Theatre

Waste

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There have been rave reviews in the Guardian and largely positive noises from the rest of the press for the new National Theatre production of Henry Granville-Barker’s Waste.

The play has at its heart a debate about a bill to secure the disestablishment of the Church of England and an attempt by the Tories to form a coalition government. Given recent political history you can see how this might be appealing. We see tensions between sections of the ruling class and the old power of the church. “How’s the wretched capitalist to live?” complains one of the politicians.

A Room with a Stew

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“Are there any jokes? No,” says Stewart Lee midway through his new show A Room with a Stew, and he’s telling the truth. There aren’t any jokes as such.

But there is surreal, vivid imagery that emerges often from nowhere as it builds, layer upon layer, through exquisitely tortuous repetition.

References to Brechtian alienation share the bill with a variety of tales of childhood urination.

It’s awkward, self-referential and self-consciously arrogant and, because of rather than despite these traits, it’s brilliant.

The Hook: a real contender

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This is in so many ways a remarkable and important play. It is after all a world premiere of a major play, staged to mark the centenary of Arthur Miller, one of the great playwrights of the last century. It is also Miller’s most directly political script from his early career.

Miller and Elia Kazan (two of the tyros of left wing American theatre) became interested in the matted politics of New York dockland in the late 1940s.

The Absence of War

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David Hare’s play, written after the failure of Labour’s general election campaign of 1992, was prophetic in regard to Tony Blair’s New Labour project and it also has resonance for Ed Miliband today. After its run in Sheffield, Jeremy Herrin’s latest production is due to tour ten provincial theatres in the run-up to this year’s general election. The staging is bare and Brechtian, as in places is Hare’s writing.

The Ruling Class

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One of the shittier aspects of the world we live in is that our rulers want us to like them. It is no longer enough that this is their world (while we just live in it). Now they want to be liked, even loved. Films such as The King’s Speech and TV shows like Made in Chelsea and Downtown Abcess are all part of a Smarm Offensive by the 1 percent. When the global ruling class gathered for their annual Rich Boys Beano at Davos they hired in children’s entertainer Emma Watson and in-the-news-again Prince Andrew solely to generate the Toff Love vibes.

Taken at Midnight

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It’s hard to comfortably watch a set so sparse and foreboding while seated at the Theatre Royal, sumptuous, gilded and warm as it is. A single chair we know means torture, grey walls, the world seen in black and white, cold concrete — like some post-apocalyptic underground car park. The story of left wing Jewish lawyer Hans Litten’s legal pursuit of Hitler through the German courts has been uncovered in recent years through Mark Hayhurst’s TV drama The Man Who Crossed Hitler and a documentary, To Stop a Tyrant.

God Bless the Child

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Molly Davies’ play has a disconcerting set for those of us who work in a primary school. The studio has been turned into the perfect replica of a Year 4 classroom, with ceiling tiles, displays and even a stock cupboard.

The school is piloting a scheme, “Badger Do Best”, devised by author Sali Rayner, centred on a badger and other woodland creatures. All the stories end with Badger helping the creatures to work together as a team to overcome difficulties.

East is East

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East is East is a priceless modern classic about the tensions among conflicting cultures in multiracial Britain.

Pakistani chip-shop owner George Khan (played by the author Ayub Khan Din) wants his children to remember and abide by their Pakistani roots.

He makes every effort to bring them up in a strict Muslim household, despite the fact that his family were born and raised in 1970s Salford.

The Angry Brigade

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Angry Brigade

This brilliant first production of James Graham’s The Angry Brigade is a play of two halves. The story of Britain’s first urban guerrilla group focuses on 1971 and the setting of a number of small explosions by a small group of anarchists in London.

They target an MP, a Commissioner of Police, an embassy and the Royal Albert Hall where the Miss World Pageant is taking place, hosted by the sexist comedian Bob Hope. It’s a true story.

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