Review: My Brooklyn Hamlet

By John Jeffay, June 10, 2010

A black-and-white photo dominates the stage. It is Brenda Adelman's father, standing in the kitchen, holding a .38 Smith & Wesson handgun. He used this gun to kill his wife. He shot her in the head. Six months later, he married her sister.

Then he went to prison for two-and-a-half years on an involuntary manslaughter plea bargain. Brenda and her brother sued him in the civil courts for their mother's wrongful death. The court awarded them $2.2m, but dad hid his fortune so they never got a dime. Then he died. And then she forgave him.

That's right, she forgave him.


Review: All My Sons

By John Nathan, June 3, 2010

Revivals of Arthur Miller plays are anticipated with a certain resignation by regular theatre-goers and critics. On opening nights we plod to the theatre in the full knowledge that our wayward moral compasses are about to be realigned. And we dutifully sit down knowing that what we are about to receive will be good for us. We sometimes forget that the lesson - in this case that we are responsible for society as well as ourselves - is almost always enshrined in a work of monumental power.


Review: Ruby Wax: Losing It

By John Jeffay, June 3, 2010

There is a mad person on stage, and plenty more in the audience.
Apologies if that does not tick the boxes for political correctness, but with Ruby Wax at her frankest and most forthright, I think we can get away with it.

She is talking us through her battle with bipolar disorder - what they used to call manic depression. And it's seriously funny. Serious because Wax is passionate about lifting the stigma. And funny because she makes her living doing comedy and she is extremely good at it.


Review: The Bespoke Overcoat

By John Nathan, May 27, 2010

As Morry might say: "Never mind the length, feel the quality."
This 1956 gem by Wolf Mankowitz, about the friendship between Morry the tailor and Fender the shipping clerk, may only be 50 minutes long, but oy, what a 50 minutes.

The tale started life as a Nikolai Gogol short story, which Mankowitz turned into a play, an Oscar-winning film and relocated from St Petersburg to the Jewish East End, where he was born.


Review: Shrunk

By John Nathan, May 27, 2010

Charlotte Eilenberg's second play is much smaller than her first.

The Lucky Ones spanned 30 years and tackled big themes, including post-Holocaust reparation. It won the author two most-promising playwright awards.

Shrunk shrinks the timespan to 75 minutes and sets the action in a cosy but claustrophobic psychiatrist's consultation room. It is not the play the awards promised.


The Bible, rewritten by Steven Berkoff

By Jessica Elgot, May 21, 2010

Learning the Bible at his East End cheder was what first inspired Steven Berkoff to tell stories. "I was brought up with biblical stories, I was taught them at my little Hebrew school," the actor and writer says. "I have such fond memories of them. I adored Hebrew school as much as I loathed daytime school, which was horrible, sadistic and vicious.

"But my Hebrew school was full of gentle people and lovely ladies. They taught us beautiful stories. That struck a few sparks in me to explore the nature of drama, to start storytelling."


The actress who's a real-life Hamlet

By Jessica Elgot, May 13, 2010

Brenda Adelman never had the typical Jewish Brooklyn family. Her mother was, she says, a "kooky and wild" bohemian photographer who dressed like Marilyn Monroe and smoked a pipe. Her father kept his 35-calibre handgun under his pillow when he slept, carried it with him wherever he went. Father and daughter bonded when he taught her how to shoot.

But her childhood was happy and the family was close-knit. "I was really close to both my parents. My mother was my best friend and I was daddy's little girl," says the 45-year-old New Yorker.


Review: Love The Sinner

By John Nathan, May 13, 2010

So devoid of charm is the man at the heart of Drew Pautz's play, it is a wonder that we care as much as we do about his crisis of conscience.

Michael (Jonathan Cullen), you see, is an everyman. Which in this case rather means he is not quite anybody. He is a husband, Christian and envelope manufacturer. And he is gay too, though he would much rather he was not.


Review: Women Beware Women

By John Nathan, May 6, 2010

If, like me, you need reassurance before committing to three hours of Jacobean tragedy, the name Marianne Elliott should do the trick.

Elliott is the director of the National's stonking hit War Horse, now packing 'em in, and raking it in, in the West End. And what she did with Michael Morpurgo's moving but thin First World War story she has also done with Thomas Middleton's 1622 revenge tragedy - that is, turned it into a time-crunching epic upon which the eye can feast even if occasionally the brain and the heart get peckish.


Review: The Real Thing

By John Nathan, April 28, 2010

If there is an Achilles heel in Kevin Spacey's now undoubtedly successful reign at the Old Vic, it is new British writing.

And that is not because it has not been any good, but because there has not been any at all. Conspicuous in recent Old Vic programmes is a picture of the most thrilling production I have seen at this or any other theatre. It came courtesy not of a home-grown play, but of David Mamet, with Spacey and Jeff Goldblum in full flow in the very American Speed the Plow.