#64 - "Simple, rough theatre, deftly directed but given a kicking" (2/2) - theatre review, Knives in Hens, 30/08/17

Donmar Warehouse

…and the huge themes and formal simplicity of Harrower’s writing must be acknowledged. Yet the play was critically mauled, in part I suspect because the failure of Farber’s recent Salome at the National has made it legitimate to give this deeply serious international director a kicking for perceived pomposity. Weird: because Knives in Hens is simple, rough theatre, deftly directed and quite beautifully designed by Soutra Gilmour and the only time the young cast looked uncertain was the curtain call. Usually I’m ashamed of my former colleagues, full-time theatre critics, because they’re too soft: this time, it’s the opposite.

#63 - "It'd be gimmicky if everything were not both beautiful and delicious" - restaurant review, Magpie 08/08/17

Heddon St

Dishes arrive by trolley and tray at this cool new venture from the boys behind Pidgin, which might seem gimmicky if almost every one were not beautiful and delicious.  A starter of oysters with light vinegar (mirin?) and small apple cubes sets up the palate for explosive umami fried chicken, steak tartar concealing a naughty wodge of taleggio, and a piece of braised celeriac with watermelon so vivid it could convert me to vegetarianism. These were the standouts amid the nine (of 13) tray dishes we tried, augmented with poky cocktails, excellent wine by the glass and a consoling a la carte main of fat pasta noodles with kale, followed by a sprightly strawberry panzanella. Bravo.

#62 - "A beady role that Stockard Channing can and does play effortlessly" - theatre review, Apologia 08/08/17

Trafalgar Studios

A sixties idealist squares up to her angry adult sons and their partners in Alexei Kaye Campbell’s enjoyably well-crafted 2009 comedy, part of the growing canon of work calling the baby boomers to account. The role of beady American art historian Kristin is one that Stockard Channing can and does play effortlessly in Jamie Lloyd’s relaxed production. The oppositions of religion and politics, high and low art set up rather too obviously, and some characterisation is lazy. But Joseph Millson ably plays both brothers, Laura Carmichael turns in a superb performance as gauche Jesus freak Trudi and there are some firecracker moments from the luminous Freema Agyeman.

#61 - "Chips, shagging, burglary and sick" - theatre review, Road, 03/08/17

Royal Court Theatre

Time’s not been that kind to Jim Cartwright’s poetic 1986 evocation of bawdy, boozy, downtrodden but resilient northern life, here revived at its original London home by director-of-the-moment John Tiffany. The play is still refreshingly free of political specifics and full of surprise images – the Buddhist skinhead, the hunger-striking spiritual seeker – but the background melange of chips, shagging, burglary and sick has since become the stuff of Shameless fun. The cast goes at it with gusto, corralled by Lemn Sissay’s orotund master of ceremonies, Scullery, but it is the female characters who linger in the mind, especially Liz White’s monologue by an exhausted but loving wife.

#60 - "Shouty, dense, intriguing" - theatre review, Mosquitoes, 03/08/2017

National Theatre, Dorfman

Lucy Kirkwood’s sprawlingly ambitious play tackles quantum physics, parenting, sexting and much else besides, through the tale of two refreshingly abrasive sisters. Olivia Williams’s Alice is a CERN scientist, Olivia Colman’s Jenny the “stupid one” who believes in horoscopes and internet rumour. We see them through each other’s eyes, and those of their haughty but mentally declining mum and Alice’s hypertense son, and Kirkwood deliberately makes it hard to pick a favourite. Director Rufus Norris parses a shouty, dense piece of work which asks more big and intriguing questions than it rightly has answers for, and showcases two actresses at the top of their game.

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