Theatre

Top Girls

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Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls, set in 1980s Britain, three years after Thatcher came to power, is a play of binaries. The first two acts uncover the rampant competition and disregard some women have for one another in a world where monetarism and individualism are rife.

Richard II

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This production of Shakespeare’s history play is entirely produced, directed and performed by non-white women — a first for a production on a major British stage. The costumes, set and music are non-specific, sometimes African, Arabic or Indian. Around the theatre are banners made from photos of the cast’s ancestors from across the world.

The play concerns the emerging national identity and it is fascinating how different the many references to gender and race come across with this cast, raising a new commentary about their original meaning.

Scottish theatre’s modern renaissance

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Mark Brown, author of Modernism and Scottish Theatre Since 1969, gives the run down on how Scotland’s particular kind of Reformation stunted the development of dramatic writing for centuries, not really recovering until the early 1900s.

To talk about Scottish theatre in the late 20th and early 21st centuries we must, paradoxically, start in the 16th century. For it was then, amid the ferocious indignation and granite moral certainties of the Calvinist Reformation, that a new course was set for Scottish society and culture.

In the case of theatre, it meant no course at all. For the virulent Protestant reformer John Knox and his fellow Calvinists, the theatre was a cesspit of godless recreation. Consequently, as the roofs were ripped from the Catholic abbeys, the theatres, too, were closed down.

Interview: Women of Aktion

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In this new production by Bent Architect, the stories of revolutionary women who helped bring about the end of the First World War are explored through an imagined collaboration between radical theatre maker Joan Littlewood and German revolutionary playwright Ernst Toller. Socialist Review spoke to the play’s writer and co-director (with Jude Wright), Mick Martin.

What led you to look at women’s stories from the German Revolution?

Professor Ingrid Sharp from Leeds University came to see our 2014 play England, Arise! about the Huddersfield socialist conscientious objectors in the First World War, and she loved it. Her specialist areas of interest are the German anti-war movement and women’s history. She said that the German anti-war movement has not really been looked into, and that German historians tend not to be as focused on women’s history as is the case here.

Every Day I Make Greatness Happen

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Having spent 20 years teaching, I thought that going to see a play about education might be a bit of a busman’s holiday. I was also worried that it might be rather like one of those programmes on television about schools that are so unrealistic as to distract anyone with any knowledge of what happens there. I need not have worried. This excellent and well observed play by Richard Molloy is realistic to the point of painfulness. The frustration, the hope, the joy of what it is like to work or study in the contemporary education system is beautifully shown.

Political theatre returns

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La Maladie de la Mort (The Malady of Death), based upon Marguerite Duras’s 1982 novella (which was, famously, written in the depths of the author’s alcoholism), was one of the highlights of last month’s Edinburgh International Festival. Staged for the leading French company Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord by acclaimed English director Katie Mitchell, it is an atmospheric and discomfiting hour of theatre.

Translations

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How does empire work? It doesn’t just involve a physical seizure of territory, it also seeks to eliminate cultures and memories embodied in the people they are subjugating. Think of how the Turkish state is at war with the Kurdish culture and language. Or of how the Russian Stalinist regime — in total opposition to what Lenin had argued —outlawed minority languages. And if you’re looking for imperialists at work you can always be sure that Britain was in the frontline.

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