#36 - "Superb and timely" - The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui

Donmar Warehouse

Third time I’ve seen Brecht’s satire on Hitler: first time it’s actually worked. Simon Evans’s exuberantly raucous production of Bruce Norris’s new adaptation uses verse, song, even audience participation to make explicit connections between Lenny Henry’s brutish gangster and Donald Trump. While the parallels are inexact it’s still very powerful. This breaks Brecht free of historical amber and British reserve, and shows he invented ‘fake news’. Henry, never better, transforms from looming galoot to mannered operator, crushing foes and friends alike. A fine supporting cast of actor/singers ensure the clownish comedy has a chilling edge. Of course, the Donmar is a liberal echo chamber, but this is superb and timely programming.

#35 - "Bracingly disconcerting" - The Treatment

Almeida Theatre

The title, like much in Martin Crimp’s bracingly disconcerting play, is layered. The satire of the film industry, in which a vulnerable young woman’s life story is twisted out of shape, nods towards a wider problem in society where none of us is in control of his or her narrative. And the treatment for our sickness could be worse than cure. Aisling Loftus is convincingly otherworldly as the protagonist Anne, Indira Varma excellent as a briskly heedless film executive. Lyndsay Turner’s production is more sure-footed in moments of cruelty and violence than in moments of uneasy humour. But having missed the play’s 1993 Royal Court premiere, I now definitely get what the fuss was about.

#34 - "Tiresomely overblown goth-emo-clown reading" - Romeo and Juliet

Shakespeare's Globe

New ENO director Daniel Kramer serves up a tiresomely overblown goth-emo-clown reading of Shakespeare’s thwarted romance accompanied by sturm und drang club music here. Kirsty Bushell’s throaty, spirited Juliet is pretty much the only saving grace. Whatever might have been achieved by the stark darkness of the staging and the interesting editing of the text – which ends with Juliet’s movingly messy death - is erased by the otherwise grotesque overacting, which makes nonsense of most characters. Personally, I don’t mind a bit of panto vulgarity and I’m a fan of outgoing boss Emma Rice, but it does seem that’s all we’re getting from the Globe right now.

#33 - "Opulent, decadent, ravishing, brilliant"

The Ned London

Wow, the Ned is a beauty. I spent two evenings at the opulent, decadent, 252-room hotel and club carved out of Edwin Lutyens’ Grade 1 listed, 1925 HSBC headquarters at Bank by the Soho House and Sydell Groups. On the roof (editor’s leaving do) an emerald pool steams in front of St Paul’s and huge skies: on the ground and basement floors (opening party – glam bedlam) nine restaurants in the majestic banking hall and a vault bar, vast spa and another pool vie for attention. It’s ravishing, brilliant, and causes a tiny twinge of anxiety. Are we dancing madly on the edge?

#32 - "Agreeable but lacks conviction" - The Philanthropist

Trafalgar Studios

Like the recent Dead Funny, this star-packed, should-be-surefire revival of a hit comedy ends up misfiring. Christopher Hampton’s 1969 play is of its time and wouldn’t pass the Bechdel test, with its witty literary men and tittering women smoking furiously (and unconvincingly) in Oxbridge rooms. Simon Callow’s production is fine, but tinny. Simon Bird is very funny if overinsistent as the obtuse philologist Philip, and nicely paired with his Friday Night Dinner cohort Tom Rosenthal. But Charlotte Ritchie and Matt Berry are slightly off as his caustic fiancee and bombastic rival, and MAW Lily Cole suffocates under a glutinous posh accent. Like Philip, it’s all perfectly agreeable, but lacks conviction.

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