Theatre

The Seagull: Sabrina Bartlett as Nina (Photo Johan Persson)

The Seagull needs a roof to stop Chekhov's subtleties flying off

Theatre

A new Seagull lands in Regent’s Park. Director Matthew Dunster has lured Chekhov’s classic into a leafy corner of north London to see if it needs an upgrade. The new script, by yuppie-baiting playwright Torben Betts, is casual, slangy and… Read more

An Audience with Jimmy Savile, Park Theatre (Photo: Helen Maybanks)

We’ve forgotten just how attractive Jimmy Savile once was

Theatre

Ho hum. Bit icky. Not bad. Hardly dazzling. The lukewarm response to An Audience With Jimmy Savile has astonished me. This is the best docudrama I’ve seen on stage. From the early 1970s, Britain swooned before Savile. Marketing pollsters found… Read more

The Red Lion, Dorfman Theatre

Patrick Marber’s Red Lion at the Dorfman reviewed: ‘the woman next to me yawned a lot’

Theatre

For nine years Patrick Marber has grappled with writer’s block (which by some miracle doesn’t affect his screenplay work), but the pipes are now ungummed and wallop! his new bolus of creativity splatters across the Dorfman stage. It’s a wordy… Read more

Quite the hankie-drencher: Tanya Moodie as Constance in ‘King John’

There's a reason why the past four centuries have ignored Shakespeare's King John

Theatre

King John arrives at the Globe bent double under the weight of garlands from the London critics. Their jaunt up to Northampton for the première seems to have cast an opiate glaze over their faculties. Plays that are rarely revived… Read more

Acerbic sex bomb: Susannah Fielding as Mrs Sullen in ‘The Beaux’ Stratagem’

The Anglican elite laid bare: Temple at the Donmar Warehouse reviewed

Theatre

In October 2011 anti-capitalist vagrants built an open-air squat outside St Paul’s within shrieking distance of London’s financial heart. The City thrummed all night with the dob-dob-dob of bongo recitals while the rebels held angry debates beneath their plastic canopies… Read more

Stephen Wight as Lee and Dianna Agron as Dahlia in McQueen (Photo: Specular)

Amazing. Thatcherite propaganda at the Young Vic

Theatre

St James Theatre hosts a new play about Alexander McQueen (real name Lee), whose star flashed briefly across the fashion world before his suicide in 2010. It opens with a mysterious stalker, Dahlia, breaking into McQueen’s Mayfair home and demanding… Read more

She makes Medusa look like a dinner lady: Kate Fleetwood as Tracy Lord in ‘High Society’

Fine production of a painful play: Death of a Salesman at the Noel Coward reviewed

Theatre

Here come the Yanks. As the summer jumbos disgorge their cargoes of wealthy, courteous, culture-hungry Americans, the West End prepares to bag a fortune. Death of a Salesman is just the kind of timeless post-war classic that Americans adore, isn’t… Read more

The Angry Brigade

Merchant of Venice at the Globe reviewed: a tip-top production - and a high quality script too

Theatre

If Julian, Dick, George and Anne had become terrorists they’d have called themselves The Angry Brigade. It’s such a Wendy house name. The quartet of violent outcasts met in a Camden squat in the late Sixties and moved to Stoke… Read more

'American Buffalo' Play by David Mamet performed at Wyndham's Theatre.London,UK

American Buffalo at Wyndham’s reviewed: ‘magnificent, multicoloured, vast and tragic’

Theatre

David Mamet is Pinter without the Pinteresque indulgences, the absurdities and obscurities, the pauses, the Number 38 bus routes. American Buffalo, from the 1970s, is one of Mamet’s early triumphs. Don is a junkshop owner who believes a customer cheated… Read more

Smock-clad martyr: Ashley McGuire as Margaret Brotherton in ‘Light Shining in Buckinghamshire’

Why Caryl Churchill is massively overrated - and how the National Theatre befriends terror

Theatre

Enter Rufus Norris. The new National Theatre boss is perfectly on-message with this debut effort by Caryl Churchill. Her 1976 play about inequality screams, ‘Vote Ed’ at triple-klaxon volume. Not that anyone in the audience was won over. They’d made… Read more

Declan Donnellan's Measure for Measure. Photo: Johan Persson

Measure for Measure at the Barbican reviewed: a charity show for homesick non-doms

Theatre

The smash hit Matilda, based on a Roald Dahl story, has spawned a copycat effort, The Twits. Charm, sweetness and mystery aren’t Dahl’s strong points. He specialises in suburban grotesques who commit infantile barbarities. But his prose is sensational. No… Read more

Find the voice, find the character: Steve Nallon as Margaret Thatcher

Even those who reviled Thatcher will be moved, appalled and astonished: Dead Sheep at the Park reviewed

Theatre

Dead Sheep is a curious dramatic half-breed that examines Geoffrey Howe’s troubled relationship with Margaret Thatcher. Structurally it’s a Mexican bean. It leaps all over the 1980s and it keeps shifting genre from cabaret to tragedy via cheesy political satire.… Read more

Stephen Mangan, John Rogan, Miles Jupp and Deborah Findlay in Rules For Living at the Dorfman, National Theatre, London. Photo: Tristram Kenton

Nicholas Hytner’s sod-you farewell: Rules for Living at the Dorfman reviewed

Theatre

Experts are concerned that Alan Ayckbourn’s plays may soon face extinction. Fewer than 80 of these precious beasts still exist in their natural habitat, so theatre-goers will be cheered to know that the National Theatre has created a genetically identical… Read more

Emma Thompson in Sweeney Todd Photo: Tristram Kenton

Blunt and bloody: ENO's Sweeney Todd reviewed

Theatre

A wicked deception is sprung in the opening moments of this New York-originated concert staging of Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler’s Sweeney Todd. The English National Opera orchestra, liberated from the pit, is duly assembled on stage at the London… Read more

Bad Jews, St James Theatre

Bad Jews at the Arts Theatre reviewed: strange, raw, obsessive and brilliant

Theatre

Bad Jews has completed its long trek from a smallish out-of-town venue to a full-scale West End berth. Billed as a ‘hilarious’ family comedy it opens on a low-key note in a New York apartment where three cousins have gathered… Read more

Zoë Wanamaker as Stevie Smith

Shrapnel at the Arcola works for the slayers, not the slain

Theatre

Quite a hit factory these days, the Hampstead Theatre. The latest candidate for West End glory is Hugh Whitemore’s bio-drama about Stevie Smith. Not an obvious choice. The script, from the 1970s, recreates the atmosphere of Stevie’s life with effortless… Read more

The Cutting of the Cloth, Southwark Playhouse

Radiant Vermin at the Soho Theatre reviewed: a barmy little sketch posing as a revolutionary satire

Theatre

Philip Ridley is best known as the screenwriter of The Krays, in which Gary and Martin Kemp played Ronnie and Reggie as a pair of tanned and lisping choirboys. Ridley loves to bang his own gong. And he’s got enough… Read more

Simon Darwen as Peter and Siubhan Harrison as Eloise in ‘The Armour’

The Armour at Langham Hotel reviewed: three new playlets that never get going

Theatre

One of last year’s unexpected treasures was a novelty show by Defibrillator that took three neglected Tennessee Williams plays, all set in hotel rooms, and staged them in suites at a five-star dosshouse in central London. The Langham Hotel, an… Read more

Class act: Nancy Carroll in Patrick Marber’s ‘Closer’ at the Donmar Warehouse. Photo: Johan Persson

Why George Bernard Shaw was an overrated babbler

Theatre

When I was a kid, I was taught by a kindly old Jesuit whose youth had been beguiled by George Bernard Shaw. The provocative ironies of ‘GBS’ were quoted everywhere and he was, for several decades, the world’s leading public… Read more

How I Learned to Drive at Southwark Playhouse

Muswell Hill reviewed: a guide on how to sock it to London trendies

Theatre

Torben Betts is much admired by his near-namesake Quentin Letts for socking it to London trendies. Letts is one of the few individuals who enjoys the twin blessings of a Critics’ Circle membership card and a functioning brain so his… Read more

How to Hold Your Breath: Maxine Peake and Christine Bottomley Photo: Manuel Harlan

How to Hold Your Breath, Royal Court, review: yet more state-funded misanthropy

Theatre

‘We hate the system and we want the system to pay us to say we hate the system.’ The oratorio of subsidised theatre rises, in triumphant blast, at the Royal Court whose current empress Vicky Featherstone has chosen to direct… Read more

The Separation Photo: Ed Clark

A tatty new theatre offers up a comic gem that’s sure to be snapped up by the BBC

Theatre

New venue. New enticement. In the undercroft of a vast but disregarded Bloomsbury church nestles the Museum of Comedy. The below-stairs space wears the heavy oaken lineaments of Victorian piety but the flagstones have been smothered with prim suburban carpeting,… Read more

Intelligent design: Olivia Vinall as Hilary in ‘The Hard Problem’

Tom Stoppard’s The Hard Problem review: too clever by half

Theatre

Big event. A new play from Sir Tom. And he tackles one of philosophy’s oldest and crunchiest issues, which varsity thinkers call ‘the hard problem’. How is it that a wrinkled three-pound blancmange sitting at the top of the spinal… Read more

My Night With Reg Photo: Johan Persson

My Night With Reg at the Apollo Theatre reviewed: a great play that will go under without an interval

Theatre

Gay plays crowd the theatrical canon. There are the necessary enigmas of Noël Coward, like The Vortex or Design For Living, which are slyly aimed at an audience of knowing code-breakers. There are the proud, defiant (and rather tedious) pleas… Read more

Bull Photo: Simon Annand

Young Vic’s Bull, review: a new Mike Bartlett play to bore you into catalepsy

Theatre

A knockout show at the Young Vic. Literally. The stage has been reconfigured as a boxing ring to make Mike Bartlett’s play, Bull, feel like a sporting fixture. This is a common conceit, even a cliché, but here it’s done… Read more

Tree, The Old Vic Illustration: Lizzie Stewart

Old Vic’s Tree: Beckett plus Seinfeld - plus swearing

Theatre

‘Fucking hell. You twat. Fuck off. Fuck. Fuck.’ These dispiriting words are the opening line of Tree, a newish play by the lugubrious comic Daniel Kitson, whose stand-up show once transported me into the heavenly arms of Lethe. His script… Read more

Paul Barritt’s stunning design for ‘The Golem’ resembles ‘a ketchup-splattered bumble bee’

Young Vic's Golem: its status as a cult hit fills me with troubled wonder

Theatre

The Young Vic produces shows that please many but rarely me. Its big hit of 2014, A Streetcar Named Desire, won virtually every prize going apart from the one it deserved: the year’s deadliest assault on a much-loved classic. The… Read more

3 Winters  Photo: Ellie Kurttz

National Theatre’s 3 Winters: a hideous Balkans ballyhoo

Theatre

A masterpiece at the National. A masterpiece of persuasion and bewitchment. Croatian word-athlete Tena Stivicic has miraculously convinced director Howard Davies that she can write epic historical theatre. And Davies has transmitted his gullibility to Nicholas Hytner, who must have… Read more