Financial Times

The Financial Times – London Theatre Reviews

London theatre reviews from the UK newspaper The Financial Times.

A round-up of West End theatre reviews from the FT newspaper.

The Arts Editor of the Financial Times is Jan Dalley, and the FT’s chief theatre critic is Sarah Hemming.

Alice Saville also writes reviews for the FT.

See below for a selection of star ratings and theatre reviews about West End shows in London from the Financial Times.


The Sex Party at the Menier Chocolate Factory (2022)

★★

"‘The Sex Party’ disappoints"

"A sex party, it turns out, is just like any other party in that no matter what’s going on in any other rooms, the main action is in the kitchen. At least that’s the case in Terry Johnson’s brittle new comedy of manners at the Menier Chocolate Factory"

"... Johnson’s play, which thwacks arguments about consent, freedom of speech and offence around the kitchen with deliberate lack of finesse, and it’s tartly funny in places. But the characters are paper-thin and feel like mouthpieces — a shame given the calibre of the cast in Johnson’s production — and the whole thing becomes a clunky, uncomfortable coupling of shock and care."

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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Blackout Songs at the Hampstead Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Witty and toxic show at Hampstead Theatre"

"... this drama about addiction is witty, warm and unpredictable, combining classic romcom with a freewheeling narrative that plunges the audience into the hedonism of the couple’s binges."

"The painful truth of that toxic co-dependency sits at the heart of the piece. Its impact lies in the combination of the instant buzz of individual scenes and a splintered structure that gradually draws us into the damage wrought by the couple’s addiction."

"Guy Jones’s production crackles with edgy energy, played out on Anisha Fields’ set of chairs, which suggest so many hazy locations"

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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Elephant at the Bush Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"This clever, subtle piece draws on Lucas’s own experience as a young female musician of mixed heritage: endlessly told to rebrand, repackage, simplify, change."

"A gem of a show that unpicks the history behind easy assumptions and lazy labels."

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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Tammy Faye – A New Musical at the Almeida Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Elton John’s delirious glitz-bomb of a musical"

"With book by James Graham and lyrics from Jake Shears, the show about a televangelist is a camp riot"

"while Rupert Goold’s production barrels along with all the ungovernable energy of a roller-disco high on hairspray, at its heart is a serious point about an ungodly mix of populism, politics and preaching that remains with us today."

"It all gets a bit bogged down and bitty in act two and not many songs follow you home. What goes missing in the frenzy is the character depth and tougher scrutiny that would make this truly illuminating. But it is a riot of show, at its heart a timely, defiant message about love and tolerance."

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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A Single Man at the Park Theatre (2022)

★★★

"Reade’s adaptation, directed by Philip Wilson, skilfully catches the strange dislocation of grief"

"Fraser Steele’s excellent, angular, awkward performance precisely charts the physical discomfort of George’s continued life, as he negotiates encounters with his neighbours, his students and a lonely bohemian friend Charley (Olivia Darnley, bringing an edge of desperation to her bright bonhomie)"

"All that being said, there is something a little sterile and remote about the show. That might be in keeping with George’s sense of dislocation, but it makes for a muted experience"

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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@sohoplace at the @sohoplace (2022)

"Risk pays off as new West End theatre opens"

"[Marvellous] is a perfect fit for @sohoplace’s softly lit auditorium, an adaptable space that holds 600 but feels intimate. And to launch a new venue not with a star vehicle but with a joyous show, delivered by a neurodiverse cast, that celebrates the potential in difference, well, that’s quite marvellous."

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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Marvellous at the @sohoplace (2022)

★★★★

"Risk pays off as new West End theatre opens"

"To name a play Marvellous might seem like a risk. To open a new West End theatre with that play, even more so. Fortunately, in the case of this autobiographical drama from Neil Baldwin (written with Malcolm Clarke and director Theresa Heskins), the piece more than earns its name. And as the opening show for producer Nica Burns’ gleaming glass and steel venue @sohoplace (the first purpose-built West End theatre for 50 years) it feels like a welcome statement about belonging and hope."

"...this is a perfect fit for @sohoplace’s softly lit auditorium, an adaptable space that holds 600 but feels intimate. And to launch a new venue not with a star vehicle but with a joyous show, delivered by a neurodiverse cast, that celebrates the potential in difference, well, that’s quite marvellous."

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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My Neighbour Totoro at the Barbican Theatre (2022)

★★★★★

"Magical staging of a much-loved film at the Barbican"

"The stage responds with its number-one asset: the audience’s imagination. The result — in the hands of playwright Tom Morton-Smith, director Phelim McDermott, designer Tom Pye, lighting designer Jessica Hung Han Yun and puppeteer Basil Twist — is a gorgeous, uplifting tribute to the link between theatre and the imaginative realm of children’s play."

"The pace chafes sometimes on stage — it could be shorter, meatier and freer. But this is a tender, remarkably beautiful family show that extols kindness and leans into the film’s emphasis on a world as seen through a child’s eyes."

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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Good at the Harold Pinter Theatre (2022)

★★★★★

"David Tennant grips in 1930s-set ethical drama Good"

"'We probably are good,' says David Tennant’s Halder, meditatively, towards the end of CP Taylor’s Good.That’s something we all want to believe of ourselves, but never want tested by circumstance. Up step three brilliant pieces of drama to test it for us: to probe and unsettle our consciences and to pitch individual morality against social responsibility. This is drama as ethical and emotional workout: bracing, riveting, galvanising."

"Tennant is riveting: witty and intensely human but also brilliantly precise, shifting between private and public self, affability and irritation, all the while evolving from reasoned detachment towards chilling self-preservation. His physicality is superb — as angular and taut as a coat hanger — his body suggesting what his mind refuses to admit. Around him, Elliot Levey and Sharon Small, both excellent, play everyone else, bringing shape to characters who are coloured by Halder’s memories of them."

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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The Doctor at the Duke of York's Theatre (2022)

★★★★★

"Easy answers come under scrutiny again in Robert Icke’s The Doctor. The pandemic delayed its transfer to the West End from the Almeida but, if anything, the intervening years, and the raging arguments about lockdowns and vaccination, have only sharpened its relevance."

"Icke’s drama plays out like a thriller, balancing principle against pragmatism and faith against reason, spinning a cat’s cradle of personal ambitions and agendas. He and director Anthony Almeida cleverly extend that to the audience with casting choices that pull the rug from under us, making us re-evaluate our assumptions"

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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The Band's Visit at the Donmar Warehouse (2022)

★★★

"“Welcome to nowhere,” sing the locals, as they warn their unexpected visitors that this is a place where nothing happens. And that is borne out in the story, which is low on incident, high on atmosphere"

"The skimpiness of the piece does undermine it. Most characters have little depth and some are barely sketched at all, such as the tired wife (Michal Horowicz) and the lovesick lad (Ashley Margolis). The latter does eventually lead a joyous song, but it feels frustrating to have him sit by a wall all evening."

"... it’s the music that makes this show. Yazbek deploys a rich, intoxicating mix of Arab music, klezmer and jazz, which lifts this collection of vignettes into a fragile meditation on hope and connection"

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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The Boy with Two Hearts at the National Theatre (2022)

★★★

"Amit Sharma’s production has a fable-like quality, with the cast of five narrating the tale and acting out all the parts in brief tableaux. It’s a limited format, but it’s vividly delivered and drolly designed, with settings evoked by illustrated subtitles. And while the story is peppered with details specific to this family — the favourite dinner, the sibling arguments about football — the rows of jackets hanging silently above the stage remind us of all the other untold, stories."

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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Tosca at the London Coliseum (2022)

★★★★

"English National Opera’s Tosca has scale and passion"

"There is powerful singing in this upbeat, confident staging of Puccini"

"Anybody who has deserted ENO recently because of a run of outlandish productions can come back. Originally staged by Finnish National Opera in 2018, this Tosca is a typically professional production from German director Christof Loy and, some questionable moments apart, is fairly traditional in its look and impact."

"If only the conductor, Leo Hussain, did not sap the energy so much, everything would be in place. His is a stop-go performance, at its best when he is letting the ENO orchestra off the leash. That can deliver quite a punch in this big theatre."

Richard Fairman, The Financial Times
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Blues For An Alabama Sky at the National Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"A wonderful, bittersweet staging at the National Theatre"

"The skill of Cleage’s writing and of Linton’s warm, beautifully paced production is to keep that shimmering hope alive for both characters and audience, while balancing it against tough truths: dreams can be broken by an unplanned pregnancy or a homophobic gang; freedom is curtailed by all those who have a different plan for your body. This last issue, quite shockingly, has gained in topicality since the play was written in 1995."

"Giles Terera is superb as the flamboyantly dressed, fizzingly upbeat Guy: his timing is split-second funny and sharp, but he also lets you see what it costs to maintain this sparkle. Samira Wiley’s mesmerising Angel is a mercurial bundle of contradictions: delicate, stylish, gutsy, selfish, vulnerable and, deep down, scared."

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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Iphigenia in Splott at the Lyric Hammersmith (2022)

★★★★

"This revival arrives amid a political storm about possible cuts in public spending by Liz Truss’s government. That the play has only gained in resonance is shocking, and Melville’s outstanding performance blazes with ferocious despair."

"On a set of neon lights and broken blinds, Rachel O’Riordan’s staging pulses with rage and sorrow while Melville prowls the space like a caged cheetah"

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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John Gabriel Borkman at the Bridge Theatre (2022)

★★★

"This is kind of distilled Ibsen: a combination of bitter black humour, detailed psychological acuity and wild symbolism. Rather than dramatise the betrayals, it cuts straight to the emotional devastation that follows"

"Nicholas Hytner comes at this bitter, heady brew with a stellar cast — Simon Russell Beale as Borkman, Clare Higgins as Gunhild and Lia Williams as Ella — and a huge concrete set from Anna Fleischle that emphasises the way the past has become a tomb"

"Even so, the staging never quite gets the mix of styles to cohere. The symbolism too often feels heavy-handed and, for all the mesmerising precision of the performances, you’re hard pushed to care about these people or their plight. Intermittently gripping, it’s still an uphill evening."

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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The Crucible at the National Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"A curtain of rain teems down around three sides of the stage, creating a shimmering blue veil between the residents of Salem and the world outside. It’s one of many stark and stunning visual effects in Es Devlin’s set for this mighty, sombrely beautiful production: one that feels increasingly charged with meaning each time that weeping curtain returns between acts"

"Turner’s production is often beautifully composed: one critical scene plays out surrounded by inky darkness. And the finely detailed performances of the ensemble amplify the disconnect between reality and the horrors unfolding."

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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Eureka Day at the The Old Vic (2022)

★★★

"Culture wars go ballistic in Eureka Day at the Old Vic"

"With Eureka Day, Spector is wading into the hornets’ nest of today’s culture wars."

"It’s not hard to satirise both well-meaning liberals and conspiracy theorists, but Spector does it extremely well. The test is whether the play pushes beyond that into something deeper. That’s the job of the second half, which switches mood, building to a crunch meeting between Suzanne and Carina"

"It’s restlessly clever and thought-provoking, and Hunt and Kelechi Watson are excellent, keeping the sympathies moving and raising unsettling points, not least the ways we convince ourselves that our own opinions are entirely rational. The ending asks difficult questions about inclusivity, consensus and the way we handle dissent."

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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Handbagged at the Kiln Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Comedy about the Queen and Thatcher has new layer of poignancy"

"Some plays have topicality thrust upon them."

"... while charmingly irreverent, Buffini’s play (first shown in 2013) is far from disrespectful: behind all the comic exchanges lies a measure of sympathy for those in high office and the portrayal of the Queen is witty and affectionate. Meanwhile the issues Buffini considers — the role of the constitutional monarchy, the machinery of state, the limitations on each leader — feel particularly current."

"It’s certainly a play that’s tougher on Thatcher than on the Queen, who emerges here as a champion of social equality — it could apply greater scrutiny to both the monarchy and the electoral system. But it’s clever, drolly enjoyable and has now acquired a new layer of poignancy, as the events it depicts slip further into history."

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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The Snail House at the Hampstead Theatre (2022)

★★

"Richard Eyre’s debut falls flat"

"As a bruising summary of the many problems besetting current Britain and of polarised public debate, it’s spot on. As a play, unfortunately, it is much less satisfying. The characters too often sound like mouthpieces for points of view and there is way too much on the table: that plot-twist, in particular, deserves a whole play."

"... for all it bubbles with issues, this show is sadly flat."

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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The Clinic at the Almeida Theatre (2022)

★★★

"Racism tears apart a family in ‘The Clinic’"

"You’re expecting a drama about racial inequalities in healthcare — and we do get so

"Baruwa-Etti writes with zip, wit and elastic energy, switch-backing through styles and plot twists so that you keep losing your footing. The brutal comedy of a domestic squabble takes on a surreal edge as the electricity crackles; Wunmi’s enigmatic behaviour draws us into magical realism then thriller territory; fire becomes a recurring symbol."

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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Gabriel Byrne: Walking with Ghosts at the Apollo Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Gabriel Byrne is captivating in one-man show Walking with Ghosts"

"The actor returns to the Dublin stage with stories from his life and his hometown"

"There is a bit too much about the rare old times during the first hour of Walking with Ghosts, and not all Byrne’s Dublin anecdotes are sufficiently distinctive or structured. But under Lonny Price’s nimble direction, Byrne’s self-effacing charisma remains captivating throughout this two-and-a-half-hour show (with an interval). The genial septuagenarian also displays impressive range as he pivots between moments of searing pathos and a playful comic register."

Reviewed at the Gaiety theatre, Dublin

Max McGuinness, The Financial Times
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Antigone at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre (2022)

★★★

" Love fights the law"

"The script bristles with topical references and running through it is a plea for nuance and understanding in a world of loud, clashing opinions."

"Less good, however, is characterisation: individuals tend to tell you rather than show you their dilemmas; relationships between them lack depth and subtlety."

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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Silence at the Donmar Warehouse (2022)

★★★

"A powerful play about partition"

"As testimony, it is a moving and immensely powerful piece of theatre. As drama, however, it is more limited. The framework and structure are fairly stiff and oblige Nimmi Harasgama’s Mina to spend a lot of time nodding along."

"The significance of the show lies in its existence and its repetition. In dramatisation, the stories live on. They raise questions about borders and belonging, address responsibility for the past and urge care for the present."

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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Who Killed My Father at the The Young Vic (2022)

★★★★

"Grief and poverty furiously warp a father-son relationship"

"... it’s a one-man show. But in Hans Kesting’s superb performance, there seem to be constantly two people on stage as he slips with a dancer’s precision from father to son."

"Sturdy yet light, raw yet controlled, it’s a beautifully executed physical demonstration of the empathy at the heart of theatre, bringing an undertow of love to a furious account of a blunted life."

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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I, Joan at the Shakespeare's Globe (2022)

★★★

"This is clearly not the definitive Joan — it is a Joan: a dramatic character, a version, an exploration. It’s a reminder that the story has been told and shaped by playwrights many times before. It’s a “what if?” that seeks to reconsider history and whose stories get told. It’s also a joyous and celebratory piece of theatre, defined by a generous and inclusive spirit that, on opening night, had the audience bouncing with delight."

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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The Narcissist at the Chichester Festival Theatre (2022)

★★★

"It’s that splintered and toxic public arena that Shinn seeks to portray, and this gripping, if fitful, play is at its best when opening out on stage the weird mix of hyperconnectivity and profound loneliness that can characterise contemporary living."

"Throughout, Harry Lloyd’s Jim is never fully present — always distracted by events elsewhere. And as the battle for attention shifts from Claire Skinner’s beautifully observed politician, to Jim’s co-writer on a book, to his opioid-addicted brother, the question of who merits the “narcissist” title keeps swinging around."

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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All of Us at the National Theatre (2022)

★★★

"All of Us is a state-of-the-nation play: a frank, often funny, often shocking drama about what it is to be disabled or have a chronic condition in contemporary Britain."

"Martinez’s Jess, played with great warmth and wit by the author in Ian Rickson’s staging, has cerebral palsy (though Martinez prefers to describe herself as “wobbly”)."

"Martinez’s Jess refuses to get angry; her play, on the other hand, is very angry. It is at its best when it sticks tightly with its characters, showing us, rather than telling us, the details of the grim impact of government policies, cuts and shortages. Where it goes astray is in trying to encompass a whole raft of issues: there are sections of dialogue that become more political rant than political play, which undercuts its impact."

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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The Tempest at the Shakespeare's Glob (2022)

★★★

"The Tempest at the Globe is gaudy, playful and smart"

"This is a vibrant production and the ensemble achieve great rapport with the audience, but it could venture more into the depths"

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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Chasing Hares at the Young Vic (2022)

★★★

"Sonali Bhattacharyya’s new play asks searching questions about the gig economy, workers’ rights and the effectiveness of theatre in addressing social issues."

"As it is, some dialogue has to do too much heavy-lifting and so feels more schematic than organic. That’s a shame, as this is a vivid, ambitious and significant piece of theatre tackling a grievous, pressing issue"

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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Sister Act at the Eventim Apollo (2022)

★★★

"At the helm now is Beverley Knight as Deloris and what a fabulous job she does, blasting the heavens with her sensational, soaring voice and lifting the evening with sheer force of personality. Elsewhere, the show is more amiable than amazing, with a few standout musical numbers but a fair few forgettable ones too."

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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101 Dalmatians at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre (2022)

★★★

"It doesn’t match up to some of this venue’s outstanding musical revivals, but this big-hearted family show is as benign and bubbly as a contented puppy"

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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Jack Absolute Flies Again at the National Theatre (2022)

★★★

"A cheerful farce at the National Theatre"

"New knockabout comedy updates Sheridan’s The Rivals to a second world war setting"

"The world of Jack Absolute is cheerfully naive, bordering on puerile: here, the way to find out if you’re in love with a girl is to ask yourself if you’d use her poo as toothpaste. So that makes its eventual lurch into tragedy all the more surprising. It doesn’t quite work, because it’s easier to laugh than to cry over these thinly drawn characters. But it’s an interesting note of darkness in a play that otherwise sticks to safer, sunnier hues."

Alice Saville, The Financial Times
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Much Ado About Nothing at the National Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"A bittersweet summer cocktail with some peachy parts and laugh-out-loud slapstick scenes."

"Godwin’s production is sweet, sparky, sexy, sombre and, in the end, touching in its depiction of the transformative power of love. “I do love nothing in the world so well as you — is that not that strange?” says Heffernan’s Benedick in quiet astonishment."

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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Crazy For You at the Chichester Festival Theatre (2022)

★★★★★

"Deliriously daft musical is revived in Chichester"

"This deliriously daft George and Ira Gershwin musical is just the latest gem to emerge from this venue, which has turned itself into something of a musical hit factory in recent years"

"At the heart of it all is Stemp’s dizzying turn as Child, to whom he brings an aptly childlike enthusiasm for life. He’s gawkily funny, sweetly over-eager and a terrific, feather-light, spring-heeled dancer."

"... it is simply an irrepressible and irresistible show"

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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Patriots at the Almeida Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Putin and Berezovsky play chilling power games in Patriots at the Almeida Theatre"

"Tom Hollander and Will Keen excel in Peter Morgan’s riveting new drama."

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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Richard III reviews - RSC Stratford at the Stratford Upon Avon (2022)

★★★★

"The RSC’s Richard III is a powerful portrait of savagery"

"The production features a magnetic central performance from Arthur Hughes."

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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Jitney at the Old Vic Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Theatre review — a superbly acted revival of August Wilson’s Jitney at the Old Vic"

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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Tony! (The Tony Blair Rock Opera) at the Park Theatre (2022)

★★★

"Tony! (The Tony Blair Rock Opera) — a premier painted in broad strokes"

"his lively show at the Park Theatre, London, is an unsubtle portrait of the Labour leader"

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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The Glass Menagerie at the Duke of York's Theatre (2022)

★★★

"Amy Adams stars in a sensitive staging of The Glass Menagerie"

"This is a staging that eschews melodrama — but it’s also one that doesn’t break your heart"

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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The House of Shades at the Almeida Theatre (2022)

★★★

"Anne-Marie Duff is magnificent"

"Steel’s play pulses with care and fury for the people left behind by global economic shifts and national politics. In that sense, it’s a Brexit play. It’s not sentimental, and its scope and depth are admirable, seeking to catch a hold of what has happened to the UK over the past 50 years."

"Duff is the soul of the play: tart, cruel, funny, desperate — a woman who yearns for something else, something better, and who is curdled by disappointment and haunted by guilt. She is magnificent; the play itself is bold, uneven, hugely welcome in its ambition, but struggles to pull it all off."

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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Oklahoma! at the Young Vic Theatre (2022)

★★★★★

"Oklahoma! is stunningly reimagined at the Young Vic — plus more London theatre reviews"

"Ending with a rousing, determined delivery of “Oklahoma!”, Fish’s staging celebrates this beloved musical while also finding more sinister truths in the story it tells about America"

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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Jerusalem at the Apollo Theatre (2022)

★★★★★

"Mark Rylance’s Rooster makes a stunning return in Jerusalem"

"Jez Butterworth’s drama is exhilarating, dazzling and darker than ever in a revival at the Apollo Theatre, London"
"Ian Rickson’s exquisitely modulated staging has the same brilliant, expansive energy as it did a decade ago, but its dark undercurrents are more disturbing than ever. It plays out into a different context: into a country ragged with argument and disputation, that has seen Brexit, rising racism, culture wars and the growth of performative patriotism. Into, too, a world that has seen #MeToo and Black Lives Matter, where the stories we tell — and who gets to tell them — feel more significant than ever."

"... it’s simply a wonderful, wonderful piece of theatre. Combining the tightness of the classical Greek dramatic unities with an impression of bagginess that makes time feel elastic, the script is often blisteringly funny, relishes storytelling and skilfully shifts register to something much more profound and tragic."

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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Prima Facie at the Harold Pinter Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"Jodie Comer is a tour de force in Prima Facie at the Harold Pinter Theatre"

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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Punchdrunk: The Burnt City at the One Cartridge Place (2022)

★★★★

"Punchdrunk’s The Burnt City is a stunning immersion in the fall of Troy"

"... at the core is a moving story of two bereaved mothers living and reliving the loss that has destroyed them"

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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Scandaltown at the Lyric Hammersmith (2022)

★★★

"Restoration comedy romps into the 21st century in Scandaltown"

"Leading the fray is Stirling, who is a joy as Lady Climber. First encountered reclining in a black basque and gold spray-on trousers (Kinnetia Isidore’s costumes are a treat), she brings pinpoint comic timing and even manages to evoke a little sympathy for this imperious, shark-eyed operator. Her pauses, double-takes and facial expressions, when the morning after reveals the true horror of what has occurred, are painfully precise and very funny. If the whole show were as sharp as she is, it would be an absolute blast"

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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The 47th at the The Old Vic (2022)

★★★★

"Bertie Carvel is a jaw-droppingly good Donald Trump in The 47th at the Old Vic"

"Mike Bartlett’s bold new drama interweaves current political concerns with Shakespeare’s plays"

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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To Kill A Mockingbird at the Gielgud Theatre (2022)

★★★★

"To Kill a Mockingbird — stirring drama celebrates and scrutinises Harper Lee’s novel"

"It’s in his exchanges with Calpurnia that this production finds its centre, as she challenges his assumptions. And it is in the neat overlaps between courtroom and theatre that it throws those challenges out to the audience"

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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The Human Voice at the Harold Pinter Theatre (2022)

★★★

"Ruth Wilson shines in a beautiful, flawed revival of The Human Voice"

"You start to long for a script that tells a similar story in a contemporary female voice, avoids stereotyping and measures up more to the psychological complexity. Despite Wilson’s excellence, then, this feels like a wrong number."

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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Moulin Rouge! The Musical at the Piccadilly Theatre (2022)

★★★

"Moulin Rouge! — jukebox musical is thin on plot but rich in spectacle"

"Peppered with good performances (Pennycooke’s Toulouse-Lautrec particularly notable), it’s a riotous night out. But that’s as good as it gets"

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club (Playhouse Theatre) (2021)

★★★★★

"Eddie Redmayne and Jessie Buckley thrill and chill in sensational Cabaret"

"Finally, the party gives way to the Party and the dancers, now kitted out in sombre suits, line up stiffly on the slowly revolving stage — identikit denizens of hell. It’s a sensational production, only overshadowed by the eye-watering cost of the top-price tickets"

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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Best of Enemies at the The Young Vic (2021)

★★★★★

"Best of Enemies — James Graham’s gripping culture-war drama"

"It dramatises the 1968 televised debates between William F Buckley Jr and Gore Vidal which electrified the public"

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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The Ocean at the End of the Lane at the Duke of York's Theatre (2021)

★★★★

"The Ocean at the End of the Lane — love, loss and monsters at the Duke of York’s"

"The stage crew, visible throughout, reveal how the effects are created without detracting from their power, amplifying on stage the mysteries of the book. Beautiful."

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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Frozen The Musical at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane (2021)

★★★★

"Frozen stage musical combines icy spectacle with human warmth"

"Drawbacks aside, this is a joyously delivered story of the transformative power of love, and an introduction for many young Frozen fans to the magic of live theatre"

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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Cinderella at the Gillian Lynne Theatre (2021)

★★★★

"Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella is a gorgeous glitterball of a show"

"The songs are memorable and writer Emerald Fennell brings a twist to the tale."

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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Anything Goes at the Barbican Theatre (2021)

★★★★★

"Anything Goes offers the delirious delight of a musical in full sail"

"Kathleen Marshall’s production of Cole Porter’s effervescent 1934 musical sails into the Barbican in superb style, with a glorious performance from Sutton Foster at the helm."

"Foster is just sensational: her singing beautifully pitched and paced, her dancing dazzling (Marshall also choreographs), her switch between the two beguilingly effortless. But what’s most enjoyable is her rapport with the audience and infectious delight in the daftness of it all. When she and the ensemble deliver the two show-stoppers — “Anything Goes” and “Blow, Gabriel, Blow” — it’s clear from the audience’s reaction that most of them would happily run away to sea for months with this eccentric, ramshackle crew."

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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Vassa at the Almeida Theatre (2019)

★★

"It somehow falls flat"

"Everyone is so grotesque and larger-than-life right from the beginning that it grows wearisome."

"There are some wonderfully pungent performances: Siobhán Redmond (who stepped in at late notice following an injury to Samantha Bond) is viper-like as Vassa...But for all this, the piece never quite gels."

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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A Day In The Death Of Joe Egg at the Trafalgar Theatre (2019)

"Startling in its frankness"

"A Day in the Death of Joe Egg...is still, in Simon Evans’ revival, startling in its frankness"

"The play confronts pain and anger through horseplay. You often don’t know whether to laugh, cry or gasp"

“Stephens pitches his performance precisely, so you become gradually aware of the desperation behind the wisecracks and role-play.”

“The play’s candid discussion of disability, of male mental health and of love still feels fresh, as does its nimble use of comedy to draw you in”

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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Solaris at the Lyric Hammersmith (2019)

★★★★

"David Greig’s fascinating, funny and moving stage version of Stanislaw Lem’s 1961 sci-fi novel"

“Starts slowly, gathers in intensity as it draws us into the agonising dilemmas of the crew.”

“The issues confronted by the piece take on new resonance for an age familiar with AI and virtual reality”

“Hyemi Shin’s versatile set...There’s something clinical about it, raising the possibility that all this takes place in an institution or even within the confines of one character’s head.”

“Paul Jackson’s stark lighting design...reminds us of the constant, looming presence of that inscrutable planet”

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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Sergei Polunin at the London Palladium (2019)

★★

"Alarming portrait of a talent in meltdown"

"The Ukrainian star’s recent projects have been a painful reminder that performers are not always the best judge of repertoire, and even devoted admirers have begun to baulk at watching the gradual erosion of a glorious talent in unworthy material."

Louise Levene, The Financial Times
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Waitress at the Adelphi Theatre, (2019)

★★★★

"A satisfying mix of whimsy, warmth and sadness"

"It’s an admittedly lightweight story of a woman trapped by her circumstances, with a side order of occasionally eyebrow-raising sex comedy. But the ratio of sweet flavours to tart ones is well-judged. "

"Diane Paulus’s production is fluent without being unpalatably slick — there’s a discreet onstage band and artfully restrained choreography from Lorin Latarro. The show has cartoonish elements, but mostly subverts its moments of sentimentality and silliness, and there’s a whole lot of humour baked into it"

Henry Hitchings, The Financial Times
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Waitress at the Adelphi Theatre, (2019)

★★★★

"Bareilles’ tunes are for the most part bouncy and propulsive. The musical idiom doesn’t incline in any particular direction: an astute blend of stage musical and more-or-less-pop. American Idol alumna Katharine McPhee, in common with most of the principals, has a semi-nasal contemporary singing voice, but she and her fellows don’t toss their power around aimlessly: the singing is thankfully free of melisma, and those high, sustained, climactic notes are pure, with only a touch of vibrato on the lead-out."

"The weakest singing voice is that of Jack McBrayer as Dawn’s beloved Ogie, but the mere fact of his being Jack McBrayer more than counterbalances any reservations. He is a master of rural American grinning, gormless gee-whizzery, and his energy and dedication take him where melodic precision doesn’t quite reach."

"All in all, the show had pretty much won me over by the interval: it contains a palpable strain of sentiment, but not so strong as to trip up the narrative. Alas, the second act heads squarely in the direction so thankfully absent hitherto; a succession of ballads, and after setting up a target of female fulfilment, a plummeting cop-out. The happy ending feels calculated rather than organic, and in the end that near-understanding of all that pie can stand for is spoiled by a sickly final course."

Ian Shuttleworth, The Financial Times
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Fiddler On The Roof at the Meniere Chocolate Factory (2018)

★★★★

"Trevor Nunn’s production bursts from the stage — but there’s a chill wind blowing, too"

‘Yes, there is whimsy here and some slenderly drawn characters, but this beautifully delivered production strikes a fine balance, like the eponymous fiddler on the roof, between joy and sorrow.’

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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Billionaire Boy at the NST City, Southampton (2018)

★★★★

"David Walliams’s Billionaire Boy is a warm, witty musical"

“This isn’t a glittering blockbuster, it’s a holiday-time cavort. And, as one of the late Nicolas Roeg’s film characters remarks, I like a bit of a cavort.”

Ian Shuttleworth, The Financial Times
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Hadestown at the National Theatre (2018)

★★★★

"An enjoyable, engaging Hadestown at the National’s Olivier Theatre"

"The journey of the story is both enjoyable and engaging . . . which, as Hermes concludes, is in one respect the whole point of retelling any familiar tale.”

Ian Shuttleworth, The Financial Times
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Translations at the National Theatre (2018)

★★★★

"Brian Friel’s play is a masterpiece, though its delicacies are not well suited to this theatre."

"Overall, nowhere else does Friel meditate so deeply or compellingly on his own sense of liminality between British Northern Ireland and the Republic, and even an imperfect production such as Ian Rickson’s is a rich experience indeed."

Ian Shuttleworth, The Financial Times
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Tina - The Tina Turner Musical at the Aldwych Theatre (2018)

★★★

"Adrienne Warren piles energy and commitment into the role of Tina"

"Her singing voice is likewise fiery, and strongly similar to latter-day Turner, although she can’t quite flush the throatiness away for the early material."

"Director Phyllida Lloyd, too, moves the action along and intercuts it fluidly, but spends the final phase of the show assiduously building up to a nakedly adulatory climax and concert-style encore."

"Katori Hall, who has written the book, showed with her breakthrough play The Mountaintop that she can handle discreet hagiography (in that case, of Martin Luther King) while giving the appearance of more nuance. Here, alas, there’s no nuance at all."

Ian Shuttleworth, The Financial Times
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📷 Main photo: Financial Times

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