#106 - "A whimper, not a bang" - theatre review, The Captive Queen, 14/02/18

Wanamaker Playhouse, Shakespeare's Globe

One can see the thinking behind Barrie Rutter’s final production for Northern Broadsides – John Dryden’s slice of Indian exoticism, originally titled Aureng-zebe, renamed and reclaimed by a mostly Asian cast. But the play is a confused tale of family struggle and love told in tum-ti-tum rhyming couplets, and the setting in a Bradford textile mill adds nothing. Worse, the acting is subdued and school play-ish, with Rutter himself (as the emperor, one of at least four characters in love with Neerja Naik’s titular queen) particularly stiff and strange. This ballsy company shuts up shop with a whimper, rather than a bang.

#105 - "Lesley Manville gives Mary Tyrone a lambent intensity" - theatre review, Long Day's Journey Into Night

Wyndham's Theatre

Richard Eyre brings a fresh familial realism to Eugene O’Neill’s harrowing autobiographical drama, in a production where the role of Mary Tyrone, often sidelined by the men, is given a lambent intensity by Lesley Manville. She twits and frets over her husband and sons as each family member descends into a particular self-inflicted oblivion. Jeremy Irons is well-cast as handsome ham James Tyrone, snuggling into the role like a well-worn smoking jacket. Matthew Beard impresses with his passionate delicacy as Edmund. It does grind on a bit, after the 200th minute, but a fellow critic called this “the saddest play ever written” and I can’t improve on that.

#104 - "Hayley Atwell - all raptor smirks and does-not-compute tics" - theatre review, Dry Powder

Hampstead Theatre

Sarah Burgess’s play is a smart, snappy, somewhat predictable indictment of high finance with a delicious antiheroine. Hedge fund manager Jenny is a millennial Gordon Gecko, a money-making calculator without empathy or guile, and she is brilliantly incarnated here by Hayley Atwell, all raptor smirks and does-not-compute tics. Jenny’s rival Seth (Tom Riley, a deft foil) brings their boss Rick (Aidan McArdle) a deal to restore the firm’s tarnished reputation, but our Jenny sees dollar signs. Will conscience or capitalism win? Take a wild guess! But it’s credit to Burgess, to Anna Ledwich’s sleek production, and most of all to Atwell, that we come out rooting for Jenny.

#103 - restaurant review, Mookrata

Above Shuang Shuang, Shaftesbury Avenue, W1D 6LU

To Mookrata, which friends immediately dub ‘muckraker’, a six-month Thai pop-up above Shuang Shuang serving the eponymous mashup of Chinese hotpot and Korean barbecue. Broth (ours was fragrant, creamily yellow Pad Thai) is poured into a reservoir around a central hotplate: you cook veg in the liquid and protein on top. The fun of DIY dinner is slightly lost on someone my age, but I was impressed by the freshness and abundance of the ingredients, the bold flavouring and above all the price. Were I young and on a date and looking for something to break the ice, or simply starving for copious spicy food, this would be ideal.

#102 - "Sheer direct force" - Theatre review, Julius Caesar 01/02/2018

Bridge Theatre

At first I thought I’d seen the defining parts of Nicholas Hytner’s energetic take on Shakespeare's political drama – audience as mob, raucous live music, obvious political parallels – done before and better at the Globe. By the end I was won over by the sheer direct force of a show where a prime cast is almost upstaged by the Bridge theatre’s versatile, shape-shifting auditorium. David Calder is Caesar (more Bush than Trump), David Morrissey, Antony, but the real fizz comes from the heated relationship of Ben Whishaw’s torn Brutus and Michelle Fairley’s adamant Cassius. The supporting cast is strong, and it’s a thrill to see this theatre put properly through its paces.

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