Theatre and Politics

Gore Vidal’s “The Best Man” at The Playhouse Theatre: Is It Possible to Get Too Much of American Politics?

Is it possible to get too much of American politics? With Donald Trump’s daily tweets invading our digital space, a new Kevin-Spacey-free House Of Cards on the, well, cards, and new films set in Watergate times, it might be that few will have any appetite for this revival of Gore Vidal’s 1960 play, The Best Man, which is set during a Democratic Party convention, and now makes its West End debut. But to dismiss it completely would be a pity because, for all the creaks of its plotting, this is quite a watchable account of political in-fighting. After all, any show...

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From the Space-Race to Filial Tensions, Robert Lepage’s “The Far Side of the Moon” Explores Reconciliation

In The Far Side of the Moon, Philippe and Andre, two estranged brothers, deal with the aftermath of their mother’s death. Written, directed, and designed by French-Canadian artist Robert Lepage, with music by Laurie Anderson among others, the show has been periodically on tour since its 2000 premiere in Quebec City. All roles have been performed by either Lepage or by the French-Canadian actor, Yves Jacques. On this current tour, it is performed by Jacques who gives a strong physical performance. Philippe, who the performance mainly focuses on, is an occasional teacher, a part-time telemarketer, and a long-term Ph.D....

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Discussion On The Greatest Theatrical Scandal Of 2017: “Klątwa” At The Powszechny Theatre In Warsaw

Kasia Lech (KL): How could we introduce Klątwa [The Curse] and its context to someone for whom the play, Polish theatre, and the Polish socio-political context are rather unknown? Agata Łuksza (AŁ): Undoubtedly Klątwa, directed by Olivier Frljić, caused in Poland the greatest theatrical scandal of 2017. It premiered at the Powszechny Theatre in Warsaw, a city-subsidized institution led by Paweł Łysak and Paweł Sztarbowski who coined their theatre “theatre which interferes.” So far, all of Frljić’s attempts to cooperate with Polish theatres have resulted in nationwide discussions about the borders of theatre art. Klątwa really struck a chord by...

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Dunedin’s Arcade Theatre Company And “Fold:” An Absurdist Production For A Post-Truth Era

The newest theatre company to emerge from Dunedin, New Zealand’s funky, eclectic arts scene is Arcade Theatre Company, helmed by director Alex Wilson. Like the now-disestablished Counterpoint–also initiated by Wilson–Arcade provides a forum for emerging practitioners to test and develop their craft. Its stated aim, according to Wilson, is to “offer…[young actors] opportunities to be involved in bold, adventurous theatre projects with a broad appeal” (The Star, February 25, 2018). Wilson is familiar with the Dunedin theatre scene, having completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Otago, and subsequently having worked in the city as a theatre director,...

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The Performative Essay “(De)signing Time”: Essay in Motion

The Serbian choreographer, performance artist, and stage director Milos Sofrenovic has been at Solitude since September in cooperation with Literaturhaus Stuttgart. He worked on the development of the performative essay (De)signing Time, which was presented at Literaturhaus Stuttgart on October 15 at 8 pm. The performance was presented LIVE only once to an international audience. The ephemeral event is followed by this performative post, a contribution that hints, but never reveals everything. It may seem in direct contradiction with the “temporal matter” of a live performance, but is actually not. Months of preparation for a show that will take place only...

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Warsaw’s Teatr 21 At POLIN: Passover Is A Celebration Of Freedom

Pesach or Passover is the most widely observed Jewish holiday and arguably the most joyful. Celebrated annually in the early spring, the eight-day feast commemorates the Israelites’ liberation from slavery in Egypt and their newfound freedom as a nation under the leadership of Moses. It was in this spirit that Warsaw’s Teatr 21 originally conceived their 2016 devised work Pesach to święto wolności (Passover Is A Celebration Of Freedom) in collaboration with POLIN The Museum of the History of Polish Jews and the Open Museum project, an annual month-long program that makes information about Jewish heritage available to people with...

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Chris Goode’s “Jubilee” – The State of The (Punk) Nation

The idea here is both exquisitely complex and wonderfully simple. On the one hand, Chris Goode’s show, Jubilee, is marking the 40th anniversary of Derek Jarman’s alternative cinema classic, the dystopian, ultra postmodern homage to a particular moment in British history – the year 1977– the simultaneous celebration of Queen Elizabeth II’s silver jubilee and the irrepressible, all-consuming advent of the counterculture of punk. On the other hand it is a state of the nation play. In many ways, Goode’s Jubilee is a re-enactment of Jarman’s. The plot of the film is followed very closely with all the cinematic...

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Martin McDonagh’s “Hangman” at The Atlantic Theatre

New Yorkers have split into factions on Martin McDonagh since his plays first showed up here two decades ago. The flippant relationship to violence, the motley assortment of cuddly killers, the casual, tongue-in-cheek racism and deep-baked cynicism, even his irritation at being compared to Quentin Tarantino: all this and more was held against him in countless reviews, essays, and blogs years before the Best Picture Oscar nomination for Three Billboards Outside Of Ebbing, Missouri made him a household name. McDonagh’s fans have usually taken it all with a grain of salt. The callous, of course, just like brutality and horror, and...

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Jacek Głomb named Polish “Theatre Person 2018”

Jacek Głomb, Polish director and Artistic Director of the Modjeska Theatre in Legnica, has just been named the “Theatre Person 2018.” The prestigious award is given annually by the Zygmunt Hübner Foundation to an eminent Polish theatre artist whose work follows Hübner’s idea; Hübner was one of the most significant twentieth-century Polish theatre-makers. In particular, the awardee work must embrace the idea of Theatre as an artistic and social mission, shaping the audiences in relation to their receptive strategies and their citizenship. He/she must be an eminent artist who continuously contributes to and develop Polish theatrical landscape. In previous...

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Learning To Live: Two New Plays Examine Hong Kong’s High-Pressure Childhood

Children. They have the power to change everything. The power to change the future. At least that’s what several of the characters come to recognize in two plays written by celebrated local playwright and director, Tang Chi-kin. The Great Learning and Doctrine Of Happiness are plays two and three in a trilogy that began with Chinese Lessons in 2016. The plays, all produced by the Hong Kong Arts Festival, follow the lives of a group of young Hong Kongers. We meet them first when they are still children themselves, brought together as Form Six students struggling to pass their finals exams in a local...

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“Dutchman” At Secret Theater

One of New York City’s most dynamic young theater companies makes a bold addition to its repertoire with its engaging production of Dutchman, Amiri Baraka’s provocative chamber drama. Dutchman is a companion piece to Albee’s The Zoo Story, another mid-1960’s urban-set dialogue between two strangers featuring a tragic ending. In this case, a Central Park bench is switched out for an MTA subway car. Where Albee’s characters are both white males, Baraka’s play features an African-American man and a white woman. A play so clearly aligned with the turbulent Civil Rights era requires contextural reconsideration; that’s precisely what this...

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Liberty, Equality, And Feminism: “Stateswomen, Sluts Of The Revolution, Or The Learned Ladies”

To probe the practices of both protest and theatre-making, Teatr Polski of Bydgoszcz looked to Revolutionary France with its Stateswomen, Sluts Of The Revolution, Or The Learned Ladies. The 2016 show, presented at December’s Divine Comedy festival in Kraków, centered around the story of Anne-Josèphe Theroigne de Merincourt—an early, and lesser-known organizer of the rebellion that would topple the French monarchy. Directed by Witkor Rubin, the production featured text, dramaturgy, and costume design by Jolanta Janiczak. As audiences entered the Stary Teatr’s main space, they encountered Sonia Roszczuk, who stood on a row of seats, dressed in a bright-red...

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Thomas Ostermeier’s “Returning To Reims”

Plays set in recording studios, in my experience, are usually stories of entrapment. The spaces themselves—the soundproof walls and windows, the microphones poised to expose people’s emotional innards, the expensive equipment with its vague techno-promise of newness—are harbingers of pressure and trouble even before anyone enters them. Think of August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, where masterful black musicians gather to produce art and instead find themselves in a crucible of racism and exploitation that explodes in on them. And think of Eric Bogosian’s Talk Radio, where a popular shock-jock provokes, insults and brutishly titillates his callers, feeding voraciously...

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Men, The Internet, and Politics: “The Believers Are But Brothers” at The Bush Theatre

Do boys never leave the playground? Just when I was reasonably sure that the crisis of masculinity was an old-fashioned trope—I mean, so very 1990s—along comes a one-man show that investigates how lonely young men, seething with resentment, surf the internet, attracted like flies to shit by tech-savvy extremist groups of both secular and religious persuasions. And boy are they persuasive! Javaad Alipoor explores this dark world in The Believers Are But Brothers, his Edinburgh Fringe hit from last year, which now visits the Bush Theatre in west London. Because it’s about the internet, the audience is encouraged to join...

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“And So You See…”: The Irrational Is In The Eye Of The Beholder

It is as if Mozart were able to capture what death sounds like, in those moments when people run around trying to assert themselves in the face of a body that has just ceased to breathe. Personally, it takes just a few notes of his Requiem for me to deviate my attention from whatever occupies me and place it entirely at the mercy of this devastating tune. The music hits a region of my being where humor meets pain and where normality meets irrationality. The paradoxes and dead-ends of life itself start to make sense, even if I cannot ascertain words...

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The Focus Is On The Power Of Those On The Margins: 33 Performances, Representing 14 Countries

The 10th edition of ITFoK touches upon diverse themes such as gender, identity, displacement, and sexuality among other subjects. Those living on the margins are not always powerless. Neither are their lives empty. They often come up with powerful statements of their existence and their voices are strong and sharp. And they find expressions through all forms of creative expression, especially theatre. The 10th International Theatre Festival of Kerala (ITFoK), organized by the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi (KSNA), brought to the theatre audience of Kerala a fine cross-section of the voices from the margins that seek their expression through the...

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“Hymn To Love” At Divine Comedy Festival 2017

The chorus, as Nietzsche states in The Birth Of Tragedy, “can only be understood as the cause of tragedy and of the tragic itself,” and “tragedy is originally only ‘chorus’ and not ‘drama.’” Marta Górnicka embarked on her audacious project The Chorus of Women in 2009. Supported by the Zbigniew Raszewski Theatre Institute in Warsaw, she found a solid laboratory in which to experiment and develop her modern tragic chorus. Górnicka made an open casting call to the public, attempting to diversify the chorus as much as possible regardless of age, profession or musical experience. The description of the...

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“The Rage” at Divine Comedy Festival 2017

Divine Comedy Festival 2017 situates itself awkwardly around the peaceful Christmas Market in the Main Square, Krakow. The 2017 festival, provocatively themed “Theatre in Ruin,” embodies an unusually rebellious, angry, yet still divine spirit in response to the tumultuous political situation in Poland. Artists have responded violently, directly and confrontationally via the broadest possible range of theatrical forms and media. Given that Divine Comedy is one of the biggest mainstream theatre festivals in Poland, it stunned me that almost every show I saw was a hardcore political theatre piece, desperately and fearlessly trying to find an answer with audiences...

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“The Birthday Party” – Revival at Harold Pinter Theatre

Is modernism dead and buried? Anyone considering the long haul of Harold Pinter’s The Birthday Party from resounding flop in 1958 to West End crowd-pleasing classic today might be forgiven for wondering whether self-consciously difficult literary texts have had their day. In Brexit Britain, where everyone is a populist now, there might not be much of a demand for difficult art, but people still seem to crave entertainment. So it’s good to see that this 60th-anniversary revival of Pinter’s most canonical drama still works both as a funny situation comedy and as a thought-provoking disturber of the peace. And with a crowd...

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“Miruga Vidhushagam:” Contemporary Theme And Haunting Idioms

S. Murugabhoopathy’s Miruga Vidhushagam is a comment on civil society that stands mute spectators to fellow brethren struggling for life in war-ravaged countries S. Murugabhoopathy stands out from his fellow theatre exponents with his distinct presentation. In Miruga Vidhushagam he once again uses the tribal imagery and sounds to create that eerie feeling. Presented by Manalmagudi Theatre Land and staged in association with the Arul Anandar College, the play talks about how people in war-ravaged towns suffer not only physically but also mentally. “Vidhushagam means clown. A clown is a person who can travel from past to present and vice versa. I thought...

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