mon 22/07/2019

Theatre Reviews

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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4.48 Psychosis, Barbican Theatre

aleks Sierz

Sarah Kane’s last play is the stuff of legend. Since its first production some 18 months after her suicide in 1999, it’s become a favourite with black-attired drama students, nostalgic in-yer-face drama buffs and mainstream theatres all over mainland Europe. But it is rarely performed in big spaces in this country – apparently because artistic directors feel it would empty their venues.

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The White Guard, National Theatre

Veronica Lee

It takes a particular talent to poke fun at the Russian Revolution and its aftermath, a conflict that cost millions of lives and led to one of the most brutal regimes in modern history. But Mikhail Bulgakov’s novel, which he later turned into a play and is presented at the Lyttelton Theatre in a new version by Andrew Upton, does just that. It’s a big, rambling, sometimes confusing affair that dips into farce, but one that remains entirely gripping throughout its two hours and 40 minutes.

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