Mates blogger: Libby Purves


Libby Purves is one of over 45 theatre bloggers who are part of the MyTheatreMates collective. This page features Libby's posts on MyTheatreMates. Take a look at our full list of theatre bloggers and our aggregated feed of all our Mates' posts. We’re always looking for new theatre bloggers. Could that be you? Learn about how to join us.
Libby Purves
Libby Purves was theatre critic for The Times from 2010 to 2013. Determined to continue her theatre commentary after losing that job, she set up her own site www.theatrecat.com in October 2013. She personally reviews all major London openings, usually with on-the-night publication, and also gives voice to a new generation of critics with occasional guest 'theatrekittens'. In addition to her theatre writing and myriad other credits, Libby has been a presenter on BBC Radio 4’s Midweek for over 30 years. She is also the author of a dozen novels, and numerous non-fiction titles. In 1999, Libby was appointed an OBE for services to journalism.
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The latest from Libby on MyTheatreMates

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‘Couldn’t be more topical’: EUREKA DAY – Old Vic Theatre ★★★★★

In London theatre, Opinion, Other Recent Articles, Plays, Reviews by Libby PurvesLeave a Comment

So we know where we are with Eureka Day at the Old Vic: joyfully satirising middle-class liberal-cum-hippie angst, parental protectiveness and the age of offence-taking, as in beloved recent comedies like God of Carnage and Clybourne Park. But as it heats, the focus shifts to the even more topical theme: digital misinformation, rumour and fake news getting indiscriminately sucked in and solidified into identity politics.

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‘An unforgettable evening’: ROSE – Park Theatre ★★★★★

In London theatre, Opinion, Other Recent Articles, Plays, Reviews by Libby PurvesLeave a Comment

Martin Sherman’s 1999 masterpiece Rose is an immense monologue – two halves, each over an hour – and Maureen Lipman tackles it with pin-sharp timing, humour, and controlled feeling, sitting on her bench remembering. Her extraordinary performance was streamed during the Covid years but to see it live in front of you in this intimate theatre is different, startling and personal, heroic. With the best will in the world any screen showing fades into being just more TV, more Holocaust history. This does not.

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‘Rarely less than entertaining but too restrained’: THE SNAIL HOUSE – Hampstead Theatre ★★★

In London theatre, Opinion, Other Recent Articles, Plays, Reviews by Libby PurvesLeave a Comment

Shiny though the shell is, Richard Eyre’s play The Snail House at Hampstead Theatre becomes a frustrating stew of ideas, attitudes and family tensions which doesn’t quite hit the finishing line. Directed by the author himself it is rarely less than entertaining, always emotionally recognisable and interestingly topical: but it’s too humble, too restrained.

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‘There’s plenty of musical energy here’: PENELOPE: SEVEN WAYS TO WAIT – Arcola Theatre

In London theatre, Opera, Opinion, Other Recent Articles, Reviews by Libby PurvesLeave a Comment

Grimeborn’s “in-progress sharing” of Penelope: Seven Ways to Wait provides 40 minutes of intriguing and accomplished musicality, loosely themed around the concept of waiting, with the classical heroine Penelope (long-suffering, long waiting wife of Odysseus) at its emotional helm.

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‘It would be hard to find a better healing for difficult times’: GIRL FROM THE NORTH COUNTRY – Touring ★★★★

In Musicals, Opinion, Other Recent Articles, Regional theatre, Reviews, Touring by Libby PurvesLeave a Comment

This humbly immense, uniquely created show threw me for a loop five summers ago. Girl From the North Country is back on tour, via Oliviers and Broadway awards, with its miraculous marriage of poetic sensibility and hardscrabble humanity. It would be hard to find a better healing for difficult times.

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‘Timely, enterprising, emotionally shattering, politically shaming’: TWO UKRAINIAN PLAYS – Finborough Theatre

In London theatre, Opinion, Other Recent Articles, Plays, Reviews by Libby PurvesLeave a Comment

These two Ukrainian Plays at the Finborough Theatre were both both first born at the time of the 2014 conflict in Ukraine, the second particularly in the Donbas where ugly divisions erupted between Russian sympathisers and supporters of the elected and legitimate government in Kyiv.

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‘Reminds you of Shakespeare’s extraordinary moments too easily forgotten’: MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING – National Theatre ★★★★

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A star danced, and under it was Simon Godwin’s joyful, 1930s Riviera production born. Quite apart from the fact that it is nice to have the earnest NT enjoying two outbreaks of frenetic jitterbug dancing at once – Jack Absolute upstairs at the Olivier, and here Much Ado About Nothing set in the Mediterranean hotel world of Noel Coward – where it feats with unexpected neatness.

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‘It’s a good-hearted, family-friendly show’: IDENTICAL – Nottingham ★★★★

In Musicals, Opinion, Other Recent Articles, Regional theatre, Reviews, Touring by Libby PurvesLeave a Comment

It is the original postwar Germany and Austria into which Stuart Paterson’s book for new musical Identical takes us in a fresh, bouncy Stiles and Drewe musical. Auditions of hundred pairs of identical twins found three: on press night Eden and Emme Patrick proved faultless in a complicated, sometimes emotionally intense performance, first disliking one another on sight and then rapturously realising their sisterhood; they are playfully natural and assured, rarely offstage for long

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‘High-spirited direction keeps gales of laughter meeting good lines’: JACK ABSOLUTE FLIES AGAIN – National Theatre ★★★★

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Who knew that Caroline Quentin could achieve (almost) the splits, while strumming a ukulele? Or that that Richard Bean and Chris Oliver – who a decade ago created the National Theatre’s world-conquering One Man, Two Guvnors – would for their next 18c update, Jack Absolute Flies Again, attempt a mashup of Sheridan’s classic frothy Restoration romcom The Rivals, and set it in a WW2 RAF base?

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‘Feels even better than before’: ANYTHING GOES – Barbican Theatre ★★★★★

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A year on, and after a partly recast tour, Anything Goes’ SS America drops anchor back in the Barbican and in style. Actually feels even better than before. Aboard are Cole Porter’s champagne rhymes, Kathleen Marshall’s grand direction and peerlessly witty comic choreography, moments of 1930s romantic elegance for those with a tender nature and PG Wodehouse’s high-absurd plot for the rest of us. Last year it loomed out of the grey Covid fog like a sunburst, and had us on our feet. Same again.

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‘Confrontational, shocking, classic in its focus’: PATRIOTS – Almeida Theatre

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Patriots at the Almeida Theatre is a fresh history play: confrontational, shocking, classic in its focus on vast flawed characters and pretty close to documented – and very recent – reality. It has all the elements: a kingmaker whose creation turns on him, acolytes and shifting alliances, self-serving arrogance, passionate romantic patriotism, politics and big money and tragedy and defeat.

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‘The old story echoes as it should’: PARADISE LOST – Touring

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Paradise Lost is a curiosity, one of those delightful sproutings now going around after the loss of two Edinburgh Fringes and a lot of lockdown frustration. Ian Sharp’s words and Tim Sutton’s music are applied with merriment – but some decent reverence too – to the great rolling iambics of John Milton.

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‘Gregory Doran doing what he does better than any of his generation’: RICHARD III – Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford upon Avon ★★★★★

In Opinion, Other Recent Articles, Plays, Regional theatre, Reviews by Libby PurvesLeave a Comment

Take this as purest Shakespearian tragedy: vigorous but classic, a magnificent magnification of the darkest human and political longing, of affection, terror, defensiveness, hubris and – in the women – a defiant courage that rings down the ages. Don’t miss Richard III at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford upon Avon.


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