#44 - "Timely celebration of science over dumb belief" - Galileo

Young Vic

It’s an apt time to revive a play celebrating science over dumb (and false) belief, and Joe Wright’s exuberantly inventive production knocks some of the discursive starch out of Brecht’s script. Some of the denser points get lost in the uproar too, but you can’t have everything. Audience and actors mingle inside and outside a circular walkway while trippy celestial visuals play on a planetarium ceiling: there are puppets, loud music, wry asides. Brendan Cowell is a rumbustious, bearded, t-shirted Galileo, who gorges on knowledge, supported and surrounded by a cheerful ensemble. It’s larky stuff that nonetheless reminds us how dangerous it can be to decide we don’t need experts.

#43 - "Standout beans and rum baba" - Westerns Laundry

34 Drayton Park, N5 1PB

When David Gingell and Jérémie Cometto-Lingenheim opened the lovely Primeur in Canonbury, I urged them to next open something in Kennington, near me. Instead here’s Western’s Laundry in… Highbury. Bastards. Never mind: this is another pleasingly airy dining room carved out of an industrial building with a short, ‘low-interference’ wine list and a sensible menu of dishes that come as and when. A pugnacious John Dory with artichokes and lemon, and cod with romescu and charred onions were exemplary but the standouts were a starter of flat beans with olives and curd and a deceptively airy, shared rum baba. Please boys, come south. It’s the new Notting Hill, you know.

#42 - "Unroadworthy comic vehicle" - Lettice and Lovage

Menier Chocolate Factory

Peter Shaffer’s utterly daft 80s comedy about two older women waging war on modern mediocrity was a vehicle for Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack: Trevor Nunn’s revival feels less than roadworthy. Initially at loggerheads over historical truth and theatrical flair, Felicity Kendal’s fruitily chuntering Lettice and Maureen Lipman’s beadily acerbic Lotte bond over shared ideas of beauty and romance. The middle act is the most amusing and successful, but it’s bracketed by absurd contrivance and cliche; surely, today we can come up with better roles for ripe actresses than this. Nunn’s production has an under-rehearsed, stuttering air: you catch flashes of these two delicious comics on top form, but they are rare.

#41 - Chips with everything - celebrating London's historic cheap eateries

Rock and Soul Plaice, Endell St

With so many resonant cheap London eateries gone and going – Bloom’s, The New Piccadilly, the Picasso – we should fiercely celebrate those that remain. Today and tomorrow (17-18/05/17) the Rock and Sole Plaice in Endell St will sell chips at the 1982 price of 10p to celebrate the current owners' 35-year contribution to a history dating back to 1871. Is the title of “London’s oldest chippy” disputed, as London’s oldest pub or first fringe theatre always are? Doesn’t matter: when I’ve indulged, the chips here have been superb (thick, crunchy, golden), the paraphernalia (white coats, wooden forks, generous vinegar, that punning name) impeccable. Long may it fry.

#40 - "Sprawling, over-the-top brio" - Angels in America

National Theatre, Lyttelton

Twenty-five years on from its NT premiere Tony Kushner’s eight-hour spectacle has lost none of its power, pertinence or sprawling, over-the-top brio. In an 80s New York afflicted with Aids and Reaganism, seven humans and one angel crash messily through each other’s waking and dreaming lives, sparking fevered questions of politics, religion and sexuality. That a key figure – the closeted, infected McCarthyite Roy Cohn – was also Trump’s mentor seems almost too perfect. A fine cast revels in the talkative, emotive excesses and Marianne Elliot gives the play’s bold swagger free rein. The design, especially the articulation of the angel is, as Andrew Garfield’s anguished hero Prior would put it, faaabulous.

 

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