Critics - Patrick Marmion

Patrick Marmion – Daily Mail and Mail Online London Theatre Critic

Selected reviews by Patrick Marmion, theatre critic for the Daily Mail.

Patrick is a playwright, journalist and Associate Lecturer at the University of Kent. ­

As a writer, his previous plays include The Divided Laing, Terms and Conditions, Pieta – After Chekhov, Osterley, and The Institute. His screenplays include Mushroom Soup, Kids FM, Maid Marion, Archie Tanner & The Dodo and The Dead Guy.

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The Two Popes (2022)

★★★★

"Two popes and one question - how do we move from era to era?"

"At a time of succession in the Royal Family, this fine revival of Anthony McCarten's play about Popes Benedict and Francis is poignantly apposite."

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The Snail House (2022)

★★★

"More pain, please!"

"One of the great directors of modern times, Eyre (a late-onset writer at 79) unfolds the action skilfully. But I craved more of everything: sweat, tears, intrigue and, in particular, pain."

"Our top-dog medical man also could have done with more of a moral dilemma: one that might have revealed greater depths in his character. Instead, the charges laid against him aren't really his fault, and are resolved without any great cost."

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Gary Barlow - A Different Stage (2022)

★★★★★

"Soppy, sappy... but Barlow still shines like a superstar"

"I first saw the show in the community centre of Gary's home town of Frodsham, Cheshire, back in June. And while it's lost some of the intimacy and intensity, performed as it was in front of a handful of people who watched their local hero grow up, it retains all of Barlow's boyish vulnerability and dreamy vocals."

"It's like listening to a special edition of Desert Island Discs . . . introduced by the man himself, with snatches of his own music. Barlow's great gift is to be one of us. Standing on stage in a striped tracksuit, he looks like the PE teacher you wish you'd had at school."

"I have just two quibbles. One: that the song-to-chat ratio isn't higher. I prefer Barlow's singing to Firth's gags. And two: the fact that the first half ends on a downer. I like a twist of hope with my interval martini."

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The Narcissist (2022)

★★★

"Each character is self-regarding, in line with the title — though, interestingly, Lloyd's Jim is the least so. He's the reasonable guy, explaining how the world works to others who are not so clued-up."

"Lloyd, at least, is tremendously watchable in Josh Seymour's production which literally immerses Jim in the social media apps he uses. Jasmine Swan's set makes his world look like a sleek iPad, with neon trims surrounded by satellite pods from which friends, family and colleagues butt in."

"It catches the way modern life is digitally compartmentalised, but suggests only the benefits — rather than the irritating reality of oblivious people always hunched over their phones."

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All's Well That Ends Well (2022)

★★

"'Unloved' play just got unlovelier"

"The story is so far from modern protocols around matchmaking that Helena can only strike us as a stalker. Blanche McIntyre's production seizes on this, with a modern production comparing Helena's infatuation to inappropriate fixations on social media today."

"The only character who seems to be having any fun is Jamie Wilkes: a comic revelation as the soldier and braggart Parolles, played here as an American GI channelling Sylvester Stallone's Rambo."

"... this is a show that succeeds only in confirming its suspicions of the play's supposed flaws."

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Into The Woods (2022)

★★★★

"Magical spectacle"

"Gloating may be unseemly but Terry Gilliam has certainly earned the right to crow about his stunning new production of Stephen Sondheim's fairy-tale musical."

"The production takes childlike delight in every aspect of James Lapine's story, which weaves together a tapestry of fairy tales."

"Over the course of three hours (including an interval), Sondheim's score does become a bit of a chore. But few productions will ever make such light work of his sprawling musical canvas."

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The Trials (2022)

★★

"See title"

"The Trials is a net-zero entertainment set in a dystopian near future where juries of children have been formed to judge and condemn to death an entire generation of baby boomer 'dinosaurs' for trashing the planet."

"Natalie Abrahami's production wisely avoids an interval lest we escape this onerous stretch of jury duty. There are obvious echoes of William Goldings' Lord Of The Flies, while the Nuremburg Trials provide moral and historical context — and similar levels of mirth."

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Sister Act (2022)

★★★★

"Just divine! A habit worth getting in to"

"Playing the night club singer Deloris van Cartier, who hides from the mob in a convent (a part incarnated by Whoopi Goldberg), [Beverley] Knight has swagger and attitude to go with her mega-watt voice as she warbles her way through a gamut of soul, gospel and funk."

"Naturally [Jennifer] Saunders' Mother Superior secures much of the mirth with rueful head shimmies and seasoned timing. When in private comms with The Big Fella Himself, in her divine torch song Haven't Got A Prayer, she cheekily pops out a lady-shave and hip flask – but is surprisingly tender too."

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101 Dalmatians (2022)

★★★

"Puppet puppies are too cute to be worn by Cruella"

"Zinnie Harris and Johnny McKnight’s somewhat worthy adaptation combines the bombast of panto, the mumsiness of CBeebies, the mischief of The Rocky Horror Show and, inevitably, the schmaltz of Walt Disney. Even so, it’s a hard, Cruella-ish heart that would not warm to the cutesiness of Timothy Sheader’s dog-lovin’, family-friendly production."

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Jack Absolute Flies Again (2022)

★★★★★

"The Guvnor's back with a bawdy romp"

"Richard Bean is back at the National Theatre with a snortingly good, crowd-pleasing comedy to rival his One Man, Two Guvnors, which launched James Corden as a global phenomenon."

"The real star, though, is perhaps Caroline Quentin as voluptuous dowager Mrs Malaprop who owns the ‘country piles’ which has been requisitioned as an airfield. Delivering her solecisms with pride and fortitude, she declares herself ‘overcome with emulsion’ and laments that since her husband died she has ‘become a window’."

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Much Ado About Nothing (2022)

★★

" Not much about ado"

"There seemed little love lost between the actors in Simon Godwin’s lightweight production, which doesn’t really engage with the play’s dark side."

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Crazy For You (2022)

★★★★★

"Guaranteed to put pep in your step!"

"When shows are as good as this staging of Crazy For You, they’re little short of miraculous."

"With an exuberant company led by two fine young singers and dancers — Charlie Stemp and Carly Anderson — the story is about New York rich kid, Bobby, sent to close down a loss-making theatre in the American mid-West . . . only to fall head over heels for Polly, the straight-talking country girl who runs the tumbledown venue.

Yes, the show is blessed with fabulous songs including Someone To Watch Over Me, I Got Rhythm and Nice Work If You Can Get It.

But it’s Stroman’s choreography that blows the roof off and wins standing ovations at the end of each half."

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Billy Elliot The Musical (2022)

★★★★

"Billy still has the power to move us to tears"

"It’s fair to say that Sir Elton’s finest work lies elsewhere, but Mr Hall’s deeply humane writing carries the show, which is about loss and grief — for Billy, it’s for his dead mam; and for Easington’s men, their livelihood — and the importance of community."

"The pulsating band are under the direction of George Dyer, while among a large cast the young principals on press night — Jaden Shentall-Lee as Billy and Prem Masani as his best friend Michael — are terrific."

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Anything Goes (2022)

★★★★★

"Delightful and de-lovely as ever aboard SS American"

"About 20 minutes into this joyous show, I stopped taking notes — because nothing sums it up better than the refrain from one of its famous numbers, ‘It’s delightful, it’s delicious, it’s de-lovely’."

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Patriots (2022)

★★★★

"The rise and fall of Putin’s arch enemy "

"Rupert Goold directs with characteristic touches of song and dance on Miriam Buether’s stage that looks like a cross between a casino, a pole dancing club and a Kremlin walkway.

"As a snapshot of recent Russian history it’s a humdinger. The reality, though will have been much nastier, and much darker."

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Richard III reviews - RSC Stratford (2022)

★★★

"Psycho super-villain? No, he’s more of a naughty boy"

"Hughes gives it his all. The actor, who has radial dysplasia, which has left him with a short right arm, is determined to prove himself a villain. But his default personality is not so much scheming monster as slightly naughty boy."

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Jitney (2022)

★★★★

"Gutsy"

"The pleasure of this gutsy and absorbing revival of August Wilson’s 1970s taxi-office drama is that it spares us the prissiness of political correctness. It treats us — and its troubled characters — like adults."

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The Unfriend (2022)

★★★

"Deathly dull "

"Comedies of procrastination can only go on so long before something must give. Only here, it doesn't."

"There are some good gags including Shearsmith's quip that 20 years of marriage gives you a talent for telepathy, 'only more hostile'. Moffat religiously follows the comic rule of running a routine three times. One such trilogy includes the teenage son (a permanently aghast Gabriel Howell) failing to answer the phone. Although this may have the ring of truth for parents, the eventual punchline also has the ring of painful predictability."

"The show's best feature is Barber, who turns her serial killer from Denver into a kind of bling, Midwest, female Donald Trump."

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My Fair Lady (2022)

★★★★

"Never mind that Amara Okereke is the first black Eliza Doolittle in a West End production of this joyous musical based on George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion.

First and foremost, Miss Okereke is quite simply a fabulous Eliza. She’d very likely be hailed down the East End not so much a ‘diamond geezer’ as a diamond diva."

"Thanks to sedate scene changes and a rather comfortable musical tempo, the show does feel like its full three hours. Acoustically, it’s a little echoey, too. But it still twinkles nicely, thanks to Okereke’s gem of a performance."

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Straight Line Crazy (2022)

★★★★

"My way, or the highway, for Fiennes the megalomaniac"

"Ralph Fiennes had better watch his back. Terrific as he is in David Hare's new play about New York's megalomaniac, 20th-century town planner Robert Moses, he's matched by a blistering turn from Danny Webb, as Moses's boss, New York State Governor Al Smith. It's the kind of cameo for which actors would cheerfully kill."

"Nicholas Hytner's production is brisk and energetic on Bob Crowley's pine box set, while George Fenton's film noir chase music quickens the pulse between scenes."

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Cabaret (2021)

★★★★

"At Eddie’s Cabaret, even the set’s wunderbar"

"It may be a little parsimonious in its pleasures, but this eagerly anticipated new staging of Cabaret certainly looks good, sounds good – and runs like clockwork."

"John Kander and Fred Ebb’s musical is really about the feisty singer Sally Bowles (Jessie Buckley) and Clifford Bradshaw, the young American writer who becomes her lover – a revelation here in the form of Omari Douglas."

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

★★★

"Marley is magic but the drama needs some redemption"

"As much as I love Marley and his music, this version, written by Lee Hall (best known for the Billy Elliot and Rocketman screenplays) left me slightly cold and faintly baffled."

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Back to the Future (2021)

★★★★★

"From Doc to the DeLorean, this blast from the past hits all the right notes"

"Where to begin, with a production that packs more energy than a nuclear reactor? Could it be Olly Dobson, taking on the Michael J Fox role of Marty McFly: the floppy-haired Eighties teenager who finds himself stuck in the Fifties, trying to save his family's future by securing his parents' first date?"

"And when it comes to launch time, Tim Hatley's design lays on video special effects that have us speeding through neon lit streets in a blur of coloured streaks. And that's on top of already spectacular sets of clapboard suburbia, the High School, a farmyard barn, the town square (with bust clock) and of course, Doc's chaotic man-shed. As if that wasn't enough, Alan Silvestri and Glen Ballard's music relaunches the story as a whole new entity."

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Frozen The Musical (2021)

★★★★★

"More magical than the film, this stage version of Frozen is one hot hit"

"But whatever we grown-ups may think of those songs, you’ve got to take your bobble hat off to Michael Grandage’s amazing blizzard of a staging – which finally made its West End debut last night.

It’s an ice storm of a show featuring (literally) breathtaking magic and mesmerising meteorological effects in Christopher Oram’s stunning stage design that rivals the animation of the film and adds a whole new wow of its own."

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Les Miserables (2020)

★★★★★

"The mighty Mis is still revolutionary"

"... this 'new staging' of one of the world's longest-running musicals remains fit to burst the seams of the mightiest of stages. Laurence Connor and James Powell's rendition of Boublil and Schonberg's musical reinvention of Victor Hugo's novel is an absolute blinder."

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Magic Goes Wrong (2020)

★★★★

"The secret of the so-called Wrong Boys’ success is surely that it’s deeply familiar parody, with a twist of Monty Python."

"Spellbinding romp by the masters of mischief... The whole barmy enterprise is profoundly silly — and may be too long, at two-and-a-half hours — but I was absolutely taken out of myself for the duration."

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Come From Away (2019)

★★★

"Is this 9/11 musical too hearty?"

"It’s based on real-life accounts of how residents on the island of Newfoundland coped when 7,000 passengers, in 38 planes, were diverted to their small town of Gander after the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

What emerges from this is the most relentlessly cheerful and ecstatically wholesome feelgood show I’ve ever seen."

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