.


Macbeth

The one to see.


Machinal

Only when we see the best of Sophie Treadwell’s other thirty-eight plays will Machinal’s lonely pinnacle be augmented. This triumphant revival by the Almeida could signal the start. You must see this.


Madagascar The Musical

Highly Recommended for monkeys and lemurs of all ages – quite apart from lions, zebras, hippos and giraffes.


Mayfly

Mayfly’s a play conscious of its deft artistry. Equally though it’s a work that despite its buzzing coincidences never loses the pulse of its profound ache. That’s why it’s so heartbreakingly funny, tender, even affirmative. A superb debut, the first it’s to be hoped of many others here. Joe White’s one to watch, and so is the magnificent Orange Tree, invariably staging a mighty reckoning in a little room.


Measure for Measure

The most thoughtful and thought-provoking recreation of a Shakespeare play this year.


Nine Night

Natasha Gordon emerges as a playwright whose capacity to balance seven characters in profound ambivalence – and shuddering proximity - to each other is both thrilling and wholly assured. Anything Gordon does now must be eagerly anticipated.


Of Mice and Men

This is a first-rate revival. Everything snaps and sings with a lyric devastation that asks with Guthrie just whose land this is, in a year where presidential excesses have seen the US population ask the same question for the first time in generations.


Othello

Othello will never quite seem the same again; that’s an achievement and a marker.


Private Peaceful

This is as good as a one-person show of this kind gets. Andy Daniel should be up there above his own rows of five-star ratings.


Quartet

Like The French Lieutenant’s Woman, there are now two endings to Quartet. You must see this if you know the film only, or care about music, ageing, friendship and achingly lost love.


Richard II

A savage anointing, a revelatory reading.


Rita, Sue and Bob Too

A first-class revival of a timely, still-urgent play, from an untimely-ripped dramatist, this is a must-see for anyone who cares about British drama, British history, and its more thoroughly-beleaguered people.


Rocky Horror Show

The Rocky Horror to see.


Romeo and Juliet

This Romeo and Juliet has all the pace and heart any production, modern-dress or period, demands. Karen Fishwick’s radiant Juliet is the soul that imprints itself on it.


Romeo and Juliet

This Romeo and Juliet has all the pace and heart any production, modern-dress or period, demands. Karen Fishwick’s radiant Juliet is the soul that imprints itself on it.


Salad Days

Don’t miss it.


Son of a Preacher Man

Son of a Preacher man has real potential. It’s easily more than a cut above a jukebox musical, and Revel-Horwood’s work particularly coupled with Herbert’s musical arrangements is exemplary. As is the marvellous and marvellously hard-working ensemble.


Stories

Utterly compelling. Anything Nina Raine writes now is routinely expected to touch greatness. No pressure.


Strangers on a Train

This ATG production should reach anyone who’s curious about Warner’s rather different outcome to the original, which Highsmith herself, writing later, might well have approved of; I prefer it too.


Summer and Smoke

Sometimes it fees as if Williams’ characters can’t breathe without their intrinsically skew-sided unhappiness. Ferran’s Alma though takes on a life that transcends this and makes one wonder again.


Summer Holiday

Stunning Ray Quinn and ensemble work their bobby-socks off with notable support from Rob Wicks and his band. Give No. 9 a proper MOT and it’ll strike gold too.


The Cane

Ravenhill’s apparently muted play works exceptionally well.


The Case of the Frightened Lady

This is still something of a vintage treat, and a rare opportunity to see the old master in action.


The Chalk Garden

Not quite the last drawing-room comedy. But the Janus-faced prophesy of plays that took thirty years to catch up. Chichester’s season of women dramatists is one of the treasurable things of 2018.


The Comedy About a Bank Robbery

A redefining farce in every way.


The Country Wife

A dazzling revival. If you don’t know the finale, with its superb resolution, this 1920s-style production is a memorable way in, with its clarity, its comedy and its last dangerous kiss. Stunning. Do see it.


The Daughter-in-Law

This is as pitch-perfect as we’re likely to get for a very long time. Ideas and instincts at war drive this play out of its apparent bounds but not out of Eastwood. And its aftermath is a hushed miracle.


The Double Dealer

I doubt if there’s ever been a production as good as this.


The Funeral Director

One of the most riveting few minutes of contemporary theatre I’ve seen all year.


The Habit of Art

It’s a triumphant revival. Do see it.


The Lehman Trilogy

Almost stupefying, but outstanding.


The Madness of George III

This magnificent revival poses even more urgent questions. A twitch on the thread for all of us.


The Meeting

Quieter than Humble Boy, The Meeting juggles ideas as adeptly, and heart more fully perhaps than any Jones play. There’s every reason to celebrate Jones’ return to the stage.


The Merry Wives of Windsor

Sparkling, a sassy, sexy, and sure-footed revival.


The Merry Wives of Windsor

Sparkling, a sassy, sexy, sure-footed revival. On its own terms, could it really be bettered?


The One

This breaks rules as it makes them. See it.


The Outsider

Like so much from The Print Room, this feels like European theatre. And we need it more desperately than ever.


The Play That Goes Wrong

A play about amateurs no amateur company should even dare contemplate. There’s genius in the timing of all this. Outstanding.


The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

It’s not shorter than before, but dare one say it, somehow Sparkier, conveying the author’s economy in a sinewy morality tale.


The Snowman

The most enduring British Christmas hits are melancholy, in stark contrast to say American. There’s a profound sadness in the magic. Its not a long work, perfectly proportioned for children. It’s still the ideal winter present, especially on a first trip to the theatre.


The Tell-Tale Heart

As an electric shock to schlock gothic, theatre doesn’t come much better than this.


The Trench

A small masterpiece.


The Two Noble Kinsmen

We’re looking at a bright Book of Hours. Barrie Rutter’s done it profound service, adding a warmth and agency that opens up this pageant. This is hopefully just the first of many such he’ll bring to the Globe.


The Way of the World

A triumphant revival. What’s striking isn’t just the clockwork plotting but the amplitude, even insouciant luxury Congreve allows his characters to unfold in. It comes together in this rich, endlessly self-fascinated masterpiece from a master of self-effacement.


The Wild Duck

You should be shocked.


The Winslow Boy

It’s a uniformly excellent cast. For Tessa Peake-Jones and particularly Aden Gillett, Timothy Watson and above all Dorothea Myer-Bennett, this is a treasurable revival of a now classic play, whose themes are every week recalled in political injustices visited by government on defenceless people. ‘Let right be done’ is as sadly relevant as ever.


The Winter’s Tale

If Sicilia and its dense expressive syntax could rise elsewhere, this might be altogether remarkable. As it is, enjoy its slow burn.


The Writer

This is necessary, exciting, playful, and still unsettling, not just because of what it asks but the manner of narration. It’s also seminal.


This Is Elvis

Inevitably this stands or falls by Steve Michaels, but it could only be outstanding if the whole production revs around it, and this one fires into life, never letting up. This Is Elvis. Elvis lives. End of.


Translations

In this pitched-perfect National Theatre production in the Olivier, Translations taps as close to its power as it can. This is the version for a generation.


Translations

In this pitched-perfect National Theatre production in the Olivier, Translations taps as close to its power as it can. This is the version for a generation.


Trial By Laughter

You won’t see a finer comedy till well into the new year.


Utility

It’s a great phase of U. S. playwrighting, driven by women, and we’re lucky to be living in the middle of it. Schwend unleashes unexpected miracles and is one reason to see this hushed superlative of a play.