sat 23/03/2019

Theatre Features

Who's afraid of Edward Albee?

Jasper Rees

"I've always thought there's nothing worse than coming to the end of your life and realising that you haven't participated in it, and so I write about people who've done that to a certain extent." Edward Albee has died at the age of 88, having participated in his life far more actively than George and Martha, the couple in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? whose idea of hell is each other.


theartsdesk in Venice: Shylock comes home

Heather Neill

"In such a night as this..." begins Lorenzo's beautiful speech in Act V of The Merchant of Venice. Watching Shakespeare's play in the Campo del Ghetto Nuovo on a balmy evening under a darkening navy blue sky, with cicadas providing a busy background recitative, it might have been tempting to be lulled by the romance of the surroundings. Belmont itself could scarcely be more delightful than Venice on a moonlit summer night.


What are the arts doing here?

John Martin

The raising of a temporary structure theatre in the middle of the “Jungle” refugee camp in Calais (pictured below) has brought the issue of arts in situations of crisis into sharp focus. This big brave act by two young Brits, opening a creative space to some of the most miserable and traumatised people in Europe, in some of the most squalid conditions and in sight of the English coast, has hit a nerve which we cannot ignore.


Opinion: Post-Brexit, we need theatre more than ever

Marianka Swain

In seeking to understand the historic, divisive and to some bewildering Brexit vote, I will turn to theatre. Through my regular exposure to it, I can number among my ever-widening acquaintance a young king, a whistleblower, a minimum-wage movie usher, a recovering alcoholic, a passionate teacher, a grieving parent, a struggling miner, an evangelical preacher, an underpaid social worker, a dementia sufferer, and a pair of star-crossed lovers.


First Person: Boys Will Be Boys

Melissa Bubnic

In the opening scene of Boys Will Be Boys, the lead character, Astrid, talks about how there’s a boys’ world and a girls’ world. Boys’ world is where you want to be. That’s where power is, that’s where fun is. Boys get to be boys and that means holding all the cards, and doing whatever the fuck you want. How do women get into boys’ world when they’ve got a vagina?


The Mighty Walzer: ping-pong in the round

Simon Bent

It’s a little over two years since I was approached to adapt The Mighty Walzer by Howard Jacobson for Manchester Royal Exchange. I was living in Liverpool at the time and had recently seen That Day We Sang by Victoria Wood at the Exchange. It was terrific, wonderfully directed by Sarah Frankcom. I had never seen a musical in the round before, it was so dynamic.


theartsdesk at the Holland Festival

james Woodall

The Holland Festival is one of the greats. It has a British director, the articulate Ruth Mackenzie, formerly of the Chichester Festival and the cultural Olympiad, now into her second year. It’s the same age as Edinburgh and Avignon – 70 in 2017 – but not as well known, though it should be. “We must,” Mackenzie says, “seriously punch above our weight.


First Light: the story of the Tommies shot at dawn

Mark Hayhurst

Nothing quite prepares you for your first sight of Thiepval, the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme. I had read about the events it commemorated and, before that, been told about them as a young boy. I’d studied the war poets at school and as a teenager had been introduced to Robert Graves’s Goodbye to All That and Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front. I knew about the vast numbers of war dead, of how they exceeded the populations of famous cities.


Dream On: Surprises in the Athenian Wood

Simon Evans

Doctor Peter Raby (Emeritus Fellow at Cambridge University) was quick to pull me up on my first stab at A Midsummer Night's Dream – an indulgence-of-a-production played out in a university park to the sound of cucumber flirting with Pimm's. His grounds were that I had failed to acknowledge the mortal danger facing those errant elopers, Hermia and Lysander. He had, he said, expected better of me.


Alistair Beaton: 'If you’re bored, it’ll be my fault'

Alistair Beaton

It’s either serious or it’s funny. That’s a view I quite often encountered when working in Germany. A theatre professional there once advised me to remove all references to writing television comedy from my biography in the theatre programme.

“Why?” I asked.

“People will think you’re not a serious playwright.”

“A serious playwright can’t write comedy?”

“It’s a bit worse than that.”

“How, exactly?”



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