Theatre

Review: The Power of Yes

By John Nathan, October 15, 2009

David Hare’s financial crisis play is inevitably to be compared with the brilliant Enron, Lucy Prebble’s recent corporate disaster play.

Both dramas are brimful of facts and bewildering figures. But while Prebble’s play scores by delivering a tale about the people behind a meltdown, Hare’s fails to humanise his economic lesson.

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Review: Inherit the Wind

By John Nathan, October 8, 2009

If you believe in the separation of Church (or synagogue) and state and accept Darwin’s view of our origins — as opposed to the Bible’s — there is no more heart-warming play than Jerome Lawrence’s and Robert E Lee’s 1955 courtroom drama based on the famous “Monkey Trial” of 1925, in which a Tennessee teacher was tried for teaching the theory of evolution.

It is no surprise that this play rarely gets a staging in Britain — Trevor Nunn’s expert production needs a cast of 29 (30 if you include the real monkey).

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Review: Speaking in Tongues

By John Nathan, October 8, 2009

It will not matter much to Andrew Bovell that his thriller works better on the cinema screen (as Lantana) than on stage. He wrote both versions.

Toby Frow’s production is over-stylised but grounded by excellent performances, particularly from Kerry Fox and Ian Hart as one of two reluctantly adulterous couples.

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Review: Mother Courage And Her Children

By John Nathan, October 1, 2009

Brecht’s character, Mother Courage, is not the only morally ambiguous merchant to have been resurrected by the National recently. Last year George Bernard Shaw’s arms dealer Undershaft took to the same stage in a revival of Major Barbara.

It is good to see them back. There would have been something wrong had we got this far into the current era of conflict without viewing today’s violent times through the prism of both these works.

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Review: Our Class

By John Nathan, October 1, 2009

Sixty years after the 1,600 Jews of the Polish town of Jedwabne were murdered in July 1941, a new memorial was erected.

This one no longer proclaimed the crime to be yet another Nazi atrocity. Recent evidence revealed that the massacre in which most of the Jews were burned alive after being herded into a barn, was in fact the result of a pogrom carried out by the victims’ neighbours.

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Ryan Craig owns up: I have to write about Jews

By John Nathan, October 1, 2009

Playwright Ryan Craig thought he had moved on from the Holocaust. But that was before he read a new Polish play called Our Class which has just received its world premiere at the National Theatre.

“When the National asked me to read it, my first instinct was: ‘Oh no — not another play about the Holocaust’,” he says, on the way back from rehearsals.

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Review: Enron

By John Nathan, September 24, 2009

Miracle of miracles, Lucy Prebble’s new play about the meteoric rise and — “fall” does not say it — plummet of America’s seventh largest corporation just after 9/11 turns the sterile world of spreadsheets and accounting into a stunning entertainment.

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Review: Judgement Day

By John Nathan, September 17, 2009

If Ronald Harwood was looking for another subject to turn his meaty double bill of Taking Sides and Collaboration — recently seen in the West End — into a hefty trilogy, he could do a lot worse than focus on the German writer Ödön von Horváth. Unlike his contemporary Bertholt Brecht, Horváth chose to ply his trade from inside Nazi Germany, as did, for that matter, the conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler and the composer Richard Strauss, who were the subjects of Harwood’s plays.

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Review: The Shawshank Redemption

September 17, 2009

Owen O’Neill’s and Dave Johns’s play is, we are told, not an adaptation of the film, but of the Stephen King novella on which the film was based. But the fact that the fine American actors Kevin Anderson and Reg E Cathey look very much like Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman in the movie, suggests that the producers of this prison story know who their target audience is. The leads’ performances are powerful, but cannot prevent Peter Sheridan’s production from feeling as if, rather than decades of brutality, the cons have merely endured a long evening — much like the audience.

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Review: Lolita

By John Nathan, September 10, 2009

It was a question of whether Brian Cox, whose muscular face does macho better than most, could summon the required refined sensuality for Nabokov’s most erudite hero, Humbert Humbert. That is, if “hero” is not a misnomer for a self-confessed pervert whose every thought and action revolves around having his very wicked way with an underage girl.

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