Theatre

The Shining Star

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Review of 'Midnight's Children' by Salman Rushdie, Barbican, London, and touring

'Midnight's Children' is the novel that brought international acclaim to Salman Rushdie 20 years ago. Its literary style, playful use of language and multilayered storyline introduced magical realism to a new audience. Thanks to the Royal Shakespeare Company we can now enjoy this on stage. This is the story of Saleem, a young man who was exchanged at birth by a nurse in order to give a new life to a boy born on the wrong side of the tracks. Saleem is the play's narrator, born at the hour of midnight of India's independence.

The Media Moguls

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Review of 'Victory at the Dirt Palace' by Adriano Shaplin, Riverside Studios, London, and touring

A terrorist attack has just occurred in the US, and father and daughter are live on air as rival network newsreaders. At stake are their reputations and careers--all is dependent on the television rating figures. This is merely the public face of a deep and bitter private rift that has long estranged the pair, and provided material for the tabloid newspapers.

Hill District Blues

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Review of 'King Hedley II' by August Wilson, Tricycle Theatre, London

'King Hedley II' is the eighth in August Wilson's projected cycle of ten plays exploring the black experience in each decade of the 20th century. Set in the Reaganite 1980s in Pittsburgh's Hill District, it is a time of urban devastation brought on by slash and burn economic policies. Job opportunities are scarce and violence is a part of everyday life. Like all of Wilson's plays, starting with 'Ma Rainey's Black Bottom', and including 'Fences' and 'The Piano Lesson', for which he won the Pulitzer Prize, it is set in the background of an American society created by racism.

Set Menu

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Review of 'Dinner' by Moira Buffini, National Theatre, London

'Dinner' is brought to us by the sisters Moira (writer) and Fiona (director) Buffini and features a number of familiar faces from the stage and screen. Nicholas Farrell plays Lars, who has given up on his career in the city to pursue life as a writer of philosophical tomes. The success of his latest book 'Beyond Belief' is being celebrated by his wife Paige (Harriet Walter), who plans to hold a dinner party in his honour. At least, that is the apparent reason for the dinner party.

Voices to be Heard

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Review of 'Imprint', Young Writers Programme, Royal Court Theatre, London

The Royal Court Theatre is currently running its biennial Young Writers Programme. 'Imprint' features ten scripts chosen from the original 400 submitted by playwrights aged between 13 and 25 who need not have had any previous writing experience. The programme aims to 'open up theatre to the most exciting and diverse range of new voices', offering the chance to attend writer groups and summer schools in support. It is working closely with young homeless and disabled writers, and has previously had some success in producing established writers.

Shaken and Stirred

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Review of 'Outlying Islands' by David Greig, Royal Court, London

Plays premiered at the Traverse Theatre at Edinburgh's Festival Fringe are generally well worth seeing, and 'Outlying Islands' is no exception. The storyline starts simply. Before the Second World War two enthusiastic ornithologists are sent by the 'Ministry' for a month to monitor the migratory and nesting habits of birds on the furthermost small empty island north of Scotland--empty, that is, save for the leaseholder and his niece. The plot then develops along two paths which have little connection with one another, though enacted by the same personnel.

Play for Today

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Review of 'Ivanov' by Anton Chekhov, National Theatre, London

It is easy to dismiss Ivanov, alongside Chekhov's other plays, as being full of melancholy middle class moaners who need a kick up the backside. Easy but, I think, a mistake.

The play starts in the house of Nikolai Ivanov, who owns some land and is a smalltime local politician. He has fallen on hard times, and is reduced to juggling his debts and wondering how he can survive. He lives with his uncle, a minor aristocrat who has blown everything except his title, and his wife, who has been disowned by her family.

War Theatre

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Review of Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

It seems that rumours of the death of fringe theatre have been somewhat exaggerated. Despite complaints--many of them justified--regarding the huge growth in the number of substandard stand-up comedy shows on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, this year's event still found the world's biggest arts festival doing what it does best, responding creatively to international events.

Riding the Revolutionary Wave

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Review of 'The Coast of Utopia: Voyage, Shipwreck, Salvage' by Tom Stoppard, National Theatre, London

This is a monumental work on a monumental theme. Three plays, each three hours long, about the lives and ideas that shaped the 19th century revolutionary movement in Russia. Among the individuals that walk the stage are Louis Blanc, Bakunin, Mazzini, Turgenev, Kossuth, Ogarev, Herwegh, Marx, and above all, Alexander Herzen.

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