The Times

The Times & The Sunday Times – London Theatre Reviews

West End Theatre reviews from the UK newspaper The Times & Sunday Times.

Here’s a selection of reviews of London shows from the theatre and arts critics at The Times newspaper.

The chief theatre critic at The Times is Clive Davis.

Quentin Letts writes reviews for the Sunday Times.

Also Dominic Maxwell writes theatre and comedy reviews for the Times and Sunday Times.

See below for a full run-down of star ratings and theatre opinions about West End shows in London from The Times & The Sunday Times.


All of Us at the National Theatre (2022)

★★

"Taking aim at Tories"

"The jokes soon dry up and go down the partisan plughole."

"Tory scum kill disabled people: that might have been a more honest title for Francesca Martinez’s All of Us. Martinez, who has cerebral palsy, has written and acts in a three-hour play attacking the government for not spending more on disability benefits. Initially her trenchant views are sugared by humour and by her willowy performance. The early scenes challenge presumptions and offer useful insights about our over-bureaucratised care system. Well before the end, alas, the show goes down a partisan plughole, squandering political sympathy and losing its dramatic poise."

Quentin Letts, The Sunday Times
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All of Us at the National Theatre (2022)

★★

"A well-intentioned drama becomes a rant"

"Martinez’s anger is palpable throughout, but the piece is so stacked against the evil Conservative frauds and liars that you begin to feel you are being recruited for a demo along the South Bank. Equally unconvincing (and ethically dubious) is Jess’s romantic relationship with an alcoholic patient (Bryan Dick) who, we discover, is the ultimate victim of hard-faced, free-market ideology."

Clive Davis, The Times
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Great British Bake Off - The Musical at the Everyman Theatre Cheltenham (2022)

★★★

"The Musical review — a sugar-and-spice recipe with no soggy bottoms"

"This celebration of a TV institution may be no classic, but in its cheerfully unassuming way Jake Brunger and Pippa Cleary’s show serves up a hearty, sugar-and-spice recipe."

"The jaunty songs toss in plenty of in-jokes, and it helps that they’re delivered by a cast including such experienced hands as Rosemary Ashe, John Owen-Jones and Sondheim specialist Damian Humbley. The actors inject so much joie de vivre into Rachel Kavanaugh’s production that you’re ready to overlook its throwaway structure. The result is a more decorous, home counties version of a hen party night out."

Clive Davis, The Times
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Identical at the Nottingham Playhouse (2022)

★★★

"Parent Trap musical has promise, but no spark"

"... all its charm, it still looks like a show in need of a rewrite or two."

"What’s the main problem? The songs by composer George Stiles and lyricist Anthony Drewe (writers of The Ugly Duckling musical, Honk!) are decent enough, even if they’re overshadowed by Robert Jones’s exceptionally stylish sets."

Clive Davis, The Times
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Identical at the Nottingham Playhouse (2022)

★★★★

"Even I wept buckets at this wonderful weepy"

"With songs by Stiles and Drewe, it is a gooey offering. The only hard-nosed thing is its commercially savvy sentimentality. Out comes the onion peeler time and again, and by the end every person on stage is weeping. Quite a few in the audience succumbed too."

"Nunn drills his youthful cast well and both set and computerised backdrops are better than one expects from a touring musical."

Quentin Letts, The Sunday Times
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The Tempest at the Shakespeare's Glob (2022)

★★★

"Inflatable lobsters and football anthems make for gimmicky Shakespeare"

"It’s vivid, cheerfully garish and never dull, but it’s also gimmicky. Ariel’s song of enchantment is a rendition of the football anthem Three Lions, crooned over a feast of fast food; the robes that Prospero leaves as bait for George Fouracres’ bullyish Stefano and Ralph Davis’s Trinculo are Harry Potter merch. All of that strips away the fantastical and brings the drama closer to us: it’s redolent of drunken Brits abroad, and of our colonial past."

"This is, though, a DayGlo romp, flimsy as a lilo, if just as buoyant."

Sam Marlowe, The Times
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The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe at the Gillian Lynne Theatre (2022)

★★★

"A fantastical, and functional, trip to Narnia"

"That awful moment when Aslan the lion is put to death is still chilling, yet some of the magic has seeped out of a production, originally devised by Sally Cookson, that started life at Leeds Playhouse five years ago"

"There doesn’t seem to be much of a tingle factor in Tom Paris’s set design. (His costumes, however, are eye-catching.) This vision of Narnia’s landscape lacks grandeur and mystery; even the frost seems less beguiling."

Clive Davis, The Times
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The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe at the Gillian Lynne Theatre (2022)

★★★

"I wanted The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to evoke wonder"

"In all it’s a shrewd commercial package for families — but like a municipal swimming pool designed by centralised health and safety, it lacks depth."

"Yes, there is spectacle aplenty, but too little of the “fundamental seriousness” of religious hope. Aslan’s resurrection involved some amateurish fumbles. With the exception of the dear little faun Mr Tumnus (Jez Unwin) it all left me a little cold and, I’m afraid, lifeless."

Quentin Letts, The Sunday Times
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Chasing Hares at the Young Vic (2022)

★★★

"A fitfully fascinating study of compromise and coercion"

"At its best, Chasing Hares is a pacy, thrilling depiction of compromise and coercion. The second hour of the show — which is inspired, in part, by Bhattacharyya’s uncle’s experiences working at a Dunlop factory in Bandel, West Bengal — is involving and darkly amusing too."

"Generally the tone is well sustained, the staging sharp. There is exciting work in here. It’s just a shame that the show’s musings on the power of storytelling end up getting in the way of the power of its storytelling"

Dominic Maxwell, The Times
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Sister Act at the Eventim Apollo (2022)

★★★

"Beverley Knight doesn’t quite hit the heavenly heights"

"Knight works tremendously hard as the audience cheers her on, but her acting tends to hit the same note in every scene."

"Jennifer Saunders’s presence as the exasperated, heart-of-gold Mother Superior isn’t enough to fill the gap. ...there simply isn’t enough for her to do."

"Clive Rowe comes to the rescue as Eddie Souther.. Rowe is one of our most assured musical theatre performers"

"Knight’s voice soars again before the end of the evening. Her fan club won’t be complaining, but there’s not quite enough for everyone else."

Clive Davis, The Times
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Sister Act at the Eventim Apollo (2022)

★★★

"Beverley Knight, voice like a jumbo jet, plays a Philadelphia nightclub singer, Deloris, who takes sanctuary in a convent after seeing her gangster boyfriend murder one of his comedy hoodlums"

"Not even a Deloris could teach Jennifer Saunders how to sing. The Ab Fab star plays the mother superior and she is her usual comic self, but her two solos are acts of musical torture."

Quentin Letts, The Sunday Times
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101 Dalmatians at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Wild woofs of approval"

"Kate Fleetwood makes a full-throated villain, and in Timothy Sheader’s jaunty production the political subtext (there’s even a glimpse of a partying Boris Johnson) gives way to an old-fashioned romp. Composer-lyricist Douglas Hodge and book writer Johnny McKnight serve up a sugar-and-spice confection — based on a stage adaptation by Zinnie Harris — which ought to appeal to adults and children alike."

"Katrina Lindsay’s costumes add flair, while Colin Richmond’s set turns the giant letters spelling out the show’s title into a shabby-genteel domestic interior. Liam Steel’s choreography supplies lots of doggy energy too. Bow, wow."

Clive Davis, The Times
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Jack Absolute Flies Again at the National Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"The National has a comic hit on its hands"

"Kerry Howard is superb as her sharp-tongued maid, Lucy, who indulges in some cynical asides with the audience. (The fourth wall comes crashing down from the start.) Jordan Metcalfe is excellent as the sexually repressed Roy Faulkland."

"The two aerial combat interludes induce an abrupt change in emotional tone that could easily have stalled the play. Quentin and the rest of the first-rate cast keep it aloft. Tally ho."

Clive Davis, The Times
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Jack Absolute Flies Again at the National Theatre (2022)

★★★★★

"This loveable show should revive the battered box office at the National Theatre"

"... this is an enormously loveable show. The reason it works so well is not just the panache of the writing, acting and animated graphics of Spitfire dogfights. It is the mix of laughter and tears, its ability to peel away from formation comedy and bare an underbelly of something more vulnerable."

"Emily Burns’s production maintains such a pace that some jokes are lost in the gallop."

Quentin Letts, The Sunday Times
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Much Ado About Nothing at the National Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Bruised lovers charm amid simmering Italian chic"

"In John Heffernan and Katherine Parkinson, we get a charming pair of slightly bruised lovers."

"Anna Fleischle’s handsome recreation of a Sicilian pleasure palace called The Hotel Messina, a grand terracotta and gold revolving edifice, complete with powder room and beach huts, comes close to upstaging everyone."

Clive Davis, The Times
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Much Ado About Nothing at the National Theatre (2022)

★★★

"The test of any Much Ado is the moment Beatrice goes icy and asks Benedick to “kill Claudio”. If the audience laughs, the production lacks the proper depth of emotion. It happens here. But the night still has plenty of merit and Shakespeare’s conservative argument remains potent: “What we have, we prize not to the worth whiles we enjoy it, but, being lacked and lost, why then we rack the value"."

Quentin Letts, The Sunday Times
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Crazy For You at the Chichester Festival Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Be dazzled by this infectious Gershwin musical"

"With Susan Stroman, who created the original choreography, at the helm as director, this production confirms that Charlie Stemp’s Bobby Child belongs in the top rank. He was all charm in the amiable Mary Poppins, but here he rises to the challenge of a score that distils the spirit of vintage Broadway. In the opening scenes his goofiness reminds you of the comedian Lee Evans; by the end he is channelling the ghosts of the suavest leading men of yesteryear."

"Not surprisingly, it’s in the big set pieces where Stroman’s choreography shines brightest. Having seen the new Broadway production of The Music Man, another tale of an outsider mixing it with honest, plain folk, I’d say Chichester’s ensemble work is no less tight. Go along and be dazzled."

Clive Davis, The Times
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Crazy For You at the Chichester Festival Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"When it comes to song and dance and liquid watchability, Stemp is the works. He plays our rich kid, Bobby Child, and he is ace. Carly Anderson matches him as Bobby’s desire, and Tom Edden again proves his reliability by playing Mr Zangler, owner of the Follies."

"Susan Stroman’s production is a riot of syncopation and fun. Zest on stage."

Quentin Letts, The Sunday Times
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Billy Elliot The Musical at the Curve Theatre Leicester (2022)

★★★★★

"This revival will have you dancing for joy"

"It’s a flat-out masterpiece. And if you had any worries that a humble regional revival of a musical that played in the West End for 11 years and on Broadway for three would come off second best, believe me, there is nothing humble about Nikolai Foster’s luminous production."

"It’s epic but intimate. Heavens, even the swearing is gorgeous. Several of Foster’s Curve musicals have gone on to have a life elsewhere. This, his biggest yet, will surely, hopefully, be one of them."

Dominic Maxwell, The Times
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Cynthia Erivo: Legendary Voices at the Royal Albert Hall (2022)

★★★★

"A Hollywood star from London conquers the Proms"

"Starring in her own BBC Prom was a useful way to remind her fellow Brits just how far the south London-born actress and singer Cynthia Erivo has come."

"... Erivo’s homage to “Legendary Voices” amounted to much more than a night of reverent fangirl covers. Once you accepted the terms of engagement, there was plenty to enjoy — foremost Erivo’s magnificent singing."

John Bungey, The Times
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Peaky Blinders: The Rise reviews at the Camden Garrison (2022)

★★★

"Throw yourself into a turf war with Tommy Shelby"

"As far as period details go, it’s the effing sardine’s whiskers. True, the fake banknotes aren’t going to fool anyone, but everything else about the decor at this immersive version of the hit BBC series has an authentic 1920s air."

"What isn’t quite so thrilling is the storyline."

"It lacks all-important narrative drive."

Clive Davis, The Times
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Anything Goes at the Barbican Theatre (2022)

★★★★★

"No question about it: this remains the best show in town."

"If there’s one production I’d prescribe to a person who is allergic to musicals, this would be it."

"Kerry Ellis is every bit as seductive as Reno Sweeney"

"Carly Mercedes Dyer still steals scenes as Moonface’s fast-talking moll, and Haydn Oakley twinkles as a toff addicted to the latest in American slang"

Clive Davis, The Times
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Anything Goes at the Barbican Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Fear not, little flock. The Cole Porter musical Anything Goes is back at the Barbican after last summer’s triumphant run. Reno, the loveless nightclub singer who makes an Atlantic crossing with a shipload of gangsters and romancers, is now played by Kerry Ellis. For me she has a spoonful more mischief than last year’s star, Sutton Foster. Denis Lawson is also an improvement on Robert Lindsay as Moonface Martin, the sub-mafioso who is public enemy No 13. The cast’s other big addition is that old ham Simon Callow, who plays the millionaire Elisha Whitney."

Quentin Letts, The Sunday Times
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Millennials at the The Other Palace (2022)

★★★

"Angsty songs, rainbow bubbles and a giant avocado"

"this plotless collection of numbers feels rather aimless and generalised, and although Clay’s songs are catchy and well crafted, you can’t help feeling that Gen-Z pop experts on the wryly funny, sharp-eyed and angsty — Billie Eilish, Olivia Rodrigo — are doing a more sophisticated job of covering similar territory."

"It’s all thoroughly likeable and guaranteed to leave you feeling better and brighter, however old you are."

Sam Marlowe, The Times
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Patriots at the Almeida Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Playwright Peter Morgan‘s slick horror show captures the early days of the despot but makes him sound like Rodney from Only Fools and Horses"

"This is a slick horror story about greed for money and power. The Putin we see is a psychopath with murderous underlings. Berezovsky, played magnetically by a tonsured Tom Hollander, gorges himself on success. It is hard to feel sorry for him when he falls. Putin’s own overreach goes unshown, but it will surely come, will it not?"

Quentin Letts, The Sunday Times
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Patriots at the Almeida Theatre (2022)

★★

"Tom Hollander does turn in a commanding performance"

"A play that is an unwieldy combination of docudrama and thriller with a sliver of Gogolesque comedy tossed in."

Clive Davis, The Times
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The Tempest at the Theatre Royal Bath (2022)

★★★★

"A touch of opera gives Deborah Warner’s Shakespeare real magic"

"Nicholas Woodeson’s Prospero .. doesn’t hit a false note"

"In a flawless cast, Stephen Kennedy’s Trinculo and Gary Sefton’s Stephano supply the hearty comic interludes. All in all, it’s a pleasure to hear verse delivered with such clarity."

Clive Davis, The Times
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The Seagull at the Harold Pinter Theatre (2022)

★★

"Emilia Clarke can’t rescue this airless Chekhov"

"Emilia Clarke ...turns in a perfectly fine performance. Indira Varma is even more impressive"

"this oddly static production, much of it delivered sotto voce, is closer to a radio play or a rehearsal."

Clive Davis, The Times
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The Seagull at the Harold Pinter Theatre (2022)

"Emilia Clarke can’t save The Seagull"

"The stage is a bare, doorless, three-sided chipboard box. The actors are barefoot and drably attired on plastic chairs. They eff and blind. When not in a scene, they stare into space or close their eyes. This is also true, soon, of some audience members."

"The play opens with stuff about theatre theory and the didacticism of “the gatekeepers of culture”. It is done without irony. The cast are head-miked so that we can hear their gulps and snuffles. It’s like watching a bad Radio 4 play."

Quentin Letts, The Sunday Times
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Richard III reviews - RSC Stratford at the Stratford Upon Avon (2022)

★★★

"The RSC’s first disabled king breaks another barrier"

"There are some powerful supporting performances as well, especially from Minnie Gale as a wailing, grief-stricken Queen Margaret, who stalks the stage, silver hair streaming, like one of Macbeth’s witches."

"But does this Richard really seem the epitome of treacherous, conspiratorial evil? Not really, and that leaves a moral void at the centre of the play. "

"Here, at the very centre of power, he doesn’t cast a long enough shadow."

Clive Davis, The Times
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Disney's Beauty and the Beast at the London Palladium (2022)

★★★

"An all-singing, all-dancing piece of the Disney brand"

"Spectacle wins out over storytelling in this extravagant, exuberantly played revival of a Disney show"

"The highlight of the evening is Be My Guest, a number so catchy and so lavishly staged that it barely matters what show it arrives in the middle of. The director and choreographer Matt West celebrates musical theatre with every tool at his disposal: cartwheels, tap dancing, chorus lines, a pink sparkling curtain, synchronised moves worthy of the Ziegfeld Follies. "

Dominic Maxwell, The Times
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Mad House at the The Ambassadors Theatre (2022)

★★★

"Bill Pullman and David Harbour excel in a twisty family drama"

"The first hour or so delivers an absorbing blend of dark and light, anguish and humour. Sadly, that delicate balance goes awry later. It’s still a thought-provoking piece, but you’re left wondering what might have been."

"What’s striking, though, is how much dark laughter Rebeck and director Moritz von Stuelpnagel smuggle into this bleak scenario."

Clive Davis, The Times
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That Is Not Who I Am at the Royal Court Theatre (2022)

"A thriller that utterly fails to generate any tension"

"The blurb describes the piece as a “slippery thriller”, yet Kirkwood and the director Lucy Morrison utterly fail to generate any sort of tension."

"What’s frustrating is that there really is a play waiting to be written about surveillance capitalism. This isn’t it. Nor is there an interval, so the one hour and fifty minutes feels much longer. "

Clive Davis, The Times
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The Southbury Child at the Chichester Festival Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Our thespian prayers answered"

"There are some plays that keep you talking well into the night. Stephen Beresford’s study of a wayward vicar at odds with his flock is one of them. "

"Admittedly, the writing is cluttered — so many themes jostle for attention that you occasionally get the impression you are watching a soap opera at warp speed — but it’s still a rare and heartfelt portrait of post-Christian Britain, anchored by a majestic performance by Alex Jennings."

"Hytner gets sterling performances out of the entire cast, and just when the storyline seems in danger of overheating, Beresford lobs in some astute comic notes."

Clive Davis, The Times
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A Dolls House, Part 2 at the Donmar Warehouse (2022)

★★★

"Sympathies shift in this dark thought experiment"

"Nora herself doesn’t emerge as an entirely likeable figure. Having built a new life for herself, she returns to the family hearth as a successful writer of books championing female independence. We admire her grit, but Noma Dumezweni — whose voice is a little lacking in light and shade — gives us a woman who is too pleased with herself. When she engages in a discussion with her old nanny, Anne Marie — who had been left with the task of raising Nora’s three young children — there is no mistaking the hint of condescension."

"It is one of the merits of the script that our sympathies shift back and forth in a series of conversations between Nora and those she left behind."

Clive Davis, The Times
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A Dolls House, Part 2 at the Donmar Warehouse (2022)

★★★

"A radical feminist wrestling match"

"Patricia Allison impresses as Emmy, but she and Dumezweni are given little ammunition to make their big scene plausible. The play feels more like a political project, an examination of marriage and women’s rights, than a tale of love and loss. Dumezweni has magnetic presence. She, like the whole show, is perfectly watchable. But I did not for a moment believe she was Ibsen’s Nora. It might have been better to leave that slammed door shut."

Quentin Letts, The Sunday Times
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Jitney at the Old Vic Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"A funny, fractious dive into the lives of 1970s American taxi drivers"

"Tinuke Craig’s fluid and absorbing revival oozes an unforced sense of edgy camaraderie, a sharp sense of lives in stasis amid a city in awkward motion. There is even, in the cinematic-jazz interludes by Max Perryment, a nod to Bernard Herrmann’s music for Taxi Driver."

"It’s unsentimental, but compassionate. And outstandingly well acted."

"It’s fractious, funny and lively enough that our suspension of disbelief can handle the cast breaking into a dance to a Bill Withers song. The accents are excellent, so good, in fact, that it takes a fair while, in this big old theatre at least, to tune into the vernacular. When the characters break off into smaller groups, though, the evening takes on an arresting intimacy."

Dominic Maxwell, The Times
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The Car Man at the Royal Albert Hall (2022)

★★★

"Matthew Bourne’s hot-blooded version of Carmen purrs along and then stalls"

"The first act was especially terrific. Shame, then, about a second half that suffers from some of the same unconvincing narrative choices that were present at the production’s premiere in 2000. The result is an initially great night out that goes dissatisfyingly pear-shaped."

"Bourne’s storytelling is also loaded with kinetic juice. The show opens like gangbusters with a tone-setting ensemble dance rife with zesty leaps, swirls, stomps and swivelling turns."

Donald Hutera, The Times
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The Gunpowder Plot at the Tower Vaults London (2022)

★★★★★

"A stunning virtual-reality experience"

"An experience to ignite the imagination"

"This is an immersive experience in which virtual reality and a team of actors are brought together in the vividly evocative setting of Tower Hill Vaults to lead you ducking and dashing, betraying and scheming, scampering and soaring through the London of four centuries ago."

"I admit, I’m a sucker for virtual reality. To abseil on a rope that swoops from the top of the White Tower out over the Thames, the wind whipping my face as I skid through historical cityscapes, seems quite frankly thrilling. I could feel my heart tense. And, at a moment of quietness when there was a glitch in my headset (I presume it was a technical problem that will be fixed), I heard one of the two teenagers (13 and 14 years old) accompanying me utter a half-bleat, half-gasp of mingled terror, astonishment and delight."

"This was the first of the three mesmerising VR moments, made to feel all the more real by physical sensations (the damp of a dungeon, the groan of the rack, a splash of water as you take to your lurching rowing boat) that this experience incorporated. Yet just as exhilarating — and even more so, according to the teenagers — was being drawn into a role-play by a team of 20 live actors."

"Make sure that you visit this with a party prepared to abandon all disbelief. Be prepared, also, to hear quite a lot of strong language."

Rachel Campbell-Johnston, The Times
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Tony! (The Tony Blair Rock Opera) at the Park Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Harry Hill’s manic humour demolishes the former PM"

"To call Harry Hill and Steve Brown’s portrait of the former prime minister a hatchet job would be an understatement. It’s a dodgy dossier of a show which depicts New Labour’s leader as the emptiest of empty suits."

"It is, however, very witty and tuneful too. Hill, who wrote the book, has never been to everyone’s taste — the little boy inside him is always desperate to make burping noises — but if you’re a fan of his brand of comedy you’ll warm to this venture."

Clive Davis, The Times
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Britannicus at the Lyric Hammersmith (2022)

★★★

"Power politics in ancient Rome around the water cooler"

"This modern-dress interpretation — dominated by the majestic figure of Agrippina, searingly played by Sirine Saba — doesn’t find an answer to the perennial question of how to find a replacement for the stately music of French classical verse. Wertenbaker’s text is more jagged and demotic, making those long scenes of exposition much, much harder to absorb."

Clive Davis, The Times
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The Unfriend at the Chichester Festival Theatre (2022)

★★

"Creaky sitcom jokes make Steven Moffat’s play a trial"

"The Unfriend starts promisingly enough as a study in middle-class embarrassment."

"To be fair, most of the Chichester audience seemed more than willing to laugh at jokes that wouldn’t have made the cut in the cheesiest of Seventies sitcoms. Michael Simkins steals a scene or two as a relentlessly boring neighbour. Gatiss directs at a frenetic pace interspersed with overlong scene changes. There’s a scattering of decent jokes and double-takes; the audience decided they were worth a standing ovation. Utterly mystifying."

Clive Davis, The Times
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The Glass Menagerie at the Duke of York's Theatre (2022)

★★★

"Hollywood star pulls off a touching turnaround"

"All praise to Adams .. for taking on a role that has tested many an actress."

"Since Williams steered clear of naturalistic stage directions, Herrin and Vicki Mortimer, the set designer, allow themselves free rein. Laura’s cherished collection of glass animals stands in a sleek case that looks as if it belongs in the foyer of a boutique hotel. Ash J Woodward’s video projections add punctuation: whenever Amanda’s absent husband is mentioned, his image floats into view. Paule Constable’s muted lighting is complemented by the washes of music created by Nick Powell. The details are stylishly assembled but they fail to carry the evening."

Clive Davis, The Times
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ABBA Voyage at the ABBA Arena (2022)

★★★★

"Captivating.. Out of this world"

"This was captivating, and celebratory in a rather innocent fashion. Who doesn’t love dancing along to Gimme Gimme Gimme?"

"A show like this lives by the spirit with which it was conceived, and unlike past hologram shows there was nothing ghoulish about watching youthful versions of people still very much alive."

"For a show that combined live music, 3-D spectacle and something else entirely, it was out of this world."

Will Hodgkinson, The Times
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Legally Blonde The Musical at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Go with an open mind and you’ll be blown away"

"Moss has repackaged the show in a way that brings it bang up to date without sacrificing its joie de vivre."

"Laura Hopkins’s set isn’t easy on the eye. What I take to be an attempt to evoke a backdrop of straw-like tresses ends up looking like a beach hut after a night of hard partying by the Downing Street posse."

Clive Davis, The Times
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Murder On The Orient Express at the Chichester Festival Theatre (2022)

★★★

"Henry Goodman is outstanding"

"Goodman has entirely cracked the mystery of how to put a new spin on the world’s most famous, most Belgian detective."

"Jonathan Church’s production does its best to make something fresh and theatrical of a tale with arguably the most familiar solution in the Christie canon. Robert Jones’s design does a fine job of getting us in among the action — moving dining tables and sleeping carriages across the stage in different formations — less so of bringing any sense of confinement, of tension."

Dominic Maxwell, The Times
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My Fair Lady  (2022)

★★★

"A bit more power and it would be really lovely"

"a very decent, very stylish, eventually quite audacious My Fair Lady. Not, though, a great one. Or certainly not on opening night."

"My Fair Lady is always diverting, less often transporting. Michael Yeargan’s sets transport us from bare-stage blue to Covent Garden pillars before you even realise it."

Dominic Maxwell, The Times
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My Fair Lady  (2022)

★★★★

"My Fair Lady reminded me why we go to West End shows"

"From the moment the overture starts swirling around the Coliseum, My Fair Lady is daringly sumptuous. Swooping melodies? Painted backcloths? Vast Edwardian hats and rich lighting? This Bartlett Sher production is unashamedly sensuous. Such things were once the reason we went to West End shows, handing over our precious spondulicks to be transported, rather than lectured at, and here Sher restores a mission to entertain and enchant."

Quentin Letts, The Sunday Times
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Grease at the Dominion Theatre (2022)

★★★

"It’s highly professional."

"Arlene Phillips’s choreography offers some thrills"

"[When] Olivia Moore takes centre stage.. to sing good-girl Sandy’s impassioned lament Hopelessly Devoted to You — it simply soars"

"It’s never going to be West Side Story, fine, but even so this Grease needs a more vivid sense of lives in the balance."

Dominic Maxwell, The Times
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Passion at the Hope Mill Theatre (2022)

★★★

"a Sondheim revival for completists only"

"There’s nothing wrong with Michael Strassen’s gossamer production: Ruthie Henshall does herself justice in an unsympathetic role and the scaled-down arrangements for just five musicians are a fine match for such an intimate venue."

"The problem lies with the work itself. "

"As a psychological study, it’s wildly implausible, while the music is Sondheim at his most arid. "

"A thoughtful, intelligent revival in short, but this remains an oddity that only Sondheim completists will want to argue over."

Clive Davis, The Times
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Oklahoma! at the Young Vic Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Stirring singing in a reworked classic"

"In the final moments, Arthur Darvill’s Curly, decked out in a white suit and wielding a guitar, could be channelling the ghost of Hank Williams. The singing by the rest of the cast is never less than stirring. Marisha Wallace takes the honours as the gospel-tinged, sexually voracious Ado Annie."

"Some of the tweaks work better than others. The dream ballet, choreographed by John Heginbotham, becomes a clichéd modern dance feature for Marie-Astrid Mence, Hendrix-style guitar swamping the pedal steel. Elsewhere, the harsh, institutional lighting, only occasionally dimmed to shades of red, makes it hard to focus on the characters, especially with the audience sitting either side of the cast."

"James Davis, as the dim-witted Will, makes the most of his comic moments alongside Stavros Demetraki’s Persian pedlar, Ali Hakim. Liza Sadovy is memorably stern as Aunt Eller, and the earthy laughter of Rebekah Hinds’s sassy Gertie is still ringing in my ears."

Clive Davis, The Times
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Old Friends at the Sondheim Theatre (2022)

★★★★★

"A star-spangled, unforgettable tribute to Stephen Sondheim"

"Excuse me if I gush, but this was one of those nights where it was difficult to focus on highlights simply because there were so many. Cameron Mackintosh’s memorial concert for Stephen Sondheim, who died in November, began on a high note when the veteran Julia McKenzie, who did so much to champion the composer’s work on this side of the Pond, walked onto the stage to sing Side by Side by Side. Proof, if needed, that British artists don’t need to feel like intruders on this territory. They’ve made the music their own."

"Who else but Judi Dench could be entrusted with Send in the Clowns? If Dench’s delivery barely rose above a whisper, Haydn Gwynne powered through a version of The Ladies Who Lunch that was as potent and savage and tipsy as anything the late Elaine Stritch gave us. As ever, the elegant Janie Dee glowed in the dark, sizzling through the bossa nova parody The Boy from . . ."

Clive Davis, The Times
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Much Ado About Nothing at the Shakespeare's Globe Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Shakespeare’s sparring lovers start the Globe’s new season in style"

"Something about Much Ado’s sprawling mix of the cheering (flirtation, farce, love, redemption) and the sobering (misogyny, betrayal) seems to suit the Globe."

"And, in a production by Lucy Bailey that elegantly feminises some of the power structures, Katy Stephens is a standout always as the amusing, authoritative, Latin-tempered governor Leonata, but never more so than when she sings. She forms a fine double act with another older stateswoman, Antonia (Joanne Haworth). And everyone excels in the unabashedly slapstick rendition of the scene in which they engineer first Benedick (Ralph Davis) and then Beatrice (Lucy Phelps) into overhearing disinformation about how much the other one loves them. It’s very funny."

Dominic Maxwell, The Times
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Macbeth at the Longacre Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Daniel Craig swaps Bond for the Bard"

"The director Sam Gold gives us an irrepressibly imaginative modern-dress production that is constantly pushing the envelope, occasionally as if still testing out lines in a rehearsal. If the ensemble verse-speaking is relaxed and unbuttoned, Craig’s king is slightly stiff, a tad self-conscious in his speech and very English. He’s dressed casual-smart, at one point donning an expensive-looking collarless coat. His soliloquies are blunt expressions of manhood and ambition. This Macbeth impresses with sheer physical power rather than poetry."

Clive Davis, The Times
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Jerusalem at the Apollo Theatre (2022)

★★★★★

"Mark Rylance mesmerises in one of the best plays you will ever see"

"A thousand playwrights try to write the sort of Chekhovian tragicomedy in which characters in one location chat over the course of a day — St George’s Day in the fictional village of Flintock in this instance — until, whoops-a-daisy, the story is done and everyone’s lives are changed for ever. Only Butterworth and his reunited team (the director Ian Rickson, the designer Ultz, and a fine cast, including an excellent Mackenzie Crook and some of the other original actors) has found a way to make that format vivid rather than meandering."

"Written long before Brexit, Jerusalem nails an English bloody-mindedness, a need to be free. Rooster is too rich a character to be merely emblematic, though. He ends up hobbled, his situation hopeless, his desires undimmed. And Rylance is mesmerising. It’s not the neatest play you’ll ever see, but it is one of the best plays you’ll ever see."

Dominic Maxwell, The Times
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Prima Facie at the Harold Pinter Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Shapeshifter Jodie Comer takes the stage by storm"

"If you’ve seen Jodie Comer play the murderous Villanelle in Killing Eve you’ll know she is a gifted shapeshifter. Nothing, though, can quite prepare you for the range, energy, resilience, emotional clarity and sheer presence she offers in this play by the Australian lawyer turned writer Suzie Miller."

"Is the legal system ill-equipped to offer justice for the one in three women who have been sexually assaulted? These 100 minutes of stage time make a strong case, which might make it an impassioned yet over-instructive evening in lesser hands. With Comer at its centre, Justin Martin’s inventive, propulsive production clears the space for its closing arguments thanks to the vividness with which it draws us into Tessa’s upturned world."

Dominic Maxwell, The Times
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Prima Facie at the Harold Pinter Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Jodie Comer’s brilliant West End debut is like a punch to the guts"

"This solo piece at the Harold Pinter, in which Comer plays a lawyer who is raped, reveals the the Killing Eve star as a natural on stage too"

"West End debuts don’t come much more astonishing than this solo tour de force by Jodie Comer. In Prima Facie, she plays a London criminal barrister complacently expert in sexual assault cases, who unravels after she’s raped by a work-colleague, and during the pitiless ensuing trial. Her performance, running a full-pelt 100 minutes, propels her into the front rank of stage stars."

"If there’s an issue with the play it’s that in its final epilogue, it bluntly avows that need for systemic change, effectively demanding our indignation, whereas that concern bubbles up quite naturally in response to what we witness. Though the presentation of what happens to Comer’s thirtysomething character – Tessa Ensler – unambiguously shows her as a rape victim, Miller’s slant, and Comer’s portrayal, still teem with rich nuance, testing sympathies."

Dominic Cavendish, The Sunday Times
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Funny Girl at the August Wilson Theatre (2022)

★★

"it looks and sounds merely average"

"Watching Feldstein trying to get to grips with the larger-than-life personality of the vaudeville legend Fanny Brice is a distinctly uncomfortable experience. You badly want her to carry it off, and there’s certainly no doubting her enthusiasm, but with every passing moment the casting seems more and more mystifying."

"Michael Mayer’s underpowered production has the air of a low-budget touring venture, with a slimmed-down orchestral sound to match. David Zinn’s set design — dominated by a curved brick structure which could easily be mistaken for a giant medieval outhouse — is distinctly lacking in atmosphere, and apart from a breezy mass tap dance number in the second half, when Fanny is busy raising morale during the First World War, Ellenore Scott’s choreography proves anodyne."

Clive Davis, The Times
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The Corn is Green at the National Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Escaping the valleys in a tale of its time that can still seduce"

"Nicola Walker impresses as Miss Moffat, a single-minded idealist who arrives in the village of Glansarno and promptly decides to start her own school. Could Walker endow her with a tad more Bloomsbury hauteur? Maybe. But the rapport she creates with her star pupil Morgan Evans (Iwan Davies) is touching, even if Williams could have given the diffident prodigy more depth. Rufus Wright’s squire gets plenty of laughs, as does Alice Orr-Ewing as the timid but snobbish teacher Miss Ronberry. Richard Lynch is the god-fearing John Goronwy Jones, a bearded grumbler who, physically anyway, bears more than a passing resemblance to Charles Pooter. At first, Cooke is content to use a bare stage, only gradually bringing in conventional trappings designed by Ultz."

Clive Davis, The Times
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Marys Seacole at the Donmar Warehouse (2022)

★★★

"An ambitious tribute to the pioneering nurse of Crimea"

"This kaleidoscopic play is by turns abstruse, amusing, irked, forgiving. Mother-daughter relationships dominate, but it’s only when the lurking ghost of Mary’s disapproving mother (Llewella Gideon) breaks her silence that the show’s ideas about the underestimated role of the black caregiver in white society become overt."

"Not everything in Nadia Latif’s elegant, acerbic, beautifully acted production quite joins up. Is its strange shape, led by theme rather than narrative, a tribute to a woman who wouldn’t be contained by the conventional ways of thinking of her age? It feels as if Drury is a draft away from finding the perfect way to make Seacole’s story both literal and metaphorical in the way she wants to, but this is an ambitious evening that lingers in the memory even so."

Dominic Maxwell, The Times
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The Burnt City at the One Cartridge Place (2022)

★★

"The fall of Troy has never been so neon — or bewildering"

"In their new London home — factory buildings in the old Woolwich Arsenal — the directors Felix Barrett and Maxine Doyle have created an experimental piece that represents the fall of Troy. That, at least, is what the publicity material says: the truth is that the narrative is so flimsy and opaque that you could just as easily convince yourself that you’ve wandered into an avant-garde version of Cabaret or a particularly louche version of Footballers’ Wives."

"After two hours, sensory deprivation began to set in, but I at least managed to find the bar where a rackety band was playing Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This). At the end of the third hour, back in the shadowy maze, I saw some of the actors gather for a brief dance to a techno beat. I’m sure their gyrations would have been endlessly fascinating if I had first taken some hallucinogenic drugs."

Clive Davis, The Times
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Scandaltown at the Lyric Hammersmith (2022)

★★

"Anti-woke jokes fall flat in modern Restoration comedy"

"Panto season seems to have arrived earlier than usual. Mike Bartlett’s new play is billed as a modern take on Restoration comedy, but the writing is so slack it makes the average end-of-the-pier show look like a Tom Stoppard history of calculus."

Clive Davis, The Times
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The 47th at the The Old Vic (2022)

★★★

"Echoes of Shakespeare as Trump makes comeback"

"It’s an entertaining but uneven pageant held together by a barnstorming performance by Bertie Carvel, who as well as sporting a gravity-defying Trumpian hairstyle has captured all his mannerisms and tics. As in real life, this anti-hero is too much of a comic figure to lift the play to the level of tragedy. It’s often closer to Spitting Image than The West Wing."

"Director Rupert Goold works hard to keep the piece aloft, but the second half starts to meander, even if the sight of The Donald in battle fatigues is worth a giggle. At the end the mood turns sinister as we realise Ivanka has her own ambitions. Bartlett has left room for a sequel but let’s hope, for America’s sake, he doesn’t need one."

Clive Davis, The Times
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The 47th at the The Old Vic (2022)

★★★★★

"At last, a five-star Trump we can love"

"Bertie Carvel is remarkable as the former president in this outrageous, must-see play that will rankle the metropolitan elite"

"The most immediate thing about this funny, outrageous production is Bertie Carvel’s turn as Trump."

"No, the show is not perfect. So why five stars? Because it’s so refreshing. Bartlett does not merely and lazily attack Trump. He acknowledges something of his electoral genius. Trumpism appeals to people “sick of paying taxes to a stifling culture they do not believe”. In jabbing the liberal, metropolitan Old Vic crowd, this show does something to make that culture less stifling. Also, Bartlett and Goold are plainly having a lot of fun. So much modern theatre is po-faced, palsied by political correctness. Not this."

Quentin Letts, The Sunday Times
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Anyone Can Whistle at the Southwark Playhouse (2022)

★★★

"A peppy revival of Sondheim’s cult early flop"

"Sondheim and Laurents’s lively relic is a celebration of difference, a philosophical stance teased out through the love interest between the uptight but dedicated Nurse Apple (Chrystine Symone, making a good fist of a slightly difficult part) and a blithely faux psychiatric doctor named Hapgood (Jordan Broatch, charismatic in a professional debut). Unfortunately, their tentative yet liberating love is played out with the nurse in the guise of her alter ego as a French coquette, a character device that seems pretty unpersuasively silly. The show’s underlying attitudes are perhaps better embodied in Rankcom’s otherwise likeably sure-footed production by an admirably peppy and diverse ensemble."

Donald Hutera, The Times
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To Kill A Mockingbird at the Gielgud Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Rafe Spall is stunning in new take on classic"

"Hats off to Aaron Sorkin. While the official title may be Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, this captivating drama is very much Sorkin’s take on a story that has become embedded in the consciousness of generations of readers. "

"If Peck is stolidly heroic in the film, Spall gives us a more restless, folksier figure: think of a cross between a young James Stewart and the buttoned-up Kevin Costner in JFK. "

Clive Davis, The Times
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To Kill A Mockingbird at the Gielgud Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Aaron Sorkin supercharges To Kill a Mockingbird"

"At last, here’s a play with serious oomph — pity about Rafe Spall’s designer stubble"

"... here is a production of To Kill a Mockingbird (Gielgud Theatre, London W1) to restore some high-brow oomph to Shaftesbury Avenue. Harper Lee’s novel about race and rape injustice in 1930s Alabama has been given a fresh varnish by Aaron Sorkin, the screenwriter of, among others, The West Wing. It has a big cast and is skilfully staged."

Quentin Letts, The Sunday Times
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Straight Line Crazy at the Bridge Theatre (2022)

★★★

"Uneven tale of all-powerful planner fails to reach heights"

"Much like Hare’s 1980s press satire, Pravda, Straight Line Crazy is an uneven, often didactic play that is held together by a compelling, larger-than-life central performance. Ralph Fiennes gives us an imperious empire-builder who created some beautiful edifices, but also believed that more expressways were the solution to just about every urban problem."

Clive Davis, The Times
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Straight Line Crazy at the Bridge Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Ralph Fiennes takes on middle-class women"

"David Hare’s play makes town planning exciting"

"Danny Webb does a strong turn as the governor of New York. Siobhán Cullen and Samuel Barnett play Moses’s sidekicks. We hear of, but never meet, Moses’s wife. Pity. Seeing him at home might have helped us to know the man better. Hare never quite nails the obsession with straight lines. Was it megalomania, unyielding logic, something weirder? Or was it that new-world fervour, which London left-wingers never quite fathom, for the political self-sufficiency of the motorcar and the open, straight road?"

Quentin Letts, The Sunday Times
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The Human Voice at the Harold Pinter Theatre (2022)

★★

"Modest monodrama is crying out for a splash of colour"

"Ruth Wilson is on stage for all of 70 minutes, chatting ever more frantically down a phone line. Fine actress though she is, she can’t salvage a piece that — written nearly a century ago — remains an exercise in stagecraft rather than a compelling dark night of the soul."

Clive Davis, The Times
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The Human Voice at the Harold Pinter Theatre (2022)

★★

"Jean Cocteau wrote this bottom-numbing play in 1928, when it must at least have had shock value and when the telephone was still a sufficiently new device to provoke novel questions about human communication. Such reflections today feel like truisms. Ivo van Hove gives the show his usual sheen of millennial trendiness. Wilson throws her considerable talent at it as the monologue alternates between bravado and desperation. But does anyone care? Around me in the dress circle, ennui prevailed. The first heavy yawn came after 18 minutes."

Quentin Letts, The Sunday Times
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Cock at the Ambassadors Theatre (2022)

★★

"Sexual identity study is about as plausible as Bridgerton"

"...the central conceit is about as plausible as the average episode of Bridgerton."

"Bartlett’s would-be risqué dialogue often sounds like a clumsy translation from a bad French comedy. In Marianne Elliott’s production, perched on Merle Hensel’s minimalist set, everything is overbright and overemphatic."

Clive Davis, The Times
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Maria Friedman & Friends - Legacy at the Menier Chocolate Factory  (2022)

★★★★

"Musical theatre’s most insightful star pays homage to the greats"

"Now that Barbara Cook is no longer with us it’s hard to think of anyone — apart from, perhaps, the great Amanda McBroom — who brings as much intelligence and insight to musical theatre songs as Maria Friedman."

"What you also get in her shows is a daring, occasionally discombobulating sense of spontaneity."

Clive Davis, The Times
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The Collaboration at the The Young Vic (2022)

★★★★

"Day-glo portrait of two pop art titans packs a real punch"

"If there are comic moments, the play — soon to become a film, with the same leads — delivers a bleak portrait of a world where the mighty dollar is all that matters. The fleeting reference to a painting about police brutality hints at parallels with Black Lives Matter. As McCarten reminds us, Basquiat wasn’t really from the streets: his background was thoroughly bourgeois. Warhol, nevertheless, prefers to drool over the young man’s “exotic” roots. Noble savage syndrome strikes again."

Clive Davis, The Times
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Moulin Rouge! The Musical at the Piccadilly Theatre (2022)

★★★

"Crackerjack hits coated in several tons of rhinestones"

"As a spectacle, Moulin Rouge! has a lot going for it. Derek McLane’s design is the star of the show: the interior of the Piccadilly is draped in fifty shades of red, with a giant windmill and an equally imposing elephant standing guard on either side of the stage."

"Moulin Rouge! has sumptuous costumes by Catherine Zuber, sword-swallowing damsels and choreography by Sonya Tayeh that comes alive in the big ensemble number"

Clive Davis, The Times
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Bring It On: The Musical at the Queen Elizabeth Hall (2021)

★★★★

"Cheerleading musical will put smiles on faces"

"Inspired by the film series of the same name, Bring It On here gets its first British professional production. And, especially in those moments where you sense most keenly Miranda’s mix of musical-theatre extravagance and hip-hop exuberance — he shares credits for all songs with the composer Tom Kitt and the lyricist Amanda Green — it can really connect. It’s the sort of self-aware froth that can wipe that Plan B frown right off your face, masked though that face may be/should be/must be."

"The former Olympic gymnast and Strictly winner Louis Smith (as Cameron) moves and raps well, although at 32 he looks the most senior of these high-school seniors. And Guy Unsworth’s pulsating but poised production looks the part on Libby Watson’s school gymnasium set. So when the cast are throwing themselves into Fabian Aloise’s choreography, when they are singing and rapping pumpingly Manuel-ish tunes such as It’s All Happening, Bring It On achieves true take-off. It’s fun."

Dominic Maxwell, The Times
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Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club (Playhouse Theatre) (2021)

★★★★

"Sinister Redmayne and sumptuous set are a seductive combination"

"Eddie Redmayne may be the star — and he’s mesmerisingly good too — but he really shares top billing with the venue itself. In Rebecca Frecknall’s revival of the classic Kander & Ebb musical, the Playhouse’s interior has been transformed into a sumptuous, in-the-round space with tables for those closest to the compact, bare stage."

"Jessie Buckley’s Sally Bowles is going to divide opinion. She’s true to John Kander’s description of the anti-heroine as “a fairly untalented middle-class girl”. (In Christopher Isherwood’s original story, we glimpse her murdering the song Exactly Like You in an arty bar called The Lady Windermere). Whereas Cumming’s foil, Jane Horrocks, gave Sally a grating, jolly hockey sticks speaking voice, Buckley — who makes her first appearance singing Don’t Tell Mama, looking like Shirley Temple in Doc Martens — is more of a troubled soul, splashing acid in all directions.

"Her singing really is unalluring, though. Maybe This Time falls flat, and the closing rendition of the title number overeggs the tortured expressionist mannerisms: Buckley’s feverish gestures reminded me of those 1920s photos of a manic Hitler practising gestures in front of a mirror."

Clive Davis, The Times
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Best of Enemies at the The Young Vic (2021)

★★★★★

"James Graham’s captivating drama is raw and timely"

"Here come the gladiators. We’re used to seeing partisan talking heads tear lumps out of each other on television or Twitter, but James Graham’s captivating new play harks back to an era when the gloves first came off. Sad to say, I’m not sure Gore Vidal and William F Buckley Jr’s names mean much to British audiences under the age of, say, 50. Still, this Headlong co-commission has turned them into the central figures of a parable about how the media sold its soul in the pursuit of ratings."

Clive Davis, The Times
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West Side Story  (2021)

★★★★

"Spielberg buoyantly reboots Bernstein’s classic"

"Typical Spielberg. Only he could manage to remake arguably the greatest musical of all without falling flat on his face. He meets Bernstein and Sondheim’s redux of Romeo and Juliet eye to eye, deftly shuffling a few numbers, adding a new character, dropping in a dash of political subtext, but otherwise approaching the spirit and the structure of the 1961 movie with unashamed reverence."

"The downside? It’s perhaps too reverential, too perfect. Steven Spielberg has shown us how you remake one of the great movie musicals. Yet I’m not sure if, at any point in this peerless homage, he manages to show why."

Kevin Maher, The Times
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A Chorus Line at the Curve Leicester (2021)

★★★★

"The classic musical about Broadway hoofers still packs a punch"

"Although its cultural references are dated, A Chorus Line remains a potent yet sensitive paean to the hard graft of dancers’ lives and careers — rocky upbringings, turning points, doubts, devotion. A sizeable chunk of the show’s interval-free 105 minutes converts individual stories into mostly upbeat musical numbers. These range from Redmand Rance’s nimble-footed I Can Do That and Katie Lee and Joshua Lay’s comic double act in Sing! to At the Ballet, a reverie about the solace of beauty shared between Beth Hinton-Lever, Charlotte Scott and, in a stand-out role as an over-seasoned hoofer, Emily Barnett-Salter."

"The famous finale, featuring the entire ensemble strutting, turning, leaping and high-kicking in sparkling top hots and tails, is genius. The Curve’s rendition of a landmark musical may not be definitive, but it does make clear why A Chorus Line deserves to be revered."

Donald Hutera, The Times
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The Book of Dust at the Bridge Theatre (2021)

★★★

"Cosmic epichas strings attached"

"Neutrals will be scratching their heads over the plot twists but can at least enjoy Samuel Creasey’s exuberant, James Corden-ish performance as Malcolm, a cheeky pot boy in a Thames-side pub who has to display all the quick wits of a superhero to stay one step ahead of the forces of darkness."

"Be warned: this is not a show for young children. The dissolute Gerard Bonneville (stylishly played by Pip Carter) is unabashed about his desire to seduce young Alice. Pullman and Lavery bring us face to face with a banal kind of evil."

Clive Davis, The Times
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The Ocean at the End of the Lane at the Duke of York's Theatre (2021)

★★★★

"Only for the brave - screams galore await"

"The ghoulery is done well, a team of anonymous, black-clad performers carrying off the other-worldly spooks with artful choreography amid dramatic lighting and collywobblying sound effects."

Quentin Letts, The Times
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Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of) at the Criterion Theatre (2021)

★★★

"An irreverent but overlong look at Jane Austen"

"McArthur’s script, mixing bawdy anachronisms with a sprinkling of karaoke-ish pop songs, certainly has its charms, but it’s also excessively padded out."

Clive Davis, The Times
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A Christmas Carol - A Ghost Story at the Nottingham Playhouse (2021)

★★★

"Mark Gatiss’s new Dickens adaptation puts a smile on your face"

"This is how to make Dickens’s greatest hit feel both surprising and familiar!”

Dominic Maxwell, The Times
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Get Up, Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical at the Lyric Theatre (2021)

★★★

"A little off the beat"

"... the flaws in this celebration of Jamaica’s greatest musical export may not prove fatal. "

Clive Davis, The Times
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Back to the Future at the Adelphi Theatre (2021)

★★

"Classic stalls like an old DeLorean"

"In the end, though, it’s like sitting in a musty, 40-year-old DeLorean and discovering that the engine keeps stalling. I suspect that if you’re a hardcore fan who knows every line of the film script you’re going to buy a ticket anyway. Others should beware."

Clive Davis, The Times
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Frozen The Musical at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane (2021)

★★★★

"A visual feast to warm even the coldest of hearts"

"The first thing to say about Michael Grandage’s elegant production, in fact, is that it has a tad more emotional depth than the film, which was a bland, Barbie Doll-like confection with little of the verve of the Toy Story franchise. "

Clive Davis, The Times
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Cinderella at the Gillian Lynne Theatre (2021)

★★★★

"Cinderella is a triumph"

"Cinderella is a triumph of catchy songs and fabulous wigs — it shouldn’t be denied to a joy-starved public"

Quentin Letts, The Sunday Times
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Cinderella at the Gillian Lynne Theatre (2021)

★★★★

"Fairytale ending for show that must go on"

"With a book by Emerald Fennell, who won an Oscar for the screenplay of Promising Young Woman, this reboot of the story, starring Carrie Hope Fletcher, delivers a 21st-century take on romance. And it’s simply joyous."

Clive Davis, The Times
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Jersey Boys at the Trafalgar Theatre (2021)

★★★

"the storyline wanders but Ben Joyce is a revelation as Frankie Valli"

"Better shows have come and gone. This one marches on. "

"the book writers, Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, have clearly struck a nerve with an audience that likes a hint of The Sopranos mixed in with all those falsetto-driven Top 40 hits. The Four Seasons were too commercial to appeal to the rock and pop cognoscenti, but they rode out changes in fashion to build a following across the generations."

Clive Davis, The Times
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Mary Poppins at the Prince Edward Theatre (2021)

★★★★

"It’s been a while, but this nanny goes down a storm"

"There are plenty of reasons to go for a family outing to see this version, directed by Sir Richard Eyre and first seen in the West End more than 15 years ago. Lord Fellowes of West Stafford, of Downton Abbey fame, supplies the book. Bob Crowley’s set designs have oodles of polish. Seeing the show again, it strikes me that Crowley’s backdrops are the star of the show, conjuring up a vision of Edwardian London that combines doll’s house-like domestic interiors with sweeping vistas of the city."

Clive Davis, The Times
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Anything Goes at the Barbican Theatre (2021)

★★★★★

"Bubbly wit and stylish fun: it’s just the ticket"

"It’s the musical equivalent of sipping one glass of champagne after another. The songs and the dialogue are so stylish that, by the time the evening comes to an end, you simply want it to start all over again."

"Kathleen Marshall’s revival of Cole Porter’s vintage show comes at just the right time. A musical that delighted audiences during the Great Depression returns to cheer us up as we emerge from the rigours of lockdown."

Clive Davis, The Times
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Les Miserables at the Sondheim Theatre (2020)

★★★

"Overlong and clunky, but there was much to admire in the performances"

"The old revolving stage has been jettisoned. Instead, using images based on Victor Hugo’s paintings, the designer Matt Kinley has created a backdrop, augmented by Paule Constable’s artful beams of light, that proves even more atmospheric. As pure theatre, it is enchanting, like watching a Romantic panorama of grimy, pre-Haussmann Paris come to life."

Clive Davis, The Times
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Cirque Du Soleil - Luzia at the Royal Albert Hall (2020)

★★★

"Luzia is a typical example of the Canadian franchise that has assumed multiplex movie proportions"

"Production values remain grandiose, colourful and occasionally breathtaking, but there are soft-focus longueurs too.”

Clive Davis, The Times
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Magic Goes Wrong at the Vaudeville Theatre (2020)

★★★★

"Revelling in the art of the complex cock‑up"

"It’s a magic show. It starts going wrong. It keeps going wrong, for more than two hours. There, that’s taken care of the plot of this gloriously silly evening. So there is no purpose to Magic Goes Wrong beyond the simple delight in complex cock-ups."

Dominic Maxwell, The Times
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Cyrano de Bergerac at the Playhouse Theatre (2019)

★★★★★

"Martin Crimp’s glittering, rap-style version"

“The loner that James McAcoy reveals in this mesmerising West End production of Edmond Rostand’s 1897 play comes from another planet. In Martin Crimp’s glittering, rap-style version of the text, he mutters threats like a Glaswegian gangster, and squares up to his foes like a welterweight who keeps a flick-knife down his shorts, just in case. He is a thoroughly modern man with an absolutely normal nose.”

Marc Brenner, The Times
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& Juliet at the Shaftesbury Theatre (2019)

★★

"Shakespeare on steroids is not for the sober"

"This musical inspired by Shakespeare’s tale of star-cross’d lovers is, you see, anything but subtle. It’s loud, irreverent and camp"

Clive Davis, The Times
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DEAR EVAN HANSEN at the Noel Coward Theatre (2019)

★★★★

"Witty songs light up tale of teenage trauma"

"if the prospect of spending an evening contemplating the perils of peer pressure, family breakdown and rampant social media seems less than inviting, be reassured that Dear Evan Hansen is worth it."

Clive Davis, The Times
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Groan Ups at the Vaudeville Theatre (2019)

★★

"Bigger in scope, smaller in impact"

"I’d love to say that it’s another smash. It has some lovely moments, especially when the second half ascends into the farce that suits them best. Yet it’s a baggy old evening, not quite a full-on gagfest, but too broad to sustain its aspirations to be something more substantial."

"There are some deft depictions of childhood tropes. Yet it soon starts to drift. The second half detonates the first half’s secret passions and rivalries, has fun with silly Simon’s preposterous plans to impress Moon, but can’t quite persuade us to take this malfunctioning crew semi-seriously. "

Dominic Maxwell, The Times
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The Girl Who Fell at the Trafalgar Theatre (2019)

★★★

"Lurching through a mothers grief "

"The lurches from idea to idea that stop The Girl Who Fell from being wholly convincing also keep it surprising, stimulating and touching. Hannah Price’s deftly acted production is blessed above all by a superb central turn from Claire Goose as Thea, the divorced chaplain who fears she is responsible for the suicide of her 15-year-old daughter, Sam."

Dominic Maxwell, The Times
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Vassa at the Almeida Theatre (2019)

"Like a tone-deaf pre-Soviet Succession."

“Redmond is a terrific actress, but struggles to suggest any inner life for a woman who ends the show as she begins it: ruthless, ingenious, scornful.”

“The insistent overplaying of the comedy dries up the laughs from the start.”

“The acting varies from the flat to the gurning, with only Danny Kirrane, as the elder son, Semyon, consistently nailing the sort of casual esprit required.”

Dominic Maxwell, The Times
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Solaris at the Lyric Hammersmith (2019)

★★★

"There's a touch of Blake's 7 to the Lyric's Solaris - and it's all the better for it"

"it might all have worked better had the director, Matthew Lutton, aimed it at the level of innocent sci-fi rather than something more pseudish."

Quentin Letts, The Times
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Jean Paul Gaultier Fashion Freak Show at the Queen Elizabeth Hall (2019)

★★★★

"Jean Paul Gaultier’s life story is fabulously tongue-in-cheek"

"Landing in London after a run at the Folies Bergère in Paris, this slick, bouncy and extravagant production is an ideal summertime confection. It is also the realisation of a childhood dream on the part of its creator, Jean Paul Gaultier. The French fashion designer and his co-director, Tonie Marshall, have styled the show as a self-glorifying celebration — and more than a bit of a send-up — of a remarkable career. Shaped by them and the choreographer Marion Motin into a quick trot through Gaultier’s life and times, and featuring an engaging, 18-strong ensemble of dancers, singers and actors, it lavishes attention on career highs without neglecting personal loss."

Donald Hutera, The Times
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Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the London Palladium (2019)

★★★★

"Jac Yarrow is a great Joseph"

"Is this a show or a cult? As I left, the entire audience was standing and swaying, singing and clapping. Everyone was ecstatic, thrilled to be here"

"Jac Yarrow is a great Joseph. He's 21, from Cardiff, and straight out of the Arts Educational School. Now he has the dressing room at the Palladium where Judy Garland once lounged."

"The Narrator is played by the musical megastar Sheridan Smith with an achingly irritating amount of tomfoolery. Cute eye rolls. Little fist pumps. Knowing mouth grimaces. I wanted to strangle her by the end of the first half."

"It's a kitsch set by Morgan Large. Jason Donovan is full-on camp-tastic as Pharaoh in golden loincloth and sparkly trainers. The choreography (JoAnn M Hunter) feels wooden at times and the camels (with wheels) are just ropey."

Ann Treneman, The Times
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Wife at the Kiln Theatre (2019)

★★

"A curious beast in which Ibsen’s Nora is used as a way of examining unsatisfactory marriages, gay and straight, over the period of decades. Adamson uses Nora almost as a lure, dangled before us, making us want to keep watching."

Ann Treneman, The Times
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The Starry Messenger at the Wyndham's Theatre (2019)

★★★★

"Star quality shows in this entertaining life lesson"

"There are laughs, real ones that you remember, but you have to wait for them. The whole star-studded affair is almost three hours long but I didn’t even notice and, for me, that is saying something."

Ann Treneman, The Times
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Sergei Polunin at the London Palladium (2019)

"Sergei Polunin stumbles like a drunkard through insipid and ludicrous choreography, over-emoting to compensate for his loss of dignity as an artist"

"He has celebrity, he has notoriety, he has a huge internet fanbase. What Sergei Polunin doesn’t have is any decent choreography to dance. His latest self-curated production, two years after the last dispiriting one in London, is a display of sub-standard material that does nothing to justify the evening as anything more than a feeble vanity project for the Ukrainian star."

Debra Craine, The Times
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Sergei Polunin at the London Palladium (2019)

"A muddle of ideas"

"One out of three isn’t bad, but the rest of the ballet star’s triple bill is perplexing"

"Sergei Polunin at the London Palladium is the catchy title of the Ukrainian-Russian star’s latest self-produced venture, and the cover of the programme proclaims that “ballet is ready to evolve and integrate into mass culture”. I take it that this is Polunin’s mission statement, but it’s both vacuous and grandiose. His opening triple bill was a muddle of ideas, with a linking theme of mental instability."

David Dougill, The Sunday Times
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Betrayal at the Harold Pinter Theatre (2019)

★★★★

"The stripped-back stage leaves the exquisitely cast Zawe Ashton, Charlie Cox and Tom Hiddleston with nowhere to hide"

"The casting is exquisite and, despite Tom Hiddleston’s undeniable star appeal, it does feel balanced. Emma is played with sensuality by Zawe Ashton, tall and willowy, guarded and delicate, though at times she seems a little too blank. Charlie Cox gives Jerry a rather fun and languid air but it makes him difficult to take seriously. "

"Hiddleston plays Robert with panther-like stealth and alertness. Indeed, he seems to be the centre of his own electric field as he patrols the stage. At times he is laugh-out-loud funny, especially in a lunch scene with Jerry, where he is almost at war with the starter (prosciutto, as you ask)."

, The Times
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Waitress at the Adelphi Theatre, (2019)

★★★★★

"Treat yourself to a slice of five-star pie"

"This musical took me by surprise: I expected something much less touching, gritty and moving. It has heart (not to mention pastry) to spare and Katharine McPhee's voice has the lilt and lift that takes you away from yourself. She is woman, hear her soar. At times, especially in the second half, in the lament "She Used to Be Mine", she seems to lift the roof off."

"This is one for the XX chromosome brigade, a grown-up Legally Blonde. The male characters are a bit shallow and cartoony and the women, particularly Jenna and her two waitress friends Becky and Dawn, have almost all the good lines. The exception is the hilarious man disaster who is Ogie, played with limbo-loosening panache by Jack McBrayer of 30 Rock fame."

"What a crew they are. There is not a weak link in the cast."

Ann Treneman, The Times
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Come From Away at the Phoenix Theatre (2019)

★★★★★

"9/11 musical has a heart the size of Canada"

"A feelgood 9/11 musical? Can that really be a good idea, never mind Come From Away’s two years on Broadway, never mind its awards and raves and standing ovations there? They give everything a standing ovation in New York, right?

"See the show in the West End, though, and it takes all of ten seconds to be in its generous embrace. You stay there for the next 100 minutes: laughing, tapping your foot, wiping away tears, feeling good about humanity — what a rare, welcome feeling that is these days — without ever feeling you’re just being sold gloopy musical-theatre good cheer."

Dominic Maxwell, The Times
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9 to 5 The Musical at the Savoy Theatre (2019)

★★★

"Feelgood feminist classic shows who’s boss"

"Jeff Calhoun’s West End production rarely takes you by surprise, but it never really lets you down either."

"Sheen holds the evening together with unshowy panache. She will be a tough act to follow."

"If 9 to 5 is good rather than great, it’s because the wit is a bit obvious; because Parton tends to deal out deftly articulate midtempo tunes rather than outright belters. Lisa Stevens’s choreography and Tom Rogers’s set look a little hemmed in on the Savoy’s smallish stage"

Marilyn Kingwill, The Times
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All About Eve at the Noel Coward Theatre (2019)

★★

"Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a boring night... the multimedia staging knocks the wit out of this drama"

"this listless theatrical adaptation by Ivo van Hove feels too much like one long act of misguided quotation. With Gillian Anderson in the Davis role and Lily James as the ruthless ingénue, you’d expect at least some juicy acting to get our fangs into. Somehow, though, the mixture of stage acting and sequences filmed and projected on to a big screen upstage drains the energy from the action."

"Van Hove clings too close to Joseph Mankiewicz’s film; he fiddles with it rather than reinvents it. His best work (A View from the Bridge, Roman Tragedies) is uncomfortably intimate and intense. Here, it feels like eavesdropping on actors recreating a film, not on real people. It’s hard to care for anyone."

Dominic Maxwell, The Times
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True West at the Vaudeville Theatre (2018)

"This slight story of sibling rivalry has performances to savour from the two leads"

"It is, supremely, an actors’ play. But is it any more than that? The two lead parts, the battling brothers Austin and Lee, are taken by Kit Harington and Johnny Flynn respectively — and they have enormous fun with them, which makes it immensely entertaining to watch."

Christopher Hart, The Times
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Hole at the Royal Court Theatre (2018)

★★

‘This hour-long explosion of the deeply felt meets the intellectually playful meets performance-art spectacle starts and ends with the same line: “I need you to listen.”’

‘We get the idea, but then what do we get? This raging feminist cabaret gets tiresome all too soon'

Dominic Maxwell, The Times
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Billionaire Boy at the NST City, Southampton (2018)

★★★★

“An imaginative, irreverent adaptation of David Walliams’s book captures the story’s fun and its heart”

“Good news for Robbie Williams: musical adaptations of David Walliams books can put a tap in your toe, a smile on your face and a tear in your eye.”

"Granted, Billionaire Boy is still a bit rough around the edges, most often when Luke Sheppard’s imaginative production sticks too closely to dialogue that might play on the page, but doesn’t translate to the stage."

Dominic Maxwell, The Times
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Hadestown at the National Theatre (2018)

★★★

"This Trump-tinged reworking of Orpheus has its moments — but burn some of the songs"

"some good things, some terrific songs, but plenty of duff ones as well, making for a pretty patchy evening. There are also moments that breathe the very spirit of Theatre — but in a bad way. Choreography with chairs, for instance. And beating someone up through the medium of dance."

"The on-stage band are cracking, sounding as though they’re just off a plane from New Orleans, but alas, some of the songs are irredeemably draggy. Why We Build the Wall is an awful mix of babyish world-view and bombastic bellowing. Or how about the lyrics: “Men are fools / Men are frail / Give them the rope and they’ll hang themselves.”

"Some songs, though, are barnstormers — Livin’ It Up on Top was a favourite. Chavkin should have pared and improved a lot more. If you can cope with some dull stretches, and the sense that this is a show that takes itself way too seriously, this is still an intermittently entertaining experience."

, The Sunday Times
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Hadestown at the National Theatre (2018)

★★

"Not nearly as interesting as it should be"

"It’s a Greek myth, of course, so everyone already knows the ending but the characters should at least be somewhat believable. I didn’t buy that Orpheus and Eurydice were in love for a minute. Their initial dance (choreography by David Neumann) seemed wholly devoid of emotion. Other numbers did flow better although there was a mind-numbing amount of circular walking on the Olivier travelator."

Ann Treneman, The Times
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Tina - The Tina Turner Musical at the Aldwych Theatre (2018)

★★★★★

"Simply the best way to tell the story of Tina Turner"

"This is a great show that is going to be a hit and its star, Adrienne Warren, is, as someone once sang, simply the best."

Ann Treneman, The Times
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