Theatre

Review: A Day At The Racists

By John Nathan, March 11, 2010

At the Finborough, Anders Lustgarten's A Day at the Racists is the best new political play of recent times. It reflects uncomfortable realities - not only about why people vote for the BNP, but how the white working-class has been betrayed by the Left.

Remember the misplaced self-congratulation that followed the BBC Question Time with Nick Griffin? The BNP leader's fellow panellists took easy pot shots at him, but failed to address the reason why he attracts votes.

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Review: Moonfleece

By John Nathan, March 11, 2010

Two new plays about the BNP opened this week and with them so did the old debate about whether any play ever changed anything.

"No play in the whole of history, in all the countries of the world, has ever changed a policy of the world," said wise old Peter Brook recently. The director is probably right. But what plays can change is attitudes, as long as it is not obvious that changing attitudes is what the playwright set out to do. This proves to be the Achilles heel of Philip Ridley's Moonfleece which boldly combines the poetical with the political.

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How a clash between a couple of toffs led to birth of Israel

By John Nathan, March 4, 2010

Just over 50 years after Theodore Herzl proclaimed Israel's right to exist in 1897, Israel existed. The steps that led to that historic moment are well documented: The Balfour Declaration in 1917; The League of Nations' Mandate in 1922; the Declaration of Independence in 1948.

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Review: Ghosts

By John Nathan, March 4, 2010

If I were a producer I would want to be the type who puts Ibsen's play about family secrets on in the West End. There is something miraculous about 21st-century attention spans being held with just dialogue set in one bleakly-lit Norwegian room with only the rattle of incessant rain for music. This is a classic feel-bad play.

But I would need a reason to put it on, whether it be the director's vision or the casting. Both are solid here, but neither is the stuff of theatrical triumphs.

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Review: Measure For Measure

February 25, 2010

"Why Measure for Measure?" asked a colleague as we walked into the theatre. It seems I was not the only one wondering why the Almeida, a venue that generally concentrates on mostly modern British and international plays, had turned to Shakespeare.

It is not as if there is a lack of Shakespeare around. But by the time Michael Attenborough's production had reached the interval, no excuse was needed. The reason was obvious. It was clear that Attenborough must have been burning to direct this problem play.

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Austrians hated this playwright — the feeling was mutual

By John Nathan, February 18, 2010

'If they were honest," says Professor Robert Schuster about his fellow Austrians, "they'd like to gas us today just as they did 50 years ago."

Schuster is the Jewish philosopher character in Heldenplatz, the final play written by Austrian dramatist and novelist Thomas Bernhard, who died in 1989. It arrives at the Arcola Theatre in London this month, and it contains many more of Schuster's observations about his fellow countrymen and women. "Inside every Viennese there is a mass murderer," he says. And: "Generally, Austrians are callous and stupid."

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Review: Serenading Louie

By John Nathan, February 18, 2010

Plays about the American dream tend not to end optimistically. Lanford Wilson's articulate 1970 offering, elegantly revived in Simon Curtis's production, brilliantly entwines the lives of two malfunctioning Chicago couples. With sharp wit they question capitalist values and wallow in thirtysomething disillusionment. But is a play about disappointment a tragedy just because a gun goes off in the final act?

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Review: Heldenplatz

By John Nathan, February 18, 2010

For those who see Austria as a country whose small c conservatism hides capital f fascism, Thomas Bernhard's play is a guilty pleasure.

Set in 1988, the year before its author died, the play rakes over Austria's Nazi past and exposes what Bernhard saw as his country's Nazi present. The premiere in Vienna did not go down well. There were protests and President Kurt Waldheim, whose own Nazi past had by then been revealed, condemned the play as an insult to the Austrian people. And so (tee hee) it is.

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Review: Brighton Beach Memoirs

By John Nathan, February 11, 2010

A shockwave went through Broadway last year when a revival of Neil Simon’s 1963 comedy, Brighton Beach Memoirs, one of the New York writer’s best-loved and most often produced plays, closed within a week of opening.

In an era when musicals reign Simon’s witty and warm autobiographical portrait of a Jewish Brooklyn family struggling through the Depression is about as bankable as straight plays get. Yet the $3-million production, despite being well reviewed, still went belly up, making it one of the biggest flops in recent times.

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Review: Really Old Like Forty Five

By John Nathan, February 10, 2010

If ever there were a play that had state-of-the-nation ambitions it is Tamsin Oglesby’s satire about ageing and ageism. But what a missed opportunity this is, not just to be funny about a scary subject, but to say something interesting about a big problem. Oglesby’s vision of the near future sees the old used as guinea pigs for potentially fatal anti-dementia drugs. Paul Ritter provides a high-octane stand-out performance as the minister in charge of pioneering research hospitals where old people are experimented on but die happy.

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