Theatre

Workers Take Control

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The Arcola Theatre has established a reputation for bold and imaginative productions. Open for just over a year it occupies a disused warehouse in one of London's poorest boroughs, Hackney. Peter Gee spoke to Mehmet Ergen, the theatre's director.

Q. What made you set up the Arcola theatre in a disused factory in Hackney?

A. I was teaching in this area and was fascinated by Hackney and became aware of the lack of theatre in this area. I stumbled across this factory and converted it into a theatre within weeks and started to do plays. There were no grants--just the free labour of hard working, theatre loving people. It appeals to me that theatre can be anywhere, and a factory is a good location. We are all working in it--we are all workers. Also we don't need things to be glossy--it's the show that counts.

Love Story South of the River

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Review of 'Vincent in Brixton' by Nicholas Wright, Cottesloe Theatre, London

In case you didn't make the connection, 'Vincent in Brixton' is indeed about Van Gogh. But it is not about Vincent the famous painter who only decided to become an artist at the age of 27 and shot himself at the age of 37 (in 1890), but Vincent aged 21, who was transferred by a Dutch art dealer's firm to work in its London branch. He rents a room in a Brixton house with a Mrs Loyer and her daughter, and another lodger, Sam.

Women on Yop

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Review of 'The PowerBook' by Jeanette Winterson, National Theatre, London

'The PowerBook' is a brilliantly staged adaptation of Jeanette Winterson's examination of the clash between love and social convention. The play is part of the Tranformation season which is currently playing at the National Theatre. The play revolves around the fate of two women lovers, played by Saffron Burrows and Fiona Shaw. They collide on an evening in Paris. One is married, unwilling to take the risk of leaving the security of an exhausted marriage to be with her lover.

Representing Our Fates

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Review of 'Homebody/Kabul' by Tony Kushner, Young Vic, London

This ambitious and powerful drama is set principally in Kabul under the Taliban. In the aftermath of the 1998 American air strike ordered by President Clinton, the mullahs are in full control. The Homebody of the title has travelled in the hope of finding the ancient Afghanistan, the exotic, historic crossroads of civilisations that she has read of in books.

Fen and Games

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Review of 'The Night Heron' by Jez Butterworth, Royal Court Theatre, London

Jez Butterworth's second play is set in the wilds of the Cambridgeshire fens, in a bleak world where the main characters have fallen back on blind religious faith to sustain them. The night heron in the title is a bird rarely seen--there is cash for a verified sighting--and like Godot in the play of that name never makes an appearance.

A Block on the Past

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Review of 'Sorrows and Rejoicings' by Athol Fugard, Tricycle Theatre, London

Athol Fugard's 'Sorrows and Rejoicings' is an exploration of the life of a dissident poet.

Dawid, an anti-apartheid Afrikaaner intellectual, has died. His widow, Allison, and his black house servant, Marta, begin a compelling retrospective of his life. Allison, who returns to Karoo village for the funeral, may own the house, but she is unmistakably a stranger in what is Marta's home.

The Faultline Between Love and War

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Review of 'A Russian in the Woods' by Peter Whelan, Barbican, London

Peter Whelan's play deals with the human wreckage of war and imperialistic rivalry. Set in a devastated Berlin in 1949, this production focuses on Pat Harford, a young British soldier. He arrives in Germany shortly after superpower politics have changed direction. Stalin has metamorphosed into a totalitarian dictator intent on conquest, and the storm clouds of a new conflict gather.

Head Above the Rest

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Review of 'Richard III' by William Shakespeare, Crucible Theatre, Sheffield

'If you believe no one is born bad, that it's the world that makes them bad, then 'Richard III' becomes a fascinating play about the human condition.' So comments Michael Grandage, the director of a recent sell-out run of 'Richard III' at Sheffield's Crucible Theatre.

The actor who plays Derby in the production also comments that 'people are not physically beheaded in England (today) for disagreeing with whoever's in power, but they are politically beheaded.'

Grim Fairy Tales

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Review of 'Shockheaded Peter' by Heinrich Hoffman, Albany Theatre, London

'Shockheaded Peter' is billed as junk opera. It's a musical with songs like you've never heard, and it looks like a cross between a sinister Victorian play written by Roald Dahl, and a film directed by Tim Burton and starring the child catcher from 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang'. It's dark and sinister but it's also extremely funny. The show is based on a collection of German children's stories called 'Struwwelpeter', written in 1844 by Dr Heinrich Hoffman.

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