What's been on...
Christmas by Simon Stephens (Bush) Who says
Christmas is the season of good will? Four sad men face a bleak future
over a pint in the pub. A well-observed, funny slice of East End life.
But what happened to the plot?
Honeymoon Suite by Richard Bean (Royal Court)
Eddie and Irene's wedding night in the 1950s - then two snapshots of the
same couple 25 years later and when they're both aged 67. A lovingly written
and beautifully structured tale of a marriage which mixes one-liners with
The Permanent Way by David Hare (National) The Great Rail Privatisation
Disaster - a tale of greed, incompetence and criminal negligence. Also,
how the bereaved and survivors campaigned for change. Moving, engrossing
and life-changing production from Out of Joint.
Love and Understanding by Joe Penhall (Old
Red Lion) Two workaholic medics, Neal and Rachel, find their lives
disrupted when Richie, Neal's childhood friend, turns up to stay - solid
revival of Penhall's excellent 1997 play.
Allport's Revenge by Anthony Melnikoff (Finborough) Issue play about
a Jewish father who has already donated one of his kidneys to his firstborn
son, but then discovers that his second child also has the same disease
- what will he do now?
Crave by Sarah Kane (BAC) Sarah Kane's
fourth play gets a long-overdue revival from Matt Peover's Liquid Theatre
company. It's great: a really interesting interpretation and a fringe
One Minute by Simon Stephens (Bush) Bush
flavour-of-the month Stephens turns in a typically well-observed account
of what happens to five individuals when a child goes missing. But although
this is a sophisticated evening, it lacks drama.
The Dice House by Paul Lucas (Arts) Inspired by Luke Rhinehart's
1971 classic, this black comedy shows what happens when a psychiatrist
tries to cure his patients by throwing the dice. A disappointing mix of
Joe Orton and Monty Python.
Notes on Falling Leaves by Ayub Khan-Din (Royal
Court) A mother with senile dementia, and her 26-year-old son: a Beckettian
piece that explores loss, fear of death and memory. Good to welcome back
a Royal Court production without decor.
On Blindness by Glyn Cannon (Soho) Brilliant exploration of ideas
about desire, sex, sight and perception in a wonderful production by Frantic
Assembly, Graeae and Paines Plough. Cutting-edge
theatre at its very, very best. Do not miss.
World Music by Steve Waters (Donmar) Can Europeans really understand
African society? This terrific account of a Euro MP's tragic mistakes
mixes serious politics and theatrical verve.
The Sons of Charlie Paora by Lennie James (Royal Court) At the
south Auckland wake of rugby coach and local hero Charlie Paora, the tensions
between his surrogate sons and his real children explode in an evening
which mixes redemption and laughter.
Ladybird by Vassily Sigarev (Royal Court) Urban life on the edge:
another trawl through the lower depths of poverty, illusion and despair
in today's Russia. A powerful and emotionally true play from one of Russia's
When the Night Begins by Hanif Kureishi (Hampstead) A young woman
accuses her stepfather of abusing her. A tense psycho thriller that surfs
on ambiguity - pity that Kureishi is such a lazy, unconvincing writer.
Adrenalin . . . Heart by Georgia Fitch (Bush)
Love affair between a white single mum and a black dealer which buzzes
with insight about desire and addiction - gobsmacking theatrical verve,
emotional turmoil and sexual desire: when the characters kiss, call the
fire brigade. Still magic.
Some Voices by Joe Penhall (Young Vic)
Stonking revival of this in-yer-face classic
from 1994 - a great 10th birthday present
that reveals the relevance of this play's vision of love, brotherly affection
Badnuff by Richard Davidson (Soho) Set in a pupil referral unit,
where all the really bad kids go, this didactic drama mixes the kids'
energy with the liberal worldview of their teacher. The result is a wishful
fantasy rather than a raw voice from the streets.
The Dark by Charlotte Jones (Donmar) Three
households; one power cut. A quirky, imaginative and very dark look at
mothers and children, husbands and wives in an urban environment where
fear eats the heart.
Festen by David Eldridge (Almeida) A patriarch's
60th birthday party is plunged into chaos when his grown-up son accuses
him of abuse. Yes, it's a powerfully emotional and immensely moving stage
version of the classic Dogme film. A must-see.
The Sweetest Swing in Baseball by Rebecca Gilman
(Royal Court) An unpopular artist goes loopy after her lover walks
out on her. A typically restrained issue play from Chicago-based Gilman,
a rather clean writer who never quite gets her hands dirty.
Debris by Dennis Kelly (BAC) Wild and
wonderful extravaganza about two siblings - Michael and Michelle - and
their grossly OTT family life, exemplified by the self-crucifixion of
their dad. Bit overwrought, but a promising new writer.
The Flats by Darren Murphy (Chelsea) Having just finished their
exams, three 16-year-olds face an uncertain future. A typical 'me and
my mates' play complete with sofa and teen angst. Not very exciting.
The Holy Terror by Simon Gray (Duke of York's) A middle-aged publisher
has a mental breakdown. Yes, it's fascinating, isn't it? If you're mad
keen on the problems of ego-heavy men then this is for you - if not, avoid
at all costs.
Blest Be the Tie by Dona Croal (Royal Court) Two Jamaican sisters
are reunited after 30 years when Martha visits Florence in London. A rather
old-fashioned but emotionally truthful, and very moving, play about family
The Goat by Edward Albee (Apollo) Fantastic return to form by Edward
Albee, godfather of the marriage crisis play. This time, it's bestiality
that rears its ugly head as a successful architect confronts his darkest
desires. Brilliant. Oldies rock.
Flush by David Dipper (Soho) Three young men obsessed with playing
poker - but can they bluff the women in their lives? A sharply written,
but much too short, account of masculinity in
Oleanna by David Mamet (Garrick) Mamet's classic 1992
account of the evils of political correctness. It's still biased, still
relevant and still a cracking two-hander. With Aaron Eckhart and Julia
M.A.D. by David Eldridge (Bush) Mutually
Assured Destruction: 11-year-old John acts out Cold War conflicts, but
hopes that the balance of power between his parents at home can avoid
Sing Yer Heart Out for the Lads by Roy Williams
(National) Loud, relevant and emotional, Williams's analysis of racism
is played out in real time during an En-ger-land versus Germany soccer
match. This timely revival stars rapper Asher D.
Whistling Psyche by Sebastian Barry (Almeida)
Weird scenes inside a Victorian waiting room: Florence Nightingale meets
James Miranda Barry in a poetic meditation on gender, medicine and loneliness
that sadly outstays its welcome.
Cruel and Tender by Martin Crimp (Young Vic)
Sophocles's Greek tragedy about the home life of Heracles rewritten for
our times: war crime, body pampering and sex. Brilliantly written and
superbly staged by Luc Bondy.
Democracy by Michael Frayn (Wyndhams) Award-winning 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.
Lucky Dog by Leo Butler (Royal Court)
An old married couple celebrate Christmas: but there's more to their relationship
than meets the eye. Black humour and an experiment in storytelling that
doesn't quite come off.
Yellowman by Dael Orlandersmith (Hampstead) Alma and Eugene are
growing up in South Carolina in the 1960s: but while she's black, he's
lighter-skinned, a yellowman. A moving and savage account of racial hatred
and family tensions.
Damages by Steve Thompson (Bush) As the deadline rapidly looms, four
newspaper people have to decide whether to print a libellous story. Steve
Thompson's sharp thriller revives the well-made-play.
Shining City by Conor McPherson (Royal Court)
A man sees the ghost of his dead wife - and goes to a therapist to
seek help. Conor McPherson is back on top form with his emotional story
about loss, guilt, and the desire to get away with murder.
Country Music by Simon Stephens (Royal Court)
A young tearaway makes a couple of wrong moves - and ends up in jail for
life. Stephens's emotionally fraught play is a beautifully structured
account of one man's alienation from his child. Heartbreaking.
Mercy by Lin Coghlan (Soho) A group of council estate dwellers find
themselves in the countryside, and then they are hit by a biblical flood.
An amusing, amazing and wonderfully imaginative piece of redemptive theatre.
The Night Season by Rebecca Lenkiewicz (National) Flawed, but occasionally
moving drama about three Irish sisters, their drunken father and dotty
gran. Lenkiewicz has hit the jackpot with her second play, pity she lacks
an original voice.
Faliraki: The Greek Tragedy by Paul Roseby (Lyric, Hammersmith)
Britain's number one summer export: binge drinking. As a Greek resort
reels under the impact of our lads and lasses, innocence runs headlong
into the arms of experience. Pity the writing is cliched and banal.
Two Step by Rhashan Stone (Almeida) Former lovers Lenny and Mona meet
again after 30 years: he's kicked the booze but she remains trapped in
the anguish of loss. Can she forgive him? A haunting, beautifully written
Dumb Show by Joe Penhall (Royal Court)
Two journalists put the squeeze on a television comic in this comedy thriller
whose dark humour and plot twists mark the welcome arrival on the Court's
main stage for Penhall.
Cancer Time by Gary Owen (503) Two young
women in a Welsh call centre swap notes about the meaning of life. A short
fantasy on the theme of boredom, and day-dreaming. A slight piece but
a vivid one.
Bone by John Donnelly (Royal Court) Three different individuals
confront the agony and anger of loss in the first play in the Court's
new Young Playwrights season. An impressively
mature understanding of emotional desolation.
Stuff Happens by David Hare (National) An engrossing mix of documentary
and imagination, this tells the story of Bush's rush to war. Compelling
as information, enjoyable as an event but poor as human drama.
Gone by Glyn Cannon (New Ambassadors) Radical update of Sophocles's
Antigone to the age of modern terrorism pays a lightning visit to London
after its Edinburgh success. Vivid production, but unsatisfying text.
Darwin in Malibu by Crispin Whittell (Hampstead) Purgatory is a
beach in California, where Darwin meets his champion Thomas Huxley and
his old adversary Bishop Wilberforce. Good clean fun, with strong discussions
about death and God.
Cloaca by Maria Goos (Old Vic) Four former student friends confront
middle-age with a mixture of panic and power-madness. A nice middle-class,
middle-of-the-road play that gets a middling production from the new Old
Vic supremo, Kevin Spacey.
How Love Is Spelt by Chloe Moss (Bush) Peta
quits her native Liverpool, and comes to London. In the metropolis, no
one knows her so she can be who she wants to be. But can she escape her
past? Observant, mature and humorous.
The Weather by Clare Pollard/Bear Hug by Robin French (Royal Court)
The Court's Young Playwrights season continues
with a double bill of wonderfully funny, highly imaginative and very theatrical
plays about family life - hell is mum and dad.
Here's What I Did with My Body One Day by Dan Rebellato (Pleasance)
Mind-expanding drift though one man's search for his father and for his
identity in a multi-media show that takes you on a tour of Paris that
is both cerebrally satisfying and theatrically enticing. Wonderful.
The Battle of Green Lanes by Cosh Omar (Stratford East) Ethnic,
religious and personal tensions crackle through this big debut play about
London's Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities. A sound start from new
artistic director Kerry Michael.
Love Me Tonight by Nick Stafford (Hampstead) A teenager dies and,
at his funeral, his parents and his older brother and sister try to communicate
but find themselves tangled up in evasions, half-truths and unspoken feelings.
Not much fun.
Dead Hands by Howard Barker (Riverside) After the death of their father,
two sons make love to his mistress. A complex tangle of emotions where
the loss of death turns into the longing for sex. Autumnal Barker: exhilarating,
irritating, macabre. But never dull.
Forty Winks by Kevin Elyot (Royal Court) Thirtysomething Don is
obsessed by his teen sweetheart, Diana, who has married someone else -
and also has an unhealthy interest in her teenage daughter. Good idea,
but too short and a bit too tricksy.
Gong Donkeys by Richard Cameron (Bush)
Fantasy is a compensation for the poverty of daily life in this funny
and touching story about two kids, two youths and an arid marriage. A
lovely slice of life that is heartwarmingly humane.
Fresh Kills by Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder (Royal Court) Man meets
boy on the internet. What does he want and will his wife find out? American
kick-ass theatre at its sizzling best, but don't expect anything beyond
linear plotting and dirty realism.
Jeff Koons by Rainald Goetz (ICA) Culture-vultures talk, party,
talk, visit an opening at an art gallery, talk, shag, dance, talk, create,
talk. You get the picture. All hail Goetz - the German Irving
The Censor by Anthony Neilson (Union)
Neilson's 1997 account of porn, perception
and weird love - given a superb in-yer-face production
by director Derek Bond and his committed cast. Massive Attack will never
sound the same again.
The Earthly Paradise by Peter Whelan (Almeida) Welcome to the Pre-Raphaelite
Brotherhood - artistic angst, sexual rivalry and smashed ideals. A solid,
workmanlike play from Britain's number one history man. Entertaining but
A Girl in a Car with a Man by Rob Evans (Royal Court) A child is
abducted and the CCTV footage of the event haunts four completely different
individuals: gay clubber Alex, TV wannabe Stella, stay-at-home David and
CCTV watcher Paula. Well-written, but too long.
Anna in the Tropics by Nilo Cruz (Hampstead) Work, passion and
violence in 1920s Tampa: Nilo Cruz's Pulitzer-Prize-winning story about
a lector who reads Anna Karenina in a tobacco factory really sizzles.
By the Bog of Cats by Marina Carr (Wyndhams)
Smouldering revival of Carr's powerful rewriting of the Medea myth stars
Holly Hunter - after a slow start, it delivers a moving and emotionally
Playboy of the West Indies by Mustapha Matura (Tricycle) Artistic
director Nicolas Kent celebrates 20 years at this venue with this lovely
revival of Matura's 1984 play, a rewrite of JM Synge's classic Playboy
of the Western World. A heartwarming evening.
Hard Sell by Craig Baxter (503) Two policemen interview a posh
bitch about the death of her husband, but what starts off as a routine
case quickly escalates into a riot of the imagination. A wickedly enjoyable
Fix Up by Kwame Kwei-Armah (National)
Brother Kiyi faces eviction from his black bookstore in this tragi-comedy
that examines the issues of mixed race, black history and roots. A play
of ideas that also has the power to move.
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