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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Hex (2022)

★★

"This chaotic Sleeping Beauty spin off is cursed"

"The first half of Tanya Ronder’s book seems desperate to sanitise the underlying horror and unfairness of fairytales, while the second pitches us into visions of flesh-eating infanticide"

"though individual segments are presented with flair, it feels like Hex is being made up as it goes along"

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Orlando (2022)

★★★

"Emma Corrin is captivating in this bold, tricksy experiment"

"Corrin anchors the show but it never feels like the emotional stakes are very high"

"That the alchemy works at all is undoubtedly down to Corrin, who has been Lady Diana and Lady Chatterley and is queer and non-binary, using they/them pronouns. All of which adds a frisson to their larky, sparky performance here as the young Elizabethan aristocrat who shifts from male to female while barely aging over three centuries. Without Corrin, I’m not sure this would be half so much fun."

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Othello (2022)

★★★★

"Giles Terera shines in this powerful, brutal staging"

"Giles Terera is a superb and mercurial actor, one of our finest. ...he brings force, delicacy and dignity to Shakespeare’s traduced Moor in this powerful, monochromatic staging."

"Desdemona can be a graveyard for the careers of young, slim, blonde, would-be classical actresses. McEwen could be the one who goes beyond it"
Rosy McEwen gives the character more spine and vim than I’ve ever seen before."

"Paul Hilton as Iago, who ignites Othello’s sexual jealousy, is brilliantly insidious – Iago was a master of gaslighting before gaslights were invented. He also resembles an etiolated Oswald Mosley."

"Some parts of the production are overdone: the glaring lighting changes; the moment Iago activates the dormant spectators like robots from Westworld. But ultimately one can’t argue with the subtlety of the three central performances or the brutal logic of Dyer’s production."

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Best of Enemies (2022)

★★★★★

"James Graham’s play is as searingly insightful as ever"

"This look at the corruption of modern political discourse is dynamic and intoxicating"

"James Graham’s dynamic, intoxicatingly thoughtful play traces the corruption of modern political discourse back to 1968. Specifically, the adversarial televised debates between the gay, liberal writer Gore Vidal and the conservative polemicist William F Buckley Jr during the Republican and Democratic Presidential conferences that year, which culminated with the two men calling one another “crypto-Nazi” and “queer”, live, to 10 million homes."

"The play’s decoding of the way politics, media and fame interact has deepened since its original run at the Young Vic in 2021."

"David Harewood reprises his superlative performance as Buckley, finding dignity in the man’s pomposity and extravagant facial tics. That a black actor is playing a patrician, white conservative initially adds an illuminating filter to the play’s themes. Before long, Harewood’s skill and charisma supersede such thoughts. This time he’s opposite US actor Zachary Quinto as a purringly self-satisfied, borderline-cruel Vidal – less charming than his predecessor in the production, Charles Edwards, but ultimately much more vivid."

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Henry V (2022)

★★★★

"Fresh, vivid and intense"

"This stripped back production speaks with new and unusual clarity"

"This drastically edited, dramatically stripped back production allows Shakespeare’s study of kingship to speak with new and unusual clarity. Oliver Johnstone’s Henry V is no nationalist hero but a complex figure learning the brutal rules of monarchy and war on the job. It’s performed on a stage bare apart from a few chairs, with a largely young cast in everyday clothes playing multiple roles. And it’s intense."

"In most versions the warrior king immediately shrugs off his younger, wastrel self, but here the transition is more uneven and credible."

"The strains of God Save the King drift through the action but there’s little attempt to draw explicit parallels with the Britain of today until the end. I’m sure the closing scene, where Katherine is given a citizenship test by an immigration official, while a cleaner vacuums the stage around them, will annoy some. But it’s a typically bold ending to a fresh and vivid interpretation."

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Elf The Musical (2022)

★★

"Not good for the elf"

"A disappointing start to London’s Christmas theatre season"

"This is an Elf warning: Elf the Musical isn’t very good. It jettisons most of what is sly and subtle about the sublime 2003 Christmas film on which it’s based, in favour of sappy sentiment and bland songs."

"Writers Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin offer a pale imitation of the story written for the screen by David Berenbaum and directed by Jon Favreau, rather than convincingly reimagining Elf for the stage."

"Lipkin has bags of energy and wide-eyed zest but also a disturbingly Trumpish dollop of sculpted orange hair. Buddy’s attempts to connect to his irascible publisher dad (Tom Chambers, wooden) and his stepmom and stepbrother are skimpy and lacking in pathos."

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Vardy v Rooney: The Wagatha Christie Trial (2022)

★★★★

"Hilarious and gripping"

"An excellent take on a contemporary media circus"

"Well, the team played a blinder. Writer Liv Hennessy and director Lisa Spirling bring the irresistible courtroom drama of the Vardy v Rooney libel trial to hilarious, gripping life using only edited transcripts and a bit of sportscaster commentary."

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The Sex Party (2022)

★★

"This scattershot comedy is a bad joke"

"Terry Johnson’s play sounds like a bad joke and it is: a scattershot comedy about permission and identity in a post MeToo, gender-fluid world, that sets out to offend everybody and pretty much succeeds."

"It’s also a mess, the thin and inconsistent characters barking random responses to whichever talking point happens to drift by. There’s no real plot, just a series of meandering confrontations that Johnson himself directs without any sense of urgency: at one point, everyone witters about dogs for five minutes. Though sporadically funny, it’s a waste of a fine cast, half of whom – guess which! – spend the whole evening wearing diminishing amounts of sexy attire."

"... the most convincing performance comes from [Molly] Osborne, a true rising star, in the impossible fantasy role of Hetty. She is simultaneously free and constrained, libidinous and sensible, and sustains the play’s dreadful payoff which combines sex, death and rebirth. Osborne was previously at the Menier in Fiddler on the Roof and Indecent, and she’s been remarkable each time."

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Blackout Songs (2022)

★★

"This exploration of alcoholism is a frustrating mixed bag"

"The writing is intelligent, the performances strong, but the characters’ lack of external life and no reliable inner existence, makes the play suffocating"

"Booze is the fuel that propels and consumes a toxic romance in Joe White’s frustrating mixed bag of a play. Confusion and repetition are built into the script: the two characters are alcoholics who frequently misremember or reinvent their shared history."

"It’s a skillful expression of the confusion that blackout drunks might feel, and White also powerfully shows how the couple enable and sabotage each other. He’s good, too, on the love-hate relationship addicts have with their thrall, and on the realities of alcoholism: the jaundice, the jitters, the organs poisoned from within. But there’s also a whiff of sexism to his writing..."

"The writing is intelligent, the performances strong. But the characters have little external life and no reliable inner existence. This makes the play suffocating."

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Super High Resolution (2022)

★★★★

"Hard hitting and important tale about the state of the NHS"

"Jasmine Blackborow stands out in this story of a junior doctor under extreme pressure"

"Nathan Ellis’s play blends low-key realism with sardonic wit and is anchored by a terrific central performance of tightly contained emotion by Jasmine Blackborow. It’s also somewhat mechanical in the way it puts her character Anna through the professional and personal wringer, especially at the end."

"There’s a pleasing economy to Ellis’s writing. He often leaves things unsaid or implied... At other times, though, Ellis really spells things out"

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Mary (2022)

★★

"Rona Munro’s queen’s tale utterly fails to spark"

"This play about Mary Stuart draws juicy contemporary parallels but this talky and monotonous production is less than the sum of its parts"

"Weird that a play about Scotland’s most famous queen, and about the historic denial or distortion of women’s stories, should largely consist of two men arguing in a room for 90 minutes."

"It’s a play with big ideas about truth and political expediency, and about what has to be sacrificed in pursuit of an ideal – in this case, the identity, religion and independence of Scotland, where Catholic Mary ruled a newly Protestant people. In practice, it’s a series of grimly repeated disputes about whether Mary was a willing spouse to her third husband Bothwell – strongly suspected of killing her second, Darnley – or a victim of rape."

"The actor playing Mary, Meg Watson, gets one mute appearance then a few vacuous lines. Having sat mutely backstage throughout, a 16-strong female chorus is brought on at the end to shout a bit, then step back while the leads take a bow. What a waste of these women’s time."

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Elephant (2022)

★★★★

"A teasing, provoking pleasure"

"Anoushka Lucas packs a lot into her wittily probing show"

"A coming-of-age drama, a critique of colonialism, a piano gig and a love story – Anoushka Lucas packs a lot into her wittily probing one-hour solo show. A singer-songwriter who found that huge early praise and promise don’t always translate into success, Lucas reinvented herself as a riveting stage actress, and will reprise her stunning lead role in Oklahoma! when it transfers from the Young Vic to the West End next year. Meanwhile, here, she proves herself a hugely promising writer too."

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Tammy Faye – A New Musical (2022)

★★★★

"Praise be, it’s a religious riot"

"This musical is a carnivalesque takedown of something rotten"

"Katie Brayben plays the titular TV preacher with eyes full of sympathetic tears, lungs of steel, and a wardrobe and wigs from the ninth circle of hell."

"The madcap, cartoonish energy of Rupert Goold’s production sugars the serious point that religious corruption and political influence is very much still alive in America, and elsewhere."

"You can sometimes hear Shears reaching for rhymes in his lyrics, it’s true. And none of the characters is truly three-dimensional. But that’s not the point. This is a carnivalesque takedown of something rotten."

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My Son’s A Queer, (But What Can You Do?) (2022)

★★★★

"A joyful love letter to self-expression"

"A charming work that strikes a deep chord"

"It’s a joyful love letter to self-expression and to Coventry-born Madge’s parents, who strove for six years to conceive a child through IVF, and then enabled their precocious, stage-struck only son to evolve into the charismatic, non-binary performer of today."

"Madge - mustachioed, shaven-headed, in a babydoll dress over vest and shorts – invites us to laugh at and with the attention-seeking tot who appears on it, hogging the camera and announcing each new performance with the demand “drumroll please!” The arch demeanour of the grown-up Madge means there’s a little bit of lemon mixed in to temper the sheer, delicious egotism of the younger one."

"It’s hard not to be moved by the family’s reciprocated affection and care, though it does result in a sameness of tone throughout a show that is, at just over an hour, on the slender side"

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@sohoplace (2022)

"As for @sohoplace (still a terrible name), the auditorium is pristine and lovely, the building clearly user-friendly and porous in the way older theatres and converted spaces are not, but commensurately lacking in charm. Currently the public spaces resemble a cruise ship or a casino."

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Marvellous (2022)

★★★★

"Anarchic and celebratory show is a bold opening for new West End theatre"

"Exuberant production wins the audience over with its sheer heart and good humour"

"Director Theresa Heskins has assembled a neurodiverse troupe, all of whom play versions of Neil – under the beady gaze of Hugo’s “Real Neil” – and countless figures from his life. One actor fell ill yesterday and two understudies stepped seamlessly in. Talk about triumph over adversity, and life imitating art."

"How bold to open this spanking new venue with something so rough, anarchic and celebratory, rather than a star vehicle or a classic"

"As for @sohoplace (still a terrible name), the auditorium is pristine and lovely, the building clearly user-friendly and porous in the way older theatres and converted spaces are not, but commensurately lacking in charm. Currently the public spaces resemble a cruise ship or a casino."

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My Neighbour Totoro (2022)

★★★

"It’s easier to admire this Studio Ghibli adaptation than love it"

"This show transposes the off-key weirdness of the original, but the story could use more jeopardy, darkness and more of the monsters"

"This blockbuster family show from the Royal Shakespeare Company is full of dazzling visual magic but short on plot, just like the Studio Ghibli animation classic it’s based on"

"The blimp-like Totoro, his rabbity minions and the enormous 12-legged cat bus that transports people across the sky in its abdomen are powerfully realised through giant puppetry and inflatables in Phelim McDermott’s production"

"... the story could use more jeopardy, more darkness and more of the monsters"

"Here, the RSC is clearly hoping for another commercial success to match the Tim Minchin/Dennis Kelly adaptation of Matilda. For all the ravishing imagery and the collective endeavour involved, this show isn’t quirky or adult-friendly enough for that."

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Good (2022)

★★★★

"David Tennant is chillingly plausible"

"This stark play is an important rather than an enjoyable watch"

"David Tennant is chillingly plausible as John Halder, the ‘good’ German who gradually accommodates himself to Nazism in this stark and hard-hitting revival of the late CP Taylor’s 1982 drama. Dominic Cooke’s stripped-back, almost abstract production implicates us all in a remorseless journey towards dehumanisation. It’s become more rather than less pertinent after a two-year Covid delay to its planned 2020 premiere."

"Vicki Mortimer’s set is an angled, strip-lit concrete cell with two hatches. One delivers a deluge of books onto the stage, the other frames a furnace. The sound design covers not only the music Halder hears – brass bands, jazz, Schubert, Mendelsohn - but the pages he turns and the orders he reads, distilling the action down even further. Mostly the actors just sit or stand."

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The Doctor (2022)

★★★★

"Juliet Stevenson is at the top of her game"

"A very potent evening in the theatre"

"No play in the past 10 years has felt more tense, challenging, and intellectually provoking than this one."

"Icke’s production, first staged at the Almeida in 2019, features a bracingly rigorous central performance from Juliet Stevenson, while most of the rest of the cast play against their own apparent gender and/or ethnicity, forcing us constantly to question our assumptions and innate prejudices. All this, and it unfolds with the mordant purpose of a thriller too."

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The Upstart Crow (2022)

★★★

"David Mitchell is the draw in this hectic sitcom spin-off"

"A vehicle for panto acting and a machine-gun barrage of gags"

"Bar a couple of lines about levelling up, the show is the same mix of clever and oafish, worshipful and mocking – a vehicle for panto acting and a machine-gun barrage of gags. Some of the humour is rooted in a deep appreciation of Shakespeare’s work, others in the belief that calling a penis a “cod-dangle” is innately hilarious. Sean Foley’s arch, knowing production proceeds at a hectic pace that’s exhausting to watch."

"Mitchell is of course adroit at blending high and low comedy and is clearly the draw here: at the performance I saw, he got a warm hand on his entrance. If you buy into the lameness of the set-ups, the deliberate tackiness of the Alice Power’s set and costumes, the mugging and the asides, its entertaining and sometimes erudite fun."

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The Band's Visit (2022)

★★★★

"The humane spirit of this show is irresistible"

"The production thrillingly blends Middle Eastern and Western musical traditions"

"Israeli townsfolk and an Egyptian police band find common ground in this witty, delightfully odd chamber musical by American composer-lyricist David Yazbek and writer Itamar Moses. Deftly sketching a series of empathetic encounters over a single night, The Band’s Visit also thrillingly blends Middle Eastern and Western musical traditions, and splices passages of Arab and Hebrew dialogue – completely comprehensible without subtitles, by the way – into the script."

"Michael Longhurst’s European premiere features a cosmopolitan cast, with a standout lead vocal performance from Israeli star Miri Mesika."

"Many performers in this large cast get few or no lines. The acting is iffy at the edges and the pacing is off at the start. But the humane spirit of this show is irresistible and the core group of musicians and actor-players very tight indeed."

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The Boy with Two Hearts (2022)

★★★

"Lively and warm refugee tale"

"A story of humanity, humour and goodwill"

"This account of one family’s escape from Afghanistan to the UK puts a much-needed human face on the refugee crisis. It’s a simple, almost child-friendly piece of storytelling, adapted by Phil Porter from the autobiographical book by Hamed and Hessam Amiri, who’d never written before."

"Hayley Grindle’s gantry set is lined with empty clothes, suggesting a legion of displaced persons and rearranges itself to suggest the confined car boots and container voids in which the family stow away. Subtitles and locations are projected on overhead panels."

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Blues For An Alabama Sky (2022)

★★★★

"Deliciously funny and deeply affecting"

"Lynette Linton’s beautiful, light-footed production is a bittersweet delight"

"These characters’ dreams of freedom – racial, sexual, creative, reproductive – are curtailed by the Depression and old orthodoxies. And like all epochal parties, the Harlem Renaissance seems to be happening elsewhere, to other people."

"The plot isn’t exactly unpredictable and the humour is sometimes broad, but Cleage’s writing is fluid and musical and her assertion of personal choice seems ever more timely, 27 years after she wrote it."

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Iphigenia in Splott (2022)

★★★★

"Sophie Melville is extraordinary"

"The play, with its urgent message about deprivation, is made by Melville’s savagely moving performance"

"Sophie Melville gives a stunning, combative, savagely moving performance in Gary Owen’s 75-minute monologue about an exuberantly hedonistic young working-class Cardiff woman."

"Melville’s performance is extraordinary. Full of sass and sneer in a vest and trackie bottoms, hips defiantly jutting and her walk a predator’s lope, she both fills and owns the Lyric stage, the largest space this show has so far occupied."

"The script is pacy and spare. Any misgivings about a man telling a woman’s story are largely allayed by this being an otherwise female-led project. Lyric boss Rachel O’Riordan, who premiered the show in Cardiff and later took it to New York, must take credit for the deft pacing."

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John Gabriel Borkman (2022)

★★

"This unsympathetic Ibsen is hard going"

"The three central performances are focused and intense, but even Simon Russell Beale can’t leaven the gloom"

"Not even a trio of our finest actors, under the guiding hand of Nicholas Hytner, can bring to life this version of Ibsen’s penultimate play, in which three bitter characters operate at the same anguished emotional pitch throughout."

"... it’s a bleak, hard-going, interval-free 100 minutes until Beale gets to bellow Borkman’s grandiose last speech on top of a frozen Norwegian hill, Williams by his side like a saucer-eyed angel of death. It’s right that we don’t feel unearned sympathy for these characters: wrong that we feel no convincing human connection with them at all."

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Jews. In Their Own Words (2022)

★★

"No-one who needs to see this will actually go"

"This muddled act of public atonement on the part of the Court is a salutary watch but who is it for?"

"A sketchy history of antisemitic tropes mixed in with verbatim experiences of contemporary Jews, this isn’t really a play. It’s a muddled act of public contrition by the Royal Court for insensitive handling of an offensive gaffe last year."

"There’s a vaudevillian number, It Was the Jews That Did It, complete with a chorus line. These parts feel like an undergraduate revue. It didn’t help that critics had to see early previews of JITOW after the National Theatre high-handedly gazumped the Court’s planned press night. On the Saturday matinee I saw, the piano wasn’t working. But frankly, I doubt further running in of the production – jointly directed by Audrey Sheffield and Court boss Vicky Featherstone on an almost bare stage – will have much improved things."

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The Crucible (2022)

★★★★

"Erin Doherty lights up the stage in this fresh revival"

"Lyndsey Turner’s production of a bona fide classic rolls over us with remorseless, implacable intent"

"Arthur Miller’s 1953 study of public vilification and herd behaviour feels freshly relevant in Lyndsey Turner’s production. Erin Doherty, a miraculous actress still best known for playing the young Princess Anne in The Crown, is riveting as Abigail Williams, the girl whose spurned affections spark a literal witch hunt in Massachusetts in 1692. Australian actor Brendan Cowell is charismatic but oddly modern as John Proctor, the decent but flawed man she desires and destroys."

"... the play remains a bona fide classic; always the same, always new. And Turner’s production rolls over us with the remorseless, implacable intent of a bulldozer."

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Eureka Day (2022)

★★★★

"Helen Hunt superbly is understated in her London debut"

"The Oscar-winning actress has chosen a collegiate unstarry vehicle where the star is the incisive script"

"Although Oscar-winner Helen Hunt is the big name in Jonathan Spector’s sly US comedy about freedom and tolerance, it’s really an ensemble piece where the star is the incisive, witty script."

"Though Spector isn’t above lampooning both woo-woo progressives and swivel-eyed conspiracists, there are clever nuances here and throughout the script"

"Hunt is superbly understated, never begging sympathy for Suzanne. Watson is very good too at demonstrating Carina’s gradual acclimatisation to the community’s terms of engagement, while McKinney joyfully suggests what Owen Wilson will be like when - if - he grows up."

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The Wonderful World of Dissocia (2022)

★★★★

"Deliciously free, bordering on random"

"This play of two halves offers witty jokes and a profound second act"

"A profane, madcap, Alice-in-Wonderland trip morphs into something much more profound in Anthony Neilson’s weirdly compelling 2004 study of mental instability. I’ve rarely seen a play made up of two such tonally different acts: and here a succinct and moving second half contextualises and clarifies the ragtag, playful first. Emma Baggott’s revival is grounded from beginning to end by a fine central performance from Leah Harvey, focused and magnetic amid external and internal disorder."

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The Two Popes (2022)

★★

"This tale of two pontiffs is decidedly undivine"

"The script leaves little room for nuance in this old-fashioned piece of work"

"Lesser’s bird-like beadiness suits Benedict, although at 70 he’s a bit too spry for the part. Woodeson, instantly likeable in a way Lesser never strives to be, sinks into Bergoglio’s ebullience as if it’s a cosy, familiar armchair. At times each of them lets mannerism or accent take over from character, possibly because the script leaves little room for nuance."

"Given the momentous events and issues it deals with, the whole thing feels oddly bloodless, but at least the timing is apposite."

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Handbagged (2022)

★★★★

"History repeats itself in this imagining of the Queen and Thatcher"

"This long-planned revival finds itself carrying even more posthumous weight"

"Moira Buffini’s smart, sharp play about the Queen’s supposedly antagonistic relationship with Margaret Thatcher"

"Here we see what happens when an apparently unstoppable force meets an apparently immoveable object, Thatcher strident and awkward, the Queen secure and emollient."

"Buffini’s queen is arguably too much of a liberal fantasy and her Thatcher too much of a Gorgon, the former always defending the poor and minorities against the latter’s support for divisive internal policies and racist regimes abroad. Right now, neither of these exaggerations feels like a capital offence. This is a delightful show, more timely than it was ever meant to be."

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The Snail House (2022)

★★

"Richard Eyre’s long-awaited debut play sorely disappoints"

"Eyre is truly one of the great and the good, a shaper and defender of British culture. Maybe that’s why no-one felt they could suggest a redraft – or a complete rethink - of this sporadically amusing but sprawling mess, which he also directs.

"The eminent director’s first play would have benefited from a more rigorous edit"

"If there’s a central point, it’s that we’d all benefit from more empathy and less acrimonious certainty. But it’s hard to discern any message from self-contradicting characters in an improbable setup."

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I, Joan (2022)

★★★★

" Joyful and unifying, this could be something of a game-changer"

"Charlie Josephine’s play is too subtle for a hot culture-war take"

"It features an astonishing, star-making professional debut from non-binary actor Isobel Thom as a goofy, charismatic Joan, at the head of a tight ensemble. Ilinca Radulian’s production deftly fuses text, music, movement and design, and exploits the unique dynamic at the Globe between actor and audience. Overall, it feels like a bit of a game-changer."

"The pace slows in the second half. The tone gets more discursive and Joan’s trial by 42 clerics, twittering like angry penguins, becomes repetitive until their galvanizing breakout speech. Radulian could usefully have trimmed the nearly three-hour running time by 20 minutes or so. Yet for all that, this is a thrilling piece of theatre – a new take on the story that doesn’t invalidate any past or future versions of Joan, or sideline women in any way."

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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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Punchdrunk: 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."

The Evening Standard
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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.”

The Evening Standard
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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."

The Evening Standard
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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.”

The Evening Standard
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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."

The Evening Standard
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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."

The Evening Standard
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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.”

The Evening Standard
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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. .”

The Evening Standard
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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"

The Evening Standard
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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”

The Evening Standard
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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!"

The Evening Standard
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📷 Main photo: Critics - Nick Curtis

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