In Review

Theatre in review: Joseph, Oleanna and Hymn

Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is ‘firing on all cylinders’, says The Guardian

The pandemic has cost Andrew Lloyd Webber millions, and the “pingdemic” recently delayed the much-anticipated opening of his new musical Cinderella until 18 August – but a revival of his and Tim Rice’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat has reopened at the Palladium – and it is “firing on all cylinders”, said Arifa Akbar in The Guardian.

Jac Yarrow looks like “a chiselled biblical superhero in his coat of many colours, and he belts out ballads” with a power that rivals that of Alexandra Burke, who makes a “winning” Narrator (though in her shiny leggings and sparkly trainers, she looks oddly like an aerobics instructor).

To add to the fun of a production that brims with “personality and mischief”, Jason Donovan (who played the title role for years in an earlier production) appears in cameo as a “rockabilly Pharaoh”.

David Mamet’s campus drama Oleanna (Arts Theatre) is so divisive, it triggered stand-up rows between audience members when it opened in the early 1990s, said Dominic Maxwell in The Times.

At the time, I thought of it as an “exciting but rigged” verbal battle between a “smug but fairly decent” male professor and a “failing female student” whose complaints are not unjustified, but who “lets principle overrule her humanity”. Now I am not so sure.

Is it Lucy Bailey’s “thrillingly evenhanded” production that has prompted my rethink – or was the bias in my head, and not in Mamet’s play? It seems to me that what was once a reaction to political correctness “connects more vividly than ever after the #MeToo movement”: the culture wars have shaken up our views about “where power lies”.

Fine acting helps, said Jessie Thompson in the London Evening Standard. It is “exhilarating” to watch Jonathan Slinger and Rosie Sheehy interrupt one another, “grandstand, pace and then deflate”. This is a cracklingly intelligent production, packed with thought-provoking moments (until 23 October).

Hymn, which has reopened at the Almeida, is “an object lesson” in the power and glory of live theatre, said Fiona Mountford in The Daily Telegraph. Lolita Chakrabarti’s new two-hander about brothers, fathers and families was due to open in February, but lockdown saw it shift online.

On a laptop, the piece felt exposed, its longueurs magnified by the medium. But in the flesh – sharing the “same space and air” as the actors, Adrian Lester and Danny Sapani – it’s a different story. Both are “magnificent”: physically committed yet easeful and fluid.

While the play is not perfect – the plot turns on a business proposition that “strains credulity” – Hymn offers plenty to “sing about” (until 13 August).

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