What's been on...
Lies Have Been Told by Rod Beacham (Trafalgar) Robert Maxwell - the
newspaper tycoon who ripped off his staff's pension fund - storms onto
the stage in this laugh-a-minute one-man biog. Humane, engrossing but
not so funny if you were one of his victims.
O Go My Man by Stella Feehily (Royal Court) Two Dublin couples
find their relationships hitting the buffers. Monogamy sucks? An everyday
story of media folk and artists, with the Darfur conflict burning in the
background. A slightly disappointing start to the Court's
50th birthday year.
The Sugar Wife by Elizabeth Kuti (Soho) Dublin's Quaker community
in 1840: when a freethinking Englishman and a freed slave come to stay,
a trader husband and his philanthropic wife debate the conflict between
idealism and reality. Slow but moving.
The Schuman Plan by Tim Luscombe (Hampstead) Suffolk lad Bill makes
a career in the British civil service in a postwar world that sees the
growth of the EU. An ambitious, sprawling political
play that is thought-provoking but not very dramatic.
Gladiator Games by Tanika Gupta (Stratford
East) Gruelling account of the murder of Zahid Mubarek, a young Asian,
by his racist cellmate in Feltham Young Offenders Institution, using a
mix of verbatim theatre and imaginative reconstruction. A powerful political
Futures by Rebecca Prichard (503) A husband
speaks about how love fades; a father grapples with mental distress; a
daughter tries to hold things together. Rich in language, experimental
in form and emotionally powerful. Wow.
Blackbird by David Harrower (Albery) After
15 years, two lovers meet again: the woman was 12 years old when the affair
happened. Dramatic, troubling and provocative play, starring Roger Allam
and Jodhi May, superbly directed by theatre legend Peter Stein.
Southwark Fair by Samuel Adamson (National)
Sexual confusion and love meet, have a coffee and argue on London's South
Bank. A light metrosexual comedy about desire and the city.
Other Hands by Laura Wade (Soho) Hayley
and Steve have been together for eight years, but what happens when things
start to go stale? And why are their hands afflicted with a strange paralysis?
Brilliantly written play about love and technology.
Christmas Is Miles Away by Chloe Moss (Bush)
Luke and Christie, two Manchunian teens, are best mates, but what happens
when they leave school? Lovely slice of young life beautifully directed
by Sarah Frankcom.
The Cut by Mark Ravenhill (Donmar) Paul
has a grim day job - administering 'the cut' - but what happens when he
brings his work home? A new political play from
the ever-provocative Mark Ravenhill.
The Best of Friends by Hugh Whitemore (Hampstead) Very long, and very
wordy, account of the friendship between George Bernard Shaw, Sydney Cockerell
and Laurentia McLachlan, a Benedictine nun. Resonant with issues of belief
and faith, but lacks dramatic oumph.
The Winterling by Jez Butterworth (Royal
Court) Deepest Dartmoor: an ex-gangster waits in a dilapidated farmhouse
for his past to catch up with him. A strange, magical, nightmarish vision
of the conflict between town and country, fathers and sons.
Burn/ Chatroom/ Citizenship by Deborah Gearing, Enda
Walsh and Mark Ravenhill (National) Suicidal,
damage teens strut their stuff in the National's
revival of three of last year's Shell Connections yoof fest. Dynamic,
often hilarious, and sometimes troubling. Great.
Felt Effects by Joy Wilkinson (503) Two Lancashire daughters compete
for the love of their mother. Then, one goes on holiday in a seismically
dodgy part of India. But can a real earthquake ever be as devastating
as an emotional one? Brilliantly written and metaphorically rich.
The American Pilot by David Greig (Soho)
In a far-off land, an American military pilot survives a plane crash.
The locals are unsure of what to do with him, but his mere presence changes
their lives irrevocably. Intelligent, imaginative and gripping political
Rainbow Kiss by Simon Farquhar (Royal Court) Aberdeen nights: Keith
and Shazza's one-night stand has terrible repercussions in this study
of loneliness and emotional need. A storming in-yer-face
play that can't quite shake off its miserabilist torpor.
The Ash Boy by Chris Lee (503) Jack is an oddball with mental problems.
He lives with his eightysomething mum, but can this arrangement survive
the intrusion of Benny, a dosser with his own plans? Powerfully written
and brilliantly acted.
4.48 Psychosis by Sarah Kane (Arcola) Kane's
legendary play gets a choral revival in Daniel
Goldman's imaginative production. Tangram's seven-woman cast provide welcome
new insights into this painful but inspiring text. Well worth seeing.
Motortown by Simon Stephens (Royal Court)
Danny is an ex-squaddie who's been brutalised by his experiences in Iraq.
When he returns to Dagenham, all hell breaks loose. Another episode in
our ongoing fascination with the violent underclass.
Crooked by Catherine Trieschmann (Bush) Mississippi dreaming: Laney
and Maribel have little in common except for the fact that their classmates
think they're freaks. That and their delusions about holiness, and lesbianism.
Another Bush teen drama - happy birthday Mike Bradwell.
Dying City by Christopher Shinn (Royal Court)
Two twin brothers, one a married soldier and the other a gay actor. When
the military man gets killed in Iraq, his wife not only has to cope with
his loss, but also with an unexpected visit from his twin. Subtle, superb
writing: go see.
The Overwhelming by JT Rogers (National) Drama that explores the
Rwandan genocide of 1994 through the eyes of an American who searches
for a missing friend on the eve of the horrific bloodbath. Solid political
theatre from Max Stafford-Clark's Out
Clever Dick by Crispin Whittell (Hampstead) American atom bomb
scientist Richard Feynman finds himself by mistake in a New Mexico hotel
with Matilda, a local girl waiting for her boyfriend. At the same time,
spies are meeting, and a secret agent investigates. Tries to be as clever
as Terry Johnson's Insignificance - but fails.
Fair by Joy Wilkinson (Trafalgar) 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
Market Boy by David Eldridge (National) Dateline
1985: Boy finds a job on a shoe stall. An autobiographical love letter
to Romford Market that combines anti-Thatcher satire with a huge cast
and overt theatricality. Monster size; monster
Cruising by Alecky Blythe (Bush) Sex for the over-60s: Maureen
and Margaret are pensioners in search of passion in this revealing, funny
and moving piece of verbatim theatre. Not exactly new
writing, but a good laugh anyway.
Rock 'N' Roll by Tom Stoppard (Royal Court) Jan, a young Czech
student, survives the Prague Spring and years as a dissident while, in
Cambridge, a British tankie tries to keep the Marxist faith. Stoppard
rocks - and the soundtrack isn't bad either! But is it a Royal
Woman and Scarecrow by Marina Carr (Royal
Court) On her deathbed, a dying Woman talks to her alter ego in a
poetic review of her life that asks uncomfortable questions about love,
and time spent and misspent. Great performances from Fiona Shaw and Brid
On the Third Day by Kate Betts (New Ambassadors) Troubled virgin Claire
picks up Mike, who turns out to be Jesus. Weird but true. Winner of Channel
4's The Play's the Thing reality tv competition, Betts's debut
is better than it sounds. And it's a real must for redemption junkies.
Blonde Bombshells of 1943 by Alan Plater (Hampstead) An all-woman
swing band blasts away the wartime blues in Plater's nostalgic but wonderfully
feelgood music show. Good sounds, good laughs and a very good line in
trumpets. Yes, I do know it's not in-yer-face.
Sugar Mummies by Tanika Gupta (Royal Court)
Sex tourism sucks - Gupta's comedy about female sex trips to the Caribbean
has a serious edge, and a thought-provoking thematic unity. Shame about
the conventional dramatic structure.
Viral Sutra by David Carter (Finborough) New
writing season opens with a play that is set inside the body of a
man afflicted with the HIV virus. Great idea, pity about the heavy Beckettian
influence, and the clowning, the clowning!
Frost/Nixon by Peter Morgan (Donmar) The historic interviews between
celebrity journo David Frost and disgraced ex-president Richard Nixon
recreated by the author of Channel 4's The Deal. Hardly cutting
edge, but a compelling piece of political theatre.
Rabbit by Nina Raine (Trafalgar) Bella's 29th birthday party turns
into a battleground for the uncivil war of the sexes as she brings her
girlfriends and ex-lovers together. Meanwhile, her father lies dying.
Some sparky writing can't disguise the piece's limitations.
Pumpgirl by Abbie Spallen (Bush) Spallen gives the kiss of life
to the Irish monologue tradition in this steamy tale of a man, his wife
and the ... pumpgirl (at the local garage). A comic epic that skids, wheels
squealing, between bleak humour and raw emotion.
Piano/Forte by Terry Johnson (Royal Court)
Two sisters, spooky house and a father who is remarrying a B-list celebrity.
Atmospheric, hilarious, superb writing and a screaming part for Kelly
Reilly. One of the most satisfying plays in years. I mean it.
The Seafarer by Conor McPherson (National)
Christmas Eve with Lucifer: McPherson's superb study of manhood,
guilt and redemption reeks of brimstone and resonates with relevance.
Could this be the best new play of the year?
Snuff by Davey Anderson (503) Squalid council flat, a vicious skinhead
and a pervading sense of threat. All the familiar features of British
new writing, with a Scottish twist. Who says
in-yer-face theatre is dead? (Yeah, I know.)
Bones by Kay Adshead (Bush) Dateline South
Africa: a buried secret from the Apartheid years is dug up. But can Beauty,
the black maid, help Jennifer, wife of a dying racist cop, to exorcise
her demons? A poetic study of hope amid revenge.
Caroline, or Change by Tony Kushner (National) Louisiana in 1963:
in the month that President Kennedy is assassinated, a black maid (again!)
has a confrontation with a rich Jewish child in Tony Kushner's dreamy
and nostalgic musical. Lovely.
Faustus by Rupert Goold and Ben Power (Hampstead) Director Goold
and writer Power give Marlowe's masterpiece a good going over, yielding
some insights into the spiritual emptiness at the heart of Brit Art. Intriguing,
but a bit too long and uneven.
Pool (No Water) by Mark Ravenhill (Lyric, Hammersmith)
A group of artists united by tragedy. Not. Ravenhill scrapes away the
varnish on this image of youthful friendship to reveal the ugly emotions
just below the surface. Superb production by Frantic
Scenes from the Back of Beyond by Meredith Oakes (Royal Court)
Sydney, 1959: Bill and Helen are naive communists who believe in science
and progress, but the strains of suburban marriage and family life with
a teen dampen their spirits. Weak.
Whipping It Up by Steve Thompson (Bush) Panic in the whip's office:
government faces defeat. Thompson's comic thriller is good fun, but some
jokes misfire - and don't try and explain the plot. Argh.
The Lightening Play by Charlotte Jones (Almeida)
A nice, middle-class family is completely torn apart by conflict during
a hellish Halloween. A nice mix of gut feeling and quirky writing is given
a really splendid production.
Amy's View by David Hare (Garrick) Okay, I know that Hare's 1997
family play is no in-yer-face shocker, but it still makes for a brilliant
and engaging evening, full of provocative ideas and with a real heart.
Peter Hall directs and Felicity Kendal stars.
Love and Money by Dennis Kelly (Young Vic)
David and Jess are a young married couple, but their happiness is destroyed
by easy credit and rampant consumerism. Kelly's storming play gets a brilliant
production from Matthew Dunster, and its fractured form
Drunk Enough To Say I Love You by Caryl Churchill
(Royal Court) The special relationship between American Sam and British
Jack is based on global capitalism and world domination. Churchill's new
short drama simmers with rage and resonates with political
The Glass Room by Ryan Craig (Hampstead)
Can you defend Holocaust Denial as free speech? Craig's new play mixes
an urgent issue with good plotting, and shows how the personal is affected
by the political.
Don Juan in Soho by Patrick Marber (Donmar)
DJ struts his stuff, chasing skirt and thumbing his nose at morality in
contemporary Soho. Marber's energetic update on Moliere has an enjoyable
brio, but fails to find a modern hell.
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