Theatre

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.

The Power of Yes

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By David Hare; National Theatre, London until 10 January

A little over a year since the collapse of Lehman Brothers investment bank and the resulting economic meltdown, the theatre industry finally seems to be catching up. David Hare's new play is the latest in a spate of new work to take the financial crisis as its subject matter.

Subtitled "A Dramatist Seeks to Understand the Economic Crisis", The Power of Yes is essentially an edited compilation of interviews conducted by the author over the past year with a multitude of people who were at the heart of the crash, and who give their own accounts of what happened.

The Wrestling School

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21st anniversary

Howard Barker is arguably Britain's greatest living dramatist and the author of such extraordinary plays as The Europeans, The Castle, Victory, and The Fence in Its Thousandth Year. His work is, in equal measure, uncompromising, spiritual, erotic, poetic, politically profound, morally ambiguous, bleakly humorous and proudly, defiantly tragic. With one foot in the tragedy of the ancients, and another planted resolutely in modernity, Barker has fashioned his own latter-day tragic theatrical genre, the Theatre of Catastrophe.

Enron

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By Lucy Prebble, Royal Court Theatre, London; Until 7 November

Lucy Prebble's new play at the Royal Court Theatre charts the rise and fall of the Enron corporation, whose spectacular demise in 2001 provided a foretaste of last year's financial crisis.

The story begins with an ambitious young executive, Jeffrey Skilling (Samuel West), introducing Enron employees to a scheme called "mark to market". This is a way for the company to predict the profits it expects to make on future investments, and declare them straight away - effectively making money immediately on transactions that haven't even occurred yet.

Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2009

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This year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe included shows about those involved in political struggle along with a powerful new play from a theatre company campaigning against rendition.

Brian Haw has now camped outside Parliament for over 3,000 days, a constant irritant to a government that knows his protest against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan reflects the views of most people in the country. Zia Trench dramatises his story in her play, The State We're In. It centres on the character of Tommy Price - a passionate, witty and fearless critic of the government who refuses to end his protest despite changes in the law, repeated arrest, beatings by the police and even the occasional offer of a government bribe.

The Pitmen Painters

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Director Max Roberts; National Theatre, London, Until 14 April

This funny, warm and thought-provoking play tells the true story of a group of Ashington miners who went to an art appreciation course run by the Workers' Educational Association (WEA) and became renowned painters. Lee Hall explores similar themes here to those in his previous work, Billy Elliot, as so-called "high culture" clashes with the often grim reality of working class life.

No Gypsy Child of Mine

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Written by Caroline David

"Roll up, roll up, the Olympic circus is coming to town," begins this timely play based on real events, written by Caroline David and directed by Sita Ramamurthy. The circus analogy is used to great effect throughout the next 80 minutes.

Kirsty is the wistful young "Gypsy" traveller almost marooned between two worlds, the past and the present, settled or traveller, living on a site that is due to be "redeveloped" for the London 2012 Olympics.

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