Theatre

Review: Danton’s Death

July 29, 2010

Michael Grandage’s National Theatre debut brings to mind his two great Schiller revivals.

The first, Don Carlos, he directed; the second, Mary Stuart, remains a highlight of his brilliant regime as artistic director of the Donmar Warehouse.

As with the Schiller plays, Büchner’s Danton’s Death, about the French Revolution, deals with a reign of terror, embodied by Elliott Levey’s chilling Robespierre, the antithesis of the libertine charm represented by Toby Stephens’s raffish Danton.

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Review: The Jewish Wife

July 29, 2010

How do you transport a modern audience to the lives of those who lived generations before? For this short sketch written by Brecht during his exile from Nazi Germany, Matthew Evans, winner of a young director’s award, does it both with subtlety and clumsiness.

After a couple of dissident songs, the show’s clunking preamble involves the audience being led down corridors lined with old shoes and images of huddled Jews in concentration camps.

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Review: Prince of Homburg

By John Nathan, July 29, 2010

In Hans Fallada’s brilliant novel, Alone in Berlin, about life for ordinary Germans under the Nazis, there is a memorable digression about Henrich von Kleist’s 1811 play, The Prince of Homburg. According to Fallada, any actor who played the title role of the play, which Kleist finished shortly before his suicide at the age of 34, risked the attention of the Gestapo.

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Review: Man in the Mirror

By John Jeffay, July 29, 2010

This is, without doubt, the Michael Jackson tribute show for those who remain wacko about Jacko.

At this performance, the faithful in the audience roared as the lights went down, before a note had even been played. And they were on their feet roaring again through the final medley.

Small boys dressed in Jackson-style waistcoats and a single white gloves were going wild in the aisles. Talk about not stopping till you get enough.

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Review: The Gruffalo

By John Jeffay, July 22, 2010

"A mouse took a stroll through the deep dark wood…"

There cannot be many parents with young kids who do not recognise that opening line, and most can chant the rest of the story in their sleep.

A plucky little mouse scares off would-be predators with tales of a terrible, though imaginary, monster - the Gruffalo - in Julie Donaldson's 1999 masterpiece. Our copy bears the scars of countless bedtime readings.

So would the leap from page to stage live up to expectations?

Well, the disappointing truth is that five minutes of text really does not stretch to almost an hour of action.

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Review: Aspects of Love

By John Nathan, July 22, 2010

● There's a Woody Allen gag, in Love and Death I think, in which Allen lists various aspects of love. "There's love between a man and a woman, love between mother and son. And two women, let's not forget my favourite..."

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Meet Ken Loach's Jewish son-in-law

By John Nathan, July 22, 2010

'This place", says Elliott Levey, looking out of the window at the Thames shimmering in the summer heat. "It's just been fantastic to me." But it's not the river that has been good to Levey. It is the cubist concrete construction that sits on its south bank known as the National Theatre. It is here that he is about to play his biggest role, the French revolutionary Robespierre, in Danton's Death.

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Review: Prisoner of Second Avenue

By John Nathan, July 15, 2010

The lankier half of the duo that gave London theatre its two most thrilling hours of the past decade is back.

Jeff Goldblum's performance with Kevin Spacey set the benchmark in this country for meeting the demands of modern American dialogue when they revived David Mamet's Speed-the-Plow a couple of years ago.

Here, Neil Simon's 1971 mid-life crisis comedy, in which Goldblum plays disillusioned advertising exec Mel Edison, may be lighter fare, but the rhythms and cadences of Simon's writing are no less demanding than Mamet's.

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Review: La Bete

By John Nathan, July 15, 2010

In David Hirson's Molière pastiche which, in rhyming couplets, attempts to compare the value of popular and lofty art, Valere (Mark Rylance) is the low-brow entertainer sent by Joanna Lumley's Princess to inject life into the austere work produced by David Hyde Pierce's high-brow dramatist, Elomire.

Hyde Pierce deploys the disdain he so brilliantly developed as Niles in Frasier. and I would pay top rate just to watch Rylance's monumental monologue. But Matthew Warchus's production never quite hits the funny bone, nor does the play's pathos touch the heart.

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A night of drama in a Manchester bedsit

July 15, 2010

Leo Kay invites you into his Manchester bedsit for a theatrical experience with a difference.

He takes his tiny audience (no more than 15) on a journey of discovery spanning three generations, from Nazi Germany to Palestine and back to Britain.

It starts with the Jewish grandfather he never knew, Leo Knopfelmacher - a communist atheist and a merchant sailor who fled the Nazis to Vienna in the 1930s, moved to Palestine and ended up in London.

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