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?


Review: When We Are Married

November 8, 2010

Modern audiences will, I think, be divided by J B Priestley's 1938 offering.

Some will see this comedy of manners in which three couples - all of them upstanding pillars-of-the-community types - discover on their 25th anniversary that they are not as respectably married as they thought, as a creaky old crowd-pleaser populated by northern stereotypes.

Others will think that Priestley's play is a well-observed take on marriage and that anyone who has been hitched for more than a decade will recognise more truth than they would probably want.


Opera: Romeo et Juliette

By Stephen Pollard, November 1, 2010

I have to confess to spending most of my time at the Royal Opera's revival of Gounod's Romeo et Juliette wondering why anyone would choose to pay good money to hear such third rate hackery.

But people do. Then again, there is a market for Lloyd Webber. His pieces, however, stand or fall on the public's willingness to pay for them. Not these performances, which are subsidised by you and me. Why?


Review: Men Should Weep

By John Nathan, November 1, 2010

Ena Lamont Stewart's 1947 play set in a Glasgow tenement during the 1930s compares well to many a masterpiece about the cramped life of the poor where children and grandparents live cheek by jowl.

In director Josie Rourke's National Theatre debut, this slice of claustrophobic life fills the vast Lyttelton stage as a cross-section of the louse-infected, grime-saturated block.


Review: Tribes

By John Nathan, October 22, 2010

Twenty minutes into Nina Raine's play, I put something in my notebook that seemed insightful at the time. I wrote that this is the first English non-Jewish family I have seen on stage who argue like Jews.

Which is not to say that all Jewish families argue like the family depicted in Raine's play, like hyenas over a carcass. But it is to say that the kind of family that communicate in no-holds-barred rows; have a quasi-Asberger's disregard for the feelings of those they love most, and constantly probe for the weakness in every sentence, invariably, that family is Jewish.


Review: The Country Girl

By John Nathan, October 22, 2010

That most Jewish of writers, Clifford Odets, wrote his backstage drama in 1950. There can be few characters more perfectly primed for redemption than Odets’s hero, middle-aged, alcoholic actor Frank Elgin, played by Martin Shaw. Jenny Seagrove is on solid form as his world-weary wife. But overshadowing the stars is Mark Letheren as the tough director who gives Frank one more chance. Odets reveals the grind that goes into producing plays, a theme director Rufus Norris’s capitalises on in the clever scene changes conducted by the cast.


Review: The Sunshine Boys

By John Jeffay, October 14, 2010

They squabble, they bicker and then they squabble some more.

It is a positive joy to watch the two old Jews in The Sunshine Boys arguing. If they cannot do it right, then nobody can. They elevate disagreement to an art form, employing a near-Talmudic logic to score even the most minor point from each other.

They are cantankerous, grumpy, stubborn, spiteful, self-pitying, nit-picking, nasty and vindictive. And those are just their good points.


Review: Hamlet

By John Nathan, October 14, 2010

Of high-profile recent Hamlets this latest production, starring Rory Kinnear as the Prince and directed by Nicholas Hytner, may not be as gripping as Jude Law's or as emotional as David Tennant's, but it is certainly the most interesting.

The scream of fighter jets heralds a modern setting. This is an Elsinore where secret-service men stalk corridors, and where Clare Higgins's Gertrude is a lush, which makes new sense of her drinking from a poison cup.


Review: Broken Glass

By John Nathan, October 14, 2010

Arthur Miller's only full-length play to deal with his own and every other Jew's Jewishness is given a risky but rewarding expressionistic makeover by director Iqbal Khan.