#46 - "Achingly sad and technically brilliant" - Anatomy of a Suicide

Royal Court Theatre

The stories of three generations of women in a family harrowed by mental health and suicide densely overlap in Alice Birch’s achingly sad play. It’s a technical tour de force by director Katie Mitchell and a challenge to which the actors – including the lambent Hattie Morahan – more than rise, though it can be confusing to watch. Or, more precisely, to listen to. The onstage costume changes also distract. But with mental health and the lack of what’s euphemistically called ‘social care’ in the news, Birch’s play feels timely, urgent and honest, and Paul Clark’s music fluently underscores the sombre mood.

#45 - "Boyega's descent is transfixing" - Woyzeck

Old Vic

John Boyega brings a sturdy, magnetic naturalism to this tale of a soldier’s psychological collapse, created by Jack Thorne from the fragments of Georg Buchner’s unfinished play. Thorne moves things 100 years forward to West Berlin in 1981 where East-West tensions and the recent shooting of the Pope gnaw further at a psyche already fragile from childhood abuse, financial anxiety and sexual jealousy. Boyega’s descent is transfixing, and Sarah Greene is affecting as Woyzeck’s lover. A strong supporting cast make the play’s countless references to meat and bodies feel real and visceral. The portrait of indifferent authority feels timely, obviously. We’ll see more great things from Boyega.

#44 - "Timely celebration of science over dumb belief" - Galileo

Young Vic

It’s an apt time to revive a play celebrating science over dumb (and false) belief, and Joe Wright’s exuberantly inventive production knocks some of the discursive starch out of Brecht’s script. Some of the denser points get lost in the uproar too, but you can’t have everything. Audience and actors mingle inside and outside a circular walkway while trippy celestial visuals play on a planetarium ceiling: there are puppets, loud music, wry asides. Brendan Cowell is a rumbustious, bearded, t-shirted Galileo, who gorges on knowledge, supported and surrounded by a cheerful ensemble. It’s larky stuff that nonetheless reminds us how dangerous it can be to decide we don’t need experts.

#43 - "Standout beans and rum baba" - Westerns Laundry

34 Drayton Park, N5 1PB

When David Gingell and Jérémie Cometto-Lingenheim opened the lovely Primeur in Canonbury, I urged them to next open something in Kennington, near me. Instead here’s Western’s Laundry in… Highbury. Bastards. Never mind: this is another pleasingly airy dining room carved out of an industrial building with a short, ‘low-interference’ wine list and a sensible menu of dishes that come as and when. A pugnacious John Dory with artichokes and lemon, and cod with romescu and charred onions were exemplary but the standouts were a starter of flat beans with olives and curd and a deceptively airy, shared rum baba. Please boys, come south. It’s the new Notting Hill, you know.

#42 - "Unroadworthy comic vehicle" - Lettice and Lovage

Menier Chocolate Factory

Peter Shaffer’s utterly daft 80s comedy about two older women waging war on modern mediocrity was a vehicle for Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack: Trevor Nunn’s revival feels less than roadworthy. Initially at loggerheads over historical truth and theatrical flair, Felicity Kendal’s fruitily chuntering Lettice and Maureen Lipman’s beadily acerbic Lotte bond over shared ideas of beauty and romance. The middle act is the most amusing and successful, but it’s bracketed by absurd contrivance and cliche; surely, today we can come up with better roles for ripe actresses than this. Nunn’s production has an under-rehearsed, stuttering air: you catch flashes of these two delicious comics on top form, but they are rare.

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