It sounds like the ultimate fringe oddity. Instead, after a sellout off-Broadway, it became is an almost instant legend of the stage thanks to Broadway audiences battling for tickets, the heartily applauding Obamas and a rattled, disapproving Trump.
All honour to Ed Hall for reviving it now in his theatre, fretfully apt in the age of Putin and cyberspying and just as the Death of Stalin film is creeping us out in cinemas.
Richard McCabe as Cicero is a marvellous creation: a man risen from lowly beginnings through sheer intelligence and lawyerly eloquence, his genuine belief in the Republic and horror of autocracy fading sometimes endearingly into pomposity; his political gift for expediency always at war with his real principles.
Scrooge is a dishevelled Rhys Ifans, an actor who can produce mad-eyed mania but keeps it under control in a fine and often movingly anguished process through his ghostly torments, until the great relief unleashes crazed capering.
It’s about kids – the boiling mass of hormones that is a year 11 class grappling with GCSEs and half-formed hope. It’s about a mother and son, anger and kindness and making the best of a bad-dad deal.
J.R.R. Tolkien, among many other things, is famous for two things: his unending ability to procrastinate, and his heated (and repeated) refusals that his work could (or should) be read allegorically.
Tom Littler directs, and is admirably unafraid to start leisurely, almost lazy, with desultory kitchen conversation, a meal eaten, long pauses and passing remarks between valet and cook.
Across 25 centuries comes a harsh cry: not of war, not from savage male throats but from a swaying, chanting, defiant chorus of young women demanding, in the name of the gods and of humanity, freedom, asylum and choice.
“What country, friend, is this?” That soon becomes clear, in this beautiful rendition of Shakespeare’s melancholy comedy of love and misapprehension.
If you need relief from the current outbreak of extreme social primness about male behaviour, you’re going to love the bit with Clive Francis, as the elderly Mr Thwaites, going batshit-bonkers on pickled walnut Martinis when tempted by the generous Teutonic cleavage of Lucy Cohu’s Miss Kugelmann.
Even ruthless, psychotic gangsters have to fall in love sometimes. And Rodelinda is all about what happens when the people at the top of the cruel power pyramid have got their minds on other things, like other people’s faithful wives, as well as their crime kingdoms.
The joyful thing about James Graham is that for all the playwright’s youth, diamond wit and forensic insight, there is a deep humankindliness in his work.
Sometimes a character exits to join another play, or comes in from a scene you will only see in the next show. The final part begins half an hour before the first and ends after them all, providing prequel and sequel by half an hour.
Bertie Carvel’s Murdoch is remarkable, adopting a forward-pressing, tense keen hunch (almost his Trunchbull hunch) denoting a young(ish) man in a hurry, and in a temper with the hidebound old country which has snubbed him often enough.
This is a three-hour historical political play about Middle East negotiations in the 1990s: and it is absolutely thrilling.
This is a terrific coup for director Tom Littler’s debut as artistic director of the little Jermyn Theatre, now becoming a full producing-house. He commissioned this extraordinary 90-minuter from no less a writer than Howard Brenton.
It often puzzles me why sharp little stage gems like this don’t get pounced on by TV – notably the BBC – instead of commissioners wasting our eyesight on gloopy dramas custom-built to challenge nobody. Here it is, a neat 75 minutes, bang-on topical and sharply written by Jordan Tannahill, then only 23.
Rarely seen, half-forgotten, Githa Sowerby’s 1924 play is sharp, entertaining, truthful and elegant: Richard Eyre’s direction respects it with delicate precision.
Ah, now this is what the National Theatre is for! A great reckless sprawl of a brand-new play, with spectacular technology, extraordinary design (Katrina Lindsay!) and the very best of actors: all thrown at it, and directed with wit, clarity and humanity by Rufus Norris.
We know Omid Djalili best as a comedian: one of our few Iranian standups. Great timing and great heart, a good Fagin but comparatively new to the stage (he improved before our very eyes in What the Butler Saw). Yet he is dream casting here.