Theatre

Philistines

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Director: Howard Davies, National Theatre, London until 18 August

Vassily is a self-made man, ignorant, anti-Semitic and fearful of change. He has paid for the education of his son Pyotr and daughter Tanya, but instead of becoming contented bourgeois people they rejected him and his values. Pyotr returns home from university, where he was studying to become a lawyer, suspended after involvement in a radical demo. Tanya can find no goal in life when the only aim of middle class women is to marry: halfway through the play she tries to kill herself.

Breaking All the Rules

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Martin Crimp, one of the most innovative playwrights to emerge in Britain in the past 20 years, spoke to Kelly Hilditch about the revival of his play Attempts on her Life.

Originally written in 1997, Attempts on her Life is being given its first major production in Britain this March. The play is a series of 17 scenes or "attempts", trying to discover who Anne or Annie is. In the end she seems to be more of a "guide or pivot" around which the story is told than a character in her own right.

"I have two ways of writing," playwright Martin Crimp said. "I do still write what you would call conventional plays. But ever since I discovered this alternative way of writing with Attempts on her Life it has continued to fascinate me."

Landscape with Weapon

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National Theatre, London, until 7 June

As Dwight D Eisenhower prepared to leave office in 1961, he warned the country about the power of the military-industrial complex. "This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience," he said. "We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes."

Radicals Storm the Stage

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Opposition to war was the overarching theme at this year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Keith McKenna takes a look back at some of the best productions.

When Edinburgh's Theatre Workshop began planning their programme for this year's Edinburgh Festival, the war in Iraq came top of the agenda. Robert Rae, the artistic director, explained, "We had been working with the local community on the show Babylon Burning (Another Lovely War) and we decided to open up the research involved to everyone." As a result the venue's entire programme was crammed with war related exhibitions, plays, speakers from the Stop the War Coalition, and debates.

Taken from Death Row

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John Cresswell is touched by this anti-death penalty production.

The Exonerated
Director: Bob Balaban
Riverside Studios, London

"It took 13 and a half minutes for Jesse to die. Three jolts of electricity that lasted 55 seconds each... until finally flames shot out from his head, and smoke came from his ears." Jesse was innocent.

In Ohio, Scotsman Kenny Richey has been waiting to die for 19 years. He has repeatedly protested his innocence. Thirteen times he has been told to prepare to face the same fate as Jesse.

Acts of Resistance

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Berit Kuennecke reports from the frontline of Palestinian theatre.

I went to Palestine to work with the theatre company Al-Hara (the neighbourhood) in Beit Jala, Bethlehem. It was during the end of Ramadan, and my first day was spent on the back of a truck, watching the company perform a children's play at eight different locations throughout Bethlehem. These included two refugee camps, one of them with a high proportion of children whose parents have been imprisoned in Israeli jails.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

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Review of 'Translations' by Brian Friel, National Theatre, London

The recent events in Birmingham and Paris have renewed debates about issues of 'culture clashes', racism and integration. Translations takes up these issues within the context of a Gaelic-speaking village in 1833, during the Ordnance Survey to map out Ireland and just before the establishment of a state education system.

National Debate

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David Edgar's drama Playing with Fire was attacked by critics. In this counterblast, theatre producer Michael Kustow argues Edgar is the Dickens of our stage.

The National Theatre under its director Nicholas Hytner has paid fierce attention to the sore points of the body politic - privatised railways (David Hare's The Permanent Way), the invasion of Iraq (Hare's Stuff Happens), the updating of classics (Shakespeare's Henry V in the era of the Gulf wars) and, in Mike Leigh's recent 2,000 Years, the effect on one Jewish family of the erosion of Zionism, the occupation of Iraq and the tug of war between rationality and religious belief.

The play's the thing

Keeping the Faith

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Review of 'Chicken Soup with Barley' by Arnold Wesker, Tricycle Theatre

In the late 1950s a new wave of young, radical dramatists took British theatre by storm, challenging the conventional, complacent type of drama that dominated the stage with plays that explored at a deeper level the distortion of human relationships by our society, and confronting head-on the key political issues of the day. This group of dramatists included John Arden, John Osborne, Harold Pinter and Arnold Wesker.

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