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The Sorcerer's Apprentice ★★★★ Southwark Playhouse (online) | Until March 14, 2021

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"There's magic in the air" as Goethe's fable of The Sorcerer's Apprentice gets a contemporary reading in this clever new musical from the team of Richard Hough and Ben Morales Frost. The story deals with the rocky relationship between the sorcerer and his rebellious daughter while also treating the darker issue of our current climate crisis. Can magic and science work together to defeat human greed, or will all be swept away by the forces of a natural world that humans have abused? Despite the big issues being dealt with here, the story remains charming and simple. Kudos to Mary Moore who, in her first major role, brings an engaging joy and rebelliousness to her character, Eva Gottel. Moore has a lovely voice and she creates a credible teenager, both cocky and needy. She is ably supported by a generally strong cast. David Thaxton is suitably serious and sympathetic as her sorcerer father and Dawn Hope is terrific as Lamia Lydekker, the evil factory owner. Howev

Grimm Tales for Fragile Times and Broken People ★★★★★ Creation Theatre (online) | Until March 13, 2021

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Creation Theatre's Grimm Tales for Fragile Times and Broken People is by turns eerily beautiful, terrifying, or just creepy. Mashing together several tales gathered by the Brothers Grimm, director Gari Jones and the actors Kofi Dennis, Dharmesh Patel, Natasha Rickman, Graeme Rose and Annabelle Terry take us on an incredibly surreal journey through the gruesome world the Grimms created. With violence and cruelty throughout, this is most certainly not a show for young children; it does, however, display all the amazing invention this company is renowned for. Living as we do in the lonely isolation of lockdown, tales of loss and death seem unlikely topics for entertainment but the treatment here is so mesmerising that we are drawn into this bizarre world and wait aghast for the next horrific piece of the action. Probably the best known story is Hansel and Gretel , and when we finally meet the witch in her Gingerbread House she is a wonderfully frightening monster hiding behind diapha

Typical ★★★★ Soho Theatre and Nouveau Riche (online) | From February 24, 2021

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Ryan Calais Cameron's Typical is a searing indictment of systemic racism in British society and the police force in particular. Although the real Christopher Alder, whose story is told here, died some twenty years ago, one is made to fear that little has significantly changed in the interim. The issues here are not unfamiliar but they are expressed with great poignancy. Director Anastasia Osei-Kuffour's visually spare but gripping production introduces us to a happy-go-lucky protagonist whom we follow on his final day prior to his death in police custody. Yet before the situation becomes tragic, Cameron's lyrical language is not irredeemably bleak. In amusing moments Alder ponders why “noses run and feet smell.” Still, around the jokey, charismatic man at the start, who admits that “words have a way with him rather than him having a way with words” the tension grows. Things begin to go awry after he flirts with a girl and gets attacked by some louts. Moving to hospital the

Barnes' People ★★★★ Original Theatre Company and Perfectly Normal Productions (online) | Feb 18 - Jul 31, 2021

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Barnes' People comprises four monologues written by Peter Barnes for BBC Radio 3 during the 1980s and they have varied success here in filmed performances. Matthew Kelly, in "Losing Myself", has the difficult task of realistically creating an ageing Harley Street doctor conversing with his deceased friend; his lines seem more suited to the printed page than being spoken. Additionally, it seems rushed with complex issues trivialised. Jemma Redgrave is totally believable as Rosa, a doctor beating her head against the brick wall of bureaucracy. She feels she has lost her anger and thinks her individuality has dissipated over the years. There is a welcome lack of sentimentality as she tries to cope with her own problems and those of elderly patients as she ponders 'Is there life before death?' In "Billy and Me" Jon Culshaw plays a ventriloquist who converses with his family of dummies. Here we are considering the nature of schizophrenia as the ventriloquist

All On Her Own ★★★★★ MZG Theatre Productions (online) | February 16-21, 2021

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Terence Rattigan's thirty minute monologue, All On Her Own , was written for radio and here, in Alastair Knights' immaculately filmed production, becomes a superb vehicle for award-winning Janie Dee. Rosemary is the rather posh widow of a Huddersfield building contractor, Gregory, and after rather too much whisky, she imagines trying to communicate with him. Effortlessly, Dee draws us into their milieu which would seem, to the outside world, to contain a perfect marriage, but the veneer is very thin. One could imagine a relationship akin to that in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Rattigan was for many years derided, but thankfully his writing is at last back in fashion. His language here is spare yet it takes us on an emotional roller coaster as Rosemary downs more and more alcohol. Beautifully lit and stylishly set, we get a strong impression of the Hampstead these characters inhabit – dinner-party discussions on the merits of Kafka and educating children at Eton. Norther

Romeo & Juliet ★★★★ Metcalfe Gordon Productions (online) | Until February 27, 2021

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Creativity and imagination have really come to the fore during this pandemic which has allowed Nick Evans and his team to produce this fascinatingly clever version of Romeo & Juliet . One would never guess that none of the performers were actually on stage together. Beginning in a theatre auditorium, the ingenious production designs by Jamie Osborne give us a series of realistic locations climaxing in an extremely beautiful crypt. Standing head and shoulders over the show is Sam Tutty's Romeo. Initially smitten with fair Rosaline, our hero's fickle eye soon migrates to Emily Redpath's pretty Juliet, and Tutty doesn't put a foot wrong as the young lover. He speaks the lines immaculately and his stillness often helps build the tension. This is definitely an outstanding performance of a role which can be difficult to pull off. Lucy Tregear's sympathetic Nurse and Helen Anker's Capulet together with Vinta Morgan's Friar Laurence bring gravitas to the smaller

Good Grief ★★★★★ Platform Presents and Finite Films | Feb 15 - Apr 15, 2021

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Just when lockdown may have made us resigned to an intellectual diet of television, featuring the improbable acted by the unbelievable, along comes this wonderful little play by Lorien Haynes. A thoughtful meditation on loss and relationships, Good Grief is beautifully crafted and brilliantly performed. Adam (Nikesh Patel) has lost his partner and Cat (Sian Clifford) has lost her best friend. Their shared exploration of the mourning experience is charged with some very sharp banter and some very poignant moments. There's a lot of humour here and a great chemistry between Patel and Clifford. They move naturally and sensitively through a gamut of emotions while coming to terms with the new parameters of their relationship. The play explores how grief, like love, comes in many forms and how both are subject to personal and social boundaries. Director, Natalie Abrahami cleverly uses the black and white scene-change sequences to deconstruct the illusions and conventions of theatre whil

Public Domain ★★★★ Southwark Playhouse (online) | January 19-24, 2021

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The first song “And just like that, we felt a little less alone” introduces the complex cultural shift that Public Domain examines. Francesca Forristal and Jordan Paul Clarke exude energy and charm as they sing their way from social media platform to social media platform while capturing the naivety of the users and cynicism of the platforms’ creators. Contemporary references in Forristal and Clarke’s script and the well-paced direction by Adam Lenson ensure that Public Domain is fresh and pertinent. The clever lighting by Matt Daw and video overlay by Matt Powell create an illusion that is both hypnotic and disorienting, the perfect visual motif for the complex commentary of the play. In an age where “Friends of our friends” and the projection of image is more important than essence, Public Domain presents the clichés that social media is built upon. Questions like “Why is the camera not on me?” are juxtaposed to the social media creators' remarks “We just focussed on building

An Evening with David Bedella ★★★★ The Crazy Coqs (online) | January 9, 2021

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An Evening with David Bedella at The Crazy Coqs, the chicest cabaret venue in London, encourages you to sit back and sip a glass of Shiraz whilst enjoying an hour of immaculately performed easy-listening music interspersed with pleasant chat. The only thing missing is a live audience. This unavoidable absence somewhat dampens the atmosphere as enthusiastic applause would definitely greet Bedella's accomplished singing and enhance the ambience. Sadly, we can't have everything these days and the dozen or so well chosen songs are well worth the price of the streaming. We felt that the opening number was, perhaps, a little frenetic and really needed a chorus of showgirls to make it work, but things quickly settled into a playlist of delightfully relaxed numbers. Eydie Gormé's “Too Close for Comfort” rubbed shoulders with David Bowie's “Life on Mars?” before a sly dig at the government with Cy Coleman's “There's Gotta Be Something Better Than This.” Pianist and arra

The Elf Who Was Scared of Christmas ★★★★ Charing Cross Theatre (online) | Until January 4, 2021

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The Elf Who Was Scared of Christmas is all about two elves, Cupcake (Gina Beck), her colleague, Figgy (Neil McDermott) and their journey towards achieving self confidence. Figgy spends his time trying to find a way to rid Cupcake of her irrational fears. Presented with oodles of charm and nicely designed, this show would admirably suit children, especially those under seven. Cupcake is encouraged to think of all the good things about Christmas, including snowmen and a smashing snow fight. There are some delightful songs and dances, none better than the title song performed in true musical theatre style. We discover that Cupcake is afraid of being seen by the children when she delivers their presents as she will thereby lose her magic powers. The elves enter a real house and hope that by sharing their fears and by being prepared to fail they will conquer their demons. The show's moral is not complicated but it is well presented and not overplayed; one learns that it can be right to

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz ★★★★ Creation Theatre (online) | Dec 19 - Jan 3, 2021

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This is very much L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and far removed from the 1939 Hollywood version. Much darker, especially in the second half, the story is really quite scary and might be too difficult for very young children. Adult questions such as “How can you miss something you've never had?” and the concepts like forgetting what it is to be hugged and loved make us all consider our own lives, especially in these difficult times. Meanwhile, everyone's favourites – The Scarecrow (Dharmesh Patel), The Tin Man (Tom Richardson) and The Cowardly Lion (Simon Yadoo) join Chloe Lemonius' Greta-Thunberg-like Dorothy on her journey to the Emerald City. We particularly liked Tin Man, a computer geek who can't love without a heart; his witty word play was gleefully delivered. Lion's super mane and Welsh accent plus Scarecrow's clever costume and excellent timing added to the great fun. Creation Theatre's full company of adult and child performers pro

Snow White in the Seven Months of Lockdown, King's Head Theatre (online) - ★★★★★ - Dec 15 - Jan 10, 2021

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The option came on screen “Are you having a lovely time? YES/NO". There was no doubt in our minds. We were. In the middle of the bleakest holiday season in recent memory, we don’t have to look any further than Snow White in the Seven Months of Lockdown for an inoculation of positive energy, humour and joy. If the title isn’t enticing, the splendid harmonies of a tall Snow White (John Savournin) and a slim petite Prince Larry (Emily Cairns) are. In this all-round terrific production, great music, duos, trios, quartets and quintets abound. With a delightfully Wicked Queen (Jennie Jacobs) and the mirror plotting to put taxes up during the pandemic, Snow White and the dwarfs, all amazingly played by Matthew Kellett, must try to keep their wits about them. The plot borrows from the classic fairy tale and mines its parallels to current events. We can relate fully and yet laugh when the Prince says “Can we stay the night?” and Snow White replies “Oh, I don’t know. It's so hard to ke

Sleeping Beauty? - Tea Break Theatre (online) - ★★★★ - December 17-30, 2020

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A Zoom success! The online trailer suggests Sleeping Beauty? is a panto the whole family will enjoy, and the show fulfills that promise. Full of fun, imagination, a light dab of audience involvement and two puppets, this panto put a smile on our face and kept it there right until the final curtain. Though we were at home, we felt we were in the theatre. Alicia McKenzie as Princess Rose and Chris Dobson as Prince are first-rate. With the delightful support of Felicity Sparks as Evie and Molly Small as Arrabelcha, they magically transported us from room to room in Katharine Armitage’s tale in which we met the dream-characters of the sleeping castle. You won’t forget the ingredients of Arrabelcha’s soup! However, Princess Rose and Prince won’t kiss – even to break the evil spell! They agree “we’ve both just met.” Besides, Princess Rose is “sick of people telling me what I can and can’t be.” Tune in to Zoom and enjoy a festive romp. This is a well-paced modern Sleeping Beauty that no one

The Pirates of Penzance, The Palace Theatre - ★★★★★ - December 12 & 13, 2020

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Sasha Regan's All-male The Pirates of Penzance is exactly what theatre needs right now. Immaculate performances within a joyful production make this revival of a 140-year-old operetta come up fresh as paint. Only curmudgeonly Gilbert & Sullivan traditionalists could baulk at the use of young men, singing as countertenors, in the female roles; this is not a camp skit but an honest, truthful production which adds just a few knowing winks to the situations. Conceived for much smaller venues, the show expands perfectly onto the cavernous Palace Theatre's stage. Time after time, jaws drop at the beautiful stage pictures created by director Sasha Regan and choreographer Lizzi Gee, including a brilliant pirate ship. The cast are spot on and laughs, which are never cheap or crude, bubble along as the business unfolds naturally from the plot. Alan Richardson's coloratura countertenor as Mabel is quite amazing whilst Tom Senior's Frederic sets more than just Mabel's hear

FROSTBITE: Who Pinched My Muff? - The Garden Theatre at The Eagle - ★★★★★ - Until January 10, 2021

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While FROSTBITE: Who Pinched My Muff? may be more Poundland than Harrods it provides great value and constant gales of laughter. It is, perhaps, best to gloss over the plot - or lack of it - but all the characters from pantomime are here: Good Fairy, Evil Demon, Loveable Dame, Cute Elf, Principal Boy, Sweet Girl and Grumpy Father. Writer Gareth Joyner, designer David Shields and director Robert McWhir give us two hours of unabashed naughtiness demonstrating that there is high art in low comedy! Nathan Taylor's superb Demon Frostbite leaves no piece of scenery unchewed while Dereck Walker is everything one could ever want as Dame Herda Gerda, and his costumes are magnificent. This is a proper pantomime damery not drag. Shelley Rivers is the ideal thigh-slapping Principal Boy (memories of Dorothy Ward) and, as the nimble Scots elf, Lumiukko, James Lowrie charms the audience with his naughty 'innocent' looks. This all proves that you don't need TV stars to bring rollickin

Potted Panto, Garrick Theatre - ★★★★★ - Until January 10, 2021

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Potted Panto promises to cram the essence of seven very different pantomimes into seventy minutes; this has the advantage that nothing outstays its welcome. The English panto tradition with its cross-dressing and slapstick dates back well over a hundred years, and many of the original gags remain. Hearing children laughing uproariously at jokes which would have been old when their great-grandparents heard them is a delight in itself. There are topical jokes aplenty but nothing is in bad taste and the jibes involving Boris definitely hit the target. Pointing out that the seven dwarfs are exceeding the rule of six and that a glass of mulled wine now has to be served with the obligatory substantial meal had the audience in stitches. It is a brilliant stroke to mash A Christmas Carol with Aladdin , giving us who else but 'Abanazar' Scrooge. The running gag of having just one handsome prince comes off perfectly, whilst Cinderella's ugly sisters are a dream – OK – a nightmare.

The Fabulist Fox Sister, Southwark Playhouse (online) - ★★★ - December 4 & 5, 2020

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The Fabulist Fox Sister recounts the somewhat dark tale of the notorious medium in the late 1800s, Kate Fox, who was famous enough to have numbered world leaders among her fans. Writers Luke Bateman and Michael Conley's fascinating 70 minute show is very ably directed by Adam Lenson and stylishly set by Libby Todd. The Fox sisters from Hydesville, New York, began by deceiving people into believing that they could communicate with the dead. As portrayed by Conley and Bateman, Kate Fox, the protagonist, doesn't come across as a pleasant woman as she entraps her audience and rapidly becomes embroiled with the loves of her life: Jim Beam and Glen Livet. The show follows her true biography closely and does not try to elicit our sympathy or pull any punches. Fox is without compassion and gleefully delights in the death of her husband, while she also hates living with her children. At the end, burnt out and broke, she finally decides to come clean about her deception. Yet to the last

The Legend of Moby Dick Whittington, Sleeping Trees (online) - ★★★★★ - Until January 5, 2021

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This Christmas, perhaps more than any other, we may well need big helpings of silliness to get us through, and The Legend of Moby Dick Whittington provides endless absurdity and nonsense. Kerry Frampton directs with anarchic aplomb and brings us a mashup of characters focussing on Dick Whittington, his cat and the rats who bump into Moby Dick and 'Doctor' Ahab – now a marine biologist. John Woodburn, James Dunnell-Smith and Joshua George Smith perform tremendously well as a team. Their jokes and clowning will certainly entertain small children who are encouraged to join in the songs and dances, and even build their own whale! There is, however, most definitely enough wit to keep accompanying adults constantly smiling; clever wordplay naturally abounds such as naming their vessel "The Companion Ship." We particularly enjoyed Pinocchio being "puppetually annoying". The joke involving the naming of a certain coffee shop chain after a Moby Dick character provid

Death of England: Delroy, National Theatre (online) - ★★★★ - November 27, 2020 & Spring 2021

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Clint Dyer and Roy Williams' new play, Death of England: Delroy is a compelling ninety minute monologue and a companion piece to Death of England . The reconfiguration of the Olivier Theatre's auditorium into an in-the-round space with a cruciform stage works brilliantly. Aided by superb lighting and sound, Michael Balogun's high-energy performance careers along with torrents of words as he “talks faster than a Tyson Fury left hook.” Balogun doesn't miss a trick and with welcome flashes of wit he captures every nuance of the character as he toys with the unexpectedly glittering language. What is not unexpected, however, is his arrest and mistreatment at the hands of the police. When he is incarcerated in a cell, we learn that he wept constantly for four hours while his pregnant, white girlfriend was in labour. Still, her unseen brother, Michael, attacks Delroy telling him that he will never “be like us - deep down.” Delroy is unapologetically upwardly mobile and admits

Ute Lemper: Rendezvous with Marlene, Club Cumming (online) - ★★★★★ - Until December 5, 2020

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We fell in love again! Not just with Marlene, but with Ute. This production is more than an homage to the great Dietrich. Ute Lemper tells us the story and sings the songs, but she doesn't just imitate ... she channels a cultural icon. Marlene Dietrich was someone who defined the "new woman." Sexually liberated, shocking and iconoclastic, Dietrich challenged her society and its values while anticipating ours. Politically progressive and not afraid to stand up for what she believed in, Dietrich was a portrait in political courage that should resonate for our own time. The show also examines the compelling Marlene persona and yields dark insight into the confines that is the construct of 'celebrity' ... a topic so very relevant to today. But ultimately, this is a show about the woman herself, and Lemper offers us insight into a complex and fascinating human being while contemplating her own personal relationship with the star. This is a one-woman show that has all t

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