What's been on...
of the Dead/Helter Skelter by Neil LaBute (Bush)
Cracking double bill by American theatre's Mr Nasty: two couples struggle
with the changes provoked by pregnancy - with shattering results. Excruciatingly
in-yer-face. See it, feel it.
Happy Now? By Lucinda Coxon (National) Two happy families hit the
buffers in this savagely contemporary account of the strains of parenting,
and working. Instantly recognisable as a picture of Britain today: very
funny, very painful, but very true.
White Boy by Tanika Gupta (Soho) Timely
account of schoolgate bullying that leads to a teenage stabbing. If the
story is rather banal, Gupta gives it a strong emotional punch, and this
melodramatic National Youth Theatre production really rocks.
The Vertical Hour by David Hare (Royal Court) Nadia, an American
war reporter turned academic, visits her boyfriend's father, Oliver, and
they argue passionately about the War in Iraq, and about doing the right
thing. Engrossing, if a touch verbose.
A Prayer for My Daughter by Thomas Babe (Young Vic) Hard day's
night at a New York cop shop: four bruised male egos battle it out in
Babe's superb 1978 psychological thriller in this smart revival by the
Traverse theatre's Dominic Hill.
Scarborough by Fiona Evans (Royal Court) One northern bed and breakfast:
two couples; two unsuitable relationships. Brilliantly staged dissection
of gender and guilt, age and attraction. Both subtle and thought-provoking.
Artefacts by Mike Bartlett (Bush) When
16-year-old Kelly discovers that her father is an Iraqi, her world turns
upside down; he gives her a priceless vase, but does he have a hidden
agenda? Superbly told tale of loss and damage.
I'll Be the Devil by Leo Butler (Tricycle)
Violence, sex and madness in 18th-century Ireland: a tough Bondesque indictment
of the mental confusions of colonialism written as a response to Shakespeare's
The Tempest, and staged by the RSC. Great.
A Couple of Poor, Polish-Speaking Romanians by Dorota Maslowska (Soho)
Two young people on a drug-fuelled, vodka-splashed road trip - which gives
a vivid picture of contemporary Poland, using zany humour and surreality
to good effect. Excellent.
Random by debbie tucker green (Royal Court)
A freak knifing in a crowded street: tucker green's poetically insistent
style pervades this strong and timely play, in which all the characters
are played by one actress, Nadine Marshall.
Days of Significance by Roy Williams (Tricycle)
Market-town England: as a binge-drinking night comes to an end, two young
men prepare to go to war. Written as a response to Shakespeare's Much
Ado About Nothing, and staged by the RSC,
this is thrill-ful.
Never So Good by Howard Brenton (National)
Documentary drama about Harold Macmillan, the Conservative prime minister
of the late 1950s, which shows what made Super Mac tick. This makes up
in sympathy what it lacks in drama.
Wedding Day at the Cro-Magnons' by Wajdi Mouawad (Soho) Dateline Beirut:
in the middle of a Lebanese war zone, one family prepares for their daughter's
wedding. But not everything is as it seems in this bleak, black farce.
Testing the Echo by David Edgar (Tricycle) What does the new citizenship
test tell us about being British, or should that be English? Edgar's idea-packed
and fact-spotted play is given an exciting production by Out
of Joint. Both confusing (in a good way) and thrilling.
Small Change by Peter Gill (Donmar) Growing up working-class in
Cardiff: Gill's 1976 classic, directed in this superb revival by the playwright
himself, is beautifully written, deeply felt and a thoroughly engrossing
Fram by Tony Harrison (National) Epic verse play by Britain's top
poet starts off as a quirky docu-drama about the Norwegian explorer Fridtjof
Nansen, and takes in the big questions of truth, charity and ecological
collapse. Ambitious play that's best avoided.
Harper Regan by Simon Stephens (National)
An emotional journey through bereavement to redemption in this powerful
family drama: engrossing and entertaining. But is it convincing, and is
the ending not a cop out?
Static by Dan Rebellato (Soho) When Sarah loses her husband Chris,
her grief is intensified after she finds a compilation tape he left her.
A fabulous mix of grim feelings and dizzy ideas, with great sounds. Love
music, love Static.
Tinderbox by Lucy Kirkwood (Bush) Future-vision: England is crumbling
but Little-Englanders are alive and well in this satire set in a butcher's
shop. Despite some good gags, the piece is too long, too slow and too
The City by Martin Crimp (Royal Court)
Welcome back to Crimpland: marital discord, collapsing narratives and
children in danger. An anxious gem of a play by the master satirist of
suburbia in a terrific production by Katie Mitchell.
Oxford Street by Levi David Addai (Royal Court) Set in a Total Sport
shop in Oxford Street, Addai's new play sizzles with lively dialogue and
a fresh feeling for life: it also poses a moral dilemma for its troubled
hero. Good stuff.
That Face by Polly Stenham (Duke of York's) Dysfunctional families:
middle-class style. As Henry stays at home to look after his alcoholic
mother, Mia misbehaves at boarding school. Stenham's ragged, original
debut transfers to the West End. Go see.
Piranha Heights by Philip Ridley (Soho)
Third in an informal trilogy about brotherly love, this thrilling mix
of fantasy and sensation shows Ridley at the top of his game. It really
trances: exciting stuff, you must see it. Is that clear enough?
The Pitmen Painters by Lee Hall (National)
Dateline: 1934. A group of Ashington miners embark on a voyage of self-discovery
when they start painting. Thrilling play of ideas from the creator of
Billy Elliot. Moving, engaging, but also sentimental.
Labour by Steve Waters (Hampstead) Focus on migrant labour: the rise
and fall of Victor, a Ukrainian illegal who becomes a gang master in this
epic tragedy that spans the length and breath of Britain. Politics
with a human face.
Contractions by Mike Bartlett (Royal Court)
What happens when your manager at work wants to control your private life?
In this sharply written two-hander, Bartlett presents a dystopian vision
of total surveillance. Turn in your grave George Orwell.
Relocated by Anthony Neilson (Royal Court)
A child goes missing, a murderer is relocated and a middle-aged man kidnaps
a woman: Neilson's dark mystery is a deliberately puzzling, nightmarish
journey into the bleak heart of crime and conscience.
The Ugly One by Marius von Mayenburg (Royal Court) The inspirational
Upstairs/Downstairs season begins with a return of this superb satire
on society's obsession with appearances, the culture of beautification
and careerism. And it is also a brilliantly theatrical fun event.
2,000 Feet Away by Anthony Weigh (Bush) Iowa: local Deputy Sheriff
in small-town America has to enforce a new law which bans sex offenders
from living within 2,000 feet of schools. Joseph Fiennes stars in a subtle
and deep piece of writing.
The English Game by Richard Bean (Kingston)
An amateur Sunday cricket team take the field - and Bean subtlely
paints a picture of how the Iraq war has split Britain, and how the national
virtues of fair play and tolerance have are now under strain. Solid Headlong
production: great fun.
Black Watch by Gregory Burke (Barbican) The
now legendary account of Scottish masculinity and Blair's war finally
marches into the metropolis. About time too. Based on interviews but written
with a personal and muscular imagination. A must-see.
by Bryony Lavery (Riverside)
Three individuals cope with the murder of a child by a serial killer.
A superbly written, if sometimes harrowing evening, that raises difficult
questions about guilt and individual responsibility. Solid revival.
Unstated by Fin Kennedy (Southwark) Focus
on asylum: part docu-drama, part installation and part playlet, Kennedy's
collaboration with director Topher Campbell denounces the horrors of the
great British treatment of refugees.
The Frontline by Che Walker (Shakespeare's
Globe) Camden, north London: panoramic view of how the mean streets
shake with the howls and exaltations of the lost, the sad and the evil.
Pity that the play is un-focused and over-ambitious for this difficult
theatre space. Messy production.
Under the Blue Sky by David Eldridge (Duke
of York's) Brilliantly observed and subtle look at three teacher couples
- everything you ever wanted to know about love, sex and taking responsibility.
Revival of Eldridge's 2000 play stars Catherine
Tate and Francesca Annis.
Gone Too Far! by Bola Agbaje (Royal Court) The Upstairs/Downstairs
season ends with this punchy account of wounded males and mouthy females
on a sarf London estate. Two brothers explore their roots, and their own
identities. Bijan Sheibani directs beautifully.
This Wide Night by Chloe Moss (Soho) Two
ex-prisoners, Lorraine and Marie, get together after serving their time.
Powerfully written, emotionally true and occasionally funny account of
a pair of lonely women who eventually face the world with a quiet courage.
Enduring Freedom by Anders Lustgarten (Finborough) The Finborough's
season of new work kicks off with a story about
the devastating effect of 9/11 on one couple, who watch as the neo-cons
hijack their nation's grief. Powerful.
Liberty by Glyn Maxwell (Shakespeare's Globe) Paris during Year
One of the French revolution: a stage version of Anatole France's Les
Dieux ont soif offers a wry meditation on freedom and terror. Not
exactly new writing, but a solid story effectively
Now or Later by Christopher Shinn (Royal Court)
What price freedom of expression? On the eve of victory, the son of
the US president elect finds that a student prank has serious repercussions.
Typically intelligent account of religious and secular values that feels
as timely as a news bulletin.
365 by David Harrower (Lyric, Hammersmith)
you talk about kids in the care system without being condescending, or
coy? Yes, and here the National Theatre of Scotland
bring the full force of their exuberant theatricality
to bear on this difficult issue. Result: bit of a mess, but with some
Girlfriend Experience by Alecky Blythe (Royal Court) Daily life in
a seaside brothel: Blythe's verbatim piece is an honest and revealing
account of real women in a relatively unknown corner of the sex industry.
Well acted, thought-provoking and humane.
Leaving by Vaclav Havel (Orange Tree) The comeback kid: the retired
Czech president, and former dissident playwright, finishes off the play
he was working on in 1989, before the Velvet Revolution, a tale of political
ineffectuality and loss of meaning, all wrapped up in surreality.
The Walworth Farce by Enda Walsh (National)
Can family ills be cured by the power of storytelling? Ferocious,
and ferociously funny, play from the Irish bard of homely claustrophobia.
A truly fabulous piece of imaginative theatre from Druid. Yippie, and
by Leo Richardson (Trafalgar) Parklife: as Raggedy Anne dreams of
love, and chats with Bent Ben, Lonely Boy is consumed with guilt about
almost letting his brov die; meanwhile, Dirty Debbie is writing her first
erotic novel. Oh dear, another me and my mates play.
How To Disappear Completely and Never Be Found by Fin
Kennedy (Southwark) Branding exec Charlie descends into hell,
and then makes a bid to change his fortune by swapping his identity: fascinating
play which is both an exciting experiment with form
and a caustic critique of the contemporary invisible economy.
Overspill by Ali Taylor (Soho) Place: Bromley. Time: Friday night.
Three lads on the lash, downing pints and pulling girls, until a big bang
in the town centre changes everything. Superb meditation on storytelling
and the current culture of fear: and great theatrical fun too!
the Crowd by Leo Butler (Royal Court) Ten
years after Sheffield-born Dave did a runner, saddling his wife Joanne
with a mountain of debt, the couple meet again in London. Now Joanne wants
something from Dave that he finds rather hard to give. Emotionally excruciating
in an in-yer-face way! Great.
To Be Straight with You by DV8 (National) Lloyd Newson's choreographical
skills hold hands with verbatim theatre in this word-heavy (and I mean
heavy) and rather didactic piece about homophobia. Despite the depressing
evidence of a world of hatred, this manages to be quite a good night out.
Follow by Dameon Garnett (Finborough) Liverpudlian teen angst:
Blake and Reece are two 16-year-olds living with Gary, Blake's dad. Blake
is already a dad himself, and when Reece gets mixed up in a drug deal,
things can only get worse. Small play about me and my mate and my dad.
Lucky Seven by Alexis Zegerman (Hampstead) Three kids from three different
social groups are selected for a TV documentary, and meet at seven-year
intervals: how have they changed, and does class determine their lives?
A lovely comedy about hope.
Road by Shelagh Stephenson (Soho) After the
murder of their son in a random knife attack, one middle-class family
have to learn to cope with his death. Can meeting the boy's imprisoned
killer help to heal the pain? A compelling study of class, agony and forgiveness.
Gethsemane by David Hare (National) Our greatest political
playwright does it again: a beautifully written, intellectually compelling
and emotionally powerful play about New Labour, and about life at a time
when there's no right way to behave. Great stuff.
I Caught Crabs in Walberswick by Joel Horwood (Bush) Sleepy Suffolk
wakes up in this slice of rural life, seen mainly through the wide eyes
of three sixteen-year-olds, Wheeler, Fitz and Dani. Small, but beautifully,
even lovingly, narrated and acted.
Pride by Alexi Kaye Campbell (Royal Court) Can time heal the repressed
spirit? Debut play looks at two triangular relationships between a gay
couple and a straight woman, 50 years apart, in 1958 and 2008. Liberal
politics, but rather traditional images of gay life.
August: Osage County by Tracy Letts (National)
Monster play about a family showdown in smalltown America, it's a
trad drama that both sprawls and sparkles in equal measure. As a picture
of the USA, this Tony-award-winning Steppenwolf production is bleak but
50 Ways To Leave Your Lover at Christmas by Leah Chillery, Ben Ellis,
Stacey Gregg, Lucy Kirkwood, Ben Schiffer and Morgan Lloyd Malcolm (Bush)
Hail the alternative seasonal show! A wild series of gobby and satirical
sketches about love, hate and all the other emotions in between, all performed
by a crack cast. What's not to like? Hey-ho.
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