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The Ghost Theatre

Written by Mat Osman Review by Elizabeth Crachiolo

In a fantastical yet mostly recognizable Elizabethan London, teenage Shay, a member of a bird-worshipping religion, joins up with a troupe of boy actors. She finds the theater world exhilarating, though seedy and terrifying at times because of the troupe’s violent patrons. At the center of this world is Nonesuch, a charismatic and enigmatic actor with whom Shay falls in love. Various forces, including an outbreak of plague that closes the theaters, lead Shay and Nonesuch to create the Ghost Theatre, which stages ephemeral, experimental plays in situ. Their rebellions land them in hot water and lead to a painful revelation for Shay.

This is a story of Elizabethan theaters that, refreshingly, does not center Shakespeare, who is mentioned glancingly only once. Instead, it highlights the sinister, and very real, early modern practice of kidnapping children to form acting troupes. Although the action of the book escalates more and more improbably—the book’s main flaw—it’s difficult to resist its charms. Among them is the author’s imagining of the bird-worshipping Aviscultans, an ingenious and plausible creation that lends magic to the story. Another is the undeniable air of punk rock in the characters’ art and rebellion.

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book review the ghost theatre

Book Review: Mat Osman’s The Ghost Theatre is a vivid imagining of Elizabethan England

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  • June 14, 2023
  • Bloomsbury Australia
  • The Ghost Theatre

book review the ghost theatre

Shay is an outsider. Part of a fringe religion known as the Aviscultans, she has never quite lived up to the legacy of her mother, who divined great messages from the murmurations of starlings. Regularly escaping to London, she works as a messenger, skipping nimbly across the city skyline, and, occasionally, staging rescues of birds trapped in dingy shops and violent fighting rings.

Nonesuch is a talented young actor at Blackfriars Theatre, but the accolades of the stage hide much darker truths. Rapidly aging out of the roles that keep him fed, watered, and relevant, he’ll need to come up with a solution soon. Something bold. Something exciting. Something that will turn the Elizabethan city on its head.

Opening with the unlikely meeting of these two young outcasts, Mat Osman ‘s The Ghost Theatre is a gripping ahistorical novel, infusing Tudor-era politics and poverty with a thread of mysticism that never quite reveals whether its real or not. And that rather feels like the point; this is a tale of transportive power – whether it comes from theatre, religion, or even science – and how emotion and evocation can influence and empower. That it’s also dripping with beautiful prose and vivid imagery doesn’t hurt either.

Ostensibly a story about the formation of a roaming theatre troupe, The Ghost Theatre is rather more the story of its players and the powder keg world they live in. From the seedy underbelly of the theatre district to the abandoned houses of the rich fleeing the plague, and then further north to where ordinary people grow frustrated with the accumulation of power in London, its a novel of pushed buttons and breaking points.

It’s clear that a wealth of research has gone into it, grounding Shay, Nonesuch, and their supporting cast of lost boys, criminals, and alchemists in a rich reality – even as it plays merrily with historical accuracy. And when the reveals come, heart wrenching as they sometimes are, its with a sense of understanding that this is the price the poor must pay to survive.

book review the ghost theatre

FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Mat Osman’s The Ghost Theatre is out now through Bloomsbury . Grab yourself a copy from Booktopia HERE .

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Jodie Sloan

Living, writing, and reading in Brisbane/Meanjin. Likes spooky books, strong cocktails, and pro-wrestling.

Review: The Ghost Theatre - Mat Oseman

Updated: Dec 23, 2023

book review the ghost theatre

Genre: Historical Fantasy

Published: Bloomsbury Publishing, May 2023 My Rating: 4/5 stars

“The thing is, Shay: the stage is the only place where anything makes sense. “Out there”, he flung his arms wide, “is arbitrary. Hero’s die and the good suffer.” He stomps his foot on the theatre roof: “This, here, is where truth lives. Outside everything is dead, and nothing can breathe and nothing can grow. Words are stillborn. But here. He stood with one foot forward, like he did for heroic roles , and he spoke for the clouds; we are kings.”

An absolutely magical story about a girl outlawed for her worship of birds, and a boy who lives the lives of others on stage to escape his own, against the background of the rich atmosphere of Elizabethan London. When the two of them collide, the subsequent spark ignites a revolution of the classes that ripples through every layer of London's society.

I loved how The Ghost Theatre transported me into its world of stage-magic, plays and "roles" (in more than one sense of the word), in a way I haven't experienced since reading The Night Circus . Don't get me wrong; The Ghost Theatre has a very different and more dark feeling to it, but with their similar themes of theatre, magic and a doomed relationship in a richly described historically British setting, the tickled similar parts of my brain regardless.

With his creative ideas, intriguing protagonists and an element of magical realism that I absolutely loved (Shay's underground religion in which Gods are birds and Birds are gods), Mat Oseman had all the ingredients for a 5-star read in his hands. Unfortunately, for every hit his rythmic and descriptic prose lands, he misses one too. Meandering at best, getting lost in nonsensical metaphors that placed style and "sound" over content at worst. A great example of this, I saw pointed out in Erica Wagners review written for The Guardian. There's a point in which Oseman describes Nonsuch's name as “a name made of stone and glass". I mean; it sure sounds pretty when you first hear it, but on second thought, it doesn't actually mean anything really.

Regardless of the occasional prose that overstayed its welcome, The Ghost Theatre is strong contender for one of the top fantasy releases I've read in 2023 and one I highly recommend to any historical fantasy fan.

Find this book here on Goodreads .

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A2Z Book Review | The Ghost Theatre @MatOsman

The Ghost Theatre is not released for another month, but is the ideal book to review for the letter G in my A to Z Challenge. Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for an ARC. Saturday is my normal review day, so most title links are to my reviews on this blog.

book review the ghost theatre

The plan for the month is to feature daily a book I’ve reviewed in the past (or review it that day), and also highlight others: not all are included each day.

  • review/featured
  • spacetime challenge (I host this reading challenge – you can join here )
  • middle grade (childrens) choice
  • series (love a good series – there’s a challenge for finishing those , too)
  • ‘notable’ reads
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Book Review: The Ghost Theatre

by Mat Osman

Ghost theatre

TO LOVE IS TO FALL . . .  

On a rooftop in Elizabethan London two worlds collide. Shay is a messenger-girl and trainer of hawks who sees the future in the patterns of birds. Nonesuch is the dark star of the city’s fabled child theatre scene, as famous as royalty yet lowly as a beggar.

Together they create The Ghost Theatre: a troupe staging magical plays in London’s hidden corners. As their hallucinatory performances incite rebellion among the city’s outcasts, the pair’s relationship sparks and burns against a backdrop of the plague and a London in flames. Their growing fame sweeps them up into the black web of the Elizabethan court, where Shay and Nonesuch discover that if they fly too high, a fall is sure to come… [ goodreads ]

This captivating and beautifully written book charts the lives of Shay and Nonesuch just as the blurb says. In three Acts, clearly delineated sections of the ‘theatre’ plays a central part. I was quite ready for the break each time. I found that the depths in which London of 1601 is portrayed to be sickening at times especially the degradation which the young actors were subjected to.

Having said that, the way that Mat Osman writes the Ghost Theatre is a masterpiece. I just wished he got all of his Elizabethan landmarks correct. In particular the ‘spire’ of St Pauls was only built after the cathedral was destroyed in the 1666 Great Fire. Before that it had a tower and that was the landmark that Shay should have been pointing out each time. Otherwise most of the tangle of streets that he describes, especially from the rooftops, rings true with the rough thatch, narrow alleyways, and the ordure. Birds play a major part, brilliantly described.

Osman’s imagination, especially of costume and revelry, and his descriptive powers, will delight most wordsmiths. I’m not convinced it has a plot, though, or not one I engaged with, anyway.

Spacetime Challenge

galaxy and the ground within

My selection for the spacetime reading challenge, the Galaxy and the Ground Within , is my first Becky Chambers mention this month. All Becky Chambers’ books are masterpieces. They generally deal with the interpersonal side of aliens and future humans, as well as being really good space opera. The Galaxy and the Ground Within is a unique take on the genre. And although it is book 4 of Wayfarers series, these can be read in any order as they all stand alone.

Middle Grade choice

goodnight mister tom

Goodnight Mr Tom is a classic tale of a boy evacuated to the country at the start of the Blitz, and the gruff old man who tries to care for him. There could not be two more different characters. I was pleasantly surprised to discover I loved it. It’s not the mawkish tale I thought it would be from what I’d heard.

The Graveyard Book is by Neil Gaiman, who never does anything mawkish. The tale of a child brought up in the graveyard is entertaining and thought provoking, and a real treasure.

Notable Books

Galileo’s Theme Park is an anthology of short stories (c 5,000 words each) set in the solar system (on the whole), part of the Third Flatiron stable. It is particularly notable for including one of mine!

Galileo's Theme Park

My own titles

Greed and Retribution is the only title I’ve written starting the letter G. It contains around 30 flash fiction stories on the theme of … as the title says. That gives you most of the Carruthers and friends’ treasure hunts, plus some things found in attics or junk shops that should have been left well alone, plus my take on hell. The paperback is not available in online bookstores except for Blurb ( see it here ). The ebook version is available at Smashwords . All with the aim of keeping the price low for a 30,000 word collection.

That’s all for today, so come back tomorrow for more. I’m hoping to meet more people who like the same kinds of book, so feel free to recommend something you’ve read beginning with the letter of the day!

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4 thoughts on “ A2Z Book Review | The Ghost Theatre @MatOsman ”

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I first read Goodnight Mr Tom when, or soon after, it came out and thought it was wonderful (I was buying children’s books for the library at the time). I reread it the Christmas before last and found it not as goos as I remembered, but still enjoyable.

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Isn’t that often the case when we reread things we loved?!

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Loved the Gaiman book when I read it. The others look interesting too. Fine job or reviewing them all

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The Ghost Theatre sounds interesting. I read the Graveyard Book for last year’s A-Z 🙂

Ronel visiting for G: My Languishing TBR: G Giants of All Kinds

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The Ghost Theatre: A Novel

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The Ghost Theatre: A Novel Kindle Edition

  • Print length 313 pages
  • Language English
  • Sticky notes On Kindle Scribe
  • Publisher The Overlook Press
  • Publication date June 27, 2023
  • File size 4449 KB
  • Page Flip Enabled
  • Word Wise Enabled
  • Enhanced typesetting Enabled
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Editorial Reviews

“Deliciously immersive, wildly imaginative, and not to be missed—Mat Osman is a true Renaissance man.” — M. L. Rio, author of If We Were Villains

“A story of rebellion and magic, of mysticism and broken love in the streets and theatre and rooftops of Elizabethan London. Beautifully written, delicate, and sad. I’m still haunted by it.” — Mariana Enríquez, author of The Dangers of Smoking in Bed and Things We Lost in the Fire

“Smart, bold, and original, The Ghost Theatre brings to life a slantwise Elizabethan London where appearance is everything and nothing you see can be trusted. Every page is alive with the heady, dangerous energy of an opening night, and Shay and Nonesuch are unforgettable. For readers who like their historical fiction with imagination and flair, this book is a must-read.” — Allison Epstein, author of A Tip for the Hangman

“The star of the show in The Ghost Theatre is Osman's fanciful rendering of Elizabethan England, sometimes dreamlike, sometimes apocalyptic, depicted with such a wealth of sensory detail that it blurs the line between memory and fantasy.” — Dexter Palmer, author of Mary Toft; Or, The Rabbit Queen

“Superb. . . . The Ghost Theatre finds its way into the hidden corners of Elizabethan London, telling the story of a group of misfit actors. Beautifully written and completely convincing.” — Observer

“Combining breathtaking world-building with vivid characterization . . . An imaginative tour-de-force of theatre, magic, love, and betrayal.” — Bookseller

“ The Ghost Theatre begins with a London rooftop chase worthy of Mission: Impossible . . . a vigorous adventure.” — Guardian

“This imaginative novel brings a raucous, evocative world to life.” — Sunday Express

“Hauntingly beautiful . . . thrilling and thought-provoking.” — Independent

“A blistering ride.” — i news

About the Author

Product details.

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0B9HRNLNX
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ The Overlook Press (June 27, 2023)
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ June 27, 2023
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • File size ‏ : ‎ 4449 KB
  • Text-to-Speech ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Screen Reader ‏ : ‎ Supported
  • Enhanced typesetting ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • X-Ray ‏ : ‎ Not Enabled
  • Word Wise ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Sticky notes ‏ : ‎ On Kindle Scribe
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 313 pages
  • Page numbers source ISBN ‏ : ‎ 1419767836
  • #1,233 in Historical Literary Fiction
  • #7,565 in Historical Fiction (Kindle Store)
  • #12,682 in Literary Fiction (Books)

About the author

As a founder member of the iconic British rock band Suede, Mat Osman has been there for every one of their thirty years of number-one records, world tours, Mercury Prizes, press plaudits, break-ups and their triumphant reformation. He's written extensively too: for British broadsheets including the Guardian and the Independent, a London guidebook for 'people who don't like guidebooks' and the texts for Stephen Ellcock's much-admired trawl through England's psychic landscape, England on Fire. Mat also composes music for TV and stage shows.

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Catherine Tate (Peggy) in The Enfield Haunting, David Threlfall (Maurice) in The Enfield Haunting,

The week in theatre: The Enfield Haunting; The Last Show Before We Die; Exhibitionists – review

Ambassadors; Yard; King’s Head, London Catherine Tate and David Threlfall are stranded in a scarily dull ghost story; the end of a love affair looms over a lively two-hander; and the new King’s Head kicks off with a cheery, sub-Coward gay romcom

T he trigger warnings at The Enfield Haunting are misleading. They alert audiences to bright lights and big noises. They should have braced them against a feeble script and a production that quavers along as if afraid of its own ghost.

It is almost impressive. Dramatist Paul Unwin and director Angus Jackson have gathered so many promising ingredients, summoned so shiny a cast – and come up with something completely flat. This investigation of the celebrated case of a north London poltergeist fills the air with more speculations than levitating bodies or flying furniture. Catarrhal rasps, blackouts, fizzing lamps and upturned sofas are the main frighteners in an evening unlikely to give anyone nightmares – unless they are phobic about armchairs.

Competing explanations for disturbance are all underdeveloped. Teenagers are hoaxing; the place is trembling with sexual awakening and with dread of the occasional visits of a drunken father; one of the psychic investigators (played by David Threlfall) has an eerie link to the mystery and possibly too great an interest in girls. A single mother (Catherine Tate) is fighting for her family. Oh, and a grumpy old fellow died in the house.

It would be absurd to expect a solution to the old mystery but not, surely, to hope for dynamism. Yet the action judders from one incident to another as if someone had taken bites out of the plot. Tate is often left stranded as an inert onlooker, seeming not so much to speak her lines as let them bounce off her voice. Threlfall cannot breathe life into the weird lingo with which he is saddled – “giving the nippers their tuck”. The date is 1977: I Only Want to Be With You (Bay City Rollers, not Dusty) neatly winds throughout, yet the atmosphere is often 1950s starchy. Sometimes earlier. Threlfall’s moustache is positively Edwardian.

The Yard is a perfect space for an Edinburgh transfer such as Mary Higgins and Ell Potter’s two-person sprint. It takes itself lightly, allowing for glints and dips. Directed by Sammy J Glover, The Last Show Before We Die is bright and unfocused, talented and incoherent.

The theme is endings: the two performers are, so the conceit goes at any rate, partners in life as well as on stage and are wondering whether to split: end of love affair, end of show. It is an agglomeration rather t but han development, which begins with a strange fusion in which the two sing – beautifully, liturgically, the words of a midwife. The mixture of holy aspiration and down-to-earthness roused murmurs of recognition from the audience, though the instructions to labouring women are dismaying: they are told what they are going through is like passing “the biggest poo you’ve ever seen”; that it is “literally the same thing”. Literally?

Ell Potter and Mary Higgins standing together resting their heads in their hands

Recorded voices are piped on to the stage, most resonantly the generous, calm farewell of a dying grandfather. Meanwhile, the writer-actors send up themselves and their experiments, strutting around as crows to symbolise GRIEF, rolling around in flesh-coloured body stockings in which one breast has managed to make a break for the open air. They end by weaving a cat’s cradle in which lines of string mesh the stage and include the finger of an audience member. It’s a sweet image for a precarious network of connections in which the threads are finally snipped.

The King’s Head, the cornerstone of London’s pub theatres, has transplanted and transformed itself. No more a burrow with a beer smell. The new building, just around the corner, is bright, with 21st-century light wood and black brick walls, and more bottles than taps in the bar.

This is improvement, not abandonment. The theatre is linked to its old self, physically by a communal wall, and in programming. Exhibitionists , the first production in the new home, is a new gay romcom with a clear and cheery message, one that should be self-evident but can still bear emphasising: gay marriages are as various as the other kind.

Writers Shaun McKenna and Andrew Van Sickle proclaim themselves inspired by 1930s and 40s screwball comedies, often written by closeted dramatists. They don’t mention Private Lives but Coward’s play is the springboard for a plot, set in 21st-century California, in which an estranged couple unexpectedly find themselves running into each other with their new younger lovers. Rekindling their desire, they run off together, bash each other up verbally and physically, while their partners circle around.

Jake Mitchell-Jones and Ashley D Gayle in Exhibitionists.

It’s an unfortunate model for Bronagh Lagan’s production. Coward’s sparkling darts are unmatchable, and it is too hard to suggest the glacial tide tugging at the hilarity from below. There is plenty of anguish here, but it is all declared. Without some concealment there is far less sizzle. The action – much farcical rushing around the stage, unconvincingly missing other people – drains energy from the dialogue. The acting – many twitched eyebrows and licked lips – leaves too little to the imagination. The most insouciant performance comes from Øystein Lode as a Norwegian siren, with shorts, a bun and tempting morsels on a tray. He also provides the evening’s most interesting verbal moment, with a teasing piece of vocabulary. Look it up. Slutt.

Star ratings (out of five) The Enfield Haunting ★ The Last Show Before We Die ★ ★ ★ Exhibitionists ★ ★

The Enfield Haunting is at the Ambassadors, London, until 2 March

The Last Show Before We Die is at the Yard, London E9, until 27 January

Exhibitionists is at the King’s Head, London N1, until 10 February

  • The Observer
  • Catherine Tate
  • David Threlfall

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The Enfield Haunting

  • Theatre, Drama
  • Ambassadors Theatre, Seven Dials
  • Until 2 Mar 2024

The Enfield Haunting, Ambassadors Theatre, 2023

Time Out says

Catherine Tate and David Threlfall labour through this bewilderingly dire play about the famous ’70s poltergeist

Paul Unwin’s new play is based on the ‘real life’ Enfield poltergeist: a claim of supernatural activity at a council house in north London during the late-‘70s that became national news, and has spawned numerous screen and radio adaptations. 

‘The Enfield Haunting’ dives straight in: as it begins the activity has been ongoing for a while now, and single mum Peggy Hodgson (Catherine Tate) is losing hope that any end is in sight for the bizarre events that seem to revolve around her daughter Janet (Ella Schrey-Yeats). The case is being investigated by two paranormal experts, one of whom – David Threlfall’s  Maurice Grosse – has called around unexpectedly on the night the play is set.

Unwin’s script is a bewildering muddle, which gestures at the fact that Janet and her sister Margaret (Grace Molony) admitted to having been on the wind-up, but then piles a load of wildly unsubtle, jump-scary supernatural stuff on top. 

It’s unclear what any of the characters believe is going on, but they all seem incredibly nonchalant about, say, a gas fire being ripped out of the wall by unknown forces while they’re all upstairs. The tone teeters on the verge of comedy, but only really because the dialogue is all overripe approximations of ‘70s working-class London dialect (‘makin’ the nippers their tuck’ and such).

There are attempts by Unwin to flesh out both Peggy and Maurice, but the play is so short that his brief attempts at adding depth just end  up confusing matters. It is bewilderingly brief and feels like it could have done with at least another hour to introduce and examine the characters in an orderly fashion. 

Tate and Threlfall both try their best, but they should be asking some very hard questions of their agents here. Director Angus Jackson hasn’t exactly covered himself in glory, but I can’t help but feel that the RSC veteran has been left fighting a desperate rear-guard action with a terrible script. He salvages a couple of scares from this mess, but the most terrifying thing about ‘The Enfield Haunting’ is that nobody stepped in to stop it before it reached the West End.

Andrzej Lukowski

Dates and times

Tue, 16 Jan 2024 19:30 Ambassadors Theatre £25-£125. Runs 1hr 15min

Wed, 17 Jan 2024 19:30 Ambassadors Theatre £25-£125. Runs 1hr 15min

Thu, 18 Jan 2024 14:30 Ambassadors Theatre £25-£125. Runs 1hr 15min

Thu, 18 Jan 2024 19:30 Ambassadors Theatre £25-£125. Runs 1hr 15min

Fri, 19 Jan 2024 19:30 Ambassadors Theatre £25-£125. Runs 1hr 15min

Sat, 20 Jan 2024 14:30 Ambassadors Theatre £25-£125. Runs 1hr 15min

Sat, 20 Jan 2024 19:30 Ambassadors Theatre £25-£125. Runs 1hr 15min

Mon, 22 Jan 2024 19:30 Ambassadors Theatre £25-£125. Runs 1hr 15min

Tue, 23 Jan 2024 19:30 Ambassadors Theatre £25-£125. Runs 1hr 15min

Wed, 24 Jan 2024 19:30 Ambassadors Theatre £25-£125. Runs 1hr 15min

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The Telegraph

The Telegraph

London theatre: the best musicals and plays to book now

Posted: January 11, 2024 | Last updated: January 11, 2024

London has a world-leading theatre scene, offering everything from plays, musicals and comedy to immersive and family-friendly entertainment. In the West End, and beyond, you’ll find both beloved long-running shows and cutting-edge new work, featuring A-list actors alongside rising stars. 

If you’re trying to decide which are the best theatre shows in London to start with in 2024, our expert Telegraph critics can help you choose with their incisive reviews. All the latest articles are at Telegraph Theatre . Plus we’ve rounded up the best family shows and the best shows for half term .

You can also find discounted tickets on Telegraph Tickets for all of the capital’s best plays and musicals, such as Hamilton, Les Miserables, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and The Book of Mormon.

Check out our top picks of London theatre shows below and get booking.

The best London shows, at a glance

  • Best reinvention of a Shakespeare play – Macbeth
  • Best treat for the whole family – My Neighbour Totoro
  • Best royal romp (and doggy cameo) – Backstairs Billy
  • Best excitingly outrageous comedy – The Book of Mormon
  • Best joyful immersive musical – Guys & Dolls

Two Strangers (carry a cake across New York), Kiln Theatre ★★★★

In a nutshell:  “With its transatlantic romcom premise, this new musical has definite shades of Richard Curtis... This gentle gem has all the ingredients to be an irresistibly sweet treat for the festive season.” Read the full review

Booking until: Jan 20

Backstairs Billy, Duke of York’s Theatre ★★★★★

In a nutshell:  “Penelope Wilton’s performance as the Queen Mother consistently rivets... She combines dignity and mischief in ways that honour the original’s eccentric liveliness and rather undersung life.” Read the full review

Booking until: Jan 27

The Homecoming, Young Vic ★★★★

In a nutshell:  “This striking portrait of masculinity in crisis is brilliantly led by Mad Men and The Crown star Jared Harris, making a welcome return to the British stage... It should, and does, produce a nasty shock.” Read the full review

Rock ‘n’ Roll, Hampstead Theatre ★★★★

In a nutshell:  “Tom Stoppard clashes together multiple ideas in this lusty, messy, exuberant play... It contains an eerily prescient note: the intimation that tanks and totalitarianism come in many forms.” Read the full review

Cold War, Almeida Theatre ★★★★

In a nutshell:  “This stage premiere of Paweł Pawlikowski’s 2018 Polish-language film Cold War [is] beautifully supported, exquisitely lit and smartly paced – more gold from Rupert Goold.” Read the full review

Ghosts, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse ★★★

In a nutshell: “It’s a good fit for a theatre built for secrets and shadows, and which has just the right claustrophobic intimacy for a play in which the dead persistently press down on the living.” Read the full review

Booking until: Jan 28

Ulster American, Riverside Studios ★★★★

In a nutshell: “Woody Harrelson plays an Oscar-winning A-lister who is the model of cosseted entitlement, hollow liberal piety and gormless egotism... David Ireland’s dark comedy has that rare thing: shock value.” Read the full review

Macbeth, Donmar Warehouse ★★★★★

In a nutshell: “David Tennant tackles another mighty Shakespearean tragic role and delivers a coruscating triumph in Max Webster’s compact, monochrome, chilling revelation of a production.” Read the full review

Booking until: Feb 10

Hamnet, Garrick Theatre ★★★

In a nutshell:  “How does Maggie O’Farrell’s finely researched domestic drama land on stage? Pretty forcefully, I’d say... Madeleine Mantock exudes an air of otherworldliness as the seer-like Agnes.” Read the full review

Booking until: Feb 17

Pacific Overtures, Menier Chocolate Factory ★★★

In a nutshell: “There’s much admirable detail is this staging of Stephen Sondheim’s playful ‘documentary vaudeville’: the use of Japanese puppetry, the integration of origami and video wizardry.” Read the full review

Booking until: Feb 24

The Little Big Things, @sohoplace ★★★

In a nutshell:  “There’s much to admire in this musical, based on rugby star Henry Fraser’s memoir, from its inclusive spirit to its harnessing of big emotions.” Read the full review

Booking until: Mar 2

The Enfield Haunting, Ambassadors Theatre 

In a nutshell: Catherine Tate and David Thelfall star in Paul Unwin’s spooky new West End play based on a real-life apparent poltergeist event from the 1970s.

The King and I, London Palladium ★★★★

In a nutshell:  “The whole affair is a satisfying blend of bombast and subtlety. Many of the songs remain transcendently lovely, chief among them that invitation to madly polka, Shall We Dance?.” Read the full review

Booking: Jan 20-Mar 2

My Neighbour Totoro, Barbican ★★★★

In a nutshell:  “Totoro is magnificently humongous with a mighty, reverberating growl, wicked smile, lumbering walk and bouncy castle of a fluffy tum. The wow-factor of his spectacular appearances is worth the price of admission alone.” Read the full review

Booking until: Mar 23

The Motive and the Cue, Noel Coward Theatre ★★★★★

In a nutshell:  “Mark Gatiss, giving the performance of his career, eerily summons the spirit, at once humble and haughty, professorial and playful, genteel and prickly, of John Gielgud.” Read the full review

The Book of Mormon, Prince of Wales Theatre ★★★★★

In a nutshell:  “This wild, thrilling, go-for-broke, genuinely hilarious musical comedy remains one of the funniest shows in the West End... I’m a believer!” Read the full review

Macbeth, Dock X ★★★★

In a nutshell: “It’s Ralph Fiennes’s night. He’s perturbed and furrowed, decisive then vacillating... agitated after Duncan’s murder, and something truly horrid gleams in his gaze as he plots Banquo’s death.” Read the full review

Booking: Feb 10-Mar 23

The Merchant of Venice 1936, Criterion Theatre ★★★

In a nutshell: “This insightful account of Shakespeare’s play relocates the action to the heart of the East End during a shameful era of emboldened British anti-Semitism... Tracy-Ann Oberman makes theatre history in the lead.” Read the full review

Booking: Feb 15-Mar 23

Just For One Day, Old Vic

In a nutshell:  This intriguing new show revisits Live Aid and will feature songs from the concert’s all-star performers, such as David Bowie, U2 and Bob Dylan. John O’Farrell supplies the book and Luke Sheppard directs.

Booking: Jan 26-Mar 30

King Lear, Almeida Theatre

In a nutshell:  Danny Sapani stars as Lear in Shakespeare’s great tragedy. Following her hit production of Macbeth with James McArdle and Saoirse Ronan, Yaël Farber returns to the Almeida to direct.

Booking: Feb 8-Mar 30

An Enemy of the People, Duke of York’s Theatre

In a nutshell:  Matt Smith makes his West End debut in Thomas Ostermeier’s punchy – and sharply contemporary – reimagining of Henrik Ibsen’s fable An Enemy of the People. 

Booking: Feb 6-Apr 6

Othello, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

In a nutshell:  Enter the Globe’s intimate candlelit playhouse (which is celebrating its 10th anniversary) for an atmospheric production of Shakespeare’s great tragedy, directed by Ola Ince.

Booking: Jan 19-Apr 13

The Picture of Dorian Gray, Theatre Royal Haymarket

In a nutshell:  Sarah Snook, aka Shiv Roy in Succession, plays all 26 roles in this tour-de-force solo version of Osar Wilde’s enduring tale. Kip Williams, artistic director of Sydney Theatre Company, directs.

Booking: Jan 23-Apr 13

The Duchess of Malfi, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

In a nutshell:  Rachel Bagshaw directs John Webster’s seminal revenge tragedy in the Globe’s candlelit indoor space, 10 years after this play about a woman in a male-dominated world opened the Sam Wanamaker. 

Booking: Feb 17-Apr 14

Nachtland, Young Vic

In a nutshell:  Patrick Marber directs Marius von Mayenburg’s compelling satire about the discovery of painting by a man who became a Nazi – which then ripples out into marital discord and fraught debates around Germany’s inheritance.

Booking: Feb 20-Apr 20

A Mirror, Trafalgar Theatre

In a nutshell:  Sam Holcroft’s surprising, witty and provocative riff on censorship and free speech transfers from the Almeida. Jeremy Herrin directs Jonny Lee Miller, Tanya Reynolds, Geoffrey Streatfeild and Samuel Adewunmi.

Booking: Jan 22-Apr 20

Red Pitch, @sohoplace ★★★★

In a nutshell: “Football, gentrification and manhood might be the hooks on which Tyrell Williams’s play hangs, but at its core, it’s about the vagaries of friendship.” Read the full review

Booking: Mar 15-May 4

Minority Report, Lyric Hammersmith 

In a nutshell: Philip K Dick’s sci-fi novella (turned into a blockbuster movie by Steven Spielberg) is adapted for stage by David Haig, directed by Max Webster. The central character becomes a leading female neuroscientist.

Booking: Apr 19-May 18

Moulin Rouge! The Musical, Piccadilly Theatre ★★★★

In a nutshell: “The tireless company romps through Sonya Tayeh’s adrenaline and libido-fuelled choreography... This is beguilingly transporting, all-enveloping theatre.”  Read the full review

Booking until: May 18

Mrs Doubtfire, Shaftesbury Theatre ★★★★

In a nutshell:  “Never doubt I love Mrs Doubtfire, the feelgood but not fluffy-minded musical that has pitched up at the newly made-over Shaftesbury Theatre... A sure-fire hit, my dears.” Read the full review

Booking until: Jun 2

The Lion King, Lyceum Theatre ★★★★

In a nutshell: “Watching the show alongside my rapt children, I was struck by how much it succeeds in speaking to the heart rather than the head... A deeply felt celebration of life.”  Read the full review

Frozen the Musical, Theatre Royal Drury Lane ★★★★★

In a nutshell: “It’s pure West End spectacle, exactly what you want for a production likely to be many kids’ first experience of theatre, and told with a blazing passion that is surprisingly affecting.”  Read the full review

Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Wyndham’s Theatre 

In a nutshell: Succession’s Brian Cox inhabits another flawed patriarch heading up a dysfunctional family in Jeremy Herrin’s all-star Eugene O’Neill revival. The cast also features Patricia Clarkson, Anthony Boyle and Daryl McCormack.

Booking: Mar 19-Jun 8

The Hills of California, Harold Pinter Theatre 

In a nutshell:  The new play from Jez Butterworth (Jerusalem, The Ferryman) is set in the sweltering summer of 1976: the Webb Sisters return to their dying mother’s dilapidated guest house in Blackpool. Sam Mendes directs.

Booking: Jan 27-Jun 15

MJ The Musical, Prince Edward Theatre 

In a nutshell:  This hit Broadway musical telling the story of Michael Jackson features a book by Pulitzer winner Lynn Nottage and is directed/choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon. Tony-winning star Myles Frost reprises his lead role.

Booking: Mar 6-Jun 22

Player Kings, Noel Coward Theatre 

In a nutshell: Ian McKellen stars as Falstaff in Robert Icke’s keenly anticipated new version of two great Shakespeare history plays – Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2.

Booking: Apr 1-Jun 22

Stranger Things: The First Shadow, Phoenix Theatre ★★★★★

In a nutshell:  “Netflix gives the West End its event of the year... The jaw-dropping coups range from the infernal, supernatural engulfing of a hulking US battle-ship to acts of levitation.” Read the full review

Booking until: Jun 30

Spirited Away, London Coliseum 

In a nutshell: The acclaimed stage adaptation of Studio Ghibli’s animation masterpiece, directed by John Caird (Les Miserables), transfers from Japan to the Coliseum. Could this match the success of My Neighbour Totoro?

Booking: Apr 30-Jul 20

Opening Night, Gielgud Theatre 

In a nutshell: This intriguing new musical version of John Cassavetes’ film about a Broadway leading lady battling offstage drama has a dynamite team: actress Sheridan Smith, musician Rufus Wainwright, and director Ivo van Hove.

Booking: Mar 6-Jul 27

Back to the Future: The Musical, Adelphi Theatre ★★★★★

In a nutshell: “Thanks to video and illusionist wizardry, the steam-spouting DeLorean skids into view from nowhere and takes off over the stalls, achieving a kind of 3D Hollywood magic... A feelgood triumph.”  Read the full review

Booking until: Jul 21

Standing at the Sky’s Edge, Gillian Lynne Theatre ★★★★

In a nutshell: “Those who love Richard Hawley’s music, steeped in post-industrial melancholy and yearning – the opium of the dreamy loner – will be in their element here... An enthralling evening.” Read the full review

Booking: Feb 8-Aug 3

Fangirls, Lyric Hammersmith

In a nutshell:  This Australian pop musical phenomenon hits the UK, telling the story of a teenage girl’s love for a boyband – plus friendships, coming of age, and a fantastic night out.

Booking: Jul 13-Aug 24

A Chorus Line, Sadler’s Wells

In a nutshell:  God I hope I get it! The thrilling backstage musical about a group of disparate performers auditioning for a Broadway show is back in town, and, with its incredible dance routines, it’s still one singular sensation.

Booking: Jul 31-Aug 25

Sister Act, Dominion Theatre ★★★

In a nutshell:  “Beverley Knight is a class act... The musical’s shrewd creative stroke is to shift the action to the 1970s, so that it is pounding with soul and disco music.” Read the full review

Booking: Mar 15-Aug 31

Guys & Dolls, Bridge Theatre ★★★★★ 

In a nutshell: “Nicholas Hytner’s box of tricks, the Bridge, unleashes the show all around you if you’re one of the 380 punters standing in the thick of it... It’s an extravaganza that explodes every which way.” Read the full review

Booking until: Aug 31

The Mousetrap, St Martin’s Theatre

In a nutshell:  The longest-running play in the world, Agatha Christie’s fiendish murder mystery has been bamboozling audiences since 1952. Can you match wits with the Queen of Crime and figure out whodunit?

Booking until: Sept 14

Tina: The Tina Turner Musical, Aldwych Theatre ★★★★★ 

In a nutshell: “An Anglo-American triumph. It combines the aesthetic finesse of British director Phyllida Lloyd with the political instincts of Memphis-born, Olivier-nominated playwright Katori Hall.” Read the full review

Next to Normal, Wyndham’s Theatre ★★★★

In a nutshell:  “A tale of a mother grappling with bipolar disorder may be an unusual premise for a rock musical, but Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt’s show proves an unstoppable force... Moving and gut-wrenching.” Read the full review

Booking: Jun 8-Sept 21

Operation Mincemeat, Fortune Theatre ★★★★

In a nutshell:  “What this inspired musical about the 1943 wartime deception has in winning spades is a Pythonesque delight in irreverence that doesn’t short-change the intellect.” Read the full review

Booking until: Sept 22

Cabaret, Kit Kat Club at the Playhouse Theatre ★★★★★

In a nutshell:  “An absolute knockout... With its combination of all-encompassing decadent beauty and thunderous moral force, there’s simply nothing else in town quite like it.” Read the full review

Booking until: Sept 28

Les Miserables, Sondheim Theatre ★★★★★

In a nutshell:  “In its density and epic ambition, its mixture of high-powered ideas and gut-wrenching emotions, it’s a show that feels lastingly revolutionary.” Read the full review

Hamilton, Victoria Palace Theatre ★★★★★

In a nutshell:  “Lin-Manuel Miranda does things with rap so nifty that even people who hate rap will relent, and he keeps shifting tempo and mood, a magpie maestro: here a nod to Gilbert and Sullivan, there a hint of Kander and Ebb.” Read the full review

Mamma Mia!, Novello Theatre ★★★★

In a nutshell: “Phyllida Lloyd’s slick production is still a tremendous crowd-pleaser... Buoyed by Abba’s enduring brilliance, it’s a welcome shot of pure sunshine.” Read the full review

The Phantom of the Opera, Her Majesty’s Theatre ★★★★

In a nutshell:  “It’s the slew of coups de théâtre, the no-nonsense pacing and the gorgeous spectacles that make this tale of a disfigured man of musical genius lurking beneath the Paris Opera House so effective.” Read the full review

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Palace Theatre ★★★★★ 

In a nutshell: “British theatre hasn’t known anything like it for decades and I haven’t seen anything directly comparable in all my reviewing days... It raises the benchmark for family entertainment.”  Read the full review

Booking until: Sept 29

Witness for the Prosecution, London County Hall ★★★★

In a nutshell:  “Not just a whodunit, but a wheredunit... Agatha Christie’s bravura twisty plotting is still second to none. Combined with the inspired use of an historic location, it’s criminally entertaining.”  Read the full review

Mean Girls, Savoy Theatre

In a nutshell:  The Broadway musical version of Tina Fey’s peerless high-school film comedy (which featured Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams, Amanda Seyfried and Amy Poehler) hits the West End.

Booking: Jun 5-Oct 27

The Play That Goes Wrong, Duchess Theatre ★★★★

In a nutshell:  “Seldom has disaster delivered so many belly laughs... This spoof am-dram staging of an Agatha Christie whodunit is the perfect recipe for absurd slapstick.” Read the full review

Booking until: Nov 3

Six, Vaudeville Theatre ★★★★★

In a nutshell:  “This infectiously fun production is packed with witty touches... A heart-warming, air-punching finale has everyone up on their feet. I expect these queens to rule the West End for years to come.”  Read the full review

ABBA Voyage, ABBA Arena ★★★★

In a nutshell:  “It’s a mind-blowing hi-tech celebration of some of the greatest pop music ever made, delivered as if you are up close and personal with legendary superstars...albeit in a virtual spaceship in another dimension.” Read the full review

Booking until: Nov 25

Matilda The Musical, Cambridge Theatre ★★★★★

In a nutshell:  “Matthew Warchus’s thrilling, warm-hearted production, exuberantly designed by Rob Howell and with pin-sharp choreography by Peter Darling, constantly combines comedy with a sense of wonder.”  Read the full review

Booking until: Dec 15

Wicked, Apollo Victoria Theatre ★★★★

In a nutshell:  “Joe Mantello’s production has satisfyingly old-school bombast: instead of screens, its impact comes from the detailed, fabulously over-the-top steampunk design. The orchestra is the biggest in the West End – and it shows.” Read the full review

Dr Strangelove, Noel Coward Theatre 

In a nutshell:  Steve Coogan leads this new theatrical adaptation of Stanley Kubrick’s jet-black comic masterpiece about a rogue general triggering a nuclear crisis, brought to the stage by Armando Iannucci and Sean Foley.

Booking: Oct 8-Dec 21

Magic Mike Live, Hippodrome Casino

In a nutshell:  “‘I wanted to create a space where men really listened to women,’ says creator Channing Tatum. What emerges is undoubtedly entertaining and one of the best fun nights London has to offer.” Read the full article

Booking until: Jan 5, 2025

The Devil Wears Prada, Dominion Theatre 

In a nutshell:  The fabulously fashionable fable, a thinly veiled takedown of Vogue editor Anna Wintour, has become a stage musical with songs by Elton John. It’s runway ready – now it’s time for the West End.

Booking: Oct 24-May 31, 2025

Frequently asked questions

How do i find what’s on in the west end.

London has a fantastic mix of long-running shows, like Wicked, Matilda and The Play That Goes Wrong, and new productions. We will be constantly updating this page with top picks for the best London musicals and plays from our critics, so keep checking back to see all of the latest reviews and recommendations of upcoming theatre shows. 

You can also find a range of reviews, interviews and preview features at Telegraph Theatre .

How much is the average West End ticket?

West End ticket prices vary depending on the seating and the venue. You can usually find some cheap ticket for London shows from around £20, up to £60 for seats closer to the stage, and then some premium pricing of £100 or more for the very best seats in the house. However, there are also great West End discounts to be found – check out Telegraph Tickets for all the current London ticket deals.

What are the newest West End shows?

Some of the latest additions to London’s West End include the acclaimed stage adaptation of A Little Life, starring James Norton; British wartime musical Operation Mincemeat; and the glorious toe-tapping musical Crazy For You. Book tickets for all the best new shows now. 

Can I change the date/time of my theatre show ticket?

Many theatres have a policy whereby once you’ve booked a ticket, you cannot cancel it or change it to another date. However, it does vary: some venues are able to be more flexible about this, especially if it’s a sold-out show. Check the terms and conditions on the website where you booked, or call the box office.

What is the best way to travel to the theatre?

If you’re seeing a show in the West End, the easiest way to get to the theatre is usually by public transport. Traffic tends to get very busy in the centre of London, especially around rush hour. There are numerous Tube stations close to West End theatres, such as Charing Cross, Leicester Square, Piccadilly and Tottenham Court Road, servicing Tube lines like the Central, Piccadilly, Northern and Jubilee. Visit the TfL website to plan your route. You can also try buses (although they’re slower moving at rush hour), or if the weather is pleasant, walking or cycling.

Can I bring my child to a theatre performance not specifically for children?

Many shows have specific age recommendations and won’t admit younger children – you can find that information in our family theatre guide or on booking websites for productions, like Telegraph Tickets . Those recommendations are made based on the content and any potentially scary, disturbing or mature elements. However, each child is different, so it’s also up to parents to decide whether their child can cope with a particular show. Think about the story, the production elements (like loud noises), and the length – even adults may struggle with longer shows!

Do theatre performances have age ratings?

Yes, they do. Just like films, theatre shows have recommended age ratings – normally suggesting a minimal age for audience members, like 6+, and asking that any children by accompanied by adults. We’ve got age recommendations for all family-friendly shows in our family theatre guide and on the Telegraph Tickets booking site, and you can also find that information on individual theatre websites or by calling the box office.

How do I book theatre tickets for a large group of people?

Lots of theatre websites will offer help and advice for group bookings – some even have dedicated box office phone lines. In fact, it can be a great way to get a good deal on tickets or to book cheap tickets for big shows. Plus it’s fun to do a group outing with lots of friends or family members. Check out all the latest shows that would suit group bookings on Telegraph Tickets .

What items can’t I bring to the theatre?

Nearly all theatres, particularly in the West End, operate bag checks on entry. Security officials will be checking for any dangerous items – so potential weapons or other sharp objects, fireworks or pyrotechnics, or hazardous substances. Most also prohibit you from bringing in drugs or alcohol, and some prefer you not to bring in outside food or drink (other than sealed bottles of water), since they provide both in the theatre. Some venues also ask you not to bring large bags. You can find the latest information on theatre websites.

Can I still watch the performance if I am late?

Generally yes – ushers will tend to wait until an appropriate time in the production, like a scene change, to show you to your seats. If you’re really late, some theatres might ask you to watch the remainder of that first half on a screen just outside the auditorium, and then you can enter after the interval. If you are on time but your companion is running late, you should be able to leave their ticket with the box office.

What is the difference between stalls, grand circle and dress circle seats?

Stalls tickets mean you are seated on the ground level of the theatre, with seats beginning right next to the stage and extending to the back. These tend to be the more expensive tickets, since you’re closest to the action. The dress circle is one level up. Seats here are usually a bit cheaper, but you can still get a great view from the dress circle: it tends to extend over the back half of the stalls, and it’s particularly good for something like a musical with big song-and-dance numbers since you have an aerial view of the whole stage. 

The grand circle is another level up, so this is usually where you find the cheap tickets. However, grand circle seats can be a great deal – you might not have the best sightlines, but you still feel like part of the show, and for less. So, if you want the best guaranteed seats, central stalls or near the front of the dress circle is best. But if you’re looking for cheap tickets, grand circle is a good pick.

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This is about the quiet despair of an ‘ordinary’ mother trying to make a stand against forces beyond her control and keep her family together. She has an alcoholic ex-husband, an over attentive neighbour, a paranormal investigator, three unruly kids, oh and a ruddy poltergeist all tramping about in her house, so fair play to her for keeping a lid on it all.

The show's other star, Threlfall, is a warm presence as kindly investigator Maurice Grosse, though is hung out to dry a bit by the scenes where he believes the ‘possessed’ child is his dead daughter.

What about the horror? The lights flicker, the pipes clank, a possessed girl wanders about with creepily big eyes and when the scares come they are fine, but it’s impossible not to think they had been done better and scarier elsewhere, from the jump scares, to the levitation, to the 12-year-old speaking in demonic tones.

Unwin has called it a psychological ghost story and a "ghost story for now". I'm not so sure, certainly not in this form, and when compared to its counterparts in the West End it will only ever be the spectre at the feast. Ambassadors Theatre , to March 2; buy tickets here

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The 1972 Andes plane crash story has been told many times. ‘Society of the Snow’ is something new

J.A. Bayona’s “Society of the Snow” provides a fresh look at the 1972 Andes plane crash. Uruguayan actor Enzo Vogrinic says the desire to tell the tragic story he grew up hearing about made him ready to “endure everything” during the film’s production. (Jan. 2)

book review the ghost theatre

J.A. Bayona’s “Society of the Snow” provides a fresh look at the 1972 Andes plane crash, a tragic tale that’s been told many times. Survivor Gustavo Zerbino praised the Netflix film, which begins streaming Thursday. (Jan. 2)

From left, Gustavo Zerbino, director J. A. Bayona, writer Pablo Vierci, and actor Enzo Vogrincic pose for a portrait to promote the film “Society of the Snow” on Friday, Oct. 27, 2023, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

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Gustavo Zerbino, left, and writer Pablo Vierci pose for a portrait to promote the film “Society of the Snow” on Friday, Oct. 27, 2023, in Los Angeles. Zerbino is a survivor of a 1972 plane crash in the Andes. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Actor Enzo Vogrincic, left, and director J. A. Bayona pose for a portrait to promote the film “Society of the Snow” on Friday, Oct. 27, 2023, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Gustavo Zerbino poses for a portrait to promote the film “Society of the Snow” on Friday, Oct. 27, 2023, in Los Angeles. Zerbino is a survivor of a 1972 plane crash in the Andes. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Director J. A. Bayona poses for a portrait to promote the film “Society of the Snow” on Friday, Oct. 27, 2023, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Writer Pablo Vierci poses for a portrait to promote the film “Society of the Snow” on Friday, Oct. 27, 2023, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Actor Enzo Vogrincic poses for a portrait to promote the film “Society of the Snow” on Friday, Oct. 27, 2023, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — When Gustavo Zerbino watched “La Sociedad de la Nieve,” the 1972 plane crash survivor felt as if he was being submerged “into boiling water,” reliving the roughly 70 days he and his teammates were stranded in the snow-covered Andes mountains.

Zerbino praised J.A. Bayona’s raw and unfiltered film, which is being released Thursday as “Society of the Snow” on Netflix in the U.S., but said he also felt the same anxieties and emotions he felt while stranded as a young athlete more than 50 years ago.

“Fortunately, that feeling ended in 2 1/2 hours,” he told The Associated Press this past October. (All interviews for this story were conducted in Spanish.)

Bayona’s movie is based on Pablo Vierci’s book of the same title, and follows the story of the Uruguayan Air Force plane disaster. The Old Christians rugby team was traveling with relatives and friends to Chile for a match when their plane crashed, stranding them in the mountains where they faced snow storms, avalanches and starvation, forcing them to eat the flesh of those who had died.

From left, Gustavo Zerbino, director J. A. Bayona, writer Pablo Vierci, and actor Enzo Vogrincic pose for a portrait to promote the film "Society of the Snow" on Friday, Oct. 27, 2023, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

From left, Gustavo Zerbino, director J. A. Bayona, writer Pablo Vierci, and actor Enzo Vogrincic (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

The tale of the tragedy has been told numerous times. It’s been referenced in shows like “Seinfeld,” dramatized in countless films like the 1993 narrative film “Alive” with Ethan Hawke, served as the subject of documentaries and plays and even inspired Showtime’s Emmy-nominated “Yellowjackets.”

“We always felt something was missing,” says Zerbino, reflecting on past projects. “‘Society of the Snow’ is the book that filled in that missing piece.”

Tackling the complex story of endurance and survival, Bayona wanted to do more than just direct a dramatic interpretation of real-life tragedy. He wanted to tell a story that honored the event’s survivors and victims and their Uruguayan culture.

“It’s more a reflection than an action book and ultimately helped me a lot in understanding the characters,” the Spanish director said of Vierci’s book. Vierci is an associate producer on the film.

Bayona, whose credits include 2018’s “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” wanted to build on the connection between the living and the dead, including a seamless on-screen homage throughout the film to those who died.

Writer Pablo Vierci poses for a portrait to promote the film "Society of the Snow" on Friday, Oct. 27, 2023, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

“When he showed us the drafts of what he was working on, it sent shivers down our spines; our hearts stopped. I mean, we already saw that it was very real, very powerful, and we saw that there was genius at work,” Zerbino said.

The Golden Globe-nominated film is narrated by Numa Turcatti, who died shortly before the rescue and is played here by Enzo Vogrincic. That decision was made by the director and supported by Vierci.

“I was always attracted to the possibility and the need to tell it from the point of the view of the dead,” Vierci said. “This is a story of 45 individuals providing a window through which we can observe how they endured major adversities and built a society where compassion and mercy prevailed.”

Bayona’s film seeks to honor the story and strays away from glamorizing or sensationalizing the horrors the passengers and crew members endured. Beyond speaking to the survivors, victims’ loved ones and visiting the crash site, he wove in Candombe Uruguayan music at high points of tension and added Turcatti’s favorite song from a popular Uruguayan band into one of the film’s early blissful scenes.

Gustavo Zerbino, left, and writer Pablo Vierci pose for a portrait to promote the film "Society of the Snow" on Friday, Oct. 27, 2023, in Los Angeles. Zerbino is a survivor of a 1972 plane crash in the Andes. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Survivor Gustavo Zerbino, left, and Pablo Vierci (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

“I was very interested in getting into the culture of Uruguay and the culture of the time,” he said.

His approach even included crash survivors, like Carlitos Páez, who turned 19 while stranded and plays his own father in the movie.

“I wanted to get as close to reality as possible,” said Bayona, who put his cast on a medically supervised weight-loss program and shot the avalanche scenes in freezing conditions.

The film is now shortlisted for best international feature film at the 2024 Academy Awards.

Actor Enzo Vogrincic poses for a portrait to promote the film "Society of the Snow" on Friday, Oct. 27, 2023, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Actor Enzo Vogrincic (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

When Vogrincic first heard about the project, the Uruguayan actor knew he had to be part of the story.

“From a young age, you already know about it,” the actor said. “It fills you with a sense of pride because they’re Uruguayan ... but as you get deeper into the story, you realize that the story is much bigger. It talks about humanity as a whole.”

Zerbino watched the film with other crash survivors and victims’ family members. The end credits were met with a standing ovation, he said.

According to the former rugby player, this was the first time many victims’ relatives had engaged with retellings of the story.

Gustavo Zerbino poses for a portrait to promote the film "Society of the Snow" on Friday, Oct. 27, 2023, in Los Angeles. Zerbino is a survivor of a 1972 plane crash in the Andes. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Gustavo Zerbino (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

“They hadn’t read or watched past books or movies around the event because they didn’t want to suffer. Some did, and others didn’t, and well, they reconciled with the story through this film,” said Zerbino who feels he made a commitment to preserve his late team members’ legacies.

Bayona’s film champions Zerbino and the other survivors’ mission: to tell the story of those who gave up their literal selves to keep their friends alive.

“I have a commitment, a commitment from before leaving the mountain to be a witness and transmit the legacy of my dead friends,” Zerbino said.

This story has been updated to correct an editing error regarding the movie’s release date. It’s releasing on Netflix on Thursday, not Wednesday.

The intriguing tale of a woman’s search for her Korean birth family

Sun mee chomet’s warm and wistful autobiographical play, ‘how to be a korean woman,’ reflects on her complex identity.

In one scene in Sun Mee Chomet’s autobiographical one-woman play, “How to Be a Korean Woman,” the actress, playing herself, is hauled to a jingjabang, or a bath house, in South Korea. As she watches her aunts begin their bathing rituals, she marvels at the layers of dead skin being sloughed off. “This is Korea: the home of exfoliating! Where the lifelong quest for smooth and flawless skin is more important than breathing,” she quips. A different kind of exfoliation — one less invested in vanity, more in verity — propels Chomet’s multilayered play, which recounts her journey to find her birth family, who gave her up for adoption when she was 6 months old.

The Style section

At various points in her life, Sun Mee — who was raised in Detroit by a Jewish father and Protestant mother — has gone by different names. There’s her American name (Rachel Sun Mee Chomet), her Korean name (Ahn Sun Mee) and the name that appears on our programs (Sun Mee Chomet). The play’s own cheeky, self-help shingle of a name doesn’t really get at the gestalt of the show, which concludes a triptych of plays in Theater J’s “Here I Am” series. “How to Triangulate Your Identity as a Korean American Adoptee” is more accurate, if less aerodynamic.

Yet Sun Mee, who staged an earlier version of the play more than a decade ago in Minneapolis, is not really interested in offering advice; the only “how-tos” come halfway into the some 80-minute play, from her well-meaning, shopaholic imos, or aunts, both of whom she hilariously embodies. (Among the tidy, don’t-touch-the-hair tips: “You must dress well; you must wear scarves when it is 80 degrees; you must wear fashionable shoes, even if they hurt a lot.”)

Instead, Sun Mee mostly dishes out — and hares after — facts. The play begins on a womb-dark set. Photos of Sun Mee as a hubcap-eyed baby are projected against a backstage wall, and we learn, via voice-over, that she was found in the city of Anyang, placed for adoption through Holt International Children’s Services, and now works as an actress in Minnesota. And later: that she was placed with a foster mother in Seoul before being sent to the United States and grew up with two stepbrothers.

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There’s arguably too much front-loading of background information in this otherwise warm and wistful play. The early scenes, with their neatly jigsawed bio pieces, often make the show seem like a lollingly plangent “This American Life” episode. (Nephelie Andonyadis’s spartan subcellar of a set even looks a bit like a recording studio.)

Bits of biographical information get recycled in a later scene and to greater effect when our star appears before us in a pink, flowery dress and matching lipstick. She’s nervously perched on a stool for her appearance on the Korean reality TV show “I Miss That Person!” — a populist confection “about Koreans searching for lost relatives.” When she repeats her opening lines, the context makes clear that they’re a Hail Mary plea to her biological mother, who she hopes will see her on the show.

Chomet, an impressively protean actor, has fun serving up a Whitman’s sampler of characters, including a just-this-side-of-treacly TV show translator, an overly earnest social worker and her frail but fiery grandmother. That is, her Korean grandmother, or halmoni. It’s not really a spoiler to reveal that, after a positive match on a DNA test and some snipping of red tape, Sun Mee is additionally reunited with her birth mother and aunts.

The joyousness of the occasion, however, is tempered by a number of surprises. For one, her mother reveals that she is now married to an archconservative, “very mean” man who knows nothing about Sun Mee’s existence; mother and daughter must conduct their meetings in private, and director Zaraawar Mistry choreographs their conversation (that is, Sun Mee’s conversation with herself) beautifully.

There’s also a complication to Sun Mee’s Korean name that I won’t spoil here. Let’s just say that, of all her names, her Korean one is the third and shortest leg of a stool that keeps the play winningly off-balance.

How to Be a Korean Woman , by Sun Mee Chomet. Directed by Zaraawar Mistry. Set, Nephelie Andonyadis; lighting, Jesse W. Belsky; About 80 minutes. Through Jan. 14 at Edlavitch D.C. Jewish Community Center, 1529 16th St. NW. edcjcc.org .

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IMAGES

  1. Theatre and Ghosts

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  2. Ghost Theater (Official Trailer)

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  3. The Ghost Theatre by Mat Osman

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  4. The Ghosts of the Ghostlight Theatre

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  5. GHOST the Musical

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  6. The Ghost Theatre: A Novel: Osman, Mat: 9781419767838: Amazon.com: Books

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COMMENTS

  1. The Ghost Theatre by Mat Osman review

    Erica Wagner Fri 5 May 2023 02.30 EDT he Ghost Theatre begins with a London rooftop chase worthy of Mission: Impossible. Our young heroine, Shay, hurtles above Eastcheap and St Peter's Hill, St...

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    The Ghost Theatre by Mat Osman review - teenage wastrels with ambition to burn The Suede bassist's second novel, a grimy tale of two young urchins in 17th-century London, is a florid but...

  3. The Ghost Theatre by Mat Osman

    577 ratings165 reviews A wild and hallucinatory reimagining of Elizabethan London, with its bird worshippers, famed child actors, and the Queen herself; a dazzling historical novel about theatre, magic, and the dangers of all-consuming love London, 1601—a golden city soon to erupt in flames.

  4. The Ghost Theatre

    Review by Elizabeth Crachiolo In a fantastical yet mostly recognizable Elizabethan London, teenage Shay, a member of a bird-worshipping religion, joins up with a troupe of boy actors. She finds the theater world exhilarating, though seedy and terrifying at times because of the troupe's violent patrons.

  5. Elizabeth's review of The Ghost Theatre

    The Ghost Theatre by Mat Osman Elizabeth 's review May 26, 2023 really liked it bookshelves: english, early-modern, fiction, historical-fiction, reviewed Wow, this is one of the more interesting historical novels I've read in a while.

  6. Book Review: Mat Osman's The Ghost Theatre is a vivid imagining of

    June 14, 2023 Books Reviews Bloomsbury Australia Mat Osman The Ghost Theatre Shay is an outsider. Part of a fringe religion known as the Aviscultans, she has never quite lived up to the legacy of her mother, who divined great messages from the murmurations of starlings.

  7. The Ghost Theatre: A Novel: Osman, Mat: 9781419767838: Amazon.com: Books

    Hardcover - June 27, 2023. A wild and hallucinatory reimagining of Elizabethan London, with its bird worshippers, famed child actors, and the queen herself, Mat Osman's TheGhost Theatre is a dazzling historical novel about the stage, magic, and the dangers of all-consuming love. London, 1601—a golden city soon to erupt in flames.

  8. Review: The Ghost Theatre

    Genre: Historical Fantasy Published: Bloomsbury Publishing, May 2023 My Rating: 4/5 stars "The thing is, Shay: the stage is the only place where anything makes sense. "Out there", he flung his arms wide, "is arbitrary. Hero's die and the good suffer." He stomps his foot on the theatre roof: "This, here, is where truth lives. Outside everything is dead, and nothing can breathe and ...

  9. Review: The Ghost Theatre by Mat Osman

    The Ghost Theatre by Mat Osman. Reviewed by Alicia Guiney. 30 May 2023. Mat Osman's The Ghost Theatre balances precariously between historical fiction and fantasy. Set in Elizabethan London, it features many of the historical hallmarks we know to expect, and inserts many of its own, lending the novel a unique flair.

  10. All Book Marks reviews for The Ghost Theatre by Mat Osman

    Like the romance story, the ghost-theatre theme is suffocated by too much other stuff. It is never quite clear how the characters can fit in all that they do and still find time to learn lines (Nonesuch) and fulfil responsibilities in Birdland (Shay). For many readers that won't matter.

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    Shay is a "boy-in-the-streets, a girl-in-the-sheets", and at one level The Ghost Theatre is a romance. But Mat Osman is reaching for grander themes: coercion, corruption, savagery, theatrical magic. Theatre is not only fireworks and smoke bombs, it is "building something with words", as Nonesuch earnestly tells Shay.

  12. The Ghost Theatre review: Mat Osman's fanciful historical fiction

    words RHIANON HOLLEY Want more books? The latest reviews, interviews, features and more, from Wales and beyond. Tag: Bloomsbury, buzz book review, mat Osman, Rhianon Holley, richard Osman, suede Immerse yourself in the realm of The Ghost Theatre by Mat Osman and explore Elizabethan London, where mystery and magic intertwine.

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    Buy Now Indiebound Publisher Overlook Press Date June 27, 2023 Fiction Historical A historical novel about theatre, magic, and the dangers of all-consuming love. Embed our reviews widget for this book

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    The Ghost Theatre by Mat Osman. Reviewed by Patricia Simms-Reeve. Mat Osman's enthralling historical fantasy sweeps the reader into the London of 1601. Shay, a girl of 15, leaps across precarious rooftops in her role as a messenger…. It is a unique way to communicate and this heralds the spirit of this novel. Shay lives with her failing ...

  15. Amazon.com: Customer reviews: The Ghost Theatre: A Novel

    144 total ratings, 16 with reviews Certain to become one of my favorite novels of all time Reviewed in the United States on September 19, 2023 I'm halfway through reading The Ghost Theatre for the second time, and Shay and Nonesuch have started showing up in my dreams.

  16. A2Z Book Review

    'outstanding' books my books! Book Review: The Ghost Theatre by Mat Osman TO LOVE IS TO FALL . . . On a rooftop in Elizabethan London two worlds collide. Shay is a messenger-girl and trainer of hawks who sees the future in the patterns of birds.

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    Fantastical and captivating, The Ghost Theatre charts the rise and dramatic destruction of a dream born from love and torn apart by betrayal. Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC ISBN: 9781526654403 Number of pages: 320 Dimensions: 234 x 153 mm MEDIA REVIEWS

  18. The Ghost Theatre: Utterly transporting... by Osman, Mat

    The Ghost Theatre: Utterly transporting historical fiction, Elizabethan London as you've never seen it. Hardcover - 11 May 2023. by Mat Osman (Author) 4.2 208 ratings. See all formats and editions. Book Description. ** Give the gift of magic this Christmas**. BOOK OF THE YEAR - EVENING STANDARD, THE OBSERVER and THE TIMES.

  19. The Ghost Theatre: A Novel|Hardcover

    Overview A wild and hallucinatory reimagining of Elizabethan London, with its bird worshippers, famed child actors, and the queen herself, Mat Osman's TheGhost Theatre is a dazzling historical novel about the stage, magic, and the dangers of all-consuming love. London, 1601—a golden city soon to erupt in flames.

  20. Helen (The United Kingdom)'s review of The Ghost Theatre

    3/5: The Ghost Theatre, Mat Osman's second novel, is the story of two young people who meet on the rooftops of Elizabethan London. One of them is Shay, a teenage girl who dresses as a boy and belongs to a community of bird-worshippers. As the novel opens, Shay has released some caged birds from captivity in a shop and is being chased by the angry owner; with the instincts of a bird herself ...

  21. The Ghost Theatre: A Novel Kindle Edition

    Kindle $11.99 Read with Our Free App Hardcover $20.14 28 Used from $12.98 21 New from $19.63 A wild and hallucinatory reimagining of Elizabethan London, with its bird worshippers, famed child actors, and the Queen herself; a dazzling historical novel about theatre, magic, and the dangers of all-consuming love

  22. The week in theatre: The Enfield Haunting; The Last Show Before We Die

    Catherine Tate and David Threlfall are stranded in a scarily dull ghost story; the end of a love affair looms over a lively two-hander; and the new King's Head kicks off with a cheery, sub ...

  23. GHOST THEATRE

    Shay is a messenger-girl and trainer of hawks who sees the future in the patterns of birds. Nonesuch is the dark star of the city's fabled child theatre scene, as famous as royalty yet lowly as a beggar. Together they create The Ghost Theatre: a troupe staging magical plays in London's hidden corners.

  24. The Enfield Haunting, Ambassadors Theatre review: dire true-life ghost

    It is bewilderingly brief and feels like it could have done with at least another hour to introduce and examine the characters in an orderly fashion. Tate and Threlfall both try their best, but ...

  25. London theatre: the best musicals and plays to book now

    The Book of Mormon, Prince of Wales Theatre ... This is beguilingly transporting, all-enveloping theatre." Read the full review. Booking until: May 18. Book tickets via Telegraph tickets.

  26. New Musical The Ghost of John McCain Getting NYC Industry Reading

    The Ghost of John McCain, a new musical, will receive a private industry reading later this week.. Featuring a book by Scott Elmegreen and a score by Drew Fornarola, the work is a psychological ...

  27. The Enfield Haunting, Ambassadors Theatre review: even Catherine Tate

    The West End has long had a fascination with things that go bump in the night. From 33 years of The Woman in Black to the success of 2:22 A Ghost Story and now Stranger Things: The First Shadow ...

  28. The 1972 Andes plane crash story has been told many times. 'Society of

    The tale of the tragedy has been told numerous times. It's been referenced in shows like "Seinfeld," dramatized in countless films like the 1993 narrative film "Alive" with Ethan Hawke, served as the subject of documentaries and plays and even inspired Showtime's Emmy-nominated "Yellowjackets." "We always felt something was missing," says Zerbino, reflecting on past projects.

  29. 'How to Be a Korean Woman' review: Theater J hosts Sun Mee Chomet's

    In one scene in Sun Mee Chomet's autobiographical one-woman play, "How to Be a Korean Woman," the actress, playing herself, is hauled to a jingjabang, or a bath house, in South Korea.