Theatre

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.

If You Don't Let Us Dream, We Won't Let You Sleep

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Rebecca Short reviews a new play that depicts the long-term effects of austerity and how it can be fought

Anders Lustgarten's new play, If You Don't Let Us Dream, We Won't Let You Sleep, shows the destruction of the British welfare state at the hands of the Tory-led coalition. Lustgarten came to prominence in 2010 with his play about New Labour and the BNP, A Day at the Racists.

In the Republic of Happiness

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By playwright Martin Crimp

Imagine a white, middle class family eating Christmas dinner, their conversation spiked with snide remarks about Debbie's unplanned pregnancy, Dad's deafness, Mum's tiredness, Granny's selfishness and Granddad's senility and likely impotence. Anger, stress and neuroses bubble close to the surface, but are kept at bay by a baseline of civility and social convention.

Red Velvet

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Writer Lolita Chakrabarti


At the Tricycle Theatre, London, until 24 November

Red Velvet by Lolita Chakrabarti looks at the prejudices faced by Ira Aldridge (1807-1867), the pioneering African-American actor in 19th century England. It marks a strong debut for Indhu Rubasingham as the Tricycle's new artistic director.

Love and Information

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Caryl Churchill's new play at the Royal Court Theatre, London, until 13 October

Formally innovative as ever, in her new play at London's Royal Court theatre, Caryl Churchill continues to push the boundaries. Love and Information parades 100 different characters across 58 thematically linked scenes through their focus on information, identity, memory and love.

Hedda Gabler: the female Hamlet?

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Henrik Ibsen's Hedda Gabler is being performed at the Old Vic Theatre, London, until 10 November

Frequently described as "the female Hamlet", the eponymous role of Hedda Gabler has attracted a formidable range of leading actresses since its first performance in 1891, including Maggie Smith, Peggy Ashcroft, Fiona Shaw and now Sheridan Smith. The play itself is one of Henrik Ibsen's finest works - one that is well worth seeing during its current run at the Old Vic theatre in London.

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