This freshened-up and first-rate production of A Christmas Carol at the Old Vic sees Paterson Joseph giving one of the performances of his life, his humanity simply erupting onto the stage.
‘It is beautiful. Then it is ugly’: MASTER HAROLD & THE BOYS – National Theatre ★★★★★
As a world of harmony tilts into filth you can feel the jolt going through the audience in Athol Fugard’s personal play set in apartheid era South Africa, ‘Master Harold’… and the boys at the National Theatre.
‘Streaks of compassionate melancholy under the sparkles of hilarity’: BIRTHDAYS PAST, BIRTHDAYS PRESENT – Scarborough ★★★★★
Underneath Birthdays Past, Birthdays Present beats Ayckbourn’s sorrowful, understanding heart, showing us that comedy is just tragedy on its way to happening.
‘A Tardis of a play, bigger than its size’: TWO LADIES – Bridge Theatre ★★★★★
In a tight 90 minutes Nancy Harris’ new play Two Ladies moves from a sharp, occasionally funny observation of this wifely condition into a meditation on politics both gender and global:
‘Using theatre to entertain & appal’: A VERY EXPENSIVE POISON – Old Vic Theatre ★★★★★
Marina Litvinenko’s final address in A Very Expensive Poison, reminding us of our political cowardice and idly greedy tolerance of crooked Russian money in our capital city, will bring theatres to their feet in admiration for her and shame at our shabbiness. It needed telling.
‘Never think community-based theatre is just socially useful’: ROMEO & JULIET – Wherstead Suffolk ★★★★★
Deep under the trees, beyond Jimmy’s meerkat and camel enclosures lies a 1960’s beach: shelter, deckchairs and lounging teens, Mods and Rockers, Montague and Capulet.
‘Swap your immortal apple-growing sister for a ticket’: DAS RHEINGOLD – Arcola Theatre ★★★★★
The Ring Cycle is opera’s biggest box set: a sixteen-hour binge of dwarves, nymphs, dragons, gods, heroes and monsters, all suspended inside one of the greatest philosophical conundrums expressed by the human mind – and set to glorious, extraordinary music.
‘It’s all done superbly’: MEASURE FOR MEASURE – Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford upon Avon ★★★★★
What Gregory Doran frames most brilliantly in Measure For Measure at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford upon Avon is the is the central confusion of morality.
‘Several people were actually rendered helpless’: NOISES OFF – Lyric Hammersmith ★★★★★
It felt like a pilgrimage, homage to pay. Thirty-seven years ago Michael Frayn’s greatest of comedies, Noises Off, a wicked love-song to the great age of touring rep, premiered in this very theatre.
‘Elevated to realms of unexpected glee’: A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM – Bridge Theatre ★★★★★
A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Bridge Theatre is a dream of a Dream. One expected fun from the combination of Nicholas Hytner, a roiling mass of promenaders in the pit and a Bunny Christie design which makes the most of this fresh big theatre’s technical tricks.
‘A new-century’s howl of irritated perception at the imprisoning absurdities of society’: RUTHERFORD & SON – National Theatre ★★★★★
Psychology, social rage, human sadness and betrayal move in an elegant circle in Rutherford & Son at the National Theatre and Findlay’s direction doesn’t miss a beat of it.
‘Pure & thoughtful pleasure’: SMALL ISLAND – National Theatre ★★★★★
Small Island is a terrific yarn, both romantic and tough, about history and Empire and sex and frustration, escape and hope and love and racism: about promises turned to dross and the great seas of misunderstanding that roll between people.
‘Mischievous satirical blast’: WHITE PEARL – Royal Court Theatre ★★★★★
Five mice for White Pearl at the Royal Court Theatre because it’s different and clever and useful, and horribly good fun.
‘Funny, truthful, wise & bravely original in form’: THIS IS MY FAMILY – Chichester ★★★★★
This is gorgeous. Funny, truthful, wise, and bravely original in form. Anyone with a a family – past, present, remembered, or merely observed in cautious auntly incredulity – should see Tim Firth’s musical This Is My Family.
‘Honest, humane & thoughtful play’: KUNENE & THE KING – Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon ★★★★★
Specific though the SA setting is, Kunene & The King opens great vistas of heart-stopping universal wisdom about death, guilt, reconciliation and human need.
‘Brilliant, necessary, questioning’: DOWNSTATE – National Theatre ★★★★★
If we accept that people are widely diverse, we have to accept that paedophiles are too. Not all the same identi-monster. Moreover, if their horrifying actions pose us questions we need to think very clearly about answers.
‘Honest & beautiful play’: NINE NIGHT – Trafalgar Studios ★★★★★
Nine Night is an honest and beautiful play which by being so particular and rooted in one community becomes a conduit of universal emotional truths. Fabulous.
‘If anything the sincerity has deepened’: A CHRISTMAS CAROL – Arts Theatre ★★★★★
Has the performance of A Christmas Carol, and Simon Callow, changed over the years? Probably, but not from ego or bravura, no cheap tricks, no knowing modernities: if anything the sincerity has deepened.
‘This tight, intimate, heartfelt production sparks new life’: FIDDLER ON THE ROOF – Menier Chocolate Factory ★★★★★
You gasp and laugh and shiver in recognition and, yes, love. However many times you have seen it this tight, intimate, heartfelt production at the Menier Chocolate Factory sparks new life into Fiddler On the Roof.
‘I hope it comes back every year’: A CHRISTMAS CAROL – Old Vic ★★★★★
A Christmas Carol at The Old Vic is, if possible, even finer and more heartfelt and gripping, tuneable and serious and moving than last year.