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IN-YER-FACE THEATRE

• What's been on...

in 2005

 

January 2005
Patience by Jason Sherman (Finborough)
End of the road for Reuben, a businessman whose life suddenly hits the buffers. But when exactly did it all go wrong? And can he make the necessary changes? New drama from Canada.
Bites by Kay Adshead (Bush) At an eatery at the end of the world, fat-arsed Texans and starving Afghans partake in a meal of seven very different courses. Imaginative post-apocalyptic drama - politix plus fantasy. Great stuff.
Head/Case by Ron Hutchinson (Soho) Two young women, one Irish and the other English, have suffered brain damage: how does this affect their sense of self? And what does it say about the stereotypes of national identity?
Tim Fountain: Sex Addict by Tim Fountain (Royal Court) Cruising and cottaging in London - and, every evening, the audience get to vote on who Tim Fountain has sex with. More of a lecture than a piece of drama: interactive theatre? Or just a sad bid for notoriety?
Losing Louis by Simon Mendes da Costa (Hampstead) When their father dies, two brothers clash over secrets from the past. What a surprise: a middle-class Jewish family reunion play at the Hampstead. Efficient but predictable.
Whose Life Is It Anyway? by Brian Clark (Comedy) After a car crash leaves her paralysed from the neck down, Claire (Kim Cattrall) fights for the right to take control over her life - by ending it. Modern fairy tale about a heroic woman taking on the medical establishment, and winning.

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February 2005
Wild East by April De Angelis (Royal Court)
Job interview from hell: before he is employed as a market researcher in Russia, a nerd is confronted by two female execs. Can he survive their questions, and their rivalries? Sizzling political theatre.
The Small Things by Enda Walsh (Menier) Paines Plough's thrillingly ambitious This Other England project gets off to an eye-opening start with this amazing two-hander: a memory play about two Lancashire oldies who recall childhood horrors. Dazzling.
Etta Jenks by Marlane Gomard Meyer (Finborough) A young woman hits LA, looking for fame and fortune. Instead, she finds porn and danger. Stars Daniela Nardini. Punchily directed by Che Walker.
A Life in the Theatre by David Mamet (Apollo) An older actor and a younger rival fight it out in a revival of Mamet's 1977 sketchy, minor work. Stars Patrick Stewart and Joshua Jackson.
Colder Than Here by Laura Wade (Soho) She may be dying of cancer, but Myra still wants to organise her funeral. Yet can she sort out her family? Another play about death - this time from a hot new writer.
One Under by Winsome Pinnock (Tricycle) Cyrus is a train driver whose life unravels when a young man throws himself under his wheels - wonderfully daring and emotionally true story from one of our finest writers. Respect.
Take Me Away by Gerald Murphy (Bush) A father and his three grown-up sons meet to discuss a family problem and discover lies and self-justification. Is this about masculinity in crisis? You can bet your balls it is. A stunningly good play.
Days of Wine and Roses by Owen McCafferty (Donmar) Belfast-born Donal and Mona make a new start in London in the 1960s, but as well as falling in love with each other, they also fall in love with drink. New version of JP Miller's story stars Anne-Marie Duff.
Tynan by Richard Nelson (Arts) Inspired by Kenneth Tynan's twilight diaries, long after he was a crusading critic, this monologue - a tour de force by Corin Redgrave - reveals a sad man who still manages to embody the spirit of the 1960s.
Losing Louis by Simon Mendes da Costa (Trafalgar) When their father dies, two brothers clash over secrets from the past. West End transfer for the Hampstead Theatre Jewish family reunion play starring Alison Steadman. Efficient but so, so predictable.

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March 2005
Breathing Corpses by Laura Wade (Royal Court)
Hellish nightmare: imagine going to work and finding a dead body, and then another, and another. A fierce, excruciating and troubling play from one of our finest young playwrights. A must-see.
Mercury Fur by Philip Ridley (Menier) Paines Plough's season of language-rich plays continues with this in-yer-face shocker which revisits Ridley's The Pitchfork Disney in the context of today's post-Iraq apocalypse culture. Terrific: another must-see.
Midwinter by Zinnie Harris (Soho) After a devastating war, the survivors pick up the pieces: one woman swaps a horse for a starving child - with horrific consequences. A parable that's a cross between Bond, Barker and Buchner. Grim but resonant.
Poor Beck by Joanna Laurens (Soho) After a devastating war, the survivors pick up the pieces: living in an underground shelter, they long for the outside world. One day a traveller from above arrives - can they believe him? Grim but poetic.
The Fortune Club by Dolly Dhingra (Tricycle) Is it better to beg or to steal - well, it's best not to get caught. A feelgood play about one of the great scams of recent years. Pity about the banal writing.
The Girl with Red Hair by Sharman Macdonald (Hampstead) When a teenage girl dies, her death affects four generations of Fife women. But can summer and love heal the wounds? A bereavement play that's almost too subtle for its own good.
Pyrenees by David Greig (Menier) A man suffers from memory loss after being found in the mountains. Who is he, and what is he running from? And how is his identity affected by the language he uses? An ace metaphysical comedy.

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April 2005
Stoning Mary by Debbie Tucker Green (Royal Court)
Third World violence smashes into a English living room: poverty, war and rough justice. A hot, angry, political and poetic play from one of the most exciting new voices in British drama. Another must-see.
Mammals by Amelia Bullmore (Bush) It's wheelie-bin land and a married couple finds that life with kids is pretty hellish. But when the husband tells his wife he fancies a woman at work, all hell is let loose. Smartly written, if a bit melodramatic.
A Night at the Dogs by Matt Charman (Soho) Five blokes buy a racing greyhound, but their hopes and dreams are shattered when one of them turns out to be a psycho. Winner of last year's Verity Bargate Award, this is deja vu, weak and poorly written.
The Cosmonaut's Last Message to the Woman He Once Loved in the Former Soviet Union by David Greig (Donmar) Super revival of Greig's wonderfully free-floating epic about the desire to connect and the difficulty of communicating - one of the most daring and mind-expanding plays of the past decade.
Elmina's Kitchen by Kwame Kwei-Armah (Garrick) As Deli struggles to make his cafe a going concern, a local gangsta sets his sights on corrupting his son. Lively National Theatre account of Black Britons living on Hackney's Murder Mile - and the first black British play in the West End.
If Destroyed True by Douglas Maxwell (Menier) New Flood has been awarded 500,00 for being the Worst Town in Scotland, but can it keep its title for another year? Gloriously wild and wonderful satire and a tremendous piece of new writing.

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May 2005
Private Fears in Public Places by Alan Ayckbourn (Orange Tree)
Six sad and lonely people find that their lives criss-cross in this Scarborough production of the latest autumnal Ayckbourn. Despite the laughs, and the clever plotting, this is rather too sad for its own good.
Osama the Hero by Dennis Kelly (Hampstead) Someone has been blowing up garages on Gary's estate and everyone thinks it's him. A gruelling account of the consequences of the climate of fear created by the War on Terror. Political theatre, but not as we know it. Brilliant.
Incomplete and Random Acts of Kindness by David Eldridge (Royal Court) Joey is in crisis: his mother's died, he's broken up with his girlfriend, and his father has a new lover. But as well as breakdown, there is a sense of recovery. Forget in-yer-face theatre, here is delicate naturalism.
The Woman Before by Roland Schimmelpfennig (Royal Court) When Frank opens the door one day, he gets a surprise. Standing there is Romy, his lover from 20 years ago. And she's holding him to a promise he made then. Brilliantly constructed satire on love and marriage.
Kingfisher Blue by Lin Coghlan (Bush) Dirty realism on a 'sarf' London council estate: four men try to better themselves - with disastrous results. Emotionally truthful, and very painful, but stylistically a bit unadventurous.
Some Girl(s) by Neil LaBute (Gielgud) A man revisits four girlfriends from his past. He says he wants to right some wrongs, but actually he's just making excuses for his inexcusable behaviour. As is LaBute.
On the Shore of the Wide World by Simon Stephens (National) Three generations of a Stockport family face the pain of loss. A beautifully observed and very moving account by the quiet naturalist of new writing. Superb production.

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June 2005
This Is How It Goes by Neil LaBute (Donmar)
A love triangle in a climate of racism: wonderfully tricksey and gobsmackingly cruel account of how a smalltown American loser destroys the marriage of a black man and a white woman. But all is not what it seems. Great stuff.
The Countess by Gregory Murphy (Criterion) Sex is the worm in the bud of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood as John Ruskin and John Everett Millais fall out over Effie, Ruskin's wife. Dull historical drama that only fitfully comes to life.
The UN Inspector by David Farr (National) A failed Balham estate agent gets mistaken for a top Western official in an ex-Soviet republic - with hilarious, and tragic, results. Lurid satirical extravaganza based on Gogol's The Government Inspector.
Three Women and a Piano Tuner by Helen Cooper (Hampstead) Three estranged sisters meet up in order to make one of their dreams come true. A Continental-style study of sibling rivalry and artistic creativity - and a welcome smack in the face of naturalism.
Way to Heaven by Juan Mayorga (Royal Court) In 1942, a Red Cross Representative visits a Nazi death camp, and fails to see evidence of extermination. How come? An engrossing, and highly imaginative, account of a grimly bizarre community play. A must-see.
The Laramie Project by Moises Kaufman (Sound) The killing of a 21-year-old gay student in Laramie, Wyoming, leads to national heartsearching, and an excellent verbatim theatre piece. A vivid picture of life in smalltown America, and a powerful piece of redemptive drama.

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July 2005
Talking to Terrorists by Robin Soans (Royal Court)
Verbatim theatre piece about political gunmen, from Northern Ireland to the Middle East, and from Central Asia to East Africa. A theatrical, and humanistic, experience from Out of Joint, which does leave some political questions unanswered.
President of an Empty Room by Steven Knight (National) Love and voodoo in a Cuban cigar factory: as the boss goes AWOL, the workers take over, but the past catches up with them all. Atmospheric, but not very exciting. Sorry.
Shoreditch Madonna by Rebecca Lenkiewicz (Soho) Love and death in the art world: a heartfelt look at two generations of artists in London's East End. Well written, engaging, moving, if a touch too declaratory.

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August 2005
Silence by Moira Buffini (Arcola)
Anglo-Saxon England: cross-dressing, drug-taking and ultra-violence given a wrly humorous and exquisitely felt twist. A joyous, warmhearted comedy which has grown in relevance since its first production in 1999.
Fair by Joy Wilkinson (Finborough) In the wake of a race riot in a Lancashire town, the racist Railton and the lefty Melanie clash as they plan two very different kinds of fair. The joke is that they've already met and spent the night together! Engrossing political play.

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September 2005
The Night Shift by Mark Murphy (BAC)
Deliciously creepy play about a young woman who acts out her dreams while still asleep - and these reveal the trauma of her childhood. The premiss takes some swallowing but the production is engrossing.
The Women of Lockerbie by Deborah Brevoort (Orange Tree) Political theatre meets Greek tragedy in this moving account of the aftermath of the Pan Am Lockerbie bombing in 1988. It's not always successful, but at its best it packs a punch.
Harvest by Richard Bean (Royal Court) Comic epic that spans 90 years of rural life in Yorkshire. Strong characterisation, quaint eccentricity, class struggle and some good jokes, but scarcely the most relevant piece in the world - until the final scene!
Fewer Emergencies by Martin Crimp (Royal Court) Three scenarios that challenge the culture of complacency: three stories that fall apart under the weight of their own emotions. Modernist satire at its intellectual best.
After the End by Dennis Kelly (Bush) How to survive a terror attack: Mark and Louise take refuge in an 1980s nuclear shelter after a dirty bomb explodes in London. But can they survive each other? An in-yer-face thriller.
Two Thousand Years by Mike Leigh (National) Millennia pass, but Jewish family life remains the same. Danny and Rachel deal with the stresses and strains of their children, parents and siblings in Mike Leigh's fine emotional true new play.
Playing with Fire by David Edgar (National) As London tries to make a northern Labour council more efficient, the news from the streets is bad - there's a riot brewing. Latest from the king of the state-of-the-nation drama.
What We Did to Weinstein by Ryan Craig (Menier) In the West Bank, Josh - an idealistic British man who's joined the Israeli army - is involved in an incident with a terror suspect. What happened? And who's to blame? Brilliant plotting.

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October 2005
Guardians by Peter Morris (503)
English Boy and American Girl live in totally different worlds, but their monologues are united by the themes of war images, guardianship and power. A cracking new play about the Iraq War.
On Tour by Gregory Burke (Royal Court) As England fans riot outside, three men plan the ultimate rip-off. Burke's usual territory: blistering dialogue that mixes bookishness with rudeness while three men circle each other. Thrill-ful.
Blue Eyes & Heels by Toby Whithouse (Soho) As the sharks circle in the perilous waters of trash tv, an ambitious young producer (played by Martin Freeman) clashes with his secretary and a retired wrestler. Dumbing down has rarely been such a laugh.
Bottle Universe by Simon Burt (Bush) Dave and Lauren are both 14, but there the similarities end: she's a swot and he's a truant. Yet, when they are thrown together, an uneasy relationship develops. By turns, blazing and moving.
Comfort Me with Apples by Nell Leyshon (Hampstead) Dark secrets beset a Somerset apple-growing family. A strange mix of naturalism and poetic intensity: relentlessly gloomy and very sad. (You have been warned!)

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November 2005
The World's Biggest Diamond by Gregory Motton (Royal Court)
Is Motton our English Strindberg? This account of two lovers who meet for a weekend after 30 years seethes with Scandinavian gloom. But whatever happened to Motton's distinctively weird personal vision?
Cleansed by Sarah Kane (Arcola) Kane's 1998 play gets its first English revival in Sean Holmes's powerful, tender and moving production. This is a work that really does repay closer scrutiny, and this version really rocks.
A Brief History of Helen of Troy by Mark Schultz (Soho) New York whizz kid Mark Schultz has recently won a clutch of awards, and it's easy to see why. This is a smart account of teenage loss and longing for the South Park/Clueless generation.
Paul by Howard Brenton (National) The story of the man whose life changed on the Road to Damascus by one of the stalwarts of 1970s and 1980s political drama. A fine study of faith, belief and truth in 1st-century Judea.
Phaedra's Love by Sarah Kane (Barbican) Kane's version of Sophocles's ancient Greek tragedy updates the action to a British royal family: amid the detritus of daily life, uncontrollable passions burn and violence breaks out. A mini Kane revival fest.
Alice Trilogy by Tom Murphy (Royal Court) Alice, an Irish housewife, feels that her life has been wasted. In three completely different scenes, we witness the progress of her decline over 25 years. A finely written piece by Ireland's top man.
When You Cure Me by Jack Thorne (Bush) When 17-year-old Rachel gets viciously attacked, her teen boyfriend Peter finds it equally hard to cope. An intimate, occasionally excruciating and very tender story of love and loss.
The Rubenstein Kiss by James Phillips (Hampstead Theatre) Very long, and pedestrian, retelling of the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg case of the 1950s. An odd mix of docudrama, opera and Jewish family drama.

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December 2005
Ubu the King by Alfred Jarry (Barbican)
David Greig's gloriously silly version of a modernist classic. Set in an old people's home, the play is full of shit, blood and strangled laugher. Absurdism rules KO.
On Ego by Mick Gordon and Paul Broks (Soho) How do you define the self? Do we have a core essence or are we made up of flesh, blood and brain cells. Gordon's theatre essay is strong on ideas but weak on drama. Good fun.
What's in the Cat by Linda Brogan (Royal Court) Merry Christmas? Lauren, a mixed-race pregnant teen, arrives for Christmas Day 1974 to her Manchester home - and her dysfunctional family. Difficult but powerful play.

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