tue 22/10/2019

Theatre Features

theartsdesk in Belfast: Scenes from the 48th Belfast Festival

Bruce Dessau 'New circus' troupe Circa 'howl in the face of gravity'

In National Anthem, the debut play by bestselling novelist Colin Bateman, a composer lies prostrate on the floor. Half hungover, half waiting for inspiration, he has been commissioned to co-write an anthem for Northern Ireland with a poet and has a day to do it before flying back to his continental tax haven. The ad-hoc alliance soon fractures as differences emerge. One is Catholic, passionate and pretentious, one has sold his Protestant soul to MOR rock and platinum...

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On Adapting Birdsong for the Stage

Rachel Wagstaff

I remember walking into the Hawthorn Ridge cemetery, seeing a grave of a 20-year-old boy who died on 1 July, 1916, and knowing for the first time why Sebastian Faulks needed to write Birdsong, and why I desperately wanted it to live and breathe and be brought back to the public consciousness again.

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A Playwright of Two Halves: Barrie Rutter on Harold Brighouse

Barrie Rutter

Harold Brighouse was a star writer in his time. Today, he’s viewed as a one-play wonder. Everyone knows Hobson’s Choice, his tale of a Salford cobbler outfoxed by his daughters. A hit in New York before its London debut in 1916, the play has been studied by generations of schoolchildren and was made into a classic film by David Lean. But no one remembers much about Brighouse’s other writing. Yet he was prolific, with novels, journalism and 14 other plays to his name.

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Complicite and the Mozart and Salieri of Maths

Jasper Rees

In 1913 a 25-old-year mathematician from Tamil Nadu sailed to England. He journeyed at the behest of a Cambridge professor who had been mesmerised by the display of untutored genius evident in the young Indian’s correspondence. Within four years the visitor had grown so depressed by his isolation that he attempted to throw himself under a train.

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theartsdesk in Berlin: Requiem for a Shaker-Upper

Kate Connolly Christoph Schlingensief: 'described as Germany's most disciplined anarchist'

It is tempting to playfully twist the German language a little to come up with a word that best describes the avant garde German theatre and film director Christoph Schlingensief. A “Wachrüttler”, literally a shaker-upper or rouser, is probably the best title to describe a man who seemed to put every vein and sinew of his body into shaking German society awake. The loss of Schlingensief, who died of lung cancer last Saturday aged 49, has left a gaping hole in the German arts world.

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Shakespeare's Sitcom: Merry Wives Return to The Globe

Jasper Rees

“It isn’t a surprise to me, but it is a surprise to him that it isn’t a surprise to me.” On a Monday morning in the rehearsal room at Shakespeare’s Globe, actors and actresses are getting into character. “You’re acting panic,” clarifies the director, “and when you hear his voice it’s real panic.” Exactly how funny is The Merry Wives of Windsor in the 21st century?

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Site-Specific Theatre: theartsdesk round-up

theartsdesk

There is no consensus about what site-specific theatre actually constitutes. Does it grow organically out of the space in which the theatre piece is performed, and can therefore be staged nowhere else? Or is it no more than any theatre piece which happens away from the constricting formality of the thrust stage or the proscenium arch?

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Justin Fashanu in Extra Time

Hilary Whitney

Ten years after Justin Fashanu - not only the first openly gay footballer, but the first black player to command a £1 million transfer fee - committed suicide in a lock-up garage in the East End, his former agent, Eric Hall, breezily informed the BBC that football was “not a world that attracts gay people". Has anyone told Elton John, Watford FC’s most famous fan?

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Alan Plater, thinking aloud

Adam Sweeting Dramatist Alan Plater, enjoying a good yack

Alan Plater's final drama for television, Joe Maddison's War, is due to be screened on ITV this autumn. Fittingly, it gave the Jarrow-born Plater the opportunity to revisit his background in the north-east. The story is set on Tyneside during World War Two, and reflects the impact of the war on a closely knit group of working-class families. The cast looks a little like Plater's own extended family, since it includes Geordieland stalwarts Robson Green, Kevin Whately and Trevor Fox (...

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The Epic of England: Adapting Morte d'Arthur

Mike Poulton

The RSC’s Morte d’Arthur is not what you’d call a rushed job. John Barton, the company’s advisory director, has been on a mission to see the work performed for at least 50 years. The director Greg Doran had also been wanting to stage Malory’s epic for many years. He asked me to produce a version when we were working together on the York Mystery Plays in the Minster, to mark the Millennium. We’ve been putting it together ever since, and now it's finally opening.

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