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IN-YER-FACE THEATRE

• What's been on...

in 2002

January 2002
The Age of Consent by Peter Morris (Bush)
Two monologues explore the terrors of childhood: one peeks into the mind of a child murderer, and the other shows how a mum pushes her six-year-old daughter into the limelight. Great, if grim, stuff.
Bedbound by Enda Walsh (Royal Court) A dad and his daughter trapped in a surreal nightmare - an excruciating and exhilarating extravaganza that's both hilarious and full of emotional fury.
The Dead Eye Boy by Angus MacLachlan (Hampstead) Disturbing and moving play about a teenager growing up in a dysfunctional family, North Carolina style. Brilliantly written and human account of addiction, violence and sex. Ace.

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February 2002
Humble Boy by Charlotte Jones (Gielgud)
To bee or not to bee (again), that is one of the questions in this fascinating and moving account of a suicidal astrophysicist and his relationship with his mother after his bee-keeping father dies. Great transfer.
Mother Clap's Molly House by Mark Ravenhill (Aldwych) Rollocking comedy, with in-yer-face songs, which celebrates the hidden history of the 18th-century molly houses (gay clubs) and criticises identity politics. Stomping show, and good transfer.
Push Up by Roland Schimmelpfennig (Royal Court) Savage account of office politics by a writer who combines in-yer-face edginess with European Absurdism. A cracking play with a cracking cast. Sharp.
Hand in Hand by Simon Block (Hampstead) Is Israel to blame for the Middle-East crisis? Can you talk yourself out of happiness? Thrilling, if complex, play about loyalty and trust in personal and political relationships - is blood thicker than ideas?
The Glee Club by Richard Cameron (Bush) Heartbreaking play about five miners who sing in a 1962 harmony group - and how they cope with the news that their leader, a church organist, is gay. Moving account of Yorkshire maleness.

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March 2002
Gagarin Way by Gregory Burke (Arts)
A workplace kidnap goes badly wrong in this tense and mindblowingly well-written political comedy. Existentialism, futility and gruesomeness - really great transfer.
Raw by Chris O'Connell (BAC) Typically high-octane show from Theatre Absolute grabs the subject of girl gangs and female violence and gives it a good beating. Didactic, energetic and nice 'n' noisy.
Jesus Hopped the A Train by Stephen Adly Guirgis (Donmar) Cracking American prison drama that wrestles with questions about crime, responsibility, death and God. Yes, religion is still the opium of the people. Tightly written and beautifully staged.
Frame 312 by Keith Reddin (Donmar) Part JFK, part Stepford Wives, this is a heady cocktail of conspiracy theory and criticism of the American Dream. A bit flawed but still worth checking out. Part of the American Imports season.
Face to the Wall by Martin Crimp (Royal Court) A perfect 15-minute experimental short that examines the horror of mass murder, questions the nature of normality and suggests that all is not well in the relationship between men and kids. Utterly simple but profoundly resonant.
This Is Our Youth by Kenneth Lonergan (Garrick) Three New York rich kids learn to face love and death: sex, drugs and greenbacks in this entertaining American update of Look Back in Anger to 1982.
Plasticine by Vassily Sigarev (Royal Court) Urban life on the edge: a schoolboy, Maksim, travels through the lower depths of sex, violence and unrelenting despair. An in-yer-face play from one of Russia's finest.
Bones by Peter Straughan (Hampstead) Reggie Kray visits Tyneside and get kidnapped by Ruben and his gang of losers. A Live theatre satire on gangster chic or a glamorisation of ultra-violence? Entertaining rather than deep.

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April 2002
Peeling by Kaite O'Reilly (Soho) As an epic production of The Trojan Women unfolds, three women in the chorus chat and bicker about their lives. A great piece of theatre from Graeae, Britain's leading company of people with physical impairments.
The Inland Sea by Naomi Wallace (Wilton's) England in the 1760s - landscape gardening, class antagonism and sexual desire. A beautifully written and ambitious reply to Tom Stoppard's Arcadia.
Heavenly by Gary Owen (Soho) What happens to three male friends when they die in a drunken accident? Frantic Assembly's latest dance and music show gives a glimpse of the theatre of the future. Superb.
The Night Heron by Jez Butterworth (Royal Court) Set in deepest Cambridgeshire, Butterworth's follow up to his 1995 hit, Mojo, is a weeeird fantasy about fanaticism, violence and poetry. Not perfect, but memorably surreal.
The Lucky Ones by Charlotte Eilenberg (Hampstead) Two families of refugees from Nazi Germany settle in north London. When they come to sell their country cottage, the scene is set for a debate about guilt, survival and identity.
The Clearing by Helen Edmundson (Tricycle) Set in Ireland during the 1650s, this passionate and pessimistic 1993 history play examines the relationship between an English gentleman and an Irish woman. Superbly staged by Shared Experience.
Kosher Harry by Nick Grosso (Royal Court) Crazy story of four people in a Jewish diner sex and prejudice and identity-swapping. Imaginatively written and wonderfully directed by Kathy Burke.
Night of the Soul by David Farr (Barbican) A spiritual ghost story that examines the place of redemption in the modern world. A fascinating and emotional, if slightly flawed, theatrical adventure.
Arabian Night by Roland Schimmelpfennig (Soho) Wildly surreal story about the inhabitants of a block of flats, as told in a mix of narrative and dialogue: an imaginative vision of modern urban life from ATC. Great stuff.

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May 2002
Sing Yer Heart Out for the Lads by Roy Williams (National)
Loud, relevant and emotional, the first play in the Loft's season of new writing is a great piece of social realism - just when the cutting edge has moved on to magic realism. Do try and keep up.
The Distance from Here by Neil LaBute (Almeida) Dysfunctional families and unwanted babies in a scorching and sickening play by American theatre's Mr Nasty. A resonant account of white trash vileness.
A Carpet, a Pony and a Monkey by Mike Packer (Bush) Sizzling comedy about ticket touts at the Euro 2000 footie competition. The wonderfully exuberant writing evokes a huge pile of ordure, spotted with lovely flowers. Massive.
Where Do We Live by Christopher Shinn (Royal Court) How can Stephen, a middle-class gay writer in his late 20s, relate to his poorer black neighbours? Or to anyone? A subtle account of empathy and urban alienation.

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June 2002
The People Are Friendly by Michael Wynne (Royal Court)
Bittersweet comedy about Michelle, an exec who holds a housewarming on her return to Birkenhead after 12 years in London. Like the Slippery Nipple cocktail that fuels the party, Wynne's style is heartwarming, with a hidden kick and a cruel aftertaste.
The Singing Group by Judith Johnson (Chelsea) A highly emotional look at how four disparate characters struggle to find their voices, both literally and metaphorically, at an evening class for singing. Both moving and funny.
Julie Burchill Is Away by Tim Fountain (Soho) One-woman show, starring Jackie Clune, as Britain's most famous, and infamous, newspaper columnist. How the hack makes the hackles rise.
The Lieutenant of Inishmore by Martin McDonagh (Garrick) A hilarious and mindbogglingly violent story of one terrorist's love for his cat. Wonderfully offensive, sharply scripted and brilliantly plotted. One of the best new plays of the century gets deserved transfer.
Take Me Out by Richard Greenberg (Donmar) An American saga that examines the mythical world of bigtime sport - and the nature of prejudice and friendship, as a baseball star comes out as gay. Huge and entertaining.
Lobby Hero by Kenneth Lonergan (New Ambassadors) What security guards get up to when they do the night shift - a tale of truth-telling and betrayal from one of America's frothiest writers. Never mind the creaking plot, watch the performances.
Frozen by Bryony Lavery (National) Three individuals cope with the murder of a child by a serial killer. A superbly written, if difficult and sometimes harrowing evening.
Meeting Myself Coming Back by Kerry Hood (Soho) After surviving a horrific childhood trauma, 21-year-old Catherine cannot speak - but her internal monologues are not only bleak but quirkily funny. A bold and highly individual play.

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September 2002
Trip's Cinch by Phyllis Nagy (Southwark)
A superbly written drama about an alleged rape - subtle, perceptive and occasionally hilarious. It's partly a satire on celebrity culture and partly a meditation on indeterminacy. Ace.
Stitching by Anthony Neilson (Bush) Stonking in-yer-face drama that explores a crisis in one couple's relationship provoked by the woman's pregnancy. Wildly hilarious, excruciating and psychologically acute. Exciting stuff.
Outlying Islands by David Greig (Royal Court) Beautifully written, cerebral and imaginative look at what happens when, on the eve of the second world war, two Cambridge ornithologists visit a remote Scottish island to study its birds. Enthralling.
The Woman Who Cooked Her Husband by Debbie Isitt (New Ambassadors) A motormouthing feminist tale - first staged in 1992 - of an unfaithful husband who gets his comeuppance when he tries to trade in his wife for a younger model. Loud, lurid and vivid vulgarity.
Modern Dance for Beginners by Sarah Phelps (Soho) The sex lives and emotional confusions of a group of thirtysomethings are anatomised in a hormone-fest that mixes intelligent savagery with gobsmacking cruelty. Love remains the strongest four-letter word.

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October 2002
A Number by Caryl Churchill (Royal Court)
Superb drama by Britain's greatest living dramatist explores the painful emotions suffered by a father who's had several copies of his son cloned - and is now confronted with the consequences of his actions. Stephen Daldry directs. Wonderful.
The Key Game by Pat Cumper (Riverside) Talawa theatre company perform this powerful story of three mental patients who have to confront their lives when their hospital ward is closed down. Modernism meets West Indian theatre.
The Coffee Lovers Guide to America by Jonathan Hall (Chelsea) Two gay men - one English, one American - cross the United States and discover as much about themselves as about the country. A warmhearted look at emotional repression and young love.
The Breath of Life by David Hare (Haymarket) Deeply emotional memory play about two women and the man they both loved. As played by Maggie Smith and Judi Dench, this is autumnal Hare - and West End theatre at its very best.

A Day in Dull Armour by Chloe Moss (Royal Court) The Court's Imprint Young Writers Festival kicks off with this tender and beautifully written account of two mismatched souls in a northern town. Uncommonly well observed.
Bright by Polly Wiseman (Soho) Sectioned to a mental hospital, Clair tries to survive the treatment which, far from making her better, only makes her worse. An excruciating but deeply humane play.
Adrenalin . . . Heart by Georgia Fitch (Bush) Brilliant account of the love affair between a white single mum and a black dealer - buzzes with insight about desire and addiction. A great show that oozes theatricality from every pore. Magic, pure magic.

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November 2002
Eden by Eugene O'Brien (Arts)
One weekend in the slow death of Billy and Breda's marriage. And, just as the couple never speak to each other, so the play's form is that of two monologues. Psychologically acute, brilliantly observed and very, very moving.
Peepshow by Isabel Wright (Lyric, Hammersmith) Frantic Assembly's energetic peek into the lives of a bunch of towerblock dwellers pulsates with the music of Lamb - the most exciting show in London.
The One with the Oven by Emma Rosoman (Royal Court) The Court's Imprint Young Writers Festival continues with this loud and perceptive account of six Bromley lads and lasses. Nice mix of raucous drunkenness and tender feeling.
Falling by Shelley Silas (Bush) Is there more to life than having babies? Full of feeling, this story of a couple's unsuccessful attempt to have a baby is a great mix of comic irony and desperate emotions. Excellent.
Inside Out by Tanika Gupta (Arcola) Powerful, sometimes excruciating, play about two half-sisters whose loyalty is put to the test when one decides to leave their abusive home. Almost unbearable squalor redeemed by emotional honesty.
Mappa Mundi by Shelagh Stephenson (National) An intriguing, intelligent story about a map collector's final illness: ideas about race, history and belonging fuse beautifully with comic dialogue.
Dinner by Moira Buffini (National) Sharp satire and black comedy as a wronged woman takes revenge on her husband - watch this hostess from hell played by Harriet Walter. But what's a big play like this doing in such a small space?
Blue by Ursula Rani Sarma (Latchmere) Three kids on the verge of growing up come face to face with violence and death. A well-written if rather depressing look at teen loyalties and jealousies at an up and coming new writing venue.
The Lying Kind by Anthony Neilson (Royal Court) Black comedy about two cops - Blunt and Gobbel - who have to tell an old couple that their daughter has been killed in a car crash: an alternative xmas show glittering with satire.

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December 2002
Crazyblackmuthafuckin'self by DeObia Oparei (Royal Court)
Exhilarating rollercoaster ride through black identity and sexual behaviour which avoids cliches and glories in sexual pleasure. A mix of sentimentality and in-yer-face explicitness - watch out for flying dildos.
Things You Shouldn't Say Past Midnight by Peter Ackerman (Soho) Set in New York, this amusing American play gently explores the limits of what lovers can say to each other, and what we really want from each other - a bit like Sex and the City meets The Sopranos.
The Night Before Christmas by Anthony Neilson (Riverside) Another alternative to panto: Neilson's 1995 play is a wry and critical look at commercialisation and the evaporation of childhood magic. This revival stars Patsy Palmer (in fine voice - ouch!).
A Laughing Matter by April de Angelis (National) Rumbustious romp through 18th-century theatre history, as actor-manager David Garrick debates whether to stage Oliver Goldsmith's She Stoops To Conquer.

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