Theatre

Review: Season's Greetings

By John Nathan, December 17, 2010

I do not quite buy director Marrianne Elliott's point that Alan Ayckbourn is comparable to Pinter. But it is undoubtedly true that behind the net curtains of the suburban houses, in which this country's favourite comic playwright sets his plays, there is much darkness.

For this starry revival of Ayckbourn's seasonal offering of 1980, the dissection of the Bunker family's frailties takes place in designer Rae Smith's huge cross-section of the family house.

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Review: King Lear

By John Nathan, December 17, 2010

You expect there to be an idea, a defining cornerstone in any major revival of King Lear. It might be found in the period in which the production is set or it could be, as was the case with Ian McKellen's naked Lear of three years ago, a moment of total emotional and physical exposure.

With Derek Jacobi in the title role, Michael Grandage's Donmar production has no such defining moment. It makes a virtue of being pared down and almost propless.

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Review: Romeo and Juliet

By John Nathan, December 13, 2010

From now on, every time there is a revival of a play that I do not want to see, I would like Rupert Goold to direct it, please.

My general view of Romeo and Juliet is that if I never have to watch it again for the rest of my life, it will be no great loss. Give me West Side Story rather than the plodding inevitability of the play on which the great musical is based.

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Review: The Rivals

By Jonathan Foreman, December 13, 2010

In Peter Hall's revival of Sheridan's 1775 classic, Penelope Keith and Peter Bowles deliver exactly the qualities that audiences both want and expect.

Keith's linguistically challenged Mrs Malaprop is in endearing denial of her own absurdity; Bowles's Sir Anthony Absolute is the epitome of English suave.

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Review: The Invisible Man

By John Nathan, December 2, 2010

It was a neat trick back in 1991 when Theatre Workshop stalwart Ken Hill found enough money to transfer his music-hall version of H G Wells's The Invisible Man from the Theatre Royal, Stratford East to the West End. Now the show is being revived at the Menier Chocolate Factory, and such is this theatre's reputation you would not bet against another West End transfer.

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Review: The Rivals

By John Nathan, December 2, 2010

In Peter Hall's revival of Sheridan's 1775 classic, Penelope Keith and Peter Bowles deliver exactly the qualities that audiences both want and expect.

Keith's linguistically challenged Mrs Malaprop is in endearing denial of her own absurdity; Bowles's Sir Anthony Absolute is the epitome of English suave.

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Review: Cinderella

By John Jeffay, November 30, 2010

Fairytale, ballet and the London Blitz come together in this magnificent re-telling of Cinderella.

Acclaimed choreographer and director Matthew Bourne first gave the classic seasonal story a wartime setting in his West End production in 1997. This new, improved version, a New Adventures Production, marks the 70th anniversary of the Blitz and is dedicated to Bourne's father, Jim, who lived through it.

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Opera: Adriana Lecouvreur

By Stephen Pollard, November 29, 2010

Adriana Lecouvreur is one of those pieces that you have heard of, and most probably heard an aria or two from, but never actually seen.

Its composer, Francesco Cilea, is usually dismissed as a one-hit-wonder (a particularly stupid insult, since it attacks the victim for being a success; how many opera composers manage even one hit?). But immediately successful as Adriana Lecouvreur was after its premiere in 1902, the fact that it has not been seen at Covent Garden since 1906 shows that it hardly qualifies as a repertory piece.

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Review: The Bacchae

By John Jeffay, November 23, 2010

In a moment of madness, Agave tears her son's head from his body and parades it as a trophy.

Mere mortals are playthings of the gods in Greek tragedy, and Agave (Eve Polycarpou) is no exception. Standing centre-stage, her clothes smeared with the blood of her son Pentheus, the King of Thebes, she boasts: "See what a woman can do".

But she is deluded. She believes she has killed a lion as part of an ecstatic ritual with the Bacchae - cult followers of the new god on the block, Dionysus. Then, she realises what she has done and her celebration turns to sobbing.

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Review: An Ideal Husband

By John Nathan, November 18, 2010

The central performance in Lindsay Posner's fizzing production is so terrific, I left the theatre not just won over by the exquisite plotting of Oscar Wilde's 1895 satire, but thinking about how different actors can bowl you over for completely different reasons.

I'm going to risk a generalisation. There are, broadly speaking, two kinds of performer. There are those who not only inhabit the role but bring to it something of their own. With Kevin Spacey, for instance, it is a quality that suggests his character mysteriously knows something that everyone else onstage has yet to learn.

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