The great thing about the proud tradition of Oxford Playhouse panto is that while cannily aware of the audience’s likely cultural uplift, it has no fear of getting down and dirty with the rackety, popular and downright silly, and a firm grip on local in-jokes.
Joanna Carrick’s adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, a spirited three-hander, is astonishingly faithful to Lewis Carroll’s text and, importantly, spirit.
This Uncle Vanya at Hampstead Theatre one has to revolve around Vanya, and Alan Cox is suitably winning in Vanya’s dismayed, demoralised self-aware failure to count in life, and his hopeless mooning admiration of the lovely Yelena, who has married his awful old brother-in-law the Professor.
I went with glee to Justin Audibert’s production of The Box Of Delights, John Masefield’s first novel about Kay Harker, elegantly adapted by Piers Torday.
Down at The Bridge we had Martin McDonagh’s “very very very” dark panto; with fewer pretensions and a lot more laughs, give a hand to Tom Wentworth’s spirited and largely true story of Burk & Hare.
Michael McManus – writer, formerly of the Press Complaints Commission and IPSO, has been a special adviser in three government departments over decades and made valiant attempts at getting selected himself. He knows the mould, and how mouldy it can get. So this fascinating, timely play, An Honourable Man, is steeped in bitter experience.
Here in Robert Hastie’s careful production of Macbeth is all the horror, psychological acuity and profound, terrified morality of Shakespeare’s darkest play.
As a parable of the apparent inadequacy of legend in a real world, the RSC’s Don Quixote it is timeless and matchless.
Bluesy, folky, beautifully paced and musically satisfying, Hadestown is a treat: touching without sentimentality and with enough topical bite to startle without hammering the point.
Billy Bishop Goes to War, John MacLachlan Gray’s 1982 Canadian play, is a fascinating sidelight in this centenary week, a biography of one star pilot in that war.
Honour is an old story indeed – and an artfully updated 1995 play by Joanna Murray-Smith – but so beautifully performed in Paul Robinson’s austerely set production that it feels very up to date.
Director Robert Icke, most ingenious of re-framers and refreshers, presents Ibsen’s The Wild Duck, a classic of pain and lies, with a touch of meta-theatre at the Almeida Theatre.
Now, on Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s 246th birthday, these Eastern counties are seeing a tour of this fascinating reimagining, from letters and records, of the way the poem resonates through the man’s own life. Pat Whymark writes and directs; her partner Julian Harries plays The Mariner.
Troilus & Cressida at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon feels horribly current. The terrible story sweeps you up: the vigour, the clamour, the extraordinary racket of macho metallic madness, shield and sword echoing Glennie’s extraordinary score.
Unassumingly spectacular, The Wider Earth is unwhimsically playful, it is an affecting, respectful, important story of a green young man who kept his eyes open and endured seasickness and doubt and discomfort and danger.
This is a made for measure Measure-For-Measure. Its greatest achievement is hacking the flabby old Jacobian down to the right side of 90 minutes. It rollicks through, giving a booster jab to the drama but keeping quiet pauses and poetry.
Shows as powerful, thoughtful and elegantly assembled as Pearls From the Grit should travel beyond the small compass of towns whose very old people remember them.
Took me a shameful while to catch up on this clever little riot of a feminist musical, down from an Edinburgh triumph and packing the Arts Theatre for weeks with whooping gigsters. But just as I hit a late matinee came news that it’ll be back there in 2019.
There are eight authors who have contributed to Sketching and as their leader – and contributor of three of the strands – the ever-fertile, ever-fascinated James Graham.
It was Gregory Doran, the RSC’s leader, who surprised Anil Gupta and Richard Pinto (veterans of The Kumars, Citizen Khan etc) with the suggestion they adapt Moliere’s 17c comedy of hypocrisy, and set it in a Pakistani Muslim family in Birmingham, directed by Iqbal Khan.