wed 21/08/2019

Theatre Reviews

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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The Gods Weep, RSC/Hampstead Theatre

william Ward

Why is it that Method-ist actors are pretty much expected to spend months manically researching the inner minutiae of their character, but a much-lauded playwright can get away without providing any serious insights into his main subject matter?

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Eigengrau, Bush Theatre

aleks Sierz

One of the most common genres of contemporary Brit drama is the "me and my mates" play – usually stories about flatsharing twentysomethings. Although, over the past decade, this type of drama has been somewhat overtaken by the return of the family play, you can still spot the genre in new writing venues all over the country.

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Random, Royal Court Theatre at Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre

aleks Sierz

It's common to feel a real sense of doom when you approach the Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre. But it’s not the dodgy hoodies that turn your legs to jelly, it’s the sheer ugliness of the architecture. Yes, aesthetically, this is urban hell. But it’s also the site of the Royal Court’s Local project, in which a rundown shop unit has been turned into a makeshift theatre.

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London Assurance, National Theatre

Veronica Lee

For the life of me I cannot understand why London Assurance is not performed more often. It’s a rollicking comedy, written in 1841 but which has a Restoration heart, with a cast list that includes a wideboy named Dazzle, a valet Cool, a servant Pert, a lawyer Meddle and - hold your sides - a horsey broad brandishing a whip named Lady Gay Spanker. Calm down, now.

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Love Never Dies, Adelphi Theatre

Matt Wolf

In movies and on TV we expect sequels and spin-offs and the perpetuation of a franchise whereby we follow Rocky, The Terminator, or whomever seemingly to the grave. But theatre has tended to take the high road: Chekhov never revealed whether the three sisters actually reached Moscow.

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Sweet Nothings, Young Vic

james Woodall

Arthur Schnitzler belonged to a culture of inquiry and experiment, in which dreams and desire were crying out to be articulated and delineated; sexual needs were the unexplored stuff of life - how well Vienna painters like Klimt and Schiele knew this - and, as Freud worked it all out for us, not necessarily dangerous. Where better to bring this to flesh-and-blood life than on stage?

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