Culture

Play for Today

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Review of 'Ivanov' by Anton Chekhov, National Theatre, London

It is easy to dismiss Ivanov, alongside Chekhov's other plays, as being full of melancholy middle class moaners who need a kick up the backside. Easy but, I think, a mistake.

The play starts in the house of Nikolai Ivanov, who owns some land and is a smalltime local politician. He has fallen on hard times, and is reduced to juggling his debts and wondering how he can survive. He lives with his uncle, a minor aristocrat who has blown everything except his title, and his wife, who has been disowned by her family.

Shaken and Stirred

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Review of 'Outlying Islands' by David Greig, Royal Court, London

Plays premiered at the Traverse Theatre at Edinburgh's Festival Fringe are generally well worth seeing, and 'Outlying Islands' is no exception. The storyline starts simply. Before the Second World War two enthusiastic ornithologists are sent by the 'Ministry' for a month to monitor the migratory and nesting habits of birds on the furthermost small empty island north of Scotland--empty, that is, save for the leaseholder and his niece. The plot then develops along two paths which have little connection with one another, though enacted by the same personnel.

Revolutions per Minute

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There are now signs that the daily intensification of global politics is beginning to find an echo within popular music.

In the US, amid a climate of patriotism and mass censorship of any dissent, huge selling artists such as singer Mary J Blige and rapper Nas have come out firmly against the war on Afghanistan and the threat to Iraq. The reworking of Marvin Gaye's 'What's Going On' by MTV Allstars (Christina Aguilera, Bono, Ja Rule, Alicia Keys and many more) featured a video clearly identifying poverty, racism, Aids and Third World debt as the backdrop to the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon.

Future Shock

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Dystopias on film

With the release of 'Minority Report' there has been renewed interest in what the world will one day be like. Throughout cinema's history film-makers have not only been preoccupied with the future but how we can fight the nightmarish situations we face today. Cinema through the ages has thrown up many dystopic futures but also many heroes, fighters and leaders.

Riding the Revolutionary Wave

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Review of 'The Coast of Utopia: Voyage, Shipwreck, Salvage' by Tom Stoppard, National Theatre, London

This is a monumental work on a monumental theme. Three plays, each three hours long, about the lives and ideas that shaped the 19th century revolutionary movement in Russia. Among the individuals that walk the stage are Louis Blanc, Bakunin, Mazzini, Turgenev, Kossuth, Ogarev, Herwegh, Marx, and above all, Alexander Herzen.

War Theatre

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Review of Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

It seems that rumours of the death of fringe theatre have been somewhat exaggerated. Despite complaints--many of them justified--regarding the huge growth in the number of substandard stand-up comedy shows on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, this year's event still found the world's biggest arts festival doing what it does best, responding creatively to international events.

Beach Parties

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Review of 'Sunshine State', director John Sayles

John Sayles, still best known as the director of 'Matewan', has never made an uninteresting film. 'Sunshine State' is no exception. This is an intensely human story set against the background of Plantation Island on the Florida coast.

Wheels of Change

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Review of 'Beijing Bicycle', director Wang Xiaoshuai

It is always refreshing to see a film from a part of the world whose traditional culture is so different from that of the west. But Chinese tradition is being pressed hard by the lure of modern western values and desires, introduced by the country's rapid economic growth and integration into world markets. This growth necessitated a massive influx from country to town during the last two decades--about 100 million people.

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