Review: Les Miserables

By John Jeffay, August 12, 2010

Les Miserables, the world's most successful musical, marks its 25th anniversary in spectacular fashion. Cameron Mackintosh's re-worked production takes the paintings of Victor Hugo – author of the source novel, Les Misérables - as inspiration for remarkable new stage sets and scenery.

The muted colours and dramatic back-lighting reflect the bleak plight of Hugo's wretched characters.


Review: Biblical Tales

By John Nathan, August 12, 2010

In his retelling of four Old Testament stories, writer and director Steven Berkoff has found or inserted messages about Jewish identity that he has often expressed outside the theatre. Here, each is reinvented as a modern morality tale.

"Never be ashamed to show yourself," says Alex Giannini's poker-faced Moses, as he tells Egypt's Jews to mark their doors to avoid the angel of death, in what turns into a chilling omen of the Holocaust.


Review: Earthquakes In London

By John Nathan, August 12, 2010

You can pick holes, but what is the point? You could bang on about how a play which puts so much energy into getting us to think seriously about the science of climate change, uses some pretty dodgy science itself.

But Mike Bartlett's time-vaulting epic (the action begins in 1968 and ends in 2026) is so exhilarating; and director Rupert Goold serves up its complexities with such bravura; and Miriam Buether's design - the Cottesloe has been reconfigured into a nightclub with a catwalk stage snaking through the audience - is so audacious, only the mealiest mouth would moan.


Review: The Country Girl

By John Jeffay, August 5, 2010

The Country Girl is a serious piece of theatre — serious script, serious characters, serious themes and, here, a serious cast.

At its simplest, it is story of washed-up actor Frank Elgin and his struggle to beat the booze, remember his lines and rediscover the dramatic genius that once wowed audiences.

He has been pickled for a decade and now has just over three weeks to get himself together. Will he find the something within that makes him a “bigger actor”?


Review: Danton’s Death

July 29, 2010

Michael Grandage’s National Theatre debut brings to mind his two great Schiller revivals.

The first, Don Carlos, he directed; the second, Mary Stuart, remains a highlight of his brilliant regime as artistic director of the Donmar Warehouse.

As with the Schiller plays, Büchner’s Danton’s Death, about the French Revolution, deals with a reign of terror, embodied by Elliott Levey’s chilling Robespierre, the antithesis of the libertine charm represented by Toby Stephens’s raffish Danton.


Review: The Jewish Wife

July 29, 2010

How do you transport a modern audience to the lives of those who lived generations before? For this short sketch written by Brecht during his exile from Nazi Germany, Matthew Evans, winner of a young director’s award, does it both with subtlety and clumsiness.

After a couple of dissident songs, the show’s clunking preamble involves the audience being led down corridors lined with old shoes and images of huddled Jews in concentration camps.


Review: Prince of Homburg

By John Nathan, July 29, 2010

In Hans Fallada’s brilliant novel, Alone in Berlin, about life for ordinary Germans under the Nazis, there is a memorable digression about Henrich von Kleist’s 1811 play, The Prince of Homburg. According to Fallada, any actor who played the title role of the play, which Kleist finished shortly before his suicide at the age of 34, risked the attention of the Gestapo.


Review: Man in the Mirror

By John Jeffay, July 29, 2010

This is, without doubt, the Michael Jackson tribute show for those who remain wacko about Jacko.

At this performance, the faithful in the audience roared as the lights went down, before a note had even been played. And they were on their feet roaring again through the final medley.

Small boys dressed in Jackson-style waistcoats and a single white gloves were going wild in the aisles. Talk about not stopping till you get enough.


Review: The Gruffalo

By John Jeffay, July 22, 2010

"A mouse took a stroll through the deep dark wood…"

There cannot be many parents with young kids who do not recognise that opening line, and most can chant the rest of the story in their sleep.

A plucky little mouse scares off would-be predators with tales of a terrible, though imaginary, monster - the Gruffalo - in Julie Donaldson's 1999 masterpiece. Our copy bears the scars of countless bedtime readings.

So would the leap from page to stage live up to expectations?

Well, the disappointing truth is that five minutes of text really does not stretch to almost an hour of action.


Review: Aspects of Love

By John Nathan, July 22, 2010

● There's a Woody Allen gag, in Love and Death I think, in which Allen lists various aspects of love. "There's love between a man and a woman, love between mother and son. And two women, let's not forget my favourite..."