Theatre

The talmudic scholars of gore, horror and ghouls

By John Nathan, March 18, 2010

Just when the theatrical chiller was thought to be something that belonged to the era of cigarette ushers and pot boilers, along comes Jeremy Dyson's and Andy Nyman's Ghost Stories.

The play is the product of the combined talents of the co-creators, writer Dyson - who made the big time with The League of Gentlemen - and Nyman, who has made it big with just about everything he has turned his hand to - acting, magic and that sleight-of-mind aspect of showbusiness, mentalism.

"We absolutely hit it off straight away," says Dyson. "It was a bit like love at first sight," says Nyman.

More..

Review: The Fever Chart

By John Nathan, March 18, 2010

Three short plays by American writer Naomi Wallace weave together Palestinian and Israeli lives. There could hardly be a more powerful metaphor for the bond that links the two peoples than the Israeli student nurse who breathes with transplanted Palestinian lungs; or the Israeli soldier and grieving Palestinian mother bound by grief and death. Directors Marcus Romer and Katie Posner (who says her Jewish roots informs her attitude to the subject) direct the strong cast with admirable simplicity. But plays about this conflict have to deliver more than a depiction of mutual suffering.

More..

Review: Love Never Dies

By John Nathan, March 18, 2010

With some startling scene setting and video projections, Andrew Lloyd Webber's long-awaited musical starts with plenty of wow but ends up with nothing but woe. Apart from Bob Crowley's design, this sequel to the hit Phantom of the Opera misses on all fronts.

More..

Review: Private Lives

By John Nathan, March 18, 2010

By strange coincidence, this is another play that features Solomon Isaacs (see above). Here his name is a codeword to stop bickering turning into hitting when Kim Catrall's explosive Amanda goes toe to toe with Mathew Macfadyen's equally volatile Elyot. In this revival of Noel Coward's fizzing comedy, Catrall delivers a performance that is pitch perfect in posh accent and brimful of wit. Macfadyen matches her for acidic charm. But director Richard Eyre fails to re-energise the play. His back-to-basics version, though entertaining, feels more like a classic exhumed than revived.

More..

Review: London Assurance

By John Nathan, March 18, 2010

Has there ever been a neater, wittier, sidestepping of Victorian anti-semitism? I doubt it. To reveal exactly how director Nicholas Hytner handles the money-lender Solomon Isaacs in Dion Boucicault's 1841 comedy would be to sour a moment that is as sweet as it is satisfying.

More..

Review: A Day At The Racists

By John Nathan, March 11, 2010

At the Finborough, Anders Lustgarten's A Day at the Racists is the best new political play of recent times. It reflects uncomfortable realities - not only about why people vote for the BNP, but how the white working-class has been betrayed by the Left.

Remember the misplaced self-congratulation that followed the BBC Question Time with Nick Griffin? The BNP leader's fellow panellists took easy pot shots at him, but failed to address the reason why he attracts votes.

More..

Review: Moonfleece

By John Nathan, March 11, 2010

Two new plays about the BNP opened this week and with them so did the old debate about whether any play ever changed anything.

"No play in the whole of history, in all the countries of the world, has ever changed a policy of the world," said wise old Peter Brook recently. The director is probably right. But what plays can change is attitudes, as long as it is not obvious that changing attitudes is what the playwright set out to do. This proves to be the Achilles heel of Philip Ridley's Moonfleece which boldly combines the poetical with the political.

More..

How a clash between a couple of toffs led to birth of Israel

By John Nathan, March 4, 2010

Just over 50 years after Theodore Herzl proclaimed Israel's right to exist in 1897, Israel existed. The steps that led to that historic moment are well documented: The Balfour Declaration in 1917; The League of Nations' Mandate in 1922; the Declaration of Independence in 1948.

More..

Review: Ghosts

By John Nathan, March 4, 2010

If I were a producer I would want to be the type who puts Ibsen's play about family secrets on in the West End. There is something miraculous about 21st-century attention spans being held with just dialogue set in one bleakly-lit Norwegian room with only the rattle of incessant rain for music. This is a classic feel-bad play.

But I would need a reason to put it on, whether it be the director's vision or the casting. Both are solid here, but neither is the stuff of theatrical triumphs.

More..

Review: Measure For Measure

February 25, 2010

"Why Measure for Measure?" asked a colleague as we walked into the theatre. It seems I was not the only one wondering why the Almeida, a venue that generally concentrates on mostly modern British and international plays, had turned to Shakespeare.

It is not as if there is a lack of Shakespeare around. But by the time Michael Attenborough's production had reached the interval, no excuse was needed. The reason was obvious. It was clear that Attenborough must have been burning to direct this problem play.

More..