Theatre

Review: Mother Courage And Her Children

By John Nathan, October 1, 2009

Brecht’s character, Mother Courage, is not the only morally ambiguous merchant to have been resurrected by the National recently. Last year George Bernard Shaw’s arms dealer Undershaft took to the same stage in a revival of Major Barbara.

It is good to see them back. There would have been something wrong had we got this far into the current era of conflict without viewing today’s violent times through the prism of both these works.

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Review: Our Class

By John Nathan, October 1, 2009

Sixty years after the 1,600 Jews of the Polish town of Jedwabne were murdered in July 1941, a new memorial was erected.

This one no longer proclaimed the crime to be yet another Nazi atrocity. Recent evidence revealed that the massacre in which most of the Jews were burned alive after being herded into a barn, was in fact the result of a pogrom carried out by the victims’ neighbours.

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Ryan Craig owns up: I have to write about Jews

By John Nathan, October 1, 2009

Playwright Ryan Craig thought he had moved on from the Holocaust. But that was before he read a new Polish play called Our Class which has just received its world premiere at the National Theatre.

“When the National asked me to read it, my first instinct was: ‘Oh no — not another play about the Holocaust’,” he says, on the way back from rehearsals.

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Review: Enron

By John Nathan, September 24, 2009

Miracle of miracles, Lucy Prebble’s new play about the meteoric rise and — “fall” does not say it — plummet of America’s seventh largest corporation just after 9/11 turns the sterile world of spreadsheets and accounting into a stunning entertainment.

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Review: Judgement Day

By John Nathan, September 17, 2009

If Ronald Harwood was looking for another subject to turn his meaty double bill of Taking Sides and Collaboration — recently seen in the West End — into a hefty trilogy, he could do a lot worse than focus on the German writer Ödön von Horváth. Unlike his contemporary Bertholt Brecht, Horváth chose to ply his trade from inside Nazi Germany, as did, for that matter, the conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler and the composer Richard Strauss, who were the subjects of Harwood’s plays.

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Review: The Shawshank Redemption

September 17, 2009

Owen O’Neill’s and Dave Johns’s play is, we are told, not an adaptation of the film, but of the Stephen King novella on which the film was based. But the fact that the fine American actors Kevin Anderson and Reg E Cathey look very much like Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman in the movie, suggests that the producers of this prison story know who their target audience is. The leads’ performances are powerful, but cannot prevent Peter Sheridan’s production from feeling as if, rather than decades of brutality, the cons have merely endured a long evening — much like the audience.

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Review: Lolita

By John Nathan, September 10, 2009

It was a question of whether Brian Cox, whose muscular face does macho better than most, could summon the required refined sensuality for Nabokov’s most erudite hero, Humbert Humbert. That is, if “hero” is not a misnomer for a self-confessed pervert whose every thought and action revolves around having his very wicked way with an underage girl.

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Review: The Great American Songbook

By John Nathan, September 3, 2009

When, as lead singer of the rock band The Stranglers, Paul Roberts co-wrote the album Stranglers In the Night, there might have been more than a touch of homage to both Sinatra and the song that inspired the album title.

So maybe it is a little more than a coincidence that more than one-and-a-half decades later, here Roberts stands, his Stranglers days behind him, taking to the New End’s tiny stage with a cracking jazz quartet, fellow high-class singers Louisa Parry and Ray Caruana, and a hatful of classics from The Great American Songbook.

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Review: Huis Clos

By John Nathan, August 27, 2009

This is the Jean-Paul Sartre play with the famous line that could apply to every crowded shopping mall, family celebration, doctor’s waiting room and Post Office queue — “hell is other people”.

But in this 1944 existential drama, the title of which in Frank Hauser’s version translates as “No Way Out”, hell is actually nothing so trivial as a form of rush-hour frustration, but a place of judgment and damnation.

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Review: Simon Amstell: Do Nothing

By John Nathan, August 27, 2009

At the heart of Simon Amstell’s intelligent set lies a contradiction. The show’s message is to accept people as they are — you might not like them, but, hey, you are not going to change them, so, as the title says: “Do nothing.” Yet throughout his fluid performance, the Bafta-nominated TV presenter and comedian urges his audience to act spontaneously, because, as he stresses, everyone’s going to die. Which could be interpreted as a resounding “Do something.”

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