Theatre

Customer-Oriented Express

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Review of 'The Permanent Way' by David Hare, National Theatre, London, then touring

David Hare's latest work is not a play in any conventional sense, rather a dramatised documentary that subjects privatisation of the railways to a rigorous and devastating critique. We are presented with a mosaic of individual testimonies from 25 characters - both those responsible for running the privatised network and those at the sharp end of its failures.

The Roar of the Audience

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Radical theatre in 2003

'I went on the 15 February demonstration and was so angry that Blair could still take us into a war that I spent six months writing that anger into a play.' That play was Finding Bin Laden, a comedy which concluded that the US found it convenient not to find him, and was willing to kill reporters who might reveal US atrocities in Afghanistan. The writer Henry Naylor was not unusual in being deeply affected by the long struggle against Blair's war drive. The war against Iraq has had a particularly radicalising effect on those who produced and watched theatre during 2003.

Making the Strange Obvious

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An Interview with Adriano Shaplin

American theatre company The Riot Group have achieved critical acclaim with Pugilist Specialist, their satirical attack upon US military operations in the Middle East. Mark Brown met up with playwright, director and actor Adriano Shaplin in California just as the US military announced the capture of Saddam Hussein.

How was The Riot Group established?

Bringing the War Home

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Review of 'Sergeant Musgrave's Dance' by John Arden, Touring

There has recently been an explosion of new and revived productions of anti-war plays. One of the most exciting is John Arden's play Sergeant Musgrave's Dance, which was first performed in 1959 and was inspired by the killing of five people by British soldiers waging a colonial war in Cyprus.

Goodbye Grey Sky?

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Review of 'Happy Days' by Samuel Beckett, Arts Theatre, London

Samuel Beckett (1906-89) was born in Dublin into an Irish Protestant family but lived most of his life in France. He was arguably the supreme modernist writer of the second half of the 20th century. Modernism in literature and the theatre is in part characterised by the description of a world which no longer makes sense, in which the old certainties are dead - for example, belief in god or the inevitability of historical progress. In Endgame, three characters are praying to god, then give up in despair, one of them crying out, 'The bastard! He doesn't even exist.'

Find Out What It Means to Me

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Review of 'Loyal Women' by Gary Mitchell, Royal Court, London

Gary Mitchell's play gives us a complex, engaging and thoroughly humorous insight into the deeply embedded effects of living in a segregated community. Four generations of women live under the same roof in a poor estate in Protestant Belfast. All have a strong association with the Ulster Defence Association (UDA). One is a baby and the eldest, the mother in law, has confined herself to bed in the living room. This leaves Brenda caring for all of them, including her 16 year old daughter Jenny.

You're in for a Big Surprise

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Review of 'Tales from the Vienna Woods' by Odön von Horváth, National Theatre, London

Odön von Horváth (1901-1938), the son of a Hungarian diplomat, wrote plays depicting a society haunted by crisis and the shadow of fascism. He spent some of his most creative years in pre-Nazi Berlin, the Berlin of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill, where he wrote Tales from the Vienna Woods in 193l. The play is a poignant evocation of pre-Nazi Vienna, the city that had once been the hub of the great Austro-Hungarian Empire.

The Drugs Don't Work

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Review of ’Animal‘ by Kay Adshead, Soho Theatre, London

’On the street side the wooden gate is covered in flowers, when they wilt people come and put others, they nail them to the planks ... There‘s a tiny hand-knitted cardie with bloody cuffs, and a shoe with a bloody lace ... At the very front, sat in a deckchair like she‘s on Brighton beach, is the mother of one of the kids trampled to death by the horses ... It‘s very quiet but her lips are moving all the time.‘ The nurse Elmo sets the scene for Kay Adshead‘s new play Animal.

Upcoming Plays

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Americans
by Eric Schlosser

In his first play the author of Fast Food Nation powerfully dissects the moment when the US chose the path of empire.

Arcola Theatre, London
020 7503 1646
28 October to 22 November


Democracy
by Michael Frayn

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