Arifa Akbar

Arifa Akbar is a critic with The Guardian (UK). This account has been auto-generated, and does not indicate that this person is an active member of Show-Score.com. That said, if you "follow" this member, you will automatically be updated whenever s/he writes a new review.

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Reviews (134)
The Throne (London)
Charing Cross
The Guardian (UK)

"There is some charm but not many actual laughs and the humour is not nearly biting enough. The pace is slow, verging on sleepy, with light, whimsical conversation that skims across the touch-points without bringing much to them... " Full Review

Evelyn (London)
Elephant and Castle
The Guardian (UK)

"'Evelyn' clearly aims to explore the interface between coercive control, criminality and unforgiving mob justice. The problem is that none of it is executed convincingly enough: the script feels scrappy and the acting in director Madelaine Moore’s production cannot cover the cracks." Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

In a play with too many half-drawn, derivative characters, [Harbour] is the one for whom we end up caring. It is ultimately a play with bits of brilliance ... but falling – heroically – short. Full Review

Rainer (London)
Dalston
The Guardian (UK)

Sometimes the plot feels far-fetched ... The writing has clear signs of brilliance and daring but needs sharper editing. Jamie Platt’s lighting and Jethro Cooke’s sound design are fabulous. Kennedy’s performance is a bravura one. Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

Adams’s West End debut is solid but unremarkable. Under the direction of Jeremy Herrin, the first half feels flat-footed. One of the biggest problems is the size of the stage, which looks vast and works against the intimacy of this story. Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

The play itself feels slightly disjointed. It is worth seeing this production for curiosity value alone but dramatically it feels like a lesser performed work for a reason. Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

This is a tongue-in-cheek production that comes with a megawattage of kitsch ... Characters are pancake flat ... Campness dominates ... At times it is so pink and squealy that it feels like a summer pantomime. If it is outlandish and ridiculous, it is heady good fun too. Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

It is frustrating that Satinder Kaur Chohan’s script does not effectively tease out the themes it sets up. Part of the problem is the confused tone of the play. The tone turns darker in the second half and the play builds in intensity. But it veers towards melodrama, with predictable plot-points. Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

It is solidly performed all round but characterless and sedate. Funny moments ... never really catch fire. The chemistry between Higgins and Eliza never kicks in. Could it be that this Disneyfied Englishness is simply built to win the hearts, and wallets, of West End tourists or is that too cynical? Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

Beautifully directed by Bethany Pitts. Both performances are scintillating, full of chemistry and nuance with niftily enacted sex scenes. It is an intense love story ... and a must-see for all romantics, and otherwise. Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

It is refreshing to see five characters – and actors – of a certain age on stage. [However] this play ultimately comes to feel like five character studies in search of a more joined-up story. Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

Jodie Comer’s West End stage debut is a baptism of fire by any standards...Comer delivers. She roars through Suzie Miller’s script. The play roars, too, sometimes too loudly in its polemic, but Comer works overtime to elevate these moments. Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

The play makes its bigger point about the racial outsourcing of care for the sick, elderly people and children through satire...It also leaves us with a sense that the figure of Mary Seacole is a vehicle used to explore our current-day issues too nakedly rather than a study of a singular life and its forgotten achievements. Full Review

Scandaltown (London)
Hammersmith
The Guardian (UK)

In its best moments it has the look of an expensively produced Monty Python sketch with pastiche that really is joyous. But it gets baggier as it goes on and by the end begins to resemble a flabby ITV comedy with rather too predictable jokes on Tory politicians, their partying and policies over the pandemic. Full Review

The 47th (London)
Southwark
The Guardian (UK)

The script, best in its granular moments of comedy, blends billionaire pomp with political chicanery, dynastic family drama and blank verse...In its drama it lacks atmosphere and jeopardy, its pace slow in the second half and its ending flat. Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

Even though the production feels too long, at well over two hours, with rambling dialogue, not enough action or big enough conflict, there is ambition in the writing that must be admired. Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

Even if this production replicates the form of a dream, it does not satisfy as a performance, it is too disjointed and draining, its weirdness outdoing even David Lynch. Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

Ruth Wilson, as a spurned lover dressed in tracksuit bottoms and a Tweety Pie top, variously underplays and over-eggs her character’s suffering...And for all its theatricality, the play remains stolidly sedate; a 65-minute monologue that creeps to its end. Full Review

Cock (London)
West End
The Guardian (UK)

First performed in 2009, Mike Bartlett’s comedy might have seemed edgy then but today it echoes and affirms notions around the slipperiness of sexual labelling. Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

If Small Island appears to have taken a place in the National Theatre’s pantheon already, it is with good reason. And if it is part of a drive to put bums on seats, no matter: it is without doubt the highest calibre of guaranteed hit shows. Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

In Stephen Unwin’s snappy production, both women offer occasional monologues to hammer home the point that they are operating inside a deeply misogynistic system. Full Review

The Collaboration
Southwark
The Guardian (UK)

An ebullient production under Kwame Kwei-Armah’s direction (there is even a live DJ though, oddly, the music is only cranked up in between scenes), it has two star turns in the central performances and a spectacular set from Anna Fleischle... Full Review

The Forest
Camden Town
The Guardian (UK)

Translated by Zeller’s long-term collaborator, Christopher Hampton, The Forest is masterfully executed and captivating to watch, but without the same emotional depth and power of The Father. Full Review

A Number (Old Vic)
Southwark
The Guardian (UK)

Lyndsey Turner’s production ... turns this strange, elliptical play from a thought experiment into a flesh and blood tragedy of family reckoning. Essiedu is astonishing to watch ... In his hands, this is the story of a son’s identity crisis. But James wrestles it back to make it one of toxic fatherhood, too. Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

This revival is marked for the abundant talent in its young cast...The performances are all striking and the leads seem on their way to becoming tomorrow’s stars. Full Review

Favour (London)
Shepherds Bush
The Guardian (UK)

"The most powerful material rises above these elements as the play progresses and builds to a potent end. Razia’s script does a fine job of establishing the complicated layers in the relationships between mothers, daughters and grandmothers." Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

"Ordinarily, a production built on a simplistic 'smash the patriarchy' brand of empowerment would leave me cold but this is not that. It is certainly feel-good but surprisingly nuanced. Pankhurst’s definition of suffrage acknowledges the class privilege of the first tranche of women permitted the vote and the show as a whole is thoroughly diverse." Full Review

The Still Room (London)
Finsbury Park
The Guardian (UK)

[It] turns from easy to queasy viewing. Because these characters are so flat, the script so crude and the acting – perhaps as a result – so awkward. It works neither as comedy or drama ... It is, to misquote a 1980s legend, not in the best possible taste. Full Review

Britannicus (London)
Hammersmith
The Guardian (UK)

The play’s 17th-century language is exquisitely updated and has a crystalline, lucid quality. Every performance is fabulous. So is Rosanna Vize’s stage design. It is [an] irresistible ... piece of theatre. Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

There is no tension between [Lindsay Duncan & Hilton McRae] and lines about pain and loathing seem to be spoken at a remove ... it feels jarringly tepid when it should be tumultuous. Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

The lighting and sound take on a stupendous force ... With Tom Piper’s spare set design, the combined effect is astonishingly atmospheric. Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

Its pace is meditative but undramatic despite instances that seem almost to veer towards an alternate reality ... but nothing comes of it. There are many beautiful qualities to this production, nevertheless. Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

While the script is strong, its realisation is bumpy, with uneven pacing and some scenes that are a little too short to hold potency. Despite its inconsistencies, The House of Shades contains nuggets of greatness. An enormous endeavour, it shows Steel is one of our most audacious playwrights. Full Review

House of Ife (London)
Shepherds Bush
The Guardian (UK)

Beru Tessema’s script is richly textured and artfully written, although the story seems to waver in its focus for too long and then throws out too much at the end. The performances paste over the script’s cracks and every actor is engaging and assured. Full Review

Middle (London)
Waterloo
The Guardian (UK)

It is an arresting opening to a marital reckoning which is a confrontation with midlife itself. It feels like a true and tender representation of a marriage in its middle stages, a drama that is tepid at times, a little plodding and soft around the edges. Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

Lucy Bailey’s production is a thoroughly elegant one. A gender-reversed Leonata (Katy Stephens) gives an especially strong performance, alongside Davis and Phelps, whose verbal swordplay sparkles with intelligence and mischief. Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

It would be easy to write off this revival of Emlyn Williams’ semi-autobiographical drama as an example of post-lockdown “comfort theatre”...But if it is comfort viewing, it is undeniably artful, affecting and hugely entertaining. Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

The set ... has an intimate filmic beauty. The Burnt City is an epic set-up without enough epic storytelling. So it is frustrating that they do not build more of it into the production. That said, those who are satisfied with spectacle above story will enjoy this meticulously crafted show. Full Review

Wolf Cub (London)
Hampstead
The Guardian (UK)

The play, small in itself, carries its own devastating and seismic power...If the lockdowns turned the monologue into an overfamiliar form, Wolf Cub remoulds it into something new, exciting and dangerous again. Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

But for all the theatrics, there is enough sophistication in the writing and in Danya Taymor’s direction for these elements to work to thrilling effect...Daddy never ceases to be interesting. And if there was ever a play wholly worth watching for its perfectly formed first half, this is it. Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

But this production, however quietly, offers a thorough indictment of the American justice system...One imagines the late Lee would approve. Full Review

Clybourne Park (London)
Finsbury Park
The Guardian (UK)

...it sets up a deeply moving and complex drama in its first part that feels as if it is leading to an explosive second, yet does not quite deliver emotional or intellectual depth...The cast, however, is little short of magnificent, and the actors bring every last offensive joke, inanity and quieter moment alive. Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

But at its high points, it is magnificent – a voyage well worth taking, which could do with a bit of tightening up, but grows with emotional power and punch at the end. Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

But as competent as the performances are, this play goes nowhere dramatically. Instead, it swims around in exposition, with flimsy, cliched characters and little beyond theories being spoken out loud. Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

Every performance is polished but Harington absolutely stands out...It is puzzling and grating – one of too many bells and whistles in a production where less might have been much more. Full Review

The Woods
Elephant and Castle
The Guardian (UK)

David Mamet’s odd if intriguing two-hander from 1977 is probably one of his lesser-known plays for good reason...but Russell Bolam’s revival offers a meditation on how far sexual politics have progressed. Full Review

Running with Lions
Hammersmith
The Guardian (UK)

Directed by Michael Buffong, its pace is initially slow but it finds its feet in the second half and there are some incredibly poignant scenes...this is a potent piece of theatre which, curiously, also has the episodic pace and rhythm of a TV drama. Full Review

The Chairs
Islington
The Guardian (UK)

This may be the perfect time to revive a play about the consolations of the imagination, and of theatre, in the aftermath of apocalypse – and one written by the godfather of the absurd...It’s still a hugely exciting revival, exciting to watch, with two spine-shiveringly good central performances. Full Review

Folk (London)
Hampstead
The Guardian (UK)

for a previous production ...Leyshon explores questions around the archiving and ownership of an oral tradition, capturing all the nuance in the debate, from whether it needs preserving in this formal way to if it can remain authentic in that process. Full Review

Peggy For You
Camden Town
The Guardian (UK)

Tamsin Greig, as Peggy, plays her as a posh, flouncing and vaguely rakish woman with a witty intelligence. But even Greig’s charisma cannot save this play from its dated ideas and sleepy drama. Full Review