Category Archives: Uncategorised

“Standing at the Sky’s Edge” at the Gillian Lynne Theatre

Originality is a big draw for this exciting new show from Richard Hawley. It’s about working-class people in Sheffield…which you don’t get very often. And the stories are told in a slightly different way. Events around three groups of characters, from different times, who live in the same tower block flat, are all interwoven.

Set in the 1960s, 1980s, and the present day, we take in a lot of history. From post-war optimism and immigration to industrial decline and unrest, then gentrification. And a good deal of attention is paid to the changing role of women. I’m not sure what a tourist crowd will make of it. But the book from playwright Chris Bush is skilful – nothing is overplayed, personal stories dominate, and these private lives are moving.

The narration is poetic (to a fault at times), beautifully delivered by Mel Lowe and deliberately contrasting in its grandiosity with the action. For it is ordinary people and “the traffic of life” that’s given attention. It’s a simple focus on romance but with such a large cast, and three big love affairs going on, the show feels inclusive and embracing. And, again, just that little bit different.

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Elizabeth Ayodele and Samuel Jordan

There are stand-out performances in the show – but not stars in the way you might expect. We follow Rose and Harry over the course of their lives, so Rachel Wooding and Joel Harper-Jackson impress with their performances as these characters. Joy and Jimmy show us young love and Elizabeth Ayodele and Samuel Jordan bring huge charm to these parts. Meanwhile, Poppy and Nikki have problems in the present day and make angsty roles for Laura Pitt-Pulford and Lauryn Redding, who do a great job. The singing from all is fantastic. But this précis doesn’t reveal how much is going on.

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Lauryn Redding and Laura Pitt-Pulford

Standing at the Sky’s Edge is constructed to give equal weight to the different stories. Even more, to highlight other characters and the ensemble who join them. It creates a very different feel as the whole cast take moments as leads. And when they all sing together, there are guaranteed goosebumps. The result is, at times, odd. An audience likes a focus. But through the talents of director Robert Hastie, it isn’t confusing. And the sense of place, of community, created is incredible. Originally from The Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, via The National Theatre, Ben Stones’ excellent set and costume design help immeasurably here.

Above all, Hawley’s songs are fantastic. A great mix of styles with strong lyrics and a bold emphasis on big emotions. Not one number is bad, and plenty bring a tear to the eye. The show does lose momentum after a tremendous opening for act two. There are fewer songs and Bush’s dialogue starts to dominate. And, without giving to much away, things become morbid. A lot of time has been spent telling us Poppy and Nikki’s relationship is unhealthy, so it is odd to have it as some kind of happy ending.  I guess that at least the surprises keep coming. Standing at the Sky’s Edge is one of the most original musicals I’ve seen in a long time.

Until 3 August 2024

www.skysedgemusical.com

Photos by Brinkhoff-Moegenburg 

“The Lonely Londoners” at the Jermyn Street Theatre

Roy Williams’ excellent adaptation of Sam Selvon’s novel about the Windrush Generation is brought to the stage with style by director Ebenezer Bamgboye. A collection of memorable characters and moving stories are depicted with care and passion by a talented cast.

Driving the action is Moses, known as “Mr. London”, who helps out new arrivals to the city. Gamba Cole takes the role with plenty of charisma while his character’s moving backstory is revealed with skill. Moses is joined by Galahad, Big City and Lewis – with strong performances from Romario Simpson, Gilbert Kyem Jnr and Tobi Bakare respectively. Each character is beautifully realised and interesting.

The problems the men encounter are many but Williams makes sure none of them feel underexplored. The racism they face, the isolation and rage it creates, is painful. All four brim with frustration, ready to snap at any moment. But broader ramifications are also clear: depression, poverty, the potential for crime, and toxic masculinity. The men are presented with a collection of objects – gun, dagger, and hip flask – the tension Bamgbye generates around these is fantastic. And there’s no idealizing the men or the story. Moses’ assessment that they are lonely but not alone is consolation but doesn’t generate false hopes.

It’s a shame the women in the piece have poorer roles. Moses is haunted by Christina, the love he left behind. Lewis’ mother and wife arrive in London but start too comedic and then come dangerously close to exemplars of how to adjust to a new life. Thankfully brilliant performances save the roles: Shannon Hayes and Carol Moses have tears in their eyes in their key scene – powerful, impressive acting.

For all Williams’ skill and the importance of the history, it is the staging rather than the stories that make the production stand out. There’s Elliot Griggs’s bold lighting design for a start, a model of effective simplicity that works brilliantly in scenes of violence. Aimee Powell’s gorgeous singing as Christina weaves throughout the show, part lament but also encouragement. Stirring choreography deserves final praise. Extended sequences that use movement, directed by Nevena Stojkov, are mesmerizing. Illustrating affection and aggression in equal measure, showing, by turns, a sense of loss and anger, brings home the complexity of these lives.

Until 6 April 2024

www.jermynstreettheatre.co.uk

“A Mirror” at the Trafalgar Theatre

Debates on aesthetics aren’t for all, but Sam Holcroft’s puzzle piece – a transfer from the Almeida Theatre – is an entertaining hit. The play is clever, self-consciously so, often funny and profound. If it lacks originality, a great production directed by Jeremy Herrin powers through to secure success.

In a generic dystopia (such set-ups often annoy me, but that’s a personal preference) we are gathered for the illicit performance of a play. It’s a good go at getting the audience involved and Herrin always does this well. And yes, it’s a play within a play. Specifically, about a young writer, Adem, whose work uses verbatim conversations and, since this regime isn’t keen on reality, is therefore dangerous. 

One of many twists is that our censor, named Čelik, is civilised. He wants to nurture talent and has already done so with a national treasure, another writer brought in for a very funny workshop scene. But the result of that reading is a play based on the scene we’ve just seen. So, I guess, it’s a play within a play within a play, that we’re watching.

There’s a love triangle, too. Which feels a bit of a distraction, although it makes a strong role for Tanya Reynolds stuck between the two men. Maybe the point is how messy art can get (although I doubt a ruthless regime would care about #MeToo moments). It’s a shame you can see a final twist coming from way off. Or maybe Holcroft is being generous – allowing us to feel as clever as she is.

It might all be thought a lot just to ask if plays should be a mirror of reality rather than escapism or inspiration. Such questions are hardly new. Nor are ideas about how politically dangerous plays might be. But, and it’s a big but, the ideas are given urgency and dramatic tension. Considering the strong plotting, structure and characters – basically, the mechanics of writing a play – Holcroft comes close to being impervious to criticism.

It should be stressed that the performances help. Jonny Lee Miller takes the part of the censor with a sense of mischief that is wholly appropriate. He can be scary, but also vulnerable. Samuel Adewunmi and Reynolds have nice lines in naivety – when it’s appropriate. Don’t forget, when everyone first appears it is as an actor. That another identity is revealed makes for layered performances that are easy to enjoy and admire.

A problem remains. For all the script’s smarts, and a strong production, there’s a sense that we’ve seen a lot of this before. Playwrights like writing about plays. Even the concern that an audience doesn’t want revolt but, rather, a gin and tonic (good line) has been pointed out. The game is played well. A Mirror is a great night out. But is that a judgement on how any effort to be serious is pointless? Let’s hope not.

Until 20 April 2024

www.amirrorwestend.com

“An Enemy of the People” at the Duke of York’s Theatre

Schaubühne Berlin director Thomas Ostermeier’s production invigorates Ibsen’s classic. With the characters made so clearly contemporary, the story of personal morals and political hypocrisy feels fresh. A star cast responds to the energy, making the show, co-adapted with Florian Borchmeyer, bracing.

Doctor Stockmann (Matt Smith) and his friends are “hokey cookie liberals”. They are in a band, drink wine from tumblers and wear normcore. We can guess what paper they read. There’s a gentle sense of cynicism around them that skilfully develops bite. For when Stockmann discovers poison in the town’s water system, his pretty cool life becomes a hot mess.

You’d think these nice folk would rise up against the “pink-faced geriatrics” of the establishment. Such enemies are embodied by the town mayor, who Paul Hilton makes suitably slimy. But things aren’t that simple. Stockmann’s old school friends Billing and Hovstad (played by Zachary Hart and Shubham Saraf) abandon their principles. And the mayor just happens to be the doctor’s big brother.

The family relationships in the show are explored well. Hilton makes such a good politician you almost start to believe his protests about trying to help. Nigel Lindsay gets a lot from the role of a father-in-law although how he ‘helps’ is too rushed. And there’s Stockmann’s long-suffering wife, Katharina, given a strong sense of autonomy in Jessica Brown Findlay’s excellent performance.

While Ostermeier makes a big effort to open the play up, it’s hard not to see it as Stockmann’s – and therefore Smith’s –show. The character and performer are magnetic. And it’s great to see the seeds of a mania so carefully sown. But Stockmann isn’t an appealing character, even if we admire him. Even his naivety – at one point he thinks people will be grateful to him for ruining the local economy – gets laughs rather than sympathy.

Stockmann is hurt by betrayal, but his main target is identified at a public meeting. There are bigger problems than left, right or centre – as a disturbing rant reveals. The idea that all opinions are valid, that we can ignore science or the truth, is attacked. It’s a memorable scene, with the house lights raised and an invite to get the audience’s opinion. The idea startles and is sure to make the production memorable.

Anyone joining in might do well to remember that it isn’t Stockmann who wants to know what we think – his mind is made up. The delivery is excellent, and Smith really comes into his own. So does Jan Pappelbaum’s black and white set, for that matter. I don’t want to knock Ostermeier’s anger. And we’re given room to question it all – Stockmann does come across unhinged and the outcome of the action is open. But there is a big flaw to all this. The piece wants arguments to excite, ideas to thrill. And while the execution is strong, I’m not sure either are strong or new enough to really do that.

Until 13 April 2024

www.anenemyofthepeople.co.uk

Photos by Manuel Harlan

“Hadestown” at the Lyric Theatre

One of the first big musicals of the year – there are plenty coming – this much anticipated show deserves great success. Anaïs Mitchell’s retelling of two Greek myths – the love story of Orpheus and Eurydice, and Persephone’s imprisonment by Hades – is ambitious and powerful. It has an originality and a distinct voice that make it stand out.

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Gloria Onitiri

The show visited the National Theatre back in 2018 and was then a Tony Award-winning hit in New York. This tweaked version has a British cast (with lots of accents), who give suitably divine performances. The young lovers, played Dónal Finn and Grace Hodgett Young, perfectly embody the show’s theme of hope. While as Persephone and Hades, Gloria Onitiri and Zachary James have superb voices and give performances full of nuance. Leading them all, as a kind of narrator warning us how sad and ancient the story is, Melanie La Barrie is a stunning Hermes.

Grace Hodgett Young and Dónal Finn in Hadestown
Grace Hodgett Young and Dónal Finn

Adapting Greek myths is perennial. But Mitchell makes the attempt to rescue Eurydice from death so exciting that I suspected the end was going to be changed! There’s plenty of thought behind these versions of the characters. Finn’s Orpheus is gauche musician and Hodgett Young’s depiction of a damaged young woman are both moving. Persephone has taken to drink to deal with her overbearing husband, and Hades reimagined as a mine owner and industrialist is a very neat idea. Rachel Chavkin’s direction makes the most of all this background work, as well as creating a fantastic ensemble with starring roles for three commanding Fates (Bella Brown, Madeline Charlemagne and Allie Daniel).

Placing the action out of time and place is a smart enough move but sometimes snags: this is a generic dystopia, with climate concerns and income inequality. Alongside are touches of the 1930s and a setting that is clearly the American South. All mashed together, it’s a bit mind boggling. And if you made a case that Hadestown is politically naive, it would be hard to argue with that. This show wants to inspire, sometimes too much. But there’s nothing wrong with musical theatre focusing on a better world. There are rousing, goosebump moments and the sincerity has an earthy base. It’s the power of storytelling that electrifies the show – tales aided by song – and brilliantly so.

Rachel Hauck’s set does have surprises – that work well – and it’s easy to appreciate why Bradley King’s lighting earned him a gong. But for a lot of the show the action feels cramped, and David Neumann’s choreography somewhat wasted. The project’s origin as a concept album is clear. But, given the score, that isn’t a big problem.

Hadestown has exceptional music. The term folk opera is tempting (it reflects Mitchell’s roots), and there’s that sense of communal storytelling that is pivotal to the action: the act of re-enacting is the piece’s raison d’être. But let’s not sell the sources short – folk is mixed with just as much jazz, with touches of pop and rock that are hugely exciting. You never quite know what’s coming next. The show is sung throughout, and it’s clear, concise poetry, full of memorable rhymes and lines. It’s not just that each song is good, and works dramatically, but that they all work together and cohere marvellously. This story may be old, but I hope it goes on and on.

Until December 2024

www.uk.hadestown.com

Photos by Marc Brenner

“Double Feature” at the Hampstead Theatre

John Logan knows a lot about the cinema. As well as plays, he’s written scripts for major movies including Skyfall and Gladiator. His new work for the theatre takes two older films, Marnie and Witchfinder General, and is a tricksy, witty, entertaining piece, with plenty going on.

The characters are two pairs of directors and performers from those films: Alfred Hitchcock with Tippi Hedren and Michael Reeves with Vincent Price. So, we’ve got big personalities to enjoy; Logan brings out these artists’ intelligence and gives them great lines. The performances from Ian McNeice, Joanna Vanderham, Rowan Polonski and Jonathan Hyde (in that order) are strong.

Keeping up with who is who and what they do? Well, hold on, despite meeting in different times and places, they are all on stage at the same time. All the action occurs on Anthony Ward’s gorgeous country cottage set.  It’s to the credit of the cast and director Jonathan Kent that this isn’t confusing. While the idea elaborates the play’s themes, it doesn’t necessarily make them clearer.

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Joanna Vanderham and Ian McNeice

The four are, ostensibly, rehearsing. Although both meetings have darker agendas that provide drama. Going behind the scenes is often interesting; you might consider current hit The Motive and the Cue as a parallel. If you like movies, Double Feature has built-in appeal, there’s a lot of insight here. It’s interesting to see how the directors explain how they work, how they storyboard in their heads. How there’s more than a little snobbery from both Hitchcock and Reeves. And how insecure both actors turn out to be.

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Jonathan Hyde and Rowan Polonski

The link between each director and their star is clear, the relationships explored in depth leading to powerful moments. In tandem with questions about celebrity (pinning that down is as fickle as fame itself) there’s an exploration of power as well as age and youth – Hitchcock and Price are senior and worried about being “foolish old men”. Everyone reveals a vulnerable side, although Reeves’ poor mental health needs elaborating. It’s Vanderham who steals the show: a horrible #MeToo moment, made viscerally moving, gives way to Hitchcock’s muse turning on him in magnificent style. I felt like bursting into applause.

Maybe, the cleverest part of Double Feature is how much both theatre and film reveal about each other. There’s plenty of talk about honesty and reality, made urgent with Polonski’s cineaste character. He thinks a movie has an advantage here, but this play asks you to think again. There’s a lot of talk about shallowness and substance, with performers simply a face or a big name to be used. But with four on stage, and the text weaving between them, it’s easy for us, if not Hitchcock, to see how collaborative the performing arts have to be. While Kent directs with precision, Hyde’s brilliant Price points out to us how the theatre controls less and demands more. A play becomes a great way to say a lot – the stage does Logan proud. 

Until 16 March 2024

www.hampsteadtheatre.com

Photos by Manuel Harlan

“Turning the Screw” at the King’s Head Theatre 

It’s a brave play that tries to tackle the awful subject of paedophilia with any kind of nuance. There are queasy moments in Kevin Kelly’s fictionalized account of composer Benjamin Britten and schoolboy singer David Hemmings. Director Tim McArthur’s bumpy production doesn’t always match the slickness of the script. But the piece is both provocative and thought-provoking.

The action takes us behind the scenes of the opera The Turn of the Screw. It helps a lot to know the history beforehand. Both the play and Gary Tushaw, who does well in the role of Britten, show The Great Man’s power and charisma at work. It’s clear separating the art from the artist is not a new dilemma. But, admirably, Kelly wants to show us many sides of the story and McArthur aids his project.

Efforts to protect Britten and his “divine” art are heady. Two roles, for Jo Wickham and Jonathan Clarkson, as his assistant and producer, are under-written but serve to show Britten’s prestige and status. Less successfully, there’s the man who most admires Britten, his life partner Peter Pears. It’s an unhappy role for Simon Willmont as avowals of love and dismissal of “passing infatuations” ring hollow.

Then we come to Britten’s victims. The play (and in real life Hemmings) is clear that behavior was “inappropriate” rather than criminal, leaving the audience to judge morality. But Hemmings, despite a good performance from Liam Watson, is written as too mature. There are too many questions left hanging: the character’s class, or “rough edges”, and the absence of his parents. One great touch, which McArthur gets a lot from, is that Hemmings narrates and helps as a stage hand; his reactions are always worth watching.

Hemmings is seen as a threat rather than a victim, taking us to the most interesting but also flawed parts of the play. As tense rehearsals progress, parallels are drawn between fiction and fact. So, the ambiguity between characters in the opera infects real life. Britten even makes mistakes over Hemmings’ name. It’s a shame the idea isn’t explored more. Meanwhile Britten’s troubles are credited to the illegality of homosexuality. The point is problematic, even nonsensical. The history here is crammed in. And there’s a dream sequence that, as well as being executed poorly, creates too much sympathy for Britten and is crying out to be cut.

While it might seem the play struggles to determine a focus, flip-flopping between Britten, his entourage and Hemmings, it seems more accurate to suggest Kelly doesn’t want one – he provides lots of perspectives. A cool tone for such an emotive subject is an interesting idea. But in the end, this strength becomes Turning the Screw’s weakness. Hemming’s story is truncated and another boy, a ghostly figure who haunts the composer, needs urgent elaboration. Despite trying, the piece is weighted too much to Britten for comfort.

Until 10 March 2024

www.kingsheadtheatre.com

“When You Pass Over My Tomb” at the Arcola Theatre

Sergio Blanco’s play is a challenge. There’s the subject matter – assisted suicide and necrophilia – alongside the technique of ‘autofiction’. Plenty of people have little time for any of this, but ‘death and desire’ are the building blocks of theatre. Being proudly, even defiantly, contrary earns the play and the production respect.

Several levels of narration are constructed, though Blanco would prefer the term ‘engineered’ (we know this… because he tells us). The actors present themselves as their own ghosts. One also takes the part of a writer called Sergio. They work through the script with the air of a rehearsal, commenting as they go. Theatricality is exposed and played with, and everyone acknowledges we can’t trust anything that’s going on. In fact, they make quite a big deal about that.

It is all very funny. Securing the humour is to the credit of Blanco’s translator and director Daniel Goldman, whose work is commendable. Creating an air of spontaneity, with plenty of silly touches, yet admitting how contrived the whole thing is, makes for quite the juggling act. As with the writing, the direction has rigour but also a lightness. That’s a tough call with a backdrop of big – and distasteful – questions. When should you be allowed to take your own life? And can you really say what happens to your body afterwards? Have you guessed ‘the ick’ yet?

None of this can be easy for the performers, who all do a superb job. Al Nedjari takes the lead, performing as the ‘ghost of Al’ and ‘Sergio’. He pretends to direct the action with lots of expert audience engagement. Danny Scheinmann plays a doctor in a Swiss clinic who reads out ‘case studies’ of necrophilia and never questions Sergio’s wish to end his life (nobody mentions illness). Charlie MacGechan takes the role of Khalid, a necrophiliac (imprisoned, conveniently, next to a graveyard) who agrees to – wait for it – have sex with Sergio’s corpse. The performances veer between relaxed and taut, suggesting comedy and trauma; they are always riveting.

There are intimations the play will become darker. Because it’s not just the subject matter that is unsettling – our grip on reality, truth and lies is questioned incessantly. As the stories develop, they become more serious, politics is introduced, we hear a lot about the loss of loved ones. The cast have deeply emotive scenes. But a sense of freedom, even fun, is fought for. It returns in an odd epilogue that sums up the mind-boggling yet memorable nature of the whole show.

The script is crammed with references, including to Blanco’s own work (which could easily try the patience). Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein starts to dominate. Suggesting this is the key would be dangerous. But maybe the play, like the monster, is made up of many elements? Which makes Blanco… Frankenstein? Yet Nedjari takes pains to make his character endearing, even romantic, and, in the end, very moving. Is it Sergio’s unexplained death wish or hubris that brings a tear to the eye? The play shows a misguided omnipotence – it is only the world Sergio creates that he can control, and even that power is an open question.

Until 2 March 2024

www.arcolatheatre.com

Photo by Alex Brenner

“The Hills of California” at the Harold Pinter Theatre

With characteristic ambition and skill, playwright Jez Butterworth and director Sam Mendes have, surely, created another hit show. Following their work together on The Ferryman in 2017, this new piece can be regarded as a further meditation on storytelling, love and loyalty. It is grown-up, intelligent theatre that lives long in the mind.

The Hills of California is a family drama with four sisters reunited at their mother’s death bed. It’s a big play, as flashbacks show each woman at a younger age – and in the past we also see their mum, Veronica. Mendes and a talented cast make the action clear, the characters are all wonderful studies and the performances consistently good.

The girls, the Webb Sisters, are drilled as a singing and dancing troupe (think the Beverleys). But only one, Joan, gets a shot at fame in those titular, promised hills. The story behind this chance for success is dark. Butterworth flips effortlessly between ages, showing us dramatic events and their repercussions.

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Nicola Turner, Nancy Allsop, Lara McDonnell and Sophia Ally

There’s Jill and Ruby, timid in their youth, one staying at home and the other settling for a loveless marriage – roles that Helena Wilson and Ophelia Lovibond reveal with skill. Meanwhile, Gloria is bitter from the start, her anger lifelong, leading to a heart-wrenching performance from Leanne Best. And let’s not ignore other cast members who play the girls when they are young – Nancy Allsop, Sophia Ally, Lara Mcdonnell and Nicola Turner – who we see a lot, sound great and complement the leading roles superbly.

This is a fantastic ensemble, but the show belongs to Laura Donnelly, who plays the mother in earlier scenes and then the prodigal Joan. So, we get to see the formidable stage mother and her main victim portrayed by the same performer. The nuance Donnelly brings to both women is a fitting tribute to Butterworth’s script, complete with uncomfortable suggestions about how cold and cruel both are. There’s a danger of Donnelly taking over – at times the show feels like a showcase for her – but she gives not one but two amazing performances.

The setting – Blackpool in the late 1970s – is vividly evoked and provides a lot of humour. An interest in working-class characters is a key part, for me, of what makes Butterworth’s work stand out. And Butterworth manages better than most to get laughs without coming across as patronising. There are problems with the male roles, which are, surprisingly, close to poor. In the past, a sinister talent scout and a down at heel comedian are flat. In the 1970s, there is a better role for Sean Dooley as Gloria’s husband. But all the men make the play feel baggy.

Maybe it’s that the storytelling the men instigate (be it tales of celebrity or how a juke box works) aren’t that interesting. Or that the men don’t sound as good! Songs tell us a lot here – shared aspirations and then family memories – and they are incorporated superbly and with remarkable confidence by Mendes. Putting so much music in the production is a brilliant move. Mrs Webb describes songs as places – they are a source of promise, providing a hopeful heart to the play, and an optimistic conclusion, despite the past.

Until 15 June 2024

www.hillsofcaliforniaplay.com

Photos by Mark Douet

“The Picture of Dorian Gray” at the Theatre Royal Haymarket

Kip Williams’ adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s novel is unquestionably accomplished. Its sole performer Sarah Snook – yes, she takes all the roles – deserves ovations. And technically the production itself is just as impressive. Best of all, the actor and the tech work together. It’s easy to get excited about it all.

Snook is not alone… in two senses. First, she is acting with herself. She starts off slow, adopting different personas for the aesthete Lord Wotton, the painter Basil Hallward and his subject, Dorian. It’s clear Snook has each character well developed. All the while, she is filmed live and projected on to big screens. It’s well done, but we’ve seen it before.

Then Snook starts to perform with recordings of herself. The different characters appear on the screens. And the screens start to move. There’s a huge team behind this – 14 take a bow – not only filming but dressing and moving scenery around (Marg Horwell’s design is great). There’s a danger of distraction as the crew is so fascinating. And, at the risk of sounding old and grumpy, you do end up spending a lot of time looking at screens.

Yet nothing can detract from Snook’s achievement. Solo shows of this kind (such as Andrew Scott’s amazing Vanya from last year) often astound. There’s a sense of wonder that the actor can keep up with it all. And it’s worth noting that, while Williams’ adaptation helps to make the action clear, the show is… louder than Scott’s efforts. There are some odd musical choices and lots of overemphasis. But there’s no doubt it’s a brave performance. Having her face close-up on massive screens shows that Snook, unlike Dorian, has no vanity, and she finds the raw emotion behind Wilde’s elegance.

Is it churlish to want any more from a night at the theatre? Williams has brought the page to the stage with novelty and made it modern. The use of filters and selfies is brilliant (although, surely, not as low-fi as it pretends – video designer David Bergman deserves much acclaim). It’s easy to see current narcissism in Dorian. That point is well made, and it’s a shame it isn’t explored in greater depth.

Going easy on the philosophy and embracing the exaggerations of the novel, the production is often funny. And it’s dynamic – there’s even a chase scene added with the kind of drone footage Netflix likes. But it is no surprise that there’s melodrama in a morality tale from 1890. In the end, despite plenty to admire, it is hard to find much in the way of interpretation. The show feels like an exercise: entertaining, but a lot of effort for relatively little insight.

Until 11 May 2024

www.doriangrayplay.com

Photo by Marc Brenner