Light Falls is too Northern. It’s far, far too Northern. The grit-spreaders have truly been out in force, and it’s excruciating to swallow so very many clichés in one dose.
‘Part French farce, part panto, part absurdist horror’: VASSA – Almeida Theatre
Vassa, once a timely satire of the iniquities of capitalism in its day, doesn’t really have much to say when the director has so squarely decided to move it so out of time and place.
‘Unfolds with depressing predictability’: THE KING OF HELL’S PALACE – Hampstead Theatre
The King of Hell’s Palace is a play brimful of good intentions but with virtually no artistry or dramatic tension.
‘Feels remarkably outdated’: VIOLETTA – Arcola Theatre
Violetta is a reduction of Verdi’s La traviata, using only three characters: the doomed courtesan Violetta, her idealistic yet immature lover Alfredo, and – surprise! Alfredo’s mother.
‘It could have been a piece of theatre magic & wasn’t’: DIDO – Unicorn Theatre
Musically Dido is okay, especially Eyra Norman’s Belinda and the spirited chorales. But it could have been a piece of theatre magic, and wasn’t.
‘A cheese-dream for intellectual literati’: A VERY VERY VERY DARK MATTER – Bridge Theatre
Martin McDonagh’s new absurdist play A Very Very Very Dark Matter is not just a string of dated Monty Python sketches. It’s more modern: a sweary gross-out horror fantasy, a cheese-dream for intellectual literati.
‘Pinter does wallow, no question about’: PINTER ONE – West End ★★
The stony word is PINTER, and this launches a short season marking his death ten years ago by assembling, in seven sets, all his short playlets, sketches and poems, with starry casts including (in this first set) Paapa Essiedu, Maggie Steed and Antony Sher.
‘An undercooked, issue-driven play’: EMILIA – Shakespeare’s Globe ★★
To my real dismay, as the evening went on all shouty and furious and improbable, despite the first-night laughs and acclamations, I felt less and less sympathetic towards the cause.
‘Seriously impressive, given its flaws’: THE PROMETHEUS REVOLUTION – ★★
Prometheus stole fire from the gods in order to ensure human progress, and met with a grisly eternal punishment as a reward: Zeus’ eagle devouring his liver daily. Keith Burstein’s new opera The Prometheus Revolution attempts to engage with this Greek myth through a story of modern-day capitalism and revolt.
‘If this is feminism & a plea for creativity I am a banana’: THE WRITER – Almeida Theatre ★★
In The Writer the bastards (the patriarchy) are also in charge of the arts: ruining creative women’s holy myths by mentioning squalid things like the need to sell tickets for the Sacred Space that is Theatre.
‘Interesting but frustrating’: A PRINCESS UNDONE – Park Theatre ★★
I really wanted A Princess Undone to be a better play and it may grow into one. But too much misfires. The best line is when Bindon threatens her saying: “If you were a man” and she snaps: “If I were a man, I’d be king.” That hits home.
GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS – West End ★★
Christian Slater provides the glamour and credibility that the role of top salesman Ricky Roma deserves – with his accent already in the bag, it is his effortless charm that commands the most attention and is a standout performance.
AGAINST – Almeida Theatre
I’ll give them this; it’s timely. After the violence in Charlottesville, we’ve all been asking what on earth is happening with American society.
COMMITTEE – Donmar Warehouse
It had gone broke, salaries unpaid, and abruptly closed after accepting over the years £ 42m of public subsidy including a final, desperate £3m emergency bung. Indeed the rather cruel payoff is Batmanghelidh’s indignant “On what basis have you decided this is a failing charity?”
COMMON – National Theatre
Lost village girl Mary comes home to her beloved Laura after a lifetime of sin in “that devil-town London”, but finds – well – that’s the problem. This play by DC Moore, part lesbian Catherine Cookson fantasy, part undead horror slasher, via a Wicker Man of the woods and fields, isn’t actually about much at all.
MY COUNTRY – Touring
Last June the theatre community and its followers tended more to utter cries of horror and pour torrents of frank calumny on the 52% : dupes or xenophobes, Ukippers and racists, OMG how could they?
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM – Young Vic
Timothy Spall tells a good story – bear with me – about performing a Midsummer Night’s Dream at the National. Just like this Joe Hill-Gibbins production at the Young Vic, it was caked in mud; a great big sloppy heap of it that the cast had to wade through for every scene.
BURIED CHILD – West End
As in all slow-burning plays there moments where you tune out for a second and ask yourself ‘is this a masterpiece or are they just all softly spoken?’ Is this drama reimagined or theatre deluded?
THE RED BARN – National Theatre
The much-awarded star director Robert Icke rashly gave an interview last week saying how a lot of other people’s theatre is “boring” , so he often leaves at the interval. Ironic that he promptly socks us an underpowered 110-minute gloomfest with no interval at all.
KARAOKE THEATRE COMPANY – Scarborough
There’s tennis without a ball (audience requested to do plock-plock sound effects on drums), a mini-farce, thriller and horror story also supported by audience playing birdsong, creaks and sirens. Oh well.
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