#37 - "Episodic, ritualistic, slow" - Salome

National Theatre, Olivier

Yael Farber’s episodic, ritualistic retelling of the Salome story is visually and atmospherically rich, teeming with lively past and present parallels and a generous dollop of eroticism, but man, is it slow. Worse, rather than strip its heroine of bibilical and mythical obfuscation, it swathes her in more confusion. Rome’s occupation of Judea stands for the repression, abuse and exclusion of women throughout history, and Isabella Nefar’s Salome initially suffers silently the attentions of Paul Chahidi’s slimy Herod, her story voiced by Olwen Foure’s nameless narrator. Later, speaking, disrobing, gauzily gyrating and then demanding the prophet Jokanaan’s head, her motivations remain opaque. And an hour in, the keening, ululating vocal music seriously starts to grate.

#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?

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