Theatre

Buried Child

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Sam Shepard’s important 1978 Pulitzer Prize winning play is often said to belong to the American gothic tradition. Hidden horror is flagged in the title but there are deeper myths at work here.

Ostensibly this is a play about a family, its failings and its possible renewal. The story is of Dodge, the patriarch here played by Ed Harris, and the matriarchal Halie, his abusive wife, played by Amy Madigan.

Harris brings a powerful American naturalness to the part and plays the comedy of old age brilliantly in this initially realist production.

Oil

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This is a hard hitting, often quick witted and thought-provoking production. A play with the title “Oil” interested me. That it managed to span the arrival of kerosene in the 1800s all the way to a post-apocalyptic future, while taking in questions of race, gender, class, colonialism and family relationships, left me mind-blown. If you are planning on going to see the play — and I would recommend you do — it might be best to stop reading now. The less you know what to expect the better.

The fierce humanity of Dario Fo

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Lina Nicolli recalls a memorable preformance by Dario Fo, the radical Italian theatre maker and Nobel prize-winning playwright, who died last month. His excoriating farces, such as Accidental Death of an Anarchist, satirised the corruption of the Italian state.

When an unassuming man walked onto the bare stage, I was ready for the kind of worthy evening that you know is probably doing you good, but is not exactly fun — a bit like bran for breakfast.

But as soon as Dario Fo started talking, gesticulating, moving around, totally in control of the connection he was making with his audience, it was obvious that I was very wrong. Eating out of the palm of his hand doesn’t even begin to capture it.

One Night in Miami

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One Night In Miami captures the extraordinary night of 24 February 1964, after Cassius Clay — soon to be known as Muhammad Ali — won his first heavyweight world title.

To celebrate, Clay spent the night with his closest companions, in the form of activist and minister Malcolm X, American football player Jim Brown and soul singer Sam Cooke, all influential men all in their own right. This fictional take on what occurred that night is played out in a motel room and makes for an intense viewing experience.

The Entertainer

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I went to see this production with low expectations, and I wasn’t disappointed.

The Entertainer is quite possibly the most overhyped play in modern theatre. While a comparable play of genuine originality and power like Trevor Griffiths’ The Comedians is rarely performed, this shallow threnody for the British Empire is regularly revived and regularly discussed in academia as one of the great plays.

The Plough and the Stars

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This production of Sean O’Casey’s The Plough And The Stars, written in 1926, marks the centenary of the Easter Rising in Dublin.

The action in the first two acts takes place in November 1915 and the final two are set during Easter week 1916, with the uprising as the backdrop. The mood of the play changes with the shifting time. The opening scenes have a lighthearted humour that is absent in the final tragic and heartrending moments.

The Threepenny Opera

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“Food first, morals later” declares Jonathan Jeremiah Peachum in the shattering second act finale of Bertolt Brecht’s musical play, a satire of bourgeois ethics. Brecht shows us the would-be bosses grubbing and grasping for every penny in order to rise out of the poverty of the mass.

The story, told with the help of a swirling polyphonic score from Kurt Weill, was the first great example of a new genre, musical theatre. Written in 1928, it is based on The Beggar’s Opera, John Gay’s 1728 parody of Handel’s operas, and it was Brecht and Weill’s first big success.

Stories from the street

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John Godber’s plays about working class people have been popular for many years. After attending a secondary modern school and becoming a drama teacher, he ran Hull Truck Theatre Company for 20 years. He spoke to Dave Gilchrist about his new play, Shafted, which deals with the continued fallout from the Great Miners’ Strike of 1984-85.

Why produce a play about the Miners’ Strike 30 years after the dispute?

I’m from a mining family and it was too raw at the time to write about the strike. My dad is 85 and still whenever we talk about the strike he starts banging the table and wanting to punch somebody.

We often hear about the “Northern Powerhouse”. I’ve not worked out where that is yet. I try to live in the real world and what I see are zero hours contracts, containerisation, large distribution warehouses and the demise of industry.

The Maids

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This 1947 play by French playwright Jean Genet comes to London’s West End in a new version for the Jamie Lloyd Company. The all-star cast features Uzo Aduba (best known for her role in US TV comedy Orange is the New Black), Zawe Ashton (Fresh Meat) and Laura Carmichael (Downton Abbey).

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