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Christopher Hampton’s 1969 take on Molière’s The Misanthrope is often played with actors older than their characters, but director Simon Callow has recruited some of TV’s bright young things to play the solipsistic academics. It may well attract new audiences to the West End, but this uncomfortable revival is unlikely to capitalise on that influx.
Six-time Tony winner and reigning Queen of Broadway – plus “Olivier Award…presenter”, jokes partner-in-crime Seth Rudetsky in his introduction (though surely that’s just a matter of time, with her Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill coming to Wyndham’s this summer) – lauded actress and singer Audra McDonald is the consummate pro. If further proof were needed, she’s currently at Leicester Square Theatre offering a veritable masterclass in cabaret.
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The late, great Edward Albee is certainly having a West End ‘moment’, but it rather places this particular revival at a disadvantage, comparing unfavourably as it does with the shattering, unforgettable Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? a few streets away.
The curtain rises just high enough to reveal a long line of tapping feet: a thoroughly appropriate intro, as those feet are the real stars of the show. The plot might centre around a leading lady battle, but this loving backstage fairy tale is really a paean to the chorus – the hard-working foundation upon which musical comedy (“the two most glorious words in the English language,” per the show) is built.
When Laura Wade’s Posh premiered at the Royal Court in 2010, its dark promise that these destructive student toffs – members of the Riot Club, a loosely fictional version of Oxford’s Bullington – would one day run the country had a timely frisson: former club members David Cameron, George Osborne and Boris Johnson occupied Downing Street and the mayoral office respectively.