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.
Mates blogger: Libby Purves
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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.
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.
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.
Terry Gilliam is just the man to realise Into The Woods: his Python sensibility helps, and he co-directs with Leah Hausman who, with dancer-choreographer wit, can make every movement speak whether in somersaulting pratfall or darkening tragedy.
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.
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.
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.
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
Wooof! The OAT’s new show 101 Dalmatians, bounding and cavorting along under the direction of that amiable alfresco showman Timothy Sheader, rolls over (with quite a lot of success) to make you give it a tummy-rub and fondle its ears.
Crazy For You at the Chichester Festival Theatre, roaring into life under Susan Stroman’s choreographic wit, is the ultimate song-n-dance show. And, in this year of theatrical resurrection, the timeliest of celebrations of showbiz itself.
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?
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.
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.
Barefoot In The Park at the Mill at Sonning is a squib, a frivolity, a period piece. An escape. Which frankly, on Boris-Meltdown Day was no bad thing. Thank you all.
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.
That Harry Hill is the writer explains the rumbustious irreverence of Tony! [The Tony Blair Rock Opera] at the Park Theatre, but Steve Brown’s tunes and lyrics are much of its glory.
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.
The Jermyn Street Theatre – small as it is – has been rocking Howard Brenton’s latest play Cancelling Socrates, set in Ancient Greece and dealing with the last days and condemnation for sacrilege of the philosopher Socrates.
The Southbury Child is a fine play, sharply written with some really strong unexpected laughs and a heartstopping ending. Its subtleties of character ask a great deal (not in vain) from the cast.
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