The theatre is one of London’s most beguiling attractions: there is nowhere in the country to rival the breadth of productions, or the quality, and nowhere on earth that conjures the same glimmering feeling of magic.
Though not terribly long ago our West End seemed in danger of succumbing to dire ditties about the trashiest of pop culture, it’s pulled itself up to once again be the world-standard for productions.This said, we’ve our fair share of stinkers: comedies so listless the curtain seems to let out a reluctant sigh as it’s hauled up, or dead-in-the-water dramas where actors seem desperate to forget their lines, if only to liven things up a little. Theatre is an investment: no-one wants to put in a couple of hours and pay up for a steeply priced ticket to be bored senseless. Be sure to choose carefully.
The Deep Blue Sea ★★★★
Until September 21, National Buy tickets
Henry Hitchings says… Helen McCrory is achingly good in this sombre, tense revival of one of Terence Rattigan’s finest plays — a devastating portrait of a woman adrift on love’s ocean, desperately afraid of loneliness and blighted by the social conventions of the early Fiftie.
People, Places & Things ★★★★★
Until June 18, Wyndham’s, Buy tickets
Fiona Mountford says… It’s rare to see a grou
p of critics, cynical devils that we are, rise to their feet for a sweeping standing ovation on a press night. But this wasn’t any old opening, or any old leading actress. For my money, Denise Gough gives the greatest stage performance since Mark Rylance in Jerusalem as Emma, an actress addicted to drink and drugs. It’s a supremely confident and well-oiled production from director Jeremy Herrin, with a fluid acting ensemble. There is absolutely no doubt that Gough is the person, Wyndham’s the place and this play the thing to see this spring.
The Threepenny Opera ★★★★
Until Oct 1, National Theatre, Olivier, Buy tickets
Henry Hitchings says… The Threepenny Opera is a stinging indictment of capitalism. Yet for all its pugnacious seriousness it can be fun, and Rufus Norris, whose tenure as artistic director of the National Theatre has so far drawn mixed reviews, oversees a revival that’s enjoyably raucous and packed with amusing detail. By downplaying the story’s grit and embracing a cartoonish exuberance, Norris ensures that this three-hour production will divide opinion. But after a tentative opening it fizzes with ideas, doing justice to Kurt Weill’s score, a blend of cabaret and jazz that sounds timelessly, enticingly sleazy.
Funny Girl ★★★★
Until October 8, Savoy Theatre, Buy tickets
Fiona Mountford says… Sheridan Smith triumphantly reinvents Fanny Brice for a new generation of musical theatre lovers, conveying with skill and heart this entertainer’s emotive blend of professional success and personal vulnerability. Michael Mayer’s sassy production is reinforced by Michael Pavelka’s elegant, wistful design of a theatre, with rows of burnished mirrors running into the wings. Fanny is endlessly reflected back, but never quite in the image she’d like to see.
Until August 6, Charing Cross Theatre, Buy tickets
Henry Hitchings says… When it premiered on Broadway in 1997, Titanic was widely derided, but this stripped-back interpretation, though still overlong, affords a vigorous and ultimately moving take on the 20th century’s most notorious maritime disaster. In a cast of 20, the standard of singing is high, with the most attractive performances coming from James Gant and Niall Sheehy, while Matthew Crowe is affecting as a pompous but fragile telegraphist. And at the helm Southerland combines sensitivity with ambition, suggesting that this previously moribund venue is now on course for success.