Critics - Nick Curtis

Nick Curtis – Evening Standard London Theatre Critic

Selected reviews by Nick Curtis, chief theatre critic of the Evening Standard.

Nick Curtis was appointed chief theatre critic of the Evening Standard in July 2019.

Born in London, Nick began his career as an editor and theatre critic with Plays & Players magazine and Time Out before joining the Evening Standard as a reviewer, later becoming a feature writer and columnist. He was nominated for Critic of the Year by the Critics’ Circle early in his career and named Interviewer of the Year in the 2012 British Press Awards.

Nick has also written for the Times and Sunday Times, Daily and Sunday Telegraph, Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday, Guardian, Observer, Independent, Radio Times, GQ, Esquire, BA High Life, Marie Claire, Red, the BBC and others.

Nick is married and lives in south London.

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All of Us (2022)

★★★

"A compelling, rage-filled portrait of disabled life under austerity"

"Illuminating and sporadically witty look at being disabled in Tory Britain"

"This remains a compelling piece of work, in which a huge and theatrically under-represented sector of the British population – 14.6 million people according to Scope – takes centre stage. It has many laugh-out-loud lines. Martinez has written herself an excessively sympathetic lead role, and delivers some of the script’s best gags with due aplomb, but there is also something honest and exposing in the way she presents “wobbliness”, and a wide spread of the disabled experience, on stage. But to deny that this show could have been much, much better would be deeply patronising."

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South Pacific (2022)

★★★★

"Barely puts a foot, or a note, wrong"

"This revelatory production celebrates the lush score and clarifies the script’s attitude to race and exploitation"

"Ovenden brings a wonderful depth and richness to Emile’s songs, while Beck is a bright, breezy Nellie, necessarily superficial but with a voice like a bell. Ampil brings an edge of pathos to the pidgin-English Happy Talk, and shares the comic honours with Douggie McMeekin, winningly rogueish as the camp’s fixer Luther Billis. Houchen is terrific as the callow but steadfast Cable."

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The Tempest (2022)

★★★★

"Some rough edges but a sunny delight"

"Even Shakespeare is not immune to the Love Island aesthetic"

"Though stylised throughout, Sean Holmes’s staging presents the narrative as clearly as I’ve ever seen it: this is very much the island love story of Miranda and Ferdinand, as well as a rollicking comedy and a tale of revenge."

"Roberts’s fiery, leonine Prospero occasionally goes over the top, but his is a bold and literally exposing performance (thankfully his line “I will here discase me” is a cue for him to put more clothes on, rather than take more off). The scenes with the noblemen are laboured, though again, the narrative of betrayal and displacement is limpidly clear."

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The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe (2022)

★★

"Ponderously slow and woefully short on magic"

"The charms of this small-stage production evaporate in the West End"

"Samantha Womack is an icy, one-note witch while the giant puppet of Aslan the lion comprises only a head, musclebound front legs, and a jinking tail. It looks like a roadrunner on ‘roids. The third-billed wardrobe, however, is solidly impressive."

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Sister Act (2022)

★★★

"Beverley Knight’s star power lifts hodgepodge of a show"

"This musical adaptation has warmth, joyous moments and flashes of wit, but there are multiple compromises beneath the happy-clappy surface glitz"

"Saunders’s dry, acerbic head nun is a useful counterbalance to Knight’s ebullience, even if she’s not used here to best advantage. And Settle, Rowe and Lizzie Bea as doubting young postulant Sister Mary Robert all give stunning vocal performances that transcend the limits of the characters they are given. I know: faint praise."

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101 Dalmatians (2022)

★★★★

"You’d be barking to miss it"

"Douglas Hodge’s version of the classic tale based on Zinnie Harris’s earlier adaptation is a hoot"

"Hodge and writer Johnny McKnight – working from an earlier stage adaptation by Zinnie Harris - update the story to contemporary London with mixed narrative results but to great comic effect. Those expecting a retread of the beloved 1961 Disney animation will be rudely jarred: there’s lots of bottom sniffing and fart gags here, plus an attempt to equate Cruella’s viciousness with the anti-immigration rhetoric of right-wing trolls."

"The puppies are simply but beautifully suggested by the cast manipulating yapping heads and wagging tails, and by four child actors playing escapees from Cruella’s lair, a nightmarish slaughterhouse sprouting hooks and blades. Parents Pongo and Perdita are given life by two operators each, their voices and back limbs supplied by Danny Collins and Emma Lucia. They’re elegant, eloquent creations, the doggy body language spot on, but it does sometimes look as if the rear operator is up to something bestial – and once you see that, you can’t unsee it."

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Jack Absolute Flies Again (2022)

★★★★

"Uproarious mix of filth, derring-do and romance"

"Updating Sheridan’s The Rivals to the Second World War brings the same ungoverned humour as Bean’s One Man, Two Guvnors"

"Sheridan’s absurd web of deceptions and misunderstandings is here augmented by CGI ariel dogfights, a dazzling all-cast jitterbug number and Mrs Malaprop doing the splits while playing the ukulele. Alongside the laddish jokes and slapstick there’s a sly gag about the Bechdel test, which judges a drama’s feminist credentials. Designer Mark Thompson supplies a witty set of dolls’ house rooms unfolding on an English lawn."

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Much Ado About Nothing (2022)

★★

"Sorely disappointing. It’s not a bad show, just ponderous and hollow"

"Not even the combined talents of Katherine Parkinson and John Heffernan can breathe life into this flaccid production of Shakespeare’s comedy, a rare misfire by director Simon Godwin."

"Parkinson’s withering basilisk gaze and Heffernan’s etiolated air of being about to trump someone’s anecdote, should make them ideal casting for the sparring, reluctant lovers Beatrice and Benedick. But together they have zero chemistry. Neither their animosity nor their ardour rings true."

" As an entry-level Shakespeare this production is probably fine. But for anyone who wants to see Parkinson, Heffernan or Godwin giving their best work, it’s sorely disappointing."

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Anything Goes (2022)

★★★★

"A glorious, glittering frippery of precision-tooled escapism"

"Thank goodness: this scintillating, toe-tapping, wisecracking Cole Porter musical from 1934 is back to save us from real life once again"

"Yes, Anything Goes is old fashioned. But it’s also radical, a celebration of freedom and hedonism after Prohibition and the Wall Street Crash"

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Patriots (2022)

★★★★

"Witty, thrilling battle of political wills"

"Rupert Goold’s witty production about the oligarch who arguably created Putin and was then destroyed by him is sadly very timely"

"Tom Hollander gives a riveting performance."

"Hollander’s Berezovsky is horrible but glows with Mephistophelean charm"

"He’s matched by Will Keen as Putin"

"Rupert Goold’s boiled-down production showcases the gift for concision and emotional grounding that Morgan brought to The Crown, The Queen, and his New Labour succession drama The Deal."

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That Is Not Who I Am (2022)

★★★★

"‘Dave Davidson’ play is enjoyably slippery"

"Weird marketing ploys aside, this play on the ambiguity of truth is pleasingly hard to pin down"

"The play is an enjoyably slippery, enthralling piece of work, albeit with a tiresome metatheatrical framework."

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Jitney (2022)

★★★★

"Tinuke Craig’s production of August Wilson’s classic fairly crackles"

"Superb performances drive this thrilling slice of history that resonates powerfully today"

"The accents are good, the fashions spot on (mid-level afros and sheepskin jackets: it’s cold in Pittsburgh). Wilson tries to give everyone a place in the sun but doesn’t entirely succeed: Tony Marshall is winning as alcoholic driver Fielding but his backstory feels like an echo of Becker’s. Nnabiko Ejimofor’s numbers runner Shealy merely adds a dash of illicitness, and some great dance moves."

"This is a stunning, richly textured piece of work, both particular and universal."

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Tony! (The Tony Blair Rock Opera) (2022)

★★

"Slapdash New Labour musical feels like a student drama group spoof"

"Harry Hill’s musical spoof about Britain’s most successful – and most reviled – Labour PM is packed with witty lyrics. It features one absolute belter of a song, and a ton of bad-taste gags about Princess Diana’s death, 9/11 and the Iraq War. All stuff I would usually love."

"It’s also wilfully slapdash; full of mugging, bovine hoofing and terrible wigs: the sort of thing you’d expect from a precocious student drama group. Without Hill’s name attached as writer – the heavy lifting of the music and lyrics were handled by his long-term collaborator Steve Brown – I doubt it would have found a stage-slot in London, let alone a celeb-stuffed crowd like last night’s."

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Britannicus (2022)

★★

"Rarely revived for evident good reason"

"Some decent performances can’t drag any contemporary relevance out of this talky French classic"

"Fair play to the Lyric and Banerjee: it’s a bold and admirable move to tackle Racine, who’s rarely done. And to be honest, if this production had been staged by a European guru at the Edinburgh Festival two decades ago, it would have been feted. But all the way through I kept thinking – why here, why now, why make this more difficult than it already is?"

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The Glass Menagerie (2022)

★★

"Adams’ West End debut is muted and unconvincing"

"Jeremy Herrin’s non-naturalistic staging emphasises the radicalism of Williams’s play when it was first staged in 1944 but I’ve always found it mawkish and humble-braggy. "

"Amanda and Laura are fictionalised renderings of his mother and fragile sister."

"Under the guise of cringing apology he lampoons the former and slowly crucifies the latter.

"Though Williams wrote some of 20th century theatre’s finest tragic heroines, there’s an unpleasant undertow of misogyny to many of his texts, and this is one of the worst."

"Though I don’t like this play, I can see Herrin’s production working in a small, studio setting, where the younger actors would shine. But as a West End star vehicle, it barely passes its MOT."

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Legally Blonde The Musical (2022)

★★★

"A fizzy, fun musical night out reinvented for 2022"

"This fizzy, fun, candyfloss-pink musical night out carries a message of tolerance and inclusion."

"Though reimagined and reinvented for contemporary sensibilities, the show sometimes falls foul of current events"

"But none of this is Moss’s fault and the exuberance of her production largely steamrollers over quibbles."

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The House of Shades (2022)

★★

"Anne-Marie Duff can’t save this baggy production"

"Beth Steel’s much-anticipated, much-delayed play is a confused mix of family saga, melodrama and political screed."

"Duff’s expressive face and skittish emotions are as watchable as ever, and McQuarrie brings neat, beaten-down understatement to Alastair."

"The cast is strong. But the play is weak, and overlong at almost three hours, and the director, McIntyre, seems to have just waved it all through without addressing the problems."

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My Fair Lady (2022)

★★★★

"Fresh and sparky, with a bona fide star in Amara Okereke"

"Bartlett Sher’s production repackages this witty, well-crafted piece of work for a new generation"

"[Amara is] effortlessly clear, full and expressive singing voice and can be meltingly soft, blazingly furious and beautifully still. She owns the Coliseum stage, and the role."

" Malcolm Sinclair was born to play Higgins’ benign, drifty compatriot Colonel Pickering. Stephen K Amos brings a comedian’s timing and delivery, if not the finest singing voice, to the part of Eliza’s dustman dad, Alfred. And here is Vanessa Redgrave, frail but game, snipping off devastating apercus as Higgins’s mum."

"That Eliza is black reinforces the class divisions between her and Higgins when they are together, but only subconsciously, as there’s colourblind casting of proles and aristocrats throughout, like in Bridgerton. And as with Bridgerton, you wonder why someone hasn’t done this before."

"My Fair Lady is so witty and well-crafted it’s hard to do a duff version, given enough resources, and this show has plenty. But it’s harder still to make it feel fresh. Sher manages it and has surely also turned Okerere from a promising actress into a bona fide star."

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Grease (2022)

★★

"It’s not the one that I want"

"Grim is the word. This version of the beloved 50s-set high school musical has a hard carapace of professionalism but underneath it’s colourless, charmless, and emptily energetic. The love story of bad boy Danny and goody two-shoes Sandy is insipid, and swamped by a tide of teen-drama clichés. The familiar songs still stand up, but only a few of the big numbers – Greased Lightning, Hopelessly Devoted to You and Hand Jive (here sounding alarmingly like ‘hand-job’) – have real vocal power or choreographic verve."

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Oklahoma! (2022)

★★★★

"Stripped back version is the best revival yet"

"After triumphing at the Tonys, this pared-back production comes to London"

"A mixed-heritage cast in modern-ish costumes share a starkly-lit plywood set - suggesting a dancehall but ringed with rifles - with both the band and the audience. Some idiot culture-warrior will doubtless call it WOKE-lahoma which is a) stupid, given that native Americans are still airbrushed out of the story and b) spoiled as a joke now, because I made it first."

"Overall, it’s a stunning reinvention by directors Daniel Fish and Jordan Fein, although their radicalism very occasionally feels laboured. Similarly, Terese Wadden’s costumes skilfully blend modern attire and 70s Western pastiche garb, until the big dance scene, where she puts the women in hideous mini-crinis, that’d be laughed off the floor of most modern line-dancing clubs."

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Jerusalem (2022)

★★★★★

"13 years on, time has only deepened Jez Butterworth’s modern classic"

"You could watch Rylance’s performance every night and still find new dimensions"

"Rooster is a charismatic, anarchic spirit: a perma-drunk yarn-spinner who supplies drugs and dance music to teenagers at his woodland caravan in Wiltshire. If anything, age has deepened the grain of Rylance’s overwhelming performance. And the questions Butterworth asked about national identity back in 2009 have only become more urgent."

"There’s also a freewheeling delight in language and storytelling throughout, Byron unspooling tall tales about his being born complete with a cloak, a dagger and a bullet between his fully-formed teeth, or being kidnapped by four Nigerian traffic wardens in Marlborough. In one early scene Rylance and a hangdog Mackenzie Crook – returning to the role of wannabe DJ Ginger, all the more sad now for being middle aged – delightedly bat the word “fracas” around like a shuttlecock."

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Prima Facie (2022)

★★★★

"Jodie Comer is better than we’ve ever seen her in West End debut"

"The Killing Eve star is what we’re here to see in this one-woman show about a barrister who is sexually assaulted - and she delivers"

"Killing Eve star Jodie Comer absolutely storms the West End in this one-woman show, playing a barrister specialising in sexual assault cases who is herself then raped. Her working-class character Tessa Ensler starts off as an exuberant ball of energy, swaggering and shimmying around a set lined with legal files, glorying in her ability to navigate the hierarchy and the technical nuances of law."

"It’s an extraordinarily gutsy and rich performance by Comer in only her second ever stage role – the first was in Scarborough 13 years ago, when she was 16 - and it confirms her as a star. Suzie Miller’s script is a great vehicle rather than a truly great play, however - shrewd and economical in its analysis of how the system treats assault survivors, but schematic in its plotting."

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The Burnt City (2022)

★★★★

"Punchdrunk’s return is simply astonishing"

"Punchdrunk’s first major venture in London for eight years, inspired by the Trojan War, will blow you away"

"There’s an earnestness here that thankfully stops just short of absurdity. I slightly resent the way immersive theatre relies on FOMO, the promise that something more exciting is in the next room. And I wonder where spectating shades into voyeurism: quite often here masked crowds cluster around women changing their tops. But chiefly I was overawed by the rich, vivid, momentous achievement of Barratt, Doyle and their cast and cohorts here. Simply astonishing."

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Scandaltown (2022)

★★

"Mike Bartlett’s social pastiche is showy but insubstantial"

"This contemporary Restoration comedy is one of Bartlett’s sketchier works"

"It’s laugh-out-loud funny at times but its discussions of freedom, liberty and responsibility – not to mention some last-minute gags about partygate - are schematic. It feels like Bartlett - whose blank verse drama The 47th, about a Trump run in 2024, opened at the Old Vic last week - wrote it to prove he could once again do something that no one else is doing."

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Zorro The Musical (2022)

"Zorro? More like zero"

"This spoofy, wrong-headed version of the story of dashing vigilante Zorro should never have got this far"

"There’s some professionalism to the way Zorro the Musical, a spoofy version of the Californian swordsman’s story is executed. But how something so conceptually stupid and wrong-headed got this far is a mystery."

"Phoebe Panaretos saunters effectively through the action, flashing eyes and thighs as Roma temptress Inez. She delivers the Gipsy King earworms with aplomb and has some funny scenes with Marc Pickering’s comically spineless Sergeant Garcia. These moments aren’t great in themselves. They’re overacted and overblown. But still better than the mix of triviality and honking self-importance that makes up the rest of the show. Zorro? Zero, more like."

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The 47th (2022)

★★★

"A hideously transformative turn from Bertie Carvel as Trump"

"Mike Bartlett’s blank-verse drama about Trump running for president (again) is eloquent and clever, but has surprisingly little to say"

"You can’t fault the ambition or the sheer craft of Mike Bartlett’s blank-verse drama about a Trump rerun against Kamala Harris in 2024. But despite an astonishing, hideously transformative central performance from Bertie Carvel as the tangerine narcissist, the show lands disappointingly."

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Anyone Can Whistle (2022)

"Oafish production justifies the neglect of this Sondheim musical"

"Unless you’re a bereaved Sondheim completist, give this dud a full body-swerve"

"The show is staged traverse-style on a low catwalk between two banks of seats, and Natalie Pound’s five-strong band frequently drowns out the cast. A shame because Chrystine Symone, as Fay, has a fine voice, and Alex Young as Cora clearly has good pipes too as well as comic flair. But they are given insufficient direction, flailing for attention in a sea of crassness, along with newcomer Jordan Broatch’s willowy, simpering Hapgood."

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To Kill A Mockingbird (2022)

★★★★★

"All rise for this powerfully uplifting theatrical event"

"Rafe Spall brings a vitality to the role of Atticus Finch in Aaron Sorkin’s fresh adaption of Harper Lee’s classic novel"

"All rise for a magnificent Mockingbird. Sheer emotion and moral force make this Broadway adaptation of Harper Lee’s novel about race, community and family a powerfully uplifting theatrical event."

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Straight Line Crazy (2022)

★★★

"Ralph Fiennes taps into his inner Pacino"

"David Hare’s play about New York city planner Robert Moses doesn’t represent the best work of anyone involved"

"A barnstorming, scenery-chewing Ralph Fiennes anchors David Hare’s new play about Robert Moses, who created parks for New York’s poor in the 1920s and by 1955 was ready to sacrifice Manhattan to the car. It’s a polished, witty, impeccably researched work but overly reliant on placing obstacles – plutocrats, politicians, colleagues, activists – in front of the Moses bulldozer. Nicolas Hytner’s production is by turns energetically brash and terribly baggy. Was the autocratic Moses a hero or villain? That’s up to us."

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The Human Voice (2022)

★★

"Ruth Wilson shouldn’t have answered the phone to Ivo van Hove"

"Not even Ruth Wilson’s limpid talent can breathe life into this dated, 70-minute solo show, in which a woman goes to pieces discussing the end of an affair with her unheard lover over the phone."

"This splendidly truthful actress handles most of the script’s emotional hairpin turns with poise and nuance. But she’s battered on one side by the heavy-handed directorial conceits and on the other by a script - also adapted by van Hove - that clunks along like a Model T Ford."

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Cock (2022)

★★★★

"Taron Egerton and Jonathan Bailey star in stylish revival about sex and self-identity"

"Mike Bartlett’s Cock gets the, um, sensitive but assertive handling it needs from Marianne Elliott’s all-star production"

"Marianne Elliott’s meticulous, eloquently stylised revival features a cast whose star appeal is matched by their impressive stage credentials. Bridgerton’s Jonathan Bailey is John – indecisive, vain and, yes, a bit of a dick. Taron ‘Rocketman/Kingsman’ Egerton is his wounded boyfriend M. The great Jade Anouka is the woman, W. It’s an emotionally charged piece despite the lack of character names, the skimpy backstories, and a physical language that owes more to contemporary dance than naturalistic theatre."

"Bailey brings physical precision, depth and occasional roaring fury to the blank canvas of John. Egerton, who fainted in the show’s first preview and was replaced by an understudy, has a coruscating, waspish anger as M, which eventually mutates into a depiction of real hurt. Daniels is dependably great. But for me, the acting honours are stolen by Anouka, whose constant, subtle emotional retrenchments reflect the fact that W is the only woman on stage, judged by three men."

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The Collaboration (2022)

★★★★

"Gee, wow - Basquiat and Warhol play brings fireworks to the stage"

"Paul Bettany and Jeremy Pope match each other in brilliance in this study of art, commerce and identity"

"There’s a synergy here that director Kwame Kwei-Armah usefully cultivates: Bettany returning to theatre after 25 years, fourteen of them spent in Marvel’s Avengers franchise; Warhol returning to paint after 25 years of parties, gossip and lucrative printmaking; Pope, nominated for two separate Tony Awards in his first year on Broadway and catapulted to success like Basquiat. The parallels aren’t exact, but there’s both an empathy and a tension between the actors and their roles."

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Moulin Rouge! The Musical (2022)

★★★

"The big numbers are ravishing"

"Alex Timbers’ production excels when it seduces the eye, not the mind or the heart: Derek McLane’s sets and Catherine Zuber’s costumes are essays in polychromatic fabulousness. There are more fishnets here than in the entire British trawler industry."

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Cabaret (2021)

★★★★★

"Eddie Redmayne and Jessie Buckley dazzle in a transformative show"

"Wow. Rebecca Frecknall’s new revival of Kander and Ebb’s musical set in interwar Berlin is a stunning, breathlessly exciting theatrical happening. It feels loyal to the 1966 original yet astonishingly contemporary, and properly immersive. The Playhouse Theatre has been reconfigured by the designer Tom Scutt as the Kit Kat Club circa 1929, with pre-show performances in the bars and food and drink served at tables surrounding a circular, central stage. By the looks of it, the hugely expensive, three-course menu package isn’t worth it. The show emphatically is."

"In this fine balance of spectacle and grit, decadence and despair, Frecknall proves herself one of our most exciting directors, and she draws superb performances from all involved."

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Best of Enemies (2021)

★★★★

"Dynamic new play from James Graham deals in arresting ideas"

"James Graham traces the culture wars back to a series of 1968 TV debates - and the parallels are undeniable"

"In this stimulating, freewheeling new play, James Graham traces today’s culture wars back to the TV debates between conservative commentator William F Buckley Jr and the patrician, liberal gay writer Gore Vidal during the Republican and Democrat conventions of 1968. If the political parallels between then and now sometimes feel too on the nose – concerns about social justice, or freedom to protest - it’s probably contemporary reality that’s at fault rather than Graham and his director, Jeremy Herrin."

"Harewood is tremendous as Buckley, finding a dignified core beneath the man’s posturing and extravagant facial tics. There’s a frisson when the character interviews Enoch Powell about race, but you pretty soon forget about skin colour. Charles Edwards’s Vidal, meanwhile, is a monster of silky complacency whose “waspish spontaneity [is] always rehearsed”. He’s also deliciously flustered and inarticulate when Buckley finally finds his weak spot."

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The Book of Dust (2021)

★★★

"A galloping adventure of wonder and confusion"

"Philip Pullman’s prequel to His Dark Materials makes for a breathlessly hectic jumble of events on stage"

"Even though playwright Bryony Lavery has streamlined, clarified and occasionally improved the story, this remains a breathlessly hectic jumble of events, overlaid with a half-scientific, half-mystical humanist message. "

"I suspect kids taken to see this show will gulp down its copious pleasures and skim over the difficult, grown-up bits. I left it, as I often do with Pullman’s work, simultaneously elated and deflated, exhausted from chasing one narrative high after another."

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The Ocean at the End of the Lane (2021)

★★★★

"Magic in the West End"

"It’s a lovely, heartfelt show with a surging narrative thrust, a macabre undertow and some brilliantly evoked, seriously scary monsters. I was captivated."

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Back to the Future (2021)

"A near-seamless slice of escapist entertainment...
Even the time machine’s a triumph in this larky musical version of the 1985 cult movie classic"

"Visually, the show’s a treat too, with lots of little in-jokes and exuberant swing-style dance routines, including one that’s a flat-out homage to that other 1980s teen classic, Footloose. And let’s be frank: the biggest anxiety was how they’d do the DeLorean, since cars on stage tend to be stationary or ponderous. Happily, the time machine is a triumph of theatrical engineering, instantly recognisable but with an overhaul and an upgrade. Much like the musical itself. Go, enjoy."

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Frozen The Musical (2021)

★★★

"This long-awaited West End stage version feels lukewarm"

"The themes of empowerment and acceptance remain strong but the story was always weak. And despite several new songs, Michael Grandage’s production strives to emulate the film without adding substantial theatrical oomph. Choreographer Rob Ashford contributes witty dances for couples but generically whirling Ruritanian crowds. Let it go? I probably could."

"At least it goes at a cracking pace. In the first few minutes impossibly cute young incarnations of the sisters rip through four songs, Elsa accidentally injures Anna with her ice magic, and they lose both regal parents. Before you know it, adult Anna falls for minor Prince Hans on first meeting and Elsa flees her coronation when her magic reveals itself, scattering dagger-like icicles as she goes."

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Cinderella (2021)

★★★★

"Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new take is a hilarious triumph"

"Laurence Connor’s production mixes panto-style archness with professional West End glitz and springs its big surprise in Act Two. At the ball, the stage and several rows of the stalls audience start to revolve, thanks to Lloyd Webber’s lockdown refurbishment of this theatre. It’s a magical moment. There’s another delightful surprise later that’s crucial to the plot and that has frankly been a long time coming in a major West End musical."

"Fletcher rightly gets the best tunes, from the anthemic Bad Cinderella to the plangent I Know I Have a Heart. But Lloyd Webber delights in riffling through musical genres. Muscular courtiers work out to the martial thump of Man’s Man. There’s a sly Parisian wink in the accordion-backed I Know You, where Rebecca Trehearn’s dizzy but dangerous queen and Victoria Hamilton-Barritt – huskily channeling the likes of Gloria Swanson and Joan Crawford as Cinderella’s Stepmother - recognise each other as social climbers. Theirs is a great comic double-act."

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Mary Poppins (2021)

★★★★

"A spoonful of sugar is just what we need right now"

"The blockbuster revival of the 2004 Mary Poppins musical is a highly polished piece of entertainment, hugely uplifting and cheerful, with an undertow of melancholy and the occasional baggy moment."

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Anything Goes (2021)

★★★★★

"You’ll get a kick out of this dazzling Cole Porter revival"

"Tony Award winner Sutton Foster shines in this terrific production at the Barbican - surrender is the only option"

"Her irresistible performance, alongside rock-solid turns from Robert Lindsay, Felicity Kendal and Gary Wilmot, some bright young romantic leads and a very tight ensemble, ensures a terrific show. A breathtaking, tap-dancing rendition of the title song, bringing act one to a close, also brought a packed Barbican to its feet."

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Les Miserables (2020)

★★★★

"Revamped musical opens at London's Sondheim Theatre with added grit"

"All in all, Les Mis and the refurbished Sondheim feel fit for purpose for the next decade or three."

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Cirque Du Soleil - Luzia (2020)

★★★★

"Cirque du Soleil’s ability to frame boggling physical feats against images of great beauty proves undimmed in their 30th year visiting London"

"In Luzia, the company throttles back on the winsome clowning that used to be so irksome in their shows.”

“Humans flinging themselves from one chair-swing to another showcase not just physical but extreme mental dexterity. Shelli Epstein, who opens the show running down a travelator with butterfly wings billowing up into the roof, ends it with a series of impeccably precise somersaults that take her almost as high — you’ll believe a woman can fly.”

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Magic Goes Wrong (2020)

★★★

"Forget subtlety — it’s all about the bants"

"Many of the illusions remain deeply impressive even when exposed. Otherwise it’s the same Mischief mix of shouty comedy, slapstick and humiliation, for actors and audience. There are some great lines and laugh-out-loud moments, but it would be easier to find an ace in a rigged deck than a trace of subtlety here. The overall tone is lazy, matey, let’s-have-a-laugh bants. Mischief is so adept at developing rapport with an audience, it works anyway. As Paul Daniels used to say: that’s magic."

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Cyrano de Bergerac (2019)

★★★★★

"James McAvoy gives a stunningly powerful performance in this piece of pure theatre, the most breathtakingly exciting show in London right now"

“Lloyd’s production feels thrillingly reflective of contemporary London, yet also true to the Parisian original, and there is even a sly reference to ‘cultural appropriation’ to acknowledge its white creators’ use of street slang, hip-hop stylings and occasional beatboxing. Cyrano’s defining characteristic is panache, and oh boy, this production has it by the bucketload.”

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& Juliet (2019)

★★★★

"Camp and unsubtle but this glittery fever dream of a musical shines"

"The plot and message of female empowerment are pretty thin but this jukebox musical is an absolute blast and features a powerful turn from Miriam-Teak Lee."

"Each number is staged with frantic energy and laser precision by director Luke Sheppard and choreographer Jennifer Weber."

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DEAR EVAN HANSEN (2019)

★★★

"Sam Tutty shines in bold Broadway musical export that mines new terrain"

"There’s a reason why Broadway critics and audiences love Dear Evan Hansen: it features real relationships and real problems as well as virtual ones, dramatising the agony of parents as well as the angst of teenagers. The score and lyrics have a clean-cut simplicity and a lack of bombast."

"Michael Greif’s production feels as if it’s been transported lock, stock and barrel from Manhattan, right down to the eyes-aloft, from-the guts-style of singing, which always looks odd and overdone in London. Ultimately, this is a high school drama about stalkers, trolls and those who piggyback on tragedy. Which may be a tough sell for a London musical audience."

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Groan Ups (2019)

★★

"Overwhelmed by frantic histrionics and bawling, it felt like being in detention"

“What’s worse than a stage full of screaming children? A stage full of screaming adults pretending to be screaming children, that’s what.”

“It’s crudely funny at times but overwhelmed by frantic histrionics and bawling”

“How funny you find these tots will depend on how much you enjoy phony baby talk, poo jokes, and the molestation of hamsters”

“Jonathan Sayer’s Simon is so gratingly whiny I wanted to bully him myself.”

“The verdict on this first attempt has to be: could do better.”

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Lungs (2019)

★★★★

"Matt Smith and a luminous, mercurial Claire Foy give tour de force performances"

“Duncan Macmillan’s play couldn’t be further from the world of their previous pairing in The Crown: it’s just the two of them as dressed-down urban strivers, on a nearly bare stage with an audience on all sides for 90 minutes, charting emotional peaks, troughs and plateaus with magnetic immediacy.”

“The script is often hilarious, frequently poignant, but also curiously old-fashioned in its portrayal of gender roles. Director Matthew Warchus orchestrates Macmillan’s overlapping, unfiltered dialogue masterfully. The scene where the two talk frankly about sex while trying to get pregnant is a riot.”

“The play tails off into a perfunctory epilogue that brings the couple’s story to a conclusion. Again, it doesn’t matter. Those lucky enough to secure a ticket to Lungs can revel in an acting masterclass from a perfect stage partnership. .”

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A Day In The Death Of Joe Egg (2019)

★★★★

"Pin-sharp revival is as heartbreaking and funny as ever"

"Peter Nichols’s play...remains heartbreaking and savagely funny today."

"Simon Evans’s pin-sharp revival features a bravura performance from Toby Stephens and a positively radiant one from Claire Skinner. "

"(Toby Stephens) shows us the fear beneath Bri’s showy bravado and is lacerating in the final scenes"

"(Claire Skinner) shines, making a saintly character magnetic and witty"

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Solaris (2019)

★★★★

"Existential angst and visits from the dead in riveting sci-fi play"

“Deeply thoughtful story of space exploration”

“Greig and director Matthew Lutton foster a mood of looming existential anxiety: you ache to see what will happen next”

“A homily about humanity’s destructiveness is well delivered by Jade Ogugua and Fode Simbo as Kelvin’s unhappy comrades, but strikes a rare bum note.”

“I’d urge fans of sci-fi and of vibrant theatre to head to Hammersmith at warp speed.”

“David Greig’s haunting take on the seminal sci-fi novel about an inscrutable living planet”

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Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (2019)

★★★★

"Laurence Connor breathes zesty new life into those potent, familiar songs"

"Director Laurence Connor breathes zesty new life into those potent, familiar songs, and in newcomer Jac Yarrow has found a man with formidable pipes and enough charm to imbue the blank lead character with some personality."

"The real motor of the evening is Sheridan Smith, returning to the stage for the first time since 2016. As the narrator, the former Evening Standard Theatre Award-winner takes a series of hilarious cameo roles, belting out songs and hoofing through dance routines with a huge grin."

"This musical was never subtle. The plot barely fills the first number, "Any Dream Will Do", and Joseph himself is really irritating. The songs tick off musical genres — country and western, rock, chanson, calypso — as they go. Rice's lyrics and Lloyd Webber's melodies are deceptively simple but worm their way into your brain. The lack of pretension is the key. Laurence Connor's production celebrates the absurdity of somersaulting kids wearing biblical beards, and a Hebrew confronted with a Parisian dance routine moaning: "I said Canaan, not Can-Can!"

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