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Alfred Hickling

Dawn French: Thirty Million Minutes review less standup gig than public atonement

There's tragedy at the core of French's roly-poly persona – yet the place she finds herself in appears to be a good one.

Fallout by Sadie Jones review on the fringe

Alfred Hickling applauds a febrile and emotive tale of human relationships and radical theatre Sadie Jones's debut novel, The Outcast , featured a harrowing scene in which a 10-year-old boy witnesses his mother's drowning but is powerless to prevent it

Annie Get Your Gun review Jason Donovan leads a mild-west romp

Despite a superlative onstage orchestra and a sharp-shooting Emma Williams as Annie, this revisionist rendition lacks swagger.

Shame and the Captives by Thomas Keneally review

Keneally's ingenuity comes to the fore in this compelling fictionalised account of how Japanese PoWs staged a breakout in New South Wales.

La Bohème, Opera North review – veteran production still holds up well

With its homage to the silver screen, Opera North's revival offers a fine showcase for young singers

Monday's Child review a dementia drama that is never depressing

A young girl and her grandmother are spending the afternoon together in the garden.

Not the Worst Place review a family drama of thwarted dreams

South Wales writer Sam Burns studied in Swansea and now lives partly in Rajasthan, where she has a share in a camel.

Rogue Herries - review

John Buchan believed Hugh Walpole's Rogue Herries - the first of an epic tetralogy charting the fortunes of a down-at-heel Cumberland dynasty - to be "the greatest English novel since Jude the Obscure". Since then, few novels have become quite so obscur

The Hired Man by Aminatta Forna - review

A theme of civil conflict and recent horror rings as true in a small Croatian town as it did in Sierra Leone In 2007 Aminatta Forna gained the slightly double-edged accolade of being named by Vanity Fair as one of Africa's most promising new writers .

The Firework-Maker's Daughter - review

David Bruce is a composer who enjoys playing with fire. Last year he produced a promethean oratorio for large choir and accompanying pyrotechnic installation in the grounds of Salisbury Cathedral. Now he has created an operatic version of Philip Pullma