mon 22/07/2019

Theatre Features

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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First Person: Tackling FGM

Charlene James

I knew that if I was going to write a play about female genital mutilation, I would have to try and understand why any mother or grandmother would make their child undergo such a brutal procedure. In my research, I read many articles and accounts of young women who were living with the emotional and physical consequences of FGM.

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'We played to the Queen of Denmark. We did a turn for Barack Obama'

Matthew Romain

A few days after two Taliban rockets had quivered in the Afghan skies above us, I found myself looking up at an altogether different set of heavens in the Sistine Chapel. Moments of reflection on this tour were, out of necessity, brief; our schedule, out of necessity, hectic. Contrasts were commonplace. Vatican City was our 191st country, and our two-year tour to play Hamlet to every nation in the world was rolling rapidly to its conclusion.

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Shakespeare: The Top 10 Deaths

Thomas H Green

Today marks 400 years since the death of William Shakespeare. To celebrate this and, indeed, put the two together, the Brighton Festival 2016 commissioned The Complete Deaths, a show based around the 74 deaths that take place onstage in the work of the most renowned playwright in history. It's a collaborative effort between physical theatre group Spymonkey and theatrical innovator Tim Crouch, both acclaimed Brighton talents.

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Arnold Wesker: His Life and Career in 10 Scenes

Jasper Rees

Of all the dramas with the name Arnold Wesker attached to them, the most absorbing ran as long as The Mousetrap, but offstage rather than on. It was in the style of a remorselessly black farce, in which the little man as hero suffers an endless series of blows, reverses and pratfalls.

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'What’s he doing - this kid - where’s he going?'

Leo Butler

I notice a teenage boy hanging around the bus stops near where I live in south-east London. I’m reminded of myself when I was 17, after I’d left school with hardly any qualifications, looking for something to do, suddenly lost without the day-to-day structure of lessons, breaks and home-time.  

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