Which three plays & musicals does Mark Shenton recommend this week?

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Looking for theatregoing inspiration? MyTheatreMates co-founder Mark Shenton chooses his top three plays and top three musicals to book for Click on links to BUY tickets in the Mates Ticket Shop.

Toby Jones in The Birthday Party

Top three plays

1) The Birthday Party – Pinter at the Pinter Theatre is always appropriate, of course, and this meticulous revival of his second full-length play from 1958 by Pinter expert Ian Rickson is fantastically cast to prove another winner. In my review for londontheatre.co.uk, I wrote that Rickson “orchestrates a finely-tuned cast in the minute rhythms of comedy and threat that pulse through the play.” They include Zoe Wanamaker and Toby Jones, Peter Wight and Stephen Mangan.

Justine Mitchell & Sam Troughton in Beginning

2) Beginning David Eldridge‘s unusual and captivating modern love story originally premiered at the National’s Dorfman Theatre last October, and has now transferred to the Ambassadors. In my original review of the production at the National for londontheatre.co.uk, “I wrote that it is acted with utter conviction and emotional truth by the gorgeously tentative Sam Troughton and a needy, vulnerable Justine Mitchell.” I also interviewed director Polly Findlay for londontheatre.co.uk, in which she told me, “There seems to be something about the play that speaks very directly to audiences.’

The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk

3) The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk – Another two-hander love story, Emma Rice‘s gorgeous, life-affirming Kneehigh production of a play about artist Marc Chagall and his wife Bella is playing at London’s most atmospheric and eerily beautiful music hall, Wilton’s.  It’s spellbindingly beautiful and made with love about love. It runs here to 10 February 2018, then tours the UK.

Louis Maskell in The Grinning Man

Top three musicals

1) The Grinning Man – First seen at Bristol Old Vic in 2016, this is one of a slew of new British musicals that have made their way to the West End recently, as I wrote in The Stage recently. Now playing at the Trafalgar Studios, co-producer David Adkin told me, “It’s probably the riskiest thing in the West End – but sometimes you have to take a risk, otherwise the dynamic of the West End becomes quite dull.”

Shirley Henderson & Arinze Kene in Girl from the North Country

2) Girl from the North Country – Written and directed by Conor McPherson, this is a jukebox show with a difference, embedding a play set in 1930s Depression-era America with a soundtrack of wonderfully performed Bob Dylan songs.  Originally premiered at the Old Vic last summer, I wrote in my review of its transfer now to the Noel Coward Theatre in my review for londontheatre.co.uk that “it feels like a bona fide gem in a world of costume jewellery. McPherson provides an intricate and precise yet impressionistic account of these lives unfolding, with big and small dramas playing out there.  Not since Once – the stage version of the Irish indie film – have I felt a show move with such organic vitality; the songs emerge from the action as a swirling, fluid commentary on it, though not specifically to further the dramatic action.”

Carolyn Maitland, Ashley Stillburn & Anna O’Byrne in The Woman in White

3) The Woman in White Andrew Lloyd Webber‘s 2004 West End musical, based on a mystery novel by Wilkie Collins, is beautifully restored in a new intimate chamber musical, running at the Charing Cross Theatre to February 10. In my review for londontheatre.co.uk, I wrote, “The score, which begins full of Benjamin Britten-esque echoes, eventually dissolves into a gorgeous run of lovely tunes, all of them fantastically well sung here – it’s worth going just for the voices.” They include Ashley Stillburn, Carolyn Maitland, Anna O’Bryne and Chris Peluso.

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Mark Shenton
Mark Shenton has been a full-time freelance London-based theatre critic and journalist since 2002, and is proud to have co-founded MyTheatreMates with Terri Paaddock. He has variously (and sometimes simultaneously) been chief theatre critic for the Sunday Express, The Stage, WhatsOnStage, What's On in London magazine and LondonTheatre.co.uk. He has taught at ArtsEd London in Chiswick on musical theatre history since 2012. He was until recently President of the Critics' Circle, and is also on the board of Mercury Musical Developments and the National Student Drama Festival (NSDF). You can follow him on Twitter @ShentonStage, and on instagram at @ShentonStage. His personal website is www.shentonstage.com.

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Mark Shenton on FacebookMark Shenton on RssMark Shenton on Twitter
Mark Shenton
Mark Shenton has been a full-time freelance London-based theatre critic and journalist since 2002, and is proud to have co-founded MyTheatreMates with Terri Paaddock. He has variously (and sometimes simultaneously) been chief theatre critic for the Sunday Express, The Stage, WhatsOnStage, What's On in London magazine and LondonTheatre.co.uk. He has taught at ArtsEd London in Chiswick on musical theatre history since 2012. He was until recently President of the Critics' Circle, and is also on the board of Mercury Musical Developments and the National Student Drama Festival (NSDF). You can follow him on Twitter @ShentonStage, and on instagram at @ShentonStage. His personal website is www.shentonstage.com.

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