Theatre

Sofie's choice

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A glance at some upcoming plays to intrigue and challenge you


An Ideal Husband
Royal Exchange, Manchester
Until 26 January

A chance to see what Oscar Wilde thought of sex and politics, human frailty and social hypocrisy when we are, as ever, concerned with good conduct in public and private!

Sofie's Choice

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A round-up of plays to come

Tales from the Underground brings together plays by two of America's award winning black writers: Birth of the Blues by Ben Caldwell and The Dutchman by legendary writer and activist Amira Baraka (LeRoi Jones).

The Dutchman won the Off Broadway award for the best American play of 1963-64. It presents a dramatic confrontation between a sadistic white woman, Lula, and a naive black college student, Clay, who is trying to live and survive in a white controlled society.

Victory Street

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by Rebecca Manley (based on original novel by Richard McSween)

Opening somewhat eerily as the ensemble go slowly around the stage moving props from one side to the other, with two televisions buzzing, I was worried that this adaptation of Richard MacSween's book might suffer from a lack of sensitivity that stylised theatre sometimes falls into. It was the combination of ensemble pieces like these and the interaction between the characters throughout the play that, in fact, contributed towards making the performance unique.

Edinburgh Fringe

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Round-up

Nearly half of the politically themed theatre at this year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe was about war. Performers dressed as US soldiers handed out leaflets urging people to come to Melancholia, an anti-war play from the Los Angeles Latino Theatre Company.

Aaron Garcia, its assistant director, explained, "A large proportion of troops fighting in Iraq are the Latino or African American poor who are little more than mercenaries misled into the forces on the promise of an education or a job."

Gaslight

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Director: Peter Gill, The Old Vic, London until 18 August

It's not often that you want to shoot one of the main characters five minutes after they've appeared on stage, but it's an urge that's hard to resist when watching Gaslight.

It's not the actor's fault; Andrew Woodall does a great job playing an unlikable husband in Patrick Hamilton's 1938 thriller. But Woodall's character, Mr Manningham, is the personification of a vile Victorian patriarch whose only purpose in life appears to be to degrade the women in his household - routinely and indiscriminately.

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.

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