Theatre

Review: Jerusalem

By John Nathan, July 23, 2009

Jez Butterworth’s return to the Royal Court is a full-bloodied, joyous celebration and lament for a diminishing rural England whose wild pagan past is increasingly shackled by health and safety-obsessed councils and developers who tear down magical forests to put up bland estates.
It is set in a Wiltshire glade where Mark Rylance’s delicious dissolute Rooster is a pied-piper drug dealer who supplies the local kids with cocaine, hash and more protection than any pub peddling Bacardi Breezers ever could.

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Review: The Importance Of Being Earnest

By John Nathan, July 16, 2009

No matter who the author, familiarity can breed contempt. Wilde’s tart comedy has suffered from over-exposure almost as much that other classic, Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. But if there is one thing that has marked out Timothy Sheader’s two-year-old regime as artistic director of the Open Air it is the determination to renew familiar works.

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Review: Forbidden Broadway

By John Nathan, July 9, 2009

The Menier Chocolate Factory does not do things by halves, which is why the return to these shores of Gerard Alessandrini’s naughty New York satirical revue has been revamped for London audiences.

True, anyone going to a lot of musicals over here will get most of the jokes about shows over there, such is the crossover between the West End and Broadway.

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Review: Dr Korczak’s Example

By John Nathan, July 9, 2009

David Greig’s compact 75-minute play tells the story of Janusz Korczak, the Jewish paediatrician who founded a Jewish orphanage in the Warsaw Ghetto and eventually chose to die with his charges at Treblinka. It was well received at Manchester’s Royal Exchange last year — deservedly so.

The play falls into that genre of drama that has become a niche within a niche — not just a Holocaust play, but a Holocaust play for young audiences.

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Review: Carrie’s War

By John Nathan, July 2, 2009

There is such a thing as being too faithful to the book. This adaptation of Nina Bawden’s children’s classic about Carrie’s adventure as a wartime evacuee in spooky Wales allows for delicious Welsh accents — except that of an almost inaudible Prunella Scales as the dying Mrs Gotobed — to adorn a West End stage.

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Review: Sister Act

By John Nathan, July 2, 2009

The plotting is a bit dodgy — the tart-with-a-heart heroine, Delores, escapes the clutches of her gangster ex with no more than a leap and a bound. But this stage version of the Whoopi Goldberg movie (this time Goldberg produces) is so visually, lyrically and — thanks to Alan Menken’s knowing ’70s disco score — melodically witty, that forgiving the predictable turns is easy.

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A hero for children

By John Nathan, June 25, 2009

An Ofsted report revealed this week that pupils as young as four are being excluded from schools.

It was the latest instalment in the ongoing debate about how we treat children, a debate in which we could do worse than consult Dr Janusz Korczak.

He it was who founded the Warsaw Ghetto Jewish orphanage in an ultimately futile attempt to protect 300 children from the Nazis. His writings became the basis for the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

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Review: Been So Long

By John Nathan, June 25, 2009

There is no venue more “street” than the Young Vic. But its reputation will not be enhanced by what is essentially a conventional musical – albeit one with that is brilliantly sung with a funky and R&B score by Arthur Darvill – about lovelorn night-clubbers.

Che Walker, a talented writer who here also directs, rests on previous laurels.

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Review: Apologia

By John Nathan, June 25, 2009

Alexi Kaye Campbell has a carved a provocative reputation by writing about the gap between idealism and the reality of the way people use (or misuse) the rights that have been fought for by previous generations.

In The Pride, it was gay rights; this time it is feminism. His heroine is art historian Kristin who neglected her now adult sons to realise her professional ambitions.

Josie Rourke’s production is an entertaining drama of the kitchen table kind, around which brickbats and family feuds fly.

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Review: Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme

By John Nathan, June 25, 2009

For the Hampstead’s 50th anniversary season the theatre is dipping into its glorious past to revive plays for its inglorious present. For recently there have been far too few new plays at this venue that make the heart beat faster with excitement or, as with this First World War play by Frank McGuiness, beat heavier with its sheer potency.

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