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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“Jubilee” at The Lyric Hammersmith: Adapting Punk Classic

The late Derek Jarman’s 1978 film Jubilee is a punk classic. I think he was in his Fellini phase, his vision peopled by freaks, dwarfs, and cracked actors. And punks of every description. Plus a few New Romantics. And a touch of Andy Warhol (as in film-maker). The film is theatrical, situationist, punky, camp, awkward, word-choked, and often as slow as a drop of sweat dribbling down your back on a hot day—basically a mess, but great if you see it as a late nighter. And stoned. If not, a touch embarrassing. Cringe-making. You just need to pick out the good bits like...

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Going Places Interview With Lauren Clancy, The New Executive Director of The Bush Theatre

Lauren Clancy, the new Executive Director of the Bush Theatre, talks to us about her first few months in the role, why she was the right women for the job and what the Bush means to her. You have been a member of the Bush team for 4 years now. What do you think you will particularly take for your time in the Marketing Department at The Bush into your new role as Executive Director? Now, more than ever, “the Bush Theatre is yours.” I’ve been on a real journey with the Bush, which until now was centered around the landmark redevelopment...

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Contemporary “Electra” by DumbWise at The Bunker Theatre

Electra is the protagonist in two Ancient Greek tragedies, one by Sophocles and the other by Euripides. The story is typically bloody: as the daughter of King Agamemnon and his wife Clytemnestra, she wants to revenge the murder of her father by her mother. In her sights are both Clytemnestra and her mother’s new lover, Aegisthus. But unable to do the deed herself, Electra awaits the return of her long-lost brother Orestes, who everyone else says is dead. He isn’t, of course, and when he returns there is much spillage of blood. It is, after all, a revenge tragedy....

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The Bathroom Play: Georgia Christou’s “Yous Two” at The Hampstead Theatre

Theatre is a business as well as a craft. In an age of austerity cuts, and at a time when most Off-West End venues have studio spaces as well as main stages, this can lead to practical problems. In his program note to Georgia Christou’s debut play, Yous Two, Edward Hall—Hampstead Theatre’s artistic director—explains that his theatre has lost £122,000 due to a 14 percent Arts Council cut. Since this threatens his Downstairs studio space, which costs some £100,000 a year to run, he is now actively promoting the work staged on this small stage. As he points out, inviting...

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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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“Frozen” at The Haymarket Theatre

Whatever the weather, this week is Frozen. On Broadway, the Disney musical of that name begins previews, but let’s let that go. In the West End, our Frozen has no Elsa, no Anna, and no glittery gowns. Although it does have plenty of ice imagery. No, our Frozen is a much darker story; it’s a revival of Bryony Lavery’s 1998 award-winning play about a child killer—definitely no singing, no dancing, no hummable tunes. But it does have an outstanding cast: Suranne Jones (a familiar agonized face from Doctor Foster), Jason Watkins, and Nina Sosanya. The story of Frozen is told by only three characters in a mixture of...

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Queer Collective–Reflections Of The World

A blog by Rach Skyer for UK Theatre to mark LGBT History Month. Producer and Actor Rach Skyer is a member of the Arcola’s Queer Collective, a performance collective exploring queer identity and how to present it theatrically. The group is open to anyone identifying as LGBTQI* in East London. The theatre is about truth. The stories we tell are reflections of the world–or at least the world as we understand it. With that in mind, theatre-makers must interrogate the industry to question who benefits from the stories, which voices are missing and how we can disrupt the current state of affairs. In approaching queer...

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“Gundog” at The Royal Court

First the goats, and now the sheep—has this venue become an urban farm? Rural life, which was once so central to our English pastoral culture, is now largely absent from metropolitan stages. And from our culture. Apart from The Archers or the village gothic of shows like The League Of Gentlemen, the countryside has become a lost world, a blank space on which any playwright can project their imaginary stories. So Gundog, Simon Longman’s Royal Court debut, comes across not as a real account of farming folk, but as a highly symbolic rural no-space of shepherds and sheep in a forgotten corner of...

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Actors Should Be Allowed To Be Parents Too

Acting, as the cliché goes, is child’s play. All that dressing up and pretending to be someone else. For those of us who do “normal” jobs, the idea of the theatre actor’s life sounds like a brilliant return to student life. You don’t have to get up early in the morning to commute to an office. Instead, you drink coffee and try to learn things off by heart during the day while in the evening, you do a couple of hours of intense work, then get drunk afterward. And then after a few months, you get to “rest” until...

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“Girls And Boys” at The Royal Court

This is Carey Mulligan week. She appears, improbably enough, as a hard-nosed cop in David Hare’s BBC thriller Collateral, as well as onstage at the Royal Court in London’s Sloane Square (she’s much better live than on film.) In a 90-minute monologue, written by Dennis Kelly, Mulligan explores a contemporary love story, and she is in good hands. Kelly is the wordsmith behind the edgy GCSE syllabus play DNA and The Ritual Slaughter of Gorge Mastromas, as well as the (by contrast) infinitely sweeter Matilda The Musical, so you would be forgiven for expecting a rather acerbic view of modern marriage. And you’d be...

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Immersive “Julius Caesar” at The Bridge Theatre

“Two things only the people anxiously desire—bread and circuses,” said the Roman poet Juvenal. He was describing the decline of the Roman Empire, but the phrase seems wholly appropriate as a description of current affairs. Tax cuts are bread; Donald Trump’s antics are a circus. All over the world, populism strides the national stages, and politicians manipulate the people with false promises and fake news. Meanwhile, intellectuals scratch their heads and blunder into the wrong actions. Yes, this is the world of William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, as seen by this venue’s artistic director, Nicholas Hytner, in a thrilling and stimulating...

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Alan Bennett’s Next Play Is Set In A Hospital–And It’s Threatened With Closure Thanks To Cuts

Alan Bennett’s next play will focus on an NHS hospital threatened with closure thanks to government cuts. Allelujah! will open at the Bridge Theatre in London this July. Its setting is The Beth, “an old-fashioned cradle-to-grave hospital serving a town on the edge of the Pennines” now facing the chop. Dream Ticket It will be Mr. Bennett’s tenth collaboration with former National Theatre director Nicholas Hytner. Allelujah! has been described as “as sharp as The History Boys and as funny as The Lady In The Van”–both of which were also directed by Mr. Hytner. “Hapless Hunt” Mr. Bennett has...

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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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“Imaginationship” at The Finborough Theatre Explores a Divided Nation

It’s the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Finborough Arms pub, so Neil McPherson, artistic director of its upstairs theatre, is in a celebratory mood. He’s promoting an appetizing menu of new writing, classic revivals, and other events. An early success is Sue Healy’s Imaginationship, a highly entertaining and freshly written play which explores the idea of a divided nation by setting the story in Great Yarmouth, a place which voted for Brexit with a 72 percent majority in 2016. With its falling wage levels, low percentage of university graduates and high proportion of working-class residents, the town symbolizes all the left-behind...

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lan Ayckbourn’s “The Divide” at The Old Vic

Playwright Alan Ayckbourn basically comes in two flavors: suburban comedies of embarrassment and sci-fi fantasies. His latest, The Divide, which premiered at the Edinburgh International Festival last year in a two-part six-hour version, has been now been trimmed down to a single very long evening for its short stay at the Old Vic in London. Written not as a conventional play, but as a “narrative for voices,” it is a dystopian fable about the relationship between men and women in the aftermath of a terrible plague which has decimated humankind. Think Handmaid’s Tale; but also think Juliet, think Romeo. After the...

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“My Mum’s A Twat” at The Royal Court

What a brilliant title! Yes, this one must be up there with the likes of Jim Cartwright’s I Licked A Slag’s Deodorant or Alan Bennett’s Kafka’s Dick. Not to mention Shopping And Fucking or The Vagina Monologues. So I was quite determined to enjoy My Mum’s A Twat, Anoushka Warden’s debut play, and the playwright—whose day job is Head of Press and Publicity at this venue—has made that very easy for me. This female monologue is so nimble and lively, so brightly written and humorous, that I was well entertained for every one of its 80 minutes. What a great way to start the year! Billed...

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“The Grift”: Theatre or Escape the Room?

Theatre as a concept is related to the idea of “play.” After all, scripts are plays and actors play roles. However, it is not often that these words are dissected to reach the idea of “game.” This is why, when arriving at the charming Town Hall Hotel for the site-specific, immersive, interactive production of The Grift, it was surprising to hear the hotel staff commend the play as a “very fun game.” Soon enough, the 50 audience members were given color bracelets that would divide them into different “teams.” This game-like audience division is not unheard of in immersive...

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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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“Rita, Sue And Bob Too” at The Royal Court: The Revival for #MeToo Era

Vicky Featherstone, the artistic director of this new writing venue, is riding high. Very high. A couple of weeks ago, she was voted the most influential person in British theatre by The Stage, the industry newspaper which annually compiles a top 100 list. Number one! This is not only because of her programming—which has included Jez Butterworth’s The Ferryman—but also her activism. She is one of the most prominent voices to speak out against sexual harassment and the abuse of power in the theatre industry. Her support of the #MeToo campaign and organization of the No Grey Area event at the Court in...

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