Theatre

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

Flick the Switch

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Review of 'Switch Triptych', Riot Group, Edinburgh Fringe and London

America's Riot Group have returned to Britain with their new play Switch Triptych, a bleak expressionist take on the replacement of women telephonists by machines. Two years ago they performed the anti-war play Pugilist Specialist to packed houses across Britain. The group's writer and director Adriano Shaplin talked to Keith McKenna about their work.

Between Dreams and Injustices

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Review of 'Death of a Salesman' by Arthur Miller, Lyric Theatre, London

It is fitting that a few months after Arthur Miller's death we should have the opportunity to revisit the play widely regarded as his greatest. The main character, Willy Loman, is the embodiment of the American Dream, the idea that America is the land of freedom and opportunity, a country which ignores social and economic background, only recognising ambition and application. Anyone, however humble their origins, can make it to the top by dint of hard work and perseverance.

An Inspector Calls

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Review of 'The UN Inspector' by David Farr, National Theatre, London

In Gogol's The Government Inspector, provincial officials mistake a conman for a tsarist government inspector. One hundred and seventy years later David Farr's free adaptation, The UN Inspector, takes on their political descendants, as the corrupt dictatorship of an ex-Soviet republic make a similar error, mistaking an opportunistic businessman for a UN inspector.

The Dance Macabre

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Review of 'Talking to Terrorists' by Robin Soans, Touring

Out of Joints' powerful new production Talking To Terrorists asks a simple enough question: what makes a terrorist a terrorist? What could drive someone to take up arms and kill for a political objective? Surely they can't be human, share our values of a civilised society? Aren't these evil people beneath our contempt?

One in the Back

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Review of 'Julius Caesar' by William Shakespeare, touring internationally

In 1995 Julius Caesar suffered a second and most terrible bout of backstabbing treachery. This time the conspirators were the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA), who decided the set text had grown surplus to requirements, banishing it from schools for evermore like Jamie and the turkey twizzlers.

Playing the Changes

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Review of Banner Theatre 30th Anniversary, Birmingham

Over 30 years ago a group of politically active performers in Birmingham set up Banner Theatre to produce shows about working class communities. In April this year they celebrated their achievements with the publication of a songbook, Singing the Changes, and a two-day event in Birmingham which included a preview of their latest show, Wild Geese. Banner has survived some difficult years for radical theatre and maintained strong links with the communities which inspired its work.

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