Theatre

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.

When Black and White Unite

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Review of 'The Syringa Tree' by Pamela Gien, National Theatre, London

This play brought back many heart-wrenching impressions and feelings I had as a child growing up in apartheid South Africa. In the play Salamina, the loving black nanny of Lizzie, a six year old white child, is pregnant, and when Lizzie wants to announce the coming joy, Salamina reacts in terror: 'No, no, don't tell anybody', because if you're a black servant you can't keep your child--the police will take it away. The police come stalking relentlessly late at night, and the frightened black servants climb up the branches of the syringa tree to hide.

Toys are Not for Use

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Review of 'The Magic Toyshop' by Angela Carter, Old Vic, London

'That summer she was 15, Melanie discovered she was made of flesh and bone. 'Angela Carter's 1967 novel opens with the start of the painful and enchanting journey of adolescent self discovery. Brimming with intense symbolism, the dynamic theatre company Shared Experience, with their mix of physical theatre and narration, accomplish a compelling adaptation.

Stark Exposure

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Review of 'The Island' by Athol Fugard, John Kani and Winston Ntshona, Soho Theatre, London

'The Island' is Robben Island, South Africa's high security prison for black opponents during the apartheid era. It was notorious for its harsh conditions and the brutal treatment of political prisoners.

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