What's been on...
The Drowned World by Gary Owen (Bush) Imagine
a society where the beautiful people are hunted down by the ugly. This
superbly written drama, staged by Paines Plough,
creates a sci-fi dystopia that comments on celebrity culture.
Iron by Rona Munro (Royal Court) Superbly written prison drama
which explores the nature of memory through the relationship between a
woman who's killed her husband and her estranged daughter. Highly emotional.
Black Milk by Vassily Sigarev (Royal Court) A savage vision of
today's Russia written with a shocking mix of dirty realism with passages
soaked in vivid imaginings and singed with God talk - like Dostoyevsky
without the sentimentality. See it!
Tiny Dynamite by Abi Morgan (Lyric, Hammersmith)
Dazzling, evocative and moving love story of two men and a woman performed
with immense conviction by Frantic Assembly -
a perfect meeting between new writing, physical
theatre and music. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.
The Green Man by Doug Lucie (Bush) Bilious and funny pub drama
four builders - and their long night's journey into self-knowledge. Masculinity,
politics and love - plus lots of whisky.
Exclude Me by Judith Johnson (Chelsea) A teacher kidnaps a troublesome
black pupil - plus a top white student. Looks like someone might get hurt:
fab mix of social realism, psychological truth and emotional pain. Great
Dirty Butterfly by Debbie Tucker Green (Soho)
An excruciating, obsessive, obscure and outrageous fragment about voyeurism
and victimisation from a writer who knows her Blasted and her 4.48
Psychosis. The new Sarah Kane?
The Safari Party by Tim Firth (Hampstead) Directed by Alan Ayckbourn,
this story of a fraught dinner party where each course is eaten at a different
location is full of both laughter and pathos. And is surprisingly moving.
Terrorism by the Presnyakov brothers (Royal Court) A dark version
of La Ronde, in which a terrorist alert at an airport sets off
a chain reaction of explosive emotional situations. Watch the victims
A Reckoning by Wesley Moore (Soho) A daughter confronts her domineering
father with her memories of abuse - unconvincing, lacking in character
and bloodless. But the cast includes Jonathan Pryce.
Hitchcock Blonde by Terry Johnson (Royal Court) A media lecturer
and his student are hot on the heels of some lost Hitchcock footage -
while the master himself films an ice-cool blonde. A bit self-indulgent,
but with flashes of genius.
Got To Be Happy by Simon Burt (Bush) Is love good for you - and
can you be happy on your own? Beautifully written play about two Yorkshire
couples. It's a very small slice of life, but emotionally truthful and
Scenes from the Big Picture by Owen McCafferty (National) Panoramic
vision of the lives of 21 characters during one Belfast day. A well-written
play that is much easier to admire than to love, it nevertheless delivers
some very powerful stories.
Under the Whaleback by Richard Bean (Royal
Court) Three generations of Hull trawlermen grapple with the legacy
of their fathers in this suggestive and compelling slice of social realism.
A smallish play that has surprising resonance.
XXX by La Fura dels Baus (Riverside) The Spanish shock troupe present
their take on the Marquis de Sade's Philosophy in the Bedroom in
the most highly hyped and sexually explicit show ever seen on the London
stage. Surprisingly unerotic.
In Arabia, We'd All Be Kings by Stephen Adly Guirgis (Hampstead)
Powerful American panorama of Times Square losers in the mid-1990s - as
zero tolerance kicks in, the lowlifes find themselves stressed out. Well-written,
but little more than a fragment.
Jerry Springer: the Opera by Richard Thomas and Stewart Lee (National)
The filthiest show ever to pee its pants on the National stage. Smart,
smutty and hilarious, this trash-TV musical is a one-joke evening, but
packs a fistful of energy. A must.
Born Bad by Debbie Tucker Green (Hampstead)
Six family members confront the truth about sexual abuse in a punchy new
play for voices that confirms Tucker Green's talent for poetic drama.
Superbly directed by Kathy Burke.
The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek by Naomi Wallace
(Southwark) Wonderfully imaginative and powerful drama about two teenagers
in the American Depression of the 1930s - wry, subtle, original, erotic,
political and quietly moving. Superb.
Sexual Perversity in Chicago by David Mamet (Comedy) Classic 1976
play about two couples which explores desire, masculinity
and the sex war. Sharp dialogue and fierce emotion. Stars Minnie Driver
and Matthew Perry.
Wound by Che Walker (Royal Court) Hilarious,
poetic and powerful account of an aged gangster and his estranged son
and daughter. Dazzling writing and some excruciating violence - who said
in-yer-face theatre is dead? (Me, probably.)
Little Baby Nothing by Catherine Johnson (Bush) Filthy, funny and
emotionally accurate account of three teens who, after playing with an
ouija board, unleash the powers of darkness - or have they? Great acting,
great sounds. Mamma mia!
US and Them by Tamsin Oglesby (Hampstead) When a British couple
accidentally meet an American couple in New York, a friendship forms that
embodies the tensions of the special relationship. A wise and witty exploration
of trust and cultural difference.
Elmina's Kitchen by Kwame Kwei-Armah (National)
As Deli struggles to make his cafe a going concern, a local gangsta sets
his sights on corrupting his son. A lively analysis of Black Britons living
on Hackney's Murder Mile.
Blackbird by Claire Luckham (Southwark) Luckham's first new play for
five years is a study of the effects of adultery in a Sussex nursery.
Its emotional core is expressed through David Lyon's music, and the songs
are like magical soliloquies.
Fallout by Roy Williams (Royal Court)
A black youth is stabbed and a black cop leads the hunt for his killers
- brilliantly written and superbly staged drama. However enjoyable, it
is more of a cry of despair than a call for change.
Mr Nobody by Philip Ralph (Soho) A man loses his memory, and, when
a woman comes forward who claims she's his wife, he says he doesn't know
her - is he telling the truth? Intelligent and intriguing play.
Hitchcock Blonde by Terry Johnson (Lyric) A media lecturer and
his student are hot on the heels of some lost Hitchcock footage - while
the master himself films an ice-cool blonde. A tightened up version of
the play that premiered at the Royal Court.
Food Chain by Mick Mahoney (Royal Court) The self-styled 'hooligan
playwright' is back with a blistering comedy that dissects the materialism
of celebrity culture and the moral poverty of its upwardly mobile working
class family. Superb.
Edmond by David Mamet (National) Watch with a mix of horror and exaltation
as one man leaves his wife and plunges into New York's lower depths -
and then finds redemption in prison. Superbly written and wonderfully
Protection by Fin Kennedy (Soho) Realistic
commentary on the life and work of a team of social workers, who are meant
to be protecting children, but could probably do with some protection
Sunday Father by Adam Pettle (Hampstead) Two Jewish brothers struggle
with their past when one of them is involved in a custody battle with
his wife. Debut by Canadian playwright whose style is a bit too clean
and smaltzy for its own good.
Tape by Stephen Belber (Soho) In a shabby American motel, three high-school
friends meet and relive an unpleasant episode from the past. Part thriller,
part comedy, by a writer whose style is a bit bloodless.
Topdog/Underdog by Suzan-Lori Parks (Royal Court) This poetic Pulitzer-prize-winning
play about two brothers - called Lincoln and Booth - who are locked in
a love-hate relationship crosses the Atlantic. A bit old-fashioned but
it does have its moments.
Playing the Victim by the Presnyakov Brothers (Royal Court) Surreal
account of a young man who joins the police in order to play the part
of the victim in crime reconstructions. A wonderfully lurid view of Russia
today from Told by an Idiot.
Top Dogs by Urs Widmer (Southwark) A group of corporate fat cats
feel the stinging effects - mental, physical and sexual - of being sacked.
Superb, high-definition production of a 1996 Swiss play which has already
wowed audiences across Europe.
I.D. by Antony Sher (Almeida) The assassination of Verwoerd, the
South African architect of apartheid, by a mixed race drifter, Demetrios
Tsafendas, who was urged to do the deed by the voice of his tape worm.
Panoramic, surreal account of identity.
Animal by Kay Adshead (Soho) In a dystopic
future, the state decides to dampen anger by using chemical agents against
protesters. Pongo, a down and out, becomes one of the first guinea pigs.
Powerful and moving drama.
The People Next Door by Henry Adam (Stratford East) Wonderful farce
about a Scottish dopehead whose half-brother is a Muslim extremist. Hilariously
written, brilliantly acted and superbly staged. Yes, I did have fun.
Nine Parts of Desire by Heather Raffo (Bush) Heather Raffo is an
Iraqi-American, and her one-woman show explores the lives of women in
Iraq. A refreshingly cliche-free insight into a world that most of us
are unfamiliar with.
Democracy by Michael Frayn (National) A superb mix of thrillingly
cerebral and emotionally moving political theatre that examines the relationship
of Willy Brandt, the leftish German Chancellor of the 1970s, and his secretary,
who was a spy. Lots of suits.
Blood by Lars Noren (Royal Court) An exiled Chilean couple, who
lost their son in the military coup of the 1970s, are drawn to a young
man who seems to need their love. A symbolist drama from Sweden's leading
The Maths Tutor by Clare McIntyre (Hampstead) Family secrets are
exposed when a teenager accuses his tutor of molesting him. Emotionally
truthful, but the kind of naturalistic domestic drama that makes me glad
I don't have a mortgage.
Wrong Place by Mark Norfolk (Soho) Trevor is a young black man facing
12 years in prison. Can his adopted father help him - and is his biological
father to blame? Emotionally honest, well observed and very sad account
of black yoof.
Airsick by Emma Frost (Bush) Two women confront their sexual and
emotional needs. Fabulously entertaining, brilliantly observed, psychologically
exact, emotionally true and utterly amazing piece of theatre - yes, I
really, really liked it.
Rabbit by Brendan Cowell (Lyric, Hammersmith) Madeline and her
new boyfriend, the junkie MC Spin, are home to meet her wealthy parents.
A black comedy about the family performed by Frantic
Assembly whose skills almost, but not quite, hide the faults of the
The Sugar Syndrome by Lucy Prebble (Royal Court) Energetic and
humane drama about a 17-year-old woman who meets a 38-year-old man in
an internet chatroom. Written with compassion and humour, it bravely ventures
into some murky territory.
The Mercy Seat by Neil LaBute (Almeida) In this taut two-hander,
a survivor of 9/11 and the woman he's having an extramarital affair with
grapple with his idea of pretending to be dead and starting over. Cruel
The Straits by Gregory Burke (Hampstead)
The place: Gibraltar. The time: Falklands War. A group of teens bond together
against the enemy - but what does that mean for these Brits beyond Britain?
A really superb follow-up to Gagarin Way.
Loyal Women by Gary Mitchell (Royal Court)
Brenda is a north Belfast loyalist with a lot of domestic bother on her
plate. But can she quit her political past and deal with her personal
future? A highly charged, plot-heavy drama with an ambiguous ending.
Sweet Panic by Stephen Poliakoff (Duke of York's) A child psychologist
is stalked by a mother from hell in Poliakoff's 1996
drama about control and letting go. Nice to see some imaginative, quirky
writing in the West End.
The Pillowman by Martin McDonagh (National)
Wow! And wow again! A terrific gobsmacker that is both a cracking thriller
and a mind-blowing meditation on storytelling. Yes, it really is that
good. Without a doubt, the best new play of 2003.
The God Botherers by Richard Bean (Bush)
An alternative Christmas comedy that looks at two aid workers in a poor
Third World country. Can they reconcile their western views with local
religious beliefs? Un-PC, taboo-busting laughs.
Duck by Stella Feehily (Royal Court) The life and times of two
Dublin ladettes. Hi-octane account of female friendship in a dangerous
and violent drama that perfectly balances the noisy and the tender. Emotionally
true and darkly humorous.
The Secret Rapture by David Hare (Lyric) Idealism and Thatcherism
clash in the struggle between two sisters in David Hare's 1988 play. Despite
a rather dull production, this remains a classic account of the twin follies
of greed and philanthropy. Nice to see it in the West End.
Dinner by Moira Buffini (Wyndham's) A
wonderfully imaginative account of how the hostess from hell - played
superbly by Harriet Walter - takes her revenge on her erring husband.
Playful, witty and punchy drama from one of our finest writers.
Revelations by Stephen Lowe (Hampstead) Sporadically funny, metaphor-heavy
comedy about a sex orgy. Lowe lusts after three big themes - sinful shame,
reality television and religious belief - but manages to leave all unsatisfied.
A limp evening.
Five Gold Rings by Joanna Laurens (Almeida) A family Christmas
get-together is disturbed by rampant emotions and deep-seated conflicts.
Written in poetic language, this imaginative
drama pushes at the boundaries of naturalism.
What's on now
info on new writing
new writing book list