#99 - "Stylish, menacing, funny" - theatre review, The Birthday Party 24/01/2018

Harold Pinter Theatre

I’ve never seen Harold Pinter’s absurdist drama done as stylishly, menacingly or funnily. In a seaside guesthouse twittering landlady Meg (a superb Zoe Wanamaker) flirts with surly lodger Stanley (Toby Jones, unusually malign). The atmosphere is already sour by the time Stephen Mangan’s masterful Goldberg and psychotic sidekick McCann (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor) turn up. Mangan commands the stage and manipulates the play’s morbid laughs with supreme skill and the whole thing is pacy and enthrallingly strange. Only the apparent sexual violence done to local girl Lulu (Pearl Mackie), slightly at odds with her lines, strikes an odd note in Ian Rickson’s otherwise flawless production.

#98 - "Exquisitely tooled but stiff" - theatre review, Lady Windermere's Fan 23/01/2018

Vaudeville Theatre

Oscar Wilde’s exquisitely tooled drama is a pleasure to experience even if Kathy Burke’s handsomely cast production is a little stiff, drab and respectful. Samantha Spiro is Mrs Erylnne, the woman with several pasts (“and all of them fit”), using the Windermeres (able Joshua James and newcomer Grace Molony) to lever herself back into society. Jennifer Saunders steals the laughs as the Duchess of Berwick, leaving the supposedly “witty” men standing. Wilde’s social commentary seems sharper in our dark and intolerant days and the script fits together by like a Swiss watch, but the show lacks oomph and dazzle. Shame.

#97 - "What a let-down. ONLY JOKING!!!" Theatre review, Hamilton, 22/12/2017

Victoria Palace Theatre

Well, what a let-down. ONLY JOKING!  Lin-Manuel Miranda’s revolutionary hip-hop musical about a near-forgotten founding father exceeds the hype. This is a breathlessly exciting, politically charged, brilliantly layered run-through of a remarkable life as the orphaned, immigrant Hamilton rises to shape America’s destiny before falling victim to hubris. The score is hectic, the lyrics incredibly sophisticated in their ability to make complex or even dull ideas fascinating through tumbling internal rhymes. Newcomer Jamael Westman is a charismatic Hamilton and the role of Aaron Burr gives Giles Terrera the part he’s long deserved. The message and the multiracial casting make a vital statement, and the decision to give the ending to Hamilton’s wife Eliza (Rachelle Ann Go) is both lovely and right.

#96 - "Poots and Norton lift a slightly overwrought psychodrama" - theatre review, Belleville, 22/12/2017

Donmar Warehouse

Amy Herzog’s play about a young American couple struggling with secrets and insecurities in Paris is a slightly overwrought psychodrama, lifted by the performances of Imogen Poots and James Norton. She is wry, jittery and raw as Abby, suffering depression and possibly envy over her sister’s imminent baby. He’s a square-jawed jock-doctor with a dope habit, all easy charm until his weakness begins to show. Through their relationship with their Muslim landlord and landlady, Herzog may be making a wider point about American self-indulgence and introversion, but the play remains essentially a domestic two-hander and the layered, engaging performances of the leads hold the attention up to the somewhat improbably conclusion.

#95 - "Richly atmospheric but needs cutting" - theatre review, The Grinning Man 21/12/17

Trafalgar Studios

Carl Grose’s wilfully perverse adult musical is richly atmospheric and stylish but could do with a stronger story and punchier score to support its wicked grotesqueries. His face cut into a rictus grin as a boy, Grinpayne (Louis Maskell) becomes a circus freak whose agony and disfigurement is, somewhat mystifyingly, liberating to others. Will his love for his blind adopted sister endure, and will he survive tussles with the corrupt ruling family and their malevolent jester, Barkilphedro? This is Grimm with Gilliam-esque designs and some wondrous puppetry, but the emo-heavy songs ramble and the plot repeats itself. Sorry Grinpayne, it needs cutting.

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