Theatre

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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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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