Theatre

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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Review: Seven Jewish Children

By John Nathan, February 12, 2009

Not just a theatre event, a political event, said Caryl Churchill of her 10-minute play. So this review should deal first with the play, then the politics.

As you’d expect from the Royal Court’s most revered living playwright, Seven Jewish Children — which Churchill wrote as a rushed response to Israel’s attack on Gaza — is an impressively distilled piece of writing. Its powerful premise is built upon the parental instinct to protect children from frightening realities.

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Review: The Stone

By John Nathan, February 12, 2009

Before the 10 minutes of deeply dodgy prejudices in Caryl Churchill’s Seven Jewish Children (reviewed on page 3), the white-box set in the Court’s main auditorium is host to Marius von Mayenburg’s rather brilliant hour-long offering which takes a fresh look at how young, modern Germans deal with the legacy of the Nazis. What I love about this play — which heralds the theatre’s German season — is its articulate anger, although it is not immediately obvious in which direction it is aimed.

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Review: A View From The Bridge

By John Nathan, February 12, 2009

The headlines about this terrific production of Arthur Miller’s tragedy will inevitably focus on Ken Stott, who grips the jealous essence of New York docker Eddie Carbone with the tenacity of a bull terrier and, like his character, allows no other emotion to get through.

Sleeves rolled up, and with a rolling gait, Stott’s bear-like Eddie stalks his niece Catherine (Hayley Atwell) with a love that is something much more than paternal.

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Review: Aristides – The Outcast Hero

By John Nathan, February 5, 2009

Alice de Sousa’s illuminating but rough play about Portugal’s Schindler-like hero tells a story worth telling — how, as a diplomat in Vichy Bordeaux, Aristides (Michael Hucks) defied his government’s orders by issuing 30,000 visas to refugees — many of them Jewish — fleeing the Nazis.

There are the bones of a fine play here. A producer should see it and offer development money. Recommended.

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