Critics- Mark Lawson

Mark Lawson – London Theatre Critic

Selected reviews by Mark Lawson, a writer, broadcaster and critic.

Mark mainly writes for The Guardian, covering arts and media. He has also contributed to numerous publications including the Daily Mail, MSN UK, The Independent, Yahoo News UK, Gulf News, Irish Times, POLITICO Europe, Irish Examiner and more.

He is also a broadcaster, including regular appearances on BBC radio and television.

More about Mark Lawson:

Guardian Bio & Articles | Twitter | LinkedIn | MuckRack


The Narcissist (2022)

★★★★

"A darkly honest dissection of post-Trump politics"

"A spin doctor’s life spirals into chaos after he’s hired by an ambitious senator in Christopher Shinn’s grimly comic drama"

"Claire Skinner’s bright, brittle senator, who finally surprises with her views, impresses without an impression of any one politician. Harry Lloyd’s Jim exposes shaded layers of pain as a man understanding his country’s identity better than his own, and plays a frighteningly funny cross-generational dating disaster scene with Stuart Thompson’s reflexively judgmental young man."

The Guardian
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Murder On The Orient Express (2022)

★★★★

"A first-class ride all the way"

"Henry Goodman gives us every inch of Hercule Poirot’s dandiness and comedy in this exemplary adaptation of Christie’s ingenious murder mystery, but also gets every note of the character’s vast intelligence and pain"

The Guardian
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Old Friends (2022)

★★★★★

"A glorious all-star memorial service"

"This was a glorious memorial service, each of the tunes a eulogy, every eulogist either a current star (Judi Dench, Bernadette Peters, Imelda Staunton, Clive Rowe) or a likely future one (the cast swelled by young actors and drama school students.)"

"In anthology shows, as in sport, selection is central. Some of the 41 songs demanded inclusion. Friedman brings piping hot comedy and vocal clarity to Mrs Lovett’s lethal recipes, A Little Priest, from Sweeney Todd. Written for a woman in early middle age, Send in the Clowns, as reprised by Dench at 87, becomes hauntingly valedictory, lines such as “this late in my career” now echoing those in I’m Still Here, in which Petula Clark, two years Dench’s senior, confirmed Sondheim’s genius in writing songs that fit a show but a standalone performer can make their own."

"Generically, it’s a concert rather than a fully staged show, but with props and costumes it feels seriously rehearsed. Rob Brydon and Haydn Gwynne find sharply fresh line readings in The Little Things You Do Together, the marital battle from Company. Among flourishes of choreography (Matthew Bourne and Stephen Mear) is reshaping the usually solo Broadway Baby for a chorus line of 10 top musical women, led by Julia McKenzie, on stage for the first time since the 1990s."

The Guardian
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Anyone Can Whistle (2022)

★★★★

"Sondheim flop gets a blazing revival"

"This elusive curiosity – whose original production in 1964 closed on Broadway after nine performances – finds brilliant new contexts for its absurdist story"

"Jordan Broatch, in their professional debut, is a blazingly engaging Hapgood, and Chrystine Symone gives soaring performances of the title number and Trumpets, making us glad Sondheim saw sense over that song’s excision, while Alex Young’s Mayor, adept at physical and vocal comedy, nails truths about political liars."

The Guardian
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Straight Line Crazy (2022)

★★★★★

"Ralph Fiennes enthrals as the man who shaped New York"

"Fiennes heads an electrifying cast in David Hare’s dynamic portrait of Robert Moses, an aggressive yet visionary urban planner who refused to back down"

"Nicholas Hytner’s populous production, with multi-location sets by Bob Crowley, continues the director’s trick, at his new venue, of somehow carrying on as if he has the budgets and resources previously available to him at the National."

"This is Hare’s most dramatically gripping and politically thoughtful play since The Absence of War three decades ago and provides another acting triumph for Fiennes which, in scenes where the urban monarch broods and rages over maps of his American kingdom, is a preview of the King Lear that is surely soon to come."

The Guardian
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Best of Enemies (2021)

★★★★

"James Graham’s superb study of media and politics"

"David Harewood and Charles Edwards go head-to-head as William F Buckley Jr and Gore Vidal respectively in an enthralling play based on a 1968 TV debate"

"At one very enjoyable level, Best of Enemies is – in the line of earlier Graham work and Peter Morgan’s Frost/Nixon – historical karaoke, recreating verbatim choice ideas and insults from the studio duels. The roar of complex thoughts and challenges to orthodoxy is so enthralling that it makes Radio 4’s Today programme sound like CBeebies.

But Graham and director Jeremy Herrin (with characteristic pace and clarity) crucially give this media archaeology a contemporary framing. The most striking modernity is casting. Charles Edwards’ Vidal delivers a near-perfect soundalike and acceptable lookalike, while Buckley, who can be seen as the epitome of a privileged white right-winger, is portrayed by the black British actor David Harewood. He exactly captures every aspect – drawl, lolling posture, facial tics – of the Republican’s awkward broadcasting persona, except for one element in the room."

The Guardian
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