Theatre

Political theatre returns

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La Maladie de la Mort (The Malady of Death), based upon Marguerite Duras’s 1982 novella (which was, famously, written in the depths of the author’s alcoholism), was one of the highlights of last month’s Edinburgh International Festival. Staged for the leading French company Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord by acclaimed English director Katie Mitchell, it is an atmospheric and discomfiting hour of theatre.

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How does empire work? It doesn’t just involve a physical seizure of territory, it also seeks to eliminate cultures and memories embodied in the people they are subjugating. Think of how the Turkish state is at war with the Kurdish culture and language. Or of how the Russian Stalinist regime — in total opposition to what Lenin had argued —outlawed minority languages. And if you’re looking for imperialists at work you can always be sure that Britain was in the frontline.

Cathy

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Cathy Come Home, the 1966 BBC TV play directed by Ken Loach, exposed how unemployment, poverty and overcrowded and inadequate housing were condemning thousands of families to homelessness — and dividing parents from their children. The play provoked a public outcry, the setting up of homelessness charity Crisis, and eventually the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act of 1977.

Young Marx

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This is the first production at the Bridge, a brand new commercial theatre founded by Nicholas Hytner, formerly of the National Theatre. Hytner has commissioned a new farce from Richard Bean, writer of the West End and Broadway smash One Man Two Guvnors.

Woyzeck

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Georg Büchner is somewhat of an enigma. Dying at age 23, in exile in Zürich for writing a revolutionary pamphlet, he created only three major works. Unfinished, the play Woyzeck was not performed until 1913, one hundred years after his birth. Yet it is said that had he lived he would have been the equal of the great heroes of German literature, Goethe and Schiller. Although he was influenced by the revolutionary ideas of Babeuf and Saint-Simon, he was so important a figure in German cultural identity that the Nazis did not burn his works.

Angels in America

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Playwright Tony Kushner is having a resurgence in London, and there could not be a better time for it.

Last autumn his play, The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures, astounded audiences at the Hampstead Theatre. Now comes a stunning, star-studded production of his seven and a half hour magnum opus Angels in America at the National Theatre.

New Nigerians

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New Nigerians

New Nigerians is a rather timely, cynical satire about the state of Nigerian politics. The main protagonist, Greatness Ogholi, is the presidential candidate of the People’s Revolutionary Party. We first meet him giving a rather bombastic quasi-Fanonian speech about the ills that plague the nation and how only he, “the man of integrity”, can bring change. We soon learn that “Greatness” is not great and he is far from being “a man of integrity”.

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