Though the title is a bit of a mouthful, Dolly Parton’s Smoky Mountain Christmas Carol is an unexpectedly brilliant retelling of the Victorian tale. With Robert Bathurst as Scrooge and a live band onstage, you can’t go too far wrong.
‘Feelgood, festive escapism the classic musical theatre way’: WHITE CHRISTMAS – Touring ★★★★
Following a successful West End engagement at the Dominion back in 2019, White Christmas has been taken on the road for the 2022 festive season. This time round, the Irving Berlin classic musical stars Jay McGuiness, Dan Burton, Jessica Daley, Monique Young, Lorna Luft and Michael Starke – and of course includes several renditions of the famous title song.
‘An intriguing show’: WE WERE PROMISED HONEY! – Soho Theatre ★★★★
If you’re looking for a show with a happy ending, We Were Promised Honey! makes it clear from the outset that this isn’t something they’re going to provide. The audience will get to see into their future – from the immediate (a standing ovation seconds after the show) to the very distant (a romantic reunion in several decades’ time) – but it will end the same way for everyone. Sam Ward is the writer and performer of the show, which is in the middle of a limited engagement at the Soho Theatre.
Spooks & Sparklers: Mind the blog suggests some theatrical tricks & treats to keep audience on their toes
Too old for trick or treating? Local fireworks display cancelled? You could stay in and binge-watch a Netflix boxset, or plan a scary movie marathon – or you could try something a bit different.
‘A spooktacular treat’: THE CANTERVILLE GHOST – Southwark Playhouse ★★★★★
Fear and laughter often go hand-in-hand (you only have to look at work from the likes of Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith to see that), so Tall Stories’ approach to the Oscar Wilde novella The Canterville Ghost is not as bizarre as it may first seem. Their vaudeville stage adaptation is currently playing at Southwark Playhouse, before heading to Bristol and Newcastle.
‘A fantastic double act’: SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE VALLEY OF FEAR – Greenwich Theatre & Touring ★★★★
The game is afoot once more, as Blackeyed Theatre hase adapted the Sherlock Holmes story The Valley of Fear into a brand new stage show. This production is currently touring the country, and follows on from the events of The Sign of Four – with Luke Barton and Joseph Derrington reprising the roles of Holmes and Watson for this latest mystery.
‘Gabriel Byrne is a magnetic presence’: WALKING WITH GHOSTS – Apollo Theatre ★★★★★
Following in the footsteps of the likes of David Suchet and Ian McKellen, celebrated Irish actor Gabriel Byrne brings his memoir, Walking With Ghosts, to the stage. This brief West End run comes off the back of an engagement at Dublin’s Gaiety Theatre earlier this year, and a stint on Broadway will follow next month.
‘It’s clear that this play is having an effect already’: I, JOAN – Shakespeare’s Globe ★★★★
Charlie Josephine’s play I, Joan at Shakespeare’s Globe does give Joan a feminist mantle; that is probably for the best, as the character would be pretty unbearable if focused solely on their religious and nationalist quest – it also speaks more to a modern audience, and makes more sense in the context of other creative choices in this play.
‘A complete joy of a production’: THE TEMPEST – Shakespeare’s Globe ★★★★★
The Tempest at Shakespeare’s Globe is an unexpectedly hilarious production of a potentially tricky play, with vibrant direction from Sean Holmes – George Fouracres, Ralph Davis and Ciarán O’Brien shine as a comedy trio.
‘A well overdue production of an elusive play’: HENRY VIII – Shakespeare’s Globe ★★★★
Written in collaboration with John Fletcher, Henry VIII is quite possibly Shakespeare’s final play – but, despite this country’s continued obsession with all things Tudor, it remains a rarely performed piece. Imagine the delight of Shakespeare completists everywhere when it was announced as part of the Globe’s 2022 summer season, this time in a slightly updated version that sees Hannah Khalil (resident writer) become the third collaborator; the original has a heavy male focus, thanks in part to the two (male) playwrights having to work around the expectations of the establishment to avoid censorship and arrest – but now 400 years have passed, it’s about time the female voices in this story were heard as well.
‘Absolutely worth investing your time in’: HENRY VI: WARS OF THE ROSES – Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford upon Avon ★★★★
Running in rep alongside Henry VI: Rebellion (a.k.a. Henry VI, part two), the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Royal Shakespeare Theatre is also currently home to Henry VI, part three. As with the previous part, this third play in Shakespeare’s first Henriad has been renamed – going under the title Henry VI: Wars of the Roses.
‘This exhilarating production makes you wonder why the play is often so overlooked’: HENRY VI: REBELLION – Stratford-upon-Avon (RSC)
The story begins with Henry welcoming his new bride, Margaret of Anjou, with a boisterous feast that isn’t exactly suited to his calm and reserved temperament – though Margaret immediately feels at home.
‘The intimate moments are so credible it feels borderline voyeuristic sat in the audience’: COCK – West End
Watching Mike Bartlett’s play Cock today, it seems strange to think that it was actually written 13 years ago, as it covers themes that are so resonant with life in 2022.
‘Sometimes you should just leave things alone’: MOULIN ROUGE! The Musical – West End ★★
If you’ve seen Moulin Rouge! The Musical and loved it, I’d advise you to read no further – this is not going to be pleasant.
‘An important show deservedly being shared with a wider audience’: RIOT ACT – Stream Theatre (Online review) ★★★★
This is a piece of verbatim theatre, telling three stories of queer activism from the mid-20th century to the present day; Alexis Gregory conducted interviews with Michael-Anthony Nozzi (a survivor of the Stonewall riots), Lavinia Co-op (a 70s drag artist), and Paul Burston (a 90s AIDS activist).
‘There is quite a bit going on but it balances perfectly’: HAMLET – Sam Wanamaker Playhouse
As soon as Hamlet was announced as part of the 2021-22 winter season my eyes rolled so hard I nearly saw the inside of my eye sockets. I was desperately disappointed. But then something magical happened: a Hamlet unlike any other.
‘Elizabeth McGovern is excellent as Ava through the ages’: AVA: THE SECRET CONVERSATIONS – Riverside Studios
On the anniversary of Hollywood legend Ava Gardner’s death, she lived again in the form of Elizabeth McGovern, whose play AVA: The Secret Conversations has now opened at Hammersmith’s Riverside Studios.
It’s going to be epic: What are you most looking forward to at the Globe this summer?
It seems like we’ve been made to wait an inordinately long time for this announcement, but it was definitely worth it as far as I’m concerned.
Year in review: My favourite digital shows 2021
Despite the fact that theatres were once again up and running for about half the year (varying from place to place), there was still a massive appetite for digital productions going into 2021.
‘A theatrical experience that you will never forget’: CABARET – West End ★★★★★
A theatrical experience that you will never forget – Eddie Redmayne revels in the role of the Emcee, but Jessie Buckley steals the show in Cabaret.