#223 - The Play That Goes Wrong

Duchess Theatre

Okay, I’m late to the party, but seeing TPTGW nine years into its West End run I was struck by its combination of coarseness and precision. A clownish spoof of a murder mystery – specifically that other long-runner, The Mousetrap – it lays on the slapstick with a trowel. But the wilful excess of the overacting and the badoom-tish underlining of the jokes- which make it comprehensible to young and old, locals and overseas tourists alike - is underpinned by great dexterity and hair-trigger timing, particularly among the stage management team. Covid couldn’t kill it, and it’s currently one year shy of matching the decade-long run of Oh! Calcutta. Hang in there, chaps…

#222 - The Invisible Hand

Kiln, NW6

Rejigged since it’s 2016 run, Ayad Akhtar’s play about a kidnapped banker forced to play the markets for his captors has become even more tightly focused and exciting. In a hectic two hours in a pressure-booker cell, desperate American Nick (Daniel Lapaine) and coiled, furious British Pakistani Bashir (Scott Karim) unpack geopolitics, high finance, religion, friendship and hatred in a way that is simultaneously humane, comprehensible and thrilling. Director Indhu Rubasingham keeps up the pace and also draws fine supporting performances from Tony Jayawardena as Imam Saleem, a guru with feet of clay, and Sid Sagar as reluctant jailer Dar. Terrific.

#221 - The Mousetrap

St Martin's Theatre, WC2H

I expected a dinosaur and got a proud warhorse. Agatha Christie’s thriller, now in its 69th record-breaking year, is defiantly old-fashioned but also extremely effective. The murder mystery is tightly plotted, and beneath the clipped tones and huffy gentility there’s a shocking core tale of abuse and neglect. Ian Talbot’s deliberately mannered production now features two casts of actors aimed at a broad range of audience soft spots (including the wonderful Derek Griffiths, a voice of my childhood). To finally see it – and the exquisite interior of the St Martin’s - after decades writing about London theatre is like having a cherished family heirloom suddenly come into your modern home.

#220 - Heathers the Musical

Theatre Royal, Haymarket, SW1Y

We’ve seen so many wry high school comedies since 1989’s Heathers that this musical stage adaptation seems almost generic. But it has a powerful vocal star in Christina Bennington as Veronica, the girl who craves acceptance, from, then rebels against, a cruel school clique. Writers Kevin Murphy and Laurence O’Keefe ramp up the arch stylisation of the original, though the story’s portrayal of rejection and sexual harassment looks more stark today. The best songs – Seventeen  and My Dead Gay Son – are in the second half. It’s put over with verve and sass if no great subtlety by a young cast, director Andy Fickman, and choreographer Gary Lloyd.

#219 - Charlotte Perriand

Design Museum W8

This show brilliantly restores the standing of one of the 20th century’s most important female designers and architects. Often working with (and overshadowed by) Le Corbusier, Perriand turned from utilitarian, machine-age furniture to more organic materials and forms, and united both in her ski shelters, the magnificent interior (recreated here) of the French Railways building on Piccadilly, and the vast ski resort, Les Arcs. Photos show a free spirit who loved hiking and skiing, videos an authoritative and unique voice. Shamefully, I knew little about her before this: my mother has one of her tubular-steel recliners, but always credited its design to Corbusier.

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