sun 16/06/2019

Theatre Reviews

Ruined, Almeida Theatre

David Nice Mother Courage of the Congo: Jenny Jules as Mama Nadi, trying to keep violence out of her domain

Telling the truth about women in a war zone usually hits hardest through one of two means: clear reportage that presents the facts, or the devastating narrative of a survivor. Making a drama out of atrocity gets harder, though it's an age-old tradition, which is maybe why directors usually prefer to draw parallels through updating Euripides or Shakespeare. Lynn Nottage's Pulitzer Prize-winning play, fired by interviews with women in the Democratic Republic of Congo and premiered last year in...

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The Real Thing, Old Vic

william Ward

By general consent, The Real Thing expresses an almost perfect balance between the brilliance of its dialogue and the ideas examined on one hand, and the depth and range of human feelings on the other. Anna Mackmin’s brisk and dynamic take on the play, first performed nearly 30 years ago, to a large extent succeeds in recontextualising what is surely a classic, for a subsequent generation of viewers.

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Little Gem, Bush Theatre

aleks Sierz A gobby play that has real heart: Sarah Greene, Anita Reeves and Amelia Crowley deliver bright and enjoyable monologues

Monologue is a boring word, but in the hands of an Irish pensmith it can create some pretty exciting theatre. From a writer such as Conor McPherson or Mark O’Rowe the monologue can set the night alight with its storytelling brio. Word-drunk on these great draughts of bubbling verbal nectar, you soon feel you know the speakers as well as your own family. Yes, a good monologue is that beguiling. Which is exactly the case with Elaine Murphy’s first play, now visiting west London, a lovely and...

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Behud (Beyond Belief), Soho Theatre

Veronica Lee Behud: Chetna Pandya as a playwright caught in a dilemma

In December 2004, Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti’s play Behzti (Dishonour) caused riots when it was staged at Birmingham Rep. It concerned the (fictional) story of a child rape in a gurdwara (a Sikh temple) and the theatre, in a well-intentioned but misguided act, invited local Sikh leaders to a preview. They asked for changes to be made (relocating the play to a community centre), Bhatti refused, the play went ahead as she wrote it, riots ensued and violent threats were made. She went into...

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Posh, Royal Court Theatre

aleks Sierz

When artistic director Dominic Cooke took up his new post at this venue in 2007, he said that he wanted “to look at what it means to be middle class, what it means to have power, what it means to have wealth”. Although this comment caused a lot of fuss, with die-hard Royal Court fans imagining that he was about to betray the theatre’s tradition of staging plays about low-lifes, Cooke’s programming has managed to balance gritty underclass dramas with plays about the rich and privileged.

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Hair, Gielgud Theatre

Matt Wolf

Who would have thought that the self-described "American Tribal Love-Rock Musical" better known as Hair would have proven over the years to be such a tricky customer? A defining template of the 1960s (the original cast album was one of the soundtracks of my youth), this counter-culture mother lode has spawned more cheesy revivals than some people have, well, hair.

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Beyond the Horizon & Spring Storm, National Theatre

james Woodall

No stars, minimal hype, a long afternoon into the South Bank night: the National Theatre is staging back to back two little-known plays by two 20th-century American masters, and the result is a bit like opening an old trunk in the attic to find pristinely laundered shirts and suits, and perhaps a pair of perfect spats. Beyond the Horizon by Eugene O'Neill and Spring Storm by Tennessee Williams are early works by each playwright, from 1920 and 1937 respectively, and while...

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Polar Bears, Donmar Warehouse

Veronica Lee Beautifully measured: Richard Coyle and Jodhi May in 'Polar Bears'

Mark Haddon is rather making a habit of writing about mental-health issues. His novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time was about a boy with Asperger’s and his TV drama Coming Down the Mountain had a character with Down’s syndrome. He charts similar territory with Polar Bears, which also features a character with a mental-health disorder.

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Taking Steps, Orange Tree Theatre

Matt Wolf

One of the stranger facts of the theatre in recent years is the comparatively short shrift given to Alan Ayckbourn, who was once a seasonal mainstay. The upside of that same lessening of productions is that those Ayckbourn outings that do come along have for the most part been wonderfully welcome.

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Mrs Warren's Profession, Comedy Theatre

Veronica Lee

George Bernard Shaw’s 1894 play was deemed too scandalous for public performance in Britain and was banned by the Lord Chamberlain until 1925, and its New York premiere in 1905 caused such outrage that the cast were arrested. Its offence was that Shaw was writing about the world’s oldest profession, prostitution, and alluded to a possible incestuous coupling. His greatest crime, though, was the play’s attack on Victorian hypocrisy.

For prostitution, of course, could not exist with what...

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