Theatre

Review: Dreamboats and Petticoats

By John Nathan, July 30, 2009

It would be all too easy to give this musical, part cast with daytime TV actors, a kicking for being the latest show in a line of jukebox nostalgia-fests. So here goes.

It is inspired by the compilation album after which the show is named. These records surprisingly sold shed-loads and returned the likes of Roy Orbison, The Platters, The Everley Brothers and Bobbies Vee and Darin back to the charts.

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Review: The Black Album

By John Nathan, July 23, 2009

Well you cannot accuse Nicholas Hytner’s National Theatre of ignoring the deepest fissures in British society.

As Richard Bean’s England People Very Nice — with its hilarious ethnic stereotypes of oy veying Chasids, agricultural Irish, bone-headed English and militant Islamists — nears the end of its run, up pops Hanif Kureishi’s adaptation of his 1993 novel.

As with Bean’s play, this too is an East End tale. Its hero is Shahid, a well-spoken British Asian student from Kent who arrives in London to do an HND in post-colonial literature.

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Review: Jordy Pordy

By John Nathan, July 23, 2009

Jordan Herskowitz was born and raised in Texas and spent a good deal of his late teens as Bruno the bull, the mascot for a baseball team. It allows for a neat metaphor about identity for his rights-of-passage autobiographical solo show.

But there is scant detail here about why being a Jew in the lone star state is a big or difficult deal.

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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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