Do we really need this unsubtle and irrelevant play about Covid?

Pandemonium is a new satire about the Covid nightmare that uses the quaint style of the Elizabethan masque. Armando Iannucci’s play opens with Paul Chahidi as Shakespeare introducing a troupe of players who all speak in rhyming couplets. A golden wig descends like a signal from on high and Shakespeare transforms himself into the ‘World King’ or ‘Orbis Rex’. This jocular play reminds spectators with a low IQ that Orbis is an anagram of Boris. The former prime minister, also labelled the ‘globular squire’, is portrayed as a heartless, arrogant schemer driven by ambition and vanity. He retells the main events of the pandemic with the help of an infernal

Lacks any air of mystery, foreboding or darkness: Macbeth, at the Globe, reviewed

Macbeth at the Globe wants to put us at our ease and make us feel comfortable with the play’s arcane world of ghouls, hallucinations and murderous prophecies. Abigail Graham’s up-to-the-minute production offers a few nods to history, like the eagle masks worn by the three witches, but for some reason they speak in dense cockney accents and wear biohazard suits. And they’re all men. The Scottish soldiery favour black body armour like SAS recruits or Metropolitan Police officers. And King Duncan, benefitting from equality legislation, has been transformed into an alpha female: ‘Queen Duncan’, as everyone calls her. She strides on to the battlefield in the opening scene sporting a

The playwright seems curiously detached about rape: The Breach, at Hampstead Theatre, reviewed

Hampstead’s latest play is a knotty rape drama by Naomi Wallace set in Kentucky. Four teenagers with weird names meet in a hired basement. Hoke and Frayne are boys. Jude is a girl whose younger brother, Acton, gets bullied at school. Their chat is aggressive, cynical and funny. Jude boasts that she’s already lost her virginity but she’s proud to have slept with just two men: ‘You’ve got to do six or seven to qualify for slut.’ Hoke claims to have groped his 34-year-old aunt when she was drunk, ‘but she never knew it happened so in a way it didn’t’. Great opening dialogue. Wallace’s attitude to sexual assault is

Keith Allen discusses Pinter, Max Bygraves and the sensitivities of contemporary audiences

Keith Allen was cast in his latest show by Lady Antonia Fraser. He explains this odd circumstance when we meet during a break in rehearsals for Pinter’s The Homecoming. ‘I was asked if I wanted to do The Caretaker at the Theatre Royal Bath. And I said, “Yeah, I’d love to.” Then I had a conversation with Antonia Fraser who told me the script was licensed to someone else. She said, “Why not do The Homecoming instead – with you as Max?” And I said, “Yes.”’ Max is the thuggish head of an emotionally damaged Cockney family with criminal connections. His wife has died and he lives with his sons

Stick it on the BBC: Love Letters at Theatre Royal Haymarket reviewed

Love Letters by A.R. Gurney began life as an epistolary novella about two childhood friends, Andy and Melissa, whose on-off romance is traced through an exchange of letters lasting 50 years. In 1988, the script was turned down by the New Yorker magazine: ‘We don’t publish plays.’ Gurney hired an actress, Holland Taylor, and together they performed the script in a public library. From there it transferred to Broadway in 1989. It’s a minimalist’s dream. There are no costumes, and no set, and the actors can read the script without rehearsing or memorising their lines. This makes it a popular choice for galas and charity events. Elizabeth Taylor staged a

How on earth did Harold Pinter and Danny Dyer become such good friends?

Collectors of TV titles that sound as if they were thought of by Alan Partridge will presumably have spotted Danny Dyer on Harold Pinter. As Dyer himself understatedly put it: ‘This might seem an unlikely pairing: the likely lad and the Nobel Prize winner.’ Yet, what made the programme such an intriguing if undeniably peculiar watch is that the pairing in question wasn’t dreamed up by a desperate (or drunk) commissioning editor. In 2000, aged 22, Dyer auditioned for Pinter’s Celebration at the Almeida Theatre in Islington. ‘I knew the money would be rubbish,’ he told us, ‘so I didn’t care much.’ Nor, unlike his rivals, did he really know who