Culture

Partisan Poet

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Review of 'The Invasion Handbook', Tom Paulin, Faber and Faber £12.99

What caused the Second World War? What personal, political or intellectual flaws led Western leaders to create the conditions for the rise of fascism? Tom Paulin's new poem, 'The Invasion Handbook', explores these questions.

Anyone who has enjoyed Tom Paulin's appearances on 'Newsnight Review', his defence of the Bloody Sunday dramas and recent attacks on Israel, will not be surprised to learn that he is a partisan poet. He is on the side of the poor, the republicans, the socialists and the Jews.

Too Young to Take the Rap

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Review of 'Biggie and Tupac', director Nick Broomfield

In September 1996 Tupac Amaru Shakur (2Pac) was shot dead in Las Vegas. Six months later Christopher Wallace aka Biggie Smalls aka Notorious BIG suffered the same fate in Los Angeles. In the period before they were killed, the two men were arguably the biggest rap stars on the planet. To this day neither murder has been solved.

Moving Down the Highways of Life

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Review of 'I'm Going Home', director Manoel de Oliveira

I'm Going Home' is a French film by the little known but prolific Portuguese director Manoel de Oliveira. Michel Piccoli's protagonist, Gilbert Valance, is an ageing and principled actor who meets tragedy one night after the show. Like many recent French films 'I'm Going Home' opens with the scene of a play, in this case Ionesco's 'Exit the King' in which Gilbert is the lead. The metaphor soon becomes clear. After the curtain falls he learns that his wife and daughter have been killed in a car accident. He is left alone with a small grandchild whom he tries to comfort and be comforted by.

Selective Memories

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Review of 'The Majestic', director Frank Darabont

In the US in the 1950s thousands of actors, film-makers, writers and technicians had their lives and livelihoods destroyed by an anti-Communist witchhunt. In an atmosphere of mutual suspicion, many of those accused of Communist sympathies named their friends in order to avoid being blacklisted themselves. The studios willingly joined the frenzy, passing on the names of longstanding staff who then had to face the inquisition. Hollywood's cooperation with the show trials has been a shame from which it has tried to make amends on many occasions. 'The Majestic' is its latest attempt.

Is There a Doctor in the House?

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The trauma of ER is not just medical. Mike Gonzalez gives a diagnosis.

You know before it starts that one person will die and one or two be saved, that a group of people you vaguely recognise from the bus stop will mill around in the background, that it will rain unseasonally, or snow, that Carter will agonise and Dr Green and his surgeon partner will barely hold their lives together. You know that some group of people will arrive bleeding and broken wearing Viking helmets or the togas of a gospel choir.

Representing Our Fates

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Review of 'Homebody/Kabul' by Tony Kushner, Young Vic, London

This ambitious and powerful drama is set principally in Kabul under the Taliban. In the aftermath of the 1998 American air strike ordered by President Clinton, the mullahs are in full control. The Homebody of the title has travelled in the hope of finding the ancient Afghanistan, the exotic, historic crossroads of civilisations that she has read of in books.

Women on Yop

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Review of 'The PowerBook' by Jeanette Winterson, National Theatre, London

'The PowerBook' is a brilliantly staged adaptation of Jeanette Winterson's examination of the clash between love and social convention. The play is part of the Tranformation season which is currently playing at the National Theatre. The play revolves around the fate of two women lovers, played by Saffron Burrows and Fiona Shaw. They collide on an evening in Paris. One is married, unwilling to take the risk of leaving the security of an exhausted marriage to be with her lover.

Love Story South of the River

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Review of 'Vincent in Brixton' by Nicholas Wright, Cottesloe Theatre, London

In case you didn't make the connection, 'Vincent in Brixton' is indeed about Van Gogh. But it is not about Vincent the famous painter who only decided to become an artist at the age of 27 and shot himself at the age of 37 (in 1890), but Vincent aged 21, who was transferred by a Dutch art dealer's firm to work in its London branch. He rents a room in a Brixton house with a Mrs Loyer and her daughter, and another lodger, Sam.

Themes from the Dawn of Time

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Review of 'Bacchai' by Euripides, National Theatre, London

This astonishing play by the youngest of the three great dramatists of ancient Greece is both very primitive and very modern. The story Euripides took as the basis of his play was a traditional one, well known to its audience. Pentheus, king of Thebes, disguises himself as a woman in order to witness the women-only sacred rites of the followers of the god of wine, Dionysus. Unmasked, he is torn to pieces by his own mother who in her frenzy believes she is killing a wild beast. Yet Euripides handles this traditional story in ways that are modern to his times.

Workers Take Control

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The Arcola Theatre has established a reputation for bold and imaginative productions. Open for just over a year it occupies a disused warehouse in one of London's poorest boroughs, Hackney. Peter Gee spoke to Mehmet Ergen, the theatre's director.

Q. What made you set up the Arcola theatre in a disused factory in Hackney?

A. I was teaching in this area and was fascinated by Hackney and became aware of the lack of theatre in this area. I stumbled across this factory and converted it into a theatre within weeks and started to do plays. There were no grants--just the free labour of hard working, theatre loving people. It appeals to me that theatre can be anywhere, and a factory is a good location. We are all working in it--we are all workers. Also we don't need things to be glossy--it's the show that counts.

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