A Night with Jason Robert Brown, London Palladium

by guest critic Susannah Martin

Songs for a New World, Parade, The Bridges of Madison County and The Last 5 Years – these are a just a handful of the musicals penned by composer Jason Robert Brown, and just few of the treats that were peppered amongst his packed-out, one-off concert at the London Palladium. A pre-recorded concert for BBC Radio 2’s ‘Friday Night Is Music Night’, Brown’s layered evening catered to theatre fans and music lovers alike.

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Quiz, Noel Coward Theatre

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by guest critic Gregory Forrest

On 10 September 2001 – the last day of a different time – Army Major Charles Ingram  won the jackpot of ITV’s ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?’ In the days that followed, the Twin Towers fell and producers of the quiz show made their case against the Major, his wife, and a coughing contestant who supposedly cheated their way to the million pound cheque. As one character observes, take a step back and the whole story sounds too silly to be true. Which is precisely why West-End regular playwright James Graham picks it up.

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Reared, Theatre503

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by guest critic Joanna Trainor

“You look like a fucking idiot.” There was so much love in this insult, that with all the crap this family have to deal with you knew they’d muddle through it together.

For a play just short of 100 minutes, Reared addresses a lot of hefty issues in quite quick succession. Dementia, post-natal depression, losing your virginity, money problems, coming out – the first few scenes are a bit of a whirlwind. But overall writer John Fitzpatrick gives most of them the time they deserve so the story doesn’t feel gimmicky.

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Pericles Prince de Tyr, Barbican

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by Laura Kressly

Flawless royal blue walls reminiscent of the sea surround an unresponsive, middle aged man lying in a hospital bed. Nurses and a doctor flit in an out, efficiently checking vitals and holding quick, whispered conversations with waiting family. This is Pericles, physically and mentally buffeted by a life of grief and tragedy, but this is not quite the story of Pericles that Shakespeare and Wilkins co-wrote. Translated into French and then adapted, Cheek by Jowl here present a man in poor physical and mental health trapped inside his head, in a world composed either of memories or the figments of his imagination.

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Devil With the Blue Dress, Bunker Theatre

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by guest critic Amy Toledano

The political climate of 1990’s America may be something the world has largely forgotten, but playwright Kevin Armento certainly has no issue in reminding us of one of the country’s most memorable sex scandals. In his audacious new play Devil With The Blue Dress, Armento examines five women’s accounts leading up to – and resulting in – President Clinton’s impeachment in 1998. From the moment you set foot in the Bunker, you cannot help but be transported into what feels like the smoky underworld of dirty politics. This sensation can only be helped by saxophonist, and lone instrumentalist of the show, Tashomi Balfour, who underscores the entire piece with his smooth and often haunting melodies.

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Plastic, Old Red Lion Theatre

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by guest critic Joanna Trainor

“Think Columbine, think Virgina Tech, think Sandy Hook.”

Teenage Ben repeats this again and again in order to calm his nerves when he’s being mercilessly mocked by the football team. Less than two months after the Parkland shootings these words don’t sit right. In Ben’s mouth they sound blasé, and they’re not.

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Albatross, Gate Theatre

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by Laura Kressly

There aren’t many writers who conjure stories the way Isley Lynn can. Her innate instinct for achingly human characters in situations rarely – if ever – seen on stage sets her well apart from most young playwrights. Her oeuvre includes Skin a Cat, a hilarious and necessary story of a young woman navigating dating and sex whilst unable to be vaginally penetrated, and Tether, the journey of a blind woman and her guide training for a marathon. These intimate stories leave a huge impact when set on stage, their echoes long reverberating with her audiences.

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