Critics - Alice Saville

Alice Saville – London Theatre Critic

Selected reviews by Alice Saville, freelance theatre critic for publications including TimeOut and the Financial Times

Alice Saville is a freelance arts and culture writer for publications including Time Out, the Financial Times, The Independent, Exeunt and more.

Alice is also Head of Engagement at Stagedoor.

Previous roles including Deputy Theatre Editor at TimeOut.

More about Alice Saville:

TimeOut Bio & Articles | FT Bio & Articles | The Independent Bio & Articles | Twitter | LinkedIn


The P Word (2022)

★★★★★

"Two very different gay Pakistani men cross paths in Waleed Akhtar’s tremendous new play"

"Waleed Akhtar’s gorgeous, devastating new play is split between two Britains. One’s the twenty-first century, ‘love is love’ home of corporate Pride sponsorship and endless app-enabled sexual possibilities. And the other one’s tougher, older – medieval, almost – a place where gay asylum seekers are intrusively questioned about their sexual behaviour, and banished to their deaths. The resulting drama might sound grim, and sometimes it is, but ‘The P Word’ is also heart-meltingly lovely, full of faith in the transformative power of love and friendship."

TimeOut
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Antigone (2022)

★★★

"Inua Ellams gives Sophocles‘s ancient tragedy a bracingly contemporary spin"

"There are bolts of brilliance in Inua Ellams' twenty-first-century rewrite of Sophocles’s ‘Antigone’. He makes a play written two-and-a half-millennia ago speak more directly to the present day than pretty much anything else I've seen this year"

"... it's frustrating that among these successes, the play slightly loses sight of the person it all centres on."

"This is theatre that sits in direct conversation with its times, and although its characters sometimes feel like outlets for intensive research or strongly-felt convictions, it's exhilarating to watch. Antigone's tragedy probably won't make you cry, but it might well make you furious."

TimeOut
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Silence (2022)

★★★

"A powerful and painful Partition drama"

"The play is a welcome introduction to events that many would rather forget"

"Although this play is credited to a supergroup of four award-winning playwrights – Sonali Bhattacharyya, Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti, Ishy Din and Alexandra Wood – there’s a surprising lack of dramatic imagination in what follows. Instead, it’s a pretty straightforward staging of its source matter"

The Evening Standard
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Who Killed My Father (2022)

★★★★

"Ivo van Hove’s Édouard Louis adaptation is bleak but loving"

"Hans Kesting’s brilliant physical performance anchors this gripping one-man show"

"This 80-minute monologue is explosive, a missile hurled at political elites who operate in blithe ignorance of the ordinary lives they stifle."

"Hans Kesting contorts his body into something broken, capturing the tortured physicality of a man who’s been crushed by decades of factory labour, by endless cigarettes, by the alcohol he uses to numb the boredom."

"In striking, backlit scenes, he smokes then crumples into hacking coughs that spray the stage with glowing droplets."

"Kesting’s brilliantly physical performance constantly proves this play’s central idea: that politics is an abstract game for the wealthy, but causes bodily suffering to the working class. It’s often painful to watch. But Van Hove’s production is teasingly affectionate as well as bleak:"

The Evening Standard
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Chasing Hares (2022)

★★★

"Sonali Bhattacharyya’s drama about the erosion of workers’ rights in Bengal and Britain is powerful once it hits its stride"

"Initially, ‘Chasing Hares’ drags. Director Milli Bhatia doesn't find a convincing way of making Prab's elaborate animal fables feel gripping (a little light shadow puppetry doesn't cut it) and the play takes too long to set up its central moral dilemma. But in the second act, things start to fizz."

"Bhattacharyya attempts something bold here, by merging Indian folk theatre with contemporary idioms. Moi Tran’s dour, grey, spaceship-esque set design doesn't provide the colourful arena needed for the production to sing, and the moments where ‘Chasing Hares’ tries to get the audience chanting along fall a little flat. But even if it doesn't fully rouse the masses, this is still a thoughtful and thoroughly welcome contribution to the conversation around workers' rights, as our politicians try their best to erode them. "

TimeOut
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Jack Absolute Flies Again (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."

The Financial Times
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The Seagull (2022)

★★★★

"Emilia Clarke is charismatic in her West End debut"

"Clarke is undeniably charismatic, but her presence is far from the only reason to grab a ticket. A universally strong cast act with their faces more than their bodies, bringing a cinematic intensity to this intense exploration of fame, failure, and heartbreak."

"Indira Varma is mesmerising"

"There’s something jarring about watching an actor deliver a bravura performance surrounded by the bored faces of their fellow cast members: it’s a poignant reminder that even the most moving work of art will leave some people cold."

"Lloyd’s stripped back and static production won’t please all comers. But it’s an exciting break with tradition, converting its star power into a darker, weirder, and more satisfying kind of energy."

The Evening Standard
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Disney's Beauty and the Beast (2022)

★★★★

"An extravagant, memorable update on a tale that’s as old as time, but as exhilarating as ever."

"Director Matt West throws the kitchen sink at ‘Be Our Guest’, which becomes a Hollywood Golden Age-style tapdancing extravaganza, full of highkicking ‘plates’ and giant champagne bottles that shower the audience with streamers."

The Evening Standard
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Mad House (2022)

★★★

"David Harbour is tremendous fun in this old-fashioned comedy"

"It’s a fine showcase for the talents of Harbour and Bill Pullman, but ‘Mad House’ is built on shaky foundations"

"It’s an entertaining but uninspired showcase for two megawatt US talents: Bill Pullman, who revels in the role of dying patriarch Daniel, and Stranger Things star David Harbour, who plays his put-upon son Michael with the vigour of a wounded bear."

"They’re tremendous fun to watch. "

"Director Moritz von Stuelpnagel keeps things pacy, and secures fine, flamboyant performances from this A-grade cast. But still, this is all deeply old-fashioned stuff which, bar an uncomfortable and unnecessary argument about trans people, could have easily been written any time in the last five decades."

The Independent
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That Is Not Who I Am (2022)

★★★

"A slippery thriller"

"Davies and Kelly have a winning chemistry, their physical passion for each other glueing them together even as their lives come unstuck during the isolation of Covid. Still, it's not quite enough to make this paranoid pair entertaining company for this play's one-hour 45-minute running time. This play is billed as a thriller, but the fact that we know how their anti-surveillance, anti-government mission is going to end means it often feels ponderous rather than tense."

TimeOut
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Britannicus (2022)

★★★★

"Atri Banerjee’s production takes us to 'Succession' territory"

"Like ancient Greek dramas, Racine's play has an arch, declamatory quality, its players turning to the audience to unfold their schemes or unpick the story's tangles. Banerjee's staging handles this artificiality stylishly, with Rosanna Vize’s design making the stage feel like a Tate Modern installation. It's deliberately non-naturalistic and flooded with coloured washes of light and studiedly mundane touches like the conference centre chairs that get kicked over as things kick off. This production feels like a masterclass in how to take a seldom-staged (in the UK, anyway) text and seduce an audience into confronting it, in all its writhing, sexy ugliness."

TimeOut
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The Glass Menagerie (2022)

★★★

"Amy Adams makes a likeable but underpowered West End debut"

" Amy Adams’s interpretation is sympathetic, free of the trappings of fading Southern-belle kitsch the role often comes with. This is a woman who’s bearing the weight of familial responsibility in Depression-era St Louis with a kind of beleaguered grace, marshalling her hapless adult son and daughter with an unexpected kindness. But although director Jeremy Herrin’s take brings new warmth to the family ties at the heart of this play, he doesn’t capture the wit and strangeness that have won it such a devoted following."

The Independent
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My Fair Lady (2022)

★★★

"This fractionally tweaked Broadway production of the classic musical is pleasant but won’t win over any doubters"

"Amara Okereke plays cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle with vocal aplomb: her voice soars through much-loved songs like 'Wouldn't It Be Loverly', making them a heart-rending highlight of the show. But she also makes Eliza a bit of a caricature. When she’s called insults like a ‘squashed cabbage leaf’ by patronising upper-class phonetics expert Henry Higgins she's not crushed – she physically shoves him out the room, in moments of physical comedy that mask her vulnerability in the moment. And as Higgins, Harry Hadden-Paton lacks the haughty charisma and underlying menace needed to give their relationship real snap."

TimeOut
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Jerusalem (2022)

★★★★

"Mark Rylance returns for a dark, potent revival of Jez Butterworth’s 2009 play"

"There’s a real cruelty to the Englishness of ‘Jerusalem’, which has returned to the West End with its original star"

"Jerusalem is an exercise in myth-making, one that’s equally in love with the legends of Old England and modern tales of drunken derring-do. Perhaps it overly romanticises its drug-peddling hero, but with Rylance in the role, its spell is irresistible."

The Independent
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The Corn is Green (2022)

★★★

"Nicola Walker is tremendous as an inspirational schoolteacher in this classy revival for Emelyn Williams’s slightly dated Welsh classic"

"Cooke’s production does a huge amount to smooth over this story’s rough edges. His masterstroke is to turn it into a kind of memory play, with Emelyn Williams himself appearing as a kind of narrator who reads the stage directions out loud. As his world becomes more and more fully realised, so does Ultz's set design, growing from a bare stage into a full schoolhouse box set, while scene changes offer vignettes from the glittering 1930s parties of Williams’s future."

"This is a fine example of how to revive a dated play and make it feel postmodern and fresh. But the text of ‘The Corn is Green’ lacks the raw power needed to make this exercise feel worthwhile: it's an intellectual fairytale where obstacles to Evans’s success conveniently vanish, and supporting characters are thin cardboard cutouts to be knocked down on his path to glory. Strong performances and an undeniable momentum make it fun to watch, but there's not much to ponder when the music fades."

TimeOut
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Scandaltown (2022)

★★★

"Mike Bartlett’s faux-Restoration comedy is good fun but a bit weak as satire"

"It takes guts to try and satirise an era of culture war-infected British politics that pretty effectively sends up itself. It takes even more guts to do it in the style of a Restoration comedy, full of crossdressing, courtly language and creaking corsets. So Mike Bartlett's new play ‘Scandaltown’ gets some serious points for trying, even if it ultimately falls short of sharp-toothed hilarity and lands somewhere a bit more mealy-mouthed."

TimeOut
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The Collaboration (2022)

★★★★

"Bettany is a neurotic Andy Warhol in this fantastically enjoyable play"

"Anthony McCarten’s Young Vic pacy production is an exercise in giving the audience what they want"

"Anthony McCarten's play is a fantastically enjoyable exercise in giving the audience what they want. It's packed with gossipy insights – from Basquiat's sexual relationship with Madonna to Warhol's fight to conceal his homosexuality from journalists – and quaint moments of humour, like when Warhol is unable to resist whipping out a hoover at Basquiat's filthy flat. And Young Vic artistic director Kwame Kwei-Armah's production is just as crowd pleasing."

The Independent
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Bring It On: The Musical (2021)

★★★

"This cast are quadruple threats"

"There’s a puppyish energy to this early musical from Lin-Manuel Miranda, with a brilliant performance from Amber Davies"

"In between penning In The Heights and Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda co-wrote the music and lyrics to this show, and a lot of his hip hop-inflected musical trademarks are here. But they’re part of an impressive but slightly soulless package that’s worlds away from the warm, authentic worlds he creates."

"Still, however hollow its story might feel, it’s hard to beat this musical for puppyish energy and teenage (high) kicks. Fans of shows like Six and Heathers are bound to join its immaculately-choreographed army of cheerleaders."

The Evening Standard
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Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of) (2021)

★★★★

"There’s bite to this fluffy cucumber sandwich of a show"

"Austen is a master of understatement and carefully shaded little ironies. This production drags her subtext kicking and screaming into the daylight. Hardened Janeites might well cry “Heaven and earth! Are the shades of Pemberley to be thus polluted!” But with the loss of tradition and subtlety comes something else: a scathing critique of a society where the rich got to gossip and party all day while servants scrubbed, and where ladies used politeness as a survival tactic – one that today’s women can joyfully, raucously discard."

The Independent
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Mary Poppins (2021)

★★★

"This Disney musical looks and sounds magical – even if it’s a few shades weirder than the much-loved movie"

TimeOut
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DEAR EVAN HANSEN (2019)

★★★★

"A fragile high schooler’s lie spins dizzyingly out of control as this smart Broadway musical smash finally hits the West End"

"It’s easy to see why ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ has won so many fans since it first premiered in 2015: it mixes agonising tension with surgingly catchy songs by songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who’ve also worked on movies ‘La La Land’ and ‘The Greatest Showman’. The standout numbers are emotive rock ballads like ‘You Will be Found’, the kind of thing you’d wave your lighter along to if the West End’s theatres weren’t imperilled enough already."

TimeOut
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Vassa (2019)

★★★

"Bartlett's adaptation is very, very funny"

"Playing the title role (after Samantha Bond withdrew following injury), Siobhan Redmond squeezes her errant daughter-in-law until her eyes pop"

"Bartlett's adaptation is very, very funny, and its nihilist jokes are underscored by Craig's (Tinuke Craig) uproarious staging."

"When 'Vassa' starts operating less like a farce and more like a political tragedy, its impact falters."

"Her transformation into a guilt-ridden tragic figure comes too late, and feels hollow; she's less of a Medea, more a psychopathic middle manager."

"The 1983 soviet film 'Vassa' ends in the 1913 revolution; it feels like there's something similarly biting, similarly political missing from this play's weak ending."

TimeOut
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Come From Away (2019)

★★★★★

"This 9/11-set musical is a gently miraculous masterpiece"

"Musicals don’t come much more low-key, wholesome or Canadian than ‘Come from Away’. Writers Irene Sankoff and David Hein cook up the straightforward world of the Newfoundland town of Gander using a very straightforward set of ingredients. The cast wear sensible shoes and lumberjack shirts. They tramp across a wood-decked stage that evokes the huge skies of their tiny island. They sing their way through a set of folk-tinged songs that tell stories of the five days after 9/11, when 38 planes made emergency landings on the island’s huge, disused airstrip. And it’s all totally, soul-feedingly wonderful."

TimeOut
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9 to 5 The Musical (2019)

★★★

"Dolly Parton's somewhat hallucinatory musical is a wilfully preposterous crowd-pleaser"

"The plot, when it shows up, is about as ridiculous as these women’s ultra-glam interpretation of ‘office wear’. Violet accidentally laces the bossman’s tea with rat poison, then all three trap him in bondage gear while they turn the office into an equal-pay paradise with an on-site crèche. Fortunately, no one even pretends to take it seriously"

TimeOut
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2 thoughts on “Alice Saville – London Theatre Critic”

  1. PATRIOTS written by Peter Morgan and directed by Rupert Goold 2022 Almeida Theatre
    I saw it last night and have urged friends and family to get a return if possible. Tom Hollander’s performance as Boris Berezovsky was sublime. Will Keen plays Putin whose character’s metamorphosis into a cold blooded psychopath was tangible. Abromovich, played by Luke Thallon, was a likeable, quietly opportunistic sociopath. Berezovsky was driven by manipulative greed only to see the light of the life he could’ve had, had he chosen the different path of academia. He was ultimately a misplaced genius.
    The quality of both dialogue and direction were undeniably top notch.
    As a “layperson,” I would’ve given it a five star rating. The reviews however were less generous.
    I do hope it ultimately transfers..
    Denise Peters (author) – a wannabe “Peoples’ Choice” theatre critic!

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