London

Sergey Kuryshev: This Means Figuring Out Our Life And Presenting It On The Basis Of The Classic Text

Tonight is the opening night of Uncle Vanya at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, In anticipation of the Chekhov’s play being offered to the London audience, we approached the leading actor of the Maly Drama Theatre Sergey Kuryshev (in Life And Fate he played Viktor Shtrum). Sergey, you have been working in theatre for a long time, you are a People’s Artist of the Russian Federation. What is for you the essence of an actor’s profession?  Sergey: I think, first of all, it is equally vital and fascinating to become aware of what the author is offering to us: to fully understand...

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“Nightfall” at The Bridge Theatre

Playwright Barney Norris is as prolific as he is talented. Barely out of his twenties, he has written a series of excellent plays—the award-winning Visitors, follow-ups Eventide and While We’re Here—as well as a couple of novels and lots of poetry. After collaborating in setting up a theatre company, Up In Arms, he now works as a prestigious resident playwright at Keble College, Oxford, and has still found time to write a study of the dramas of veteran playwright Peter Gill. Named as one of the 1000 most influential Londoners by the Evening Standard, his latest play, Nightfall, has just opened at the very high-profile...

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“Mood Music” at The Old Vic

Playwright Joe Penhall and the music biz? Well, they have history. When he was writing the book for Sunny Afternoon, his 2014 hit musical about the Kinks, he had a few run-ins with Ray Davies, the band’s lead singer. A couple of years ago The Stage newspaper quoted Penhall as saying that his initial “bromance” with Davies had “rotted into a cancerous feud,” and that the singer had wanted a writing credit for Penhall’s work. The pair have since patched up their differences, but I am sure that the emotional fuel of this conflict powers Penhall’s latest play, whose production at the...

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“Masterpieces” at The Finborough Theatre

Neil McPherson, the long-serving head of this London fringe theatre, has a brilliant record of succeeding where many other venues have failed—namely in reviving both modern postwar classics and restaging the forgotten plays of recent decades. And all on a shoestring. His current revival of Sarah Daniels’s 1983 feminist classic, Masterpieces, is his latest good idea. It’s a play that is often seen, in textbooks, as typical of a militant femintern style of theatre-making so, in the #MeToo moment, it now acquires a renewed relevance. But is it really such a good play? The first professional London production in 35 years, Masterpieces tells...

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Ella Hickson’s “The Writer” at The Almeida Theatre

Is there such a thing as female writing? In the 1980s, a group of women writers emerged who expressed their sense of lived experience through plays that challenged the tradition of linear drama by fracturing the time sequences of their stories. Examples include Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls and Charlotte Keatley’s My Mother Said I Never Should. In the past two decades, women playwrights have mainly stuck to linear narratives and social realism. But this may be changing: the recent work of Alice Birch or Elinor Cook or Nina Segal or Adura Onashile or Sophie Wu shows a willingness to experiment with form,...

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London’s Fatberg Is Getting Its Own Musical

London’s fatberg–the giant mass of congealed fat and disposed items like nappies and sanitary towels–is getting its own musical. The infamous heap of waste–which was discovered in the sewers under Whitechapel and weighs an estimated 130 tons–will be the subject of a comedy horror called Flushing Fatbergs! The mass will even be animated The musical is being produced by playwright Tilly Lunken and actress Kate Sketchley, and aims to explore our relationship with waste. In this world, humans live in the sewers and use the fatberg as a source of energy–but it also threatens their entire existence. Lunken, 29, told...

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“Jack The Ripper” Opera Will Not Glorify Sexual Violence Against Women Says ENO

The English National Opera has promised that the world premiere of a new opera about Jack the Ripper will not glorify sexual violence against women. Jack The Ripper: The Women Of Whitechapel, tells the story of “a disadvantaged group of working-class women who are drawn together in their determination to survive the murderous terror that stalks London in 1888.” Jack the Ripper, who stalked the slum streets around Whitechapel preying on prostitutes, will not be depicted on stage in the opera, composed by Iain Bell with librettist Emma Jenkins. ‘Humanity’ of victims Bell said this was in order to...

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“Nine Night” at The National Theatre: The Play About Grief

The good news about so-called black drama on British stages is that it has broken out of its gangland violence ghetto and now talks about a whole variety of other subjects. Like loss. Like death. Like mourning. So London-born actress Natasha Gordon’s warmhearted play, Nine Night, now making its first appearance at the National Theatre, is as much about family, music, and mourning as it is about ethnicity or migration. Inspired by the ritual of Jamaican funerals, in which the final ninth night of a wake is the time that the deceased’s spirit must finally leave this world, the play looks...

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“Five Easy Pieces”: Milo Rau’s Extraordinary Work About Child Murderer

  It’s not often that a children’s theatre features a piece about a pedophile and child murderer in its repertoire. But on rare occasions when vision, intelligence, and courage align, this kind of programming can change lives. Last week, Swiss director Milo Rau’s piece made by the commission for Ghent’s Campo theatre and dealing with the Belgian child murderer Marc Dutroux was shown at London’s Unicorn theatre for two nights. No less than nine institutions from Europe and Singapore are listed as co-producers of this extraordinary theatrical experiment which has already been on tour for a couple of years....

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“Absolute Hell” at The National Theatre

Rodney Ackland must be the most well-known forgotten man in postwar British theatre. His legend goes like this: Absolute Hell was originally titled The Pink Room, and first staged in 1952 at the Lyric Hammersmith, where it got a critical mauling. The Sunday Times’s Harold Hobson said that the audience “had the impression of being present, if not at the death of talent, at least at its very serious illness.” Hurt by such criticism, Ackland fell silent for almost four decades. Then, as he struggled against leukemia in the 1980s, he rewrote the play. Produced by the Orange Tree Theatre in 1988, it...

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“Mayfly” at The Orange Tree Theatre

The Orange Tree Theatre is a champion of new writing. Under artistic director Paul Miller, the venue has put on plays by excellent new writers such as Alice Birch, Alistair McDowall, Elinor Cook, Brad Birch, Zoe Cooper, Deborah Bruce and Adam Barnard. Key to the encouraging of new voices is the Orange Tree Writers Collective, which helps playwrights develop their talents. One of its graduates is Joe White, whose debut, Mayfly, is a family play that although marketed as “ethereal” is actually much more rooted than that. It also expresses a deep sense of loss. And, with its title in mind, shows how some things can change in...

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“Instructions For Correct Assembly” at The Royal Court: New British Sci-Fi Theatre

There’s a whole universe which British theatre has yet to explore properly—it’s called the sci-fi imagination. Although this place is familiar from countless films and television series, it is more or less a stranger to our stages. With notable exceptions such as Alistair McDowall’s X and Philip Ridley’s Karagula, the imaginary worlds of humanoid robots and space travel and parallel universes are rare delights so it’s great to welcome Thomas Eccleshare’s new Royal Court play, Instructions For Correct Assembly, which in its satire at first offers an intriguing mix of Westworld and Stepford Wives. And stars Jane Horrocks. Harry and his wife Max (Horrocks) live...

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Arrows And Traps: A Charming Rendition Of Chekhov’s “Three Sisters”

“To Moscow, to Moscow…” The renowned lament in Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters still manages to conjure up some of the most fundamental issues that plague our quotidian lives today. Ross McGregor’s new version of this great classic evokes the Chekhovian existential essence that troubles the Prozorov sisters: Irina, Masha, and Olga respectively. But, it’s not all too dreary, however, as the Arrow & Traps’ interpretation generates a wonderful snapshot of life in provincial Russia in a time gone by. The performers act graciously and at times manage to genuinely capture elements of the Russian mentality and soul. This is most apparent when...

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“Quiz” at Noël Coward Theatre: Towards Participatory Theatre

It’s been a golden week for James Graham, British theatre’s wonder boy. After winning an Olivier award for his comedy, Labour Of Love, he now has another show in the West End, this time a transfer from the Chichester Theatre, where it premiered last November. Always interested in historical stories that say something about our present preoccupations, this time his subject is the “coughing major” scandal that in 2001 affected ITV’s hit show, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?. And, like some of his other plays, Privacy and The Vote, this new one has an element of audience participation. Its subject, after all, is...

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“Pressure” at The Park Theatre: New Play on D-Day

There are few things more British than talking about the weather. What makes this play about a meteorologist interesting, however, is its historical setting: the eve of D-Day, the Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe. Although stories from the Second World War are hardly a rarity in contemporary British culture, this one is fascinatingly original and arrives at the Park Theatre after a national tour, having originally been seen at Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum and Chichester in 2014. Already on its way to the West End, it is a huge personal triumph for actor and writer David Haig, who stars in...

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“The Way Of The World” at The Donmar Warehouse

Let us have a quick moan about repertoire. You know, the types of plays that most of our theatres put on. It says something about contemporary society when certain kinds of plays are no longer staged. For example, it is now very rare to see postwar verse drama, maybe because we now find it too artificial, and perhaps because there are too few actors who are good enough to deliver it. Likewise Restoration drama: plays from the years following the return of Charles II from exile in 1660. These include major works of theatrical merit by superb writers such...

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Secret Cinema’s Most Recent Production: A Recreated World Of Ridley Scott’s Classic Film “Blade Runner: The Final Cut”

Creating large-scale cultural experiences in abandoned spaces, Secret Cinema fuses film, music, theatre, and installations where audiences explore ultra-immersive worlds in which fiction and reality blur. In 2007, Secret Cinema introduced site-specific, immersive cultural experiences. Breaking films–and recently music albums–into their constituent parts and marrying narratives with play-along action, Secret Cinema is a unique participatory social experience. Fueled by a desire to fill the void left by an over-saturated technological world, it invites audiences to lose themselves in serendipitous, imaginary environments that challenge the way we perceive culture and social interaction. To date, over 520,000 people have attended Secret Cinema’s...

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Chinese Vagina Monologues And Beyond

On March 20 2018, VaChina, a London-based Chinese feminist network, staged its first full drama show Our Vagina, Ourselves (阴道之道), the Chinese version of Vagina Monologues, in the lecture theatre of SOAS, London. Around 100 people filled the lecture theatre, with some enthusiasts having to sit on the floor to watch the Chinese version of Vagina Monologues in Chinese languages played by international performers (plural because the play’s conversations were also performed in dialects other than Mandarin Chinese). On March 5 2017 in New York, Our Vagina, Ourselves was performed by a group of New York-based Chinese feminist network that also initiated and published the petition...

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“Plastic” at the Old Red Lion Theatre: On Teenage Love and Tragedy

Many years ago, your time at school might even have been some of the happiest days of your life—now the playground is a battlefield. It’s full of weapons: the taunts, the insults, the threats, the secrets, the shit. On one side are the bullies, the strong and the beautiful; on the other the rest, the ordinary, the misfits and the outsiders. As well as tactics, there are bigger strategies: building a support base, hanging out with the right people, becoming a local hero through sporting prowess. In Kenneth Emson’s superbly crafted new play, Plastic, a small town along the Thames...

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King’s Head Theatre’s “Victim”: One-Woman Show About Life in Prison

Last night, I went to the King’s Head Theatre to see Martin Murphy’s hugely enjoyable Victim, a one-woman show about life in prison. It has already had a successful outing in Edinburgh last year and concerns two females on opposite sides of the law. Tracey works as a prison officer and the powerful 60-minute drama unlocks her relationship with one particular prisoner, Siobhan, an Irishwoman who has committed a domestic murder and shares a cell with Marcia, a notorious child killer. The conscientious Tracey gradually gets manipulated by the highly devious Siobhan. For a while Tracey knows all about the...

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