Theatre

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.

Edinburgh Festival Round Up

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The dramatisation of interviews with people caught up in political events played an increasing part in shows at this year's Edinburgh Festival.

The most prominent of these focus on the military. The play Deep Cut, from Cardiff's Sherman Cymru, centres on interviews with the parents of Cheryl James. James was one of a number of soldiers the military claimed had committed suicide at the barracks. In response to her death other soldiers at Deepcut "were hysterical. A few of them refused to wear the uniform again." They were quickly dispersed and the evidence was ignored. But the families campaigned to expose the military cover-up.

The Good Soul of Szechuan

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Director: Richard Jones; Young Vic, London until 28 June

Three gods are travelling through China, looking for a good person - so far, without success. In Szechuan province the kind-hearted prostitute Shen Te takes them in for the night. In return they give her over $1,000. She buys a little tobacco shop, but unemployed and homeless people at once begin arriving and taking advantage of her generosity. So gentle, loving Shen Te disguises herself as a fictitious male cousin, ruthless and hard-hearted Shui Ta, who protects her by turning out the hangers-on.

Black Watch

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Director: John Tiffany; Barbican, London; 20 to 26 June

The National Theatre of Scotland's Iraq War drama Black Watch is moving to the Barbican. It has been garlanded with awards since it opened at the Edinburgh Fringe in August 2006. There are a variety of reasons why the play, which was written by Gregory Burke and directed by John Tiffany, has become such a hit.

Theatre: March's highlights

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A glance at some upcoming intriguing and challenging plays


The Living Unknown Soldier
Arcola, Dalston, London
Until 15 March

Based on Le Soldat Inconnu Vivant by Jean-Yves Le Naour, this is the true story of a soldier found in France in 1918 wandering on a station platform with no knowledge of his identity or the country he has been defending. As news spreads, families flock to look at him hoping to find missing fathers, brothers, husbands and sons.

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