Theatre

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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Review: Complicit

By John Nathan, February 5, 2009

The problem here is not Richard Dreyfuss who, despite suggestions that his ear is wired for prompting, convinces as a once-fearless American journalist who exposed his country’s policy of torture and is now being forced by a grand jury to reveal his source. Nor is the problem David Suchet, who is very fine as the defence lawyer. The problem is that director Kevin Spacey has chosen an inadequate play by Joe Sutton that disappears up its own self-importance. That is the problem.

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Review: Spring Awakening

By John Nathan, February 5, 2009

A 21st-century teenage rock musical set within Frank Wedekind’s sexually repressed 19th-century Germany is one of the crazier ideas on Broadway.

Two years and a hatful of awards later, this stunning show arrives at the perfect venue — a Victorian theatre encased within a modern building. There is no better place for a musical in which Victorian adolescents whip out radio microphones and let rip their teenage angst like modern pop stars.

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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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