Theatre

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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Review: Dimetos

By John Nathan, April 2, 2009

You think of the white South African dramatist Athol Fugard and you think of the brave apartheid plays he stitched together with black collaborators John Kani and Winston Ntshona. You think of how, when Kani and Ntshona first performed Sizwe Banzi is Dead in Cape Town, they defied South Africa’s brutal Security Police.

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Review: Priscilla Queen of the Desert

By John Nathan, March 26, 2009

As with that other production about transsexuals currently in the West End, Priscilla is based on an original movie and features a gay hero with a heterosexual past that produced a son. But unlike La Cage aux Folles, this Australian road-show starring Jason Donovan as one of three “gender illusionists” is not set to an original score but to juke-box hits. There is a limit to the entertainment value of men in frocks singing covers less well than the originals. Thirty minutes tops? This is nearly three hours.

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Review: Madame de Sade

By John Nathan, March 26, 2009

Nothing can save can save Yukio Mishima’s static play from petrifying: not the fact that it is the story of the Marquis de Sade; not the fact that one of those women is played by Dame Judi Dench; and not even the, admittedly irrelevant but interesting, fact that Mishima committed ritual suicide. To breathe life into the accounts of the Marquis’ sado-masochism, Michael Grandage’s production relies entirely on the sumptuous crinoline dresses worn by his cast.

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Review: Kafka’s Monkey

By John Nathan, March 26, 2009

It is no surprise that Kafka’s short story A Report to an Academy, first published in 1917 in an intellectual German magazine called The Jew — Der Jude in the original German — has been interpreted as a commentary on the condition of the Jewish diaspora.

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Review: Trumbo

By John Nathan, March 19, 2009

Corin Redgrave’s major theatrical comeback following his heart attack was overshadowed by the news that his niece, Natasha Richardson, lay critically ill following a skiing accident. But John Dove’s rewarding production still went ahead. In this epistolary play by Christopher Trumbo, Redgrave plays the author’s father, the late, blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. Redgrave is mesmerising as the always witty and usually angry Trumbo who, though jailed, refused to submit to the McCarthy anti-Communist witchhunts. Catch it if you can.

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Review: Deep Cut

By John Nathan, March 19, 2009

I’m not a big fan of verbatim plays. Much better to create characters and conversations than copy them from real life. But Philip Ralph’s examination of the institutional evasions and failures that followed four fatal shootings at the Surrey army barracks is staged by director Mick Gordon with such invention, a lack of creativity is never the issue.

You are left wondering how a country whose Defence Ministry, police force, government and army can treat the parents of dead soldiers with such callous disdain, and still call itself democratic. It can’t. I wanted to riot.

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Enough already with the Israel plays

By John Nathan, March 19, 2009

Dai
3/5
Shaw Theatre, London NW1

Wall
3/5
Royal Court, London SW1

You would think it had been planned. The day after Iris Bahr brought her solo show to the Shaw Theatre, Sir David Hare premiered his at the Royal Court. It is hard to imagine two more different writer/performers than Hare and Bahr. Or two plays more closely linked.

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Review: The Mozart Question

By John Nathan, March 12, 2009

Before the story begins, we wait for a kettle to boil. Memories of childhood are evoked with the snip-snip of scissors — there are some lovely touches deployed by director Julia McShane in this solo show adapted by Simon Reade from Michael Morpurgo’s children’s book. Best of all is Andrew Bridgmont’s Venetian virtuoso violinist Paolo Levi who has never played Mozart publicly. He reveals why with a tale that begins in his father’s barber shop and develops into a beautifully told story about Holocaust survival.

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Review: Dancing At Lughnasa

By John Nathan, March 12, 2009

After the distractions about whether Richard Dreyfuss’s ear was being fed words by wire, Kevin Spacey’s venue is back on track. Brian Friel’s 1990 play, set in 1936 Donegal, is confirmed as a modern classic and Anna Mackmin as one of our finest directors.

Mackmin elegantly draws the threads of Friel’s Mundy family — the rural lives of five unmarried sisters plagued by poverty, constrained by religiosity, yet each brimful of a pagan urge to dance like demons.

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