What's been on...
by Mark Ravenhill/ What Would Judas Do? by Stewart
Lee (Bush) Two superb monologues, both performed by their writers,
satirise the movie business and religious tradition. A great evening:
There Came a Gypsy Riding by Frank McGuinness (Almeida) The Irish
family reunion play is alive and well in this veteran playwright's story
of how this once drink sodden family come to terms with the death of one
of their sons. Faint whiff of Catholic redemption.
Blasted by Sarah Kane (Soho) Kane's classic
play not only denounces war, but also blasts apart theatrical form.
This version, by Graeae, begins coolly, with Brechtian detachment, and
then heats up till it's cooking. A real must see.
Happy Days by Samuel Beckett (National) Winnie passes the time
of day, first buried up to the waist, and then up to her neck. See Deborah
Warner and Fiona Shaw's epic and apocalyptic version of this 1961 modernist
An Oak Tree by Tim Crouch (Soho) A hypnotist kills a child while driving,
and then the grieving father interrupts his show. Crouch's innovative
stage piece features a different guest actor every night. And you thought
theatre was predictable...
I Like Mine with a Kiss by Georgia Fitch (Bush)
Louise celebrates her 39th birthday by enjoying a terrific night out with
her friend Annie. But, the morning after, the two women have to face the
music in Fitch's thumping, moving, funny, new play.
The Reporter by Nicholas Wright (National) Docudrama about the
enigmatic life and death of James Mossman, 1960s BBC reporter who committed
suicide in 1971. An atmospheric example of old writing and good staging.
Generations by Debbie Tucker Green (Young
Vic) This 25-minute short by one of Britain's most innovative writers
transports you to South Africa, to witness a family devastated by loss.
One of the most original and intense theatre experiences in London.
King of Hearts by Alistair Beaton (Hampstead) When the heir to the
throne falls in love with a muslim, the prime minister does all he can
to stop the match in this satirical giggle-fest that has enough politically
incorrect material to make it worth your while.
Attempts on Her Life by Martin Crimp (National)
One of the best and most innovative plays of the past 25 years finally
gets a National Theatre revival. But how will
director Katie Mitchell cope with the enigmatic Anne? Find out in this
piece of essential viewing.
Dying for It by Moira Buffini (Almeida)
Life is so good in the Soviet Union that the only escape from poverty
is suicide. But even that is not a simple act. Great adaptation of Nikolai
Erdman's classic play, The Suicide. Look, I know it's not exactly
new writing, but...
Europe by David Greig (Barbican) Greig's
1994 play, here making a rare appearance in
the metropolis, is a fascinating and relevant account of identity, rootlessness
and globalisation. Oh, and yes, it's also a love story, a horror story
and a political play. Great.
Leaves by Lucy Caldwell (Royal Court) A Belfast family copes with
their young daughter's suicide attempt. Carefully observed, but rather
inconclusive look at depression and family relationships. A bit too literal.
The Wonderful World of Dissocia by Anthony Neilson
(Royal Court) Lisa stops taking her tablets, and drifts into a psychotic
episode that is both hilarious and touching. Adventurous in form
and controversial in content, this is a wonderful example of metaphysical
theatre (or whatever you want to call it!).
Landscape with Weapon by Joe Penhall (National)
When Ned reveals that he is the brains behind a revolutionary new weapons
system, his brother Dan is horrified. Can Ned survive this clash between
the personal and his career? Exciting play of ideas and emotion.
Aalst by Duncan McLean (Soho) An underclass couple murder their
two children. At a subsequent tribunal, they try and explain why. A genuinely
disturbing and horrific play: guaranteed to make your flesh crawl.
That Face by Polly Stenham (Royal Court) Dysfunctional families:
middle-class style. As Henry stays at home to look after his alcoholic
mother, Mia misbehaves at boarding school. Ragged, original and vivid
in its stage images - great debut.
Rafta, Rafta by Ayub Khan-Din (National) Big
warmhearted Asian family drama about a pair of newly weds who live in
the parental home. Based on Bill Naughton's All in Good Time, this
version stars Meera Syal and Harish Patel. Funny, and moving.
Elling by Simon Bent (Bush) Norwegian
novel about two misfits adapted to make a delicate and hilarious stage
play about conformity and individual growth. John Simm excels as Elling,
the damaged mummy's boy.
Leaves of Glass by Philip Ridley (Soho) Sibling
rivalry in nice middle-class family - a brilliantly written and genuinely
chilling account of evil in everyday life. Stars Ben Whishaw. Thoroughly
My Child by Mike Bartlett (Royal Court)
Vicious custody battle as two parents struggle for control of their offspring.
Eye-popping staging; terrific acting. Another great debut at the court
of Dominic Cooke.
Terre Haute by Edmund White (Trafalgar) A Europeanised American
intellectual visits a redneck murderer on Death Row. Based on an exchange
of letters between novelist Gore Vidal and Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh,
a play that makes you squirm.
Alaska by DC Moore (Royal Court) Frank is one of life's losers,
but don't be too sympathetic: he's also a big-mouth racist. A powerful
and chilling play about sex, race and telling lies. Imperfect, but thought-provoking.
Taking Care of Baby by Dennis Kelly (Hampstead)
Can verbatim theatre tell the truth? Kelly's subversive new play runs
rings around the current vogue for reality in contemporary culture, with
a disturbing tale of a mother who kills her kids. Or does she?
The Christ of Coldharbour Lane by Oladipo Agboluaje (Soho) Religious
imaginings in Brixton, south London: can the Nigerian preacher Omo spread
the word among the indifferent materialistic masses? An entertaining,
if a bit scrappy, look at belief and politics
Trance by Shoji Kokami (Bush) Kokami's Japanese mega-hit, which
looks at what happens when three old school friends meet again in later
life, gets an engaging and warm-hearted production at this great venue:
lovely, thought-provoking evening.
The Five Wives of Maurice Pinder by Matt Charman (National) Polygamy
rules OK in this account of an ordinary Lewisham man with an extraordinary
family. Good performances but it is a pity that Charman made the protagonist
so run-of the-mill. A missed opportunity.
The Pain and the Itch by Bruce Norris (Royal Court) Vicious satire
on liberal American family life: brilliantly constructed and amusingly
written. Dominic Cooke's production is a bit restrained, but the play's
dark side stays with you.
Baghdad Wedding by Hassan Abdulrazzak (Soho) Sex, love and anger in
Iraq: a brilliant play about that troubled country by an Iraqi exile whose
voice is part melancholic, part metaphoric, part humorous and part horrified.
Excellent production by Lisa Goldman.
In the Club by Richard Bean (Hampstead) A
political sex farce set in Strasbourg, and peopled by a British MEP and
assorted Eurocrats. Offers an evening of good-natured hilarity with some
moments of lovely sick humour.
Is This About Sex? by Christian O'Reilly (Traverse) Swapping partners:
Daniel and Kay, Paul and Kathy, Daniel and Cathy, Paul and Kay - yes,
it's a relationship comedy that's warm, sweet and humorous. Good piece
of new writing from Ireland's Rough Magic.
Damascus by David Greig (Traverse) Dateline
Damascus: as educational writer Paul's plane is delayed, he enters that
borderland of uncertainty in which he is confronted by East-West differences
in this highly intelligent and highly enjoyable play. Recommended.
A Disappearing Number by Complicite (Barbican) Wow: Complicite explore
the curious life and times of Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan,
the mystery of maths and the sadness of loss. Stunning stagecraft and
a genuinely thought-provoking evening. Best new play of the year?
Flight Path by David Watson (Bush) Two dysfunctional families;
two troubled teens. Watson's warmhearted and well-observed debut explores
masculinity and class in a neat, if inconclusive,
The Ugly One by Marius von Mayenburg (Royal Court) International
season begins with a superb satire on society's obsession with appearances,
the culture of beautification and careerism. And, in Ramin Gray's production,
it is also a brilliantly theatrical fun event.
Pure Gold by Michael Bhim (Soho) Sizzlingly written, and very intelligently
observed, family drama that explores the moral choices of a father who
wants the best for his wife and young son. Welcome back, Talawa!
Dealer's Choice by Patrick Marber (Menier)
Exhilarating revival, directed by Sam West, of Marber's 1995
debut play about men, masculinity and the scary
adventure of poker playing. As fresh as when it was first written.
Little Madam by James Graham (Finborough) The home life of a child
called Margaret Roberts contains much playacting with teddies and toys
that presage her emergence as Maggie Thatcher, first woman prime minister.
Imaginative, although some may find the form
a bit retro in its agit-prop style.
Fanny and Faggot/Stacy by Jack Thorne (Trafalgar)
Murderers and rapists are human too: welcome return for two of Jack Thorne's
provocative explorations of the dark side of the psyche. Uncomfortable,
but essential viewing. And Ralf Little is scarily convincing.
How To Curse by Ian McHugh (Bush) Nick and Miranda are two teenagers
fascinated by books and magic. Nick's obsession with casting spells to
find Ariel from The Tempest leads to a hormonal and psychic storm when
he meets Will. Lovely mix of realism and metaphysics.
Kebab by Gianina Carbunariu (Royal Court) Dateline: Dublin. Three
Romanian migrants in a menage a trois struggle to survive in a world of
poverty, exploitation and violence. Well written,
well observed and well good.
Joe Guy by Roy Williams (Soho) The rise
and fall of a black football star: exciting and entertaining play about
the conflict between African and Caribbean identity in Britain today.
But perhaps the laughter drowns out the pain a touch too much.
Mile End by Dan Rebellato (Pleasance) Welcome visit of Analogue theatre
company's multi-media piece about criminal insanity, wild coincidence
and the nature of the universe. Beautifully written and beautifully staged.
River by Philip Ridley (Trafalgar) Superb
revival of Ridley's 2000 play, which is an
imaginative and excruciating account of homophobia, and the secrets and
lies at the heart of family life: the cast really ache.
The Brothers Size by Tarell Alvin McCraney (Young Vic) Ogun runs
a car-repair business and his brother Oshoosi is just out of jail. Add
Oshoosi's bad-boy mate, Elegba, to the mix and watch out! Superb production
directed by Bijan Sheibani - it really rocks.
Statement of Regret by Kwame Kwei-Armah (National)
Kwaku, founder and head of a black policy think-tank, hits the skids after
his father's death, and exposes divisions and tensions within the back
community in this excellent state-of-the-nation drama. A must.
Free Outgoing by Anupama Chandrasekhar (Royal Court) After a respectable
teen is filmed, on a mobile phone, having sex with a boy in school, all
of India gets to know about it. Good strong writing - a fascinating, Ibsenite
The Dysfunckshonalz by Mike Packer (Bush)
Aged punk rockers reunite in a screamingly in-yer-face
play which is both hilarious and painful. Blazing sounds and blazing performances
in one of the most exciting plays in years. Love it.
Crestfall by Mark O'Rowe (503) Three women;
three stories that snake together through the lurid imagination of one
of Ireland's best writers, balancing viciousness with redemption in a
spectacularly appealing brew. Dazzling, simply dazzling. (Yeah, I did
The Family Plays by Joakim Pirinen/Natalia Vorozhbit (Royal Court)
A double bill: two delightfully ironic glimpses of family life from Sweden
and the Ukraine, showing the tensions between shining idealism and gross
reality. Superbly directed by Joe Hill-Gibbins.
God in Ruins by Anthony Neilson (Soho)
Neilson's remixed, and delightfully mixed up, version of Dickens's A
Christmas Carol throws Scrooge and a modern-day anti-hero, the drunken
Brian, into a world of new media, and Second Life. Help.
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