Theatre

Black and White

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Review of ’The War is Dead, Long Live the War‘ by Patrick Jones, Touring

Walking into the theatre at London‘s ICA, the first thing you could see was the stall covered with Stop the War Coalition leaflets for the demonstration on 27 September. Then, looking at the play‘s programme, there was a full-page advert for the demo, and a list of useful websites which included www.socialistreview.org.uk. Before the play started, a speaker from the Stop the War Coalition gave a brief speech about the horrors of the occupation in Iraq, and called for people in the audience to come on the demo and bring their friends.

Bitter Phil

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Review of ’The People Next Door‘ by Henry Adams, Theatre Royal, London

When his local mosque was firebombed, Henry Adams responded by writing The People Next Door, a very funny play about the scapegoating of Muslims which has accompanied the post 9/11 ’war on terror‘. It also challenges prejudices around age, race and the unemployed.

Come on Ali

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Review of 'Hobson's Choice' by Harold Brighouse, Young Vic, London, then touring

When I heard that the Young Vic was planning to do radical things to Hobson's Choice I wasn't happy. My only previous contact with the play had been the wonderful David Lean film version in 1953. I'm very loyal to that straight retelling of the stage play, which has a magnificent central performance by Charles Laughton as the grotesque patriarch Henry Horatio Hobson.

To Kill a King

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Review of 'Edward II' by Christopher Marlowe, Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, London

The hugely enjoyable production of Edward II condenses 23 years of action into just under three hours of stage time, and it successfully conveys Marlowe's vision of the interplay between personal tragedy and historical process.

Death Squad

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Review of 'Pugilist Specialist' by The Riot Group/Adriano Shaplin, Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh

Leon Trotsky argued that cultural creations, whether they be novels, paintings or plays, should be considered first in terms of what he called 'the laws of art', rather than simply 'the laws of politics'. This is a lesson which should be learned by a number of writers and companies who brought work to this year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Band of Warring Brothers

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Review of 'Henry V', director Nicholas Hytner, National Theatre, London

No other Shakespeare play has been so shamelessly harnessed to the chariot of imperialist war than 'Henry V'. In the 1944 film version Laurence Olivier turned it into a patriotic wartime epic by cutting out those bits of the text that didn't conform to this political objective. From the Falklands to the first Gulf War, and most recently in the war on Iraq, the propagandists and the ideologues have appropriated Henry's famous rallying cry in order to provide a noble justification for squalid adventures.

Crossing the Divide

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Review of 'Crossing Jerusalem', by Julia Pascal, Tricycle Theatre, London

It's possible to interpret this riveting drama in various ways. Playwright Julia Pascal has created a fiction rooted in 'the everyday lives of Israelis and Arabs during the second Intifada' set in Jerusalem in March 2002, before the mass killings by Israeli occupying forces in Jenin. Specifically, she aims to examine the perspective of a generation of Israelis critical of their parents' Zionism and questioning Israeli government policy.

Pride Before the Falls

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Review of 'A Night in November', by Marie Jones, Tricycle Theatre, London

Kenneth Norman McCallister is a Protestant 'dole clerk' living in Northern Ireland. He has been brought up to believe in the inherent superiority of Protestants over 'pope lovers' and 'Fenian bastards'--his Catholic neighbours who he has been told to patronise and dislike. But there is a problem. For all his fake pride, he realises his job is less secure than he was told, and he is beginning to question his attitude towards Catholics.

Tempestuous Text

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Review of 'The Duchess of Malfi' by John Webster, National Theatre, London and touring

Whenever a new production emerges of this famous Jacobean political thriller--stuffed with sexual intrigue, ritual torture, multiple murder and religious hypocrisy--audiences flock in, eager for a new twist on the bloodthirsty plot and tempestuous text.

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