Selected reviews by Matt Wolf, London theatre critic for The New York Times.
Matt Wolf is an American theatre critic who has been based in London for his entire professional life.
Matt read English at Yale and was co-arts editor of the Yale Daily News, before graduating and moving to London.
He started his career at the Associated Press, and stayed for 21 years before moving to the Wall Street Journal and The Hollywood Reporter, and then became London theatre critic for Variety from 1992 to 2005. He was then London theatre critic for the The International Herald Tribune / International New York Times, and now writes for the New York Times as their London-based theatre critic.
In 2009 Matt was involved in starting The Arts Desk, and is theatre editor at that site and contributes reviews. He has also written a number of books including about Guys and Dolls and Les Miserables.
Matt sits on the panel of the Evening Standard Theatre Awards and is on the faculty of NYU/London and the V&A. He also writes for all major news outlets including The Times, Sunday Times, Guardian, and contributes to the BBC.
More about Matt Wolf:
All of Us (2022)
"“All of Us,” the first play from the performer Francesca Martinez, opens our eyes to the hardships of disabled people in Britain."
"The play’s director, Ian Rickson, brings his characteristic compassion to a deeply intimate scene in which Poppy is put to bed."
"It might seem a contrivance too far when Aidan is revealed to be the son of the Conservative minister responsible for the disability services cuts from which Jess and Poppy are reeling. But that coincidence allows a play rooted in individual circumstances to broaden into a politically charged cry for help."
Much Ado About Nothing (2022)
"Simon Godwin’s production relocates the action to the Italian Riviera in the 1930s, which allows for an onstage band to ramp up the party mood as well as some audience-pleasing comic business involving a gelato trolley and a wayward hammock."
"In one of the performances of the year, Will Keen, as the Russian leader, astonishes throughout, bringing his character to agitated, unpredictable life."
"There’s an aspect of bravery, you feel, in writing “Patriots” at all while Putin is on the march"
The Seagull (2022)
"Performed barefoot and in modern dress, Jamie Lloyd’s enthralling production, at the Harold Pinter Theater through Sept. 10, furthers the stripped-back approach to the classics he brought to a recent “Cyrano de Bergerac” that was acclaimed in New York and London."
"Doing without props of any kind, the cast members, headed by the “Game of Thrones” alumna Emilia Clarke in a terrific West End debut, deliver the play seated on green plastic chairs and boxed in by chipboard; they speak with a quiet intensity, as though we were eavesdropping on the characters’ innermost thoughts. Some will be exasperated by the approach, but I was riveted from the first hushed utterance to the last."
Mad House (2022)
"... what can I say beyond noting that I didn’t believe a single word of the fractiousness on view?"
"The synthetic feeling of Moritz von Stuelpnagel’s production is especially surprising following reports that Rebeck, the American author of such accomplished Broadway plays as “Seminar” and “Bernhardt/Hamlet,” wrote the play very much with its leading man, the TV star and stage actor David Harbour, in mind — specifically drawing upon mental health issues that Harbour has confronted in the past."
The Southbury Child (2022)
"... a lively if uneven new play from Stephen Beresford"
"Nicholas Hytner’s characteristically adroit production is on firmest footing when the play is at its most serious, and when Jennings’s bespectacled David puts his flippancy to one side to make way for genuine anguish."
"Elsewhere, you slightly tire of the script’s more glib moments..."
The Glass Menagerie (2022)
"Amy Adams in a Too-Fragile ‘Glass Menagerie’"
"In a rare stage outing for the actor, in London, she plays the central character in Tennessee Williams’s play as more of a fusspot than a harridan"
"This production’s quieter, less urgent approach comes into its own in the second act, but elsewhere, it is too removed from the play’s intensifying sadness."
"What’s lacking is the gathering sense of fury from Amanda at a lifetime of betrayal and disappointment"
Legally Blonde The Musical (2022)
"The updated musical version of the popular film challenges preconceived notions about the protagonist’s appearance"
"Bowman, as might be expected, has embraced Moss’s willingness to break with preconceived notions of Elle and has responded to the challenge with a sweet and stirring performance that asks the audience to question what it means to be blonde."
"Bowman charms throughout in a casting gamble that pays off. “I had to find my way,” Elle says at the end, and you have to commend a theater culture that has led this performer to this role, even if Bowman, too, has probably had to navigate unpleasantness in the process. As Elle could have told her, determination and talent, happily, can win the day."
"The London iteration is even more impressive than the performance I saw at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn."
"A particular revelation is the English actress-singer Anoushka Lucas as Laurey... Lucas brings a palpable anxiety to the role that emphasizes an underlying darkness to material we may first think of as buoyant."
"In ‘Jerusalem,’ a Once-in-a-Lifetime Performance, Again"
"Mark Rylance is back in a role that won him a Tony more than a decade ago. But this London production isn’t just coasting on past kudos."
"There’s mighty, and then there’s Mark Rylance in “Jerusalem,” a performance so powerfully connected to its part that it feels almost superhuman. That’s as it should be for a play about a larger-than-life character named Johnny Byron, who demands an entirely fearless actor, and has one in Rylance."
Prima Facie (2022)
"A Theatrical Neophyte With the Know-How of a Pro"
"Comer is cool and commanding as a defense lawyer named Tessa"
"Comer plays to all levels of the theater, often sweeping her gaze upward as if to enlist us as her jury. And though she speaks the text at breakneck speed, there’s no denying the visceral power of an evening that owes its sellout status to a theatrical neophyte who possesses the know-how of a seasoned pro."
The Corn is Green (2022)
"Cooke enlivens a time-honored tale by involving Williams directly as his play’s narrator (played by Gareth David-Lloyd), setting the scene and monitoring events throughout. And a vigorous Walker invests the peppery spinster at its inspirational center with a fiercely beating heart"
The Burnt City (2022)
"The Carnage of War, in Punchdrunk’s New London Show"
"In contrast to previous Punchdrunk shows — like the company’s signature New York success, “Sleep No More” — there is little buttonholing of individual playgoers for one-on-one encounters (perhaps not so desirable in the age of social distancing), and the proceedings don’t build to the usual galvanic finale. You depart impressed by a concerted appeal to the imagination, though maybe another go-round is needed to fill in the gaps."
The 47th (2022)
"Donald J. Trump won’t surrender the spotlight easily. But few could have guessed that he would find renewed life on the London stage"
"... those expecting the sort of “Saturday Night Live”-style broadside familiar from Alec Baldwin are in for a surprise. Within minutes, the audience is aware of a character, not a caricature, and one with a lot on his mind. The opening monologue depicts a vengeful figure acutely aware of how he is regarded: “I know, I know, you hate me,” this Trump remarks at the start."
"When Carvel is center stage, “The 47th” entirely grips. The problem comes with a rambling, shapeless narrative that soon loses its way."
Straight Line Crazy (2022)
"Written by the English playwright David Hare, this exposition-heavy drama brings Ralph Fiennes roaring back to the stage as Moses"
"Hare chooses two decisive points in Moses’ life to tell a story of vaulting ambition that devolves into the madness hinted at in the play’s title"
"Fiennes has enough barrel-chested authority to sustain interest in what might otherwise seem arcane. You almost wish that the play, and Nicholas Hytner’s adroit production, were longer and amplified the material more"
"‘Cinderella’ Is Worth the Wait"
"This 1934 show is Depression-era escapism fit for post-Covid times. If you want to remove yourself from the world for a few hours, this is the place to do it."
"The long-awaited show from the 73-year-old industry veteran turns out to have been worth the wait. “Cinderella” is a big, colorful production, painted in deliberately broad brushstrokes by the director Laurence Connor, that turns a time-honored story (somewhat) on its head. The result may not be quite the theatrical equivalent of its heroine’s cut-glass slipper, but it nonetheless looks set for a sturdy West End run. Best of all: “Cinderella” is fun."
Anything Goes (2021)
"An explosion of joy. Sutton Foster makes a sensational London stage debut"
"This is the third Anything Goes I've seen over the years in London and by some measure the best, chiefly for offering the first truly triple-threat Reno Sweeney encountered this side of the Atlantic, albeit in the form of two-time Tony-winner Sutton Foster, the Broadway regular here making a headline-grabbing London debut."
"Delayed opening doesn't land"
"Gorky play suffers an identity crisis in uneasily-pitched revival"
"Tinuke Craig...has trouble locating the elusive gallows humour necessary to sustain this pitch-black portrait of a moneyed family wallowing in its own often-gleeful mendacity"
The Starry Messenger (2019)
"Sam Yates's production is equal parts intriguing and irritating, and Broderick's singular theatrical deadpan may alienate as many people as it attracts."
"It may not help this play's cause that Lonergan has been represented in successive Broadway seasons with revivals of three earlier works of his, all of them superior to this and each one served up in deeply empathic productions that ensured the plays' longevity. The Starry Messenger, to be sure, has its moments, and you certainly clock the Chekhovian pulse beating beneath a play that contains specific echoes of both Uncle Vanya and Three Sisters. But too much of it simply isn't credible on a plot level alone, and Broderick and a highly variable company (Elizabeth McGovern included) don't entirely skate over the fissures in the writing, charming though the players at times are."