No laughing matter

4 June 2011 12:00 am

A miracle at the Barbican. I reached the venue after a mere half an hour blundering around following directions from helpful staff.

Barmy and bleak

28 May 2011 12:00 am

The Cherry Orchard is Chekhov’s barmiest and bleakest play.

Faites vos jeux

28 May 2011 12:00 am

A short while ago Rupert Goold transplanted Prospero’s isle to an Arctic ice floe.

Family at war

21 May 2011 12:00 am

Edward Albee doesn’t like the word ‘revival’. His plays aren’t dead, he says, just lurking. His 1966 drama A Delicate Balance has been coaxed back into the limelight by James Macdonald in a sumptuous new version starring Penelope Wilton and Imelda Staunton.

Double toil and trouble

14 May 2011 12:00 am

‘Shakespeare’s Lost Play Re-imagined’, thus Gregory Doran’s subtitle to Cardenio. The play appears to have been lost in the Globe fire of 1613, but why should the RSC’s chief associate director have wanted to ‘re-imagine’ and stage it as the inaugural production in the refurbished Swan?

Bono without the jokes

14 May 2011 12:00 am

I rarely visit the Jermyn Street theatre because it’s too nice.

Lost in space

7 May 2011 12:00 am

The RSC isn’t limited to Shakespeare.

Pinter’s self-vandalising

23 April 2011 12:00 am

Let’s think about it. How did Harold Pinter write his masterpieces? And why are they praised so much more lavishly than the scribbles of his contemporaries?

Love joust

16 April 2011 12:00 am

Throughout his career Clifford Odets was overshadowed by Arthur Miller. Nowadays, his plays tend to be classified on a topsy-turvy scale beginning with the least completely forgotten. One of the lesser forgotten, A Rocket to the Moon, is a flawed, steamy, bourgeois melodrama.

Cheating the noose

9 April 2011 12:00 am

Incredibly boring. That’s how a cracking courtroom drama seems at first. Case closed. We know whodunnit already. Alma Rattenbury, a luscious middle-aged nympho, has bashed in the skull of her deaf old husband with the help of a teenage builder, George, who shares her bed.

A pair of shockers

2 April 2011 12:00 am

Michael Attenborough, the spirited maverick who runs the Almeida, has lavished a first-rate production on David Eldridge’s new play.

Stirred into action

2 April 2011 12:00 am

Kommilitonen! is Peter Maxwell Davies’s new opera, to a text by David Pountney, who also directs the première production at the Royal Academy of Music.

Sibling opposition

26 March 2011 12:00 am

Hard to like, impossible to discount. Neil LaBute delivers another of his exquisitely sordid insights into the damaged terrain of the privileged bourgeoisie with his new melodrama, In a Forest Dark and Deep.

Following in the family footsteps

26 March 2011 12:00 am

Lloyd Evans meets Niamh Cusack, who ‘absolutely wasn’t going to be an actress’

A theatre reborn

19 March 2011 12:00 am

The jam factory is no more. In one of the great theatrical transformations of our day, the RSC has unveiled its modernisation of Elizabeth Scott’s unloved theatre of 1932; unloved for its ungainly brick bulk on the Avon riverside but no less for the distance of its seating from the proscenium stage. There was much to be said for the earlier proposal of simply razing the building to the ground and starting afresh. What has actually happened is a classic British compromise whereby the best of the old has been spliced together with what is hopefully the best of the new.

Day tripper

19 March 2011 12:00 am

Like a lot of classics, Blithe Spirit doesn’t quite deserve its exalted reputation.

Under the rainbow

12 March 2011 12:00 am

The pantomime, we’re often told, exists in no culture but Britain’s. Maybe we should look a bit harder. The Wizard of Oz is a children’s fantasy, epic in form, comic in idiom, populated by folksy stereotypes, which uses the metaphor of a journey to present a mythical clash between good and evil. It ends with order restored and virtue triumphant, and with the characters discovering that self-knowledge and wisdom are more valuable than the illusory contentments of wealth or power. All that’s missing is some bad acting and a few painfully ribald puns.

Eccentrics on parade

5 March 2011 6:00 am

A young aristocrat and the daughter of a banished duke fall in love at a wrestling contest. Both are forced from court by family intrigue, and take refuge in the same enchanted forest. She recognises him, but not vice versa, since to avert assault she has disguised herself as a boy. Confusions ensue.

Literary junkyard

5 March 2011 12:00 am

We critics know everything about the theatre. We see the best shows, we get the finest seats in the house and we’re occasionally treated to a fuming glass of vin ordinaire to lubricate our ruminations. And yet what do we really know?

Flavour of freedom

26 February 2011 12:00 am

Richard Bean is a creative nomad, a pix-and-mix sort of playwright who lights on subjects seemingly at random.

Let’s twist again

19 February 2011 6:00 am

An elderly stranger on a Jamaican train bets a young US Navy cadet that his lighter won’t light ten times in a row. If it does, the stranger’s Cadillac is his. If not, he forfeits the little finger of his left hand. The cadet accepts. Wouldn’t you?

Cult of fear

19 February 2011 12:00 am

Forty years ago kids assumed that when they grew up they’d fly to Mars. They didn’t expect to find a world that was too scared to turn on a lightbulb.

Educating Rachel

12 February 2011 12:00 am

The teeny-weeny Bush Theatre is grappling with the monster of the free schools debate.

Trouble at home

5 February 2011 12:00 am

The Almeida relishes its specialist status. The boss, Michael Attenborough, isn’t keen on celebrity casting because he wants ‘the theatre to be the star’. It’s a niche operation for purists and connoisseurs, for seekers and searchers, and for those who can spell Verfremdungseffekt without having to check (as I just had to) what the penultimate letter is. We’re privileged to have a theatre in London that wants to raise the bar rather than the bar prices.

Losing the plot

29 January 2011 12:00 am

An all-Hall haul this week. Sir Peter directs his daughter Rebecca in Twelfth Night at the National.