Theatre

Review: Berlin Hanover Express

By John Nathan, March 12, 2009

Two quotes came to mind during Ian Kennedy Martin’s absorbing debut stage play about Irish wartime neutrality. The first is that line most often attributed to the Irish statesman Edmund Burke: “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”

It is a lesson that haunts Paul Farnsworth’s fusty design of Ireland’s woodpanelled wartime legation in Berlin where Martin’s play is set. As do the rumours of a camp called Belsen.

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Not a good time to show my face here, says comic

By John Nathan, March 12, 2009

The Israeli comedy actress and writer Iris Bahr has spoken of her fears over bringing her one-woman show Dai to London at a time when antisemitism and anti-Israeli feeling is running high.

“It’s a crappy time to be a Jew going to England,” she wrote in a blog before she left her Los Angeles home. “If you’re an Israeli Jew like me, you’re really screwed.”

Bahr plays three Israeli characters in a Tel Aviv café moments before a suicide bomber enters. It opened this week at the Shaw Theatre.

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Our Gaza dialogue

March 6, 2009

Dear John Nathan

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Review: Toyer

By John Nathan, March 5, 2009

Cheap, nasty, unsubtle, sexually exploitative and recommended. That is if you don’t mind not just suspending disbelief for good chunks of the late Gardner McKay’s thriller, but leaving it hanging with your coat in the newly reopened Arts Theatre’s cloakroom.

This tawdry play preys on our most easily accessed fears and uses what must be the two most commonly used elements of the psycho-sexual thriller — the lone woman and the killer at large.

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Review: Burnt By the Sun

By John Nathan, March 5, 2009

There was a spat in the run up to this production. The National Theatre received complaints about a flyer promoting Peter Flannery’s adaptation of the Oscar-winning movie of the same name. It drew a link between the terror of Stalin’s purges and “atrocities in Palestine”.

Whether this referred to atrocities committed by Israelis or Hamas was unclear. But in any event, it comes across as a laboured attempt to attach modern relevance to a mistimed production.

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Puppets, politics and pogroms

By Alex Kasriel, February 26, 2009

Over the past 10 years, puppetry has grown up and moved into the theatre mainstream. Just think of director Nicholas Hytner’s National Theatre hit, His Dark Materials, or the Sesame Street-inspired West End musical, Avenue Q, where the puppets (operated by hands and rods on stage) lead very adult lives and experience very adult emotions.

Now a new puppet show aimed at adults is coming to London, one that has just three actors controlling 26 characters, and is so dark it includes a figure of Adolf Hitler.

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Review: The Taming of the Shrew

By John Nathan, February 26, 2009

Conall Morrison’s RSC production of Shakespeare’s easily most misogynistic play makes no attempt to hide its message. The action moves from a stag night in what could be modern Amsterdam, where Michelle Gomez’s hostess is a bawdy stripper in leather mini-skirt, to Padua, where the courtship between Stephen Boxer’s Petruchio and Gomez’s Katherina amounts to little more than a display of relentless cruelty.

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Review: Go To Gaza, Drink The Sea

By John Nathan, February 26, 2009

The row over whether Caryl Churchill’s Seven Jewish Children - a play for Gaza at the Royal Court is antisemitic was still raging when this second, rushed response to Israel’s Operation Cast Lead opened in north London.

And so for the second time in as many weeks, I have opted to dispense with the star-rating system we use for indicating the quality of a production. Because for the second time in as many weeks, my job as a theatre critic has shifted from primarily judging whether a play is any good, to whether it is antisemitic.

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Review: On the Waterfront

By John Nathan, February 19, 2009

Maverick actor/director Steven Berkoff was viewed by many (unfairly) as a spent theatrical force. Now here he is in the West End directing and starring in an impressive — and impressionistic — stage version of a genuine classic.

In Budd Schulberg’s adaptation (co-written with Stan Silverman) of his own Oscar-winning screenplay, Berkoff oozes malevolence as the ironically-named mobster Johnny Friendly.

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Review: England People Very Nice

By John Nathan, February 19, 2009

This is the play about which the National Theatre’s Nicholas Hytner said he felt as if he was treading on eggshells. And judging by the complaints accusing Richard Bean of writing a racist play, you can see why.

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