Palladium, London

Theatre review: Shrinks, secrets, and all that jazz in A Chorus Line

3.00

A lacquer of sentimentality coats this reborn Broadway hit, but it's possible – just – to see why it caused such a stir in the 1970s

The man in charge is a monster. In A Chorus Line – the 1970s New York musical about dancers auditioning for a New York musical – the director, Zach, has dictatorial tendencies. We watch him putting hopefuls through their paces so relentlessly that one of them begs for a rest. Another is injured.

John Partridge's Zach is a pseudo-shrink, too, in the Palladium's production which recreates Michael Bennett's Broadway-hit 1975 staging. Having drilled the dancers till they're spinning in synch, Zach whisks Hoff stage. Thereafter he's a disembodied voice, grilling them from the stalls.

Everyone has to fess up to past humiliations, analyse why they dance, ruminate on imminent unemployment. The main twist is that Zach has himself been hurt, by his ex (Scarlett Strallen), who now needs a job.

A Chorus Line caused a stir when it premiered, and you can still, just about, see why. The set is a black chasm, more modern dance than trad musical. The segmented back wall performs a stunning trick with rotating mirrors, such that the dancers gain doppelgängers, gliding behind them. Glitz is saved for the finale.

The experimental script lines up monologues loosely based on interviews with real-life dancers. That said, they lack the verbatim authenticity of the National Theatre's recent documusical, London Road. A lacquer of sentimentality coats proceedings. Nevertheless, you come away appreciating the hard graft and joys of being a hoofer. This ensemble is extremely assured, directed by Bennett's co-choreographer Bob Avian. Strallen conveys desperation with conviction, Victoria Hamilton-Barritt's Diana sassy resilience. Adam Salter tap dances with the jubilance of a bouncing lamb; and James T Lane gets funky, waggling to Marvin Hamlisch's snazzy score.

In Macbeth (Trafalgar Studios, London ****), the issue of disagreeable despots is far more serious, with James McAvoy as Shakespeare's usurping regicide. Director Jamie Lloyd's new season at the Trafalgar Studios promises a volley of similarly politically charged productions.

Macbeth gets off to a flying start, set in Scotland (with salty accents) but in a near-future where environmental disasters have led to ragged poverty and savage wars. This is a realm of concrete and steel doors, like a dilapidated military base (design by Soutra Gilmour).

Reconfigured in the round, the stage is startlingly intimate. McAvoy almost takes out the front row as he skids off the battlefield, roaring and gore-drenched, waving machete and axe. His Macbeth is a brutalised action hero, given to psychotic episodes and on the verge of a fit when the Weird Sisters (in gas masks) suddenly appear. He and Claire Foy's Lady Macbeth are, meanwhile, a couple whose ardent devotion to each other has been shaken by the recent loss of a child. Foy manages to convey initial fragility under driving ambition, though her character doesn't gain great depth.

The director's grim vision may call to mind other recent Macbeths (Rupert Goold's or Grzegorz Jarzyna's) and his staging has a couple of clumsy moments. But the slaughter of Macduff's family is heartbreaking, and the fight choreography (by Kate Waters) is storming. The occasional re-allocation of lines and use of doubling tightens the sense of a fatal web, as do the visual segues – the canteen saucepan at Macbeth's banquet turning into the Weird Sisters' hallucinatory cauldron.

In the supporting roles, Forbes Masson shines as a joshing then bitterly wary Banquo, as does Mark Quartley as a quiet, astute Malcolm. Let's hope the Trafalgar is on a roll.

In contrast, If You Don't Let Us Dream, We Won't Let You Sleep (Jerwood Downstairs, Royal Court, London *) is a let-down. Embarrassingly inept for a Royal Court main house premiere, this is a didactic, clunking effort from leftwing activist-turned-dramatist Anders Lustgarten, who has previously shown promise.

The play depicts cash-strapped Brits turning to Occupy-style revolution in order to oppose capitalism's still-profiteering top dogs. Financiers are glimpsed hatching a dodgy plan to "monetise" Britain's problem underclass. This is some kind of bond-driven, incentive scheme to reduce state pay-outs and line investors pockets. The set-up is garbled, though, as well as satirically feeble.

Jumbled vignettes include a xenophobic stabbing, a villainous cop, and uncaring hospital staff. In Act Two, the revolutionaries deliver barely disguised lectures on the national debt and the UN Charter. Simon Godwin's staging looks scrappy, with a bit of scaffolding and scattered chairs. His cast manage to enliven some of the wooden dialogue with humour, but only Lucian Msamati stands out as a quietly fuming, racially abused, ultimately magnanimous immigrant.

'A Chorus Line' (0844 412 2957) to Jan 2014; 'Macbeth' (0844 871 7632) to 27 Apr; 'If You Don't Let Us Dream ...' (020-7565 5000) to 9 Mar

Critic's Choice

Harold Pinter's Old Times is intriguing and intense, with Rufus Sewell, Kristin Scott Thomas and Lia Williams at the Harold Pinter Theatre, London (to 6 Apr). In Plymouth, Drum Theatre premieres My Perfect Mind (to Sat), Edward Petherbridge's tragicomic account of a stroke while rehearsing King Lear.

Arts and Entertainment
Impressions of the Creative Community Courtyard within d3. The development is designed to 'inspire emerging designers and artists, and attract visitors'

architecture
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

    Please save my husband

    As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada
    Birthplace of Arab Spring in turmoil as angry Tunisians stage massive sit-in over lack of development

    They shall not be moved: jobless protesters bring Tunisia to a halt

    A former North African boom town is wasting away while its unemployed citizens stick steadfastly to their sit-in
    David Hasselhoff's new show 'Hoff the Record': What's it like working with a superstar?

    Hanging with the Hoff

    Working with David Hasselhoff on his new TV series was an education for Ella Smith
    Can Dubai's Design District 'hipster village' attract the right type of goatee-wearing individualist?

    Hipsters of Arabia

    Can Dubai’s ‘creative village’ attract the right type of goatee-wearing individualist?
    The cult of Roger Federer: What is it that inspires such obsessive devotion?

    The cult of Roger Federer

    What is it that inspires such obsessive devotion?
    Kuala Lumpur's street food: Not a 'scene', more a way of life

    Malaysian munchies

    With new flights, the amazing street food of Kuala Lumpur just got more accessible
    10 best festival beauty

    Mud guards: 10 best festival beauty

    Whether you're off to the Isle of Wight, Glastonbury or a local music event, we've found the products to help you
    Unai Emery’s passion for winning and eye for a bargain keep Seville centre stage in Europe

    A Different League

    Unai Emery’s passion for winning and eye for a bargain keep Seville centre stage in Europe, says Pete Jenson
    Amir Khan and James DeGale’s remarkable Olympic performances were just the start of an extraordinary journey - Steve Bunce

    Steve Bunce on Boxing

    Amir Khan and James DeGale’s remarkable Olympic performances were just the start of an extraordinary journey
    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf