Rob Callender in Another Country (Photo: Johan Persson)

Another Country could almost be a YouTube advert for Eton


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


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

An upmarket panto with top-quality jokes and strong tunes: Jordy, Simon and Louis

Simon Cowell’s latest attempt at global domination


I Can’t Sing! is a parody of The X Factor, which already parodies itself at every turn. Quite a tough call. The heroine is an oppressed no-hoper stuck in a tiny caravan under the Westway with her crippled dad who… Read more

Ray Cooney's Two Into One Photo: Catherine Ashmore

Where’s a goofy, flat-chested shrew when you need one?


Ray Cooney, the master of farce, is back. These days he’s in the modest Menier rather than the wonderful West End. His 1984 caper, Two Into One, opens with Richard, a starchy Tory minister, plotting an affair with a sexy… Read more

The Husbands by Sharmila Chauhan Photo: Robert Day

A gaggle of husbands and a pair of piglets


Here’s a great idea for a play. Turn the polygamy principle upside-down and you get a female egoist presiding over a harem of warring husbands. Sharmila Chauhan’s drama, The Husbands, introduces us to a pioneering sex maniac, Aya, who founds… Read more

A brilliant turn: Imelda Staunton as Margaret in ‘Good People’

If you're going to adapt a bestseller, don't choose the A-Z


What’s the quickest way to create a hit musical? Base it on a bestselling book. The writers of The A-Z of Mrs P have done just that. But they’ve chosen the wrong book. You twits. You need to pick a… Read more

Simon Callow, Being Shakespeare Photo: Getty

Rape, porn and Cheesy Wotsits


Interesting times at Soho Theatre. One of its outstanding shows of last year, Fleabag, was an offbeat Gothic love story written by and starring Phoebe Waller-Bridge. The director of Fleabag, Vicky Jones, has penned another offbeat Gothic love story. And… Read more

In excellent trim: Lesley Sharp as Helen in ‘A Taste of Honey’

Superior Donuts – a very irritating success


Tracy Letts, of the Chicago company Steppenwolf, has written one of the best plays of the past ten years. August: Osage County is an exhilarating, multilayered family drama whose sweep and power amazed everyone who saw it on stage. His… Read more

Thrilling to watch: Aisling Loftus and Gethin Anthony

Brave Tommies and dim earls — Oh What a Lovely War is hoity-toity reductionism


Here it is. Fifty years late. Oh What a Lovely War was originally staged at Stratford East in 1964. It returns to its birthplace to cash in on this year’s anniversary of the Great War. Sorry, I meant commemorate. The… Read more

Stroke of Luck, Park Theatre Photo: Simon Kane

Putin: ‘Oi, Europe, you’re a bunch of poofs’


Sochi 2014 is the least wintry Winter Olympics ever. Yes, there’s a bit of downhill shimmying going on in the slalom. And a few figure skaters are pirouetting around the rink. Midair daredevils, with their feet lashed to planks of… Read more

A World Elsewhere by Alan Franks

A World Elsewhere hints it's about Bill Clinton. But it's about Al Gore


Why, oh why, the producers ask, are the national press so reluctant to cover the London fringe? The snag is that a national paper has to justify a report about a play produced in a Deptford yoga studio, or in… Read more

Outstanding: Anna Maxwell Martin (Regan) and Simon Russell Beale as Lear

Sam Mendes's King Lear is a must-see for masochists


Directors appear to have two design options when approaching a Shakespeare tragedy. Woodstock or jackboot. Woodstock means papal robes, shoulder-length hair and silver Excaliburs gleaming from jewelled belts. Jackboot means pistols, berets, holsters and submachine-guns. Sam Mendes sticks the jackboot… Read more

The Gay Naked Play by David Bell

If you can figure out the mind-boggling plot of Ciphers — join Mensa


Here’s a heartwarming tale from the London fringe. A company named Above the Stag was merrily plying its trade at a small pub attic in Victoria. Then in March 2012 a bulldozer squashed the pub flat. In its place rose… Read more

Tigerish sexuality: Shelley Lang as Cleopatra

The play to watch if your country is breaking up


Of all the West End’s unloved venues the loveliest is the Arts Theatre. It specialises in creaky off-beat plays like Only Our Own by Ann Henning Jocelyn. We’re in Connemara, in the west of Ireland, in the early 1990s. A… Read more

Both menacing and warm: Ben Miles as Thomas Cromwell

The Thomas Cromwell plays would be stronger if they made him weaker 


Three things you might not expect of the RSC’s adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Tudor novels. First, Mike Poulton’s plays have some great jokes. Laugh-your-head-off funny, you might say. Second, although Tom, Dick and Mary tell me they found Mantel’s Bring… Read more

Ben Miller as Robert Houston MP in ‘The Duck House’

The Duck House is the best show in the West End


It’s taken me a few months to catch up with the political farce The Duck House. Then again, it’s taken The Duck House a few years to catch up with the expenses scandal that it mocks. The story is set… Read more

On the train with Emil Tischbein and his precious cargo

Get tickets for Emil and the Detectives, and opera glasses — some of the child actors are tiny


It starts with a brilliant joke. We’re in the Weimar Republic in 1929. Little Emil Tischbein is listening to his mother and a moaning neighbour, Mrs Wirth, lamenting Germany’s loss of moral fibre. Mrs Wirth cites a recent gangster film… Read more

The do’s and don’ts that should help any parent get their child used to the theatre Photo: Getty

How to get your child hooked on theatre (hint: don't rule out Peppa Pig)


I remember my first trip to the theatre. I was about eight, and I got hit in the face by a finger of fudge thrown from the stage by a particularly overzealous am-dram Widow Twankey. It was an inauspicious start… Read more

A thuggish pragmatist: Jude Law as Henry V

Jude Law's Henry V is a buccaneer leading a stag-night raid across the continent — but he'd be a great Macbeth


Henry V is the final show in Michael Grandage’s first West End season. The theatre was full to bursting on press night. Jude Law, in the title role, had attracted a crowd of autograph hunters, who shivered outside the stage… Read more

Compelling air of wounded saintliness: Ben Whishaw as Baby

You can't have Mojo and your money back


In 1992 Quentin Tarentino gave us Reservoir Dogs. At a stroke he reinvented the gangster genre and turned it into a comedy of manners with a deadly undertow. This new mutation looked as if it might be easy to copy.… Read more


Martin Shaw's flaws make him perfect for Twelve Angry Men


Strange actor, Martin Shaw. He’s got all the right equipment for major stardom: a handsome and complicated face, a languid sexiness, a decent physique and a magnificent throbbing voice. He sounds like a lion feeling peckish in mid-afternoon. At top… Read more

Nancy Carroll (Felicity Houston) and Ben Miller (Robert Houston) photo credit Simon Turtle (4)

Ben Miller interview: 'Everyone was doing alternative comedy. I thought I'd distinguish myself by just telling jokes'


Ben Miller is wolfing down a pizza. I meet the comedian in a Cambridge restaurant where he demolishes a Margherita shortly before racing off to appear on stage in The Duck House, a new farce about corrupt MPs. The show… Read more

Banged up: Daniel Poyser and Jimmy Akingbola in Athol Fugard’s ‘The Island’

Finally — a play about insomnia that cures insomnia


Athol Fugard is regarded as a theatrical titan but I usually need a microscope to find any trace of greatness in his work. The Island is set in a South African prison camp in the 1960s. Two banged-up lags, John… Read more

Highly alluring: Gemma Chan as Athena in ‘Our Ajax’

'Keeler' is not just about Tory bigwigs chasing nymphettes around the pool


It’s an unlovely venue, for sure. Charing Cross Theatre, underneath the arches, likes to welcome vagrant plays that can’t find a home elsewhere. The dripping exterior, opposite a gay love-hub named Heaven, feels as if it’s paved with tears. The… Read more

Johnny Flynn

The sickeningly talented Johnny Flynn


‘I am walking in some mountains’. That’s the out-of-office that pops up when I email Johnny Flynn to request an interview. The folk star and West End actor is on holiday. But he’s not doing the Three Peaks Challenge. No,… Read more

Paul Copley (Jack) and  Jack Shepherd (Harry) (Photo: Richard Lakos)

British empire? What British empire?


Here’s a tip for play-goers. When the curtain goes up on a garden, prepare for some feeble plotting. The glory of gardens, for the playwright, is that the characters can enter and leave without reason. The rites of welcome and… Read more

Terrific: Barnaby Kay (Keith) and Tamzin Outhwaite (Briony)

Toffs rule! 


This is a strange one. Simon Paisley Day’s new play feels like a conventional comedy of manners. Three couples pitch up at a Welsh cottage for a relaxing weekend away from the kiddies. Trouble erupts instantly. Keith and Briony bicker… Read more

David Tennant as Richard II Photo: Kwame Lestrade/RSC

David Tennant plays Richard II like a casual hippie


Gregory Doran, now in command at Stratford in succession to Sir Michael Boyd, launches his regime with Richard II, intending to stage the complete Shakespearean canon over the next six years, ‘making every play an event’. What’s really good is… Read more