Theatre

Review: Duet for One

By John Nathan, May 14, 2009

Transfers from the Almeida to the West End inevitably lose their intimacy. But Tom Kempinski’s 1980 chamber piece, deftly directed by Matthew Lloyd, retains its power thanks to stellar performances from Juliet Stevenson as the fiery virtuoso violinist struck down by MS, and Henry Goodman as her determined German psychiatrist who must prevent her suicide. What could so easily have been an evening of clichés builds to a moving, funny battle of wills and clash of cultures. It is also the only show in town which reveals the meaning of life!

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Review: Time and the Conways

By John Nathan, May 14, 2009

Director Rupert Goold has taken J B Priestley’s 1937 dramatised theory on the nature of time and threaded it with verve and invention. The Conway family are full of hope after the First World War, and by the start of the Second, full of disappointment. Priestley lurches experimentally between the periods, and it is during these moments of time travel that Goold’s production scores with some astounding effects. The play is almost, though not quite, as interesting as the production.

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Review: Waiting for Godot

By John Nathan, May 14, 2009

I wonder if, deep down, Ian McKellen feels short-changed by Patrick Stewart. These two Royal Shakespeare Company heavyweights go back a long way. Since they last appeared on stage together in 1977 their parallel careers have each delivered acclaimed performances across the classical canon, most recently a nude Lear (McKellen) and a bold Macbeth (Stewart). They were reunited in the X-Men movies as good and evil masterminds — the brooding scowliness of Stewart’s Professor Xavier opposite the scowly broodingness of McKellen’s Magneto.

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Review: Seven Other Children

By John Nathan, May 7, 2009

Actor and playwright Richard Stirling’s 10-minute theatrical response holds up a mirror to the 10-minutes of Caryl Churchill’s now famous, some would say infamous, Seven Jewish Children.

Stirling’s play, directed by Simone Vause, reflects much of the structure, speech patterns and rhythms of the piece that caused so much controversy when it was staged by the Royal Court in London in February (I myself regarded Seven Jewish Children as antisemitic). And, like any reflective surface, it gives a reversed image of the original.

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Review: Rookery Nook

By John Nathan, May 7, 2009

I wonder if, when he decided to revive this old-school farce, the Chocolate Factory’s artistic director David Babani was looking to provide some old-fashioned escapism for these times of recession, depression and repossession?

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Review: The Last Cigarette

By John Nathan, April 30, 2009

Three Simon Grays simultaneously on stage — Jasper Britton, Nicholas Le Prevost and the oddly cast Felicity Kendal — delivers a much more entertaining evening than do most monologues. But director Richard Eyre fails to keep confusion entirely at bay as the trio meander through the late writer’s witty and self-searching prose. This stage version of Gray’s memoir The Last Cigarette springs to life as Gray’s story nears death. The dramatist was a three-pack-a-day man which, he calculated, cost him £6,000 per year — or one death sentence.

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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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