#157 - "This had to be staged, even if it doesn't quite work" - theatre review, Measure for Measure 15/10/18

Donmar Warehouse

First Josie Rourke gives us this distasteful play in Jacobean dress and drastically filleted form, with the usual gender roles intact: then a similar shortened text, with mobile phones and modern dress, and the genders of suppliant virgin and sexual predator swapped. That the second version is barely credible is surely the point, reinforcing that the abuse of power, especially sexual power, has been almost exclusively a male preserve since time immemorial, and largely remains so, four centuries after Shakespeare lived. Hayley Atwell and Jack Lowden give strong performances despite occasional, unavoidable awkwardness. This production had to be mounted, even if it doesn’t quite work.

#156 - As far away from a hurried Eggs Benedict as you could get- review, Jamavar's Royal Brunch 15/10/18

Jamavar Mayfair

How nice to be invited to Michelin-starred Jamavar in Mayfair on a dreek autumn day for a warming, consoling brunch. Surender Mohan’s lavish menu is as far away from a hurried Eggs Benedict or lacklustre avocado on toast as you could probably get. It’s a leisurely array of dishes spanning the nation, from a tender and delicately spiced Tulsi Chicken Tikka starter to subtle Alleppey Sea Bass Curry and finely ground, richly flavoured Salih Keema, to a surprisingly good Hyderabadi pudding off stewed apricot and almonds. It’s all served with a pleasing degree of ritual in a beautiful room, plus a glass of Laurent Perrier, for a very reasonable £55.

#155 - "Grown-up, challenging, necessary" - theatre review, The Height of the Storm 12/10/18

Wyndham's Theatre

Writing a second play about dementia, after The Father was such a hit, might seem to be overegging it for Florian Zeller. But then, it affects all of us – it’s hit my family – so maybe more dramatists should be talking about it. Different interpretations and narratives overlap confusingly in this short work, but I understood that Jonathan Pryce’s Alzheimic novelist has lost his wife (Eileen Atkins) and does not remember the fact. Pryce is by turns brash and wrenchingly frail, and I’d watch Atkins do anything. The supporting characters are cyphers, but this is a grown-up, challenging, necessary work.

#154 -"Promising indeed" - theatre review, Twelfth NIght, 11/10/18

Young Vic

Kwame Kwei-Armah’s opening production as Young Vic boss has grown on me. This short, musical Shakespeare adaptation initially seemed neither fish nor fowl – it jettisons all but the bare plot and a few lines from Shakespeare, and adds songs by Shaina Taub that are nothing to shout about. The Notting Hill carnival setting made it feel like a particularly anodyne episode of Sesame Street. Then I heard Kwame talking about joy and realised the exuberance of the endeavour, plus the pulsating mysteries of love, sexuality and identity at its centre, had stayed with me. As a statement of purpose at this seminal venue, I realised, this is very promising indeed.

#153 - "Sketchy and unfinished" - theatre review, I'm Not Standing 10/10/18

National Theatre, Lyttelton

After Alan Bennett’s Allelujah!, here’s another political play from a theatrical great that feels sketchy and unfinished. David Hare’s latest gives us Pauline Gibson, a doctor who stands for parliament as a single-issue candidate, to save her hospital and suddenly seems set to take over Labour. But wait, her ex ex-lover is a red prince, and the heir presumptive. And there’s some #Metoo stuff going on as well. Though it’s funny in parts and acute in others, this feels like a mess, with too many themes shoehorned in and too many ideas left half baked. There’s an interestingly loose central performance from Sian Brooke, but I wouldn’t run to see it.

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