Theatre

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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Review: Been So Long

By John Nathan, June 25, 2009

There is no venue more “street” than the Young Vic. But its reputation will not be enhanced by what is essentially a conventional musical – albeit one with that is brilliantly sung with a funky and R&B score by Arthur Darvill – about lovelorn night-clubbers.

Che Walker, a talented writer who here also directs, rests on previous laurels.

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Review: Apologia

By John Nathan, June 25, 2009

Alexi Kaye Campbell has a carved a provocative reputation by writing about the gap between idealism and the reality of the way people use (or misuse) the rights that have been fought for by previous generations.

In The Pride, it was gay rights; this time it is feminism. His heroine is art historian Kristin who neglected her now adult sons to realise her professional ambitions.

Josie Rourke’s production is an entertaining drama of the kitchen table kind, around which brickbats and family feuds fly.

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Review: Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme

By John Nathan, June 25, 2009

For the Hampstead’s 50th anniversary season the theatre is dipping into its glorious past to revive plays for its inglorious present. For recently there have been far too few new plays at this venue that make the heart beat faster with excitement or, as with this First World War play by Frank McGuiness, beat heavier with its sheer potency.

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Review: Who will carry the word?

By John Nathan, June 18, 2009

Courtyard Theatre, London N1

I cannot remember many works that serve as such vivid testimony to the horrors of Auschwitz. For its debut, theatre company Robert Pryce & Co is staging the first UK performance of this eyewitness play by French resistance fighter Charlotte Delbo who was sent to the camp in 1943. As significant as the testimony, performed here in Natasha Pryce’s courageous production by a committed, 15-strong all-female cast, is that Delbo was a non-Jew whose account destroys revisionist notions of the Holocaust as a Jewish lie. Delbo’s word should be heard.

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Review: Phedre

By John Nathan, June 18, 2009

The one quality needed in abundance to transmit the heightened emotion and fathom-deep despair of Greek tragedy, is authority. Nicholas Hytner’s revival of Racine’s Phèdre — the queen (played by Helen Mirren) who falls in love with her stepson — has far too little. Bob Crowley’s magnificent design of a stone-hewn terrace looking out on to the purest Mediterranean sky promises much more punch than the production delivers.

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Review: Hamlet

By John Nathan, June 10, 2009

Wyndham’s Theatre, London

It was Kenneth Branagh’s title role performance as Ivanov that set the standard for the Donmar’s star-studded West End season.
It was a standard not quite reached by Derek Jacobi’s Malvolio in Twelfth Night, and the dull Madame de Sade, with Judi Dench, got nowhere near. But Jude Law’s Hamlet is probably the most lucid, clearly-spoken performance of Shakespeare’s most exciting role I have seen or heard.

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