All-out, no-questions-asked frontal onslaught The Revenger's Tragedy,
National Theatre, London
Kinnear is divested of the ludicrous wig and beard for his disguise,
the play snaps into life and the caustic misanthropy of the plot takes
hold. From here on in, aside from the occasional dull patch, the play
whizzes along at quite a pace. Kinnear’s performance is incredibly
and inaudible Hysteria, St Bartholemew's
not only the outward appearance of the hall that works against the
piece; the acoustics and ambience of the hall could not be less suited
to performance. Certainly not to a piece clearly not made without
such a high-vaulted cavernous space in mind.
bit of a frown and a pout Troilus and Cressida,
whole of the Trojan war seems reduced to a fight between a Vauxhall
gay S&M club and an Abercrombie and Fitch advert. The Trojans
are all white vests, khakis and linen jackets, while the Greeks wear
black combats, leather, and the occasional SS-style uniform.
and passion Rosmersholm, Almeida
so neatly done it would feel painfully contrived were it not for Ibsen’s
skill as a dramatist for making every detail so engaging that the
conversations scarcely ever feel like mere exercises in exposition.
bleak The Common Pursuit, Menier
Chocolate Factory, London
characters are ultimately selfish and cowardly, while all commitment
to higher ideals result in failure or disappointment. Their failings
are all the more depressing for ringing so horribly true. Publishing
and the media are depicted as cynical and largely worthless, while
academia and work of artistic merit are by turns elitist or futile.
time certainty The Country, Tabard Theatre,
Godwin’s production, while not perfect, provides a welcome opportunity
to see what turns out to be a finely wrought intriguing thriller from
one of our country’s foremost writers.
in the sports shop Oxford Street, Royal
Street is a sharp and witty look at a cosmopolitan London, which never
takes itself too seriously. The characters are painted with broad
strokes, the plot is slightly contrived but the observation is spot-on.
tricksy and surprisingly dull Fram, National Theatre,
is so desperate for theatre to say something meaningful about Global
Warming that as long as the box is ticked little else matters. It
left me feeling manipulated and disappointed – a poor reflection
of Tony Harrison’s talents and a sign that Nicholas Hytner isn’t
immune to political pressure after all.
convincing pain That Face, Duke of York's
an ending for a studio play, screaming hysterics worked very well,
and the proximity ensured blistering intensity. Now removed from their
immediate vicinity, vivid emotional fireworks aren’t quite enough.
enormous, and quite, quite brilliant The City, Royal Court,
performances are quite remarkable. Cumberbatch and Morahan talk and
react to one another with the sharpness, intensity and focus of duellists,
while Amanda Hale’s Jenny manages to be at once frightened and
vertigo to tragedy King Lear, the Globe,
the characters and their motivations so clearly delineated, the sheer
misery and futility of the end is truly tragic, helped here by a gorgeous
final burst of choral singing by the cast.
to the gods The Good Soul of Szechuan,
Young Vic, London
there are parallels to be drawn with modern China, they are not morally
simple. The child who was rummaging through bins for food is now employed
– but the tobacco factory has given him a cough. Which is worse?
Which is better?
loyalty and religion Hello and Goodbye, Trafalgar
Fugard’s dialogue is crackling and funny, his monologues can
sometimes run away from him: the writing loosens up and though he
comes across some profound and strong images, he over-indulges along
the way. It begins to feel like too much of a good thing and there’s
nothing Reeves or Spall can do to keep us hooked.
does Apartheid Molora, Barbican, London
trial is used only as a framework here, so whilst a lot of the separate
elements are strong – the trial testimonies, the African chorus,
the chemistry and clashes between mother and child – they never
quite come together, leaving us with an ambitious but confused production.
'normal' The Elephant Man, Hackney
of the focus being on the deformed Merrick and his travails, it is
the Elephant Man as metaphor for the society of which he was a part
that truly resonates.
sensitivity, maximum fuss Contains Violence, Lyric
there was plenty of grumbling after the show, people were still unwilling
to remove their headphones once the piece was over. Off the back of
PunchDrunk’s hugely successful ventures, there’s a real
thirst for the audience to be taken out of their comfort zone.
fucked indeed Fucked, Old Red Lion,
F comes across as someone who would be quite annoying as a friend,
her observations on men, sexuality and life in general often ring
horribly true, as does her propensity for disastrous relationships.
mouthpiece Testing the Echo, Tricycle
play’s opening is a lot darker and more urgent than scenes that
follow it: we watch young Mahmood incarcerated and ordered to pray.
Edgar teases out our prejudices: he urges us to believe this is some
sort of extremist training, and it is only later we learn that Mahmood
has been locked away to break his drug addiction.
Essence of Barker I Saw Myself, Vanburgh
is not naturalism, but almost the sound of interlocking soliloquies,
or perhaps spoken arias, given the heightened emotional states and
the musical precision of the language and vocal performances. This
is a fascinating and quite unique work from a writer who remains a
challenge to received notions of what theatre should be.
highly-enjoyable fluff The Internationalist,
The Gate, London
Cowan's Lowell pretending to stand outside in the cold waiting for
a taxi is the first time in ages that I've seen an actor on stage,
indoors, who has actually looked like they might be outdoors in the
elements; the way he stands in relation to the imagined space is spot
the garden centres, again hell, again a headless soldier Shoot / Get Treasure / Repeat
- v.3, various venues, London
refusal to simply trot out uninterrogated truisms of either side,
plus the impressive array of recurring devices which bind the plays
together, confirm his reputation as an impressive thinker as well
as a leading writer.
interrupted Bliss (Félicité),
Royal Court, London
tone of the piece is at once playful and horribly serious - the same
sort of sarcastic, ironic voice as the one that permeates Martin Crimp's
more post-modern offerings, with a fair amount of Chuck Palaniuk-style
viscera thrown in for good measure.
nasal weasel complains bitterly Instructions for Modern Living,
vision of the world, unless he is being ironic – in which case
he might want to flag it up a bit so was can all enjoy the joke –
is pretty much that capitalism sucks and we are all powerless.
execution of a household pet God of Carnage, Gielgud
the son of a very wealthy couple both working in professions typically
characterised as right-leaning (corporate law and wealth management)
has smacked the child of a self-made man and a bleeding heart liberal
in the face. Could it get any more obvious? Well, no; but it can get
several layers more opaque.
Vanya York Theatre Royal, York
start to finish, the cast, particularly Nicholas Le Prevost as the
eponymous Vanya, make the most of their characters’ sardonic
wit to highlight their underlying plight. These characters feel real.
They feel like old friends. We cannot help but wonder what happens
to them after the curtain has fallen.
Unknown Soldier Arcola, London
the characters struggle to convince both doctor and audience of their
reliability, we begin to realise it is the people we like whose memories
we trust. It is a sobering thought – and one which can be explored
well on-stage. Armesto is sensitive to the stage’s unique ability
to morph at will as time slips by.
time, nice time Barbican, London
this world (in our world) the whole of human history, every story,
every epic tragedy, every personal anecdote has been appropriated
by cinema. Anything that was once truthful has been borrowed and structured
and given its own manipulatively emotive soundtrack.
Hour When We Knew Nothing of Each Other National Theatre, London
a sense of progression builds. Though largely opaque, the piece is
clearly up to something. That’s not to say there’s a definite
hidden meaning which audiences are being asked to crack, but nonetheless,
there appears to be some conscious choice behind the particular events
that unfold - while deliberately seeming random.
Harold Pinter Soho Theatre, London
in the audience’s fulsome response to this cri de coeur, I felt
an unsettling air of self-congratulation at merely being present at
this event. But beyond the deafening focus on their sad yet valiant
circumstances, the company have created a show that says as much about
their audience as it does about their political overlords.
Scarborough Royal Court, London
Atkins as the first teacher and Jack O’Connell as her young
lover are quite brilliant, perfectly capturing the exact blend of
cockiness, nerves, showing off and sheer sexual vertigo. It hardly
matters from moment to moment that the play isn’t really saying
very much. It is fascinating enough just watching the action unfold.
Queen of Carthage Kensington Palace, London
one dining scene there is an incongruous little set of steps set up
against the dining room table so that at the appropriate moment a
character can step easily up on to the table top to make a grand speech.
Something about this seemed to sum up the whole evening for me.
Woyzeck Queen Elizabeth Hall, London
one sequence where Woyzeck is experimented on by a crazed doctor,
the performer, Jae-Won Kwon, lies supported by two chairs at his shoulders
and feet, and remains rigid; almost suspended in mid-air. That this
lasts for about five minutes is even more startling.
Now? National Theatre, London
relationships fall apart gracefully and it’s all good fun to
watch. Still, I’m not sure what marks this piece for stage rather
than screen. Coxon certainly has a sharp wit and Dominic Rowan’s
Miles is gifted some great quips. But though Rowan’s character
is funny, he’s never quite real.
of the Dead / Helter Skelter Bush Theatre, London
Skelter builds up to the most obvious conclusion since, well, Land
of the Dead. As soon as the wife figure walks in with an enormous
pregnancy, in a bright, white dress and sits at a table ostentatiously
laid with steak knives, and her cheating husband pleads: 'Will you
stop? Please?', we know where this is going.
Boy Soho Theatre, London
spite of its hurried exposition, largely immaterial middle and sudden
ending, White Boy captures something of the listlessness, futility
and the accidental escalations of aggression that mark out teenage
Young Man Trafalgar Studios, London
is Woolf’s careful observations and sharp, restrained wit which
set this piece apart. He also has a keen sense for the stage’s
potential and never misses a theatrical trick. Woolf’s directing
is powerful yet never overbearing; the mimed sequences are slick to
the point that the four actors sometimes feel like one.
It Ended Camden People's Theatre, London
is rare to see something in a theatre these days that is so unapologetically
straight-forward, linear and narrative-driven. All the more remarkable
given that the piece was devised by the company and director Emily
and the Beanstalk Barbican, London
something being marketed as a posh panto - and I swear in the audience
with which I saw it, there was honestly a seven-year-old boy wearing
plus-fours - this was very much stuck in tabloid culture, with re-heated
Catherine Tate routines, jokes about TV programmes and adverts.
Wedding Barbican, London
is a haunting absence of humanity in this disturbing little world.
The smooth, near-perfect manipulation of the puppets is a striking
contrast to the halting, juddery movement of their creations –
crawling in stylised bursts across their tattered landscape.
sur le monde Purcell Room, South Bank, London
than recognising allusions, one is constantly drawing and re-drawing
a kind of narrative network of relationships between the six performers.
While the whole is not seeking to create a ‘story’ in
any traditional sense of the word, there is a sense of progression,
Doble Barbican, London
me this is what the Mime festival is all about. A confrontation with
something startling and barely explicable (I have undoubtedly failed
here). An absurd and hugely enjoyable spectacle that does not announce
its meaning like a political address, but haunts you with a series
of mesmerising movements and images and ideas.
Umeda/S20 Barbican, London
presents footage of Mr Umeda busting more of his moves in front of
a selection of gritty urban landscapes and tranquil ocean views, along
with another thumping industrial soundtrack. The piece as a whole
is oddly suggestive of Justin Timberlake crossed with Ian Curtis dancing
in a Nine Inch Nails video.
Time Y Touring Theatre
there are young people who continue to use the word ‘gay’
in a derogatory fashion, to denote their distaste. Of course, given
the overwhelmingly enthusiastic response from the schools, that is
not a word that could be used to describe Full Time.
in Ruins Soho Theatre, London
Neilson's collaboration with the RSC is as frustrating as it is enjoyable.
A grotesque, deliciously sordid, incoherent montage of metropolitan
Christmas clichés slung loosely over the season's most inevitable
narrative, that of the fallen man and his redemption.
Women of Troy National Theatre, London
this production achieves is both a viciously lucid telling of the
story and a sublime comment on human capacity for inflicting suffering,
and what the effects of that suffering actually look like up close.
The Arsonists Royal Court, London
applied to the question of what middle-class liberals should be doing
in the face of Islamist terrorism, suddenly the play's amusing satire
of terribly English attempts not to offend start to look and sound
a lot more like Martin Amis’s recent 'thought experiment' or
the paranoid horrors of Melanie Philips’ Londonistan.
King Lear New London Theatre, London
real revelation comes when Lear and Cordelia are reunited - yes, the
scene is written for maximum tear-jerk factor, but few productions
come this close to reducing a whole audience - doubtless already familiar
with the play - to a sobbing, blubbering mass.
The Family Plays: A Double Bill Royal Court, London
we look for the creeping subtext of incest or abuse, then laugh at
the absurdity of the OTT demonstrative affection before finally starting
to worry that maybe other countries really have worked out how to
be happy without being barbed, ironic or reserved.
Rent Duke of York's Theatre, London
chorus delivers a better performance than most of the lead actors,
leading me to believe the casting of a few popular names is nothing
more than a ploy to draw in an impressionable young crowd to a show
that has already failed twice in the West End. It is a passion-lacking,
sexless and joyless experience.
Dealer's Choice Menier Chocolate Factory, London
about Samuel West's production is colourful and loud, with a keen
sense of fun; the pumping music he threads through the production
and the expansive performances he encourages from his actors keep
the audience wide awake, if not particularly moved.
All About My Mother The Old Vic, London
a great film to the stage is a tall order. If you’re going to
do it, you must have a good reason. A reason that must run deeper
than an attempt to make a traditionally stuffy and elitist establishment
look cooler and more down with the kids. Especially when the kids
can’t afford a good seat.
Joe Guy Soho Theatre, London
succeeds by ditching his old life, his accent and eventually his moral
compass. While the play uses his specific racial identity as a starting
point for these events, in the final analysis it is impossible to
read the play as anything other than a curiously old-fashioned morality
Present Laughter National Theatre, London
I deeply dislike casting according to physical charm, it would not
be unkind to say that this is an unusually unglamorous cast for a
Coward play. It’s an interesting experiment - to attempt to
play such superficial froth as if it had been written in 19th century
Russia - but one which yields mixed results.
War Horse National Theatre, London
the play isn’t ashamed to have a big heart at its centre. It
is a play about love, and about how love can make normally fragile
humans to endure dreadful suffering in search of the thing they love.
In this case it happens to be a horse. It could just have easily and
more usually would have been a girl or boy.
Kebab Royal Court, London
by little we’re moved away from a kind of Romanian immigrant
Shopping and Fucking to something much more domestic. Pinteresque,
almost. Gradually, as Bogdan moves in with Voicu and Madalina, the
three work up into a situation resembling a queasy cross between Entertaining
Mr Sloane and The Servant.
Macbeth Gielgud Theatre, London
is ironic that theatre tends to be rather grown-up and serious, largely
ignoring genre fripperies like horror and the supernatural. Goold
reminds us that we’re perfectly credulous about such things
elsewhere:cinema has a long history of scaring out of our wits with
things we don’t believe in at all in the normal run of things.
Subway Lyric Hammersmith, London
with wry wit, Scots inflections and performances of extraordinary
verbal and physical richness, Subway is a story about how families
don’t talk – about how a son may never really know his
father. It’s also about a socialist-revolutionary uprising led
by pensioners. And it’s about Scotland’s smoking ban.
Rhinoceros Royal Court, London
takes plenty of time to faff around setting up the scenario, and the
early scenes can become a little tiresome. It all rather depends on
one’s fondness for quaint, fussy, bookish French comedy. Mine,
I confess, is limited. One gets the impression that translator Martin
Crimp’s sympathies may also lie elsewhere.
Quality Tracey Neuls Shoe Boutique, London
haven’t ever rolled around with a shoe box making gibbon sex
noises. But Quality manages to convince, and of course this play isn’t
really about shoes, its about attitudes to the consumerist society,
and so this first airing of Avila’s work seems to merit Raaste’s
six year battle to bring it before us.
Life After Scandal Hampstead Theatre, London
feels that in order to get the interviewers to talk, Soans threw nothing
but underarm balls while offering tea and sympathy. There is a spark
though when the words of Guardian journalist David Leigh, who broke
the Jonathan Aitken story, are intercut with Aitken’s personal
attacks on him and vice versa.
Awake and Sing Almeida Theatre, London
problem here is playwright Clifford Odets' characters, which at times
verge close to stereotype. The trickiest is grandpa Jacob, who’s
handed a number of fairly corny lines: ‘Do what is in your heart
and you carry in yourself a revolution!’ Perhaps this could
prove inspiring in another play, but the sentiment ends up sounding
Richard III Southwark Playhouse, London
amplified drumming is one nice touch of many. Another neat idea is
the little puppets which are used to depict the murders carried out
by Richard and his cronies. And if the show hadn’t been designed
with massive numbers of primary school age children in mind, these
moments could have been made much more violent and gory.
Fragments Young Vic, London
of the most surprising aspects of this show was its audience, with
the Young Vic hosting the most varied crowd I’ve seen in a while.
Despite its variety, Beckett’s plays are so stripped down that
the audience reacted collectively throughout. One could feel the spectators
respond on a united, basic level.
Business Pleasance Theatre, London
the play aims to show the three foreigners the common ground they
share, without an actual plot there is a distinct lack of drama, tension
or suspense. What we’re left with is a series of conversations
and while mildly interesting, the characters are so stereotypical
that no surprises come about.
The Ugly One Royal Court, London
terrifically enjoyable Mark Lockyer turns in a series of very funny
studies of the self-satisfied, while the intangible transformations
which Amanda Drew uses to essay the difference between a foxy housewife
and a 78-year-old nymphomaniac plutocrat are quite astonishing.
Diary of a Madman Rosemary Branch Theatre, London
Better have adapted Gogol's short story into a monologue. The notes
tell us that the company has taken inspiration from Samuel Beckett
and their productions concentrate as much on the visual as the textual.
This is promising. Ultimately though, the acting and direction are
The Merchant of Venice Arcola Theatre, London
ideas go, this isn’t an especially promising one, although it
does add a potentially interesting new layer to the play, and meta-theatrics
- the business of watching actors performing being actors acting,
while other actors pretend to be their audience - can yield thrilling
results. Not here.
A Disappearing Number Barbican, London
the way the play invokes ideas of truth as allied to beauty, the attraction
(and disintegration) of opposing relationships, the passage of humans
along the pathway of infinity, and, a favourite theme of the director
Simon McBurney, the fundamental interconnectedness of all things.
Grimeborn Opera Arcola Theatre, London
it far-fetched to imagine that any piece of music can be staged and
shown in a theatre? These performances outlined three different visions
of love and desire, where music is both the starting and final point
of a human adventure… the adventure of musical composition itself.
Chatroom / Citizenship National Theatre, London
confirms Mark Ravenhill as theatre’s finest satirist of New
Labour’s Britain. He has a brilliant ear for the absurdities
of official ‘speak’. A teacher tells a gay pupil in search
of guidance: ‘You know the school policy: we celebrate difference.
You report bullies. Everything’s OK. You’re OK.’
The Emperor Jones National Theatre, London
never gets a sense of Jones as a tyrant. When a white trader catches
an elderly lady trying to escape from his palace, she breaks down
in floods of tears. Nothing we see of Jones justifies such a reaction.
Paterson Joseph never essays anything beyond a sort of light, comic
Festival Fringe 2007
Culture Wars' theatre editor Andrew Haydon's further reflections on
this year's Fringe, see his blog, Postcards from the gods.
Coat Underbelly, Edinburgh Festival
production offers perhaps the freshest take on Gogol seen for some
time, since it takes the unusual step of intercutting this tale of
a man driven mad by the loss of his perfect frock coat with a narrative
charting the rise and fall of a relationship between two young professionals
in contemporary Britain.
Damascus/ Ravenhill for Breakfast Traverse, Edinburgh Festival Fringe
witty and wearing its evidently thorough intellectual credentials
lightly, this is an intelligent bit of writing. It is also a useful,
if not definitive, addition to the rapidly growing corpus of plays
concerning the meeting of cultures in the Middle East.
Dickens Unplugged: The Complete Works of Charles Dickens (Abridged) Assembly
Rooms, Edinburgh Festival Fringe
audience may have been mainly people over the age of 60 – the
Dickens-reading demographic is not as broad as it could be, even after
the success of recent BBC adaptations - but this show is fun and energetic
enough to entertain Fringe-goers of all ages.
Escaping Hamlet Underbelly, Edinburgh Festival Fringe
passion for theatre has been expanded into a major theme that drives
the production, his selfishness and inability to commit attributed
not to madness but to the desire of a young person to escape and find
a creative path of his own.
The Ethics of Progress / Presumption Underbelly / Theatre Workshop,
Edinburgh Festival Fringe
Spooner genially comments, this stuff is pretty much mind-blowing.
Spooner then goes on to consider what teleportation might mean for
humanity. His basic premise is that progress is never stoppable. Once
something has been invented, it can’t easily be forgotten, hidden
La Femme est Morte Pleasance, Edinburgh Festival Fringe
lifts this show several notches above its competitors is the subtle
use and sheer range of the pop-cultural quotation deployed by Shoshona
Currier’s sharp script: Phaedre compares her early love of Theseus
to ‘Katie watching Tom in Risky Business’; there are allusions
to Britney, Paris and Diana.
Hippo World Guest Book Pleasance, Edinburgh Festival
manages to extract long stretches of jaw-achingly funny material and
moments of strangely haunting poetry, while his honouring the internet
convention of using capitalisation to convey shouting by ACTUALLY
SHOUTING QUITE OFTEN is a masterstroke.
Hugh Hughes in... Pleasance, Edinburgh Festival
ideas are simply, well, simple, and fail to strike any chords at all.
Evidently there is a growing fashion solipsistic and twee clowning,
but you can count me out.
Limbo / On Wonderland Underbelly, Edinburgh Festival Fringe
one-woman monologues, both set in Northern Ireland, and apparently
written by writers who know one another. Mercifully, the comparisons
end there. As an exercise in contrasts this is an object lesson in
the sheer disparity of ways to tackle a monologue successfully.
Long Time Dead Traverse, Edinburgh Festival Fringe
various personal demons driving each of the characters are interesting
enough, but it is difficult to resist the sense that much the same
sort of thing has been seen many times before, not least on Casualty.
Mile End Pleasance, Edinburgh Festival Fringe
team Liam Jarvis and Hannah Barker combine flawless lighting and sound
design, highly original physical theatre techniques and a simple yet
deeply affecting plot to create a piece of work that will leave audiences
shell-shocked long after they leave the theatre.
The Pharmacist Sweet @ the Grassmarket, Edinburgh Festival Fringe
show centres on the Pharmacist, an ambitious and cynical dispenser
of panaceas, who confides her views to a work experience student,
Frank. Sparse props - a counter, shelves, boxes and bottles of pills
– are all that Russell needs to depict the various characters
in this pharmaceutical farce.
A History of Scotland (in 60 Minutes or Less) Underbelly, Edinburgh Festival
is a great children’s show because it doesn’t fall into
the trap of patronising its audience. There are plenty of very silly
jokes but also many aimed at an adult crowd, with particularly funny
jibes at the world of theatre. Occasional over-the-top moments do
not ruin this extremely fun show.
Simple Girl Underbelly, Edinburgh Festival Fringe
Wilson is simply astonishing. The way in which she suddenly widens
her eyes at a particular moment or undercuts a word with a slight
tone or sarcasm or contempt is strangely elaborate and utterly bewitching.
Special Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh Festival Fringe
piece acknowledges early on that it is a depiction of one specific
relationship which exists on a spectrum of preferences in the BDSM
continuum. It is not especially a ‘defence’ – should
a defence be needed - of the practices depicted. Nor is it an explicit
championing of them.
One-Man Star Wars Trilogy Underbelly, Edinburgh Festival Fringe
energy is impressive as he races through the trilogy. Not much attention
to paid to plot, the assumption being that we all know what happens
already. The focus is on the one-liners, the bits from the films that
everyone remembers and drunkenly quotes at parties.
Tomas Pape Sweet @ the Grassmarket, Edinburgh
play balances hints of childhood suffering with a criticism of society’s
desire to dwell on such things. As Tomas says towards the end of the
play, ‘Memories have altered but something remains, like the
first layer of a painting.’
Walworth Farce Traverse, Edinburgh Festival Fringe
Enda Walsh has often triumphed in the past with pieces that make extensive
use of monologues, Walworth is much more dialogue driven. The interactions
between the three men and the uncomprehending stranger in their midst
are absolutely central.
In the Club Hampstead Theatre, London
narrative is so well plotted that at times the audience is left genuinely
astonished at the sleights of hand performed before them - the way
that casual, throwaway comments lead to fatal repercussions is near
magical in its deftness.
The Hothouse National Theatre, London
the play speeds along, the characters slip into an underworld they
neither acknowledge nor understand. Director Ian Rickson ensures the
patients’ rebellion surges beneath the main action – their
screams become more pronounced, the lighting more subversive and the
spaces more enclosed.
The Merchant of Venice Globe Theatre, London
rom-com fun in a heady atmosphere of sexual licence, underpinned by
a tragic story of lost male love and an atmosphere of violent racial
hatred. Quite an astonishing evening, all told. But in spite of the
potential seriousness, one which is essentially an enormous amount
The Great Theatre of the World Arcola Theatre, London
real coup de tat comes about half way through, when the screens on-stage
slam open and reveal God sat at his throne to watch the show. It is
here he remains for the play’s duration; God transfixed by his
performers and us in turn transfixed by him.
Elling Trafalgar Studios, London
Simm’s performance is hugely watchable, if somehow off-kilter.
Much of this strangeness can be accounted for by simple characterisation,
but there is still something about his performance which seems to
date from an earlier era, most reminiscent of Kenneth Williams offering
one of his rare ‘straight’ roles.
Bicycle Camden People's Theatre, London
the memory of an atrocity the whole of the landscape seems to have
withered; we meet disturbed children, a family of lepers, a soldier
lamed on the way home from war, the ghost of an old man, all well
played by Kang’s hard-working and committed company of actors.
Angels in America, Parts
One and Two Lyric Hammersmith, London
play of this scope does not need much layered on top of it: its esoteric,
spanning locations and ambitious content are more than enough for
the audience to cope with. Instead of holding back and letting the
play work for itself, director Daniel Kramer pushes it a little too
Rafta, Rafta National Theatre, London
claustrophobia and frustration experienced by Atul and Vina as they
start their lives together in the Dutt family home are mirrored by
Tim Hatley’s set, all three-piece-suites and brash carpets.
There is always someone roaring up and down the stairs, knocking at
the front door, shouting through the house.
Baghdad Wedding Soho Theatre, London
the pace steps up an order of magnitude; you can sense the relief
from the cast that they finally have something to do. And there is
tension, and drama, and pain. Brutal Americans and murderous Iraqi
insurgents to hate, with flashes of humanity lighting up the coldness
and numbness on each side.
Men Without Shadows Finborough Theatre, London
course the last thing you want from a play like this is faux emotion
and noisy overacting, but you gotta give your audience something.
Otherwise the experience becomes almost completely intellectual rather
than engaging. And there are textbooks on existentialism for that.
The Pain and the Itch Royal Court, London
variously as ‘a withering look at phoney liberal values’
and ‘a hilarious social satire about liberal hypocrisy’,
in the end, it seems that its satirical impulse is motivated merely
by a more pious form of hairshirt liberalism than that espoused by
the play’s principal characters.
The Lord of the Rings Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London
multi-layered rising and falling, revolving stage is impressive; the
sheer array of lighting, smoke machines and amplification is remarkable;
and there are nice touches - the realisation of the Black Riders from
Mordor especially so. But, crumbs, there is some hogwash too.
Longwave Lyric Hammersmith, London
is classic Chris Goode territory - stories of unarticulated, almost
intangible desire being played in a theatrical context which allows
for bigger, more metaphorical ideas to materialise around them until
a kind of critical mass develops. It is theatre that demands and rewards
Floating Barbican, London
seemingly meandering narrative allows Hugh Hughes to bombard the audience
with a series of wonderful archaeological fragments, bits and pieces
of remembered past, that slowly accumulate to create an intimate little
universe entirely of Hughes’ imagining.
Cymbeline Barbican, London
this does not feel like Shakespeare a lot of the time – Declan
Donnellan has a wonderful way of stripping away the myth and really
dealing with the nuts and bolts of the Bard’s text – is
testament to Donnellan’s tireless and astute directing and his
company’s robust and fearless acting.
Macbeth Regent's Park Open Air Theatre, London
context is non-specific and the aesthetic uninspiring: overtones of
modern warfare (bomb noises, army 4-wheel-drive, camouflage netting)
are cobbled with medieval hag costumes for the witches and lilac trousers
with tartan sash-belts for the warlike Scots.
Ya'akobi and Leidental Oval House Theatre, London
much of the play the three characters follow each other around the
louche set with fixed grins, occasionally bursting into song, in what
too often seems like a slowed-down Benny Hill sketch. I guess this
sort of thing is an acquired taste.
The Christ of Coldharbour Lane Soho Theatre, London
place names are bathetic when they are familiar enough. ‘The
Messiah? Here in Galilee? Come orf it.’ And when it came to
Jesus Christ, bathos was kind of the point. To his credit, then, Oladipo
Agboluaje seems to recognise that Brixton is not an unlikely place
for a Second Coming at all.
Taking Care of Baby Hampstead Theatre, London
play goes further than offering a window on questionable psychological
theorising. It raises questions about the nature of truth, and deliberate
complicity with lies; love and trust; the ethics of reporting, the
ethics of verbatim theatre and he way the media treats stories about
Nakamitsu Gate Theatre, London
begins from an understanding of the impossibility of replicating the
drama that he has chosen to translate. Instead his writing infuses
a sense of the fundamentally inexpressible Japanese original into
the familiar Western structure of playwright-director-performers.
The Lower Depths Finborough Theatre, London
is easy to understand why the play continues to enjoy frequent revivals
in Russia. 100 years away from its context and geographically displaced,
The Lower Depths is remains thought-provoking and socio-historically
fascinating, but proves not to be a great play.
Philistines National Theatre, London
Kinnear’s Pyotr manages the neat trick of commanding the stage
with a character who spends most of his time shrinking from confrontation,
while Ruth Wilson as Tanya seems at times to be able to draw the entire
auditorium into her grief, by simply sitting and silently weeping.
Othello The Globe, London
Milam’s understated directing means it really falls to the actors
to win over the audience, and Tim McInnerny's Iago is the most real
character on-stage. He pulls off an intelligent reading of Iago –
in other words, he makes Shakespeare easy to understand.
Alaska Royal Court, London
early scene cleverly contrasts Frank’s old-fashioned racism
with the unthinking postmodern ironic stance of his peers. As he explains:
‘I didn’t work and save up for three years to go clubbing
with Pakis’, a room-mate staggers drunkenly around in fancy
dress blackface as the A-Team’s BA Baracus.
Sizwe Banzi is Dead Barbican, London
understated and respectful directing – he leaves a lot for the
audience to imagine and decipher for themselves – makes this
a consistently moving, if only occasionally provocative piece. Unfortunately,
we’ve just come to like and engage with the characters when
the play ends.
Leaves of Glass Soho Theatre, London
to their separation, Steven and Debbie share a wonderfully strained
and vicious dinner together. Packed with anger and restrained hate,
the dialogue infuses these characters with an energy and enigma that’s
missing in their earlier scenes.
Carthage Must Be Destroyed Traverse Theatre, London
consul Cato, superbly played by Tony Guilfoyle, is an intriguing political
character. He acts with kindness to a wounded hostage, before ordering
his execution minutes later because of laws and necessities of war.
My Child Royal Court, London
dialogue is clever, harsh, pared-down – wholly naturalistic,
but smartly crafted into pulsing, relentless rhythms, while the plot
displays an admirable willingness to go beyond the linear, embracing
metaphorical elements and occasional meta-theatrics.
Landscape With Weapon National Theatre, London
occasional lapses into simple, point-by-point arguments on politics
or morality, the play retains a warm centre in which the dilemma is
the more interesting for not being addressed directly, but depicted
as a spat between two brothers whose relationship itself is the subject
of tricky negotiation.
That Face Royal Court, London
Court has no more solidly done plays about junkie-bum-rape any more
than it now intends to produce nothing but wall-to-wall Rattigan.
But it was dangerously close to becoming the perception, and new artistic
director Dominic Cooke was right to challenge it.
Called to Account Tricycle Theatre, London
play is a representation of reality, albeit a reality that was wholly
manufactured by the theatre in the first place. It is a intriguing
area to have moved verbatim theatre into, not least because it focuses
our attention on the very stageyness of a real trial, with all its
traditions, and public show.
The Wonderful World of Dissocia Royal Court, London
play is a persistent theme: Lisa also meets a redundant scapegoat,
who explains her minor posterior insect infestation by telling her,
'Time flies, when you're having fun, tend to cluster round your bum'.
Blame Arcola Theatre, London
can try to tackle poverty but how do you fight malaise? No wonder
the characters end up mouthing the relentlessly soul-sapping prejudices
of the writers, and spiral inevitably toward tragedy. Blame thinks
it is a kitchen sink drama, but is actually somewhere between Greek
tragedy and dystopian farce.
Hot Zone BAC, London
the point of Hot Zone to pathologise war, to probe the minds of the
people on both sides of the electrified tongs for some neurosis? The
play, in fact, is more impressionistic than anything, painting a hazy
picture of the brutality of the 'war on terror' and its uncertain,
unstructured, dislocated nature.
The Caretaker Tricycle Theatre, London
Bradley's gaunt face and bandy stature equip him with a perfect physicality.
He has the impeccable comic timing which is crucial for the part and
his Davies displays outrageous facility for graceless selfishness,
which pays homage to Wilfred Brambell's old man Steptoe.
Someone Else's Shoes Soho Theatre, London
anyone really ever take off their Mercury shoes? Mary's attitude is
to 'fight the bastards', but although her struggle comes across as
heartfelt, her character is more comical than anything else. Jed on
the other hand, seems to think more on the lines of, 'if you can't
beat 'em, join 'em'.
Don't Look Now Lyric Hammersmith, London
Bailey and Nell Leyshon's approach to 'Don't Look Now' is to go back
to basics. They take the bold step of eschewing changes made by Nicolas
Roeg in his highly-thought-of 1973 film adaptation, and returning
to Daphne du Maurier's original short story.
Things of Dry Hours The Gate, London
play is filled with the rich fermented cadences and metaphors of the
Deep South. Its language spills images like molasses - but this very
richness, gone untempered, becomes too much to stomach. Motifs - such
as the metaphor of an apple - turn into fixations within the text.
Attempts On Her Life National Theatre, London
not often you find avant garde theatre that makes you want to stage
dive. The overall effect is like being hit by a force ten gale. It
is so concentrated, there is such a media overload, that it is nigh-on
impossible to process all the ideas with which you are assaulted.
A Midsummer Night's Dream Roundhouse, London
critics have claimed this production makes an iron-clad case for Shakespeare's
universality. In fact it does quite the reverse; if all the most successful
elements of the show are wholly extrinsic and more than half the play
is missing - in what way is Shakespeare's universality being asserted?
King of Hearts Hampstead Theatre, London
are cynical! The royals are an anachronism! Britain is being overrun
by Muslim terrorists! The Church is too liberal! Britain is run by
a gay liberal mafia! The police are racist! Politicians are racist!
Politicians are eroding our civil liberties! Politicians aren't racist
Generations Young Vic, London
play begins: in the centre of the room a domestic kitchen scene unveils.
Three generations laugh and tease each other as they prepare their
dinner. 'Oh God!' exclaim the daughters, laughing as their mum and
dad flirt with each other. Then a strange thing happens.
Mr Sole Abode Lyric Hammersmith, London
lives in a fridge. The fridge, exquisitely designed by Faulty Optic,
could be a new home for Stig of the Dump or Great Uncle Bulgaria.
It's the perfect den of childhood fantasy - safe, contained, womb-like.
It is also an expression of Sole's dispossession and peripheral isolation.
The Eleventh Capital Royal Court, London
play makes an interesting addition to the current debate raging over
whether British Theatre will ever stage a 'right-wing play'. Here
is a play which more or less explicitly attacks a socialist state
for its policies and their effects on its population, though the playwright's
own politics are not conspicuous in the piece.
The Soldier's Fortune Old Vic, London
terms of the performances themselves, David Bamber as Sir Jolly Jumble
is perhaps the worst offender, taking camp mannerisms and 'r's pronounced
as 'w's as the sole basis for his characterisation - turning a slightly
sinister Restoration pimp into a fey Roy Jenkins.
Ship of Fools Theatre 503, London
may leave unsure of the destination of the journeys, but you will
have reached that place without any preaching or forced moralising.
Nothing in the play is as black and white as a papal investigation
might hope it to be.
Sit and Shiver Hackney Empire, London
Jewish hospitality is enacted with fake tea and invisible pastries
- revealing the situation as one without ultimate substance. The dances
of welcome, the choreography of shock, all amount to a parade of emotions
Berkoff is keen to caricature and strip of their sham.
Tangentes Barbican, London
humanising a legend, Farr has shrunk it to the size of a pantomime.
For a play that includes stage directions like, ‘Hanuman leaps
the ocean in one bound’, you can’t help feeling that casting an ensemble more committed to and at ease with physical performance
might have been a good idea.
Ramayana Lyric Hammersmith, London
humanising a legend, Farr has shrunk it to the size of a pantomime.
For a play that includes stage directions like, ‘Hanuman leaps the ocean in one bound’, you can’t help feeling that casting an ensemble more
committed to and at ease with physical performance
might have been a good idea.
Boeing-Boeing Comedy Theatre, London
theory a French, Sixties farce about a middle-aged architect with
three air hostess fiancées, which trades heavily for its comedy on
some frankly dubious sexual, national and regional stereotypes, should
have been consigned to the dustbin of history by subsequent advances
in social thinking. And yet...
The Glass Menagerie
Apollo Theatre, London
her lengthy exchange with Umbers, Amanda Hale's Laura gradually gains
in confidence and we are with her, rooting for her, willing her out
of her shell. The moment when her dreams come crashing down is absolutely
choking. As is Ed Stoppard’s electric final monologue.
Underneath the Lintel Duchess Theatre, London
number of critics have likened this global detective work to that
in Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, and there are certainly shades
of that American fascination with European myth and history, but in
terms of an organising principle, this is more like Dave Gorman’s Googlewhack Adventure.
The Man of Mode National Theatre, London
Fopling is, in the Etherege original, a ludicrous, preening, effete
fool. Here too, Nicholas Hytner has taken pains to render him as an
utterly laughable Nathan Barley-alike. However, thanks to Kinnear's
charisma and brilliant comic timing, this Sir Fopling becomes a kind
of loveable David Brent figure.
Fanny and Faggot Finborough Theatre, London
potential for a play about Mary Bell to score points, apportion blame
and lecture hardly needs pointing out, so it is to Thorne's enormous
credit that the piece remains so understated, light and natural; while
offering almost non-stop complexity in the transactions/negotiations
between the four characters.
Twelfth Night Old Vic, London
Hall infuses the production with foolery and disorder to contrast
with the play's yearning and hunger. It lurches breathlessly from
deep emotion to farce, reinforcing only that 'nothing that is so,
is so' and carrying the audience alternately in empathetic and merry
connection with the protagonists.
Ruth ML Brock
Faultlines Union Theatre, London
seeds of the plot are sown to some nice touches of humour. Disappointingly
the rest of the script feels forced. Yet the dilemmas of the piece
and the characters' journeys are effectively set up and occasionally
convincingly illustrated, even though the overall effect lacks flavour.
Ruth ML Brock
Happy Days National Theatre, London
result of the transformation in Act Two is electrifying. Fiona Shaw's
voice has shifted to a harsher pitch and the tension is on an altogether
different level. We are almost as trapped as she is, our eyes fixed
in that vast space only upon her face.
Ghosts The Gate Theatre, London
actors each respond differently to the set - some choosing to ignore
their extreme proximity, while others indulge in close-up televisual
naturalism. The overall effect is of casts from wildly different productions
being forced to compete for supremacy in a shoebox.
Antony and Cleopatra RSC at the Novello Theatre, London
does not need to be the image of beauty, but she does need to have
a sexual power and an air of threat. Harriet Walter's performance
is too much Jennifer Aniston, not enough Angelina Jolie.
Cymbeline Lyric Hammersmith, London
add a good deal of supplemental fooling to the play. When Posthumous'
letter accusing Imogen of infidelity reaches her, she misreads the
first line: 'Thy mistress, Pisanio, hath played the / strumpet in
my bed', responding: 'But, I can't even play the trumpet'.
Product: World Remix / What Would Judas Do?
Bush Theatre, London
Lee's What Would Judas Do? is a sort of alternative gospel, less a
provocation or a show of defiance than an attempt to get to grips
with religion from the point of view of a practically-minded man with
little patience for superstition.
The History Boys Wyndham's Theatre, London
Hytner's skilful direction ensures the production avoids the rule
that second casts in the West End will suffer from severe inferiority.
If the new class of history boys felt that they had big shoes to fill,
they certainly rise to the occasion.
Ruth ML Brock
The Enchanted Pig Young Vic, London
music swells, the stage revolves, the actresses run about in platforms,
black lace and Burberry, the costumes sparkle and shimmer, the pig
wallows about in real mud in a pit on the stage, characters pop up
in the audience and from small balconies, the heroine flies about
with an inside-out umbrella...