All stories by Libby Purves on BroadwayStars

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

‘A sort of McBurney-meets-le Carré mini-thriller’: ANNA – National Theatre ★★★★ by Libby Purves

After the querulous, inward-looking tedium of her feminist polemic The Writer, Ella Hickson returns to interesting form with this curiosity, Anna.

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Saturday, May 18, 2019

‘Mischievous satirical blast’: WHITE PEARL – Royal Court Theatre ★★★★★ by Libby Purves

Five mice for White Pearl at the Royal Court Theatre because it’s different and clever and useful, and horribly good fun.

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Thursday, May 16, 2019

ORPHEUS DESCENDING Menier, SE1 by Libby Purves and Friends

SULTRY, SINFUL, SHOCKING, SHINING           Savagely observed  absurdity, blinding flashes of insight,  profound yearning, sudden poetry singing clear notes from the cruel  swamp of …

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    SMALL ISLAND. Olivier, SE1 by Libby Purves and Friends

AN INTIMATE EPIC IN A FADING  EMPIRE    Hard to overstate what an absolute treat this is , and on how many levels. It is a terrific yarn,  both romantic and tough, about history and Empi…

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Tuesday, May 14, 2019

‘Sometimes it works’: THE LAST TEMPTATION OF BORIS JOHNSON – Park Theatre ★★★ by Libby Purves

Hopes for The Last Temptation of Boris Johnson couldn’t be higher: it is again built around truth – a 2016 dinner party where Boris and Marina Johnson entertained the Goves and Yevgeny L…

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Friday, May 10, 2019

THE PROVOKED WIFE             Swan, Stratford upon Avon by Libby Purves and Friends

            There’s something special about fin-de-siecle anger in any century: this is from 1697,  years later than Wycherley and the mellower Sheridan,  and  best described as a…

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Tuesday, May 7, 2019

FEAST FROM THE EAST              Tristan Bates Theatre WC2 by Libby Purves and Friends

SMALL IS  BEAUTIFUL, SHORT CAN BE SHARP        There is something stimulating about ultra-short plays:  five to twenty minutes  but directed and performed with all the care and concen…

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Monday, May 6, 2019

SHADOWLANDS               Chichester Festival Theatre by Libby Purves and Friends

LOVE  AND LOSS AND ‘THAT’S THE DEAL’        Jack is a middle-aged Oxford English don of the ’50’s , a bachelor and apologist for Christianity.  Graceful, witty books and lect…

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Friday, May 3, 2019

JUDE Hampstead, NW1 by Libby Purves and Friends

ECHOES OF ANTIQUITY ,  FRESHNESS OF YOUTH          It’s a storming performance. Young  Isabella Nefar  as Judith erupts upon us:   adolescent, exuberant,  afire with defiance and…

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Thursday, May 2, 2019

ROSMERSHOLM                     Duke of York’s, WC2 by Libby Purves and Friends

GUILT, GRIEF,   POLITICAL ANGUISH            Handy timing ,  to open on what is  local Election Day for us ruralists and at a time when everything has a Brexity echo too.     Ibse…

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Tuesday, April 30, 2019

CREDITORS              Jermyn Street Theatre by Libby Purves and Friends

DEADLY DEBTS       The artistic  love affair between  August Strindberg’s ghost,  playwright Howard Brenton and  director Tom Littler continues to bear strange fruit,  surprisingl…

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THIS IS MY FAMILY Minerva, Chichester by Libby Purves and Friends

ANOTHER KIND OF LOVE SONG              This is gorgeous.  Funny,  truthful, wise,  and bravely original in form.   Anyone with a a family – past, present, remembered, or merely …

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Saturday, April 27, 2019

‘The physicality of Bailey’s direction serves the play well’: GHOSTS – Northampton ★★★★ by Libby Purves

A CLEANSING FURY FROM THE 1880s         Wipes you out every time,  Ibsen’s furious, shocking,  violent assault on the cruel decayed conventions  of his century’s end.   Its indec…

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Thursday, April 25, 2019

OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY              Southwark Playhouse, SE1 by Libby Purves and Friends

THE WORLD DONALD GREW UP IN…           It’s a long transverse stage:  at one end  at a scruffy crowded steel desk sits Jorgy, Michael Brandon exuding down-home amiability as the l…

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Tuesday, April 23, 2019

ALL MY SONS                   Old Vic, SE1 by Libby Purves and Friends

GUILT, GRIEF  AND PITY     It is almost uncanny how an Arthur Miller play, treated respectfully, can in the most wrenchingly extreme story still catch the common rhythms and tides of fami…

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Monday, April 22, 2019

SWEET CHARITY Donmar WC1 by Libby Purves and Friends

(Published in Daily Mail on Friday, one must moonlight to support this website’s unfunded free existence –   but here it is  for theatrecat regulars..)          The minute you wal…

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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

THREE SISTERS Almeida, N1 by Libby Purves and Friends

DOWNBEAT, DOWNCAST         Some years ago, leaving a particularly slow and uninspiring Chekhov performance in Yorkshire (never mind which play, spare the blushes)   I heard a weary man …

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Sunday, April 14, 2019

INK FESTIVAL – Halesworth Cut – envoi 2019 by Libby Purves and Friends

REFLECTIONS ON A RICH SEA OF INK…        I saw 22 plays in two days,  but it was hardly half a bite of what was on offer.   In three days there were  40 , each performed several ……

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Thursday, April 11, 2019

HOTEL PARADISO          On tour pre Edinburgh Fringe by Libby Purves and Friends

ANOTHER KIND OF HOUR      Staggering back from holiday, I sentimentally booked this at the New Wolsey in Ipswich because 2019 is the 50th anniversary of my unremarkable student performanc…

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WHERE IS PETER RABBIT?         Theatre Royal, Haymarket SW1 by Libby Purves and Friends

BEATRIX BEATS BREXIT WITH TOP BEAK-WORK      The Haymarket these spring mornings is dense with toddlers and their attendants (I’d say  by the look of it  20% parents, 50%  grandparen…

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Wednesday, April 10, 2019

IN THE WILLOWS            Oxford Playhouse & touring by Libby Purves and Friends

A FRESH WIND BLOWING THROUGH AN OLD TALE         Down on the Riverbank Club,  teen DJ Rattie is bangin’ it behind the deck,  telling the shy diffident Mole   “There is nothing–…

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Friday, April 5, 2019

Kunene and the King. Swan, Stratford upon Avon by Libby Purves and Friends

THE OLDEST HAVE BORNE MOST…   Jack is an ageing, terminally ill, scruffy, alcoholic remnant of an actor, with a grubby cardigan and Falstaff gut. He is muttering lines from King Lear in h…

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Wednesday, April 3, 2019

THE TIDE JETTY              Eastern Angles, touring by Libby Purves and Friends

SECRETS AND MEMORIES IN A WASTE OF WATERS         You can’t fault the atmosphere:   Jasmine Swan’s set takes you straight to the wide skies and muddy, reedy mystery of  Breydon Wat…

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Saturday, March 30, 2019

ADMISSIONS                  Trafalgar Studios , SW1 by Libby Purves and Friends

CRACKS IN THE LIBERAL VENEER       I adored the energy, cleverness and cheek of BAD JEWS so much I went twice, as the pitiless author  set his characters kicking, twisting, protesting an…

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MARY’S BABIES            Jermyn St Theatre, SW1 by Libby Purves and Friends

A COSY NIGHTMARE LEGACY OF THE 1930’S     From the late 1930’s for nearly forty years,  Mary Barton and her husband Berthold Wiesner ran a pioneering fertility clinic: they were among…

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Friday, March 29, 2019

DOWNSTATE Dorfman, SE1 by Libby Purves and Friends

BRILLIANT, NECESSARY,   QUESTIONING       If we accept that people are widely diverse,  we have to accept that paedophiles are too.   Not all the same identi-monster.    Moreover,…

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Thursday, March 28, 2019

THE REMAINS OF THE DAY              Theatre Royal , Bury & touring by Libby Purves and Friends

WHAT THE BUTLER CAME TO KNOW…   From its premiere at the Royal & Derngate and on the first leg of its tour,  here is the stage version of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Booker-winning novel.  I…

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Monday, March 25, 2019

THE PHLEBOTOMIST                 Hampstead Theatre, NW1 by Libby Purves and Friends

WRITTEN IN THE BLOOD   What great timing!  Just as the worried-well Health Secretary gets rubbished for taking a commercial DNA test,  announcing that it has “saved his life” because …

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Sunday, March 24, 2019

AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’         Mercury, Colchester then Southwark by Libby Purves and Friends

I’M GONNA SIT RIGHT DOWN AND WRITE MYSELF A REVIEW…   So dress up sassy, shake your chassis, get some mesh on your flesh like the ladies who sing with the band. Sell your vocals to the …

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Friday, March 22, 2019

PRIVATE LIVES Avenue, Ipswich by Libby Purves and Friends

NOT AT ALL FLAT, SUFFOLK…         Exuberantly funny,  elegant as a Deauville  hotel balcony and  sharp as the crack of a 78rpm record over a lover’s head,  Joanna Carrick’s wit…

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Thursday, March 21, 2019

BETRAYAL Harold Pinter Theatre, WC1 by Libby Purves and Friends

POISONED LOVE   I sometimes wish Harold Pinter had written more plays  like this:  decadent, agonized, helplessly sensitive to the nuances of friendship and treachery.  More praise has a…

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