Theatre

The Playboy of the Western World

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When The Playboy of the Western World as first performed at the Abbey theatre in Dublin in 1907, it didn't go down well. In fact, it sparked a riot among the audience.

Set in the early 20th century, this darkly comic play explores the fascinations and frustrations of country life. It follows the fate of Christy Mahon, a runaway, who finds himself a guest at the pub belonging to Michael James Flaherty. By confessing to killing his father, he unexpectedly becomes hero of the local town, and the love interest of Flaherty's daughter Pegeen. Christy acts as a mirror for the people of the town, building his boastful stories upon their own desires, only to have them turn on him when he finally tries to live up to their ideal.

Neighbourhood Watch

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Neighbourhood Watch is veteran playwright Alan Ayckbourn's 75th play. It is a strongly political drama set in an upper middle class neighbourhood. The protagonists Martin and Hilda are siblings and new residents at Bluebell Hill, which overlooks a working class housing estate.

The siblings meet a few of the locals at their housewarming party. After Martin encounters a young boy, who he assumes to be trespassing through his garden, the pair decide to set up a Neighbourhood Watch group. When the group decide to go ahead without the involvement of any police officers, the previously quiet inhabitants of Bluebell Hill become vigilant and the play takes a darker turn.

Edinburgh Fringe 2011 round-up

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Opposition to the cuts is so widespread that it was bound to find its way into the Edinburgh Fringe.

On 26 March around half a million marched in London against the cuts. What happened that day to a classical bassoon player and hundreds of protesters in a store in Oxford Street is the subject of the extremely funny show, Ben Brailsford: My Fortnum & Mason Hell.

The Cherry Orchard

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The plot of Chekhov's classic 1903 play is uncomplicated. An indebted Russian gentry family face having to sell their estate, including a cherry orchard. In the end they sell the land where their family has lived for generations to Lopakhin, a merchant, and leave.

What makes the play a classic - and what this production makes clear - is the meaning of these events for the family, their servants and hangers-on and for Lopakhin himself, in the context of the Russian society of the time.

Rocket to the Moon

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National Theatre
Until 21 June

Clifford Odets is rightly celebrated for his earlier overtly political plays Waiting for Lefty and Awake and Sing! Rocket to the Moon, which premiered in 1938, is a more innocuous creation, centring as it does on a somewhat hapless married New York dentist, his wife, her father, and the young dental assistant and aspiring dancer who excites his desire and causes him to muse on his thwarted ambitions.

Journey's End

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On tour

How do you swallow a war? You dilute it with long, dull slugs of peace. In fact, war is frequently so boring that soldiers long for the fighting to start. Their time is filled with the mundane. Call it a kind of humanitarian intervention.

Extreme Rambling: Walking the Wall

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Mark Thomas
On tour

This two and a half hour show is about comedian Mark Thomas's attempt to walk the entire length of the Israeli barrier in the West Bank, using the wall as a route map.

If you had asked Thomas what he was doing in Israel, he would have responded that he was writing a book "about birds and flowers". This was the line used to placate Israeli soldiers en route.

The Heretic

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Royal Court Theatre, until 19 March


The Heretic by Richard Bean centres on Dr Diane Cassell, a specialist in sea levels, whose observations lead her to question anthropogenic climate change. As its title suggests, the play argues that belief in climate change is a religion, whereas scientists "don't believe in anything".

Woody Sez

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Until 2 April 2011, Arts Theatre West End, London

Woody Sez could be categorised as a jukebox musical. But, unlike We Will Rock You or Mamma Mia, there's no glitz or glamour. Refreshingly, there are no microphones or belting voices, just the intimate experience of four musicians messing about on a dozen or so instruments and singing through the hard times of the life of Woody Guthrie.

Blood and Gifts

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National Theatre, Until 2 November

J T Rogers's Blood and Gifts was initially presented in shortened form as part of the Tricycle Theatre's The Great Game season and has now been expanded into a full-length production for the National Theatre. Set between 1981 and 1991, the play shows how US and British efforts to combat the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan led them to promote, fund and arm Islamic resistance movements within the country. As such, it is a timely reminder of the extent to which the problems that Western imperialism is now facing are of its own creation.

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