Theatre

Review: Taking Sides and Collaboration

By John Nathan, June 4, 2009

You can wait years for a serious drama to arrive in the West End (at least one that is not just an excuse for a screen star to notch up some stage credibility), then two come along at once.

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Review: The Observer

By John Nathan, May 27, 2009

Anyone hoping that Matt Charman’s play lifts the lid on the little-known world of international election observers is going to be mostly disappointed.

Richard Eyre’s solid production cannot disguise that many of Charman’s observations about observers could be gleaned from reading the newspapers. His dispassionate heroine (Anna Chancellor) is the deputy chief of an observation team in West Africa.

Her increasingly emotional attachment to her work and her translator is in turn discreetly observed by James Fleets’s linen-suited man from the Foreign Office.

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Review: The Hokey Cokey Man

By John Nathan, May 27, 2009

Alan Balfour pulls no punches in his play about his grandfather Al Tabor (James Doherty), a violinist and popular bandleader who, few people know, was the man wrote the Hokey Cokey song.

Originally it was the “Hokey Pokey” song, derived from the street cries of ice-cream sellers before the war. Catholics reportedly think it is an offensive parody created by Puritans to mock the Latin mass.
No such fascinating detail exists in Balfour’s plodding play, directed by Ninon Jerome. He focuses instead on his philandering grandfather’s marriage and affair.

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Review: When the Rain Stops Falling

By John Nathan, May 27, 2009

Andrew Bovell’s family drama leaps between period and place as randomly as a rabbit in a paper bag.

It is 30 years in the future and a lonely 50-year-old man in Alice Springs is nervously expecting a visit from the grown-up son he has not seen since he was a child. Now it is London 1988, and a grown-up son is asking his emotionally frosty mother for information about his late father.

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Review: Wuthering Heights

By John Nathan, May 21, 2009

This Bollywood musical version by Asian theatre company Tamasha falls between the three stools of classic novel, Western musical and Indian melodrama. Deepak Verma’s book is a dramatically diluted version of Emily Brontë’s original; Felix Cross and Sheema Mukherjee’s score is entirely without wit; but most lacking of all is the one thing Bollywood does best — spectacle.

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Review: A Doll’s House

By John Nathan, May 21, 2009

There was a time when you did not have to write about sex with cats to cause a fuss. Ibsen caused a storm with the notion that women were as entitled as men to think and live for themselves.

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Review: Grasses Of A Thousand Colours

By John Nathan, May 21, 2009

“Do you happen to be interested in the topic of sex?” asks Cerise. “If not, seriously, please get out of here.”

Cerise (Miranda Richardson) is the wife of Ben (Wallace Shawn), an aging scientist, industrialist, philanthropist and memoirist whose meanderings and musings — and that of Cerise, Robin (Hollywood actress Jennifer Tilly) and Rose (Emily McDonnell), the three women in his life — make up an evening of surreal, absurdist and, in the description, though never in the enactment, often quite revolting sexual imagery.

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Council refuses to fund festival for showing Seven Jewish Children

By Leon Symons, May 21, 2009

A new row has broken out in Liverpool over a performance of the play Seven Jewish Children during an annual May literary festival.

Its showing at the Writing On The Wall (WOTW) festival has led Liverpool City Council to refuse the event’s organisers any more funding. The council’s regeneration and culture select committee has given WOTW £9,000 a year for two years.

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Review: Duet for One

By John Nathan, May 14, 2009

Transfers from the Almeida to the West End inevitably lose their intimacy. But Tom Kempinski’s 1980 chamber piece, deftly directed by Matthew Lloyd, retains its power thanks to stellar performances from Juliet Stevenson as the fiery virtuoso violinist struck down by MS, and Henry Goodman as her determined German psychiatrist who must prevent her suicide. What could so easily have been an evening of clichés builds to a moving, funny battle of wills and clash of cultures. It is also the only show in town which reveals the meaning of life!

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Review: Time and the Conways

By John Nathan, May 14, 2009

Director Rupert Goold has taken J B Priestley’s 1937 dramatised theory on the nature of time and threaded it with verve and invention. The Conway family are full of hope after the First World War, and by the start of the Second, full of disappointment. Priestley lurches experimentally between the periods, and it is during these moments of time travel that Goold’s production scores with some astounding effects. The play is almost, though not quite, as interesting as the production.

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