The Stage

The Stage – London Theatre Reviews

Reviews for London Theatre and West End shows from theatre industry publication The Stage.

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

The chief theatre critics at The Stage are Natasha Tripney and Tim Bano.

Anya Ryan also contributes to The Stage reviews.

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


A Sherlock Carol at the Marylebone Theatre (2022)

★★

"Struggles to conjure much flair"

"Dickens and Doyle mash-up struggles to transcend a prosaic production"

"Ben Caplan’s querulous Holmes is the highlight of the production; he’s lost all confidence in himself and resents the glamorised versions of his exploits penned by Watson for the press."

"It feels as if Shanahan, whose script is strongest when illustrating Holmes’ quirks, has spread himself too thin. The staging is never more than serviceable, and is sometimes clunky, with props and doors wheeled on. The first half is slow to get going, and the second is a (literal) wild goose chase that’s too convoluted and manically narrated to offer the satisfaction of solving a mystery."

"This show attempts to knit together a whodunnit, a ghost story and a Christmas celebration, but none of these strands satisfies. London is saturated with Christmas Carols and, while this one attempts to do something different, as a whole it feels like a slightly undercooked ready meal, rather than a feast of festive storytelling."

Julia Rank, The Stage
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Elf The Musical at the Dominion Theatre (2022)

★★★

"Riot of colour, comedy and magic"

"Infectiously upbeat musical adaptation of the Will Ferrell movie"

"... this revival of the show, directed by Philip Wm McKinley, delivers its Christmas cheer with the vehemence of a Broadway belt."

"It’s best to take the show as a stand-alone piece, packed with infectious musical numbers and, thanks to choreographer Liam Steel, plenty of lively dance routines. Matthew Sklar’s punchy score is an unrelenting musical sugar rush. It could benefit from a few gentler, more introspective numbers – everything here is full-throttle."

"As Buddy, Simon Lipkin faces a huge challenge to match the wide-eyed innocence of Ferrell’s titular elf – but he pulls it off with skill and dexterity."

"The charm of Tim Goodchild’s set design is sadly diminished by some disappointing video animation, but otherwise, the show is a riot of colour, comedy and Christmas magic. Devotees of the movie might disagree, but as a seasonal family show it hits all the right notes."

Paul Vale, The Stage
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Sarah at the The Coronet Theatre (2022)

★★★

"Well-observed writing"

"Jonathan Slinger’s dynamic performance powers this drama about a disintegrating marriage in the American South"

"Jonathan Slinger is arguably one of the UK’s most fluid and chameleon-like actors, able to entirely disappear into a character and bring them unflinchingly to life. He drives this production forward, where the play sometimes spins its wheels."

"[Oliver] Reese draws on McClanahan’s dense, darkly comic prose to build a portrait of lives lived in quiet, almost resigned, desperation."

"Slinger’s performance is dynamic, and the set creatively becomes a man-child’s warped playground strewn with boxes, bottles and kids’ toys. However, as well-observed as the writing is, it’s essentially cumulative – just more brush strokes over a fundamentally static depiction. By the end, we haven’t learned much more about Scott, or Sarah, than we did in the first 10 minutes."

Tom Wicker, The Stage
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A Christmas Carol at the The Old Vic (2022)

★★★★★

"One of the best Christmas shows you’ll ever see"

"Flawless and resonant retelling of the Dickens classic"

"Brussel sprouts dangling from parachutes, cosmic rumbles, a turkey on a zipwire – there’s so much that’s unexpected in this jaw-dropping, synapse-tingling version of the Dickens classic. Jack Thorne’s adaptation, in a production by Matthew Warchus, first swept up audiences in 2017 – five years later, it retains its capacity to dig deep into the meanness of Scrooge’s life to produce dramatic gold."

"[Owen Teale] owns the role, revealing himself as a wounded grizzly bear of a man who’s wittily sceptical of the spirits who threaten him with emotional truth."

"Thorne’s adaptation heightens the original with biographical elements from Dickens’ life; through the Ghost of Christmas Past we see Scrooge has a cruel father, but Thorne adds the detail that the cruelty stems from his financial worries. This adds significant ballast to Scrooge’s own story – in his wretched, money-grubbing existence we suddenly see the need to escape turning into his father, a debtor like Dickens’ own, who destroys the lives of all around him."

Rachel Halliburton, The Stage
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Vardy v Rooney: The Wagatha Christie Trial at the Wyndham's Theatre (2022)

★★★

"An unexpected state-of-the-nation drama"

"Liv Hennessy has edited seven days of court transcripts into two hours of match highlights, creating, somehow, a bizarre state-of-the-nation drama. The case sits at the intersection of society’s hottest topics: celebrity, privacy, social media, class, wealth, the role of women, the legal system and our love of a scalp viciously won. But it’s also so stupidly low-stakes that it’s hard not to laugh."

"In a sense, a verbatim play is a cop-out: a repetition, rather than a reckoning. It’s a quick buck that prolongs public humiliation as entertainment. And yet this strange meeting point of football match, courtroom drama, pantomime and farce, well, it’s.......... pretty good fun."

Tim Bano, The Stage
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The Sex Party at the Menier Chocolate Factory (2022)

"Embarrassingly limp"

"Limp comedy that strains for socio-political significance"

"... this new comedy – which reopens the Menier after an almost seven-month closure – is embarrassingly limp. A predictable portrait of miserable middle-class, middle-aged marriage enlivened by suburban wife-swapping kink, at mid-point it lurches abruptly into garbled lip service to the culture wars around transgender rights. It’s as if Johnson went on a goggle-eyed, six-hour Twitter bender and then vomited the results, unedited, on to the page. As for the production, which he also directs, it, too, is startlingly clumsy: awkwardly staged, poorly paced and unconvincingly acted – which, considering the stellar cast, is quite a feat."

Sam Marlowe, The Stage
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Blackout Songs at the Hampstead Theatre (2022)

★★★

"Sharp and jagged dialogue"

"Two-hander of love and addition has a sour potency"

"This new two-hander by Joe White captures that queasy, morning-after doubt and anxiety gut-churningly well, along with the hedonistic excess and euphoria of the night before. Directed with a nervy energy by Guy Jones, it’s a stumbling odyssey through a mutually destructive relationship that feeds, vampire-like, on addiction."

"... it has a sour tang of authenticity, with unstinting performances from Alex Austin and Rebecca Humphries, hurling themselves into both the sloppy sensuality of drunken delirium and the grim, knuckle-gnawing comedown."

"Yet at its best, the writing is arresting: there’s a savage hilarity to the dialogue, which is as sharp and jagged as smashed glass. And however well we know this story’s taste, it has a bitter kick to it."

Sam Marlowe, The Stage
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From Here To Eternity at the Charing Cross Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Sharper, grittier, more intense"

"Compelling musical treatment of James Jones’ award-winning novel"

"In Smock’s gritty traverse staging, everything seems amplified. The belting chorus of G Company bellow their boredom and frustration. Cressida Carré’s testosterone-fuelled choreography echoes regimental manoeuvres with platoon efficiency, and Stuart Brayson’s score comes into its own, thanks to new arrangements and orchestrations from musical director Nick J Barstow. The focus is sharper, the atmosphere more oppressive, and there are some exceptional performances."

"By taking the show back to the drawing board, the creative team has solved many of its problems. There’s barely a misstep in Smock’s formidable production: it has the energy of a prizefight, the pathos of doomed romance and the tension of a ticking bomb."

(Not credited), The Stage
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A Christmas Carol at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre (2022)

★★★

"Timely, lavishly designed revival of David Edgar’s didactic adaptation of the Dickens classic"

"David Edgar’s strident 2017 adaptation aims to make the story’s societal themes even more explicit."

"Kavanaugh’s heavy-handed approach to the material ratchets up both the comedy and the melodrama. One moment, her performers are delivering puns with playful winks to the audience – the next, they’re sobbing over a meagre Christmas dinner. Jarringly, the ghostly spirits haunting Scrooge feel more emotionally authentic than the mortals they share the stage with."

"Edmondson’s Scrooge is wheedling, sly and proud of his ability to cause shock and discomfort"

Dave Fargnoli, The Stage
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Not One of These People at the Royal Court Theatre (2022)

★★★

"Extraordinary theatrical experiment exploring identity and the ethics of art"

"There are lots of people living inside playwright Martin Crimp’s head, and in this ingenious, unsettling theatrical experiment, we too hear their clamorous voices."

"The piece is a brilliant act of provocation. It bears some familiar Crimp hallmarks – the bone-dry humour, the fractured language, the stealthy preoccupation with violence – but it’s entirely plotless, consisting of lines of dialogue assigned to 299 unnamed characters, spoken by the author."

"All the self-righteousness, narcissism and moral judgement of 21st-century discourse are here, but so are serious questions about appropriation, responsibility and artistic freedom."

" It’s an engrossing, open-ended exploration, delivered with audacious theatrical flair: extraordinary."

Sam Marlowe, The Stage
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Super High Resolution at the Soho Theatre (2022)

★★★

"Articulate warning"

"Compassionate, darkly funny depiction of individual and institutional crisis in the NHS"

"... it is a departure from Ellis’ more experimental earlier work: a conventional, and largely predictable, depiction of gruelling toil in the beleaguered NHS"

"There’s a whiff of the formulaic about the wall of well-meaning platitudes and incomprehension Anna is up against, and Becca’s aspiring medic stepdaughter Sammy, though played with sharp teenage truculence by LJ Johnson, is thinly drawn."

Sam Marlowe, The Stage
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Mary at the Hampstead Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Fiercely relevant"

"Fascinating reframing of the downfall of Mary, Queen of Scots continues Rona Munro’s epic history cycle"

"Written by playwright Rona Munro, Mary is a tight, incisive political drama that re-examines these events from the perspectives of servants and courtiers caught at a turning point in history."

"Munro’s short, keenly focused script is fiercely relevant, using the historical setting as a springboard into a nuanced discussion of knotty, disquieting themes: how political instability can be exploited by ideologues; how sexual violence can be deployed as a means of coercive control"

"Henshall grapples convincingly with the character’s complexities, capturing Melville’s pride and righteous anger, his fierce loyalty, and the desolation he feels when he fails to protect his queen."

Dave Fargnoli, The Stage
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Elephant at the Bush Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Heartfelt musical-monologue"

"Musical monologue gently unpicks complex issues around identity, class and Britain’s imperial legacy"

"Handling weighty themes with the lightest of touches, Elephant is a delicate, heartfelt monologue interspersed with songs, which thoughtfully addresses the complex legacies of colonialism"

"Occasionally, when she’s worn down by the disempowering attitudes all around her, Lylah freezes up, limbs rigid, paralysed with unspoken anger and internalised self-doubt. But by the play’s end, she’s transformed herself, standing upright in confidence, rightfully proud of her past and hopeful for her future."

Dave Fargnoli, The Stage
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Tammy Faye – A New Musical at the Almeida Theatre (2022)

★★★

"Surface-skimming romp"

"New musical about the iconic televangelist takes you halfway to heaven"

"This new musical, with book by playwright James Graham and songs by Elton John and Jake Shears of the Scissor Sisters, is a surface-skimming romp – Evita meets Jerry Springer: The Opera, by way of RuPaul’s Drag Race"

"... the show, directed by Rupert Goold with a vim and stylishness that can’t quite disguise its shortage of substance, lacks Graham’s usual incisive wit and grip"

"Best, then, to enjoy it on its own superficial terms. Brayben gives a powerhouse performance in the title role... She and Rannells are a hugely entertaining double act"

Sam Marlowe, The Stage
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King Hamlin at the Park Theatre (2022)

★★

"Frequently moving"

"Uneven but powerfully performed drama exploring poverty and gang violence"

"There’s a sense of grim inevitability saturating King Hamlin, a bleak new drama about young men from a deprived neighbourhood, who are drawn into gang culture with predictably horrible results."

"There’s a deep empathy evident in the dialogue, a rawness that is frequently moving, if heavy-handed. Williams effectively captures the fractious relationships between these young men, their conversations swinging abruptly between silliness and sudden aggression. But the characters tend to blurt out their deepest feelings with a frankness that feels forced."

"The four-strong cast is committed and focused, with Kiza Deen standing out as Hamlin’s mother,..."

Dave Fargnoli, The Stage
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A Single Man at the Park Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Piercing"

"Poignantly effective and witty adaptation of Christopher Isherwood’s iconic 1964 novel about love, loss and loneliness"

"While the novel’s focus on a gay relationship was ground-breaking when it was published in 1964, what particularly stands out now, in Simon Reade’s skilful stage adaptation, is its unsparing exploration of the ways we strive to put ourselves back together after a loss. Detailed descriptions of physical and neurological processes bring out the agony of George’s loneliness."

"Director Philip Wilson imbues the play’s first half with an effective, heightened surrealism"

"Steele is exceptional, stepping out of any shadow of Colin Firth’s performance in Tom Ford’s 2009 film version. His shifting physicality, as he moves between social spheres, is beautifully done."

"Steele also captures the fierce sharpness of George’s grief – particularly in the standout dinner scene with Charley (Olivia Darnley), his similarly lonely neighbour."

Tom Wicker, The Stage
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@sohoplace at the @sohoplace (2022)

"A glittering jewel-box of glass, steel and wood, adorned with gleaming marble and constellations of twinkling lights, producer Nica Burns’ new West End theatre @sohoplace officially opens its doors with a surprisingly modest show."

Sam Marlowe, The Stage
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Marvellous at the @sohoplace (2022)

★★★

"Understated, charmingly eccentric bio-drama"

"Touching tribute to Neil Baldwin’s remarkable life lifts the curtain of Nica Burns’ new @sohoplace theatre"

"It’s an understated, charmingly eccentric bio-drama about a Stoke local hero: Neil Baldwin... His story must have resonated more strongly in his home town and sometimes Theresa Heskins’ production comes perilously close to twee. But its message of optimism and inclusivity is hard to resist – and makes a robustly positive mission statement for Burns’ venture."

"Under Lis Evans’ design of suspended, illuminated toy-box letters spelling out its title, the play skitters through Neil’s biography, with a winning, deadpan-funny Michael Hugo as the Real Neil rising from the stalls to marshal proceedings and assign roles"

Sam Marlowe, The Stage
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Light of Passage at the Royal Opera House (2022)

★★★★★

"Moving, articulate and beautifully choreographed expression of humanity"

"Flight Pattern remains a masterly work in its own right. Together, though, this trilogy of pieces presents an intricately choreographed expression of humanity."

"That theme continues through the new works for the programme, Covenant and Passage. Featuring six young dancers, Covenant is a short and beautifully understated piece. In the final piece, Passage, two elder performers join the company. It’s an eloquent, poignant expression of a perpetual cycle."

Rachel Elderkin, The Stage
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Local Hero at the Chichester Festival Theatre (2022)

★★★

"Lovely performances"

"Every element is great. Lovely performances from Paul Higgins as local barman-cum-hotelier-cum-accountant-cum-lawyer Gordon; from Gabriel Ebert as puppyish oil exec Mac, who falls in love with the town of Ferness; and from Lillie Flynn as Stella, a character given a much bigger role than in the film, who has a wonderful voice. "

"This adaptation is witty and watchable – but that enchantment never quite finds its way on to the stage."

Tim Bano, The Stage
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My Neighbour Totoro at the Barbican Theatre (2022)

★★★★★

"Unadulterated joy"

"Exquisitely lovely and enormously beguiling take on the anime classic"

"Faithfully adapted by playwright Tom Morton-Smith and directed with wit and tenderness by Phelim McDermott, the show is a quirky delight that enchants and amuses, but also moves: its child’s-eye view of the world evokes both wonderment and vulnerability. It could so easily be tacky or saccharine. Instead, it’s exquisite, every detail of design and execution painstakingly considered."

"It’s unadulterated joy: a huge, healing hug of a show, generous and utterly beguiling."

Sam Marlowe, The Stage
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Good at the Harold Pinter Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"David Tennant gives a meticulous performance"

"A chilling warning against the apathy and self-regard that allows evil to thrive"

"It’s a steely work that operates by stealth. Its violence accumulates with each act of treachery, self-delusion and cowardly justification. Dominic Cooke’s production, stripped back to the bone, is led by David Tennant as a man who permits his humanity to be grotesquely warped by circumstance and compromise. It’s a meticulous performance of cold, creeping horror, made more terrifying by its plausibility. He’s not some gargoyle: he’s utterly ordinary."

"That it’s all so weirdly muted only makes it more hellish – a cry of protest strangled in the throat – and the play’s pertinence, in our age of populism, scapegoating and sloganeering, remains sharp. It’s a grim nightmare of quietly lethal potency."

Sam Marlowe, The Stage
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The Doctor at the Duke of York's Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Vital"

"Juliet Stevenson is all ice and fire in an immensely timely study of identity politics"

"It’s all in the casting. Rarely has this been more completely the case than in Robert Icke’s intellectually bracing The Doctor. Taking the skeleton of Professor Bernhardi, Arthur Schnitzler’s 1912 play about identity and antisemitism, Icke relocates it from Vienna to London, and into the epicentre of contemporary identity and responsibility debates, via arrestingly non-literal casting."

"As the noose tightens around the powerfully controlling Dr Wolff, Stevenson commands the stage on Hildegard Bechtler’s blond wood, clinical set. She digs ever deeper, with long-suppressed fury increasingly bursting through her crisp, white-coated intellectual superiority. And in the somewhat recast transfer of the 2019 Almeida production, she is balanced by an ensemble who are mostly, although not quite all, equally adept at grading their fury."

David Benedict, The Stage
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The Caucasian Chalk Circle at the The Rose Theatre Kingston (2022)

★★★★

"Boisterous energy"

"Visually striking revival of Brecht’s sprawling wartime parable"

"... Brecht’s epic parable of war, justice and the venal lows and heroic highs of human nature remains all too relevant today."

"Director Christopher Haydon invests the piece with a boisterous energy from the outset. Performers swap fluidly between roles, trying out postures and gestures whenever they depict a new persona for the first time."

"Among the show’s enthusiastic ensemble, Jonathan Slinger stands out with a hugely energetic performance as eccentric judge Azdak. Part-con man, part-folk hero, he dispenses his own idiosyncratic idea of justice with flair. Carrie Hope Fletcher is gripping as Grusha, the former maid who becomes a loving adoptive mother to a violently deposed governor’s infant son..."

Dave Fargnoli, The Stage
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The Band's Visit at the Donmar Warehouse (2022)

★★★

"Staged with economic eloquence"

"Slight and sweet musical story of human connection beyond politics"

"Yazbek’s score, which blends Arabic music with jazz and klezmer, is ravishingly lovely. And Michael Longhurst’s production is staged with economic eloquence, and beautifully performed. I wish I could have loved it more. But I found myself growing increasingly impatient with the show’s surface-skimming narrative and sentimentality."

"... there’s an airy absence of detail in a piece that leaves us to weave meaning from its gossamer threads. It charms, but that – I’m genuinely sorry to say – doesn’t feel like quite enough."

Sam Marlowe, The Stage
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The Boy with Two Hearts at the National Theatre (2022)

★★★

"Glows with one family’s love"

"How to convey the scale of this family’s ordeal on a stage? Director Amit Sharma makes satisfying use of Hayley Grindle’s two-tiered design, with curtains of shirts and jackets hanging high in the flies, suggesting the silent presence of the many refugees whose stories we don’t hear."

"The very linear nature of the story, given a blow-by-blow account – much of it in direct-address narration – mean there’s not always room for the individual characters to be explored. But the five actors, who also take turns to play minor roles, create a strong sense of a familial bond as the Amiris are buffeted by events, and winningly engage the audience in scenes such as the selling off of the contents of their Herat home. You believe entirely in Shamail Ali, Farshid Rokey and Ahmad Sakhi’s brotherly banter."

Siobhan Murphy, The Stage
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Dmitry at the Marylebone Theatre (2022)

★★★

"Knotty tale of toxic nationalism"

"Weighty, if sometimes overwrought, take on Friedrich Schiller opens the new London venue"

"In a production by Tim Supple, it proves a sometimes self-consciously weighty, serious piece of theatre, steeped in Schiller’s abiding interest in individuals caught up in the relentless march of history and tradition"

"The play really kicks into gear in the second half, after a plot twist about Dmitry’s identity raises a host of intriguing questions about the sacrifices people are willing to make to achieve their goals, and how much they are willing to manipulate the truth"

Tom Wicker, The Stage
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Tosca at the London Coliseum (2022)

★★★

"Musically impressive"

"Where the show scores highly is in individual performances and on the musical side generally."

"Both of the all-singing, all-acting principals impress. If Sinéad Campbell-Wallace’s Tosca has some way to go in bringing spontaneity to her character’s passionate volatility, her vocal command is absolute"

George Hall, The Stage
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Iphigenia in Splott at the Lyric Hammersmith (2022)

★★★★★

"Essential theatre"

"Astounding and essential cry of rage and pain against Tory inhumanity"

"Played by Sophie Melville with a power that leaves you quaking, Effie is as tough, beautiful and brilliant as a cut diamond: a vengeful demigoddess in grey joggers, blazing like a Fury, defiant, enraged, wounded and magnificent."

"Owen’s writing is so ferociously absorbing, and Melville’s performance so electric, that you can barely breathe as you watch. And O’Riordan’s direction shows us no mercy, hurtling between savage laughter and howling, gnashing wrath and anguish."

"There’s a cathartic potency to the play that leaves you wrung out and exhilarated. Rarely is theatre so shattering; rarely does it feel so utterly indispensable."

Sam Marlowe, The Stage
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John Gabriel Borkman at the Bridge Theatre (2022)

★★★

"Solid rather than sensational"

"This new version by Lucinda Coxon gives it a modern-day setting but leaves much of the linguistic formality intact, while Nicholas Hytner’s production is glacially elegant. There are bouts of sour humour, and the mood is of a game of cat’s cradle with razor wire. But it’s all very conventional: you long for a revealing flash of reinvention that never quite comes."

"Russell Beale is both snarling, contemptuous, misogynistic bully and thwarted little boy, bellowing and stamping his feet in frustration. Eventually breaking out of his self-imposed confinement, he tears off his cardigan in the biting wind in a Lear-like crazed ecstasy. It’s a piteous spectacle in a staging that, if granite-solid rather than sensational, leaves a lingering, acrid aftertaste."

Sam Marlowe, The Stage
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Noises Off at the Theatre Royal Bath (2022)

★★★★

"Timeless"

"Stellar performances in a rollicking farce surely set to delight for another 40 years"

"The balance sheet is loaded positively from the start by the presence of Felicity Kendal, one of Bath’s favourite actors. She finds a touch of pathos, as well as an abundance of laughs, as forgetful former star Dotty Otley, now reduced to the role of housekeeper in Frayn’s farce-within-a-farce."

"But the main quality, and the validity, of Posner’s approach, is that although the play the woebegone actors are rehearsing in the first act – suitably titled "Nothing On" – is very much vintage Brian Rix, the chaotic hustle and bustle of the accident-prone players comes across as timeless. He brings great energy to the slapstick, along with a view that life’s farces are not just played out on stage."

Jeremy Brien, The Stage
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Woman in Mind at the Chichester Festival Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Things get thrillingly weird"

"Our understanding of mental health has changed hugely in the 37 years since Woman in Mind premiered, as has, one would hope, the place of women in society. Why revive the play? Why now? Director Anna Mackmin makes a very strong case that, while some things may be different – and the Middle England Ayckbourn conjures does seem rather distant now – the struggle is still the same for many women, and the suburban dream still as stifling."

"The whole thing is anchored by Russell’s excellent performance as Susan, her emotions rolling and gusting like Simon Baker’s projected cloudscape behind her, laconic and biting one moment, bitter and cruel the next, and then terrified and hopeless."

Tim Bano, The Stage
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Jews. In Their Own Words at the Royal Court (2022)

★★★

"Undoubtedly ambitious"

"Illuminating but inconsistent verbatim piece centres the experiences of Jewish people in contemporary Britain"

"Despite the sensitivity of the themes, co-directors Featherstone and Audrey Sheffield handle the piece with a light touch, keeping the tone calm and conversational throughout. There are some big, theatrical set pieces shoehorned in, though these often feel at odds with Freedland’s restrained text."

"Though the play feels unfocused in places, Freedland’s text is undoubtedly ambitious – trying to tackle historical injustices, fractious party politics and pernicious conspiracy theories simultaneously. It doesn’t always hang together, yet it still represents an important opportunity for meaningful engagement."

Dave Fargnoli, The Stage
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The Crucible at the National Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Thrillingly gripping"

"Masterly staging that finds new resonance in a classic and chills to the bone"

"From its opening moments, Turner’s staging creates a sense of a community on the verge of implosion"

"As the remorseless engine of Miller’s thrillingly gripping writing gathers pace, horror is always yoked to a fine texture of the mundane: Turner underlines the way in which lives of toil, obedience and joylessness feed into both the girls’ triggering act of subversion – sensual dancing in the woods by night – and the outlandish, fevered, Bible-warped fantasy of their claims of devilment."

Sam Marlowe, The Stage
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Eureka Day at the The Old Vic (2022)

★★

"Never hits home"

"Given the trauma of the pandemic, you’d think the play would feel needle-sharp. Not so. In Katy Rudd’s highly coloured production, it’s as hollow as the echo chambers it lampoons, its characters cartoonish and its satire of liberal pieties unrevealing, if sporadically entertaining. The presence in the cast of Oscar winner Helen Hunt doesn’t come close to making its wearying verbosity seem worthwhile. She’s perfectly competent; but like everyone here, she simply doesn’t have enough to work with."

Sam Marlowe, The Stage
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The Wonderful World of Dissocia at the Theatre Royal Stratford East (2022)

★★★★

"Exuberant riff on Alice in Wonderland"

"Energetic and engaging revival of Anthony Neilson’s surreal, irreverent exploration of mental illness"

"First performed in 2004, Anthony Neilson’s play is surprising, surreal, at times brutal. It’s an exuberant, foul-mouthed riff on Alice in Wonderland tropes that poignantly explores the extreme mechanisms we sometimes adopt to survive trauma."

"Director Emma Baggott gives the piece a clear, coherent staging. Keeping a tight rein on scenes of escalating panic and disorder, Baggott methodically ramps up the show’s anarchic elements, then pulls off a flawless tonal handbreak turn into the intimate naturalism of the second act."

Dave Fargnoli, The Stage
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Cages at the Riverside Studios (2022)

★★

"Fails to replicate genuine emotion"

"Cages is a film, a musical and a technological firework display. It purports to be a show about the power of emotion, yet you’re likely to come away with no more than a sense of mild irritation: it’s considerably less profound than it believes itself to be."

"While the score liberally borrows from other artists, it does have moments of impact, and a handful of songs just about come together. Even if British audiences might find it a touch too reminiscent of the talking moon from The Mighty Boosh, the sea shanty performed by Gordon is quite lovely"

Anna James, The Stage
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The Two Popes at the The Rose Kingston & UK Tour (2022)

★★★★

"Compelling"

"Consummate performances from stars Nicholas Woodeson and Anton Lesser lift Anthony McCarten’s cerebral character study"

"... The Two Popes is a stylish, if sometimes sluggishly paced, piece."

"The script, from BAFTA-winning screenwriter Anthony McCarten, is unevenly paced, starting out with a pair of ponderous opening scenes that only gradually establish the two protagonists’ dissimilar personalities and philosophical positions. But once they finally meet, the play takes off. As his characters argue theological points and weigh their own worthiness as spiritual leaders, McCarten grapples with compelling questions of duty, faith, and forgiveness."

"James Dacre directs with finesse, giving each slow scene space to unfold in its own time, but squeezing out moments of humour to lighten the solemn tone"

Dave Fargnoli, The Stage
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Handbagged at the Kiln Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"An exceptional cast"

"Uproarious dramatisation of Thatcher’s royal audiences becomes a freshly poignant tribute"

"Buffini’s script is immensely funny, but the well-researched, subtle characterisation of the leads prevents the hilarity from slipping into caricature. Thatcher is presented as a bumbling ideological obsessive, wearing her political persona like a suit of armour. The Queen, meanwhile, has an air of unimpeachable authority, but her inability to speak freely – due to her constitutional position and her lack of education – gives her an air of slight sadness."

"Richard Kent’s design offers an impressive spectacle, with every detail from the richly evocative 1980s costumes to the crisp sugar lump plopped in the Queen’s china teacup carefully considered."

Nick Ferris, The Stage
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The P Word at the Bush Theatre (2022)

★★★

"The actors shine"

"It’s complicated being Pakistani and gay – and Waleed Akhtar’s The P Word doesn’t flinch from it."

"Directed by Anthony Simpson-Pike, it’s a love story of heat and heart, but it takes some time to get there."

"Akhtar’s script is self-aware and sprinkled with humour"

Anya Ryan, The Stage
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The Snail House at the Hampstead Theatre (2022)

★★

"Dramatically flat"

"Plodding, unpolished drama of family dynamics and intergenerational tensions"

"Dramatically flat and struggling to cohere around a central theme, it’s the first wholly original play from former National Theatre artistic director Richard Eyre, who’s had previous successes with a string of adaptations of novels and plays. This effort, though, feels slapdash, burdened with underwritten characters and a vague, contrived plot."

Dave Fargnoli, The Stage
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The Clothes They Stood Up In at the Nottingham Playhouse (2022)

★★★★

"Skilled adaptation with plentiful laughs"

"Funny and thoughtful lesson in liberation from material possessions"

"Dealing with loss and change, and how we cope with starting again, sadly this play could hardly be more topical in the wake of the Covid crisis, the recent death of the Queen and a change of prime minister."

Lizz Brain, The Stage
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The Clinic at the Almeida Theatre (2022)

★★★

"Wild, witty and shocking"

"Gripping and original drama of family tension, activism and mental heath crisis"

"Now, this is a trip. Dipo Baruwa-Etti’s drama is so crammed with switchback plot twists, stylistic jolts and jump-cut focus shifts that it’s like watching six plays at once – every one of them absorbing. What initially appears to be a story of generational tensions and sibling rivalry in a high-achieving British-Nigerian family, morphs into something far more fantastical by way of debates about political activism, institutional racism, mental health crisis and identity"

"the play is highly-charged: there are complex ideas here about class, compromise and responsibility; about the cost of success for Black people, and its fragility even after it has been hard-won. At times, it’s more dazzle than clarity. Yet Touko handles its glittering invention as a sleight-of-hand conjurer, from the richly entertaining snipe and swipe of family dispute to the almost Jordan Peele-ish blend of satire and the uncanny"

Sam Marlowe, The Stage
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Antigone at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre (2022)

★★★

"Vivid"

"Uneven urban reworking of the classical tragedy is energised by eloquent movement and vivid poetry"

"The writing features flashes of typically glorious poetry – musical, vivid, zig-zagging its way straight to the heart like lightning – but also chunks of faintly toe-curling dialogue, cluttered with unwieldy polemic."

"Hasan is a charismatic Antigone, her voice ragged with emotion, her face ablaze. Jayawardena convincingly suggests a ruler toughened by struggle – his ruthless pragmatism the end result of enduring too many moral compromises in order to survive and thrive among Islamophobia, racism and white privilege. But the contemporary relevance is so vigorously and insistently overstated that we lose sight of the story, and the play never achieves the raw, elemental power that tragedy demands."

Sam Marlowe, The Stage
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Silence at the Donmar Warehouse (2022)

★★★

"Crammed with vivid testimony"

"Urgent accounts of Indian partition demand a more focused dramatisation"

"It’s crammed with vivid testimony, and yet, in a restrained production by Abdul Shayek, it never quite achieves the impact or richness that its torrent of traumatic experiences demands."

"The play offers an insight into a shameful and under-discussed, bloody slab of British history, but the journalistic framing device is creaky, delivered in flat first-person, direct-address narration – a flimsy construct on which to hang subject matter of such immense weight."

Sam Marlowe, The Stage
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Who Killed My Father at the The Young Vic (2022)

★★★★

"Understated and socially engaged"

"Engaging and accusatory monologue delivered by the gently compelling Hans Kesting"

"Though the pacing is at times sluggish, the production shifts gear when Kesting begins to directly address the audience. He holds the French government to account for its treatment of the poor, for cutting back on welfare payments and all but accusing the people who rely on them of leeching off the state, and for effectively breaking his father afresh. He castigates French politicians for complacency, labelling them essentially complicit in murder of the most vulnerable, and it’s horribly, depressingly resonant. Who Killed My Father is at once Van Hove at his most understated and most socially engaged, and the piece is more powerful for it."

Natasha Tripney, The Stage
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Gary Barlow - A Different Stage at the Duke of York's Theatre (2022)

★★★

"Barlow's star quality shines when he sings"

"Gary Barlow’s autobiographical show is engaging enough but sadly lacking in songs"

"While Barlow is a natural entertainer, it would take a far greater acting talent than his to make this script seem fresh and spontaneous. It wallows awkwardly in nostalgia for much of the first half and the self-deprecating humour wears thin at times. The show succeeds when Barlow speaks honestly about his relationship with fellow band members..."

"The main issue with the show isn’t so much the script as the notable lack of songs."

Paul Vale, The Stage
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I, Joan at the Shakespeare's Globe (2022)

★★★

"Lusty rallying cry for equality"

"I, Joan review“Lusty rallying cry for equality”

"Part queer fantasia, part protest march, part ecstatic dance-floor celebration, Charlie Josephine’s play reframing the legend of Joan of Arc as a story of non-binary heroism is a lusty rallying cry for love, pride, equality and acceptance."

" It is, at close to three hours, baggy and repetitive, and there are some audibility issues. Its polemic is more often blunt and declamatory than dramatically integrated. But its unruliness is a feature, not a bug, its defiance of structural and formal principles as much an intentional rejection of convention as Joan hacking off their long hair with a broad sword."

Sam Marlowe, The Stage
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Ride - A New Musical at the Charing Cross Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Liv Andrusier delivers a barnstorming performance"

"Emotionally rich new musical biopic featuring two intense, entertaining performers"

"The book deftly negotiates the twists and turns of Annie’s journey from Latvian immigrant to media icon. Under the able baton of musical director Sam Young, this gutsy show has a full-bodied score that speaks to us across the decades..."

"Liv Andrusier delivers a barnstorming performance as Annie, embracing the peculiar narrative style with confidence and a killer belt. She’s an impressively complex character, whom Andrusier invests with clarity and charisma, while Yuki Sutton as Martha proves first the perfect foil and then the welcome saviour."

Paul Vale, The Stage
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The Narcissist at the Chichester Festival Theatre (2022)

★★★

"Bristles with ideas"

"Razor-sharp and thought-provoking exploration of America’s political and social landscape tries to tackle too much"

"Shinn aims high and far here, setting up the play’s opposition between the senator’s belief in people’s essential optimism and Jim’s nihilistic view of an angry, fearful electorate, indoctrinated by social media, who only want politicians who will admit that everything is corrupt. At the same time, via the lens of Jim and his family, the play tackles America’s opioid crisis and explores the issue of sexual identity."

"Shinn slices through the many issues he’s laying bare with scalpel-like dialogue. The effect is engrossing, provocative and intellectually exhilarating, but can be airless. The counterpoints don’t always land with clarity, even if they’re injected with some Sahara-dry humour."

Tom Wicker, The Stage
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All's Well That Ends Well at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford upon Avon (2022)

★★

"Moving lead performance"

"Rosie Sheehy lends real heart to Blanche McIntyre’s clamorous production of Shakespeare’s tragicomedy"

"Despite its erraticism as a play, Blanche McIntyre’s contemporary rendering makes a convincing case for why it might resonate with young audiences, particularly with its unusual heroine Helena."

"Benjamin Westerby has a tricky time with Bertram, who, apart from being a callous snob, doesn’t have a great deal to do for much of the play and there’s little sense of him growing in maturity."

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

★★★★

"Glossy, stylised vision"

"Terry Gilliam and Leah Hausman’s opulent, if overstuffed, production of Sondheim’s musical fable"

"There’s a rich vein of menace running through our best-loved fairytales, one that’s thoughtfully teased out in Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s frequently revived musical Into the Woods. This new production, from Leah Hausman and renowned filmmaker and animator Terry Gilliam, delves especially deeply into this dark landscape, rendering it in vivid colours and lush, imaginative, occasionally apocalyptic imagery."

"They stage each scene at a quick pace, all the better to squeeze in all their big, visual set pieces. And although it’s all handled with precision – Hausman’s choreography is particularly crisp – there’s so much going on at any given moment that it can at times feel overwrought. Specific lyrics and important character beats are lost, and it’s not until this magical world has been largely depopulated due to the predation of giants that we start to see the woods for the trees."

Dave Fargnoli, The Stage
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The Trials at the Donmar Warehouse (2022)

★★★★

"Gripping"

"Timely and troubling speculative drama imagines the grim repercussions of our current climate emergency"

"Though the dialogue’s sometimes bogged down in didacticism, King pushes beyond simplistic questions of right and wrong."

"The jurors, meanwhile, are played with great commitment and focus by a young cast, many making their professional debuts as part of the Donmar Local programme, which encourages community engagement around Camden and Westminster."

Dave Fargnoli, The Stage
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All of Us at the National Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Fizzes with rage and protest"

"Martinez, who has lived with cerebral palsy all her life but prefers the term ‘wobbly’, gives a warm and funny performance as Jess, a kind-hearted therapist who thrives on helping others but struggles to ask for help herself. When Jess is forced to pointlessly have her disability reassessed (a notoriously degrading process with a limited view of the nuances of disability, so much so that there’s a petition to scrap it), she loses part of her Personal Independence Payment. As a result, a domino effect is triggered – impacting her work, social life and sense of self."

Farah Najib, The Stage
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South Pacific at the Sadler's Wells (2022)

★★★★★

"Sumptuous"

"Daniel Evans’ delicately revelatory staging is a Rodgers and Hammerstein revival for the ages"

"This is emotionally and intellectually stimulating musical theatre bliss that retains its ability to shock"

Julia Rank, The Stage
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Identical at the Nottingham Playhouse (2022)

★★★

"Considerable charm”"

"Young twins excel in Trevor Nunn’s uneven production of Erich Kästner’s post-war children’s classic"

"Designer Robert Jones provides a sequence of glamorous Mitteleuropean backdrops, accentuated by slick video design by Douglas O’Connell. But director Trevor Nunn has never been known for brevity and this family show is no exception."

"This musical has considerable charm and real potential, but the pacing could be peppier and some more memorable tunes wouldn’t go amiss. Kästner’s novel served as an allegory for post-war reconciliation and the ending is appropriately tear-jerking, although it isn’t unreasonable to suppose that years of therapy might be on the cards once the teenage hormones kick in."

Julia Rank, The Stage
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The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe at the Gillian Lynne Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"There's no denying its charm"

"Inventive adaptation of the CS Lewis classic arrives in the West End"

"The production does feel tonally divided, as if it can’t quite decide whether it’s a Vera Lynn-singing nostalgic ode or a radical interpretation that recasts the Narnian resistance as climate activists. But, overall, it does a good job of telling the story with clarity and evoking the world of Narnia with style."

Theo Bosanquet, The Stage
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Sister Act at the Eventim Apollo (2022)

★★★

"Genuinely uplifting"

"[Knight] brings vocal heft and requisite presence to the role – though she’s far more engaging when inspiring her cloistered sisters to find their voices while also raising funds to save the church from crumbling than she is in more broadly comic mode."

"Saunders is a natural comic, and though her singing voice is thin, she’s not called upon to use it all that often – together, the two make an appealing double act."

"There is some heavenly ensemble work from the cast. Keala Settle, the best thing in the objectionable The Greatest Showman, deploys her powerful voice and considerable energy to Sister Mary Patrick, while Lesley Joseph revels in her role as the crabby Sister Mary Lazarus. Lizzie Bea, recently seen as Tracy Turnblad at the Coliseum, is requisitely endearing and heartfelt as novice nun Sister Mary Robert."

Natasha Tripney, The Stage
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101 Dalmatians at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre (2022)

★★★

"Energetic and fast-paced”"

After a hectic first half, the production comes into its own in the second act. As dusk falls, everything becomes a bit more magical. The narrative finds its heart with the introduction of an endearing young company that plays the four escapee puppies, and the moment where the dogs of the neighbourhood team up to help rescue them is delightfully silly – a pair of boxing boxers, a tap-dancing poodle, a swishy-tailed Afghan hound, two Gingham-clad Scottish terriers are all portrayed through lovely costume design from Katrina Lindsay.

"Despite its flaws, this is still an enjoyable show – for kids and adults alike. On a summer evening, it makes for paw-some (sorry) fun."

Farah Najib, The Stage
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Jack Absolute Flies Again at the National Theatre (2022)

★★★

"Strives to be heartfelt but doesn't stick the landing"

"Entertaining but relentlessly frothy transposition of Sheridan’s comedy to wartime Britain"

"Thanks to physical comedy director Toby Park, from Spymonkey, and choreographer Lizzi Gee, there’s some nice physical business including an energetic dance sequence that Quentin steals with the aid of a ukulele. Mark Thompson’s colourful design, which mixes projections with a fold-out country house and a Nissen hut, nods towards panto but also allows for some tense scenes of the pilots on missions, the camera trained on their faces, Top Gun-style (video design by Jeff Sugg). This brings home the fact that the prospect of death was very present in their lives – the knowledge that they might not come back alive, or might be left horribly injured, is always there in the background and accounts, at least in part, for all the energetic bed-hopping, this hunger for each other."

Natasha Tripney, The Stage
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Much Ado About Nothing at the National Theatre (2022)

★★★

"Stylish, summery and deliciously designed"

"Godwin’s style can sometimes feel aggressively slick, but for all its surface gloss this is an accessible production that hits the right beats. Parkinson is an exceptionally good fit for Beatrice and she has a wonderfully brittle chemistry with John Heffernan’s Benedick. They are both prickly oddballs, both equally insecure, though their initial combativeness soon gives way to a genuine tenderness."

"It’s a glittery, apolitical production but it’s well cast, stylish, summery stuff."

Natasha Tripney, The Stage
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Crazy For You at the Chichester Festival Theatre (2022)

★★★

"Rollickingly fun time”

"It’s easy to see why Charlie Stemp returned to Chichester Festival Theatre for romantic comedy musical Crazy for You, after his breakout turn in the theatre’s revival of Half a Sixpence in 2016. It’s the perfect showcase for his virtuosic combination of effortless physical comedy and exceptional dancing skills, anchored by his huge charm as a stage performer."

"You’re not coming to Crazy for You for its flimsy plot, which leans heavily on the Gershwins to propel it through its inflated run time. It isn’t up there with the best of what it’s emulating. Sometimes, though, you just want a rollickingly fun time and a burst of colour. And that’s what you’ll get."

Tom Wicker, The Stage
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Billy Elliot The Musical at the Curve Theatre Leicester (2022)

★★★★

"Powerfully relevant"

"Ambitious revival of Lee Hall’s coming-of-age musical bursting with energy and heart"

"Artistic director Nikolai Foster handles the piece with confidence, creating a busy, boisterous world where protesters stand shoulder to shoulder in the face of state oppression and the whole town turns out for the scant comforts of the working men’s club’s Christmas party."

"New choreography by Lucy Hind often feels exhilaratingly breathless, mixing in contemporary steps – well, contemporary for the 1980s – with classical pieces to create something that feels fresh, unforced and properly unrestrained."

Dave Fargnoli, The Stage
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Peaky Blinders: The Rise reviews at the Camden Garrison (2022)

★★★★

"A must-see for fans"

"Fast-paced, atmospheric, immersive show that skilfully melds quality storytelling with pure fun"

"A gritty but glamorous 1920s energy provides universal appeal, and gangster stories are ubiquitous enough in popular culture that audiences will easily be able to get involved without knowing the finer details."

"Peaky Blinders: The Rise has a real understanding of what works and how to execute it with style. It’s a must-see for Peaky Blinders fans, and there’s an awful lot to enjoy for everyone else."

Anna James, The Stage
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Millennials at the The Other Palace (2022)

★★★

"Easy to see why it's a TikTok sensation"

"It might not get to the core of the millennial experience, but Clay’s tunes still have real style."

"There is no weak link in this cast of six, who work as well as an ensemble as they do individually. But while this is a good first outing for this new musical, it could do with digging deeper than its prettily decorated interior."

Anya Ryan, The Stage
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Patriots at the Almeida Theatre (2022)

★★★

"Unsettling political drama from Peter Morgan”"

"In this slow-burning overview of Russian politics through the 1990s to the early 2010s, Morgan describes a nation sliding into authoritarianism as avaricious oligarchs and amoral politicians exploit their country’s systemic corruption for personal gain."

"Morgan tells the story with methodical, cerebral coldness. While there’s a dose of suitably dry humour in the smart script, its slow pace and short, episodic scenes rarely generate enough conflict to really captivate. "

Dave Fargnoli, The Stage
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The Tempest at the Theatre Royal Bath (2022)

★★★★

"Multi-layered cleverness"

"Deborah Warner’s inaugural season – thanks to the pandemic – been a long time coming. But the opening show of her tenure as the theatre’s artistic director, a punkish version of The Tempest, is worth the wait."

"Ultimately, this is a production that’s most interesting in a slightly remote intellectual way, rather than emotionally overpowering. But its multi-layered cleverness and sideways-on approach to Shakespeare and traditionalism offer much to be admired"

, The Stage
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The Seagull at the Harold Pinter Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Striking"

"Nuanced, quietly radical ensemble piece strips Chekhov’s dark comedy to the barest bones"

"Anya Reiss’ bleakly comic take on The Seagull remains strikingly contemporary some 10 years after its first performance. "

"Performances are uniformly gripping, the character’s clashing complications gelling together in a messy but compellingly believable whole. Making her official West End debut, Emilia Clarke captivates as aspiring ingénue Nina"

Dave Fargnoli, The Stage
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Richard III reviews - RSC Stratford at the Stratford Upon Avon (2022)

★★★★

"Strong and diverse cast"

"Striking performances lend power to this bloody, melodramatic conclusion to the RSC’s civil war play cycle"

"Arthur Hughes plays the titular king with ferocity and sly playfulness"

"Gregory Doran, now artistic director emeritus at the RSC, directs the piece with verve. Bold – though unapologetically unsubtle – choices mark the production."

Dave Fargnoli, The Stage
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Mad House at the The Ambassadors Theatre (2022)

★★

"Dark and punchy"

"Offbeat black comedy loses focus despite meaty performances from David Harbour and Bill Pullman"

"Rebeck’s characters are certainly fascinatingly flawed, full of wit, spite and open emotional wounds."

"Though it’s loaded with crisp dialogue and moments of wince-inducing viciousness, Rebeck’s script suffers from its low stakes and ponderous pace."

"David Harbour and Bill Pullman show off some grippingly jagged chemistry, nailing the acrimonious bickering and stifled affection between an impossible-to-placate elderly parent and the frustrated child who’s become their primary caregiver."

Dave Fargnoli, The Stage
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That Is Not Who I Am at the Royal Court Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Knotty interrogation of truth in fake news era"

"Urgent, unsettling thriller stands up to scrutiny despite the questionable artifice of its widely publicised gimmick"

"Director Lucy Morrison fills the play with unspoken menace. Many scenes feel warmly intimate, even hopeful on the surface, but precise deliveries and furtive glances suggest something awful gathering behind the scenes. "

Dave Fargnoli, The Stage
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A Dolls House, Part 2 at the Donmar Warehouse (2022)

★★★★★

"Genuinely thought-provoking"

"The stage-stealer is Dumezweni, whose presence is mesmerising and whose voice has an impact all on its own – deep, rich and powerful. "

"This is an invigorating production of a play that asks many-faceted questions about love, loneliness and freedom. Definitely a doll’s house that’s worth stepping into."

Farah Najib, The Stage
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The Car Man at the Royal Albert Hall (2022)

★★★★

"Powerful, super-heated sleaze"

"Welcome return for Matthew Bourne’s epic ballet noir"

"Matthew Bourne’s talent as a choreographic storyteller is unassailable. Through an astute combination of silent movie gesture, mime and dance, he has taken the fundamentals of ballet and brought them kicking, if not screaming, to a mass audience. "

"Of all Bourne’s ballets this is probably the trickiest to adapt to the venue’s space, given the intimate nature of the story. But it remains a work of super-heated sleaze that is as powerful as anything he has made."

Neil Norman, The Stage
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The Gunpowder Plot at the Tower Vaults London (2022)

★★★

"Light but lively immersive theatre"

"Entertaining if fairly tame new immersive and digital tourist-attraction for London"

"If you’re used to the complex world-building of the likes of Punchdrunk and A Door in a Wall, or if you’re an escape-room fanatic, you’ll find this show tame by comparison. But, if you’re just dipping your toes into the immersive world, this is an easy entry point."

"A tourist-friendly immersive experience"

Emily Jupp, The Stage
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Tony! (The Tony Blair Rock Opera) at the Park Theatre (2022)

★★

"An unrelenting stream of obvious jokes"

"Harry Hill’s musical about the the former prime minister is overlong and obvious"

"It’s a funny idea, turning the story of Tony Blair into a rock musical. The problem is nothing else in the show is as funny as its concept."

"The songs aren’t bad. Brown can write a tune. He takes off Gilbert and Sullivan, baroque arias, tangos, big chorus-line numbers. Some are pleasantly daft, such as the recitative set to a verbatim speech by Gordon Brown on macroeconomics. Others are catchy, including the Monty Python-esque closing number, part of a naffly serious ending that asks us to ponder our culpability in electing tossers. But competent pastiche isn’t enough, and no song earns its place or has much to say."

Tim Bano, The Stage
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The Unfriend at the Chichester Festival Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Tour de force of toilet farce"

"Sherlock creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss team up for a hilarious dark comedy of good manners"

"There’s a stretch of Moffat’s play that doesn’t quite hit the high leagues. The gags are there, plenty of them, but the production struggles to lift itself beyond decent TV sitcom fare. Every so often, it pulls out an absolutely glorious line delivered exquisitely by one of the cast and that’s enough to keep us going."

"But as it moves into the second act, the whole thing quickens, and by the time it reaches a tour de force of toilet farce from Shearsmith, Abbington and Marcus Onilude as a police officer negotiating some dodgy sandwiches and a downstairs loo, it’s proper gut-busting stuff."

Tim Bano, The Stage
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The Glass Menagerie at the Duke of York's Theatre (2022)

★★★

"Uncomfortable"

"Amy Adams gives an understated performance in Jeremy Herrin’s restrained production"

"It’s all quite self-consciously stylised. Herrin is keen not to turn memory into something beautiful and elegiac, but restrained and uncomfortable instead."

"Tears seem to perpetually be welling in Adams’ eyes, although her Amanda smiles to cover it up. Even when her lines are overbearing, sometimes cruel, she delivers them in a fragile one-note, pitched somewhere between head and chest voice that seems to make her warble."

"There’s a bit of youth left to Adams’ Amanda. She isn’t just faded but faded before her time. It’s all very sad and understated, but it doesn’t always land. Some of the great lines feel like missed opportunities."

Tim Bano, The Stage
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Legally Blonde The Musical at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Impossible not to have fun"

"It’s a statement piece with a generously Gen-Z approach that celebrates diversity of gender, ethnicity, sexuality and body shape."

"Mostly the unrestrained approach adds to the show’s inherent silliness, but sometimes it makes things look a little sloppy. The set design featuring tassels of blonde hair hanging in fringes is an ugly backdrop, with clunky chunks of set that fold or roll out of a central revolve."

Tim Bano, The Stage
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The House of Shades at the Almeida Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Audacious"

"A riveting watch from an incredibly exciting playwright – an explosive family portrait of secrets, grief, despair and division”"

"Duff is fierce as Constance, singing beautifully, dreamily quoting Bette Davis at every turn, and embodying a real, yearning ache for a life unlived. When Alistair tells Constance he could kill her, she replies: “You kill me every day.” Duff shines, but the ensemble cast is also strong, with Kelly Gough giving a moving performance as the quietly exhausted daughter Agnes."

"Although too lengthy, The House of Shades is a riveting watch from an incredibly exciting playwright – an explosive family portrait of secrets, grief, despair and division."

Farah Najib, The Stage
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My Fair Lady  (2022)

★★★

"Lead performances outshine the production"

"The musical’s biggest switch is Eliza’s from flower girl to lady, a transition made convincing by Amara Okereke with both her bright soprano and real warmth. Her finest moment – and of the whole production – is the show’s pivot in the masterly The Rain in Spain, in which Okereke beautifully shows Eliza’s extended understanding of how, in order to change how she speaks, she has to truly listen.

Elsewhere, she is pushed too hard by Sher’s direction that turns scenes into effortful display, so much so that the chemistry between her and Higgins is largely theoretical. Sher is so busy presenting his directorial case for everything that the actual writing – in both the scenes and songs – is, ironically, not allowed to speak."

David Benedict, The Stage
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Grease at the Dominion Theatre (2022)

★★★

"Slick"

"Nikolai Foster’s .. has replaced all the twee of the fan favourite with something darker."

"All the joy of Summer Nights comes rushing back with the unmistakable first notes from the orchestra pit. The dance numbers, choreographed by Arlene Phillips, are as hip-thrusting and hand-jiving as ever. But the truly affecting moments come with Foster’s considered directorial choices. As Olivia Moore begins pondering her heartbreak in a flawless delivery of Hopelessly Devoted to You, she watches, sidelined, as Danny slow-dances with another girl. And in her spats with the acidic Rizzo – a wonderfully cruel Jocasta Almgill – Moore rises to become her equal. This Sandy can hold her own."

"Though the humour in this production – with the exception of the loveably loud Mary Moore as Jan – could be cranked up a notch or two, this is a good night out. And for many, the euphoria of young love will be enough to have them dancing along to the final megamix."

Anya Ryan, The Stage
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Passion at the Hope Mill Theatre (2022)

★★★

"Passionate and well-paced, but overwrought"

"Beautifully realised, Ruthie Henshall-starring revival of Sondheim’s horniest musical that, while full of fire, lacks spark"

"There is passion here, the band is tight, with fantastic musical direction from Yshani Perinpanayagam and there is, as always, swirling elegiac lyricism and a stirring score in Sondheim’s music. The desire is aflame from every corner of the stage, illuminated in a rich, intelligent design by Charlie Morgan Jones, but spotlighting that lustful hunger so fully leaves no shade or nuance. There are no dark corners or barely concealed longing to show how these characters burn for each other and are ultimately consumed by the flames – everything is out in the open. While love needs no logic, a fire does need a spark."

Francesca Peschier, The Stage
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Oklahoma! at the Young Vic Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Stark and sparse – Oklahoma with a snarl"

"Curly’s relationship with Laurey – a captivating, unsmiling Anoushka Lucas with a voice like gold – doesn’t come across as lush and romantic but slightly dark and dangerous. They’re certainly made for each other. As dislikeable as they are, they still swoon with romance in People Will Say We’re in Love."

"This isn’t simply dusting off a classic or giving it a spit and polish, it’s a complete dismantling of the show. It’s hard not to long for the good cheer we’re all so used to – it makes us feel, still, but in a different way. Uncomfortable, mostly.

"When the final number comes – "Ooooooklahoma where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain" – there’s no joy. It’s a deeply discomfiting moment, the climax of a production that starts with community and ends with complicity, twisting those two strands more and more tightly together until they can’t be undone."

Tim Bano, The Stage
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Much Ado About Nothing at the Shakespeare's Globe Theatre (2022)

★★★

"Sunshine after a hard winter"

"The wartime setting, at times, feels a bit like dressing, primarily an excuse to strew the stage with accordions and eye-pleasing gowns, but Bailey – director of the Globe’s famously bloody Titus Andronicus – has a strong understanding of the space and this is a production of clarity as well as charm. The focus is on romance, the mood upbeat; the overall effect elegant, if a little restrained."

"The overall breezy tone means that the sudden shifts into darkness feels more marked – Beatrice’s injunction to kill Claudio causes audible gasps and Leonata’s turn against her daughter feels particularly brutal. The fact that it’s her mother condemning Hero makes it all the more chilling. But this darkness is quickly banished – it is not this show’s main aim - in a production intent on spreading good cheer and warm feeling, a little sunshine after a hard winter."

Natasha Tripney, The Stage
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Macbeth at the Longacre Theatre (2022)

★★

"Stripped back and overstuffed"

"Daniel Craig and Ruth Negga give strong performances in a stylistically overstuffed production"

"[Amber] Gray is riveting. She may be half his size, but she is Macbeth’s peer with a strength and nobility in her delivery. Yet, she brings a tenderness that elevates Banquo’s betrayal. Dillon, however, feels adrift."

Nicole Serratore, The Stage
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Jerusalem at the Apollo Theatre (2022)

★★★★★

"It remains phenomenal"

"Thirteen years on, Jerusalem remains an extraordinary experience anchored by an incredible performance from Mark Rylance."

"Jerusalem is the greatest play and Mark Rylance’s performance the greatest performance of the year. Of the decade. Of the 21st century."

Tim Bano, The Stage
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Funny Girl at the August Wilson Theatre (2022)

★★★

"Respectful rendering"

"Mayer’s respectful rendering serves the text well enough and features a star turn from Beanie Feldstein but, while she’s a skilled comedian, she sometimes struggles to fill Brice’s unique shoes. "

"Harvey Fierstein has revised the musical’s book, increasing the Arnstein role and restoring some cut songs. But the show remains an uneven one. "

"Feldstein smartly avoids Streisand mimicry. With a talent for physical comedy, she is a lovable goofball whose main concern is making the audience laugh with her. Wide-eyed and imploring, her Fanny thrives on the audience’s adulation. But Feldstein can’t quite turn down her brightness when her character faces setbacks. The role also calls for a roof-raising voice and, while Feldstein hits the notes, there’s a thinness in her expression. Her character and emotions come through less when she’s singing, which is unfortunate in this song-heavy show."

Nicole Serratore, The Stage
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The Corn is Green at the National Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Precision-tooled acting from Nicola Walker"

"Nicola Walker leads a stunning cast in Dominic Cooke’s smart revival of Emlyn Williams’ autobiographical play."

"On a technical level, the production stuns, with Christopher Shutt’s sound and Charles Balfour’s lighting designs on stark display, while ULTZ’s design layers itself slowly into a complete world, cornered by descending staircases like entrances to a pit."

"As the industrious improver Miss Moffat, every syllable a bark, the peerless Nicola Walker condenses the Lyttelton until it’s like we’re watching a TV close up. As she comes to realise that, for all her to-a-fault dedication to the improvement of others she has, along the way, forgotten to show any kind of affection to Morgan, Walker shows immense control over the way she metes out that affection. It’s precision-tooled acting."

Tim Bano, The Stage
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Marys Seacole at the Donmar Warehouse (2022)

★★★

"Incisive"

"Nadia Latif’s direction is, however, fussy to the point of distraction. The staging excludes the audience, and the creation of some scenes requires the actors to shuffle a range of cumbersome props through the aisles, which pulls focus from the action.

"It’s a shame because the performances are jewel-like. Déja J Bowens makes a confident professional debut as Mamie. Meanwhile, Kayla Meikle steps into her first leading role with the wise energy beyond her years. But it is Llewella Gideon’s delivery of Duppy Mary’s final monologue that stays with you. It arrives just at the right moment with a quiet ferocity that makes you sit up in your seat."

JN Benjamin, The Stage
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Punchdrunk: The Burnt City at the One Cartridge Place (2022)

★★★★★

"Ambitious, intoxicating – simply nothing else like it"

"Punchdrunk’s new show features heady, brilliant storytelling that resists easy interpretations"

"The Burnt City is both an attempt at perfecting the format Punchdrunk is known for – richly designed, inventively choreographed and deeply immersive experiences – and a knowing riff on it. It won’t be for everyone, but there is simply nothing else like it."

"The Burnt City stands apart in terms of its ambition and beauty. Its intoxicating, clever storytelling asks you to rein in the desire to be omnipotent and play a while among the gods and monsters."

Anna James, The Stage
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Scandaltown at the Lyric Hammersmith (2022)

★★★

"None of its blows land strongly"

"Stirling best understands how to handle the material, pitching her performance at the right heightened level, arch and acid in equal measure with flashes of humanity, and Goulding’s MP gets to go on an emotional journey of his own, but the playing elsewhere is variable and the pacing of Rachel O’Riordan’s production regularly saps the snap out of the lines. Too often, where it needs to be tight, it’s baggy."

Natasha Tripney, The Stage
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Zorro The Musical at the Charing Cross Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Energy, talent and excitement"

"Durham’s production is a celebration of storytelling and he has gathered a diverse and multi-talented cast to pull it together. Benjamin Purkiss, last seen on this stage in Broken Wings, has the presence and stamina to master the title role. His Diego is a quick-witted clown, but in hero mode as Zorro, Purkiss oozes charisma. Vocally he seems a little challenged by the score, but his Zorro is bold, playful and loyal. Luisa is an equally complex character with a fiery temper. Paige Fenlon is excellent here, delivering the show’s standout original number The Man Behind The Mask with passion and emotional clarity. Between them stands Alex Gibson-Giorgio, a towering, tortured Ramon, gradually overwhelmed by jealousy and shame."

Paul Vale, The Stage
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The 47th at the The Old Vic (2022)

★★★

"Bertie Carvel is magnificent"

"Mike Bartlett’s new blank verse play about the 2024 US presidential election is not always satisfying but front and centre is a stupendous turn from Bertie Carvel as Donald Trump"

"Designer Miriam Buether’s set combines Dr Strangelove’s war room with an expensively anonymous hotel lobby, onto which, at one point, a golf-cart trundles. Rupert Goold capably marshals the large cast and the very plotty plot but, at times, the play’s twisty ambition works against it. The first half establishes a lot of themes and threads that it can’t resolve in a satisfying fashion, narrative elements are terminated abruptly and moments you feel should be chilling are oddly downplayed – though Cherrelle Skeete, as nurse talking about her mother’s lonely death from Covid-19, adds a welcome emotional note to the play’s later stages. It’s Carvel who leaves the biggest impression, bestriding the production in a magnificent and grimly apposite fashion."

Natasha Tripney, The Stage
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Anyone Can Whistle at the Southwark Playhouse (2022)

★★★

"A revival that celebrates diversity"

"Sondheim described his show as a “cartoon”, which seems a fitting description for Rankcom’s fantastically silly retelling. Sitting on either side of a pastel pink catwalk, we watch from two banks of seats as the “cookies” strut along in a perfectly pitched chorus. But, we are more than mere observers here – we’re part of Rankcom’s civilisation too. Audience members are selected randomly to read from pieces of paper. One joins a conga line in celebration, while another is used in place of a chair for the mayoress to perch on. Though a bit bumpy at times, this is a refreshing restaging."

Anya Ryan, The Stage
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Straight Line Crazy at the Bridge Theatre (2022)

★★★

"Big, lively characters"

"Maybe the biggest flaw is the underuse of Helen Schlesinger as Jane Jacobs. Often mentioned in the same breath as Moses, the journalist became his nemesis in the 1960s. Hare foregrounds her at the beginning of the play and then almost entirely forgets about her. Deeply examined and given more space, these elements would elevate the play."

"Meanwhile, Fiennes eats it all up. He moves monumentally, one great slab, like the slabs of concrete Moses erected across New York, his spine always straight, a tower block of a man, relishing the great declamatory chunks Hare has supplied."

"It’s the cast, really, that sustains an interesting, flawed portrait of a man who built bridges as fast as he burned them."

Tim Bano, The Stage
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Cock at the Ambassadors Theatre (2022)

★★★

"Frank and funny"

"Taron Egerton and Jonathan Bailey star in a stylish, savage but surface-skimming production of Mike Bartlett’s play about sexual identity"

"For a relatively short play – it runs to one hour and 45 minutes without an interval – it manages to say a lot about the way people in relationships exert a hold over one another, about desire and control and the power plays we conduct with those we love or, at least, claim to love, in a way that’s frank and funny and, at times, wince-inducingly cruel."

"But while it works on its own terms, it’s a difficult play to watch without an awareness of what it omits. While bisexuality is mentioned, it’s done so in a throwaway fashion with a faint expression of distaste. John describes his identity as a “stew”. And yet the play suggests there are only two possible outcomes to his dilemma, which makes it feel more dated than it is. The narrative is driven by John’s fluidity and yet recoils from it (something that also anchors it in time). Despite the best efforts of the cast, the characters always feel primarily like sexual chess pieces engaged in a game in which there can be only one victor."

Natasha Tripney, The Stage
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Maria Friedman & Friends - Legacy at the Menier Chocolate Factory  (2022)

★★★

"Exudes energy like a firework"

"An indulgence, she calls it, and that’s the nail on the head really. For anyone who loves Sondheim, Hamlisch or Legrand – preferably all three – the hit list intercut with backstage anecdotes from Friedman’s relationships with the composers is soul sustenance. That indulgence will be just as alienating for anyone else; there’s a lot of "then Steve told me I was the best singer he’d ever heard and put me on a plane to New York".

"Friedman’s voice has occasional lapses, usually in the quieter passages, with notes that emerge awkwardly. It’s when songs reach their climaxes that she can comfortably belt. There’s always a sense that her huge personality and the set list of giant songs – Being Alive, The Way We Were – are desperate for a bigger room; the intimate parts are less effective."

"This irrepressible celebration, especially when sung by the younger singers, is a comforting reminder that the work is still with us and it’s in safe hands."

Tim Bano, The Stage
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The Collaboration at the The Young Vic (2022)

★★★★

"Humanises artistic icons"

"For a play about mould-breakers, it’s structurally and dramatically formulaic, but McCarten has a real knack for humanising icons – for digging beneath the image to reveal the flaws, the contradictions and emotional complexity. He tackles big themes with a lightness of touch – the always blurred boundary between art and commerce, an artist’s ownership of their own image – and while there are arguably places where the play could dig deeper, it has a real warmth to it and resists sentimentality. Though it is set near the end of both men’s lives – Warhol would go first from medical complications, Basquiat soon after from a drug overdose – its lens is trained on their lives."

Natasha Tripney, The Stage
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The Music Man at the Winter Garden Theatre (2022)

★★★

"We’re left wanting more. Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster don’t quite gel in a restrained revival with moments of exuberant dance"

"The resulting production, which boasts a top-notch team chock-a-block with Tony winners, including Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster, is relatively muted, though it has moments of razzle-dazzle stage exuberance and comic appeal. When the cast is not dancing, the show feels oddly reserved and too much like the earthy cornfields of Iowa that dominates the show’s design. We long for more theatrical oomph."

Nicole Serratore, The Stage
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Bring It On: The Musical at the Queen Elizabeth Hall (2021)

★★★★

"Flawless choreography"

"Lin-Manuel Miranda’s early high school cheerleading musical is enlivened by some superb choreography"

"Transgender performer Jal Joshua excels as the hip-swishing La Cienega, bending their body into eye-watering splits, sashaying across the stage in It Ain’t No Thing and performing what can only be described as incredible ‘hair gymnastics’ in the National finals."

"The production’s greatest asset is Fabian Aloise’s flawless choreography, and although all the big stunts are saved for the end, they are well worth the wait."

Olivia Rook, The Stage
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Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club (Playhouse Theatre) (2021)

★★★★★

"Eddie Redmayne and Jessie Buckley are sublime"

"But Frecknall’s direction doesn’t let style sideline substance. Perhaps her strongest play is the careful balance she maintains in terms of the Nazis as metaphor and as literal Nazis. This is a production specifically about antisemitism and the rise of fascism in 1930s Germany. It’s also about attacks on sexuality, gender, ethnicity and religion – or any other marker of identity at any other time."

Tim Bano, The Stage
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Best of Enemies at the The Young Vic (2021)

★★★★

"Compelling"

"Taut political docudrama showcases thrillingly combative performances from leads David Harewood and Charles Edwards"

"Director Jerremy Herrin – who previously collaborated with Graham on the equally astute political drama This House – gives the show a poised, polished presentation. His large cast circulates purposefully through the space, shifting personas as slickly as the action shifts between distant locations, momentarily channelling notable figures from the tense era. Andy Warhol photographs guests at a cocktail party, Walter Cronkite ponders journalistic responsibility, and Enoch Powell incites populist bigotry even as civil rights activists demonstrate in the streets."

Dave Fargnoli, The Stage
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A Chorus Line at the Curve Leicester (2021)

★★★★

"Nikolai Foster’s new production of the bittersweet backstage musical is vivacious"

"The ensemble delivers quite a husky rendering of Marvin Hamlisch’s score (Emily Barnett-Salter’s outspoken Sheila is particularly throaty), which suits the rawness of the orchestrations. In the non-dancing role of director Zach, Adam Cooper shows that the way he can be fatherly when he wants to be doesn’t compensate for the physical and emotional labour (frankly, bullying) that he demands of his aspirants. As his former lover, the overqualified Cassie, Carly Mercedes Dyer is excellent dancing The Music and the Mirror, if too shouty when trying to persuade Zach to give her a chance to start over."

Julia Rank, The Stage
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The Book of Dust at the Bridge Theatre (2021)

★★★

"A rollicking adaptation"

"At the Bridge rather than the Olivier, on stage rather than in a book, Hytner and adapter Bryony Lavery have quite a challenge to make the story satisfying on its own terms while nestling into a wider mythology. They mostly rise to it."

"Puppeteered paper daemons with illuminated heads catch the strange magic of human souls in animal form. Some disappoint, like Mrs Coulter’s golden monkey daemon, but others – the three-legged hyena of the deranged Gerard Bonneville – bring chills. The hideous empty cackle of Julie Atherton as the hyena’s puppeteer paired with the oleaginous charm of Pip Carter’s perverted Bonneville make for a grimly memorable antagonist."

"While Lavery’s adaptation rollicks along entertainingly, with an unrelenting sense of forward motion from Hytner and many moments that stun, it seems in conflict less with its forebears and more with itself, stripping away too much to feel epic and yet still slightly lost in having to explain its expansive mythology."

Tim Bano, The Stage
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The Ocean at the End of the Lane at the Duke of York's Theatre (2021)

★★★★

"Darkness and dreamlike strangeness"

"Capturing the darkness and dreamlike strangeness of Neil Gaiman’s bestselling 2013 novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a pacy fantasy thriller occasionally overloaded by its own ambitious exuberance."

Dave Fargnoli, The Stage
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Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of) at the Criterion Theatre (2021)

★★★

"Uproarious and irreverent"

"It’s good fun, even if the pacing feels a bit off at times and some of the gags are a tad over-indulgent. Austen’s exquisitely delicate yet biting use of language is deliberately blunted and the internal becomes external."

"Ana Inés Jabares-Pita’s gorgeous set design perfectly matches the enchantingly pretty pink-and-cream Criterion Theatre auditorium"

Julia Rank, The Stage
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Get Up, Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical at the Lyric Theatre (2021)

★★★★

"Brims with unbridled charm"

"It’s a relief to report that this new show about the life of the great Bob Marley, father of reggae, Rastafari prophet and preacher of one love, does justice to its subject"

"[Arinzé Kene] gives a towering performance in the central role"

Theo Bosanquet, The Stage
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Frozen The Musical at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane (2021)

★★★★

"Stunning performances”

"A huge determiner of Frozen’s success comes down to the casting of Anna and Elsa, the princesses of fictional Scandinavian kingdom Arendelle, who fall out, reconnect and discover themselves – one of whom has an uncontrollable ability to turn things into ice.

Samantha Barks is ideal as Elsa, bringing a sense of interiority and inner conflict to the unhappy princess; she’s all grace and poise in her regal gowns and remains very still, as if by allowing herself to move at all she would buckle under the weight of her icy curse and her duty to the throne."

Tim Bano, The Stage
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Cinderella at the Gillian Lynne Theatre (2021)

★★★

"Amusing, unexpected, enjoyable"

"It’s the cast that carries the show: Carrie Hope Fletcher takes the lead and stomps around the stage in DMs with a brilliant ease. She catches the timing of Fennell’s comic lines, and her voice is ideal: strident, loud and occasionally fragile."

"If I could watch three hours of Victoria Hamilton-Barritt as the evil Stepmother, I gladly would. In a succession of elaborate costumes that seem to make her spine buckle and bow, she channels Cruella de Vil and Hyacinth Bucket, adding a 40-a-day wheeze. She is a straining, hunching grotesque, and a blast of pure pantomime joy every time she totters gurningly on stage."

Tim Bano, The Stage
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Mary Poppins at the Prince Edward Theatre (2021)

★★

"Distinctly lacking in magic"

"When so many top-drawer creatives are trying to cast different spells, no wonder the enchantment doesn’t work. You’ve got Julian Fellowes trying to cram in characters and scenes from the books, and Richard Eyre’s A-to-B direction chafing against co-director Matthew Bourne’s ballet moves, which jar with Stephen Mear’s choreography."

"George Stiles and Anthony Drewe have provided new songs that fill long, forgettable stretches alongside the Sherman Brothers’ iconic original compositions, tunes etched in the cultural consciousness. Stiles and Drewe’s music is frustratingly bland, the lyrics worse, with every tedious couplet in service of the rhyme, rather than story, sentiment or character."

"Each creative does his own thing, and the result is a series of set-pieces that don’t mesh. There’s no joined-up thinking."

Tim Bano, The Stage
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Anything Goes at the Barbican Theatre (2021)

★★★★★

"It's delightful, It's delicious. Sutton Foster makes her London debut in a sumptuous production of the classic Cole Porter musical"

"Though Sutton Foster is the big draw here, Nicole-Lily Baisden, Carly Mercedes Dyer and Samuel Edwards also dazzle in Kathleen Marshall’s production of the Cole Porter classic. The show combines star pull with sheer talent, topping things off with a sheen of stunningly slick comedy. It’s delightful, it’s delicious, etc."

Tim Bano, The Stage
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Les Miserables at the Sondheim Theatre (2020)

★★★★

"Still spectacular"

"It’s really quite magnificent. When you combine the new production with the renovated theatre, the experience is completely different from anything that came before. While it is a huge shame the original production no longer exists, this ‘new’ version keeps the show alive. It’s angstier, angrier, with a little dose of psychological realism and crucially, considering it has been scaled back in so many ways, there’s no less sense of spectacle."

Tim Bano, The Stage
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Cirque Du Soleil - Luzia at the Royal Albert Hall (2020)

★★★★

"Luzia is fresh and invigorating""

"The corporate soullessness that has anaesthetised many productions has been replaced by something approaching joy."

"Beautifully designed with a huge petalled disc at the rear representing the sun and the moon and orange marigolds carpeting the edge of the stage, Luzia also benefits from a superb band of musicians."

"The Swing to Swing climax is spectacular and thrilling. Performers leap across from two fairground swing boats with increasingly complex and dangerous moves. The moment when two girls crossed over in mid air brought a collective gasp from the audience. Now that’s what I call a true circus moment."

Neil Norman, The Stage
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Magic Goes Wrong at the Vaudeville Theatre (2020)

★★★

"Mischief theatre's entertaining fusion of magic and comedy"

"Funny and entertaining, if under-powered, fusion of magic and comedy. Though it doesn’t hit the highs of some previous Mischief outings, it remains a solidly entertaining show, from a company evidently keen to test itself, and, for once, there are a few sweet instances where everything goes right."

Natasha Tripney, The Stage
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Cyrano de Bergerac at the Playhouse Theatre (2019)

★★★★

"Words are everything in Jamie Lloyd’s stripped-down and shaken-up Cyrano"

“Martin Crimp’s adaptation plays fast and loose with Edmond Rostand’s 1897 play about a monumentally-nosed soldier-poet, trading Alexandrine verse for the rhythmic delivery of slam poetry”

“McAvoy, speaking for the most part in his Scottish accent, curls his tongue around the couplets, revelling in their rhythmic intricacy. Yes there are times when Lloyd’s production feels like it’s striving too hard to generate a hip, post-Hamilton vibe, but it tempers this with a sense of humour “

Natasha Tripney, The Stage
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& Juliet at the Shaftesbury Theatre (2019)

★★★★★

"The apotheosis of the jukebox musical"

"Having covered all three Schuyler sisters in Hamilton, The Stage Debut Award winner Miriam-Teak Lee now gets to shine in her own right – and, bloody hell, does she. Her voice is something to be reckoned with. At one moment, during her performance of Roar, she exudes a pure electric charge."

Tim Bano, The Stage
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DEAR EVAN HANSEN at the Noel Coward Theatre (2019)

★★★★

"Powerful, moving and superbly performed"

"As shown in The Greatest Showman, Pasek and Paul have cracked the formula for four-chord pop songs; songs with a golden touch that means they’ll be audition numbers for the rest of time. Yes, a couple of those in second act are mawkish, but the rest are superb."

Tim Bano, The Stage
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The Girl Who Fell at the Trafalgar Theatre (2019)

★★★

"Well acted and sensitively written, if overloaded exploration of grief and guilt"

"Sarah Rutherford’s exploration of the aftermath of a teenage suicide boasts impressively nimble dialogue."

"There are more narrative twists than are necessary – all the new things we learn about these characters begin to feel slightly silly."

Frey Kwa Hawking, The Stage
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A Day In The Death Of Joe Egg at the Trafalgar Theatre (2019)

★★★

"Engaging but too-clean revival"

"Engaging but too-clean revival of Peter Nichols’ frank, funny and wrenching play about parenting a disabled child”

"It is a bold play, rejecting sentimentality at every turn. Some scenes are wrenching, others provocative"

"In Simon Evans’ incongruously glossy revival, Toby Stephens...embraces the Vaudevillian nature of Nichols’ play”

"The way the lighting cues signal emotional shifts feels heavy-handed"

“The anguish in the writing doesn’t always come across; the secondary characters are played very broadly”

“The production never comes close to replicating the rawness and daring – the shit and the spit – of the play itself.”

Fergus Morgan, The Stage
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Moulin Rouge! The Musical at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre (2019)

"Utterly exhilarating"

"If we must have jukebox musicals, I only wish they were all as vivacious and utterly exhilarating as this"

"the great skill of director Alex Timbers and his book writer John Logan, adapting Luhrmann and Craig Pearce’s original screenplay, is to fold other songs brilliantly into the narrative"

"The polish with which it is all executed makes for a breathtaking spectacle. Thanks to gorgeous performances from Karen Olivo and Aaron Tveit as the unhappy lovers, it also has a heartbreaking human dimension, which echoes La Boheme in its tragic inevitability. Tveit lends an astonishing, impassioned rock roar of a voice to tear into Sting’s Roxanne; Olivo has a sultry grace but also immense vocals as she tears into a medley that includes Diamonds Are Forever, Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend, Material Girl and Single Ladies. 
A huge ensemble features stand-out turns from Danny Burstein as the club’s MC and Tam Mutu as the aristocratic rival"

Mark Shenton, The Stage
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Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the London Palladium (2019)

★★★★

"It’s a massive blast of joy"

"Lloyd Webber and Rice wrote it for a school choir. It makes so much sense for children, and for a childlike sense of fun and innocence, to be the driving force. It gives the show a purpose that a lot of other stale productions have failed to find."

"The design sort of builds from nothing; at the start it's a couple of sheets hung up by the corners to look like sand dunes. By the interval, we've got 10ft tall, gold-plated, guitar-playing sphinxes – the power of the children's imagination. There are starbursts of rainbow colours, unsubtle and childlike, matching those qualities in Lloyd Webber's music."

"Connor really does not know what to do with the women in the ensemble. There's an equal gender split – great – and a really diverse cast, too – also great – but the men get to play actual characters, while the women have nothing to do except being never fully clothed and dancing sexily."

"At the centre is narrator Sheridan Smith in a glittering tracksuit treating us to two hours of cheeky, perfectly timed comedy. There are so few entertainers like her, and she makes such a massive change from the cloyingly sweet school teacher narrators that have usually corralled the kid chorus in Joseph. Instead, she’s like a naughty babysitter, or some anarchic imp, dreaming up this bright and silly world as she goes along."

Tim Bano, The Stage
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Wife at the Kiln Theatre (2019)

★★★★

"It’s remarkable, both structurally and stylistically."

"The more familiar you are with A Doll’s House, the better you’ll be able to appreciate the scope, sophistication and fierce intelligence with which Samuel Adamson’s new play interrogates Ibsen’s themes of personal freedom and domestic imprisonment in an LGBT+ context."

"Adamson’s dialogue is effervescent and authentic throughout, ideas flowing almost as fast as the words."

Fergus Morgan, The Stage
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The Starry Messenger at the Wyndham's Theatre (2019)

★★★

"Broderick and Eleazar are both brilliant, as is the always excellent Jim Norton, as a straight-talking old man on his deathbed. It’s a shame that Elizabeth McGovern, as Mark’s wife, Anne, gets pretty short shrift."

Tim Bano, The Stage
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Sergei Polunin at the London Palladium (2019)

"Obnoxious, tedious and uncomfortable - the paying public shouldn’t be prey to him."

"Strap yourself in for some hollow sentiment and hubris – ballet’s enfant terrible Sergei Polunin is back in town. The Ukrainian dancer’s most recent egregious antics include homophobic, misogynist and fat-phobic Instagram rants that got him fired from a guest spot at the Paris Opera Ballet. Plus a paean to Putin."

"Still, this latest venture at the Palladium proves that the stream of bankrolling and indulgence that keeps Polunin afloat hasn’t yet run dry."

Anna Winter, The Stage
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Betrayal at the Harold Pinter Theatre (2019)

★★★★

"Stylish, intimate and superbly performed"

"All three actors are at ease with the rhythms of Pinter's language and at filling the spaces between their words with meaning, be it loss, longing or recrimination. There's an ease and chemistry between them as a company."

"Tom Hiddleston is disconcertingly convincing as the kind of man who casually talks about giving his wife a bashing and who is a total bastard to waiters yet is also capable of being charming and perceptive. He's a very responsive performer, at his best when interacting with others, and he's pretty remarkable here; the moment when he stares silently at Emma, sadly, desperately, is wrenching."

"It all plays out against Soutra Gilmour's achingly tasteful, minimalist set, an ecru canvas, beautifully lit by Jon Clark, that slowly moves forward, intensifying the claustrophobia. "

Natasha Tripney, The Stage
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Waitress at the Adelphi Theatre, (2019)

★★★★

"Sweet as the best homemade pie"
"It’s really wonderful, with the sweetness, crispness and comfort of the best homemade pie, and boasts one of the best scores to be written in recent years."

"the music by the many-times Grammy nominated singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles: perfectly constructed pop songs with a conversational feel, full of piano-driven riffs and jam-packed with baking metaphors. Bareilles is the consummate queen of hooks. Every song is instantly singable, each with beautifully melodic tunes full of unexpected intervals."

"Paulus very skilfully directs the scenes with husband Earl (Peter Hannah). The threat of violence is always latent, but only barely displayed. We don't need to see physical violence to recognise an abusive, coercive, incredibly toxic relationship."

"The ending is conveniently swift and certain, resolving many its problems with a dusting of sugar. But the show is never too sickly sweet not to have serious points to make, and to make them forcefully."

Tim Bano, The Stage
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9 to 5 The Musical at the Savoy Theatre (2019)

★★★

"his is very much of the more is more school of musical theatre."

"McQueen’s Doralee has the same irresistible positivity and sweetness of Parton, not to mention a superb Southern drawl. She’s Parton’s spitting image, albeit four foot taller. Davies overdoes the ditziness a bit, but Sheen is just brilliant. It’s like the role was made for her, and there’s certainly no sign she jumped into it last minute."

"The show as a whole is fun, if gaudy and silly .... It’s still very entertaining, and after all these years (almost 40 of them) it feels, depressingly, necessary."

, The Stage
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All About Eve at the Noel Coward Theatre (2019)

★★★

"A stylish but functional production"

"Though Van Hove’s adaptation sticks pretty closely to the original, it strips a lot of the joy and wit out of it. The result is glossy, but functional and superficial."

"The casting of Anderson as Margo is one of the production’s greatest strengths. She is simultaneously brittle and radiant, poised yet fragile, while Dolan, as a woman who inadvertently sabotages both her friend’s career and her own marriage, provides another reminder of what a great actor she is."

Natasha Tripney, The Stage
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True West at the Vaudeville Theatre (2018)

★★★★

"A wickedly funny revival"

"This comes through in the performances of Game Of Thrones’ Kit Harington and singer-songwriter-actor Johnny Flynn. They’re both giving the finest stage performances of their careers to date, but you get the sense that they’re both having enormous fun too."

Fergus Morgan, The Stage
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Clueless - The Musical at the The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre (2018)

★★

'A capable cast can’t save a tonally mismatched and awkwardly staged musical production of the popular 1990s film.'

'The nostalgia factor is undermined by contrived lyrics, heavy-handed direction, and some very odd design choices. It feels more like a parody rather than a homage. The production has a winking self-awareness that eats away at the original’s warm heart.'

'Cameron is darling and perky as Cher, though her performance reads uncomfortably younger than a high schooler, while the rest of the cast looks creepily older.'

Nicole Serratore, The Stage
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Fiddler On The Roof at the Meniere Chocolate Factory (2018)

"Trevor nunn's tight, trad revival"

'Nunn is a master of musicals, and one who knows the Menier space well. He builds a bustling village from nothing, whips up whirlwinds of motion and noise in split seconds, and makes the Menier’s dungeon-theatre look vast and liveable in, almost, with huts of wood and a yard of compacted dust.'

'It’s great to see Judy Kuhn on a London stage as Tevye’s wife Golde. She and Nyman get their rapport just right, which makes for a really sweet version of Do You Love Me. Kuhn’s face is full of confusion and agonising as this brand new concept of ‘love’ creeps into her marriage to Tevye.

But it’s Nyman is without a doubt the best thing about this tight, trad revival.'

Tim Bano, The Stage
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Hole at the Royal Court Theatre (2018)

★★★

‘Ellie Kendrick’s flawed but ferocious debut play reverberates with feminist rage’

‘Rage and frustration blaze throughout this play – but so does hope. It’s a riotous, ragged, wild thing with the glimmer of magnificence among its flailing and its flaws.’

Sam Marlowe, The Stage
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Billionaire Boy at the NST City, Southampton (2018)

★★★★

"Irreverent, funny new hit British musical"

“Irreverent, fantastically funny and hit-heavy new musical based on David Walliams’ monster-selling novel”

"Walliams’ ever-so-slightly savage humour and his penchant for meaty, monosyllabic surnames – Grub, Spud, Spite – mark him out as a natural successor to Roald Dahl."

Tim Bano, The Stage
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Hadestown at the National Theatre (2018)

★★★★

"Stunning new folk opera"

"Anais Mitchell’s folk musical is much more than just the love story."

"Dialogue melts imperceptibly into song. Lines that start as spoken end up in full chorus and Mitchell’s stomping folk songs sound timeless. Chavkin oversees some great visual set pieces, particularly making use of the Olivier’s revolve. At one point Hades, Persephone and wafts of haze get sucked into the drum, descending into hell."

Tim Bano, The Stage
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Company at the Gielgud Theatre (2018)

★★★★★

"An astonishing reinvention"

"Stephen Sondheim and Marianne Elliott unite for an astonishing reinvention of a classic musical.
Marianne Elliott has gone beyond that. Her neon-flooded, gender-bended production is more a reinvention than a revival – and it’s a revelation. Bobby, male in the original, is female Bobbie here."

"The show feels like it could have been written yesterday, rather than 48 years ago, and is contemporary right down to the Starbucks keep-cups that characters drink from. Every modification makes sense, and finds a new resonance."

"What do you call a revival that makes a show seem brand new? Company 2018 is more than a clever concept."

"Elliott has managed to take a 48-year-old musical that spoke to its time and made it speak precisely to us, now.”

Tim Bano, The Stage
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Killer Joe at the Trafalgar Studios (2018)

"An unpleasant revival of a nasty play"

"Despite Bloom’s protestations, one thing is for sure: there is nothing remotely feminist, empowering or timely in watching a woman forced to simulate oral sex on a chicken leg in a production written and directed by men."

"Even putting aside the play’s toxicity for the moment, under Evans all the acting is so painfully mannered that the cast forgets to be human, despite the pedigree of excellent actors such as Steffan Rhodri and Neve McIntosh".

"Richard Howell’s lighting, big blocks of primary colours like the glare from a TV, is striking and sits well on Grace Smart’s detailed trailer set. That’s about it for the positives."

"If the production wants to make that point, it needs to be much more certain of itself. Confused about whether it’s comic or not, farce or horror, its cast of grotesques, acted to their extremest edges, encourages laughter more often than revulsion. That’s a queasy directorial decision.”

Tim Bano, The Stage
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Tina - The Tina Turner Musical at the Aldwych Theatre (2018)

★★★★

"Incredible"

"Yes, it’s a jukebox musical. And no, it’s not imaginatively told, galloping straightforwardly through Tina Turner’s life and works from childhood to the peak of her fame in 1988."

"But two things make this new West End mega-musical incredible: one, her life story – the fact that the unwanted daughter of poor black sharecroppers in racist small-town Tennessee became Tina Turner; two, Adrienne Warren as Tina."

Tim Bano, The Stage
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