With the total loss of its Arts Council funding, Hampstead Theatre’s future as a specialist new writing venue is in doubt. But before anything drastically changes, the playwrights and plays developed by Roxana Silbert, who was edged out as artistic director in December last year, are still coming through. One of them is Ruby Thomas, whose Either, her 2019 drama in the studio here, was thrillingly experimental. Boy, can she write! Her latest, this time on the main stage, is Linck & Mülhahn, a historical queer love story which features a gender-pioneering couple.
‘Both bubbles of laughter & heartbreaking tragedy’: LINCK & MULHAHN – Hampstead Theatre ★★★★★
Helena Wilson and Maggie Bain in Linck & Mülhahn, Hampstead Theatre, Feb 2023. Photo: Helen Murray
Writer Ruby Thomas was in the British Library when she came across a reference Linck and Mulhahn, a same-sex couple in 18th Century Prussia wh…
‘Sharp, credible & funny’: LINCK & MULHAHN – Hampstead Theatre
The story of Linck and Mulhahn in 1722 is the backbone of a fascinating story which inspires a playful tragicomedy from Ruby Thomas at the Hampstead Theatre, who has already dazzled us twice downstairs in this theatre which discovers new writers and tends them well.
‘The comedy is lost in translation’: THE ART OF ILLUSION – Hampstead Theatre
The Art of Illusion won several awards when it opened in Paris in 2014. Now it gets its London premiere at the Hampstead Theatre but will this play about magic and illusion conjure up some English awards?
‘Plenty of theatricality to enjoy along the way’: THE ART OF ILLUSION – Hampstead Theatre
From a red handkerchief disappearing within the hands of a magician to fake footage in the early 20th century, Hampstead Theatre’s latest international import is the UK premiere of The Art of Illusion, a 2014 French play exploring the history of magical performance and inventive approaches to entertaining audiences.
Rev Stan chooses her Top Ten Plays of 2022
This feels like a moment; I haven’t been able to do a best of theatre list since 2019 because of ‘you know what’. It’s been huge fun revisiting the plays I’ve seen – nearly 50. And while that total is down on pre-pandemic levels, it was still tricky to narrow down my choices, but here goes.
‘A ray of optimism in a horrible world’: SONS OF THE PROPHET – Hampstead Theatre
In his award-winning play, which premiered in Boston in 2011, American playwright Stephen Karam examines the issues in a thoroughly original, brilliantly constructed and thematically compelling way. Now getting its belated European premiere at the Hampstead Theatre, Sons of the Prophet is an enthralling experience, both intellectually and emotionally.
‘Starting a lot of conversations that it doesn’t manage to finish’: SONS OF THE PROPHET – Hampstead Theatre
Stephen Karam’s Sons of the Prophet at the Hampstead Theatre, first staged in 2011, makes its European debut here by starting a lot of conversations that it doesn’t manage to finish.
‘Powerful account of addiction’: BLACKOUT SONGS – Hampstead Theatre
In his latest, Blackout Songs, a powerful 95-minute two-hander, Joe White uses a flexible structure to represent some excruciating emotional material, and the result gives an almost overwhelmingly sense of the horrible realities of addiction, both to alcohol and to people.
‘Hard, clever, truthful, sometimes funny’: BLACKOUT SONGS – Hampstead Theatre
Blackout Songs is another sharp, pared-down studio production: in 95 minutes Joe White delivers a necessarily painful two-hander about youthful alcoholism and the disaster of colliding addictions. We watch two lovers, over an uncertain wavering timeline, who can neither control nor remember their lives and real selves: we get flashes, snapshots of their meeting, coupling, celebrating, fighting, betraying.
‘Rona Morison is shiveringly powerful’: MARY – Hampstead Theatre
For 400 years the reputation of Mary, Queen of Scots, has been battled over: she has been called victim and whore, murderess and heroine, flighty and heroic. Romance flowers in drama and opera: she was a young mother, beautiful, imprisoned, finally executed by her cousin Elizabeth I. But in this static but powerful 90-minutes, in which the Queen herself is offstage except for two glimpses, Rona Munro concentrates on the period before her forced abdication in 1567.
‘Munro’s writing is sharp & fearsome’: MARY – Hampstead Theatre
Rona Munro’s latest piece, Mary, treads similar ground to historical trilogy The James Plays in its examination of Mary Queen of Scots and the series of fateful activities that led to her being deposed in favour of her infant son in 1567. This superbly written 90-minute drama passes in the blink of an eye but the fate of a country, a Queen and a scandal-ridden woman are brilliantly contained within.
‘What you remember is the power of the characters’ emotions’: RAVENSCOURT – Hampstead Theatre
Therapy is inherently dramatic. After all, it’s all about character – and it has the aim of producing a recognisable change. But who is most affected by the process: client or therapist? Georgina Burns, a graduate of Hampstead Theatre’s Inspire course for emerging playwrights, examines the issues in her debut play, Ravenscourt.
‘There is a good play somewhere in here’: THE SNAIL HOUSE – Hampstead Theatre
The set (by Tim Hatley) is absolutely beautiful in the much anticipated, new original play The Snail House from celebrated theatre director Richard Eyre, giving a sense of occasion and opulence. Portraits look on in the private school room, wooden surfaces hold the marks of a long history.
‘Rarely less than entertaining but too restrained’: THE SNAIL HOUSE – Hampstead Theatre ★★★
Shiny though the shell is, Richard Eyre’s play The Snail House at Hampstead Theatre becomes a frustrating stew of ideas, attitudes and family tensions which doesn’t quite hit the finishing line. Directed by the author himself it is rarely less than entertaining, always emotionally recognisable and interestingly topical: but it’s too humble, too restrained.
‘It feels like several plays mashed together’: THE FELLOWSHIP – Hampstead Theatre
Roy Williams’ play The Fellowship centres on a small family unit, but there are a lot of big things going on. Dawn (Cherrelle Skeet) is grieving the loss of a child while caring for her terminally ill mother with little help from her high-flying lawyer sister Marcia (Suzette Llewellyn). She can tell her teenage son Jermaine (Ethan Hazzard) is lying to her, and if it’s about what she suspects, she will be fuming.
‘A piece which will endure’: FOLK – Hampstead Theatre
Cultural appropriation doesn’t just take place across different nations
‘A heartfelt epic play’: THE FELLOWSHIP – Hampstead Theatre
With Windrush Day being 22 June, last week was originally going to be the opening night of Roy Williams’ new Hampstead Theatre play, The Fellowship, until plans had to be changed because Lucy Vandi, who was to play the main character, fell sick and performances were postponed. Cherrelle Skeete bravely takes on this major role and her dynamic stage presence, partly with script in hand on press night, is one of the evening’s highlights.
‘Class, race & past activism haunt this family saga’: THE FELLOWSHIP – Hampstead Theatre
First female friendship is the focus of Roy Williams’ latest play The Fellowship, premiering at the Hampstead Theatre as class, race and past activism haunts this family saga.
‘Good to hear new voices’: LOTUS BEAUTY – Hampstead Theatre
Satinder Chohan’s Lotus Beauty at the Hampstead Theatre, a loving portrait of a Punjabi family-run beauty parlour in west London’s Southall, is an uneasy mix of comedy and tragedy.