Theatre

The Duck House

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Vaudeville Theatre, London, until 29 March 2014

"I don't want a real job, I want to be an MP!" The ironic words of Ben Miller's ill-fated character Robert Houston echoes through the theatre to be met with a loud and hearty laugh from the audience.

The words pose the crucial questions. What does it really mean to be an MP and what is their purpose? What sort of heartless individuals would spend hard earned taxpayers' money on duck houses, manure and glittery toilet seats?

Emil and the Detectives

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National Theatre, London, until 18 March

An adult's view: It is no surprise that Erich Kastner's Emil and the Detectives was so hated by the Nazis that it was one of those singled out for burning.

This exciting adventure story references all the major tensions in pre-war Weimar Germany, and comes down firmly on the side of the oppressed against the state. In one scene, most of the passengers on a tram turn on the young Emil, believing that, because he doesn't have the fare, he must be a criminal and possibly Jewish.

Spoken Word: Brand New Ancients

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Kate Tempest's award-winning and critically acclaimed theatrical spoken-word epic reopened this month and will soon be touring nationwide.

A collection of beautiful and delicately loving stories about the lives of working class people, Brand New Ancients mixes hip hop and high art in a glorious celebration of everyday life.

Tempest's poetry is an outstanding interweaving of dextrous and powerful verbal depth with a keen attention to the way in which language is actually used.

The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui

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It's not too often that a Brecht play is staged in the West End and this Jonathan Church production, transferred after a successful run in Chichester Festival Theatre, lends itself well. Brecht wrote the "The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui" in 1941 as a refugee fleeing Nazi Germany. He was heading for America and uses the Hollywood Al Capone style gangster movies as an allegory to satirise the rise of Hitler.

All My Sons

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All Arthur Miller's plays are brilliant critiques of the immorality of capitalism. All My Sons, written in 1947, is no exception. It is from a true story. In 1941-43, Wright Aeronautical Corporation conspired with army inspection officers to approve defective aircraft engines destined for military use, resulting in planes crashing and pilots dying. Miller had been told of a daughter turning her father in after he had been caught selling the faulty machinery to the army.

Edinburgh Fringe

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Theatre at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe is often at its most impressive when giving a voice to those suffering injustice.

Michael Milligan has been touring the US with Mercy Killers, a dramatisation of the medical debt catastrophe confronting many Americans. In a police interrogation room the character Joe furiously tries to explain the suspicious death of his wife.

She had become ill with a treatable condition, refused help by their insurance company and forced into heavy debt. They even divorce in an attempt to qualify for Medicaid.

The Amen Corner

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The Amen Corner, the first play by the celebrated black writer and activist James Baldwin, is revived at the National Theatre in this moving, musical and charming production. Inspired by Baldwin's own early life as a teenage preacher, it provides a snapshot of 1950s Harlem, exploring poverty, loss, love and religion.

The "corner" itself is a neighbourhood Pentecostal church, led by the passionate Sister Margaret. At first she is a much-liked local pastor but soon there is anger among the congregation.

It soon transpires that Maggie's story is not quite what it seems. She has walked out on her drunken husband Luke to establish the church. When Luke returns and Daniel, Maggie's teenage son, reveals his desire to break out of church conformity and poverty to follow in the footsteps of his jazz musician father, her world begins to fall apart.

The Low Road

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When Dominic Cooke took over as artistic director of the Royal Court Theatre in 2006 he announced his intention to produce plays which "explore what it means to be middle class...and what it means to have wealth".

That has indeed been a feature of his reign, but it has also been marked by radical work such as Lucy Prebble's Enron and Caryl Churchill's 7 Jewish Children.

Cooke's final play for the theatre, The Low Road, written by Bruce Norris, continues in this politically charged vein. It is a funny, colourful and clever play about capitalism, set during the American Revolution but unashamed in its attempts to draw links with the current financial crisis.

The Hothouse

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The Hothouse is a comedy about torture and interrogation. This pacy new production does well to highlight the hilarity of Harold Pinter's 1958 play, which effortlessly combines the sinister with the silly.

While it may seem bizarre in a play with such weighty subject matter, the actors seem to borrow their best moves from some classic British sitcoms as they send up government bureaucracy. While this over the top production may occasionally become a bit more Are You Being Served? than Yes, Minister, the cast generally do justice to this weird and wonderful play.

A Life of Galileo

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Bertolt Brecht

On the face of it, a story about the Catholic church's refusal to accept astronomical evidence that the earth revolved around the sun (heliocentrism,) might seem to be a strange subject for Bertolt Brecht to have written about it the early 1930s - and even less relevant in 2013.

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