The Telegraph

The Telegraph – London Theatre Reviews

West End shows and London theatre reviews from the UK newspaper The Telegraph.

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

The chief theatre critic at The Telegraph is Dominic Cavendish. Also Claire Allfree writes reviews for the Telegraph.

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


Henry V at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse (2022)

★★★★

"Henry V thrillingly retooled as a Macbeth-style psychodrama"

"Holly Race Roughan’s production is fast and slick, digging deep beneath the play’s presentations of power"

"It starts with a theft. Rather than the usual prologue, this thrilling revival of Henry V begins with a scene from the end of Henry IV Part 2 in which a trembling Prince Hal takes the crown from his sleeping father, admittedly thinking him dead. It’s a clever throwback, establishing for this most seemingly nationalistic of plays a framework that allows for resonant ideas of legitimacy and imperialism to be in constant debate."

"This is a fast, slick, spare production that rarely skimps on detail as it digs deep beneath the play’s presentations of power, nationhood and, yes, pesky testosterone. In a chilling echo of the death of Scroop, Fluellen, often played as a bit of “Welsh” light relief, is brutalised by the racist taunting of Pistol into almost throttling him to death too."

Claire Allfree, The Telegraph
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A Christmas Carol at the The Old Vic (2022)

★★★

"This Scrooge is a little too nice for his own good"

"The fine actor Owen Teale has irascibility in spades but lacks Ebenezer's coldness – and maybe the Old Vic just needs a new festive show"

"Into the camp of being a touch too warm fully to answer the brief falls, alas, Owen Teale, leading the sixth iteration of Jack Thorne’s deft Old Vic adaptation. The Welshman, not far into his sixties, is plainly a fine actor and in terms of projecting power alone won’t leave anyone in the cheap seats feeling short-changed. But there’s a ruggedness and rubicund vivacity about him that even the dilapidated detail of his flowing dressing-gown can’t quite hide."

"But this show’s familiarity aside (it’s almost on tourists’ Yuletide to-do list), the cupboard for five-star Scrooges is now looking a touch bare. Isn’t it high time the Old Vic changed its festive menu?"

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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Vardy v Rooney: The Wagatha Christie Trial at the Wyndham's Theatre (2022)

★★★

"She’s behind you! The new Wagatha Christie play is less Two Angry Women, more panto"

"This piece of rapid-response verbatim theatre, at the Wyndham's, has the audience whooping and booing at the famous trial's sillier moments"

"It’s fun to watch a live-action version, since we weren’t allowed in the actual courtroom, but the only deviation from the trial is light-hearted commentary from two pretend pundits (the witty design also incorporates a football pitch). Lisa Spirling’s spry production does capture the absurd incongruity of modern celebrity and social media culture crashing into the grandiose legal system, and it relishes the juxtaposition between Vardy’s pious testimony and her catty, fame-hungry WhatsApp exchanges with her agent."

"this re-creation is a quick-hit guilty pleasure: it further invades Rooney’s privacy for our amusement, while making the attention-seeking Vardy an unlikely West End star."

Marianka Swain, The Telegraph
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Matilda The Musical  (2022)

★★★★★

"Emma Thompson gives Matilda The Musical a deranged villain to remember"

"Miss Trunchbull rules this film, adapted from the musical based on Roald Dahl’s novel – but 13-year-old lead Alisha Weir is one to watch too"

"Minchin’s perky musical numbers are all performed with due wit and welly"

"In bringing the story out of the theatre, Warchus and his art department have also scaled up the narrative in all kinds of inspired ways. The Trunchbull’s gymnastics class, for instance, now takes place not indoors but on a rain-lashed assault course, complete with landmines. And in a fantastical climax that has Matilda telekinetically manipulating much more than a lone stick of chalk against the headmistress, the additional CG dazzle feels justified."

Robbie Collin, The Telegraph
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The Sex Party at the Menier Chocolate Factory (2022)

★★★★

"Terry Johnson is back on top with this risky trans bedroom comedy"

"It’s one risk to make trans lives a central talking-point in a jocular entertainment, but Johnson raises the stakes by making questions about sexual desire, biological identity and ‘gender ideology’ integral to the storyline. "

"I can’t imagine many theatres were keen to give such a thrusting provocation a platform, venerated though Johnson is. Bravo to the unfunded, open-minded Menier, then. Whatever the shortcomings of the piece – there’s a smack of contrivance about Lucy’s presence and caricature stalks the four couples – it’s defined by rollicking dialogue, good old-fashioned writerly craft and an implicit faith in theatre as a forum for exploring difficult, even taboo, subjects."

"For all its knowing bouts of crassness, The Sex Party is sensitively handled. A return to form for Johnson, it invites us to think about what we choose, who we choose, and how we arrive at being truly ourselves."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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Blackout Songs at the Hampstead Theatre (2022)

★★★★★

"A dark, witty, indispensable drama (at a theatre the Arts Council completely stripped of funding)"

"Joe White’s new play, at Hampstead, is a potent, witty, brilliantly acted two-hander about the effects of alcoholism"

"... it’s alcoholic black-outs that form the focus of White’s potent (almost song-less) two-hander, which occupies Hampstead’s downstairs studio but could easily migrate to a larger stage despite its woozy intimacy and breathy nuance."

"Over 90 minutes, which can start to feel like a small eternity, we’re drawn into their psycho-drama of longing, need and mutually reinforced patterns of behaviour – months hurtle by, they pull apart, reunite for one last glug. It’s a familiar subject redolent, say, of Blake Edwards’s 1962 film Days of Wine and Roses, yet the livewire approach, accentuated by interludes of unpredictable movement, feels fresh, their co-dependency in a pas de deux with the grip of the hard stuff."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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From Here To Eternity at the Charing Cross Theatre (2022)

★★★

"Tim Rice’s musical sidesteps the famous surf frolic but delivers on the song’n’dance"

"This reworking of James Jones’s novel skims over the iconic beach scene and somewhat lacks momentum – but at least the musical elements work"

"Working to a revised and considerably leaner version of Donald Rice and Bill Oakes’s book, Brett Smock’s production marginalises the affair between Adam Rhys-Charles’s conflicted Warden and Carley Stenson’s Karen Holmes for the visceral cut and thrust of army life, with all its casual racism, violence and homophobia, in the week leading up to the Pearl Harbor attacks."

"Yet the show still struggles to find a sufficiently propulsive plot, or, indeed, cast particularly fresh insight into the hothouse aggressions of military fraternity. The spoken dialogue is far less eloquent than Rice’s lyrics, meaning that few characters swim into sufficient psychological focus."

"But Smock’s production itself, with its sinewy choreography and strong sense of soldiers as both brothers and perennial outsiders, does bring out the best in Stuart Brayson’s muscular, if slightly too jolly mash-up of swampy blues, swing and jazz."

Claire Allfree, The Telegraph
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A Christmas Carol at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Adrian Edmondson proves a joyously propulsive Scrooge in this lavish RSC revival"

"He may no longer be a Young One, but the former Vyvyan's energy levels haven't dipped one bit – and the show is superb"

"It’s a pleasure to report that the intervening decades haven’t fatally dimmed the comedian-turned-actor’s energy-levels. This is a joyously propulsive performance that stands comparison with the mutton-chopped best of them. All the snarling malevolence, haunted bewilderment and belated contrition-rich kindness, with rejuvenated sprightliness to boot, is present and correct."

"First seen in 2017, David Edgar’s adaptation, directed with dab-handed polish by Rachel Kavanaugh, has its cake and eats it. We get the requisite lavish spectacle, with all the trimmings... But Dickens and his friend and editor John Forster are here part and parcel of the narrative, the author’s creative process and political rationale discussed as Gavin Fowler’s garrulous literary genius spirits up the page-turner in order to fulfil his outraged social justice mission."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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Not One of These People at the Royal Court Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"A triumph of deep-fakery? Yes, really.... a work of exceptional ambition"

"The performative challenge lies in Crimp speaking the lines of the entire legion of dramatis personae. The technological challenge comes in the piece’s extensive use of the computerised visual imagery known as “deep fake”.

"Curiously – given the show’s obvious technological achievement – the text is more compelling than the high-tech imagery. In the end, Crimp appears like Lucky from Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, a great torrent of humanity pouring from his mouth, but this time at much greater length."

Mark Brown, The Telegraph
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Fisherman's Friends: The Musical at the Theatre Royal Bath (2022)

★★★

"An enjoyable trawl story that needs more Sturm (and Drang)"

"Provided you love the yo-ho-hoing sound of sea shanties, this touring stage incarnation of the popular 2019 film is for you"

"There are some 25 actors and musicians, and when it’s all hands on deck, it’s quite a sight to behold: the replica quayside set more bustling than St Ives at tourist season high-tide."

"For those who love the yo-ho-hoing sound of that ancient mariner music, there will be no demands for money back, as feet are stomped and manly vocal cords flexed, with almost soothing interludes from the siren-voiced Parisa Shahmir as Alwyn."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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Mary at the Hampstead Theatre (2022)

★★

"A suffocatingly claustrophobic study of Mary, Queen of Scots"

"Rona Munro's James Plays are magnificent, but her new take on the ill-fated Mary has a too-narrow line of inquiry and fails to excite"

"It may well be that, when watched as part of the cycle, Mary, a chamber piece for three principal actors, sharpens the saga to a satisfying point. It usefully accentuates parallels with women today, especially post MeToo, in its discussion of the queen’s sexual vulnerability and its argument over the degree to which she was coerced, or in control, at crucial moments. Viewed on its own, though, while showcasing Munro’s writerly flair, and presented with imposing precision and wood-panelled splendour by Roxana Silbert, it feels too suffocatingly claustrophobic in its narrow line of inquiry."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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Tammy Faye – A New Musical at the Almeida Theatre (2022)

★★★

"Feels too much by numbers and lacks revelations"

"It isn’t a hell of a show in the wrong sense, but it’s surprisingly purgatorial at points, struggling to find a strong dramatic pulse"

"This slickly staged piece cuts, with argumentative force but not enough serrated wit or charged emotion, to the chase of how the channel emerged and became the envy of more conservative ministers, who swooped after the couple’s finances unravelled, and the law got involved – their nemesis being Jerry Fulwell, who wangled a take-over."

"The first half lacks soulful belters, redemption only achieved in a ballad called Empty Hands and then a handful of wonderfully vigorous gospel and spiritual numbers in the mid second half. In the lead Katie Braben is sunnily forceful, touchingly fragile and, gifted of voice, uplifting in her survivor’s anthem at the close, but didn’t the real-life Tammy have more crankiness than we’re shown? "

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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My Son’s A Queer, (But What Can You Do?) at the Garrick Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"The bittersweet tale of a boy desperate to be Belle"

"Rob Madge’s breakthrough solo show is heavy on the emotion, and creatively designed, but strangely underwritten in places"

"Although this is a distinctively queer story, relating Madge’s struggle with the gender binary they felt to be enforced on them, many people who feel different have found similar sanctuary in the arts – and everyone will be able to relate to Madge’s heartfelt tribute to a stalwart family. Even this cynical critic was undone by the touching revelation of Rob’s grandparents’ labour of love: a homemade puppet theatre."

"The live songs, co-written with Pippa Cleary, both riff on actual Disney earworms and give Madge some further emotional expression"

Marianka Swain, The Telegraph
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@sohoplace at the @sohoplace (2022)

"Never mind its uninspiring name – @sohoplace is both welcoming and full of wow-factor, its opening show a life-affirming treat"

"Sleek and glass-fronted, with swanky digital signage, it’s as deluxe as a five-star hotel within, its decorative hallmark a twinkling line in astrological references. The amphitheatre at Epidaurus was a key inspiration for theatre-owner Nica Burns, working with architect Simon Allford. And there’s a fantastic democratic energy to the triple-tier, flexible 602-seat auditorium, with no restricted views and ample comfort. The opening configuration (others are possible) is in-the-round, accentuating both intimacy and freedom."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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Marvellous at the @sohoplace (2022)

★★★★

"The West End’s first new-build theatre in 50 years gets off to a Marvellously silly start"

"Never mind its uninspiring name – @sohoplace is both welcoming and full of wow-factor, its opening show a life-affirming treat"

"Sleek and glass-fronted, with swanky digital signage, it’s as deluxe as a five-star hotel within, its decorative hallmark a twinkling line in astrological references. The amphitheatre at Epidaurus was a key inspiration for theatre-owner Nica Burns, working with architect Simon Allford. And there’s a fantastic democratic energy to the triple-tier, flexible 602-seat auditorium, with no restricted views and ample comfort. The opening configuration (others are possible) is in-the-round, accentuating both intimacy and freedom."

"In skittishly retelling the story of Neil Baldwin, something of a local living legend in Stoke on Trent, Marvellous answers the warm embrace of the theatre with a markedly communal form of entertainment that feels like a much-needed hug."

"It is, superficially, highly incongruous in hip, fashionista Soho, but having seen it up in Stoke, I can avouch that the acoustic, and vibe, is better here. The come-one, come-all spirit of the new venue suits the daffy alchemy of an evening which starts like an potentially alienating in-joke and builds, by degrees and via an ingredient-spattering cooking session, to a shared delirium of life-affirming silliness."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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Local Hero at the Chichester Festival Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"A beloved film turned into a remarkable musical comedy"

"The strength of this production of Local Hero is that it draws on such narrative tropes, but injects them with an irreverence and an existential philosophy to create a far more interesting production than most other musicals on the UK stage."

"Local Hero blends exuberant musical comedy with an anti-capitalist cautionary tale and rumination on our place in the universe."

"It is also a wonderfully evocative homage to coastal Scottish life: I had Gaelic folk tunes ringing through my head all the way back to London."

Nick Ferris, The Telegraph
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My Neighbour Totoro at the Barbican Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"A vital power surge of Anglo-Japanese creative electricity"

"It’s a pleasure to report that what fans loved about Hayao Miyazaki's film has been beautifully served in this stage version"

"You have to go back to the mega-musical Matilda to find a family friendly RSC project around which so much excitement buzzes and upon which so much hope is pinned"

"There’s a humble, faux-naif quality to some of the scenic elements, but ‘Totoro’ is magnificently humongous with a mighty, reverberating growl, wicked smile, lumbering walk and bouncy castle of a fluffy tum. The wow-factor of his spectacular appearances, worth the price of admission alone, is matched by the hallucinogenic, 12-legged ‘Cat-bus’"

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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The Doctor at the Duke of York's Theatre (2022)

★★★★★

"Juliet Stevenson is riveting in this brilliant interrogation of cancel culture"

"The Doctor hurtles a neglected classic of Austrian drama from an early-20th-century Vienna simmering with anti-Semitism to a 21st-century London beset by those same prejudices and complex layers of identity politics too."

"Though she avoids being sympathetic, her line of thinking is seductive – and such is the actress’s beady focus that we’re with her, thought by thought: “A ‘woke’ perspective? … The use of language makes one want to cry... "

"At almost three hours, it’s a long evening, yet it’s a hugely rewarding one too. And in its stimulating experimentalism, it’s just what the doctor ordered to help resuscitate the cerebral life of our post-viral, musically bloated West End."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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The Upstart Crow at the Apollo Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Laugh-til-it-hurts panto pleasure"

"After a hit 2020 premiere, this exuberant hybrid of Shakespeare in Love and Blackadder went dark for two years. All's well that ends well"

"The David Mitchell-led BBC sitcom Upstart Crow made a triumphant transfer to the stage in February 2020, only to see the playhouses closed by Covid. Happily, all’s well that ends well: Ben Elton’s comedy is back, with Mitchell resuming his excellent West End debut."

"The production has heart as well. Shakespeare is still grieving the loss of his son Hamnet, and gradually reconnects with his heavily- Brummy-accented daughters (the perfectly stroppy Helen Monks and Danielle Phillips). A welcome return for this merry feast of a show."

Marianka Swain, The Telegraph
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The Band's Visit at the Donmar Warehouse (2022)

★★★★★

"The Band’s Visit is a magical, bijou musical to send the soul soaring"

"Even without any big numbers, this tale of the transformative power of music won 10 Tony Awards in 2018 – to see it is to realise why"

"Here’s a musical made of magic to send the soul soaring. There are no big numbers, no razzmatazz chorus lines, there’s barely much of a story. Yet this bijou show won 10 Tonys in 2018 and now arrives in a new, effortlessly seductive production by Michael Longhurst featuring a crack Israeli and Arab cast. It’s one of the best things he’s staged at the Donmar."

"The performances meanwhile are terrific – notably the star Israeli actress and singer Miri Mesika as Dina, who captures a life’s worth of yearning in a single song – while the virtuoso band are their own validation for the power of melody and a foot-tapping beat. It’s quiet and simple, yes, but it’s precisely that alchemy that makes it special. I’d watch it again in a flash."

Claire Allfree, The Telegraph
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The Boy with Two Hearts at the National Theatre (2022)

★★★

"A heavy-handed production that treats its audience like children"

"Superfluous narration and blunt dialogue undermines what could have been a powerful refugee drama"

"a stirring adaptation of the 2020 book by Hamed Amiri (Hussein’s brother) chronicling their perilous journey and new life in Cardiff. There’s a sheer moral clarity to its directness, even if it is inescapably flawed theatre."

"I just wish Phil Porter’s adaptation trusted its audience more. Instead, we get heavy-handed narration and blunt dialogue, commentating on the family’s closeness or the dangers they face. They stop sounding like people, which, ironically, runs counter to a clear effort to humanise these (such a loaded term) refugees. "

Marianka Swain, The Telegraph
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Tosca at the London Coliseum (2022)

★★★★

"Puccini's melodramatic masterpiece soars in this bold reimagining"

"The staging doesn't always work, but Christof Loy's production eschews mawkishness to find the thrumming heart of Puccini's tragedy"

"ENO’s new version, though, is no cut-price radical rethink, but a tried and tested production by one of Europe’s currently top-notch opera directors."

"Loy’s concept is that the opera inhabits two worlds, that of an old regime represented by Scarpia and his gang of thugs, and the new revolutionary spirit captured by Cavaradossi. This is not quite coherent..."

"Some quirks in Loy’s reading seem designed to undercut Puccini’s precisely observed orchestral realism, which ironically is excellently captured by the energetic conductor Leo Hussain and the ENO orchestra"

"This rewarding show has an immediacy of communication which would not be lost if the text was faithful to Puccini’s original."

Nicholas Kenyon, The Telegraph
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Blues For An Alabama Sky at the National Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"A breathless whirl of Jazz Age joy and Blues at the National Theatre"

"This revival of Blues for an Alabama Sky, Pearl Cleage’ 1930s-set play, is a seamy pleasure, led by Samira Wiley and Giles Terera"

"Topping a faultless five-strong cast in her London stage debut is Samira Wiley (The Handmaid’s Tale, Orange is the New Black), who lights things up with a slinky and impetuous performance as Angel Allen, a good-time girl in crisis"

"... his is a remarkably buoyant piece, which retains a boisterous flair even when Miller-esque tragedy rounds the corner. To get whoops of you-go-girl glee from a press-night audience minutes before gasps of inevitable horror is everything this vital rediscovery deserves."

Tim Robey, The Telegraph
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Iphigenia in Splott at the Lyric Hammersmith (2022)

★★★★

"Euripides goes to credit crunch Cardiff in this down and dirty ‘skank’ monologue"

"It hit the stage with the force of a comet at its 2015 premiere. This revival proves it hasn't lost any of its invective force"

"It remains a dark and dirty piece of work, a gobby, spleeny, spit-splattered invective that wears its Euripidean allusions slyly..."

"Iphigenia’s greatest weapon is its ferocious theatrical poetry. Melville gives a magnificently modulated performance as Effie, daring the audience to admit their assumptions abut the type of person she is even as she sets about detonating them. She’s a hollowed out fireball of aggro and loneliness craving ordinary things that remain out of reach. With a new round of public spending cuts rumoured to be on the cards to achieve growth, Iphigenia in Splott makes no bones about just who in Britain will be cast as the sacrificial lambs."

Claire Allfree, The Telegraph
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John Gabriel Borkman at the Bridge Theatre (2022)

★★★

"Not even Simon Russell Beale can shore up Ibsen’s financial-crisis drama"

"The Bridge Theatre's staging of this play about the aftermath of self-inflicted monetary disaster should feel bracingly topical, and yet..."

"... what should seem gripping and on-the-money proves frustratingly in need of a theatrical stimulus, and even the trusty bazooka of Simon Russell Beale in the lead lacks full fire-power. Given the talent on board, the deficit is odd."

"Sour, regretful Ibsen still has much to tell us about the human cost of success – but his grim tidings need lustier pickaxe strokes."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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Noises Off at the Theatre Royal Bath (2022)

★★★★

"Felicity Kendal heads a cracking cast in this classy, hilarious revival"

"Whether or not we strictly need another production of Michael Frayn's farce, this staging at the Theatre Royal, Bath is a genuine delight"

"... Posner’s classy revival boasts a trump card in Felicity Kendal, pitch-perfect as the put-upon actress Dotty Otley, still giving it her all on stage amid a chaos of disappearing sardines, unruly telephones and a combustible behind-the-scenes love life."

"Farce, however, should act as a mirror to its proponents’ internal condition. Posner is less astute on this aspect, with the backstage infighting in Act II (taking place in silence, since the play is still going on out front) over-egging the knockabout comedy at the expense of a deeper sense of desperation."

Claire Allfree, The Telegraph
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Woman in Mind at the Chichester Festival Theatre (2022)

★★★

"Ayckbourn’s Middle England drama feels stuck in the past"

"The humour still works, but in Chichester Festival Theatre's revival, this tale of a housewife's fraying mental health has lost its bite"

"Oliver-winner Russell does a solid job in a role that demands her presence on Lez Brotherston’s English country garden-inspired stage for the entirety of the play’s runtime – though it does sometimes feel as though she is gyrating between either playing bewildered or fed up, with little else in-between."

"Woman in Mind remains a lot of fun, which the rippling laughter across the Chichester Festival Theatre auditorium attests to. But in the end it feels a little like the humour lacks a bit of purpose, because the central character study never quite clicks into place."

Nick Ferris, The Telegraph
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Jews. In Their Own Words at the Royal Court (2022)

★★★

"A Leftie mea culpa that leaves a lot to be desired"

"Following an anti-Semitism row, the Royal Court has given the Jewish community a right of reply. It's just a shame about the play"

"Hats off to the Royal Court for this theatrical act of mea culpa even if the intent is more admirable than the execution."

"For personal testimony, however emotive, is a limited theatrical tool. Yes, there are harrowing revelations here – the Jewish doctor who chose a “portable” career because the need to flee is buried deep in her DNA; Oberman, who is also represented, being told in an audition she didn't “look” quite right for Pride and Prejudice. Yet, theatre thrives most of all on argument and provocation and there simply isn't enough of that here."

Claire Allfree, The Telegraph
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The Crucible at the National Theatre (2022)

★★★★★

"Gripping revival of Arthur Miller’s masterpiece speaks to us with urgent force"

"Erin Doherty confirms herself as one of our finest young actresses in a magnificent restaging of the 1953 American classic"

"The key thing for any revival, though, is that it doesn’t feel too much like a lecture in disguise. This, Lyndsey Turner’s gripping revival at the National magnificently manages to do. It’s not as if she reinvents the piece, it’s more that she refreshes it, honouring the specificity but banishing clutter and creating an understated yet awe-inspiring monumentalism. Before each scene, designer Es Devlin wraps the action behind a curtain of lit falling water, the beauty of that biblical torrent offset by bleak surrounding darkness."

"The evening builds an accumulating and harrowing sense of crushing internal logic and group-think; the credulity of the visiting authority figures combines with the bewilderment of those accused and carted off to create an engulfing atmosphere of total helplessness."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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Eureka Day at the The Old Vic (2022)

★★★★

"This anti-woke satire is exactly what the Old Vic needed"

"Oscar-winner Helen Hunt makes her London debut in a revival of Jonathan Spector’s timely 2017 play about an anti-vaxxer parent"

"Eureka! Have they got it? Is our theatre finally awake to the ludicrous – and also pernicious – side of woke? To me, it feels like a turning-point that the Old Vic has ushered on to its stage Eureka Day, Jonathan Spector’s very sharp, very droll satire on the duplicities and deficiencies of progressive group-think – first seen in the States in 2017."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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Handbagged at the Kiln Theatre (2022)

★★★★★

"I was transfixed and moved by this uncanny portrait of the late Queen"

"It's worth queueing round the block for Moira Buffini's play, which depicts the meetings between Queen Elizabeth II and Margaret Thatcher"

"All I can say is that I was transfixed and moved in ways I don’t recall being when the production premiered shortly after Baroness Thatcher’s death in 2013."

"Those coming to terms with the end of an era, and seeking some means to express their devotion too, should queue round the block to see this."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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The Clothes They Stood Up In at the Nottingham Playhouse (2022)

★★★

"A loving take on Alan Bennett's novella about middle-class manners"

"This Nottingham Playhouse production is a hoot - even if it doesn't quite capture Bennett's wry beadiness"

"The author has given the project his blessing, and you can see why it would be thought to work a treat: a fair bit of droll, easily transferred, dialogue, a decent amount of incident, and a couple we can have a good old laugh at."

"Thompson could bestow less effort on her performance – her mode of boggle-eyed dottiness and plaintive peculiarity can grate. Scarborough, though, does just fine as the beetling old fusspot, with his sly penchant for “dirty” photographs. We left that world behind years ago, but perhaps at this strange hour of retrospect, it’s allowable."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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The Clinic at the Almeida Theatre (2022)

★★★

"Social and domestic drama that’s sometimes brilliant, sometimes baffling"

"This new play about a middle-class British Nigerian family has a muddled plot and message, but it's still well worth catching"

"Baruwa-Etti is terrific at rambunctious family scenes, in which arguments fizz like live electric cables and family fault lines are laid bare. He’s less good at weighing both sides of the debate, thanks largely to the character of Wunmi, whose arguments tend to abstract slogans that look good on placards but don’t advance much by way of understanding, and whose motivations are fundamentally ambiguous."

"Elsewhere, the wit and energy of the writing can’t quite conceal its many flaws. The language yo-yos between piercing insight and preachy cliché, sometimes within the same exchange; the characters are all mouthpieces in one form or another; and the plot is all over the place."

Claire Allfree, The Telegraph
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Gabriel Byrne: Walking with Ghosts at the Apollo Theatre (2022)

★★★★★

"This enthralling evening is one of Gabriel Byrne’s greatest achievements"

"The veteran Irish star finds numinous wonder amid accreted nuggets of existence in this soulful staging of his 2020 memoir"

"... this relatively modest project, a small hillock of a solo show, in which the 72-year-old star surveys his life and career, deserves to be ranked as one of his greatest achievements, even if it’s the definition of evanescent."

"He’s funny, rueful – damaged..."

"A soulful evening that finds numinous wonder amid accreted nuggets of existence."

Reviewed at the Edinburgh International Festival.

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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Antigone at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Pours a provocative gallon of petrol on the play’s eternal flame"

"Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre is mounting the first Greek tragedy in its history – the timing is disconcerting, but the staging's excellent"

"The new version at Regent’s Park by Inua Ellams pours a provocative gallon of petrol on its eternal flame."

" Overall, it’s sophisticated and stylishly staged (Max Webster and Jo Tyabji direct); the al-fresco amphitheatre setting adding a sense of connection with the original, despite the modernity of the approach. Negatives? Well, though there’s a visually incandescent climax, it’s not (yet) fully moving..."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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Silence at the Donmar Warehouse (2022)

★★

"This Partition drama is gruelling for the wrong reasons"

"The testimonies from British South Asians are harrowing, but the specifics of history are lost in this unexciting production"

"... finding a theatrical language for this which both underscores the awfulness while enabling a deeper understanding of it is not a challenge this Tara Theatre co-production triumphantly overcomes."

"... Silence relies almost exclusively on generalised impressions of horror to do the heavy lifting."

Claire Allfree, The Telegraph
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The Mousetrap  (2022)

★★★★

"A delightfully absurd Mousetrap send-up that has its cheese and eats it"

"Director Tom George's star-studded, knowing, very funny new whodunit does for Agatha Christie what Scream did for the slasher movie"

"Mark Chappell’s script has a refreshingly high laugh-rate as these things go, with a seam of pure English silliness that sets it well apart from Knives Out, without gunning for anything like that league of plot ingenuity. It’s closer, really, to doing for Christie what Scream did for the slasher flick – goosing the formula with winks and tickles."

"It’s a whizzy fairground ride in theatreland, powered entirely by the thought of a literary icon spinning in her grave."

Tim Robey, The Telegraph
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Gary Barlow - A Different Stage at the Duke of York's Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Gary Barlow reveals his darkest secrets – via a cheery singalong"

"In his new show, A Different Stage, the ex-Take That man plumbed his personal lows and sang his way through his musical highs"

"Barlow doesn’t often do unrehearsed... it was a tightly-drilled production, delivered with almost metronomic timing. While the “boring one in Take That” label is a tad cruel, he remains a man who clearly spends a lot of time on his homework."

"It all adds up to a show that’s by turns funny, self-effacing, sad, triumphant, tragic and warm."

Nick Ruskell, The Telegraph
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I, Joan at the Shakespeare's Globe (2022)

★★

"Too little at stake for this 21st-century Joan of Arc"

"The idea of Joan as trans is a fertile subject for drama and discussion, but Charlie Josephine's play comes across as desperately thin"

"Isobel Thom, a trans performer, lends Joan a febrile, wide-eyed confusion as they increasingly buck against what they perceive to be the limitations of their female body and growing conviction that something within them doesn’t fit. One of the most powerful and poignant moments is a scene in which Joan confesses to their best friend and only ally Thomas (a movingly tormented misfit, played beautifully by Adam Gillen) that no words have yet been written to describe who they think they are."

"There are a lot of references here to bravery and courage. But as a piece of drama, at heart this Joan is weirdly toothless."

Claire Allfree, The Telegraph
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The Narcissist at the Chichester Festival Theatre (2022)

★★★

"The ghost of Trump haunts the stage again"

"Harry Lloyd stars as an electoral strategist in a new work which isn't quite sure what it is saying"

"As played by Harry Lloyd, Jim oozes self-composure and intelligence offset by a chill detachment. He’s far from being preeningly self-obsessed, though."

"He’s surrounded by characters who either seem under-written or interact with him in ways that can have a slightly hollow ring – not least Claire Skinner’s Democrat senator who emerges as little more than a cipher."

"I applaud its ambition, but it’s not yet the hoped-for play for today."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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All's Well That Ends Well at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford upon Avon (2022)

★★★

"All’s Well That Ends Well with adolescent lust and social-media fever – or does it?"

"Shakespeare’s ‘problem’ play is given a literal glow-up by the RSC in Stratford, but even that update can’t straighten its issues out"

"It’s a shame that the production doesn’t integrate this footage more convincingly into an excavation of the characters’ motivation, especially when it all loses steam after the interval. But what does work well is McIntyre’s treatment of Shakespeare’s language. It’s thoughtfully paced, opening up the verse-heavy rhythms into a readily accessible modern argot. And the ambiguous conclusion is particularly well-judged – belying that assertion that all will indeed end well."

other, The Telegraph
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Into The Woods at the Theatre Royal Bath (2022)

★★★★

"Terry Gilliam’s hallucinogenic take on Sondheim rises from the ashes of cancellation"

"Axed by the Old Vic, the ex-Python's first, visually astonishing go at directing a musical is a must-support rather than a mere must-see"

"What’s the verdict? The evening is a logistical triumph in terms of working wonders in a smaller venue than originally envisaged; and for reasons of artistic self-expression alone, it’s a must-support rather than a mere must-see. Still, at this point in time the experience warrants, I’d say, two and a half cheers."

"So far, so spellbinding. Vocally, it’s more of a mixed bag, with a few of the best lines oddly thrown away. It’s bound to bed in given time but more heft, attack and pace wouldn’t go amiss to counter the lurking tendency of Sondheim’s lyrics (book by James Lapine) to sound samey in their concise irony and knowingness; a darker reprise of the first, wish-filled quest protracts the tale almost to the point of déjà-vu enervation."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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The Trials at the Donmar Warehouse (2022)

★★★

"The new play putting adults on trial for their climate-change sins"

"The Trials, by Dawn King, sees the younger generations mete out ecological justice to their elders. But where’s the dramatic power?"

"... while the acting from the newcomers is forgivably variable, all bring authenticating freshness to the stage, and there are some faces to watch. Charlie Reid as Tomaz, archetypally sulky then arrestingly animated by flights of fancy about the vanished world, impresses; so does Francis Dourado as the cautious, quizzical Mohammad and Honor Kneafsey as responsible jury-leader Ren. Stars of the future? The next step is just to ensure there’s a future at all."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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Cruise at the Apollo Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"A hymn to the illicit pleasures and dangers of 1980s Soho"

"Jack Holden’s one-man play is a mixture of eulogy and fantasia, and though its spirit verges on over-indulgent, it’ll still sweep you along"

"One year on, with life returned largely to normal, that raw resonant power remains intact, the play an enduring life affirming tribute to a vanished queer history."

"Holden expertly controls the vertiginous shifts between tragedy and comedy, and plays every character, delivering a particularly bitter, beautiful drag-queen version of Is That All There Is, while composer John Patrick Elliott hammers out live a sexy, synthy soundtrack. There are better plays about Aids than this, but few have such an intoxicating spirit."

Claire Allfree, The Telegraph
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All of Us at the National Theatre (2022)

★★★

"An enlightening, infuriating plea for acceptance"

"Comedian Francesca Martinez's play about the effect of austerity on the disabled is witty and moving – but then comes the diatribe"

"The term “lived experience” has become increasingly prevalent in the arts: the idea that first-hand knowledge is needed to authentically convey something. That can be easily debunked (presumably Shakespeare didn’t actually commit multiple murders), but All of Us, a Covid-delayed play about the effect of welfare reform and austerity on disabled people, does gain a core truthfulness – along with sparky humour and raw anger – thanks to its creation by comedian Francesca Martinez, who has cerebral palsy."

Marianka Swain, The Telegraph
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South Pacific at the Sadler's Wells (2022)

★★★★★

"Succumb to the siren call from this island paradise of a musical"

"Daniel Evans's 2021 production of Rogers and Hammerstein's classic is sublimely well-sung, great fun. but punchy too"

"Julian Ovenden’s powerful tenor voice ripples with emotion through a swoon-worthy Some Enchanted Evening. And there’s surely no more spine-tingling pairing of singer and song than his This Nearly Was Mine – agony warring with ecstasy. Rob Houchen also impresses as Lieutenant Cable, torn between military duty and his intense romance with Liat on Bali Ha’i."

Marianka Swain, The Telegraph
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The Great British Bake Off Musical at the Everyman Theatre Cheltenham (2022)

★★★

"Eminently digestible, but where’s the flour power?"

"This tongue-in-cheek homage at the Cheltenham Everyman has a few terrific showstoppers yet lacks the tears and tension of the baking itself"

"I’m not an avid viewer – a dipper-inner, more like – so can’t speak for BakeOffistas, but judging by the warm reaction to the try-out in Cheltenham, it’s clear devotees won’t be recoiling in disgust. Whether the tongue-in-cheek homage is cooked to perfection is another matter."

"The crucial missing ingredients, though, are the sweat, tears and angsty tension of the baking itself. You want less patter, more butter. The show lacks flour power: no one gets their hands dirty (there’s much cursory denoting of culinary activity), or fully imparts the all-or-nothing nature of the baking beast. A bit more time in the development oven required, I’d say."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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Identical at the Nottingham Playhouse (2022)

★★★★★

"Identity-swap musical that’s ingenious to the point of genius"

"Directed by Trevor Nunn, the Nottingham Playhouse's new tale of reunited twins who change places has the makings of a must-see phenomenon"

"The singing is superb and the music serves the fairy-tale-like story well, expressive of giggling youthful exuberance in the camp, the metropolitan sophistication of a Hansel and Gretel ballet, and exploring the attendant childhood and parental angst with a light touch. Does it sound a bit samey at times? Yes. But the way it combines one girl’s music with the other’s lyrics in the finale, so that each completes and complements the other, is ingenious to the point of genius, eliciting awe at the complex mysteries of life and at the finely-wrought truthfulness of art."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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The Tempest at the Shakespeare's Glob (2022)

★★★★

"Three Lions, blow-up lobsters and Prospero in a pair of budgie smugglers"

"Sean Holmes's modish adaptation has gimmicks aplenty, but somehow works"

"The Tempest was classed as a comedy in the first folio. That assists Holmes’s bold decision to steer away from a reverent reading of its study of a brother betrayed moving towards forgiveness, and look for funny-peculiarity in unexpected places. He gives this late play the kick of upstart youth."

"I was in two minds about Holmes turning ‘Our revels now are ended’ into a bitter sting in the tale, but it’s of a piece with a production that unpacks Shakespeare’s strange cargo without much care for precedent, and subjects it to fresh inspection."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe at the Gillian Lynne Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"British theatrical verve at full pelt"

"First seen in 2017, Sally Cookson’s marvellous stage adaptation – now at the Gillian Lynne Theatre – combines profundity and playfulness"

"Director Michael Fentiman was recruited to make the production touring-friendly; he applied his own sensibility, and a new creative team, bringing actor-musicians folksily to the fore, cramming the spry action with visual flourishes and springing more illusions."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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Chasing Hares at the Young Vic (2022)

★★★★★

"Family duty and political zeal clash in this enlightening new play"

"Bhattacharyya’s play does wear its political heart on its sleeve, but this is no simplistic diatribe about inequality and it doesn't pretend to have all the answers."

"All five members of the cast are uniformly excellent"

"Chasing Hares is a convivial and enlightening night at the theatre despite its heartbreaking conclusion. "

Dzifa Benson, The Telegraph
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101 Dalmatians at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"A bit of a dog’s dinner, but a very tasty one too"

"This long delayed musical version of the Dodie Smith classic feels like a success almost despite itself"

"However the actor turned composer Douglas Hodge spent his lockdown, it’s tempting to wonder why he didn’t devote more of it to conjuring up a few memorable tunes. His score for Open Air’s long delayed musical update of the Dodie Smith canine classic (the venue’s first ever original musical commission was originally scheduled to run in 2020) contains a jaunty mix of folk, jazz and rock, but barely a single melody that sticks in the ear."

"Yet as the sky darkens into dusk, this messy show finds joy amid the jumble of ideas. As the plot to rescue the stolen puppies by the parent dogs and their frantic owners gathers momentum, there are some marvellous coups de theatre, the most spectacular of which involves a pair of alarming protruding eyeballs."

"A bit of a dog’s dinner at times, then, but a very tasty one too."

Claire Allfree, The Telegraph
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Jack Absolute Flies Again at the National Theatre (2022)

★★★

"Light-hearted levity, rather than world-conquering phenomenon"

"The result is a qualified triumph of an evening, one that pitches from the heights of comic delight – ‘‘What’s going to happen in England after we’ve won this war?’ ‘Bunting. Bunting everywhere’’ – to the lows of relentless and tiresome nudge-nudge-wink-wink."

Fiona Mountford, The Telegraph
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Much Ado About Nothing at the National Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Blissful revival of a conveyor-belt classic"

"There are moments during Simon Godwin’s blissful revival of Much Ado, when the evening seems to deliver all the fun of a foreign hols without the hassle of baggage reclaim at Heathrow."

"Is it perfect? No, but it’s very serviceable in a bijou hotel kind of way – and there’ll be another one along, anytime soon; it’s a conveyor-belt classic."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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Crazy For You at the Chichester Festival Theatre (2022)

★★★★★

"A magnificent revival with songs that knock you for six"

"Watching this magnificent new staging at Chichester – directed as well as choreographed by Susan Stroman, who choreographed that 1992 production – you have to agree that Americans do seem to have the edge when it comes to pleasure-giving spectacle and songs that knock you for six."

"A near impossible amount is loaded onto the shoulders (and dancing shoes) of Charlie Stemp as the banker with a heart of gold, but, following triumphs in Half a Sixpence and Mary Poppins, he affirms his status as a 24-carat stage star. By turns rubber-limbed goofball and epitome of debonair charm, he achieves a weightlessness in his waltzes, quick-turns and tap frenzies you never tire of watching and which he seemingly never tires of delivering."

"They’d be crazy not to transfer it.'

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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Billy Elliot The Musical at the Curve Theatre Leicester (2022)

★★★★

"This feel-good tale of a boy who loves ballet still has legs"

"With strikes in the headlines, the Curve's remounting of Elton John and Lee Hall's musical feels freshly relevant"

"Some of the most famous sequences from the original musical are remounted, and are still theatrically thrilling – as in a sequence where police officers and miners clash around a ballet lesson, or when a riot intersects with Billy’s own internal turmoil (even if some of the police officers’ prancing steps are a little too silly to seem threatening). It may have a touch less flash than the West End version – a dream sequence when Billy dances with his older self keeps its feet more firmly on the ground; no aerial work here – but Lucy Hind’s exhilarating choreography is performed with great energy throughout, in a production that proves this story still very much has legs."

Holly Williams, The Telegraph
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Cynthia Erivo: Legendary Voices at the Royal Albert Hall (2022)

★★★★

"Erivo proved to be a 21st-century leading lady in her element"

"On Sunday night, 35-year-old Erivo was a homecoming queen at her own Proms date"

"The Proms audience was instantly enchanted by Erivo when she entered wearing a glitzy chiffon-skirted gown that made it look as though she was floating on clouds"

"The orchestral accompaniment was immaculately sleek, although the BBC Concert Orchestra’s highly refined treatments do tend to verge on easy listening; I found myself wishing the music wasn’t quite so polite"

Arwa Haider, The Telegraph
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Peaky Blinders: The Rise reviews at the Camden Garrison (2022)

★★

"A handsome immersive experience in search of a challenging plot"

"Beyond the muddle of subplots, Katie Lyons’s script feels risk-averse, unwilling to offer up any unexpected plot developments beyond what we already know from the TV show. It feels little more than a lightweight pastiche of the fantastically researched and character-driven original, with none of the suspense or sadness that made the TV show so intriguing.

Nick Ferris, The Telegraph
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Anything Goes at the Barbican Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"An incandescent revival"

"Ellis is still a seductive presence – a sassy, wise-cracking temptress who finds the wistful subtext in opening number I Get A Kick Out of You, who leads cast and audience into musical theatre heaven in the tap dancing spectacular Anything Goes, and who understands that her job as Reno is to essentially steal, with a wink and a nod, every scene she's in."

Claire Allfree, The Telegraph
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Patriots at the Almeida Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Tom Hollander delivers firecracker Boris Berezovsky lead performance"

"There are echoes of The Crown’s confident sweep down the years and the skill Morgan has of homing in on a particular event and magnifying it to make it representative of a pivotal political moment."

"The West End, and indeed Broadway, should surely ready themselves for a benign Russian invasion."

Fiona Mountford, The Telegraph
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The Tempest at the Theatre Royal Bath (2022)

★★★

"Deborah Warner's male-dominated production gives an intimate account of Shakespeare's late play"

"Nicholas Woodeson, 72, gives us a dowdy, shifty, slightly professorial Prospero, albeit book-less, who initially combines acidity with flashes of spleen."

"Whatever the slight frustrations, it’s heartening to see work on this scale (a cast of 14) staged away from London, and blessed with a clarity of utterance."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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The Seagull at the Harold Pinter Theatre (2022)

★★

"Emelia Clarke’s wings are clipped by this ascetic Chekhov staging"

"The Game of Thrones star isn’t given the chance to shine in this new production, so spartan it’s distractingly ostentatious"

"In so far as they go, constrained by a directorial conceit so sparing it’s distractingly ostentatious, I can’t fault the cast, but they yield little that couldn’t be obtained in more traditional, pleasure-giving Chekhov. "

"it’s too static and sapping, in these joy-starved times"

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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Richard III reviews - RSC Stratford at the Stratford Upon Avon (2022)

★★★★

"This Richard III is historic and stylish – but why trim Shakespeare’s best lines?"

"Given Hughes’s relative inexperience in Shakespeare, it’s a triumph. But while the evening wins the case for him – and, by extension, other disabled performers – to take on the role as their birthright, it doesn’t quite overthrow the ongoing claim of their best able-bodied counterparts. Lived experience is a route in, but so are imagination, empathy and craft. The mighty legacy of Sher and others won’t so easily be consigned to the past."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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Mad House at the The Ambassadors Theatre (2022)

★★★

"David Harbour stars in a darkly comic play about his own mental health"

"As the damaged man-child, Harbour delivers the requisite goods: hefty, forceful, brooding, tilting between sardonic intensity, petulance and yowling rage. As his dad, however, Pullman often seems more sweetly helpless than residually noxious."

"The dark comedy draws you in, but hits the snag of leaving you a bit high and dry when you yourself are required to care. This show, directed a bit stiffly by Moritz Von Stuelpnagel, isn’t laying claim to the mighty impact of such American family drama behemoths as Long Day’s Journey into Night. All the same, it struggles to dovetail the sharp comic back-biting with a sense of truly gut-wrenching showdown. "

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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That Is Not Who I Am at the Royal Court Theatre (2022)

★★

"Cyber thriller is more mess than mystery"

"The Royal Court teased us with the promise of a premiere by an ‘unknown’, but the end result is not the biting satire it thinks it is"

"At its best the Royal Court gives us the inside-scoop on life in Britain today. But for all the inventive comedy at work here, and a salient core point about the difficulty of discerning the truth, in modern life, as in art, the net effect is inconsequential."

"The piece certainly asks the valid question as to how power can be held to account if the powerless can be easily discredited, legitimate grains of truth lost amid piled-on supposition"

"After all the hype, a damp squib for the silly season."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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The Southbury Child at the Chichester Festival Theatre (2022)

★★★★★

"Hugely cathartic, this is the play of the year so far... blissfully funny and ineffably touching"

"Stephen Beresford’s heaven-sent new work stars an immaculately understated Alex Jennings as a priest taking a stand against modernity"

"At its heart is a stand-off between an individual and his community so tightly enwoven with competing principles and conflicting emotions it has an almost Ibsenite intensity. Yet its subtle, wry tonal quality puts you more immediately in mind of Alan Bennett, a prompting assisted by the fact that Alex Jennings, who has played Bennett on stage and screen, takes the lead as David Highland, blending beatific reticence with charismatic fallibility."

"Jennings is as immaculately understated as the script, lunging in a telling bout of desperation for a glass of whisky. Trying to prop everyone up, he’s crumbling inside, and finds a soul-mate of sorts in the new curate, a handsome Scot (Jack Greenlees) whose homosexuality is tolerated but not institutionally supported. "

"Beresford won a Bafta for the screenplay of Pride. He can pride himself on this. My play of the year so far."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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A Dolls House, Part 2 at the Donmar Warehouse (2022)

★★★★★

"How on earth do you follow up Ibsen’s masterpiece? Exactly like this"

"Lucas Hnath's audacious sequel to the pioneering 1879 drama, at the Donmar Warehouse, is nothing less than essential viewing"

"Noma Dumezweni is magnificent as the shifty revenant, arriving in a smart velvety period dress as if wholly fixed on the purpose at hand, but forced on the back foot as the household she abandoned starts to turn the tables."

"Each character has their voice, and that’s strikingly the case with the maligned Torvald, whom Brian F O’Byrne makes patriarchally stiff yet seething with emotion: icy, indignant, ferocious, and also, crucially, frail, as much a humble human casualty as a combatant in the battle of the sexes and the fracturing war against social conditioning and systemic oppression. Essential viewing."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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Jitney at the Old Vic Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Jitney is precisely the sort of project that could save Britain’s theatres"

"This is a tremendous staging of August Wilson's full-fat portrait of black working-class life"

"Gorgeous jazz strains interlace the dialogue, underscoring the improvisatory cut and thrust as this disparate jocular bunch bang back and forth through the office door, endlessly bantering, arguing and occasionally jostling for supremacy. Over the course of nearly three hours, there’s an awful lot of talk and not a lot of action. Some directors might have been tempted to nip and tuck, perhaps impose a bit of structure. Craig instead boldly embraces the messy ebb and flow."

"It’s terrific to see a work of this calibre brought into London after originating in a regional theatre – the sort of supportive relationship that the non-London theatre scene so desperately needs."

Claire Allfree, The Telegraph
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The Car Man at the Royal Albert Hall (2022)

★★★★

"Matthew Bourne pulls it off with this smart, sexy revival"

"This terrific, libidinous amalgam of Carmen and The Postman Always Rings Twice gets a new lease of life at the Royal Albert Hall"

"Bourne, designer Lez Brotherston and Bourne’s entire New Adventures company go the extra mile to make the story fly in that magnificent but unforgiving space."

"The dancers and musicians now total a considerably swelled 65, with Bourne’s crisp, foot-stomping, pelvis-gyrating choreography adroitly expanded to capitalise on the new space."

"The show is impressive: absolutely crystal-clear in its storytelling, and fizzing with the intelligent irreverence that distinguishes this master of dance theatre."

"a punchy, visceral mix, sensibly leavened by plenty of humour (take the duet between two characters, unaware that they’ve both just been serviced by the same mechanic), and the cast have a field-day."

"This is a show that’s impossible not to enjoy wherever you are in the house.

Mark Monahan, The Telegraph
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Tony! (The Tony Blair Rock Opera) at the Park Theatre (2022)

★★★

"Begins promisingly, then outstays its welcome"

"Harry Hill and composer Steve Brown’s musical is intermittently inspired but winds up echoing the failings of TB’s divisive premiership"

"Much as I’d like to report a palpable hit – Lord knows, we all need cheering up – like TB’s premiership Tony! begins promisingly, moves into a disappointing phase and then outstays its welcome.

Tonally, it’s semi-successful. Given what a figure of opprobrium Blair became, it balances a need to keep us on-side, and woo us with charm, while holding the busted flush at arm’s length. It doesn’t help that a resolutely beaming Charlie Baker in the title role is actually a closer facial match to Gordon Brown. What’s trickier is that the show struggles to shift out of a cartoon register – you want it to sound the complexities of Blair’s tenure, but it mainly sticks to “yah boo” satire."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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Britannicus at the Lyric Hammersmith (2022)

★★★★

"From incels to Putin, Racine's dusty old play feels oddly relevant"

"This assured revival at the Lyric Hammersmith is the mother of all psycho-dramas"

" In this mother of all psycho-dramas, it’s as if we hurtle from early contractions of fear to the blood-stained hatching of a monster, those involved at once caught up in the process, yet somehow bystanders to the hermetic horror.

Atri Banerjee’s assured mainstage revival at the Lyric, utilising a fine version by Timberlake Wertenbaker from 2011 that banishes any sense of a dusty school-text, conveys the remorseless nature of proceedings."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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The Unfriend at the Chichester Festival Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Effortlessly entertaining, and maybe the most ‘promising’ debut in ages,"

"It’s hardly a profound evening but it’s a perceptive one."

"The action is line-by-line funny and an apt commentary on English middle-class manners. The inability of these inhibited types to desist from politeness and eject their guest reaches its hilarious apotheosis when they try to peddle the lie that Peter’s elderly mother is on her way out. Elsa turns tables by shooing the pair off through the front-door to do their bit, while mock-sweetly cosying up to their kids. Shearsmith excels himself as the picture of rising, suppressed consternation, hoisted with his own petard."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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The Glass Menagerie at the Duke of York's Theatre (2022)

★★★

"Amy Adams is heartbreaking.. I loved her performance"

"To be blunt, I loved her performance. It’s clear, simple, believable, and quietly heart-breaking in its contained vulnerability."

"What Adams catches in her determined radiance and subtle gestures – dabbing a finger with spittle to try and smooth his hair, as if he were still in short trousers – is the female equivalent of Arthur Miller’s Willy Loman: someone going through the motion of coping but in dire need of some good news."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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ABBA Voyage at the ABBA Arena (2022)

★★★★

"A mind-blowing celebration of some of the greatest pop music ever made"

"Swedish icons' CGI spectacular at the Abba Arena in London will have today's pop superstars looking on with envy"

"In a blockbuster multimedia CGI spectacular, the Swedish supergroup opened a residency at the purpose-built Abba arena in London's Olympic Park with an entertainment extravaganza that had fans dancing in the aisles and giving a standing ovation to musicians who weren't even onstage."

"Abba's Voyage is fantastic, and I highly recommend it. But it still makes me nervous. One day, if we're not careful, all gigs will be like this."

Neil McCormick, The Telegraph
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Murder On The Orient Express at the Chichester Festival Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Watch out, David Suchet, there's a superb new Poirot in town"

"Henry Goodman is mesmerising in Chichester Festival Theatre's handsome production of Agatha Christie's whodunit"

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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The House of Shades at the Almeida Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"A disturbing drama"

"This is a highly satisfying, old-fashioned play that serves the audience with a rich mix of the personal and political on which to chew. Director Blanche McIntyre keeps a three hour running time nicely ticking over and beautifully deploys music and song as vectors of impossible dreams. Alongside Duff’s force-of-nature presence, at once toxic and tragic, Kelly Gough is particularly good as Agnes, whose early academic promise is squandered in a series of dead-end jobs."

Claire Allfree, The Telegraph
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My Fair Lady  (2022)

★★★

"A watershed production, but not a benchmark"

"Amara Okereke flowers opposite Vanessa Redgrave, but the staging is underpowered"

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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Grease at the Dominion Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Peter Andre shines with a small but prominent part"

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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Oklahoma! at the Young Vic Theatre (2022)

★★★★★

"Punchy, playful and sexy, this Oklahoma! is an absolute knockout"

"First seen in New York, this revelatory production, now at the Young Vic, interrogates the landmark musical to within an inch of its life"

"Experimental in feel, it strips things back to reveal tough personalities, strong sexual drives, few creature comforts and violent impulses sprouting amid sun-kissed corn fields. In place of a lavish orchestra, the score has been brilliantly reinterpreted so the music, delivered by a small band, offers instead a homespun folksiness. That has evident charm, but Fish interrogates Oklahoma! to within an inch of its life, bringing out its darkness, indeed plunging spectators fully into blackness at points, and sounding its complexities."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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Old Friends at the Sondheim Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Judi Dench proves the first among equals in this bravura tribute"

"From Dench to Damian Lews, Imelda Staunton to Petula Clark, this one-off charity concert was a star-studded reminder of Sondheim's genius"

"The impressive cast of 38 included luminaries such as Judi Dench and Julia McKenzie who seldom tread the boards these days – testament to the special relationship between the American musical genius and British theatre."

"Maria Friedman, who will soon reprise her exceptional Merrily on Broadway starring Daniel Radcliffe, co-directed the evening with Matthew Bourne. She also gave us a deliciously gleeful Mrs Lovett from Sweeney Todd. That was staged simply, allowing Friedman to savour Sondheim’s grisly linguistic games. But the busy group numbers lost the specificity of the lyrics. Why not just let Rosalie Craig, star of the West End’s landmark gender-swapped Company, perform Being Alive solo? And Helena Bonham Carter had an oddly tiny role."

"Although Peters was one of Sondheim’s key collaborators, she over-dominated the evening, as did the ubiquitous Michael Ball – plus Mackintosh made several cameos. But, appropriately for the composer who wrote mature women better than anyone else, the night belonged to them. Haydn Gwynne tore into The Ladies Who Lunch, Petula Clark gave I’m Still Here a wry authenticity, and Imelda Staunton reminded us just why her Momma Rose is untouchable. All captured a complex life in a matter of minutes.

"But the undoubted highlight was Judi Dench. Though she was helped on and off stage, her rendition of Send In the Clowns held us spellbound. Her voice catching with raw emotion, eyes glittering with unshed tears, it was a masterclass in acting through song."

Marianka Swain, The Telegraph
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Much Ado About Nothing at the Shakespeare's Globe Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Much Ado About Nothing marks a welcome return to innovation and inspiration at the Globe"

"The ideological obsession that has marred too many Bankside shows recently is mercifully absent in Lucy Bailey's splendid production"

"The production opens the summer season, finally back at full capacity. More than that, defined by its attention to detail, it balances directorial innovation with actorly inspiration, avoiding the ideological rampancy of some recent shows here."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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Macbeth at the Longacre Theatre (2022)

★★

"Daniel Craig fails to shake or stir, but Ruth Negga provides a quantum of solace"

"You have to admire the ex-007's bravery in starring in this experimental Broadway staging, but it's Negga's Lady Macbeth who steals the show"

"The show’s saving grace is Ruth Negga’s magnetic, tenacious Lady Macbeth – her journey from ambitious murderer to tormented madwoman gives the production its most affecting moments, especially when she’s confined to a table (serving as a bed) during her “sleepwalking” scene. Yet Negga and Craig don’t fully engage as a couple, and aside from Amber Gray’s impressive Banquo, the supporting cast, who play multiple roles, remain disconnected from one another.

"Still, I have to commend Craig’s willingness to immerse himself in such a risky undertaking. He certainly could have played Macbeth in a safer, more traditional rendering that maximized his star power. In terms of danger, I’m not sure any Bond action sequence could compare to this off-beat take on Shakespeare’s dark tragedy."

Diane Snyder, The Telegraph
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Jerusalem at the Apollo Theatre (2022)

★★★★★

"Mark Rylance still rules the kingdom"

"This revival of Jez Butterworth's masterpiece, first staged in 2009, remains a crucial theatrical rite"

"None of the erstwhile comic – or indeed lyrical - impact is lost. Rylance’s waggling eyebrows, mystified stares and quiet burr that can shift into a roar transfix, as before. He’s older, inevitably: 62. Physical stiffness is more manifest, but that seems intended and artistically valuable – you can credit that this former dare-devil has, at various times, broken every bone in his body.

"And, as much as Byron comes to resemble an indestructible spirit of bucolic misrule, Rylance’s pronouncedly hobbling, rooster-ish gait – puffed chest contorted – signals that he’s running out of road. The three-hour action, traversing St George’s Day and the annual Flintock Fair, builds towards a twilight denouement of lonely mortal intimations and sacrificial reckoning."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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The Corn is Green at the National Theatre (2022)

★★★★★

"Nicola Walker is unmissable in this riveting production"

"The National Theatre’s revival of Emlyn Williams’s 1938 play is crowned by the Unforgotten star’s finely calibrated performance"

"Miss Moffat is the embodiment of the teaching profession at its most tirelessly dogged, dutiful and – to a hugely moving degree – self-denying. Walker's forte – as shown so brilliantly in the ITV detective drama Unforgotten – is her ability to communicate admirable purpose; few eyes blaze with such intelligence, few frowns convey such concentration. There are also hints of sadness within the self-containment."

"Iwan Davies’s brooding, casually clever Evans emerges from the pits of juvenility and stands on the brink of a great escape from all he has known, his sense of self and class in the balance. In the first half, on an empty stage, there’s a rich comedy to the small-town mindsets, typified by rough-and-tumble youths and the snooty, sexist, proudly philistine local squire (Rufus Wright). In the second, we get a proper living-room set by Ultz, and the dramatic stakes are raised, particularly by a sexually bold local lass (Saffron Coomber’s Bessy). A battle of female wills ensues over Evans’s future; without wishing to spoil the twist, Miss Moffat has to go the extra mile of sacrifice to win out, lending her the force and nobility of a tragic heroine."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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Marys Seacole at the Donmar Warehouse (2022)

★★★

"A challenging, time-bending introduction to the other Florence Nightingale"

"This frustrating, compelling drama at the Donmar boasts a fantastic lead performance by Kayla Meikle as a nurse who heads to the Crimean War"

"Criss-crossing time frames, strong Jamaican accents and multiple themes make this a challenging play to keep a firm grasp on as its realism becomes increasingly distorted, but it is also sharply funny in places. In a prelude to the pandemonium of the Crimean war front featuring mannequins as the corpses of soldiers, Mamie, a trainee nurse, is thrown into the deep end of extreme triage following a mass shooting. It’s a truly hilarious scene in which all the actors shine, but it’s Meikle’s command of comic timing that truly makes the scene pop."

"Despite the frustratingly opaque storytelling, Marys Seacole is really worth a look."

Dzifa Benson, The Telegraph
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Punchdrunk: The Burnt City at the One Cartridge Place (2022)

★★★

"Not quite a theatrical Trojan horse"

"This major new work by the immersive pioneers has some good ideas, but lacks the surprise of their greatest work"

"After eight years away from major happenings in London they’ve taken over two listed buildings amid the old Royal Arsenal site by the river at Woolwich. Felix Barrett, Maxine Doyle and team have got 100,000 square feet to play with, and they go to town, or to Troy, with it. With mixed results; this doesn't match the surprise and spontaneity of their Poe-inspired masterwork The Masque of the Red Death, but even if it disappoints by their standards, the scale and attention to detail leaves the competition standing."

"For me, the huge redeeming feature lay in the closing sections, amid the cavernous and palatial Greek area: shiver-making, brutal and beautiful scenes recognisable from The Oresteia and a final frenzied dance that transcends time, like a Grecian urn coming to life. The future of theatre? It feels a little too variable – however knowingly so – for that, but it still undoubtedly brings the past to all-consuming life with inventive twists and turns, and obsessive passion."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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Scandaltown at the Lyric Hammersmith (2022)

★★

"Mike Bartlett's modern-day Restoration comedy, feels like champagne gone flat"

"It's a good premise: a boisterous satire on the lazy thinking behind the culture wars. But the panto-ish result feels late to the party"

"The trouble is, the play seems as little interested in analysis as its characters. It all feels decidedly tired, like drinking champagne from a bottle that’s been open two days too long. The odd intriguing one liner, such as “I’m sick of feeling guilty”, hints at a thesis that is never developed. Instead, Bartlett largely settles for throwaway gags so beloved of panto. An awful lot of energy is devoted to groan-inducing euphemisms – a postman makes one very rubbish joke about packages and slots."

Claire Allfree, The Telegraph
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The 47th at the The Old Vic (2022)

★★

"Bertie Carvel’s perfect Trump impression can’t save this superficial play"

"Mike Barlett's latest "near-future" play imagines Donald Trump re-running for president in 2024"

"You could watch Carvel having a ball as Trump for hours. Which is just as well because the great bogeyman of recent US politics hogs the limelight for much of the near-future action, set at the tail-end of Biden’s first term, in 2024."

"Tamara Tunie’s Kamala Harris has a gravitas that feels unearned. The women, inevitably, resist unabashed misogyny. Goold brings his usual sheen to proceedings, played out under an oval-ish strip of light, yet can’t hide the lack of meaningful substance beneath the theatrical polish. See it for Carvel’s tour de force, perhaps, but as Trump would attest, you can’t win ’em all."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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To Kill A Mockingbird at the Gielgud Theatre (2022)

★★★★★

"Aaron Sorkin’s revelatory adaptation blazingly captures the zeitgeist"

"Harper Lee's famous 1960 novel comes rivetingly to life at the Gielgud Theatre, with Rafe Spall hypnotic as lawyer Atticus Finch"

"Watching it from the vantage of 2022, though, it’s clear that the piece is more than just classily cast (in this case, Rafe Spall takes the lead), well-wrought and boasting talking-point elements. It blazingly captures the zeitgeist, so that what remains firmly in period is also urgent, the furore about Floyd reinforcing its percipience."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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Straight Line Crazy at the Bridge Theatre (2022)

★★★

"Ralph Fiennes exudes brute force as New York's master builder"

"The actor captures the muscularity of Robert Moses in a fascinating but flawed new play by David Hare"

"Hare, or Hytner, could have divided the lead between two actors, one younger - conveying the residual dynamism of a Yale-man intent on changing the world – with Fiennes the battle-hardened operator. That might make the trajectory clearer, and with the star turning 60 this year, you don’t quite get the initial sense of a radical upstart, brazenly inveigling his way into the monied home of the tycoon Henry Vanderbilt, and demanding the elites of Long Island yield."

"Hare has alighted on a topic of monumental fascination. Call me crazy but Netflix should snap it up."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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The Human Voice at the Harold Pinter Theatre (2022)

★★

"Ruth Wilson deserves better than this voyeuristic portrait of a woman on the verge"

"The 'Affair' star tries hard, but Ivo van Hove's revival of this 1930 Cocteau monodrama at the Harold Pinter feels dated and distasteful."

"What, you can’t help but wonder about half way through what is an extremely slow 70 minutes, made Ruth Wilson agree to star in this oddly unpleasant revival of a 1930 Jean Cocteau monodrama?"

Claire Allfree, The Telegraph
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Cock at the Ambassadors Theatre (2022)

★★★

"Mike Bartlett’s sexuality-crisis drama still just about measures up"

"'Rocketman' star Taron Egerton is under-used in the Ambassadors' revival of a smart 2009 work that has broadly kept pace with the times"

"Presented against a curved back wall of burnished metal with fluorescent-effect rods dangling from on high, the production projects modish style without attaining the searing intensity of the original cockpit staging. And while the script has broadly kept pace with the times, liberalism’s leaps and bounds have lent a sepia tinge to its focus on bisexuality, even if it still strikes a valid blow for unconstrained self-definition. (NB: everyone remains clothed and sex is teasingly implied.)"

"All in all, it still measures up, but the super-talented Bartlett – the original magic Mike perhaps – went on to bigger and better things and is girding his loins for two premieres in the coming weeks."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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Maria Friedman & Friends - Legacy at the Menier Chocolate Factory  (2022)

★★★★

"It’s as if Sondheim is in the room with us – corny, but true"

"The Menier Chocolate Factory's touching tribute to the late musical-theatre genius sees Maria Friedman do him (and two other greats) proud"

"it’s a feast for Sondheim fans with a nice sprinkling of numbers from the other two, with a few surprises on top. Throw in affable chat and reminiscence, and the soirée risks over-stuffing its guests; but given how moreish Sondheim’s songs are, and how sating, it amounts to vital comfort food for these jittery times."

"We knew that Sondheim’s legacy was assured, but that point is further underlined by fresh-faced contributions from Friedman’s smiley son Alfie, virtuosic in a hectic sardonic number from Merrily; Indonesian sensation Desmonda Cathabel, giving an impeccable rendition of The Miller’s Son; and a choir from the Royal Academy of Music in the wistfully optimistic Our Time."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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The Collaboration at the The Young Vic (2022)

★★★★

"Paul Bettany brings agony and ecstasy to the role of Andy Warhol"

"This Young Vic production imagines the unlikely - but true - encounter between the doyen of pop art and Jean-Michel Basquiat"

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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Moulin Rouge! The Musical at the Piccadilly Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"The perfect way to celebrate our post-pandemic freedom"

The spectacular, Tony-winning adaptation of Baz Luhrmann's much-loved film is short on plot but more than makes up for it in entertainment

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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Bring It On: The Musical at the Queen Elizabeth Hall (2021)

★★★

"This Lin-Manuel Miranda musical doesn't dazzle like Hamilton, but the routines are great"

"If you can forgive the superficial politics, this production at the South Bank Centre is easy, cheesy fun"

Claire Allfree, The Telegraph
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Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club (Playhouse Theatre) (2021)

★★★★★

"Eddie Redmayne dazzles in the kill-for-a-ticket theatrical triumph of 2021"

"Rebecca Frecknall’s staging of the 1966 Kander and Ebb classic re-affirms the sensuous joy of performance and sends shivers down the spine"

""Redmayne, returning to theatre after a decade, offers a dazzling vision of the Emcee role, so long associated with Alan Cumming in the Mendes production, that makes it freshly glinting and sinister," wrote Cavendish.

"As Sally Bowles, the English deb turned devil-may-care show-girl, Buckley achieves no smaller feat: she makes you laugh, breaks your heart, has you hanging on her every word - sung or otherwise," he continued. "The Irish actress's period accent and distinctive attitude, nonchalance combined with subtle forcefulness and vulnerability, sets her far from Liza Minnelli in the 1972 film."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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Best of Enemies at the The Young Vic (2021)

★★★★

"Witnessing the birth of televised political discussion as blood-sport"

"James Graham's dramatisation – at the Young Vic – of the game-changing 1968 Gore Vidal and William F Buckley Jr debates packs a real punch"

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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West Side Story  (2021)

★★★★★

"Spielberg’s magnificent remake is his finest film in 20 years"

"The director's first musical feels as definitive as the previous screen adaptation and a timely testament to the genius of Stephen Sondheim"

"West Side Story is, I believe, Spielberg’s finest film in 20 years, and a new milestone in the career of one of our greatest living directors. A little less than a month before his 75th birthday, he has delivered a relentlessly dazzling, swoonily beautiful reworking of the 1957 Manhattan-set musical by Arthur Laurents, Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim, which feels just as definitive and indestructible as the previous screen adaptation, directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins."

"There’s no need for Spielberg and Kushner to tease out topicality here. Aspects of West Side Story feel as pertinent today as they must have done on its 1957 Broadway debut. But relevance is easy: timelessness is the real artistic feat. And Spielberg has magnificently pulled it off."

Robbie Collin, The Telegraph
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The Book of Dust at the Bridge Theatre (2021)

★★★

"A promising adaptation cursed by its daemons"

"Nicholas Hytner's new Philip Pullman adaptation at the Bridge Theatre has plenty going for it but currently feels like a Christmas curio"

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theatre (2021)

★★★

"Wicked is packed with spectacular coups de theatre and some magical lighting effects"

"At times the show undoubtedly slips into the preachy, but mercifully Winnie Holzman's script keeps the gags coming as it cleverly subverts the film that spawned it. And Joe Mantello's production, on a Heath Robinsonish design by Eugene Lee, is packed with spectacular coups de theatre and some magical lighting effects by Kenneth Posner."

"It proves far more enjoyable than I had dared to hope, and deserves a wider audience than adolescent schoolgirls."

Charles Spencer, The Telegraph
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The Ocean at the End of the Lane at the Duke of York's Theatre (2021)

★★★★★

"British theatre at its gob-smacking best"

"Young and old alike will be entranced by the return of this illusion-packed Neil Gaiman adaptation"

"Katy Rudd’s production honours every philosophical beat and every pulse-racing thud of the experience, as good as putting us in the shoes of James Bamford’s bashful, inquisitive Boy"

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of) at the Criterion Theatre (2021)

★★★★★

"Austen would have loved this smart, silly, laugh-out-loud show"

"This full-bodied, all-female adaptation of Austen's masterpiece at the Criterion is even better than it was two years ago – praise indeed"

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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A Christmas Carol - A Ghost Story at the Nottingham Playhouse (2021)

★★★★★

"Nothing humbug about Mark Gatiss’s fabulous take on Dickens"

"This irresistibly theatrical new production at the Nottingham Playhouse does the evergreen 1843 novella full justice"

Mark Brown, The Telegraph
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Get Up, Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical at the Lyric Theatre (2021)

★★★★★

"A brilliant show that gives Bob Marley back his bite"

"The reggae star's songs have been made toothless by ubiquity. This show changes that"

Dzifa Benson, The Telegraph
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Back to the Future at the Adelphi Theatre (2021)

★★★★★

"The car's the star in this feelgood triumph"

"Great Scott! This musical based on the Eighties classic shouldn't work - but it's magnificent"

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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Frozen The Musical at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane (2021)

★★★

"The venue puts the show in the shade.

"The newly refurbished Theatre Royal Drury Lane is jaw-dropping, but this stage version of the all-conquering Disney film feels less magical"

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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Cinderella at the Gillian Lynne Theatre (2021)

★★★★

"Happy ever after for Andrew Lloyd Webber's long-awaited show"

"Magical, crowd-pleasing musical at the Gillian Lynne Theatre is one of the composer's best"

"Carrie Hope Fletcher is magnetic as the prickly heroine, who’s really a softie beneath her goth make-up and cynical gripes. She belts out Lloyd Webber’s ballads with aplomb, and develops a sweet, sparring chemistry with Ivano Turco’s Sebastian"

Marianka Swain, The Telegraph
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Mary Poppins at the Prince Edward Theatre (2021)

★★★★★

"The Most delightful West End show in a long time"

"Richard Eyre's 2004 musical is back at the Prince Edward Theatre, and it makes for an unbeatably splendid evening"

Fiona Mountford, The Telegraph
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The Phantom of the Opera at the Her Majesty's Theatre (2021)

★★★★

"Lloyd Webber's epic tearjerker is back in all its kitsch, gothic glory"

"The hit musical has returned to the place of its birth - Her Majesty's Theatre - with a mean and marvellous new Phantom - Killian Donnelly."

Serena Davies, The Telegraph
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Anything Goes at the Barbican Theatre (2021)

★★★★★

"A show that will make you gasp in wonder and laugh till it hurts""

"The Barbican's joyous revival of a Cole Porter classic - charming, hilarious and packed with epic ensembles - will set your world to rights"

"Kathleen Marshall’s deliriously, defiantly, de-lovely production immediately joins the pantheon of great classic musical revivals such as the National Theatre’s 1998 Oklahoma! – pure class, and pure joie de vivre. This Anything Goes doesn’t just charm with Cole Porter gems such as You’re the Top and I Get a Kick Out of You, or make you laugh till it hurts, or gasp in wonder at the epic ensemble production numbers that start huge and keep getting bigger and better. It has a restorative effect that takes you beyond being an appreciative audience member: it makes you feel kinder towards your fellow man. It cures the soul."

Marianka Swain, The Telegraph
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Les Miserables at the Sondheim Theatre (2020)

★★★★★

"Perfect theatre, in a perfect theatre"

"Prepare for a fresh outbreak of Les Mis mania."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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Cirque Du Soleil - Luzia at the Royal Albert Hall (2020)

★★★

"The splendour and scale of the venue elevates the epic, dreamlike quality of the action"

“Some stunning visual set pieces. A corde lisse artist twirls endlessly beneath a cascading sheet of water; reptilian pole dancers slither down from the canopy of a luscious rainforest; an adagio acrobat is flung through the red haze of a steaming dancehall.”

“The score sits well with the impressively sharp choreography, but slips too easily into the characterless rhythms of world music. The maraca-infused tracks sound like they have been lifted from the playlist of a Latin-themed bar, lacking the authenticity and scope that makes the visual storytelling so compelling.”

“Luzia’s blend of charming narrative mythology and mind-bending stunts, including a breath-taking sequence on the Russian swings, makes it an event worth shelling out for.”

Jack Taylor, The Telegraph
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Magic Goes Wrong at the Vaudeville Theatre (2020)

★★★★

"A terrific new helping of the art of comic incompetence"

"their commitment to the character-comedy and the skill they deploy to bring their stunts off adds a complexity to their medicinal froth. We buy into the idea that we’re genuinely watching hopeless cases – and we want them to suffer for their idiocy but also, in unexpected ways, transcend it."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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Cyrano de Bergerac at the Playhouse Theatre (2019)

★★★★★

"I defy anyone not to fall in love with it."

“James McAvoy proves a revelation in a super-smart stripped-back Cyrano that turns the play on its head and left me speechless with admiration.”

“The stage-magic lies in the musculature of the word-music he unleashes in a two-hour long work-out of lungs and larynx. Those ravishing verbals have been given a 21st century spin. The rhyming couplets have acquired a street-wise panache; rap-culture informs the rapier wit. An 18-strong cast – dressed-down in everyday gear – occupy a no-frills theatrical environment (exposed stage, wooden surrounds, plastic chairs). It’s like a performance poetry gig. They wield hand-held mics, beatbox too.”

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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& Juliet at the Shaftesbury Theatre (2019)

★★★

"It's essentially glorified panto"

"While this show isn’t in the same league as Mamma Mia! by fellow Swedes Abba, those with a willing ear for his brand of shiny pop should enjoy hearing his bangers rendered at high volume and landing with a swaggering, truant disposition."

"Part of me thinks this feelgood extravaganza might just prove the new We Will Rock You"

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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DEAR EVAN HANSEN at the Noel Coward Theatre (2019)

★★★★

"A star is born as the Broadway hit comes to the UK"

"Dear Evan Hansen, which premiered in 2015 and stormed Broadway the following year (winning six Tonys), gives voice to the angst of doubt-riddled adolescence, the flipside of the country’s brutal winner-loser culture. It is also widely regarded as the first major musical to put the subject of social media centre-stage."

"I was consistently (darkly) entertained, not just by the narrative twists and turns but the internal knots into which Hansen ties himself, prompted by his tangle of misplaced altruism, grasping opportunism and beta-male insecurity. At the same time, the evening does feel – much like its protagonist – supremely calculated; and for all its cleverness, there is an air of chilliness about it. Original though the scenario undoubtedly is, it unfolds fairly schematically; too few of the characters feel fully fleshed out."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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Groan Ups at the Vaudeville Theatre (2019)

★★★★

"Growing pains of the most painfully funny kind"

"The script deftly unites moments broad and silly with elements wistful and serious within a simple structure: we follow the shifting relations and fortunes of five school friends, from early primary days past the terrible teens to an adult reunion."

"Yes, the scenario is a bit scribbled on a bus, trades on stereotypes, and gag-wise has its share of groaners. Yet aside from showcasing Mischief’s rare facility for generating mirth and turning the stage into a zestful playground, it suggests a growing maturity of artistic ambition. "

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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Groan Ups at the Vaudeville Theatre (2019)

★★★★

"Growing pains of the most painfully funny kind"

"Yes, the scenario is a bit scribbled on a bus, trades on stereotypes, and gag-wise has its share of groaners. Yet aside from showcasing Mischief’s rare facility for generating mirth and turning the stage into a zestful playground, it suggests a growing maturity of artistic ambition. "

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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The Girl Who Fell at the Trafalgar Theatre (2019)

★★★★

"A cracking new play … outrageously funny"

, The Telegraph
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Lungs at the The Old Vic (2019)

★★★★

"Claire Foy shines and Matt Smith glints in doomsday play."

"Both actors cope brilliantly with the technical and tonal challenges, although the scripted-sounded nature of their verbal emissions can irk and the characters are more like talking predicaments than fully rounded personae. Foy shines brightest, her thinking aloud exhilarating in its runaway force. Smith – seemingly unaged since his Dr Who prime, flexing action-man limbs, even performing press-ups – is good at glinting tenderness, ardency and sheepishness (there are philandering parallels to Philip)."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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Vassa at the Almeida Theatre (2019)

★★

"A rare misfire from north London’s creative powerhouse"

" Redmond contends admirably enough, chilling the temperature with an Anne Robinson-esque winteriness (lots of baleful looks, weary reprimands), but the character barely lives and breathes more successfully than her unseen moribund other half."

"Bartlett – who delivered one of the plays of the decade here with King Charles III – gives us neither a compelling vision of the past nor something that correlates well to the present. There is also something awry with the staging by up-and-coming director Tinuke Craig, which gives little period specificity. The flip, often fast dialogue has the veneer of a black comedy - and offers moments of wit - but it’s not only hard, as a consequence, to latch on to what people are driving at (the intrigue is quite involved) but it’s a challenge to care about any of them. For the first time in a long while at the Almeida, I’m groping for positives."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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A Day In The Death Of Joe Egg at the Trafalgar Theatre (2019)

★★★★

"Both savage and compassionate"

"Simon Evans's super-starry production, featuring Toby Stephens, Claire Skinner and Patricia Hodge, is both worthy tribute and a resounding vindication: the play, if anything, feels more savagely true than ever."

Claire Allfree, The Telegraph
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Solaris at the Lyric Hammersmith (2019)

★★★★

"Terrifyingly strange, beautifully staged sci-fi"

"Hyemi Shin’s remarkable, improbably versatile, white set is a star of the show. Assisted beautifully by excellent projected imagery, it serves both the practical and atmospheric demands of an imperfect, but ultimately successful, adaptation. "

Mark Brown, The Telegraph
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Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the London Palladium (2019)

★★★★

"It’s a boon to see Smith treading West End boards again"

"No one can argue that Joseph – which owes as much to Butlins, you feel, as the Bible – possesses immense sophistication. Or that it had the subversion as Hair, which came to London the same year as that first try-out (1968). Yet, free from the shackles of deference, and boldly making use of a through-sung format, it marched to the same anything-goes counter-cultural tune of the time."

"It’s a boon to see Smith treading West End boards again: her Narrator, very girl-next-door in simple top and joggers, has a silky-rich voice and a sunbeamy smile so bright you may need to apply factor 50."

"You think Yarrow has walked off with the show, then up rises Donovan's Pharoah amid MGM-levels of gilded pomp and milks every over-extended moment of his Elvisy rock number, hip-thrusting with a machismo that belies his feline Egyptian eye-shadow."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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Wife at the Kiln Theatre (2019)

★★★★

Ibsen’s A Doll’s House renovated and extended to inspiring effect. In Wife, Samuel Adamson ingeniously revisits the play, and springboards from reprised versions of that scene to explore shifting theatrical approaches and evolving societal norms about marriage and personal relations

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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The Starry Messenger at the Wyndham's Theatre (2019)

★★★

"A play that wistfully acknowledges the passage of time and onset of middle-age"

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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Betrayal at the Harold Pinter Theatre (2019)

★★★★

"Tom Hiddleston displays a hypnotic sensitivity in this modern masterpiece"

"In common with all his best work – including, yes, that glinting study in volatile vengefulness, the maverick Marvel baddie Loki – he displays a hypnotic sensitivity. Such is his physical and vocal control, that no matter how light the look or line, or indeed how loaded, everything registers. I had worried that the actor, 38, might come across as too well-spoken, too restrained but he doesn’t merely suggest the noxious, torturing impact of that title word, Betrayal, he seems to carry it in his blood-stream."

"Striking, ardent, confident, Ashton’s Emma could do with more enigma and less underlined brittleness but catches the character’s ache and discontent well, while Cox acquits himself superbly as the down to earth best-mate who behaves like a rotter, with cat that got the cream smiles and an awful sheepishness as it dawns on him that the others have played him for a fool."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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Waitress at the Adelphi Theatre, (2019)

★★★★

"A meaty musical packed with delicious filling"

"I have to confess to craving a slice of humble-pie after watching Waitress...a meaty musical packed with delicious filling"

"To be honest, I went in expecting the whole thing to get completely up my nostrils."

"Yet after two hours of more-ish, tuneful entertainment (snappy folky-rocky-poppy music and lyrics from Sara Bareilles, book by Jessie Nelson) my carapace – crust, if you will – of scepticism had been breached, leaving warm appreciation oozing out. And if you’re averse to tongue-in-cheek, culinary-related metaphors, then do stand warned – from the opening, lullaby-like line “Sugar, butter, flour”, this is a show that takes joyous relish in whisking together the staple references of its workplace milieu with all the confused emotions that attend its principals’ appetite for love and companionship."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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Come From Away at the Phoenix Theatre (2019)

★★★

"Glossing over the trauma of 9/11"

"Their musical phenomenon - which opened on Broadway in 2017 to ecstatic reviews - has now landed in London with a British cast"

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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9 to 5 The Musical at the Savoy Theatre (2019)

★★★

"Bonnie Langford is employee of the month in this feelgood but flimsy musical"

"For power-jacketed professionalism, you can’t fault Caroline Sheen (stepping in for an injured Louise Redknapp to play multi-tasking, lovelorn Violet), Amber Davies (the 2017 Love Island winner) as the gradually empowered Judy and Natalie McQueen as the drawling Doralee, bewailing the bimbo status that she has been saddled with."

"Employee of the month’ award however should go to Bonnie Langford"

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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All About Eve at the Noel Coward Theatre (2019)

★★★

"Lily James lacks peculiarity in uninspired screen-to-stage affair"

"Van Hove loves to strip things back, so we get minimal Broadway glamour and bustle – but less eye-catching experimentalism than you might expect. Period trappings are out even if the implicit social landscape of the original remains."

"Anderson, svelte and glowering, exudes first boredom then fear, communicates wariness well with just a poisonous glance."

"there’s a stand-out supporting performance from Monica Dolan as Margo’s turncoat confidant Karen"

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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True West at the Vaudeville Theatre (2018)

"Kit Harington proves his mettle in Sam Shepard's bleak battle of wills"

"The late Sam Shepard’s True West is a remarkably delicate flower. Set it down in the wrong place, fail to moisten it with sufficient droplets of subtle directorial care, and a dark comedy of wild pungency can wilt into something oddly odourless."

"If the evening needs to look more rock n roll, less like a roughed-up version of The Odd Couple, there’s still enough to savour for the initiated and uninitiated alike. Having been as wooden as a Westeros draw-bridge in a dire Faustus two years ago, a heavily moustachioed Harington proves his mettle in this latest stage outing."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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Fiddler On The Roof at the Meniere Chocolate Factory (2018)

★★★★

The tears ring true in Trevor Nunn's exuberant revival.

'Despite its rather rudimentary story-line, the show remains as fresh as ever. Folk songs that were the product of affectionate pastiche – the creative trio’s homage to ‘where poppa came from’ – have such a core veracity, it’s almost as if they were actually sung back in the day.'

'Nyman doesn’t always sound the part, he looks it: a little youthful, granted, but with his big beard, labourer’s fore-arms and stout physique, he plausibly incarnates the fretful patriarch.'

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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Hole at the Royal Court Theatre (2018)

★★

‘I wish I liked Hole more than I did’

‘Kendrick’s script not only has the choric feel of ancient Greek drama, it invokes the murderous femininity of Agave and her followers in the Bacchae and the winged Furies in the Oresteia.’

‘Directed with a rough-and-ready muscularity by semi-improv theatre collective RashDash, it also feels like a theatrical provocation – a performance-art piece that, by asserting the primacy of raw feeling, seems to directly challenge, if not even critique, the Royal Court’s long tradition of kitchen sink theatre.’

‘But there is also a persistent and fatal whiff of indulgence, and that distinct tang of self- righteousness that is ultimately always excluding rather than inclusive.’

Claire Allfree, The Telegraph
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Billionaire Boy at the NST City, Southampton (2018)

★★★★

"A hugely enjoyable take on David Walliams's so-so novella"

“I could have done without shopkeeper Raj’s End of Pier stand-up routines, and the meta-theatre references are a clumsy substitute for Walliams’s wink-wink confidences in the reader.”

Claire Allfree, The Telegraph
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Hadestown at the National Theatre (2018)

★★★

"Enjoyable winter-warmer that's a near myth"

"Those seeking “value for money” can’t complain given that they’re treated, over more than two hours, to song after well-sung, well-crafted song, a bumper-pack of bluesy, folksy, jazzy material that does the soul good to hear it. Or can they?"

"Mitchell’s through-sung approach squeezes out opportunities for richly character-defining dialogue. Her lyrics often come not from psychologically detailed personae but from the show’s collective spirit of story-telling"

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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Company at the Gielgud Theatre (2018)

★★★★★

"Sublime"

"Gender-switched Sondheim proves a sublime down-the-rabbit-hole cocktail of entertainment.

"This is astonishing in so many ways it feels as if you’re hemmed in by reasons to cheer. Marianne Elliott’s re-imagining of Stephen Sondheim’s landmark experimental 1970 musical (with skittish book by George Furth) reboots a modern classic for the Tinder age. It’s sensational. But it might not have worked."

"Yes, Sondheim is a known genius, Elliott one of our finest directors. And, sure, there’s something inevitable – given our identity-fluid times – about taking the pivotal role of Bobby, a sexy, unattached New Yorker contemplating the hazards (and rewards) of coupledom as he hits 35, and – hey presto – gender-switching it."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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Tina - The Tina Turner Musical at the Aldwych Theatre (2018)

★★★★★

"Beautifully designed and roof-raisingly well-sung"

"Born in the USA, made in England. That’s the thesis of this slickly choreographed, beautifully designed and roof-raisingly well-sung bio-musical about Tina Turner."

"It combines the aesthetic finesse of British director Phyllida Lloyd with the political instincts of Memphis-born, Olivier nominated playwright Katori Hall - and boasts a tour de force performance by American actress Adrienne Warren."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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📷 Main photo: The Telegraph

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