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Theatre

Harriet Walter as King Henry

Donmar's Henry IV: Phyllida Lloyd has nothing but contempt for her audience

Theatre

The age of ‘ladies first’ is back. Phyllida Lloyd reserves all the roles for the weaker sex, as I imagine she thinks of them, in this hybrid play assembled from Henry IV (i) and (ii). It’s a twin-layered production that… Read more

Stage rage: Kristin Scott Thomas as Electra

Were the cast of the Old Vic’s Electra clothed by Oxfam?

Theatre

First, a bit of background. Conquering Agamemnon slew his daughter, Iphigenia, in return for a fair wind to Troy. This rather miffed his wife, Clytemnestra, who bashed his head in with an axe when he came swaggering home. Her retribution… Read more

Evita at the Dominion Photo: Darren Bell

Will Marti Pellow attract enough tipsy hen parties to Evita to flog all 18,000 seats?

Theatre

Tim and Andy are back. Their monster hit Evita opens the fully refurbed and re-primped Dominion Theatre, which is built on the scale of an airport terminal and needs a big production to fill it. This is a beautiful version… Read more

Doctor Scroggy’s War (Photo: Mark Douet)

Charles III is made for numbskulls by numbskulls

Theatre

Suppose Charles were to reign as a meddlesome, self-pitying, indecisive plonker. It’s a thought. It’s now a play, too, by Mike Bartlett. In his opening scene he bumps off Lilibet, bungs her in a box and assembles the family at… Read more

The Play That Goes Wrong. Photo: Alastair Muir

If you have teenage boys who loathe the very idea of theatre, send them to The Play That Goes Wrong

Theatre

It’s taken a while but here it is. The Play That Goes Wrong is like Noises Off, but simpler. Michael Frayn’s cumbersome backstage farce asked us to follow the actors’ personal stories as well as their on-stage foul-ups, and the… Read more

Gabriel Quigley (Fiona) in Spoiling by John McCann.

Can the Scots really be as small-minded, mistrustful and chippy as Spoiling suggests?

Theatre

Referendum fever reaches Stratford East. Spoiling, by John McCann, takes us into the corridors of power in Holyrood shortly after a triumphant Yes vote. We meet a foul-mouthed bruiser named Fiona whose strident views and vivid language have propelled her… Read more

A wizened Victor Mature: Matthew Kelly in Toast

Bent bureaucrats, ‘fake dykes’ and bad bakers — this week’s theatre

Theatre

Eye of a Needle, by newcomer Chris MacDonald, looks at homosexuality and asylum. Gays from the Third World, who’ve suppressed all evidence of their orientation at home, find they have to leap out of the closet once they reach the… Read more

Crazy love, Dogfight

Dolts, Doormats and FGM: theatre to make you physically sick

Theatre

Wow. What an experience. A 1991 movie named Dogfight has spawned a romantic musical. We’re in San Francisco in 1963. Eddie is a swaggering, shaven-headed Marine and Rose is a shy, awkward waitress. Come to a party, he says. She… Read more

Pushing 70, but not very hard: Anne Archer as Jane Fonda

An innocent graduate of Operation Yewtree, Jim Davidson, dazzles in Edinburgh

Theatre

Let’s start with a nightmare. Wendy Wason, an Edinburgh comedienne, travelled to LA last year accompanied by her husband, who promptly succumbed to a fainting fit. Wason called an ambulance, unaware she was in a hospital car park, and was… Read more

Natasia Demetriou

The best of the Edinburgh Fringe

Theatre

Rain whimpers from Edinburgh’s skies. The sodden tourists look like aliens in their steamed-up ponchos as they scurry and rustle across the gleaming cobblestones. Performers touting for business chirrup their overtures with desperate gaiety. Thousands of them are here. Tens… Read more

Gillian Anderson in A Streetcar named Desire

Sorry, Gillian Anderson, but you've caught the wrong Streetcar

Theatre

Streetcar. One word is enough to conjure an icon. Tennessee Williams’s finest play, written in the 1940s, is about a fallen woman trying to salvage her reputation before madness overwhelms her. All its horror and tension rely on the Victorian… Read more

Terribly, terribly English: Helen McCrory as Medea

Let’s face it, Greek tragedy is often earnest, obscure or boring. Not this Medea

Theatre

Carrie Cracknell’s new version of Medea strikes with overwhelming and rather puzzling force. The royal palace has been done up to resemble a clapped-out Spanish villa that seems to date from about 1983 if the kennel-sized TV set is anything… Read more

Darren Strange and Dan Copeland in Invincible at St. James Theatre

When Mr and Mrs Clever-Nasty-and-Rich met Mr and Mrs Thick-Sweet-and-Poor

Theatre

Torben Betts, head boy at Alan Ayckbourn’s unofficial school of apprentices, has written at least a dozen plays I’ve never seen. Invincible, my first encounter with the heir apparent, is a sitcom that pitches London snobs against northern slobs. The… Read more

Billie Piper as Paige Britain: gorgeous, stony-hearted news psycho

Richard Bean doesn’t believe in humans - just weasels, snakes, rats and vultures

Theatre

Mr Bean, one of our greatest comic exports, has an alter ego. The second Mr Bean, forename Richard, is the author of One Man, Two Guvnors, which thrilled audiences on both sides of the Atlantic. His latest play, Great Britain,… Read more

Decent and enjoyable production: Tom McKay (Brutus) and Anthony Howell (Cassius)

The sweating, dust-glazed saints at the Hampstead Theatre tells us nothing new about the miners’ strike

Theatre

Hampstead’s new play about the 1984 miners’ strike was nearly defeated by technical glitches. Centre stage in Ed Hall’s production there’s a clanking great iron chute that stubbornly refused to go up and down when ordered. A bit like the… Read more

A couple of stuck-up superbrats: Isabella Calthorpe and Claire Forlani

Fashion Victim – the Musical!: daft camp with a warm heart

Theatre

Fashion Victim — the Musical!. There’s a title that’s been waiting to be used for ages. The Cinema Museum is a frumpy warehouse, tucked away in a Kennington backwater, crammed with big-screen memorabilia. A cobwebby salon fitted with a catwalk… Read more

Hobson's Choice, Regents Park

Mark Benton’s Hobson spares us nothing in his journey from rooftop to gutter

Theatre

Nice one, Roy. Across the West End secret toasts are being drunk to the England supremo for his exquisitely crafted belly flop in Brazil. A decent run by our boys in the World Cup has the potential to put a… Read more

Idealists and chums: Joshua James (Arkady) and Seth Numrich (Bazarov)

Did Turgenev foresee Russia’s Stalinist future?

Theatre

Fans of Chekhov have to endure both feast and famine. Feast because his works are revived everywhere. Famine because he concentrated all his riches in just four great plays that grow stale with repetition. For fresh nourishment we turn to… Read more

Between Us, Arcola.

The Globe's larf-a-minute Antony and Cleopatra

Theatre

It’s hilarious. It’s also annoying that it’s so hilarious. Jonathan Munby’s earthy and glamorous production of Antony and Cleopatra goes almost too far to please the Globe’s fidgety, giggly crowds. The Egyptian queen is often treated as a female Lear,… Read more

Kathleen Turner and Ian McDiarmid in Bakersfield Mist

When the big-boobed whisky monster met the upper-class snoot

Theatre

Lionel is a king of the New York art scene. An internationally renowned connoisseur, he travels the world creating and destroying fortunes. He anoints a masterpiece, here. He defenestrates a forgery, there. He visits the Californian city of Bakersfield (code… Read more

Bang on the money: Gary Kemp and Stefan Booth in ‘Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’Be’

Joan Littlewood has a lot to answer for – but Fings Ain't With They Used T'Be' makes up for it

Theatre

Joan Littlewood’s greatest disservice to the theatre was to champion ‘the right to fail’, which encouraged writers and directors to inflict a thousand shades of bilge on play-goers for many decades. But she deserves a place in the pantheon for… Read more

Brian Protheroe (Nicholas) and Tristram Wymark (Mr Weaver) in This May Hurt a Bit Photo:  John Haynes

Memo to Nick Payne: filling your plays with cosmic chit-chat doesn’t make you intelligent

Theatre

How do you write a play? Here’s one theory. Put a guy up a tree, throw rocks at him, get him down again. It’s a good working template. Nick Payne’s latest script, Incognito, uses a different scheme. You put 21… Read more

De Profundis at the Leicester Square Theatre

The Silver Tassie: a lavish, experimental muddle that slithers into a coma

Theatre

The Silver Tassie is the major opening at the Lyttelton this spring. Sean O’Casey’s rarely staged play introduces us to a group of Dublin sportsmen, and their womenfolk, as they prepare to volunteer for service on the Western Front. They… Read more

Debris at the Southwark Playhouse Photo: Richard Davenport

Everyone should see this pious anti-war monologue – seriously

Theatre

Off to the Gate for a special treat: a pious anti-war monologue from the prize-winning American George Brant. Curtain up. And within seconds all my preachy prejudices have fallen apart. The speaker is a female pilot in a jump suit… Read more

Dazzling: Patricia Hodge, Caroline Quentin and Rory Bremner  in ‘Relative Values’

The Guardian didn’t much like Noel Coward’s Relative Values – but you will

Theatre

Cripes. How did I get that one wrong? A few issues back I blithely predicted that Harry Hill’s musical I Can’t Sing would run for three years. It closes this month, so I’m a little reluctant to praise another glittering… Read more

Sally Mortemore and Claire Louise Amias in Women Of Twilight by Sylvia Rayman

The real original kitchen-sink drama

Theatre

Rewrite the history books! Tradition tells us that kitchen-sink drama began in 1956 with Look Back in Anger. A season of lost classics at the White Bear Theatre has unearthed a gritty below-stairs play that predates John Osborne’s breakthrough by… Read more

Rob Callender in Another Country (Photo: Johan Persson)

Another Country could almost be a YouTube advert for Eton

Theatre

Another Country was an instant response to Anthony Blunt’s exposure in 1979 as a Marxist spy. Julian Mitchell set out to explain how gay public-school toffs, reared in a system of hypocrisy and backstabbing, could betray their country. At a… Read more

(Image: Barney Heywood/Paul Blakemore)

Beware of Banksy: his art can make you homeless

Theatre

You may not have heard of Goldie. He’s an actor and singer whose name refers to the bullion with which a cosmetic mason has decorated his incisors. A recent James Bond also featured a glimpse of the Fort Knox gnashers,… Read more