✮✮✮✮✮ Tennessee Williams' Summer and Smoke Almeida Theatre | London directed by Rebecca Frecknall Patsy Ferran won various prestigious new acting talent awards a few years ago. Here, it is easy to see why. Ferran captivates from the second she first appears sobbing and choking into a microphone as the fiendishly complex lead in director Rebecca Frecknall's rare outing for Tennessee Williams' beguiling, poetic exploration of love, desire, repression and pill-popping.
✮✮✮ 1/2 Martin Crimp's The Treatment Almeida Theatre | London directed by Lyndsey Turner A young woman sits in an office describing the experience of having her mouth taped. Two others are present: one silent, one pedantically pinning down the details while spectacularly missing the point. Is this a police interview? A therapy session? It eventually becomes clear that we are at sea in even more treacherous waters – showbiz. The woman is Anne, and these producers are banking o
✮✮✮ Shakespeare's Hamlet Almeida Theatre | London directed by Robert Icke Nothing quite divides the camps like a starry Hamlet, and the past few years have seen many. Battle lines seem to be drawn along whether it is the star or the vehicle, the man or the machine, that takes precedence. Shakespeare’s greatest play is indivisible from its title role, yet the world of the play matters to an audience – if we don’t believe in it, we can’t believe Hamlet’s torturous relationship
✮✮✮✮✮ Ella Hickson's Oil Almeida Theatre | London directed by Carrie Cracknell We live in the age of oil. We have never lived without it, and we take it for granted. Ella Hickson’s fiery new play addresses the importance of renewable energy, but includes a hell of a lot more in its wide scope. Hickson examines the background of oil through history, the cost of imperialism and attitudes towards progress, including, notably, the rise of female independence. We first meet May (A
✮✮✮✮ Adam Brace's They Drink It In the Congo Almeida Theatre | London directed by Michael Longhurst How much do we know about the Congo, really? The title of the play mocks us – are we so ignorant that the first thing that comes to mind is the infamous advertising jingle of the 80s, something that has nothing whatsoever to do with the real Democratic Republic of the Congo and its problems? Probably. But if you’re struggling, fear not for Stef (Fiona Button) is more than happy
✮✮ Mike Bartlett's Game Almeida Theatre | London directed by Sacha Wares “This is going to be the best, show, ever,” says one of the college students settling into the camouflaged hide of Section D. Her optimism could spring from many things: the maverick redesign of the Almeida’s space; the scattered screens suggesting a multimedia binge; the programme littered with progressively disturbing MailOnline articles. It isn’t your usual school trip to humdrum, hammed-up Shakespear
✮✮✮✮ Anne Washburn's Mr Burns Almeida Theatre | London directed by Robert Icke Huddled round a campfire, post-apocalyptic refugees try to remember the words to a sacred text – it’s recited, puzzled over, and elaborated on. This safe spot in a poisoned America? Cape Feare: The Simpsons episode where Sideshow Bob’s quest to kill Bart reaches dramatic, gothic heights. It’s no coincidence that these reminiscers refer to its Second Act, or savour lines like sips of salvaged Diet C
✮✮✮✮ George Orwell's 1984 Playhouse Theatre | London directed by Duncan Macmillan & Robert Icke Theatre adaptations of classic novels would probably go in several critics’ personal Room 101s – especially those with narrators, or, heaven forfend, voiceovers. But this latest transfer from Islington powerhouse the Almeida Theatre manages to be intensely literary without any of the staid, storytelling bookishness that can plague the genre. Together, Duncan Macmillan and Robert Ic
✮✮✮✮ Mike Bartlett's King Charles III Almeida Theatre | London directed by Rupert Goold Mike Bartlett’s King Charles III is a modern day Shakespearian masterpiece. A piece of lèse-majesté which if performed in Shakespeare’s time, would surely have led to imprisonment and execution. Thankfully, this wonderful production at the Almeida should escape calls of treason. The play opens with the funeral of our much loved and popular Queen. Elizabeth II has died after seventy gloriou
✮✮✮✮ Ibsen's Ghosts Trafalgar Studios | London directed by Richard Eyre Ibsen’s play was written to shock, and succeeded; at the time, the Daily Telegraph christened it “a loathsome sore unbandaged, a dirty act done publically... literary carrion.” The play’s carnal subversions and frenzies now sound muffled in a way that Nora’s final door slam of A Doll’s House isn’t, quite, but Richard Eyre’s harrowing staging means that these ghosts have lost none of their power to haunt.