Theatre 2018 Round up- The good, the bad and the dangerous to know


Tartuffe RSC Stratford until February 23

Anil Gupta and Richard Pinto show how to update a satirical play so that its spirit is in tact and the comedy flies. Moliere’s attack on the pernicious influence of fake holy men and their gullible followers sees a moderate Muslim family in Birmingham torn apart by a conman peddling fundamentalism. Sharp, daring and touching. Is anyone brave enough to take this to London or will the plague of Tartuffe’s (one terrible production in West End this summer, one impending one from the National) preclude it? Unmissable

Two Noble Kinsmen  The Globe

Barrie Rutter’s light, sparkling production of a Shakespeare/Fletcher collaboration. Tragi-comic tale of feuding brothers against the backdrop of the Oedipus myth. Glorious performance from Francesca Mills as the gaoler’s daughter! Closed

Twelfth Night      RSC

Christopher Luscombe’s gorgeous, hilarious take on Shakespeare’s comic tragedy. Glorious acting, music and a hilarious performance from Ade Edmondson as Malvolio. Available on DVD as sadly there is no sign of a London transfer. Closed.

Blithe Spirit      Changeling Theatre

This small, touring company gave the big boys and girls a run for their money with this perfectly judged revival of Noel Coward’s much-loved comedy ghost story. Performed in eerie St Bartholomew the Great, it was a joy from start to finish with pitch perfect performances all round. Tickets were less than £20 so I’ll definitely be looking out for next season. Closed

Macbeth Tobacco Factory Theatre  Bristol

A year of frustrating Macbeths from the big companies but this boutique production would have stood out against the best in any year. I haven’t enjoyed a Macbeth so much since Sean Bean and Samantha Bond. Katy Stephens is my favourite actress and was fabulous in this, a true ensemble piece full of clever touches. For once the indulgent  appearance of foreign languages in English Shakespeare, inuit – for instance was clever and effective- the Witches speak Gaelic at the start for lines everyone knows. A genuinely spooky production and well worth the trip to Bristol. Closed

Troilus and Cressida     RSC Stratford

Gregory Doran goes the full Mad Max: swearing, fighting, motorbikes, sex and syphilis- absolutely as much fun as it sounds.  This brilliant play is very seldom performed and this interpretation is uproarious.  Pitifully limited season, surely this can’t be the end??  Closed

Imperium I & II

London transfer of witty, emotionally truthful tale of Rome Cicero, Caesar and Augustus. It was slightly less engaging without the thrust stage of Stratford but still fabulous. If you haven’t already see it, it’s too late now! Closed

Strictly Ballroom

Brilliant transfer to stage of the Baz Luhrmann film. For the first 10 minutes, I didn’t know why I was there and by the end I was swept along with the exuberance, the music and the dancing. Only a real curmudgeon wouldn’t enjoy this. Tickets are often available at the half-price booth in Leicester Square ( to check) particularly at the beginning of the week. I am not a musical lover but I loved this. Closed

Lehman Brothers National Theatre   Simon Russell Beale, Adam Godley, Ben Miles

Poignant, witty family story, a tour de force by its three actors in a production that shows what the National can do when it tries. This is a serious play directed with eclat by Sam Mendes who comes up with clever concepts that enhance the narrative rather than distract. A sell out on the South Bank but it’s transferring to the Piccadilly Theatre next year. Opens May 11, tickets on sale November 2.

An American in Paris

Beautiful, beautiful dancing. Christopher Weedon’s choreography is breathtaking. There was a cinema screening so perhaps you’ll be able to catch it somewhere! Closed

42nd Street

Tap heaven. Half-price ticket booth in Leicester Square often has tickets ( check availability on I can’t wait to go again.

School of Rock

Hugely entertaining stage musical based on the hit film with Jack Black. The songs are catchy and the kids are sensational. This is a perfect family show. There are lots of deals around and sometimes tickets at


Measure for Measure    Changeling Theatre Closed

Another cracker from this boutique company: outstanding performances by Marc Mackinnon as a flesh-crawling Angelo and Jennifer Clement as Isabella. Clever editing cut this dark play down to around two hours but this did mean some of the brilliant minor comic characters played by Charlotte Palmer and Jake Setters didn’t get as much time as I would have liked while, sadly, Lucio, with some of my favourite lines was a miss for me.


Henry IV I/II  Shakespeare Center LA Tom Hanks Closed

Now this was a crazy trip  but worth every second. Tom Hanks as Falstaff? Can you imagine how fast that would sell out in a London theatre? This was a homespun production with army veterans building the stage outdoors, no alcohol or expensive picnics and blankets provided free at half-time because by then it was freezing. Shakespeare works in an American accent, I am pleased to report and Tom Hanks was a brilliant as he is in everything and a lot naughtier. How can one man have so much charisma?

Macbeth RSC  Barbican, until Jan 18

The production has matured and improved in its transfer to the Barbican, making smart use of the technical wizardry available. Fine performances from the leads Christopher Eccleston and Niamh Cusack with a running time of around 2 hours, a great way to introduce Shakespeare to young people but it is much more than that. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Phantom of the Opera

Great music and entertainment though the special effects really need to be brought up to date. I waited 33 years to see this, not being a musical type person, and absolutely loved it, particularly with a half-price seat. Cheap day seats are available and the half-price ticket booth in Leicester Square sometimes has tickets ( check availability on

Julius Caesar Bridge Theatre   Ben Wishaw, David Morrissey David Calder

Completely nuts, immersive production in what appears to be the infinitely flexible space of this superb new theatre. There were guns, there was a jeep and a very, very loud rock band. Some of the Shakespeare was lost but it will have convinced any young’un to give Shakespeare another go. David Morrissey was outstanding and my fantasy Shakespeare would now be him with Katy Stephens doing Ant&Cleo .

Hamlet RSC/Hackney Empire Paapa Essiedu

Quite possibly my 14th and I fear Hamlet fatigue meant that I didn’t appreciate this vibrant production as much as I should have done. Paapa Essiedu is a fine actor and definitely one to watch.

Translations  National      Colin Morgan, Ciaran Hinds

Excellent revival of a thought-provoking play on the role of language in colonisation but a lot more entertaining than that sounds. The first half dragged slightly and there were some audibility issues with Ciaran Hinds. Colin Morgan is a formidable stage actor and presence. He is definitely a name to watch.

Network          National

Glittering multi-media production with a stunning central performance from Bryan Cranston. The anti-capitalist ranting was nonsensical and a bit dull. I would like to be made to think at the theatre, I would prefer not to be lectured.


Blockbuster show with prices to match. It’s slick, it’s smart and it’s dragging in the next generation of theatre goers. Full review:


Another one of those clever plays by James Graham, a transfer from the fine Chichester theatre and an account of the question of whether coughing was used to help cheat in Who’s Going to Be a Millionaire. Fun night out and a chance to vote on whether you think they were guilty.

Julie    National Theatre

A re-imagining of Strindberg’s riveting Miss Julie which stripped the vicious class conflict from its heart and made it the story of an out of control socialite.  An engrossing central performance by Vanessa Kirby (Princess Margaret in The Crown) made this a memorable, if depressing production.

Antony and Cleopatra      RSC/Barbican Josette Simon

An entertaining production of a play that is often a tragedy in the wrong sense (Helen Mirren and Alan Rickman for instance). Some of the verse speaking was horribly endstopped when the lines were not and Enobarbus’s barge speech, some of the most glorious lines in Shakespeare, were marred by some ill-advised sniffing presumably to make him seem like a blokey soldier. Simon’s Cleopatra was transcendent by the end.

Antony and Cleopatra  National Ralph Fiennes/Sophie Okonedo

This may deserve more than a very respectable 7 as I saw it on first preview which was apparently the first time the whole play had been run through and there were a number of significant hiccups. I didn’t like the staccato delivery from Okonedo and Fiennes wasn’t as much fun as I want Antony to be. The reviews are strong so presumably it’s at least a 9 by now.


People Like Us

Brexit comedy by Julie Burchill based loosely on the defenestration of one of my mates from her North London book club for having voted “Out”. If you are looking for a play of ideas, this isn’t it. It’s more a comedy of manners and the lack of them, of feeling you know people and finding you actually don’t. It’s funny and poignant and reaction to it probably underlines the gulf between the Left and the centre/right. The performances are all strong although the words of French Clemence were frequently incomprehensible to all but my old man who is fluent in both French and franglais. The critics hated it which is sad given that it’s a good night out, especially for £20. Closed

Uncle Vanya  Hampstead Theatre Until January 19

Adapted by one of our best modern playwrights, Terry Johnson, and all the better for that as there are a few genuinely funny moments. If you like Chekhov, you’ll love it. If you don’t, well it’s better than it normally is. There are lots of trees and lots of  people who feel sorry for themselves, just like his other plays. Why Hampstead, one of the nicest theatres around, is doing Chekhov at Christmas for the second year in a row, I do not understand. Something jolly such as Grimm Tales next year please!





Box of Delights Wilton’s Music Hall Until Jan 5

Unsophisticated tale of a magical Box staged in the most atmospheric theatre in London. Good for younger theatre goers but the plot is too thin to make it a classic family Christmas show.


Left early as it’s just not my cup of tea. The rest of the audience loved it and the Savoy theatre is one of the prettiest in London. Lots of very loud singing, if you like the music you’ll love it. Half-price ticket booth in Leicester Square often has tickets ( check availability on

King Lear   Ian Mckellen

An adequate production but not the emotional rollercoaster I expect from Lear. No tears from me at the end and that is a first.


Allelujah        Bridge Simon Williams and most of your childhood’s TV stars in a play with some wonderful moments but too much political ranting.


Merry Wives of Windsor RSC Barbican Until Jan 5

Cheap, vulgar and woefully unfunny. Done right this play is light, bright and sparkling, done wrong, it makes you wonder why it is being staged at all. Some very fine acting particularly Rebecca Lacey as Mistress Page, David Troughton as Falstaff and young actor who clearly bears watching: Luke Newberry as Fenton.

Tartuffe  Theatre Royal Haymarket

My favourite vampire hunter was in it, the aunt was great but this production was as wrong-headed as it gets. Moliere’s art is the stripping of pretension not the piling it on: half 17th century French, half modern English and a whole migraine to watch- I left at the interval. I dread to think how much this glitzy production must have cost. Closed.


Miss Littlewood  RSC Stratford

Just when you could be forgiven for thinking I was on a retainer from the RSC, along come these grumpy comments for this one made me very cross indeed. I didn’t realise it was a musical and I thought it was going to be one of those wonderful plays the RSC does so well- a bit of history, a dash of pathos, some great jokes and a song or two if they must– like Queen Anne or Oppenheimer. Instead, it was the kind of show the lower sixth might have put on thinking they were being political and edgy with Miss Littlewood herself commenting on the depiction of her apparently very miserable life by the other actors on the stage. The second half, though, was much better – I stayed in the bar.


Macbeth      National theatre Rory Kinnear, Ann-Marie Duff

A post Apocalyptic, Apocalypse Now world where Scotland has the climate of Vietnam and Macbeth can coldly decapitate a man with a knife but is somehow traumatised by killing Duncan. A hodgepodge of indecipherable accents – was Macbeth South African? The highlight was the hiring of Vicky Pollard as one of Banquo’s assassins. I left at the interval.

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