What's been on...
Wig Out! by Tarell Alvin McCraney (Royal Court) Frock 'n' roll: drag
queens and sweet songs galore in America's hottest playwright's hymn to
disco divas and tyrannical trannies. Stamp, sway and holler - it's the
best club night in London theatre.
Roaring Trade by Steve Thompson (Soho) Square Mile angst: a group
of bond traders battle it out in a pre-credit-crunch investment bank.
Edgily atmospheric morality tale that is high on one-liners but low on
human interest. Disappointing.
for Romeo by Sarah Grochala (Pleasance) Siege city: as Talya dreams
about meeting Mr Right, her sister Raneen worries about the practicalities
of ducking bullets and finding food. When a nameless soldier arrives,
both women's longings are put on the line. Odd mix of fantasy and reality.
The Lifesavers by Fraser Grace (503) Dystopia rules okay: powerful
account of a world where parenthood is illegal, but where men and women
still want to bring up kids.Superbly written and immaculately staged drama
that blasts away the cobwebs of stale naturalism.
Be Near Me by Ian McDiarmid (Donmar) An English priest becomes
involved in a sex scandal in a small Ayrshire town. Solid National
Theatre of Scotland co-production, with some stirring sectarian songs,
stars the author of this adaptation from Andrew O'Hagan's novel.
Spring Awakening (Lyric, Hammersmith) Teen angst: with its sulky
mix of indie pop and Frank Wedekind’s 1891 modernist story, the
Broadway hit musical comes to London. Cred warning: great fun, but not
cool. Exam question: has the musical form dampened the fire of the original
Shades by Alia Bano (Royal Court) Do Muslims have sex before marriage?
Humorous and touching, Bano’s debut play looks at tensions within
the Asian community, exploring the world of singles and brothers. Clear
and lively, with a thumping soundtrack.
Company Along the Mile by Tom Dalton Bidwell (Arcola) Dateline
Blackpool: George and Stella meet in a hotel for sex, but things are not
quite what they appear in this warmhearted tale of love in a time of transvestism.
Quirky humour from Leeds.
The Stone by Marius von Mayenburg (Royal Court) The top new
writing venue’s German Season begins with this brilliantly constructed
and sharply written account of 60 years of history, as different families
fight for possession of a house.
England People Very Nice by Richard Bean (National)
Comic epic that spans 400 years of migration to London, from yesteryear’s
French Huguenots to today’s Bangladeshis. Written with eye-popping
vulgarity and provocative vitality, this confident entertainment runs
riot across the Olivier stage. Monster!
Damascus by David Greig (Tricycle) Welcome
to Syria: as educational writer Paul's plane is delayed, he enters that
borderland of uncertainty in which he is confronted by East-West differences
in this highly intelligent and enjoyable play, touring from the Traverse.
This Isn’t Romance by In-Sook Chappell (Soho) Love, sex and
incest in this Verity Bargate Award winner from British-Korean writer
Chappell, as thirtysomething model Miso returns to Seoul to find the brother
she abandoned as a child: with satisfyingly dramatic results. Fab!
Miracle by Molly Davies (Royal Court) Country life: a single mum in
Norfolk struggles to look after her baby, and is charmed by the attentions
of a soldier who’s back from the war. But, with rural poverty, miracles
are in short supply. Convincing and fraught.
The New Electric Ballroom by Enda Walsh (Riverside)
Three sisters stuck in a fishing village remember their teen dreams
of romance, or do they? A moving masterpiece of storytelling, illusion
and tragedy in a fab production from Druid. Long live Irish new
Over There by Mark Ravenhill (Royal Court)
The Royal Court’s German season continues
with this account of the tensions between East and West as symbolised
by two twin boys. Sadly, the writing never lives up to the ideas, and
the show plod, plod, plods.
Stovepipe by Adam Brace (West 12) Welcome to Project Rebuild Iraq:
as three ex-soldiers join a mercenary security company, all hell breaks
loose in this superb, and often terrifying, promenade piece. A real must-see.
Berlin Hanover Express by Ian Kennedy Martin (Hampstead) Berlin,
1942: cooped up in the Irish legation, two diplomats grapple with the
problem of neutrality during the Second World War. But can they stand
up to the Nazi threat? Trad moral thriller.
Victory by Howard Barker (Arcola) Modern classic, first staged
in 1983, about the journey of Bradshaw, a regicide’s widow, across
the frazzled and stinking landscape of England in the wake of the Restoration
of Charles II, the Merry Monarch. Superb theatre.
Parlour Song by Jez Butterworth (Almeida)
Suburban bliss is fractured by paranoid imaginings, casual infidelities
and dreams of escape in this wildly surreal three-hander that gives the
finger to British theatre’s boring addiction to naturalism. Pantwetting
Future Me by Stephen Brown (Only Connect) Web alert: don’t
use your computer to download kiddy porn. When Peter, a promising barrister,
accidentally emails a horrific attachment, he ends up as a sex offender.
Well-researched, but worthy and didactic.
Tusk Tusk by Polly Stenham (Royal Court) Following up her 2007
hit, That Face, this play is a storming family drama
that infuses a powerfully imagined childhood with a visceral fierceness
of spirit. Superbly entertaining and thrilling. Yeah, I like it.
Edward Gant’s Amazing Feats of Loneliness! by Anthony
Neilson (Soho) Ladies, and Gents, welcome to the Victorian showmanship
of Edward Gant’s emotional freakshow, and watch the world swing
between realism and surreality. A jolly fun time.
Tin Horizon by Orlando Wells (503) Can an impoverished taxidermist
and his hunchbacked faithful retainer survive the attentions of the sinister
Corporation? Comic sci-fi epic that has some hilarious moments but manages
to overstay its welcome by a couple of light-years.
Can See the Hills by Matthew Dunster (Young Vic) Growing up in Oldham:
superb monologue about one teen’s experiences of sex, violence and
parents. Moments of bathos and moments of sublimity – a really great
The Contingency Plan: On the Beach/Resilience by Steve Waters (Bush) As
climate change forces sea levels to rise, glaciologist Will battles both
his father and his father’s scientific rival to save the nation
from catastrophic flooding. Impressively intelligent and hugely entertaining
The Frontline by Che Walker (Shakespeare's Globe)
Camden, north London: panoramic view of how the mean streets shake
with the howls and exaltations of the lost, the sad and the evil. Return
of the 2008 production, which has been honed
England by Tim Crouch (Whitechapel Gallery) Art or heart? A meditation
on creativity, disease and death set in an evocative gallery space: this
mind-expanding show also explores some of our ideas about national character.
Iya-Ile (The First Wife) by Oladipo Agboluaje (Soho) Dateline: 1989.
Place: Lagos, Nigeria. As the generals rule, one chief’s household
experiences a revolution when Toyin, his wife, questions his philandering
and Helen, the young house girl, makes her bid for power. Lively, cruel
The Observer by Matt Charman (National) Fiona, deputy chief of an
international observation team, is inspecting the transition of a West
African country to democracy. But her attempts to aid voter registration
lead to mixed consequences. Excellent.
Amongst Friends by April De Angelis (Hampstead) When a rich and successful
couple, who now live in a trendy gated community, invite their former
neighbours to dinner, a graveyard full of skeletons soon tumble out of
the cupboard. Dark, comic satire.
Been So Long by Che Walker (Young Vic) Sexual
desire meets revenge drama in a deserted Camden bar in this musical reworking
of Walker’s dazzlingly written 1998
play. Punchy urbanism, with lots of laughs.
by Alexi Kaye Campbell (Bush) As veteran art historian and sixties
activist Kristin celebrates her birthday, her two grown-up sons remind
her that the past is full of pain: fine account of the tangled relationship
between the personal and political.
Everything Must Go! (Soho) Timely review of the effects, both actual
and imaginary, of the world economic crisis in a series of ten pieces
by some cracking writers and performers, including Kay
Adshead, Oladipo Agboluaje, Megan Barker, Marisa Carnesky and Ron
Dr Korczak’s Example by David Greig
(Arcola) Warsaw Ghetto, 1942: the good doctor, head of an orphanage,
tries to resist the Nazis and set a good example. Excellent, lively, and
moving production by Tangram.
Death of Long Pig by Nigel Planer (Finborough) Twin stories about
death in the South Seas take a cool and humorous look at creatives Robert
Louis Stevenson and Paul Gauguin and their struggle against Victorian
social conventions in paradisical surroundings.
Jerusalem by Jez Butterworth (Royal Court)
Oh England, oh England. On St George’s Day, Rooster Johnny Byron
takes on the local council, with a motley crew of dropouts. Vivid, comic
picture of a green and not so pleasant land.
Dreams of Violence by Stella Feehily (Soho) Fortysomething Hildy
is a political activist whose family life threatens to undermine her good
works. An account of love, death and taking responsibility which neatly
mixes comedy with anguish.
4.48 Psychosis by Sarah Kane (Young Vic) Kane’s
masterpiece performed as a one-woman show by Romanian actress Anamaria
Marinca, directed by Christian Benedetti. Painfully bare, defiantly punky
and deliciously ironic.
by Zawe Ashton, James Graham, Joel Horwood, Morgan Lloyd Malcolm and Michelle
Terry (Bush) A series of sketches from the outer reaches of embarrassment.
Comic, toe-curling and sad accounts of faux-pas, drunken stupidities and
serious lapses of taste.
Enron by Lucy Prebble (Chichester) In 2001, the biggest bankruptcy
in corporate history saw energy giant Enron run into the sand. Prebble’s
brilliant account focuses on the human beings at the centre of the fraud,
and gets a really great production by Headlong.
Pornography by Simon Stephens (Tricycle) One
week in 2005: from the G8 concerts to the London 7/7 bombings, told with
a masterly command of both language and theatre form. Superb production
from Sean Holmes. An August must-see.
A New World by Trevor Griffiths (Shakespeare’s Globe) Thrilling
life and times of 18th-century revolutionary Tom Paine, radical pamphleteer,
adventurous idealist and fly in the ointment. Epic play and good story
Punk Rock by Simon Stephens (Lyric, Hammersmith)
Middle-class teen angst: a Stockport grammar school is rocked by hormonal
storms, sexual anxiety and savage bullying. These kids are the state of
the nation. Great.
Kurt and Sid by Roy Smiles (Trafalgar) Kurt Cobain’s last
night on earth is an imagined encounter with Sid Vicious, another suicidal
music icon. Starts off smelling like teen torment, but ends up as a dreary
2nd May 1997 by Jack Thorne (Bush) The
morning after Blair’s historic landslide: three different couples
come to terms with the new age in a drama which mixes deeply excruciating
emotions and insights into the wider world.
Enron by Lucy Prebble (Royal Court) The
rise and fall of Enron, the giant Texan energy corporation, told as a
parable of greed and retribution in a spectacular production by Rupert
Goold. Easily the best new play of the year.
The Fastest Clock in the Universe by Philip Ridley
(Hampstead) Gleam, baby, gleam – especially in the dark: spirited
revival of Ridley’s 1992 play about
love, seduction and a violent refusal to face up to reality. Great stuff.
The Author by Tim Crouch (Royal Court) How does it feel to go to
the theatre? Smart meditation on plays and playgoing, with a satire on
in-yer-face theatre, plus an examination of artistic
responsibility. And it’s all good fun, too.
by Dennis Kelly (Soho) When Liam barges into
Danny and Helen’s quiet evening meal, a chain reaction starts that
leaves all three profoundly changed. Stonks and shocks in Roxana Silbert’s
production for Paine’s Plough.
The Power of Yes by David Hare (National) Subtitled “a dramatist
seeks to understand the financial crisis”, Hare’s verbatim
piece is brilliantly edited and clear. But while it tells us how we got
where we are, it doesn’t offer any way out.
It Felt Empty When the Heart Went at First but It Is Alright Now by
Lucy Kirkwood (Arcola) Chatty Dijana is an illegal migrant who works
as a prostitute but refuses to see herself as a victim.
A captivating mix of spunky punchiness, light fantasy and heartfelt longing,
brilliantly staged by Clean Break. Category B by Roy
Williams (Tricycle) Overcrowed and undermanned, isn’t our
prison system super? Stonking drama that explores the power relations
at work on a fictional C wing. Powerful mix of the personal and political.
Yasser by Abdelkader Benali (Arcola) As Yasser, an idealistic young
Palestinian actor, prepares to play the bard’s Shylock, he meditates
on identity and the art of theatre. Thought-provoking monologue performance
by William el-Gardi.
Rigged by Ashmeed Sohoye (Unicorn) Nathan is a troubled white youth:
can his girlfriend, who wants to carry on her education, save him? Or
is the system stacked against them both? Theatre Centre’s powerful
drama puts Britain’s white working class on the spot.
If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet by Nick Payne (Bush) Fat
Anna is a troubled teen, but things begin to look up when her wired uncle
Terry comes to stay. Or do they? Beautifully observed teen angst play
that moves confidently between hilarity and heartbreak. Lovely.
The Great Extension by Cosh Omar (Stratford East) Hassan, a second-generation
Turk, has to confront his own prejudices and values when a drunken adventure
goes too far in this hilarious and provocative comedy about race, culture
and identity. Stars the author.
What Fatima Did… by Atiha Sen Gupta (Hampstead) When the
17-year-old Fatima decides to start wearing the hijab, her family and
friends are suddenly forced to reassess their opinion of her, and of the
whole issue of individual identity in a multicultural society.
Shraddha by Natasha Langridge (Soho) As the Olympic Games redevelopment
threatens her home, Romany Pearl falls in love with local lad Joe in this
warmhearted, poetic and sentimental account of a segregated community.
This Much Is True by Paul Unwin and Sarah Beck (503) Thrilling
investigation into the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell
tube station on 22 July 2005, with evidence of police cover up. With its
fragmented structure, and excellent performances, this defies cliches
about verbatim theatre.
Mixed Up North by Robin Soans (Wilton’s) Burnley, after the
riots of 2001. Can theatre really bring a divided community together?
This verbatim-based study of racial tensions in a segregated society is
engrossing, if a bit dramatically inert. Cock by Mike
Bartlett (Royal Court) John cannot decide whether to stay with
his boyfriend or move in with a woman he’s just met. Is his emotional
confusion the result of an uncertain identity? Brilliant exploration of
sex and desire.
The Priory by Michael Wynne (Royal Court)
New Year’s Eve party goes horribly wrong, and media folk get
their comeuppance, but the laughs come thick and fast in this new satire
on the spectacle of success and the search for true happiness.
Detaining Justice by Bola Agbaje (Tricycle) Powerful play about
an asylum-seeker, called Justice, his sister and a maverick lawyer. Fine
mix of feisty hilarity and grim suffering by one our most promising new
Seize the Day by Kwame Kwei-Armah (Tricycle)
A black celebrity is asked to run as a candidate for London mayor,
but will he do it? Compelling and entertaining play about contemporary
life in the metropolis. Excellent.
The Stefan Golaszewski Plays by Stefan Golaszewski (Bush) Two monologues,
performed by the author, about very young love, and very old love. But
be warned: the first one is great; the second much less so.
Darker Shores by Michael Punter (Hampstead) Christmas 1875
and, in an isolated old pile on the Sussex coast, ghostly things start
to go bump in the night: good mix of humour and chills in a seasonal neo-Victorian
The Misanthrope by Martin Crimp (Comedy) Crimp’s
energetic and delicious 1996 satire on media
folk, based on Moliere, gets an update with references to David Cameron,
but its dark heart remains as relevant as ever in our celebrity culture.
Oh, and this production stars Keira Knightley.
What's on now
info on new writing
new writing book list