Theatre

Review: Evita

By John Jeffay, September 16, 2010

It was almost a triumph. Some of the audience - a couple of dozen of Evita die-hards maybe - rose to their feet at the end. But it did not quite qualify as a standing ovation. Most of the applause was polite, enthusiastic… and seated.

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Review: Tiny Kushner

By John Nathan, September 16, 2010

These small but perfectly formed one-act pieces by Tony Kushner provide an insight into what preoccupies the very clever, very Jewish, very political and often very funny mind of one of America's finest playwrights. Two focus on psychiatry, one on a tax fraud, while another sees a guilt-ridden Laura Bush, wife of George W, read Dostoyevsky to dead Iraqi children. This last is as hard hitting a play as any I've seen on American foreign policy.

(Tel: 020 7328 1000)

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Review: Blood and Gifts

By John Nathan, September 16, 2010

American playwright JT Rogers has illuminated his country's murky, covert campaign of the 1980s to kick the Soviet army out of Afghanistan. By the end of this compelling modern history lesson, directed by Howard Davies and set mostly in Islamabad, we have a good impression of how the CIA colluded with Pakistan and the British to supply favoured warlords with weaponry, and ended up arming the very forces America and Britain are currently fighting in Afghanistan.

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Review: Deathtrap

By John Nathan, September 16, 2010

Matthew Warchus's production of Ira Levin's 1970s thriller presses all the right buttons. Simon Russell Beale charms and chills as the writer whose writer's block tempts him to kill. There is terrific support from Claire Skinner as his wife and Glee actor Jonathan Groff. Other than saying that he too has writing ambitions, I cannot reveal much about Groff's role without giving away the plot. But while the evening is enjoyable in a guilty pleasure kind of way, only a new thriller will mark the genre's revival. This is more like an exhumation. (www.noel-coward-theatre.com)

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Review: Clybourne Park

By John Nathan, September 7, 2010

There is a white guy in Lorraine Hansberry's classic, Chicago-set, 1959 play, A Raisin in the Sun, who offers the African-American Younger family money to not move into a house in his white neighbourhood, Clybourne Park.

It is this house, that scene and that guy (played here by Martin Freeman) on which American writer Bruce Norris's has built his gobsmackingly entertaining response to Hansberry's play.

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Why Republicans are at the top of Kushner's hit list

By John Nathan, September 7, 2010

To get an instant impression of the subject of this article you could do worse than tap the words "Tony" and "Kushner" into YouTube. There is an eight minute, 57-second video which shows the Pulitzer- and Tony-winning playwright saying thank you for his latest honorary degree.

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Review: Witness For The Prosecution

By John Jeffay, September 2, 2010

This is everything you would expect from the queen of whodunnits - and more.

The 1957 film of Agatha Christie's tale Witness for the Prosecution carried this sombre message as the credits rolled: "The management of this theatre suggests that for the greater entertainment of your friends who have not yet seen the picture, you will not divulge, to anyone, the secret of the ending."

More than half a century later the twists at the end of this gripping courtroom drama still draw gasps from the audience.

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Review: The Woman In Black

By John Nathan, September 2, 2010

Thriller theatre is making a comeback. While a revival of Ira Levin's Deathtrap opens next week, Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman's Ghost Stories have proved that reports of the genre's death have been exaggerated. The truth is, it never died. For over 50 years, The Mousetrap has been putting food on the table for its producers, and last year was the 20th anniversary of The Woman in Black.

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Review: Hairspray

By John Nathan, August 26, 2010

The fat lady sang, but the show was far from over. Nor was the fat lady a fat lady. Michael Starke - Sinbad the window cleaner in Channel 4's Liverpool soap Brookside for 16 years - steals this stage musical version of John Waters's 1988 film as the hilarious pantomime dame, Edna Turnblad.

His duet with Les Dennis on an empty stage provides the highlight in this otherwise full-on production. The two of them croon Timeless
To Me, with Starke as the roly-poly mum of heroine Tracy, and Dennis as Tracy's dad Wilbur.

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Review: The Merry Wives of Windsor

By John Nathan, August 26, 2010

Shakespeare's only comedy to be set in the country of his birth lays reasonable claim to being the world's first sitcom.

Populated by Windsor's middle classes, it could easily be located in the closeted world of suburbia. There is a daughter whose father wants her to marry for money; there is a fish-out-of-water Frenchman with a funny accent, and central character is a fat bloke who thinks he is God's gift to women.

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