Review: Enron

By John Nathan, September 24, 2009

Miracle of miracles, Lucy Prebble’s new play about the meteoric rise and — “fall” does not say it — plummet of America’s seventh largest corporation just after 9/11 turns the sterile world of spreadsheets and accounting into a stunning entertainment.


Review: Judgement Day

By John Nathan, September 17, 2009

If Ronald Harwood was looking for another subject to turn his meaty double bill of Taking Sides and Collaboration — recently seen in the West End — into a hefty trilogy, he could do a lot worse than focus on the German writer Ödön von Horváth. Unlike his contemporary Bertholt Brecht, Horváth chose to ply his trade from inside Nazi Germany, as did, for that matter, the conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler and the composer Richard Strauss, who were the subjects of Harwood’s plays.


Review: The Shawshank Redemption

September 17, 2009

Owen O’Neill’s and Dave Johns’s play is, we are told, not an adaptation of the film, but of the Stephen King novella on which the film was based. But the fact that the fine American actors Kevin Anderson and Reg E Cathey look very much like Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman in the movie, suggests that the producers of this prison story know who their target audience is. The leads’ performances are powerful, but cannot prevent Peter Sheridan’s production from feeling as if, rather than decades of brutality, the cons have merely endured a long evening — much like the audience.


Review: Lolita

By John Nathan, September 10, 2009

It was a question of whether Brian Cox, whose muscular face does macho better than most, could summon the required refined sensuality for Nabokov’s most erudite hero, Humbert Humbert. That is, if “hero” is not a misnomer for a self-confessed pervert whose every thought and action revolves around having his very wicked way with an underage girl.


Review: The Great American Songbook

By John Nathan, September 3, 2009

When, as lead singer of the rock band The Stranglers, Paul Roberts co-wrote the album Stranglers In the Night, there might have been more than a touch of homage to both Sinatra and the song that inspired the album title.

So maybe it is a little more than a coincidence that more than one-and-a-half decades later, here Roberts stands, his Stranglers days behind him, taking to the New End’s tiny stage with a cracking jazz quartet, fellow high-class singers Louisa Parry and Ray Caruana, and a hatful of classics from The Great American Songbook.


Review: Huis Clos

By John Nathan, August 27, 2009

This is the Jean-Paul Sartre play with the famous line that could apply to every crowded shopping mall, family celebration, doctor’s waiting room and Post Office queue — “hell is other people”.

But in this 1944 existential drama, the title of which in Frank Hauser’s version translates as “No Way Out”, hell is actually nothing so trivial as a form of rush-hour frustration, but a place of judgment and damnation.


Review: Simon Amstell: Do Nothing

By John Nathan, August 27, 2009

At the heart of Simon Amstell’s intelligent set lies a contradiction. The show’s message is to accept people as they are — you might not like them, but, hey, you are not going to change them, so, as the title says: “Do nothing.” Yet throughout his fluid performance, the Bafta-nominated TV presenter and comedian urges his audience to act spontaneously, because, as he stresses, everyone’s going to die. Which could be interpreted as a resounding “Do something.”


Review: Pornography

By John Nathan, August 20, 2009

Written in the wake of the 7/7 attacks for Hamburg’s Deutsches Schauspielhaus, Simon Stephens’s play contains no porn but it is an explicit exploration of solitary lives that make up our society.

Here they include a cockney schoolboy who cultivates a cruel streak; siblings who relieve their isolation through incest; a widow who prefers machines to people.


Review: Hello Dolly

By sharronlivingston, August 13, 2009

All revivals carry the burden of collective memory. In the film version, Barbra Streisand was unforgettable as Dolly Levi, the professional matchmaker whose final match was to marry Walter Matthau’s “half-millionaire” Horace Vandergelder. That the British (and Jewish) actors Samantha Spiro and Allan Corduner make light of the load says a lot about their versatile talents.


Review: Three More Sleepless Nights

By John Nathan, August 6, 2009

Caryl Churchill’s 1980 work falls into that category of painful-to-watch relationship plays. Let us call it the “domestic”. They are usually set entirely within the home and the audience are cast as living room or (as is the case here) bedroom voyeurs. These are the kind of plays which, if while watching you recognise your own relationship, you are probably in deep trouble.