• What has the National Theatre got in store for 2018?
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    Eye on the National: All the 2018 #NTNews announcements & reactions

Eye on the National: All the 2018 #NTNews announcements & reactions

If, like me, you're stuck at your desk today and can't follow the National Theatre 2018 season press briefing quite as closely as you'd like to, I've rounded up all today's key announcements and reactions for you here.
  • Dan Crawford features on the wall at the King's Head. © Jonny Fielding
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    Would founder Dan Crawford approve of the King’s Head’s big move?

Would founder Dan Crawford approve of the King’s Head’s big move?

The King’s Head Theatre attracted widespread coverage this week for its announcement that it is moving out of the King’s Head pub on Upper Street in Islington, north London, its home for the past 47 years, and into a purpose-built, two-auditoria space in the new £400million Islington Square complex.

We covered the announcement – including […]

  • The cast of The Girls includes Joanna Riding, James Gaddas, Claire Moore, Claire Machin, Sophie-Louise Dann and Debbie Chazen
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    Press Pass: Everything you need to know about Gary Barlow & The Girls

Press Pass: Everything you need to know about Gary Barlow & The Girls

In his review this morning, Michael Billington has – to borrow a phrase from Meat Loaf – taken the words right out of mouth. At last night’s West End premiere of The Girls, I was telling anyone within listening distance that, after already remarkable success as a film and a stage play (both also […]

  • Critics' Theatre 2016 highlights included: Harry Potter, Groundhog Day, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Yerma, King Lear, the all-female Shakespeare Trilogy and Iphigenia in Splott.
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    The list of lists: Was there a consensus on the best of #theatre2016?

The list of lists: Was there a consensus on the best of #theatre2016?

Last week I was more on schedule with rounding up lists of critics’ tips for the best theatre coming up this year. But in truth, as I’ve been organising the Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards ceremony on 31 January, as well as working with My Theatre Mates’ to announce the Also Recognised shortlists soon after that, […]

  • David Fynn and the West End cast of School of Rock. © Tristram Kenton
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    Press Pass: Everything you need to know about School of Rock The Musical

Press Pass: Everything you need to know about School of Rock The Musical

Here’s everything you need to know about last night’s West End premiere of School of Rock: The Musical in a nutshell: Andrew Lloyd Webber has a monster hit on his hands; the show is both a return to hit factory form for the Lord and also not at all what you’d expect from a Lord; […]

  • Don't stop being outraged by 'The Donald'
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    What fair-minded people need to know about… Trump’s America

What fair-minded people need to know about… Trump’s America

In the days before this year’s US presidential election, Donald Trump predicted that the result would be “Brexit-plus-plus-plus”.  For me personally, “Brexit-plus-plus-plus” is a fair description of my personal reaction to the news: as an American who has lived in London most of her adult life, someone who has dual nationality, someone who campaigned hard in […]

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    Exit, pursued by a bear: How we reacted to Emma Rice’s Globe departure

Exit, pursued by a bear: How we reacted to Emma Rice’s Globe departure

My first gut response to yesterday’s news that Emma Rice was leaving Shakespeare’s Globe, announced after less than a year – and only one summer season in post – was simply “Oh my God!”. In my years of commenting on theatre, I have never been as shocked by the news of someone’s leaving a job […]

  • Scenes from Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. © Manuel Harlan
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    Press Pass: Harry Potter & the Cursed Child earns global raves, breaks more records

Press Pass: Harry Potter & the Cursed Child earns global raves, breaks more records

Ahead of the double-show gala day at the West End’s Palace Theatre this Saturday, a galaxy of stars have already turned out for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. And I’m not just talking about Emma Watson and other celebrities who have sneaked in during seven weeks of previews.

(The Cursed Child started performances in […]

Press Pass: All the reviews on Jesse Eisenberg and The Spoils

In my years of covering theatre, I’ve seen a lot of Hollywood stars make their West End debuts, but I’ve rarely, if ever, seen it done with quite so much aplomb. Jesse Eisenberg and Kunal Nayyar – best known internationally for, respectively, multiple films including The Social Network, and US sitcom The Big Bang […]

  • The Potters captured in Charlie Gray's family character portrait
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    Complete Harry Potter family albums + VIDEO: Potters, Granger-Weasleys and Malfoys in Cursed Child

Complete Harry Potter family albums + VIDEO: Potters, Granger-Weasleys and Malfoys in Cursed Child

Celebrity photographer Charlie Gray has shot three sets of exclusive character portraits of the grown-up characters from JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series, along with the next generation, which feature in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. The wildly anticipated two-part stage play receives its world premiere this summer at the West End’s Palace Theatre, […]

  • Rose Leslie papped on the red carpet at Doctor Faustus' West End opening
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    Press Pass: All the reviews (and #GameOfThrones pics) from Doctor Faustus opening

Press Pass: All the reviews (and #GameOfThrones pics) from Doctor Faustus opening

I shared some of my own thoughts about Jamie Lloyd’s new production of Doctor Faustus – along with choice quotes (be they care of Christopher Marlowe or Colin Teevan) – last night. This morning’s other coverage following the star-studded opening night is, like the story itself, a mixture of heaven and hell.

While most critics […]

My frenetic night live-tweeting the 2016 #OlivierAwards

After my frustrated efforts to both attend and tweet from the Olivier Awards nominations announcement back in February, I concluded that it was impractical to even attempt to attend this year’s ceremony and stand a chance of covering it with my various theatre media hats on. So instead I booked myself – thanks very much […]

  • Cedric Neal (left) leads the Motown cast as Berry Gordy
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    Press Pass: All the Motown reviews plus starry livestream, news and interviews

Press Pass: All the Motown reviews plus starry livestream, news and interviews

Yes, I am posting this #PressPass at gone 4am – blame those incessant Motown hits that keep spinning round and round and round my head after attending tonight’s (technically, now last night’s) West End premiere of the Broadway hit, Motown the Musical.

You will know, of course, that this is the (company?) bio-musical telling the […]

Press pass: All the reviews and news on Gemma Arterton as Nell Gwynn

The poster of Nell Gwynn shows a saucy, bare-shouldered Gemma Arterton and promises “fun, funny and joyous… a cast of 20! and a band… naughty songs… merry dances. And a dog!”

And Christopher Luscombe’s lively production of Jessica Swale’s bawdy, feminist, Restoration-style romp delivers every one of those items it advertises. It’s also the perfect […]

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    Press pass: All the reviews and news on Matthew Perry’s The End of Longing

Press pass: All the reviews and news on Matthew Perry’s The End of Longing

I wrote last night about my personal response (including misgivings) to Matthew Perry’s playwriting debut, and return to the West End stage, in The End of Longing which I saw last week. And now the national newspaper critics have all filed their verdicts, which are – on the whole – so savage that the news […]

  • Jennifer Mudge and Matthew Perry in The End of Longing. © Helen Maybanks
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    Friends forever? What can I say about Matthew Perry’s The End of Longing?

Friends forever? What can I say about Matthew Perry’s The End of Longing?

Near the end of an interview Matthew Perry gave with The Times last weekend, the interviewer Sarfraz Manzoor commented “having made so many people so happy it feels only right to wish some happiness for him”.

That’s the same feeling I carried with me into the Playhouse when I saw The End of Longing a […]

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    Press pass: No more Sunday shows, but Rufus Norris’ confidence is growing at the National

Press pass: No more Sunday shows, but Rufus Norris’ confidence is growing at the National

The audience at yesterday’s National Theatre press conference gave the biggest cheer to news that hasn’t generated headlines anywhere: artistic director Rufus Norris invited journalists to wish bon voyage to the theatre’s head of press Lucinda Morrison and we did so volubly, the applause only ending when Lucinda motioned for us to cut it […]

  • The cast of Martin McDonagh's Hangmen
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    Critics’ Circle Award winners: Are they the only ones that make sense anymore?

Critics’ Circle Award winners: Are they the only ones that make sense anymore?

The annual best of lists are always a good indication of who’s likely to triumph at the Critics’ Circle Awards, which were presented this afternoon at the Delfont Room in the West End’s Prince of Wales Theatre. Understandably so as it’s critics who, by and large, draw up those lists and critics only – […]

  • Alan Rickman (1946-2016)
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    Putting Alan Rickman’s theatre work (and activism) centre stage

Putting Alan Rickman’s theatre work (and activism) centre stage

You don’t need me to tell you that Alan Rickman passed away last week, or how shocking and unexpected his death from cancer was at the age of 69, just days after his contemporary David Bowie shuffled off this mortal coil in similar circumstances.

I had just sat down at my laptop mid-day last Thursday after returning […]

  • Sheridan Smith and Darius Campbell in Funny Girl. © Marc Brenner
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    Press pass: All the reviews and pics of Sheridan Smith in Funny Girl

Press pass: All the reviews and pics of Sheridan Smith in Funny Girl

With the House of Commons Syria vote last night, it may be surprising that any other news gets a look-in in today’s newspapers. But in musical theatre happenings, the big news was London’s first major revival of Jule Styne’s Broadway classic Funny Girl. The big question: could Sheridan Smith lay to rest the ghost […]

#LoveTheatreDay 2015: The overwhelming and the inspiring

In case it escaped your notice, the second annual #LoveTheatreDay (that’s opposed to last year’s #LoveTheatre Day, for the record) took place last Wednesday. I’d had it marked in my calendar for months and had intended to indulge fully this time, cognisant that for last year’s inaugural event, I’d overdosed fairly quickly, feeling Twitter punchdrunk after […]

  • Julian Ovenden recently recorded a new musical with The Stable
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    3 important ‘new’ schemes for new musicals that get my full support

3 important ‘new’ schemes for new musicals that get my full support

I’ve been thinking a lot about new musicals recently. That’s not meant to be a blatant plug for my new website Stage Faves. Apart from the small detail that #StageFaves’ covers revivals and long-running blockbusters too, the fact is that, by the time a musical reaches the West End, it’s unlikely to be ‘new’ […]

  • Judi Dench and Kenneth Branagh with co-director Rob Ashford and the company at the press day's final curtain call
    Permalink Judi Dench and Kenneth Branagh with co-director Rob Ashford and the company at the press day's final curtain callGallery

    Press pass: Reviews and everything else you need to know about Kenneth Branagh’s The Winter’s Tale and Harlequinade / All On Her Own

Press pass: Reviews and everything else you need to know about Kenneth Branagh’s The Winter’s Tale and Harlequinade / All On Her Own

There’s nothing like a major theatre event to warm the cockles on a winter’s day. And the opening of Kenneth Branagh’s return to the West End with a year-long season as actor-manager was undoubtedly an event with a capital E.

And also a bit of a marathon, albeit one with a long pit-stop. The 2pm […]

  • Ben Forster and Kimberley Walsh in Elf The Musical at the Dominion Theatre. © Alastair Muir
    Permalink Ben Forster and Kimberley Walsh in Elf The Musical at the Dominion Theatre. © Alastair MuirGallery

    Press pass: Reviews and everything else you need to know about Elf the Musical

Press pass: Reviews and everything else you need to know about Elf the Musical

Maybe I’m just an old softie. Okay, yes, let’s admit it, I am. I’m also a lifelong believer in the restorative power of Christmas music which, like Katrina and the Waves’ “Walkin’ on Sunshine”, is my go-to Spotify choice if I’m feeling down – never mind if it’s a July heatwave, sleigh bells have […]

Why are strong women – and witches – so scary?

Tonight should have been the night that Rebecca Lenkiewicz’s new Out of Joint play Jane Wenham: The Witch of Walkern, inspired by the last woman in England to be charged with witchcraft in the 18th century, visited the Ipswich High School for Girls as part of its rural touring in East Anglia and Essex.

Unfortunately, […]

  • These boots are made for dancing - and running and running in the West End, I hope
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    Press pass: Reviews and everything else you need to know about Kinky Boots

Press pass: Reviews and everything else you need to know about Kinky Boots

This morning I’m delighted to be in agreement with most of the overnight critics awarding a slew of four stars to last night’s opening: the London premiere of another New York import. Of course, this import has a strong British pedigree. I’m talking about Kinky Boots, of course, the Broadway musical based on the […]

  • Nicole Kidman plays late DNA scientist Rosalind Franklin in Photograph 51 in the West End
    Permalink Nicole Kidman plays late DNA scientist Rosalind Franklin in Photograph 51 in the West EndGallery

    Press pass: Reviews and everything else you need to know about Nicole Kidman in Photograph 51

Press pass: Reviews and everything else you need to know about Nicole Kidman in Photograph 51

I love it when I disagree with the critics. No, really I do. I’m fascinated that we can all have such widely variant opinions on the same thing – and I’m very happy for mine to be challenged. While for me, Photograph 51 never really developed into compelling drama, most overnight critics have awarded […]

  • Bryan Vernel and Joshua McGuire are hilarious as food-fighting political combatants in Future Conditional at the Old Vic, September 2015
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    What do the Old Vic and Labour Party regime changes have in common?

What do the Old Vic and Labour Party regime changes have in common?

I’ve witnessed at first-hand two regime changes over the past few days and curiously they have a man in common: Ed Miliband.

The political regime change, the announcement of Jeremy Corbyn as Miliband’s Labour Party leadership successor, has of course dominated the news this weekend. As a Labour Party member myself – and one who […]

Press pass: Critics drub Dusty, video steals the show

How many shows can you name that have their opening night more than a fortnight after their run was scheduled to end? Dusty is London’s own Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, a fraught high-tech show that has attracted more headlines for its delays and backstage bust-ups than for anything happening onstage.

Over the summer, a […]

  • The Love Birds performing at the 2015 Pleasance Gala Launch at the Edinburgh Fringe
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    The Fringe may be over, but perhaps we can keep the spirit alive a little longer?

The Fringe may be over, but perhaps we can keep the spirit alive a little longer?

Yesterday wasn’t just a miserably wet Bank Holiday Monday in London (and most of the rest of England): north of the border, it was also the conclusion of the world’s largest arts festival, the glorious Edinburgh Fringe (and its parent, the more auspicious and less chaotic Edinburgh International Festival).

So Edinburgh was on my mind […]

  • The Jewish Contribution to Broadway: How many of these composers and lyricists can you name?
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    Can you succeed on Broadway if you don’t have any Jews? Maybe not…

Can you succeed on Broadway if you don’t have any Jews? Maybe not…

We owe the phrase “you won’t succeed on Broadway if you don’t have any Jews” to Spamalot – so it only officially entered the theatrical lexicon circa 2005 when the Monty Python musical opened on Broadway (and I first heard it live a year later, when it had its West End premiere at the […]

  • Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet at the Barbican Theatre, August 2015.
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    Press pass: Critics finally (officially) get their say on Cumberbatch Hamlet

Press pass: Critics finally (officially) get their say on Cumberbatch Hamlet

As one critic stated upfront: the press night is a major anti-climax. Nevertheless, while the verdicts don’t make a blind bit of difference to the box office on a production that sold out at record speed a year ago, it’s time to take pause and review the reviews for #HamletBarbican, a.k.a. the Benedict Cumberbatch show. While […]

  • Stephen Merchant in The Mentalists at the West End's Wyndham's Theatre, London, July 2015. © Helen Maybanks
    Permalink Stephen Merchant in The Mentalists at the West End's Wyndham's Theatre, London, July 2015. © Helen MaybanksGallery

    Press pass: Everything you need to know about Stephen Merchant in The Mentalists

Press pass: Everything you need to know about Stephen Merchant in The Mentalists

Comics were out in force and applauding warmly at last night’s opening of The Mentalists, in which fellow stand-up and The Office co-creator Stephen Merchant made his West End acting debut – but what did critics think?

Most overnight reviews fall in the three-star range, underwhelmed more by the choice of play than the performances of […]

  • Producers, Jamie, Molly, Ryan and Rob
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    Photos and podcast: The making of new British musical The House of Mirrors and Hearts

Photos and podcast: The making of new British musical The House of Mirrors and Hearts

The adage – usually attributed to Sondheim – that “musicals aren’t written, they’re rewritten” was central to the post-show discussion that I hosted last night at London’s Arcola Theatre. It was the final preview performance of The House of Mirrors and Hearts, the new British chamber musical by Eamonn O’Dwyer and Robert Gilbert, which faces critics […]

  • Damon Albarn's new musical wonder.land transports Lewis Carroll's Alice to a digital landscape
    Permalink Damon Albarn's new musical wonder.land transports Lewis Carroll's Alice to a digital landscapeGallery

    Press pass: Everything you need to know about Damon Albarn’s wonder.land

Press pass: Everything you need to know about Damon Albarn’s wonder.land

Is it all a Blur? That’s a pun you may hear frequently in relation to the musical theatre debut of the seminal 1990s band’s frontman, Damon Albarn, which opened in Manchester last night.

wonder.land is Albarn’s digital-age take on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the Lewis Carroll children’s classic celebrating its 150th anniversary this year.

Albarn has […]

  • Natalie Dew in Bend It Like Beckham at the West End's Phoenix Theatre, London, June 2015
    Permalink Natalie Dew in Bend It Like Beckham at the West End's Phoenix Theatre, London, June 2015Gallery

    Press pass: Everything you need to know about Bend It Like Beckham

Press pass: Everything you need to know about Bend It Like Beckham

The reviews are in, and there’s no doubt about it – the West End musical makeover of Bend It Like Beckham has scored big with the critics. Perhaps the show’s impeccable timing – as the Women’s World Cup takes place in Canada and Fifa continues to reel from its corruption scandals – helped, but […]

How to handle criticism (unless you’re an actor)

Most actors don’t read their reviews – or, at least, most actors say they don’t read their reviews.

And when it comes to stage acting, I can see their point. Critics review a single performance, one night. After reviews are published, the actors have still got to go out onstage every night and critical words […]

Do you believe in magic in the West End?

(Updated: Since first writing this, yet-another magic show has been announced for the West End. The Illusionists, featuring Britain’s Got Talent’s Jamie Raven, has now been added below.) There are few things that excite me more at a party than when I meet someone who says they can do card tricks. I will move […]