Theatre

The Hook: a real contender

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This is in so many ways a remarkable and important play. It is after all a world premiere of a major play, staged to mark the centenary of Arthur Miller, one of the great playwrights of the last century. It is also Miller’s most directly political script from his early career.

Miller and Elia Kazan (two of the tyros of left wing American theatre) became interested in the matted politics of New York dockland in the late 1940s.

The Absence of War

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David Hare’s play, written after the failure of Labour’s general election campaign of 1992, was prophetic in regard to Tony Blair’s New Labour project and it also has resonance for Ed Miliband today. After its run in Sheffield, Jeremy Herrin’s latest production is due to tour ten provincial theatres in the run-up to this year’s general election. The staging is bare and Brechtian, as in places is Hare’s writing.

The Ruling Class

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One of the shittier aspects of the world we live in is that our rulers want us to like them. It is no longer enough that this is their world (while we just live in it). Now they want to be liked, even loved. Films such as The King’s Speech and TV shows like Made in Chelsea and Downtown Abcess are all part of a Smarm Offensive by the 1 percent. When the global ruling class gathered for their annual Rich Boys Beano at Davos they hired in children’s entertainer Emma Watson and in-the-news-again Prince Andrew solely to generate the Toff Love vibes.

Taken at Midnight

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It’s hard to comfortably watch a set so sparse and foreboding while seated at the Theatre Royal, sumptuous, gilded and warm as it is. A single chair we know means torture, grey walls, the world seen in black and white, cold concrete — like some post-apocalyptic underground car park. The story of left wing Jewish lawyer Hans Litten’s legal pursuit of Hitler through the German courts has been uncovered in recent years through Mark Hayhurst’s TV drama The Man Who Crossed Hitler and a documentary, To Stop a Tyrant.

God Bless the Child

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Molly Davies’ play has a disconcerting set for those of us who work in a primary school. The studio has been turned into the perfect replica of a Year 4 classroom, with ceiling tiles, displays and even a stock cupboard.

The school is piloting a scheme, “Badger Do Best”, devised by author Sali Rayner, centred on a badger and other woodland creatures. All the stories end with Badger helping the creatures to work together as a team to overcome difficulties.

East is East

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East is East is a priceless modern classic about the tensions among conflicting cultures in multiracial Britain.

Pakistani chip-shop owner George Khan (played by the author Ayub Khan Din) wants his children to remember and abide by their Pakistani roots.

He makes every effort to bring them up in a strict Muslim household, despite the fact that his family were born and raised in 1970s Salford.

The Angry Brigade

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Angry Brigade

This brilliant first production of James Graham’s The Angry Brigade is a play of two halves. The story of Britain’s first urban guerrilla group focuses on 1971 and the setting of a number of small explosions by a small group of anarchists in London.

They target an MP, a Commissioner of Police, an embassy and the Royal Albert Hall where the Miss World Pageant is taking place, hosted by the sexist comedian Bob Hope. It’s a true story.

Regeneration

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Regeneration

In 1916 the physician-superintendent of Edinburgh Asylum claimed that the First World War “did not appear to have increased the amount of insanity”. His colleague at Glasgow Asylum went further: the “abundance of occupation…[and] absorbing interest in the national crisis…had thus increased and not diminished the mental stability and general health of the nation”.

A new stage adaptation of Pat Barker’s Regeneration trilogy about the treatment of “war neurosis”, or post-traumatic stress disorder, among officers at Edinburgh’s Craiglockhart Military Hospital gives the lie to this.

Little Revolution

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Almeida Theatre, London, until 4 October
Little Revolution depicts the riots of summer 2011 through the diverse voices of Hackney residents. The playwright, Alecky Blythe, who appears as herself, constructed the script from the recordings of real people that she made at the time. The actors reproduce the voices, accents and exclamations word for word, weaving these snippets of conversation into a vivid narrative.

Mr Burns

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Mr Burns

Almeida Theatre, London, until 26 July

If you were given the task of preserving culture for future generations what would you save? Gilbert and Sullivan or Eminem? Shakespeare or the Simpsons? How much would you remember? And would you remember it right?

Mr Burns is described as a post-electric play. It opens with the audience plunged into darkness and a small group of people on stage around a camp fire. We know something has happened but are never really clear what. Few people are left alive. Nuclear power stations have gone up in flames and there is no power.

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