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‘Live entertainment has come back with an encouraging roar’: Alun Hood celebrates his Top 20 new theatre shows of 2022

In Broadway, Features, London theatre, Manchester, Musicals, Opinion, Other Recent Articles, Plays, Regional theatre, Reviews, Touring by Alun HoodLeave a Comment

As somebody who loves a listicle plus a bandwagon to jump on, how could I NOT compile my list of my top 20 new (to me) shows of 2022? It’s been 12 months in which live entertainment has come back with an encouraging roar, although the impending cost of living crisis is inevitably, and understandably, causing anxiety in theatrical circles. Please do get out there, if you can, and support your local venue in 2023.

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‘No amount of vegan-shoe jokes can save it’: KERRY JACKSON – National Theatre

In London theatre, Opinion, Other Recent Articles, Plays, Reviews by Aleks SierzLeave a Comment

Billed as an examination of gentrification, Kerry Jackson at the National Theatre has disappointingly little to say about this subject. Its main characters have clichéd opinions and stereotypical attributes, and De Angelis spends a lot of time getting them to tell us who they are, what they think and how they feel.

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‘Vividly atmospheric & kinetic production’: OTHELLO – National Theatre ★★★★

In London theatre, Opinion, Other Recent Articles, Plays, Reviews by Rev StanLeave a Comment

The National Theatre’s Lyttelton stage has been transformed with steps and terraces around the performance space, creating a look that is a cross between an ancient greek theatre and a fighting pit. Before the play starts, images of past productions of Othello and the year they were performed are projected onto the steps and back wall as a reminder of the story’s timelessness.

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‘Continues to resonate’: OTHELLO – National Theatre

In London theatre, Opinion, Other Recent Articles, Plays, Reviews by Maryam PhilpottLeave a Comment

Othello at the National Theatre is a production that has thought very carefully about the things it wants to say and, particularly, what Othello has meant at different points in its performance history. Clint Dyer’s perspective is not on fire just yet but it soon will be, bringing a meaningful reflection on Shakespeare’s tale to the stage while clearly distinguishing it from all of those that have come before.

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‘A loving, haunting play, done very beautifully’: BLUES FOR AN ALABAMA SKY – National Theatre ★★★★

In London theatre, Opinion, Other Recent Articles, Plays, Reviews by Libby PurvesLeave a Comment

Pearl Cleage’s 1995 play Blues for an Alabama Sky creates a world, the world of dreamers in the fading Harlem renaissance, the Depression starting to bite. It’s domestic: Frankie Bradshaw’s fabulous set has two fire escapes, a hallway, steps, rooms high and low, balcony (where we glimpse other neighbours, sometimes with quiet harmonies sung). Outside the street is barred with lamplight.

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‘Magnificent’: THE CRUCIBLE – National Theatre ★★★★★

In London theatre, Opinion, Other Recent Articles, Plays, Reviews by Libby PurvesLeave a Comment

This is the big one. The Crucible is the National Theatre at its strongest: unapologetic, classic, unsparing, gripping, impassioned. Here’s the heavy artillery, intellectual and dramatic, a big ensemble on a bare stage conjuring – in Es Devlin’s moody set – an illimitable blackness beyond. Hell and hysteria rage and choke and howl out across the centuries with all the power of irrationality.

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‘Some may find it ponderous while others will be fascinated’: BLUES FOR AN ALABAMA SKY – National Theatre

In London theatre, Opinion, Other Recent Articles, Plays, Reviews by Maryam PhilpottLeave a Comment

Looking across cultural representations of women in the past 100 years it is possible to draw connections between characters such as Hester Collier in Terence Rattigan’s The Deep Blue Sea, Patrick Hamilton’s Jenny from Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky, even up to Kyo Choi’s Kim Han-See in The Apology, all of whom are in pursuit of a fantasy life that will never be fulfilled. Pearl Cleage’s Blues for an Alabama Sky, opening at the National Theatre, adds another unknowingly tragic heroine to that list, singer Angel who will grasp at an opportunity to get out of Harlem in 1930.

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‘It’s writing from the heart’: ALL OF US – National Theatre ★★★★

In London theatre, Opinion, Other Recent Articles, Plays, Reviews by Alun HoodLeave a Comment

It would be unsurprising, indeed completely understandable, for a new state-of-the-nation play focusing on the treatment of, and opportunities for, disabled people in present-day UK, to fetch up on stage as a furious, ranty polemic. Francesca Martinez’s dramatic writing debut, All Of Us at the National, goes down a rather more unexpected and interesting route however.

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‘Informs, educates & entertains’: ALL OF US – National Theatre

In Comedy, London theatre, Opinion, Other Recent Articles, Plays, Reviews by Aleks SierzLeave a Comment

If the plotting is predictable, and the story arc unremarkable, the image of life represented is both strongly compassionate and often very pleasurable. In true welfare state style, comedian Francesca Martinez’s debut play All of Us at the National Theatre not only informs and educates, but also entertains.

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‘Reminds you of Shakespeare’s extraordinary moments too easily forgotten’: MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING – National Theatre ★★★★

In London theatre, Opinion, Other Recent Articles, Plays, Reviews by Libby PurvesLeave a Comment

A star danced, and under it was Simon Godwin’s joyful, 1930s Riviera production born. Quite apart from the fact that it is nice to have the earnest NT enjoying two outbreaks of frenetic jitterbug dancing at once – Jack Absolute upstairs at the Olivier, and here Much Ado About Nothing set in the Mediterranean hotel world of Noel Coward – where it feats with unexpected neatness.

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‘The sheer visual beauty of the whole staging is a source of considerable pleasure’: MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING – National Theatre ★★★

In London theatre, Opinion, Other Recent Articles, Plays, Reviews by Alun HoodLeave a Comment

Simon Godwin’s new production of Much Ado About Nothing for the National initially seems to be going for the full-on romantic escapism, from the bougainvillea and sun-kissed (Amalfi?) coast of the front curtain to the gorgeous Art Deco-meets-Italianate Palazzo mixture of colour and elegance of Anna Fleischle’s hotel setting

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‘High-spirited direction keeps gales of laughter meeting good lines’: JACK ABSOLUTE FLIES AGAIN – National Theatre ★★★★

In London theatre, Opinion, Other Recent Articles, Plays, Reviews by Libby PurvesLeave a Comment

Who knew that Caroline Quentin could achieve (almost) the splits, while strumming a ukulele? Or that that Richard Bean and Chris Oliver – who a decade ago created the National Theatre’s world-conquering One Man, Two Guvnors – would for their next 18c update, Jack Absolute Flies Again, attempt a mashup of Sheridan’s classic frothy Restoration romcom The Rivals, and set it in a WW2 RAF base?

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‘Entertaining comedy with pathos’: JACK ABSOLUTE FLIES AGAIN – National Theatre

In London theatre, Opinion, Other Recent Articles, Plays, Reviews by Not Exactly BillingtonLeave a Comment

“What will happen in England after we have won this war? Bunting! Bunting everywhere!” Richard Bean and Oliver Chris’ new play Jack Absolute Flies Again at the National Theatre takes R.B. Sheridan’s 1775 farce The Rivals and updates the setting to a Sussex country house in The Battle of Britain. The romantic pursuits, mistaken identities and malapropisms from The Rivals are combined with Bean’s typically bawdy sense of humour, some impressive aerial dogfights and a dose of WWII patriotism. The result is an entertaining, albeit safe and slightly too long, comedy with pathos.

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‘Utterly joyous’: JACK ABSOLUTE FLIES AGAIN – National Theatre

In Comedy, London theatre, Opinion, Other Recent Articles, Plays, Reviews by Maryam PhilpottLeave a Comment

Delayed by Covid for over two years, Jack Absolute Flies Again finally lands on the Olivier stage when we have never needed Richard Bean and Oliver Chris’ goofy and hilarious romp more. An adaptation of Sheridan’s The Rivals relocated to a 1940s air base on a Sussex estate, there is a care in the construction of the play and a determination that everyone watching should have a good time that speaks to a wider need for lighter fare.