23 Jan 2012: The Madness of George III, Pajama Men, Mary Stuart, Constellations, Our New Girl, Travelling Light, Huid Clos, Loveson, Fog

Weekly review roundup: 23 January 2012
Alan Bennett’s The Madness of George III has finally broken the four-star barrier for 2012, with an average of 4.1 and two five-star reviews (Libby Purves, Times and Quentin Letts, Daily Mail). A (somewhat obviously) historical drama, TMOKG3 premiered at the National in 1991 and was made into a film in 1994. Of this incarnation, Libby Purves said “it is rare to meet a production so flawless,” and (of David Haig in the title role) that this is “one of those treasurable moments when a familiar, well-liked actor rises to a new level of real greatness.” Runs to 31 March at the Apollo Theatre; click the show title to see all seven pro print reviews to date.


Continuing down the star list, Pajama Men (sketch comedy, Charing Cross, to 3 March) and Mary Stuart (historical drama, New Diorama, to 18 Feb) each got three reviews, and all of them four stars, making them safe bets if you’re in the mood for the genre. Having seen Pajama Men myself last summer, I’d personally recommend this one; the amount of laughter and wonder they generate in an hour is barely plausible.


Constellations (musings on love and physics, Royal Court) got a varied reception, with an average of about 3.8 stars – two five-star reviews (Charles Spencer, Telegraph and Paul Taylor, Independent), but also three three-stars. Spencer said “I know it’s only January, but if I see a more ingenious, touching and intellectually searching play than Constellations this year, I will count myself very lucky,” and forecast a life for it beyond the small upstairs theatre at the RC. It will be interesting to see what they do with it; the run sold out months ago, but the three three-star reviews suggest some remain unconvinced. (Incidentally, based on the surfeit of these at Fringe last year, we predict that 2012 will be a big year for love and physics plays.)


Our New Girl (nanny-driven drama about The Way We Live Now, Bush Theatre) was widely reviewed, but only ended with a 3.6 star average.


Several other openings (Travelling Light at the National, Huis Clos at Trafalgar Studios, Lovesong at the Lyric Hammersmith, and Fog at the Finborough) all averaged in at about three stars, despite strong pedigrees. This suggests either that it’s hard to rehearse a show over the holiday break, or that the critics are in a darker mood than usual having not gotten what they wanted for Christmas. Hopefully, whatever the reason, the London theatre machine will be revved back up to midseason form soon.


(Note also that it’s always possible that with a few weeks of a run under their belt, these shows may now be in better shape than when they were reviewed. Personally, we are seeing Lovesong tomorrow, optimistically – but returned our tickets for Travelling Light.)


Finally, the very well-reviewed musical Crazy for You, and the decently-reviewed Legally Blonde, have both announced they are closing; Crazy for You on 17 March and Legally Blonde on 7 April. Having caught Betty Blue Eyes in its last week, we know that sometimes an early closing can be a sign that a show is more perfectly pitched than a big West End show can afford to be; we’ll be scrambling to see Crazy for You on that basis before it goes.

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