Theatre

Review: Red

By John Nathan, December 10, 2009

Did you see the Mark Rothko exhibition at the Tate Modern earlier this year? It focused on the Seagram Murals, the giant, fathomless landscapes the New York artist produced for the Four Seasons Restaurant in 1958 and ’59. What a wonderful companion piece John Logan’s play would have made to that exhibition.

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Review: Sweet Charity

By John Nathan, December 10, 2009

The Menier has become the UK’s most trusted reviver of the great Broadway musical. From highbrow Sondheim to the pastiche of Alan Menken’s Little Shop of Horrors, the Southwark venue has done America’s cultural gift to the world proud.

If I were to find one negative in this latest exhilarating revival, it might be that Tamzin Outhwaite in the role of the lovelorn Charity Hope Valentine lacks the uncorrupted sweetness of, say, Shirley MacLaine’s film version.

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Review: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

By John Nathan, December 3, 2009

The question that has nagged at this Broadway production of Tennessee Williams’s play is: why an all-black cast? After all, the family that populates Williams’s drama is rich, white and headed by Big Daddy, a formidable southern patriarch referred to by his daughter-in-law Maggie as a redneck. The favourite son, Brick, is an ex-American football hero now lost to alcohol, his drinking driven by the self-disgust that he has been brought up to feel about men who love other men.

It is a play whose dialogue is steeped in the language of white, southern bigotry. At least it used to be.

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Review: The Priory

By John Nathan, December 3, 2009

Arriving after two of the biggest hits of the year, Michael Wynne’s new comedy may be a victim of its venue’s previous successes. The Priory is not set in the celebrity detox clinic of the same name, but an isolated country pile that was once a monastery and is now a holiday home. It is New Year’s Eve and Kate has booked the place to draw a line under her annus horribilis during which she had a miscarriage, her boyfriend left her and her mother died. Yes, I did say a comedy.

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Review: The Line

By John Nathan, November 26, 2009

What are the great shows about artists? Few really good ones come to mind — Nicholas Wright’s Van Gogh play Vincent in Brixton, and perhaps one musical, Sondheim’s Seurat show, Sunday in the Park With George.

Yet despite the dearth, playwrights and artistic directors regularly offer them up. Perhaps placing great artists —or any famous historical figure for that matter — at the centre of a play can be a form of star casting, only less expensive. Rosetti, William Morris and Michelangelo have all been resurrected to play their tortured selves.

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Review: Nation

By John Nathan, November 26, 2009

The latest National Theatre Christmas show to have no mention of Christmas and to question religion is Mark Ravenhill’s adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s novel Nation.

It is set in a parallel world with a British Empire and where southern seas can rise into tsunamis. One wave nearly wipes out an island’s population and throws together the only survivor, a black boy called Mau (Gary Carr) and the white ship-wrecked, 13-year-old aristocratic Ermintrude (Emily Taaffe) from Wiltshire.

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Henry Goodman: I wanted to play this Jew-hater

By Henry Goodman, November 19, 2009

I am appearing in a new play by Timberlake Wertenbaker called The Line. It is about the famous 19th-century French painter Edgar Degas, whom I try to bring to life.

Although the play, which opened in London on Wednesday, focuses on Degas’s relationship with the painter Suzanne Valadon, it also exposes the complexity of the man himself. And among his prime characteristics, Degas was unquestionably anti-Jewish.

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Review: The Habit of Art

By John Nathan, November 19, 2009

Highly anticipated does not say it. But how else to describe national treasure Alan Bennett turning his attention to the crown jewels of 20th century British art, WH Auden and Benjamin Britten?

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A playhouse that's so Jewish, it's like going to synagogue

By John Nathan, November 12, 2009

It is a minor miracle that for 35 years, a former mortuary in Hampstead has somehow avoided the clutches of property developers and has instead served the people of north-west London as a theatre.

It is no thanks to the Arts Council, which gives no subsidy, and no thanks to the National Lottery, which provides no funding. Give plenty of thanks though to Brian Daniels who, 12 years ago, sunk his private pension fund into the 84-seat venue known as the New End and has somehow managed to keep it going ever since.

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Review: Pains of Youth

By John Nathan, November 12, 2009

There is much in Ferdinand Bruckner’s play that is fascinating. And there is very little in Katie Mitchell’s production that is less than brilliant. So why a reserved three stars instead of an emphatic five?

There are some physical responses to a show, that whatever its merits, cannot be denied. For instance, no matter how offensive or unfashionable a comedy may be, if you laugh, it is funny.

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