Culture

Truth Massacred

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Review of 'Black Hawk Down', director Ridley Scott

The US intervention in Somalia in the early 1990s was called 'Operation Restore Hope'. It was part of an ongoing UN mission in the country that brought despair, not hope. When the UN was forced to flee in 1995 Somalia was in tatters--the warlord General Aideed's popularity had risen for resisting foreign intervention, an unknown number of Somalis had been killed (perhaps several thousand), and the country was further plunged into warring chaos that would last for years.

Royal Results in Stratford

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Joan Littlewood's Theatre Royal in Stratford, east London, revolutionised British theatre with shows such as 'Oh What a Lovely War', 'The Hostage' and 'A Taste of Honey'. Peter Gee spoke to the theatre's director, Philip Headley, about continuing the battle to make theatre relevant and vital to working people's lives.

Q. In what way has Joan Littlewood's legacy affected your approach in attracting a working class audience to your theatre?

A. She was totally concerned with social inclusion, except the term hadn't been invented then. She always spoke of the continuous loop between theatre and the community. We draw on ideas, experiences and talents from the community, and create shows and present them back to the community. As the demography of the local community changes, so must the shows presented on stage.

Q. What barriers exist that stop people coming to theatre?

Stark Exposure

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Review of 'The Island' by Athol Fugard, John Kani and Winston Ntshona, Soho Theatre, London

'The Island' is Robben Island, South Africa's high security prison for black opponents during the apartheid era. It was notorious for its harsh conditions and the brutal treatment of political prisoners.

Toys are Not for Use

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Review of 'The Magic Toyshop' by Angela Carter, Old Vic, London

'That summer she was 15, Melanie discovered she was made of flesh and bone. 'Angela Carter's 1967 novel opens with the start of the painful and enchanting journey of adolescent self discovery. Brimming with intense symbolism, the dynamic theatre company Shared Experience, with their mix of physical theatre and narration, accomplish a compelling adaptation.

All Power to the Imagination

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Review of exhibition 'Paris, Capital of the Arts 1900-1968' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

Art in the 20th century is too often made to seem obscure and difficult, but this exhibition is about as accessible and exciting as it gets. Partly that's because it is linked to the development of a great city, so there's an inbuilt stress on history in the exhibition. But it also seems that the art industry has sensed growing interest in radical, even anti-capitalist, ideas. Paris is presented as a centre of subversion as well as culture.

Not At Its Peak

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Review of 'Mulholland Drive', director David Lynch

David Lynch's new mystery thriller, Mulholland Drive, was initially conceived as a pilot show for what was intended to be a television series, presumably in the same format as Twin Peaks. It centres on the relationship between two actresses. One is fresh and naive, the all-American type of character which Lynch uses in lots of his work. She is countered by a more established actress who has obviously been scarred by her own experience in the film industry. She is also suffering from amnesia.

Tales of Class and Ethnicity

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Review of 'Monsoon Wedding', director Mira Nair

Affluent Lalit Verma and his wife Pimmi welcome a mini-diaspora to their elder daughter Aditi's wedding. Husband to be Hemant is due in from Houston. But even at this stage lover and married boss Vikram is foremost in Aditi's mind. The occasion's workers, wedding contractor PK Dubey and house servant Alice, develop a romance which is more tender and genuine than the pompous gathering they are servicing. Aditi not only ditches Vikram, following a tight squeeze with the law behind a sweating windscreen, but also confesses to a baffled Hemant.

Caught Between Life and Death

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Review of "No Man's Land" by Harold Pinter, Lyttleton Theatre, London

Harold Pinter has a unique distinction - he has two phenomena named after him. The 'Pinteresque' has come to refer to his complex and challenging theatrical style, while a 'Pinterism' is, according to pro-war journalist David Aaronovitch, an ill judged and unjustified criticism of US foreign policy.

So Pinter has made his anti-establishment mark in both theatre and politics. This would make any production of his work worth a look. The current revival of Pinter's 1975 play No Man's Land at the National Theatre comes with other recommendations.

Where the Sun Never Shines

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Review of 'Dark Days', director Marc Singer

Dark Days is the story of a community of homeless people living in a train tunnel beneath Manhattan. These people, some resident in the cavernous tunnels for up to 25 years, literally scratch out a living in the pitch black amongst swarms of rats while high speed trains fly by. This is all very reminiscent of the folk song Dark as a Dungeon Way Down in the Mines. The rain never reaches the tunnels and the sun never shines here either - but there is free electricity and a broken pipe under which to get a cold shower.

Whiteread's Engaging Spaces

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Review of Rachel Whiteread Exhibition

I met a friend outside the Rachel Whiteread exhibition at Edinburgh's Gallery of Modern Art who said he had come out with a feeling of disappointment. In a strange way, it struck me that perhaps that was quite an appropriate response. After all, Whiteread's extraordinary sculptures are all about absence and departure. So it's logical to feel a sort of nostalgia when you look at her work

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