Review: The Rivals

By John Nathan, December 2, 2010

In Peter Hall's revival of Sheridan's 1775 classic, Penelope Keith and Peter Bowles deliver exactly the qualities that audiences both want and expect.

Keith's linguistically challenged Mrs Malaprop is in endearing denial of her own absurdity; Bowles's Sir Anthony Absolute is the epitome of English suave.


Review: Cinderella

By John Jeffay, November 30, 2010

Fairytale, ballet and the London Blitz come together in this magnificent re-telling of Cinderella.

Acclaimed choreographer and director Matthew Bourne first gave the classic seasonal story a wartime setting in his West End production in 1997. This new, improved version, a New Adventures Production, marks the 70th anniversary of the Blitz and is dedicated to Bourne's father, Jim, who lived through it.


Opera: Adriana Lecouvreur

By Stephen Pollard, November 29, 2010

Adriana Lecouvreur is one of those pieces that you have heard of, and most probably heard an aria or two from, but never actually seen.

Its composer, Francesco Cilea, is usually dismissed as a one-hit-wonder (a particularly stupid insult, since it attacks the victim for being a success; how many opera composers manage even one hit?). But immediately successful as Adriana Lecouvreur was after its premiere in 1902, the fact that it has not been seen at Covent Garden since 1906 shows that it hardly qualifies as a repertory piece.


Review: The Bacchae

By John Jeffay, November 23, 2010

In a moment of madness, Agave tears her son's head from his body and parades it as a trophy.

Mere mortals are playthings of the gods in Greek tragedy, and Agave (Eve Polycarpou) is no exception. Standing centre-stage, her clothes smeared with the blood of her son Pentheus, the King of Thebes, she boasts: "See what a woman can do".

But she is deluded. She believes she has killed a lion as part of an ecstatic ritual with the Bacchae - cult followers of the new god on the block, Dionysus. Then, she realises what she has done and her celebration turns to sobbing.


Review: An Ideal Husband

By John Nathan, November 18, 2010

The central performance in Lindsay Posner's fizzing production is so terrific, I left the theatre not just won over by the exquisite plotting of Oscar Wilde's 1895 satire, but thinking about how different actors can bowl you over for completely different reasons.

I'm going to risk a generalisation. There are, broadly speaking, two kinds of performer. There are those who not only inhabit the role but bring to it something of their own. With Kevin Spacey, for instance, it is a quality that suggests his character mysteriously knows something that everyone else onstage has yet to learn.


Review: Fela!

By John Nathan, November 18, 2010

The National's Olivier arena has been converted into the Lagos Shrine where, in the 1970s, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, the Nigerian creator of Afrobeat, held court, smoked hash, and through his music subverted his country's dictatorship until 1,000 Nigerian troops raided the club.

Director/choreographer Bill T Jones's show, first seen in New York, is infectious stuff, full of pelvis-gyrating dance and deliciously naff '70s outfits worn by the outrageously talented Sahr Ngaujah in the title role. It peaks and drifts in the overlong final third, but resistance to the rhythm is futile.


Opera: Don Giovanni

By Stephen Pollard, November 11, 2010

Have you heard of Rufus Norris? It seems you should have, because Mr Norris is a more important artistic figure than Mozart.

Actually, that is not quite right. Mr Norris thinks he is more important than Mozart. That is the only conclusion I can draw from his production of Don Giovanni at the ENO.


Review: Life After

By John Nathan, November 11, 2010

Lawyer Aaron (Russell Bentley) suffers a crisis of conscience after failing to help a man who later commits suicide. This is the event upon which solicitor-turned-playwright Andrew Olins builds his weakly plotted theme of redemption. Director Benet Catty guides a solid cast through the plot, which includes a Nobel Prize winner's rejection of Judaism. The New End survives, in part, on vanity productions - where authors pay to have their work staged. The best that can be said is that Life After is by no means the worst of them.


Review: The Train Driver

By John Nathan, November 11, 2010

Athol Fugard, a name synonymous with the struggle against apartheid, wrote his latest play (which here he directs) after reading about a mother's suicide. Holding her children, she stepped in front of a South African train. The play imagines the effect on the haunted, white driver (Sean Taylor), who vengefully hunts for the black woman's grave.

Apartheid's legacy hangs like a pall. But the evening would have been more powerful had Fugard's writing matched the cemetery setting's bleak, Beckettian mystery.


Review: The Caretaker

By John Jeffay, November 8, 2010

Harold Pinter's 1960 play often provokes the question among its audiences: "Just what is it all about". Anyone expecting a simple answer will be disappointed.

This absurdist drama - a seminal work in the Pinter canon - remains obstinately resistant to interpretation. Is it about loneliness or power, unfulfilled dreams or the generally depressing awfulness of life? Or maybe all of those things?