Theatre

Review: Duet for One

By John Nathan, February 5, 2009

I’ll bet your penny to my pound that come December, the performers in this revival of Tom Kempinski’s absorbing psychiatry play will be vying for the year’s best actor and best actress awards.

I have found it impossible to take psychiatry too seriously ever since the film High Anxiety, in which Dr Richard H. Thorndyke, played by Mel Brooks, addresses a conference of quacks in front of huge pictures of Jung and Freud. “Years ago,” says Dr Thorndyke, “psychology was akin to witchcraft. But these great people, these giants behind me, gave us a nice living.”

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Review: Private Lives

By John Nathan, January 29, 2009

Noel Coward’s classic comedy is a suitable choice to kick off the Hampstead’s 50th anniversary season. It was, after all, this venue that revived the play in the ’60s, since when it has been a reliable star-vehicle for actors with the required effervescence to do justice to Coward’s wit.

The brilliance of Coward’s conceit — which sees jaded divorcees Elyot (Jasper Britton) and Amanda (Claire Price) celebrate their second honeymoon with brand new spouses in the same hotel — is as sparkling as it ever was.

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Review: Plonter

By John Nathan, January 29, 2009

Plonter means “tangle” in Hebrew. And although Israel’s Cameri Theatre offers few clues as to how to disentangle Palestinians and Israelis from their seemingly endless conflict, and even though Yael Ronen’s multi-media production leaves you desolate, the very existence of a theatre company populated by Arabs (though Israeli) and Israelis (though Jewish), is a sign that maybe, just maybe, there is reason for hope.

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Review: Oliver!

By John Nathan, January 22, 2009

During the curtain call for this extravagantly revived Sam Mendes production, directed here by theatre’s golden boy, Rupert Goold, a giant picture of the late Lionel Bart descends from the flies. Everyone on-stage and off looks up and applauds.

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Review: Every Good Boy Deserves Favour

By John Nathan, January 22, 2009

Reports of the death of capitalism are greatly exaggerated, but it is no bad thing to be reminded of just how revolting Communism could be.

If this was artistic director Nicholas Hytner’s intention, he could not have chosen a better work than Tom Stoppard and André Previn’s 1978 one-hour play written for a few actors and a full symphony orchestra.

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Review: Hit Me! The Life & Rhymes Of Ian Dury

By John Nathan, January 15, 2009

Whatever the rights or wrongs about the row surrounding this biographical show, I cannot help feeling sorry for Jud Charlton. It was his performance as Ian Dury that was the main force behind the production’s West End transfer.

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Review: In Blood: The Bacchae

By John Nathan, January 15, 2009

For the Arcola’s latest offering in their Reimagining the Classics series, Frances Viner has reimagined Euripides’s play in sultry 1920s Brazil and threaded into the plot the racial politics of the country’s class system.

At the top is Greg Hicks’s police chief Gordhilho, a descendent of European colonisers. At the bottom is Daon Broni’s Afro-Brazilian Besouro, inspired by the real-life folk hero who ran rings round Brazil’s persecuting police and is cast here as a modern-day Dionysus.

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Review: Roaring Trade

By John Nathan, January 15, 2009

Playwright Steve Thompson has carved a niche in exploring industries which affect the way we live. In Damages, it was the tabloid press; in Whipping It Up, it was politics; and in Roaring Trade it is the City bond traders who embody the culture of greed that brought the economy to its knees.

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Review: Well

By John Nathan, January 8, 2009

Well did well in New York. But outside that Mecca of self-regarding therapy and neurosis, Lisa Kron’s exploration of her family’s fake or imagined illnesses comes across as infuriatingly self-indulgent.

And not even the novelty casting of Sarah Miles — who has her own track record of self-diagnosis— as Kron’s mother Ann can keep this tedious play from imploding.

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Review: The Cordelia Dream

By John Nathan, December 30, 2008

I am still shaking off the effects of my previous visit to this beautiful East End theatre, which is hosting a double bill of new work from the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Adriano Shaplin’s stamina-sapping epic about the emergence of rationalist thought in Cromwell’s England took a very long time to say very little. Like a bad apple on a supermarket shelf, it prompted a question about RSC quality control: “How on earth did that one get through?”

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