#22 - "Extraordinary tale of influence, affection and shifting artistic tides" - Michelangelo & Sebastiano

National Gallery

What an extraordinary tale of influence, affection and shifting artistic tides is told in the National Gallery’s dazzling show about Michelangelo and the younger friend and collaborator who pre-deceased him. It’s not only the loaned artworks that impress but the preserved letters full of early respect and friendship that dwindle as the older artists tries to control and then hobble his collaborator (who was his superior in oil painting). I loved Michelangelo and was ignorant of Sebastiano before this, but it is the fragments of a destroyed version of The Visitation by the latter that stayed with me. There’s a novel in this story, surely.

#21 - "Exuberant, panto-style polemic" - The Miser

Garrick Theatre

How great is it that a week’s London openings include Daniel Radcliffe in Stoppard, Imelda Staunton in Albee, a serious drama about the founding of the SDP and this exuberantly panto-style polemic, that repositions Moliere’s Harpagon as one of the one per cent? Griff Rhys Jones is the titular skinflint, Lee Mack a brilliantly truculent Jacques in a production that relies on the tropes and talents of the stand-up circuit. It’s messy and uneven to be sure, but the slapstick is well done, not to mention the cod-Gallic exposulations: “Pret a Manger!”

#20 - "Tragicomic psychodrama goes up to 11" - Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf

Harold Pinter Theatre

Imelda Staunton is thrillingly unlovely as Martha in Edward Albee’s long, dark, pissed night of a play – a performance as gutsy as her Mama Rose in Gypsy, but more frankly savage and eventually human. She’s matched by Conleth Hill as husband George, a mangy, pouchy old tomcat who can still claw and bite. James Macdonald’s production is meticulously orchestrated: Imogen Poots and Luke Treadaway are great in the challenging support roles. I love this play but the tragicomic psychodrama goes up to 11. I think Albee, who I twice interviewed, was embarrassed by its excess, and the shadow it cast over his other work. But here, you can see why it did so.

#19 - Limehouse:

Donmar Warehouse

London theatre sure feels like a liberal bubble when you’re next to Shirley Williams, watching a play about the founding of the SDP in which she, naturally, appears. An easy shot, but no more pat perhaps than the way Steve Waters equates Labour's problems in 1981 and now. Like his previous Temple - about St Paul's reaction to the Occupy movement – this involves a passionate, provoking, speechifying and necessarily inconclusive rehearsal of the arguments, here enlivened by Debra Gillett’s pin-sharp Williams and Roger Allam’s slyly comic Roy Jenkins. The strongest character, deliberately, is David Owen’s patient, pragmatic wife Debbie, played by Nathalie Armin: the coda the actress speaks, about the state of the world today, is an authorial cop out.

#18 - "Machine gunned by bon mots as sweet at bonbons" - Rosencranz and Guildenstern are Dead, starring Daniel Radcliffe

Old Vic

When ignorance is celebrated in many spheres, maybe cleverness comes back into its own in others. David Levaux’s blissful revival of Tom Stoppard’s 1966 celebration of theatrical wit, existential joshing and wordplay follows hard on the heels of the author’s similarly intellectually exuberant Travesties. What’s more, this one’s got Daniel Radcliffe, first underpowered, then nicely understated, as a foil to the more expressively anguised Josh Maguire, and a grandstandingly thespy David Haig, mining the theoritetical backwaters of Hamlet. I never feel clever enough for Stoppard and this show is like being machine-gunned with bon mots as sweet as bonbons, plus the odd tracer round of mordancy. But if you get even half of them it’s glorious, mind-stretching fun.

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