Almeida theatre

Cheesy remake of Our Mutual Friend: London Tide, at the Lyttelton Theatre, reviewed

Our Mutual Friend has been turned into a musical with a new title, London Tide, which sounds duller and more forgettable than the original. Why change the name? To confuse fans of Dickens, presumably, and to keep the theatre half-empty while heaps of tickets are sold at a discount. At the end of Act One, an actor explains the entire plot. This might have been delivered earlier The plot is a cheesy Victorian whodunnit involving three main characters and multiple locations so it’s hard to follow the action as it flits from this lowly hovel to that seedy tavern. The chief personalities are a pretentious lawyer, a psychotic teacher and

Cheesy skit: A Mirror, at the Almeida Theatre, reviewed

The playwright Sam Holcroft likes to toy with dramatic conventions and to tease her audiences by withholding key information about the characters. This tinkering seems to scare the critics into praising her scripts even though they feel like clumsily written thrillers or botched sci-fi yarns where the rules keep changing. Her technique appeals to high-minded theatres such as the Almeida because it enables A-level drama students to fill their notebooks with impenetrable guff about ‘metatextuality’ and ‘poly-ironic approaches to narrative’. It could be Noises Off by an author who wants to be Brecht or Pirandello Holcroft’s new satire, A Mirror, opens with a bogus wedding that gets disrupted when a

The rise and fall of Tammy Faye

Tammy Faye Bakker was a chirpy, perky televangelist noted for her lavish mascara and her barrel-stave eyelashes. She once conducted an interview on her PTL (Praise the Lord) chat show for which she remains revered among gays. It was in 1985 and she was talking to Steve Pieters, a soft-spoken church pastor with a soup-strainer moustache. He had Aids, a disease that killed Rock Hudson that year and was scything through Reagan’s America. Tammy wanted to know all about Steve’s faith, his health and his orientation. ‘Have you given women a fair try?’, she asked rather naively. The pastor told his story and the interview deepened into an extraordinary confessional.

Worthy of Wilde: Eureka Day, at the Old Vic, reviewed

Eureka Day is a topical satire set in a woke school in America. An outbreak of mumps has led to calls for a vaccination programme that will prevent the school from being quarantined and shut down entirely. The script, written in 2018, has acquired new layers of meaning since the Covid terror. It opens with a playful sketch in which four white teachers and a black parent try to agree how many ethnic categories should be recognised by school officials. Their friendly conversation conceals a toxic seam of racial suspicion and hostility. The writer, Jonathan Spector, is probably a rock-sold liberal who wants the world to know that the woke

An entertaining display, clearly destined for Netflix: Patriots, at Almeida Theatre, reviewed

Patriots, by Peter Morgan, is a drama documentary about recent Russian history. And though it’s a topical show it’s not entirely up to date. The central character, Boris Berezovsky (1946-2013), was a schoolboy maths wizard who went into academia and published 16 books before entering politics. His Jewish background excluded him from the leadership of Russia so he became king-maker to Boris Yeltsin. An early contact, the deputy mayor of St Petersburg, asked for Berezovsky’s help. The rising youngster seemed to be harmless, malleable, and rather needy so Berezovsky installed him as a tame prime minister. Thus Vladimir Putin’s career began. Berezovsky owned a TV station that criticised the handling

Hard to believe this rambling apprentice-piece ever made it to the stage: Almeida’s The House of Shades reviewed

The House of Shades is a state-of-the nation play that covers the past six decades of grinding poverty in Nottingham. The action opens in 1965 with a corpse being sponged down by an amusingly saucy mortician. The dead man, Alistair, sits up and walks into the kitchen where he natters with his prickly, loud-mouthed wife, Constance (Anne-Marie Duff). They seem to live in the city’s most dangerous dwelling. People keep dying. Then they come back to life to make a speech or two. Constance’s pregnant daughter doesn’t survive a back-room abortion and she shows up half a dozen times in a skirt dripping with blood. Alistair expires again and returns

Could the Arts Council pay Americans to keep this stuff in America? Daddy and The Fever Syndrome reviewed

The Fever Syndrome is a dramatised lecture set in a New York brownstone occupied by the super-brainy Myers family. The old man, Prof. Richard, is an IVF expert whose daughter, Dot, wants to defrost her embryos and have a second baby. Cue lots of chat about in vitro technology in the 1970s. Dot’s daughter, Lily, has a hereditary ailment that causes epileptic seizures. This, too, is discussed in further Ted Talk passages. And Prof. Richard suffers from incontinence and Parkinson’s disease so these conditions are aired as well. It’s perfectly riveting for medics. Less so for civilians who may not share the view of the Myers family that everyone in