Theatre

War Takes Centre Stage

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Review of Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Performers at this year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe have found ways of referring to Iraq in shows ranging from Shakespeare's Macbeth to a musical comedy about school inspectorate Ofsted. There are over 40 plays about war but it is a play about Palestine which has generated the most positive attention.

The Melancholy Family

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Review of 'Calcutta Kosher' by Shelley Silas, Theatre Royal, Stratford

Kali Production Company specialises in bringing the writing of Asian women to the stage. Calcutta Kosher is a welcome addition to that admirable project.

India has been host to three main groups of diaspora Jews - the Bene Israel, Cochin Jews and Baghdadi Jews. As first-comers, the Bene Israel combined Jewish with Hindu and Muslim practices until the arrival of the Cochin, who were fleeing persecution in Portugal during more Inquisitive times. They found a haven free from the obscenities of European anti-Semitism.

Is Suicide Painless?

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Review of 'Hamlet' by William Shakespeare, The Old Vic

Trevor Nunn's new contemporary dress production of Hamlet is a breath of fresh air. Ben Whishaw in the starring role is just 23 years old, Samantha Whittaker playing Ophelia is still at university, and the emphasis on youth throughout the production brings new meaning to the play. As the text makes constant reference to Hamlet and Ophelia's youth, this production may perhaps be more in keeping with how it was originally intended.

Living in Hope

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Review of 'The Big Life' by Paul Sirett, Theatre Royal, Stratford East, London

The Big Life tells the story of four men who have just arrived in England from the West Indies. They are all so excited about life in England and have many expectations of everything it has to offer. Determined to make a go of their new life, they decide that women are a distraction they can do without and swear off them for three years. But they hadn't counted on meeting four strong-minded women who have also recently arrived in the country who they end up sharing a bed-and-breakfast with.

To Die Laughing

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Review of 'Follow My Leader' by Alistair Beaton, Hampstead Theatre, London

God asks Blair to be a 'restraining influence' on George Bush, 'who scares the life out of me'. He agrees but is soon doing the exact opposite as he dances with Bush singing 'Two Loving Dads', which justifies the killing of other people's children. This is the opening sequence to Alistair Beaton's very funny musical Follow My Leader, which satirises Bush, Blair and other warmongers.

If We Can Shoot Rabbits...

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Review of 'Homage to Catalonia' by George Orwell, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds, then touring

Homage to Catalonia, first published in 1938, remains one of those books that all socialists have read or should read. When it was first published it raised a storm on the left because of its clear opposition to Stalinism and the role Stalin played in the defeat of the Spanish Revolution. Furthermore, it was one of his most optimistic books, where he experienced a taste of what socialism could be like.

Paying the Penalty

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Review of ’The Quare Fellow‘ by Brendan Behan, Liverpool Playhouse, then touring

The Quare Fellow is one of the only plays where the audience never sees the central character. Written by Brendan Behan in 1954, it depicts 24 hours in an Irish prison, from slopping-out time (graphically portrayed) to the following morning. During that time one prisoner receives a reprieve from hanging, while another murderer (the quare fellow) waits to hear his fate.

Solidarity Forever

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Review of ’Burning Issues‘ by Banner Theatre, touring

In 1984 Banner Theatre threw themselves into support for the miners‘ strike. They raised money, sang at demonstrations, toured picket lines, and put together a passionate, committed chronicle of the events. This year they interviewed many of those involved in the struggle for their latest show, Burning Issues, which tours the country from March. It weaves together filmed interviews with other documentary material and songs to produce what the company refers to as a video ballad.

Songs of Rebellion

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An interview with Alistair Hulett and Martin McCardie.

Red Clydeside, a show combining songs and drama, was a sell-out success at last month's Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow. Mark Brown spoke to singer/songwriter Alistair Hulett and writer Martin McCardie about making art out of Glasgow's famous workers' uprising.

This show, about workers' resistance during and immediately after the First World War, is a new version of the Red Clydeside song cycle. What are the origins of the cycle itself?

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