Theatre

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.

Edinburgh Festival 2010

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It was difficult to miss the Guantanamo installation when arriving at Edinburgh's West End during the festival. Orange-suited figures, hooded and cuffed, were squeezed into various points of St John's Church on Princes Street.

These replicas are regularly joined by orange-suited volunteers. One of the organisers explained that "it was to remind people of Obama's unfulfilled promise to close Guantanamo".

Welcome to Thebes

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Writer: Moira Buffini; National Theatre

Moira Buffini's Welcome to Thebes draws its inspiration from two very different sources. She combines ancient Greek mythology with modern politics. Athens becomes a global superpower, with Thebes a wartorn country reminiscent of Liberia. The result is hugely effective. Buffini is not content simply to retell old stories with modern clothes and a few swear words. She uses a mythical setting to tackle issues of race, gender and international relations. In doing so, she has created a compelling piece of political theatre.

Canary

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Writer: Jonathan Harvey; Liverpool Playhouse

Canary charts the experiences of being a gay man in Britain from the 1960s onwards. It takes as its title a quote from gay activist Peter Tatchell who said, "We are the canaries in the mine," the "litmus test of whether a society is democratic and respecting human rights".

It is a tremendously strong play, successfully weaving a history of struggle into the personal stories of four gay men whose lives illustrate the huge changes over the last 40 years.

Off the Endz

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Writer Bola Agbaje; Until 13 March

Bola Agbaje's second play for the Royal Court explores the choices that face David, Kojo and Sharon, childhood friends hardening up to the realities of being 20-somethings trapped in the harsh landscape of inner-city London. This fast-paced and hard-hitting play attempts to shock its audience into the realities of what is often crudely termed "Black Britain" today. Class dynamics soon explode upon the stage.

Theatre round-up 2010

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Mark Lawson, writing in the Guardian last month, asked, "Is this a new golden age for British theatre?"

Certainly, the past year has been punctuated by some remarkable plays and the impressive bursts of new theatre writing in 2009 look set to continue this year. Many upcoming plays will directly engage with how the recession is affecting ordinary people.

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