Theatre: March's highlights

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A glance at some upcoming intriguing and challenging plays


The Living Unknown Soldier
Arcola, Dalston, London
Until 15 March

Based on Le Soldat Inconnu Vivant by Jean-Yves Le Naour, this is the true story of a soldier found in France in 1918 wandering on a station platform with no knowledge of his identity or the country he has been defending. As news spreads, families flock to look at him hoping to find missing fathers, brothers, husbands and sons.

The Arcola is renowned for gripping, intelligent drama and this promises to tackle issues around the fallout of war as well as the thin line between memory and imagination. What's more, the production company, Simply 8, is using a hydrogen fuel cell to power the production and trying to pioneer ecologically sustainable production processes - so take a torch, just in case!


Shadow Language
Theatre 503, Battersea, London
Ends 15 March

This is a completely new play so I am recommending it because I like the sound of it and because Theatre 503 has been consistently brave over the last year with some riveting new plays about taboo subjects such as paedophilia and reality TV intruding on death.

This is the story of a woman from the US who has never left Nashville suddenly going off to Turkey to search for a deported Kurdish man who has disappeared. I believe them when they say it is "darkly comic" and I am encouraged by the Financial Times comment on the playwright Kelly Stuart - "Stuart's funny, demonic writing is all too rare on the British stage" - give it a whirl!


The Resistable Rise of Arturo Ui
Lyric Hammersmith, London
Until 15 March

Brecht but not as you know him - Zimbabwean actor Lucian Msamati is Arturo Ui arriving in a modern-day African town with a winning smile, a Webster machine gun and an army of hoods in a bid to expand his criminal empire.

Brecht was a Marxist who wrote this farce as he prepared to flee from Nazi Germany in the 1930s. It's a strangely bouncy account of Hitler's rise to power but could be transformed into something new and telling by this production's gamble with topical issues. And remember that Brecht regarded his plays as social experiments requiring critical detachment and not social involvement, so sit back and expect to be "alienated".


Plague Over England
Finborough Theatre, Earl's Court, London
Until 22 March

A critic who turns playwright - particularly a critic as outspoken and controversial as Nicholas de Jongh of the Evening Standard - is brave indeed.

This is the world premiere of a new play, beginning in the autumn of 1953 when Sir John Gielgud, then at the height of his fame as an actor, was arrested in a Chelsea public lavatory. He pleaded guilty the following morning to the charge of "persistently importuning men for immoral purposes" and, poised as he was to appear in the West End in a play he was directing and having been recently knighted, his conviction caused a national sensation - breaking the great taboo of public discussion of homosexuality.

Expect a lively insight into changing attitudes to gay life from close encounters in Hyde Park to a gentlemen's gay club in Piccadilly, from Scotland Yard where pretty policeman were taught how to seduce men in lavatories to the home secretary's office in Whitehall all the way up to a modern civil partnership ceremony.


Six Characters in Search of an Author
Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
From 12 March to 29 March

Luigi Pirandello's now classic play written in 1921 follows six characters, abandoned by their author, desperately seeking a writer to complete their story.

Arriving at a theatre, they persuade one unwitting director and his hapless band of actors to take on their quest, picking up their troubled family story in a series of surreal rehearsals. At its premiere the public were not impressed, shouting "Asylum! Asylum!" at Pirandello who was forced to flee the theatre through a side door in order to avoid the baying crowds.


Days of Significance
Tricycle Theatre, London
Until 29 March

In an interesting new initiative, the RSC are out on the road touring their New Writing season in Kilburn with two new pieces on the subject of war - Leo Butler's I'll Be The Devil followed by Days Of Significance by Roy Williams.

The Tricycle is renowned as a home for hard-hitting political plays and these two are promising to pull no punches in exploring the consequences of modern warfare and the impact on the young.


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