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July 2019

London Theatre 2019 in review - the highs and lows so far...

So we are halfway through 2019 which means time to look back and reflect on what London's theatre scene has offered up so far and this year: 

5 plays I loved:

Emilia, Vaudeville Theatre

"Yes, Emilia is an angry play about the frustration of inequality and how it limits opportunity but the message and call to arms is served well with a mixture of sharp humour, merriment and music."

Downstate poster

Downstate, National Theatre

"This is a challenging, difficult play with humour and wit inflected with wisdom, carefully balancing entertainment without detracting from the seriousness of the subject matter."

Betrayal, Harold Pinter Theatre

"Hiddleston, Ashton and Cox deliver precise, layered performances in a production that grips with tension."

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Review: The End of History, Royal Court - rebellious children, parental legacy and a sentimental misstep

While Sal and David may be passionate about righting the wrongs of the world and creating a more equal and inclusive society, when it comes to embarrassing their children it's a different matter.

Royal Court The End of History photo johan persson
The End of History, Royal Court. Photo Johan Persson.

Writer Jack Thorne and John Tiffany last worked together on the Harry Potter plays but family dynamics is the only parallel with The End of History at the Royal Court.

The play is set during three family gatherings in 1997, 2007 and 2017, in the Newbury home of Sal (Lesley Sharp) and David (David Morrissey).

They are left-leaning liberals who've brought their children up to be inquisitive and be socially aware.

Elder children Carl (Sam Swainsbury) and Polly (Kate O'Flynn) are at good universities and younger sibling Tom (Laurie Davidson) is still at school but when they come together it is a mixture of banter, jibes and warm familial bonds.

Views take their toll

Sal and David's liberal approach to parenting combined with their rigid views on social justice has taken its toll on their children.

In the first act, the gathering is to meet Carl's new girlfriend Harriet (Zoe Boyle). Behind closed doors, the kids are almost used to their parent's frank revelations and views but it is a different matter when Harriet arrives. 

The fact that she comes from money is an itch that Sal, in particular, just can't help scratching with amusingly cringe-worthy consequences.

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Review: Who won the battle of comedies - Present Laughter (Old Vic) or Noises Off (Lyric Hammersmith)?

London's theatreland is ripe for a good hearty laugh. I mean look at the state of the world, who wouldn't want to bury their head in giggles for a couple of hours?

Present Laughter Old Vic poster

And so we are spoiled by not one but two classic comedies both with stellar casts: Present Laughter starring Andrew Scott and Indira Varma at the Old Vic and Noises Off starring Meera Syal and Daniel Rigby at the Lyric Hammersmith.

But which one is best?

The two plays haven't just got comedy in common, both involve actors playing actors.

Andrew Scott plays Garry Essendine a stage star with his coterie of friends and staff trying to stop him making bad decisions - or are they riding on the coattails of his fame as he believes.

Drama off stage

In Noises Off Meera Syal is one of a troupe of actors touring the regions where the drama offstage threatens to overshadow that on stage.

What the play is most famous for is showing the same scene not only as it appears on stage but also from backstage. You get to see it three times in fact.

Both plays rely on running jokes and a lot of comings and goings, lots of doors, people missing each other and being kept apart.

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