Critics - Arifa Akbar

Arifa Akbar – The Guardian London Theatre Critic

Selected reviews by Arifa Akbar, chief theatre critic of The Guardian.

Arifa Akbar was appointed chief theatre critic at the Guardian in 2019, succeeding Michael Billington who stepped down as chief critic in December 2019.

Prior to taking on the chief role, Arifa had been reviewing for the Guardian for several years, and interviewing theatre talent.

Akbar previously worked as arts editor at Tortoise Media, and had worked for 15 years at the Independent, where she started as a news reporter before becoming arts correspondent and literary editor. She has also written for the Observer and the Financial Times, and is on the board of trustees of the Orwell Foundation.

More about Arifa Akbar:

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Also see: All our reviews from The Guardian, and All theatre reviews and reviews round-ups


The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe (2022)

★★★★

"A dark, riveting revamp"

"This exhilarating production of CS Lewis’s timeless tale delivers spellbinding spectacle, wartime drama and perfect puppetry"

"This captivating production takes the wartime framing of CS Lewis’s tale and bleeds it across the fantasia. It is still, in spirit, a children’s story but contains all the grit and gore of war and feels far darker than the 1950 novel."

"Samantha Womack’s White Witch is all hard edges and glaring looks yet resists becoming a pantomime villain."

"The pace has a stately grandeur; nothing is rushed and some scenes come to feel a little inert. The siblings, played efficiently by adult actors, are a little featureless at first but these are quibbles in a show that is orchestrated masterfully."

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Chasing Hares (2022)

★★★★

"Factory drama moulds its own subversive power play"

"Sonali Bhattacharyya intriguingly exposes the exploitative dynamics of the global gig economy through the lens of a Bengali jatra theatre group"

"This drama about the gig economy and the workers trapped inside it plays out like a thriller. Sonali Bhattacharyya’s fast, witty script finds an original way to tell the global backstory of the zero-hours workforce, joining up the dots from child labour in West Bengal to unethical working conditions in Britain."

"The story has some too-neat parallels between West Bengal and the UK and it is perhaps too sentimental in its ending, but this is easily forgiven when weighed up against its emotional power and intelligence."

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101 Dalmatians (2022)

★★

"Puppyish enthusiasm can’t save a patchy production"

"This family musical and adorable puppets will keep the kids happy, but parents might wish they could go walkies"

"Thank God for Kate Fleetwood’s Cruella de Vil (fur, stilettos, big wigs), who plays her part for kicks at first but brings a baroque darkness later on and channels the sinister energy of her creepy Disney cartoon forebear. It is hammy, and sometimes panto-ish, but it works."

"The show certainly improves as it goes along, and it works best as a children’s show: my two young nieces stayed hooked throughout on press night. So, perhaps a crowd-pleaser for the kids but one which may leave some parents wanting to go walkies."

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Much Ado About Nothing (2022)

★★★★

"Screwball Shakespeare goes with a swing"

"John Heffernan shines brightest as a dorkish Benedick; Katherine Parkinson’s Beatrice is wry and cute but she is, surprisingly, not at her finest in comedy mode."

"The production does not, perhaps, plunge deeply enough into the play’s darkness, and no one actor commands our attention, but they all form a very able ensemble."

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Crazy For You (2022)

★★★★★

"Spine-tingling musical is a giddy thrill"

"Instantly infectious melodies, superb choreography and irresistible comedy are met with astonishing performances in this lovable show"

"... here is a spine-tingling production with instantly infectious melodies, irresistible physical comedy and punning wisecracks (Ken Ludwig’s book zings). The crowning glory is the choreography – a whirligig of tap, ballroom, chorus-line and balletic movement, all effortlessly athletic, which makes this as much a show of dance as song."

"The production’s original choreographer, Susan Stroman, also directs and turns what might have been a long show with wooden characters into spectacular entertainment, oiled by astonishing performances from Charlie Stemp as the New York wannabe dancer Bobby and Carly Anderson as tough cookie Polly."

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Peaky Blinders: The Rise reviews (2022)

★★

"Immersed in a criminally flimsy plot"

"Fans of the TV series may enjoy the period detail and atmosphere, but this immersive show is frustratingly light on story and drama"

"Lovers of the TV series may be content to drink in the period detail and atmosphere. But it has none of the slick intelligence of that show."

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Patriots (2022)

★★★

"Peter Morgan’s compelling study of Russian dissidence"

"Rupert Goold’s production is ultimately entertaining but choppy, taking time to settle before its power struggles gain intensity."

"But the play resets itself in the second half, dropping the Dead Ringers-style wisecracks and gathering potency, gripping stillness and tension."

"The show-stealing performance is Will Keen’s saturnine Putin who emerges as the greatest and most sinister force on stage. "

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The Seagull (2022)

★★★★

"Woodchip-walled Chekhov is hypnotic"

"Jamie Lloyd’s radical, stripped-back, strangely gripping production, using Anya Reiss’s cool adaptation, might well be aspiring to Konstantin’s ideal of creating a new theatrical form. This is not Chekhov as we know it, nor theatre as we know it, certainly not in the West End. "

"This is a maverick show that, like Oklahoma! at the Young Vic, proves how dangerous and daring a revival can be"

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Richard III reviews - RSC Stratford (2022)

★★★

"Shakespeare’s supervillain breezes through the bloodbath"

"Arthur Hughes is the scheming sociopath in a production of magisterial stagecraft that builds to a powerful climax"

"Hughes’s Richard is every bit the schemer, dead-eyed and unmoved by the body count he leaves on the way to the throne, but he also has a smarmy mischief about him"

"It gives a strange note to his villainy. He does not always seem vicious enough, even when he is giving orders to kill former allies."

"This production shines in its aesthetics and stagecraft, which has a magisterial splendour."

"It is a shame the visceral power of the play comes so late but these climactic moments bring the full force of the drama’s eeriness and emanate Richard’s fear and desperation."

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Mad House (2022)

★★★

"David Harbour and Bill Pullman spar in dark family psychodrama"

"Under the direction of Moritz von Stuelpnagel, the first half seems like a particularly savage episode of Frasier"

"There are some sharp lines in Rebeck’s script, though the serrated humour is not as blistering as it strives to be."

"Too much is thrown in without enough depth or structural coherence; there are echoes of King Lear as Daniel uses threats of disinheritance to keep his three children in line, even as two – Nedward and Pam (Sinéad Matthews) – scheme for the lucrative deeds of his house. Pam is particularly flat in her villainy, which seems like a motor for the plot."

"Performances are magnificent across the board"

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The Gunpowder Plot (2022)

★★★

"A thrilling live adventure is marred by moments of bewildering VR in this immersive voyage back to 1605"

"In the belly of the vaults – a grid of tunnel-like corridors and boiler rooms – we meet prisoners such as William (Lucas O’Mahoney), who is barefoot, black-eyed and shackled by a terrifying hooded guard. William looks at us blinkingly before he is led away and confirms us as fellow Catholic dissenters. There is also our companion, Thomas (Cormac Elliott, very characterfully played), a cheeky caped spy who appears sporadically, calls us “bastards” and works for the crown. Something of a Jacobean Indiana Jones, he helps us navigate the perils of these tunnels and delivers us to his boss, Lady Cecil (Kalifa Taylor), who recruits us as spies to thwart Fawkes’ plot."

"There are three VR headset moments to augment our experience, the first of which did not work for everyone in my group. The last, which traces the mythology around Fawkes in the centuries following his execution, is especially disappointing – not in the graphics but in the rather vague points it seeks to make."

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Britannicus (2022)

★★★★

"Political drama is deadly serious but full of sass"

"Timberlake Wertenbaker’s take on Racine’s version of ancient Rome is replete with power-crazed emperors, deadly poison and juicy family politics"

"Atri Banerjee’s thrilling production brings this Roman family into a modern-day court and shows us how old stories can be made terrifically new, with enough fearless imagination."

"Every performance is fabulous. So is Rosanna Vize’s stage design"

"Is it a penetrating or complicated enough study of power? It doesn’t matter because it is irresistible as a piece of theatre – a production of immense confidence and sass, and one that will leave you simultaneously chilled and chuckling."

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The Glass Menagerie (2022)

★★

"Amy Adams’s West End debut fails to find its heart"

"Tennessee Williams’s story of yearning, passion and despair never puts us under its spell in Jeremy Herrin’s production"

"Tennessee Williams’s narrator begins by speaking of all the ways a “memory play” conjures its effects: dim lighting, sentimentality, a lack of realism. This production uses those artifices and also boasts central star casting in Amy Adams, yet stops short of putting us under its spell."

"The play is pervaded by a sense of abandonment – first that of the absent father who has walked out on the Wingfield brood and then Tom’s own flight at the end. But we do not feel the emotional weight of the latter’s decision to leave. Nor do we pick up on tenderness between siblings."

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Legally Blonde The Musical (2022)

★★★★

"Joyously camp revamp is in the pink"

"An overhaul of the original’s gender politics, plenty of Gen-Z touchpoints and a big dollop of kitsch make this musical an irresistible cocktail"

"Bowman gives an incredibly strong performance, although Nadine Higgin, as the salon worker, Paulette, nearly steals her thunder with her raunchy magnetism and powerful voice."

"This is a tongue-in-cheek production that comes with a megawattage of kitsch and to some degree sends up the genre of the high-school musical. Characters are pancake flat, reaching beyond stereotype into cartoonishness"

"Campness dominates, with nasal American high-school accents, teenage squeals and deliberate overacting."

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The House of Shades (2022)

★★★

"Anne-Marie Duff gives a toxic tour de force"

"Beth Steel’s large canvas reflects brawny ambition and magnificent fearlessness as the dead walk alongside the living and the surreal interrupts the real. It is a kitchen-sink drama that incorporates state-of-the-nation politics, and the generational damage within family life is shown largely through its women.

‘It’s an energy’ … Beth Steel.
"You don’t have to be invited – you do it’: Beth Steel on her working-class family epic"

"Directed by Blanche McIntyre, the play emanates a retro sitcom vibe at the start but detours into Dennis Potter territory, with hallucinatory scenes, seductive and dreamlike, often with song."

"While the script is strong, its realisation is bumpy, with uneven pacing and some scenes that are a little too short to hold potency. Actors double up down the ages to good effect, and there is further doubling on stage as characters from the past feature in parallel with their elder counterparts. "

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My Fair Lady (2022)

★★★

"Perfectly elegant, ever so sedate"

"This garlanded production of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s musical, fresh from Broadway, is the definition of a comforting night out at the theatre. It glides from one well-loved song to the next on an elegantly twirling set designed by Michael Yeargan."

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Much Ado About Nothing (2022)

★★★

"Gaiety abounds in the Globe’s great garden party"

"Lucy Bailey’s ambling production of Shakespeare’s comedy, set in northern Italy on the eve of Mussolini’s defeat, exudes pastoral elegance and feels like the start of summer"

"The production as a whole seems to want to stick to gaiety and gambolling. Even the play’s central schemer, Don John (Olivier Huband), has deadpan humour. It works to create a consummately summer comedy, its lightness carrying an edge of our own post-lockdown lifting of the clouds."

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Jerusalem (2022)

★★★★

"Mark Rylance’s riveting return as ‘Rooster’ Byron"

"Problematic gags limit the power of Jez Butterworth’s layered drama about myths and Englishness but the lead performance still astonishes"

"Its language predates #MeToo and Black Lives Matter – and it shows. There is a limp joke about dressing up in a burqa, another about Nigerian traffic wardens. There are references to women as “slappers”, “bitches” and fat wives. Byron boasts of his conquests and talks of pinching bums, while Ginger states: “I don’t actually have GCSE maths but I do have a great big hairy cock and balls.” Bizarrely, this gets some laughs on opening night."

"The play’s ideas around myth and identity are lyrical but do not fully cohere. Ultz’s astonishing set opens up to bacchanalian detritus outside Rooster’s caravan – empty bottles, a mucky sofa, a disco ball tied to a tree and even live chickens. But it is uncomfortable to see the St George’s Cross emblazoned on the curtain at the start and then a flag hung around the back of the caravan. That flag has, since Jerusalem’s first staging in 2009, continued to be associated with the far right, and the play’s bigger dewy-eyed ideas around Englishness carry a queasy proximity to the romanticised narrative that has been co-opted by the right.

"But any disagreement around the treatment of its themes cannot take away from its drama and the soaring central performance. Is it the greatest play of our times? Not in my view. But Rylance’s Rooster is surely the greatest performance of the century."

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Prima Facie (2022)

★★★★

"Jodie Comer on formidable form in roaring drama"

"The Killing Eve star makes a masterful West End debut in Suzie Miller’s play about sexual assault and the legal system"

"Comer delivers. She roars through Suzie Miller’s script. The play roars, too, sometimes too loudly in its polemic, but Comer works overtime to elevate these moments."

"Comer’s performance compensates for the clompy-footed parts of Miller’s script, which falls into a loudly lecturing tone at the end. But Prima Facie’s final messages are urgent in highlighting who our laws fail to protect. If they are delivered in hammer blows, there is power in hearing them spoken on a West End stage, and Comer manages to infuse breath-taking emotional drama in every last word."

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The Corn is Green (2022)

★★★★

"An inspirational heart-warmer in praise of good education"

"Emlyn Williams’ 1938 play is a kind of Billy Elliot of the Valleys: the old-fashioned but hugely entertaining and affecting story of a Welsh miner’s son who escapes his class-bound home town with the help of a bold schoolteacher"

"Dominic Cooke’s revival deploys a quirky theatrical device in which the playwright, Williams (Gareth David-Lloyd), is a character on stage who is constructing his story before the audience. This device cannot quite disguise the old-fashioned nature of the story or dampen its sentimentality, but it brings clever humour and is beguiling in its own right."

"Cooke’s direction is supremely well-paced and all of the performers have impeccable comic timing. Walker is delightful to watch, both in her angry exchanges with the supercilious Squire (Rufus Wright, excellently doltish), which bring sparky satire, and in her initially brusque attitude towards Davies’s sweet, laconic Evans."

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Marys Seacole (2022)

★★

"Mystifying drama about caring through the ages"

"Despite strong performances, Jackie Sibblies Drury’s play zigzags so much that it overshadows the remarkable life at its centre"

"The point about care and economic slavery is a crucial one, but the mother’s diatribe takes in the entire breadth of “white man terror” (from white supremacy to police violence) and it feels like a play speaking aloud all the racial ills of society in one gasping breath, using this character, and its finale, as a mouthpiece.

"She [Mary Seacole] is made gloriously flesh and blood by Kayla Meikle, a magnetic force who speaks in patois (or “patwah” as it is written in the script). Meikle keeps us hanging on her every word as she narrates a story that jumbles up character and chronology on Tom Scutt’s non-naturalistic stage, but does not carry a big enough payoff. The cast as a whole excels, playing multiple parts with deliberately overblown emotions and archness."

"It also leaves us with a sense that the figure of Mary Seacole is a vehicle used to explore our current-day issues too nakedly rather than a study of a singular life and its forgotten achievements."

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The Burnt City (2022)

★★★

"Spectacle eclipses story in siege of Troy epic"

"This immersive retelling of Greek tragedies is stylish and atmospheric but lacks narrative momentum and its scattered scenes can be frustratingly arcane"

"The immense space and its immersive elements are impressive – we really feel as if we are in a bombed-out city, travelling through its grime and crumbling grandeur. Even the bar is immersive, with its own Cabaret-style decadent and risque performances, with magnificent singing by Kimberly Nichole."

"There is an increasingly exhausting feeling in this three-hour show of moving around the circuit of rooms in search of more performers, more story. Some of the longer and more dynamic scenes, when they come, are enthralling. In the most powerful moment a group of men move towards a desperate huddle of Trojan women, one of whom is strung up, half-naked and bloodied. The terror and tragedy – of female sacrifice and male violation – pervades the vast room, which looks like a gladiator’s ring. It could be a scene from Pat Barker’s magnificent and horrifying The Silence of the Girls, though it uses no words. Its emotional power lands like a punch and shows us that this company can orchestrate fantastically potent human theatre."

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Scandaltown (2022)

★★★

"Smut and silliness in modern Restoration comedy"

"Mike Bartlett’s rambunctious capers with types including Lady Susan Climber and Matt Eton MP are great fun if not exactly stinging satire"

"However, the pace and wit sag after the interval, the final revelations are not dynamic enough and the mystery around an offensive outfit worn by Lady Climber has no payoff. In its story it contains shades of Henry Fielding’s Bildungsroman, Tom Jones, which was recently adapted into the musical What’s New Pussycat? but that show was far more effective in its comic revelations, twists and pacing.

Still, there is fun and fine acting along the way and as Bartlett instructs, it is all joyfully silly stuff."

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The 47th (2022)

★★★

"Bertie Carvel is devilishly good but this Trumpian satire feels too soon"

"Mike Bartlett’s script turns US politics into Shakepearean comedy but falls oddly flat despite magnetising performances"

"Donald Trump’s inner circle has, in Mike Bartlett’s satire, turned into a Shakespearean court of a near future in which the former president is back in the game. The script, best in its granular moments of comedy, blends billionaire pomp with political chicanery, dynastic family drama and blank verse."

"There are some delightful lines in Bartlett’s script nonetheless and it is in these moments that the play sparkles: an incarcerated Trump in an orange jumpsuit gives his jailtime a PR spin by claiming it will endow him with a “cool Mandela feel” in the eyes of the people. His slanging matches and put downs of Biden, who he calls an “elderly wizard”. His eulogy of Machiavelli’s The Prince although he admits he hasn’t read it all because it was too long: “Someone summed it up, and it made sense.” And the moment when Harris tells Trump that his legacy is a farce: “You will be mocked if ever you will be remembered,” she says, and this play proves her point."

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To Kill A Mockingbird (2022)

★★★★

"Harper Lee would approve of snappy Sorkin update"

"Rafe Spall is a dignified Atticus Finch in Aaron Sorkin’s smooth and confident adaptation, which finds modern-day resonances in the 1960 classic about racial injustice in the American south"

"The drama of the courtroom, as a whole, is when this production comes most fully alive, the testimonies of both Bob and Mayella Ewell (Patrick O’Kane and Poppy Lee Friar respectively, both sensational) are filled with tension, anger, betrayal and disbelief. There are modern-day resonances of Trump’s left-behinds in their characterisations that feel utterly real and uncontrived; both father and daughter sneer at Atticus’s intellectual elitism and could be today’s forgotten populists of the rust-belt."

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The Human Voice (2022)

★★

"Ruth Wilson fails to connect in Jean Cocteau’s tale of despair"

"Ivo van Hove’s production divests this drama of emotional power and momentum, keeping us at arm’s length"

"That drama is not captured here, nor its tension. The director Ivo van Hove also adapts Cocteau’s script and manages to divest it of its raw emotional power and momentum. It becomes as stripped and sterile as the empty glass box of a set, designed by Jan Versweyveld, which seems to keep us at arm’s length with its clinical inscrutability."

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Cock (2022)

★★★

"Jonathan Bailey and Taron Egerton locked in a love triangle"

"Jade Anouka’s character causes an existential earthquake in Marianne Elliott’s stylised revival of Mike Bartlett’s comedy about sexual identity"

"It all combines into a slightly mystifying non-naturalism that is at once flamboyant and no-frills. And where the theatrical tics in Elliott and Miranda Cromwell’s staging of Death of a Salesman gave the play an astonishing invention and power, the stylised elements here do not service this play’s meanings but seem like playful add-ons."

"One of the most powerful scenes comes at the end, in John’s childishly sulky intransigence, and here Cock’s drama ultimately reveals itself not as a contest between heteronormativity and gay partnerships, or a play about the right to resist one fixed identity, but a far more old-fashioned love triangle with a selfish, destructive and cruel figure at its centre."

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Maria Friedman & Friends - Legacy (2022)

★★★

"Who’s up for a cabaret lock-in?"

"Looking back at the work of Sondheim, Hamlisch and Legrand, with glorious songs and personal stories, this is a mixed bag of a show"

"Her voice is crystalline, quivering, silky, deep or high, as the song requires it; it is filled with all the hope and youth of a wannabe in Broadway Baby and driven by mournful knowing in Losing My Mind."

"There are solos and group numbers, the latter coming together gorgeously in Hamlisch’s I Hope I Get It and in Legrand’s The Windmills of Your Mind. But the various elements make for a mixed bag of a show: partly a look back to three extraordinary legacies, with Sondheim at the centre, and also something of a “Maria Friedman show”, with stories about her life, family, struggles and career highs. This is charming but sometimes cheesy in its self-celebratory tone."

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The Collaboration (2022)

★★★

"Warhol and Basquiat mix paint and trade blows"

"Paul Bettany and Jeremy Pope excel as the art world legends in Anthony McCarten’s account of a fractious friendship"

"An ebullient production under Kwame Kwei-Armah’s direction (there is even a live DJ though, oddly, the music is only cranked up in between scenes), it has two star turns in the central performances and a spectacular set from Anna Fleischle: paint-splattered floorboards and white brick walls which recreate the look of a loft studio. Duncan McLean’s magnificent projections conjure the New York skyline on semi-diaphanous panels."

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Cabaret (2021)

★★★★

"Eddie Redmayne is electric in this blinder of a show"

"Redmayne and Jessie Buckley ‘Willkommen’ us into this Weimar-era Berlin nightclub for an evening of flamboyance, menace and magnetism"

"It does not matter that Redmayne’s voice is drowned out by the orchestra at times. He gives an immense, physicalised performance, both muscular and delicate, from his curled limbs to his tautly expressive fingertips."

"Tom Scutt’s stage design is expressionistic and imaginative: a train journey is represented by a model train revolving around the outer part of the three-tiered, circular stage. “Tomorrow Belongs to Me” has miniature model men standing to attention on the revolve, replaced by real men in its reprise, which is infused with ominous, stomping movements and a martial drum beat, prefiguring the terror to come."

"Redmayne creeps around the fringes of the stage when he is not performing, watching scenes from afar. If this show is sold on his star turn, we get more than our money’s worth with his blinding performance – in this blinder of a show."

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The Book of Dust (2021)

★★★★

"A theatrical marvel. Nicholas Hytner brings a dazzling wizard’s touch to this adaptation of Philip Pullman’s fantasy tale"

"The stage is action-filled with one dangerous turn after another, which reflects the spirit of the original faithfully, albeit unleavened by the deeper philosophical ruminations in the book. The production only falls short of perfection for those who find themselves flagging at Pullman’s – rather than Hytner’s – breakneck pace and plotting."

"What is more remarkable is the production’s ability to keep closely to Pullman’s earth-bound and realistic brand of fantasy. Just as in Hytner’s previous production, the daemons are puppets (kingfishers, lemurs, badgers, each as gorgeous as the next). Designed and directed by Barnaby Dixon, they are a marvel and glow from within like luminous origami. They seem like Jungian projections rather than airy, fantastical creatures."

"Here is the ultimate Christmas show – with sacrilegious twists."

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Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of) (2021)

★★★★

"Rough-hewn but joyous musical take on the classic novel works in everything from Carly Simon to Chris de Burgh"

"As far as McArthur’s script goes, the (*sort of) in the title is key, with comedy that is hearty and upfront in place of Austen’s sly satire although it captures the essence of the book."

"The show has the spirit of fringe theatre and its rough-hewn, riotous nature might have sat at odds with this West End venue but it proves a natural fit with just the right balance between scrappiness and careful orchestration."

"However inconceivable a production it sounds, with its karaoke numbers and its silliness, it creates something new and joyous from the old."

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A Christmas Carol - A Ghost Story (2021)

★★★

"Mark Gatiss’s witty dash through Dickens"

"Gatiss’s delayed rework amps up the ghostly effects while drawing out the overlooked dark comedy in the classic tale"

"Other atmosphere-building exchanges – of an impoverished mother singing to her child, of street crowds – are too many, too short, and feel like pauses to the story. Some key moments feel too fleeting and don’t carry enough emotion, including Tiny Tim’s deathbed scene. But when the human drama slows down, it gains an emotional catch, such as a romantic pause between Belle (Aoife Gaston) and the young Scrooge, and the final scene between Scrooge and Bob Cratchit (Edward Harrison); we wish for a few more of these."

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Get Up, Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical (2021)

★★★

"It’s the music that carries the emotional weight in this tale of love, loss and roots rock, starring the superb Arinzé Kene"

"Clint Dyer’s pulsating production has the spirit of a staged concert with spoken scenes tucked in between the songs, and with the emotional freight of the story carried in its celebrated music. Sometimes this means that character and dialogue are sacrificed but the music is infectious – and there is a central performance from Arinzé Kene that soars and tingles the spine."

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Back to the Future (2021)

★★★

"The car’s the star: this is a splashy theatre-film mashup, with gravity-defying effects, cute quirks and offbeat gags"

"The cast appear to imitate their film counterparts: Olly Dobson’s sweet, hapless, Marty McFly looks and acts like Michael J Fox and Hugh Coles’s George McFly replicates the gestures of his original, as do Marty’s mother, Lorraine (Rosanna Hyland), and the school bully, Biff (Aidan Cutler). Roger Bart’s “Doc” Emmett Brown begins the same way but his characterisation grows distinctive quirks and he ends up as an even more off-the-wall creation than Christopher Lloyd’s zany original."

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Frozen The Musical (2021)

★★★★★

"Stunning musical extravaganza creates its own magic"

"Beyond the visual thrills and powerful ballads, this adaptation brings an unexpected depth to the relationship between two tortured sisters"

"Gradually, however, it grows to become its own magical thing, with some charming inventions and a few new songs (the best of which is an audacious comic number, appearing out of nowhere to satirise the Nordic notion of hygge as naked characters conga out of a sauna). What is more surprising than the uniformly storming singing voices and the theatrical razzmatazz is the sense of a real, beating heart in the relationship between the two tortured sisters."

The Guardian
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Lungs (2019)

★★★★

"Claire Foy and Matt Smith shine in climate crisis drama"

"Duncan Macmillan’s two-hander is a frenetic portrait of flawed love in a flawed world, exposing the neuroses of a modern couple who struggle to put their principles aside and their existential crisis is as much about sexual politics as it is about the environment.”

“Rob Howell’s set design, like the original, is minimalist to the extreme, empty but for a solar-panelled floor and two tiles on opposite sides propped up by rock crystals – a sly satirical reminder of the couple’s fashionable, new age environmentalism.”

“Foy and Smith manage the switches of mood and tone with a virtuosity that verges on ostentatious, and there are very few off-moments in pace. It is only the last sequence, in which times speeds up and characters, present and imagined, grow up, age or die within seconds, which feels rushed, gimmicky and riddled with cliche.”

The Guardian
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