Theatre

Review: Alphabetical Order

By John Nathan, April 30, 2009

Michael Frayn’s revived 1975 comedy harks back to when newspapers operated at a loss and journalism was a precarious career. No change there. But set as it is in a paper’s cuttings library — run by Imogen Stubbs’s endearingly disorganised Lucy — Christopher Luscombe’s nostalgic production reveals this play to be a fantastically dated yet incredibly relevant commentary on the sterile efficiency of today’s Google era.

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Review: The Great Game: Afghanistan

By John Nathan, April 30, 2009

One of the first offerings in the Tricycle’s 12-play Afghanistan season features the same alarming image as the last — that of British troops wondering what the hell they are doing there.

Stephen Jeffreys’s Bugles at the Gates of Jalalabad is set in 1842 and deals with the British army’s disastrous trek from Kabul during which they lost 16,000 British and Indian troops at the hands of the Afghans. Canopy of Stars by Simon Stephens is set in 2009 with British soldiers fighting and dying in Helmand.

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Review: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf ?

By John Nathan, April 23, 2009

Andrew Hall’s compact production of Edward Albee’s devastating dysfunctional marriage play packs extra punch in this venue’s living room-sized studio. Like Martha (Tracey Childs) and George’s (Matthew Kelly) terrorised guests, Nick (Mark Farrelly) and Honey (Louise Kempton), the audience get a terrifyingly up-close and extremely personal view of the hosts’ alcohol-fuelled marital rage. Kelly’s cardigan-wearing George is a fascinating Philip Larkin-like intellectual misanthropist. A harrowing pleasure.

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Review: Calendar Girls

By John Nathan, April 23, 2009

A starry cast including Lynda Bellingham and Patricia Hodge bolsters Tim Firth’s stage version of the real-life story about the Yorkshire Women’s Institute members who were photographed nude for a fund-raising calendar. More interesting than the sentimental action on stage is that the show, directed by Hamish McColl, is attracting an audience — ladies of a certain age who have come to see themselves depicted on stage — who normally stay away from the West End. Firth is an expert at pressing emotional buttons and moving on quickly.

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Review: Death and the King’s Horseman

By John Nathan, April 23, 2009

Nigerian Yoruba myth has become a powerful force in British theatre. The American playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney drew on it for his brilliant debut, The Brothers Size. So does this revival of Wole Soyinka’s 1975 play that leaves Judeo-Christian certainties about the sanctity of life in doubt, and might even illuminate us about the mindset of the modern suicide bomber, a point recently made by the author. Not that the suicide here is the kind of self-destruction that destroys others.

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Review: The Fever

By John Nathan, April 16, 2009

More a lecture than a monologue, more a stream of troubled consciousness than a play, the inaugural offering of the Royal Court’s Wallace Shawn season makes no bones about who is causing all the misery in the world.

It is you. You who sit in your comfortable sitting-room reading this review in the smug certainty that all you own is what you deserve.

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Review: Stovepipe

By John Nathan, April 7, 2009

War has placed the British soldier centre stage. But no offering has been more convincing than Adam Brace’s story about a mercenary Brit (Shaun Dooley) whose comrade has either been kidnapped or gone awol.

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Review: Tusk Tusk

By John Nathan, April 7, 2009

The question was, would the second play live up to the first?

Two years ago, aged just 19, Polly Stenham presented That Face at the Royal Court’s tiny upstairs stage. There was no reason to think that yet another drama about a dysfunctional family — so much easier to write than plays about functional families — promised anything remarkable. But Stenham revealed torment in a world where few modern writers had thought to look — the privately educated middle classes.

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Interview: Wallace Shawn

By John Nathan, April 7, 2009

What do you have to look like for Woody Allen to think he is much better looking than you? Apparently, like Wallace Shawn.

He is the American actor whose career took off when he appeared in Allen’s film Manhattan as Diane Keaton’s ex-husband — a character whose reputation as an intellectual and sexual goliath Allen’s character finds somewhat hard to reconcile with the balding, gnome-like figure cut by Shawn.

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Review: Parlour Song

By John Nathan, April 2, 2009

Jez Butterworth’s comeback comedy is populated by lower-middle-class neighbours who live in a housing development stuck in a field outside London. Demolition man Ned (Toby Jones) feels his life is imploding. Macho Dale (Andrew Lincoln) — a walking comedy of male manners — is his best mate who has an affair with Ned’s emotionally unsatisfied wife, Joy (Amanda Drew). Ian Rickson’s production is a delight of witty dialogue and fine acting. But the lesson that life in the suburbs is uneventful is rather pedestrian.

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