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Stage | The Guardian



Latest stage news, reviews, comment and analysis from the Guardian



Published: Wed, 22 Nov 2017 13:21:49 GMT2017-11-22T13:21:49Z

Copyright: Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. 2017
 



Finding Narnia: Sally Cookson on the real trauma in CS Lewis's fantasy

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 06:00:12 GMT2017-11-22T06:00:12Z

After the wild success of Jane Eyre and Peter Pan, the director and her company are conjuring up The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. She talks about how the Good Fairy got her into theatre – and why kids are the most exacting audiences

‘I hate talking about my work.” Sally Cookson squirms. Her shows, for all their simplicity, can be hard to pin down, but her words are telling: “I’m always looking for the heart of a story,” she says. This is a director who deals in feelings.

To those not paying attention, Cookson landed like a bolt from the blue. Most directors cut through in their 30s, but she was in her 50s when her circus-heavy staging of Jacqueline Wilson’s Hetty Feather was nominated for an Olivier award in 2015. Her calling card, however, was a magnificent, two-part Jane Eyre, a total theatre treat that translated Charlotte Brontë’s book into movement and music, colour and light. Since its premiere at the Bristol Old Vic in 2014, more than 250,000 people have seen it on stage or on screen – possibly unprecedented for a piece of devised theatre.

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Comedy in a care home: the standups taking slapstick into new territory

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 16:52:52 GMT2017-11-21T16:52:52Z

The residents were expecting bingo. Instead they got lessons in strawberry spitting, a Railway Children spoof – and a stuntman stripping to his underpants

Monday afternoon is usually bingo time at the Madelayne Court care home, in the village of Broomfield, near Chelmsford. So today’s activity comes as a surprise to many comfortably seated residents: striding on stage in front of them is former Neighbours actor Nathan Lang – he’s dressed as a stuntman and preparing to leap through a hoop he’s pretending is on fire.

“You’ve lost it!” hollers one elderly spectator, and Lang does look momentarily perplexed. How do you deal with hecklers here?

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Ronny Chieng review – Daily Show comic's slick set is derailed by a heckle

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 12:28:56 GMT2017-11-21T12:28:56Z

Soho theatre, London
The standup and International Student sitcom star delivers jaunty routines about US life but the show suffers when he reacts to a heckler

“I have a tone problem,” reckons Ronny Chieng: everything he says sounds angry or sarcastic. In the past, that’s been to the detriment of his standup, but it’s less the case here in his first London outing since becoming a correspondent on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. He dials down the scorn (a little) in this set, which is going with a swing – until he gets heckled for a routine defending the “creepy” amorous behaviour of the teenage male, at which point his tone problem resurfaces to unpleasant effect.

If you’re coming at him via his sitcom, International Student – routinely described as sweet and charming – you’ll barely recognise onstage Chieng. Slick and high-handed, he kicks off with an extended routine about living in the States: a land of consumerist abundance and turbo-charged convenience.

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Mandatory balaclavas and posh nibbles: Pussy Riot pop-up is the worst kind of misery-porn

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 18:17:59 GMT2017-11-20T18:17:59Z

Two members of Pussy Riot were in London to tell their story in opposing ways. One felt pointless and cynical, the other powerful and exhilarating

Nadya Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina were both in London last week, albeit on opposite sides of the capital. Pussy Riot’s feted figureheads were in town to stage different live retellings of how their Russian performance art collective became a cause celebre in 2012, when a 35-second guerrilla punk gig in Moscow Cathedral earned Tolokonnikova, Alyokhina and fellow performer Yekaterina Samutsevich two-year prison sentences for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred”.

Related: Nadya Tolokonnikova: ‘I suppose we have nothing more to lose’

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Ramin Gray of Actors Touring Company faces harassment allegations

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 16:52:26 GMT2017-11-20T16:52:26Z

Eight women describe alleged cases of historic harassment against director who called for search for ‘Weinstein of British theatre’

A leading director who called for a search for “the Weinstein of British theatre” is facing allegations of harassment from eight women.

Ramin Gray, the artistic director of Actors Touring Company (ATC), gave an interview to theatre writer Carl Woodward to mark the company’s 40th anniversary. After Gray said in the interview that “the search for who is the Weinstein of British theatre is an honourable search”, Woodward said that he was contacted by the women, who described alleged cases of historic harassment.

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The spray's the thing: how actors use perfumes to get into character

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 06:00:21 GMT2017-11-20T06:00:21Z

Playing Thatcher? Dab on Bluebell. Got a part in Hairspray? Reach for the Madame Rochas. We lift the lid on how actors use smells – from the finest fragrances to cheap tinned mackerel – to nail a role

Before I go on stage, says Michael Ball, I ask myself a question: “Do I smell nice for all the ladies and gentlemen?” The actor chooses a signature scent for each of his roles, from bay rum for the vengeful barber Sweeney Todd to his mum’s favourite Madame Rochas for Hairspray’s Edna Turnblad.

Ball’s not alone in deploying scent to to get beneath a character’s skin. Anne-Marie Duff has a fragrance for each role too. “If ever I smell that perfume on somebody else,” she has said, “it will remind me of a story I’ve told.” Nikki Amuka-Bird, meanwhile, says she “uses aromatherapy oils – lavender for characters with a slow tempo, ylang ylang for sensuous characters”.

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Muriel's Wedding: the Musical review – gutsy and brash sendup of all things Australiana

Sun, 19 Nov 2017 05:04:37 GMT2017-11-19T05:04:37Z

Abba is everywhere in PJ Hogan’s musical adaptation, which pulsates with high-spirited fun but eschews the film’s feminist ending

When PJ Hogan first approached Abba in the 1990s to ask if he could use their music in a new movie, they said no. Aware of their reputation as cheesy crooners they were worried the film would make them a laughing stock.

Hogan, of course, eventually persuaded Benny and Björn. Muriel’s Wedding was born. Abba was not so much mocked as revered: their music became the soundtrack of Muriel’s life, surely one of the most resounding antiheroines of our time.

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Kyle Abraham: Pavement review – dancing in handcuffs with aggression and grace

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 07:00:23 GMT2017-11-20T07:00:23Z

Sadler’s Wells, London
Inspired by his Philadelphia childhood and the film Boyz N the Hood, Abraham’s vivid choreography evokes daily violence but also camaraderie and tenderness

The basketball court that forms the set of Pavement is like those that can be found in any city in the world, and it’s this universal quality that makes Kyle Abraham’s work so affecting as political dance theatre. He draws on very specific sources – his childhood in Pittsburgh, the LA gang drama Boyz N the Hood – yet this portrait of angry, wired, funny and hopeful young people has a resonance that goes far wider. Set to a musical collage that ranges from Bach to Sam Cook, taking movement from ballet, street and contemporary dance, Pavement transcends its origins to become a picture of the modern world.

Related: 'White governments gave us guns and turned a blind eye': Kyle Abraham on his Boyz N the Hood dance

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Denise Gough: the extraordinarily gifted actress on being the toast of New York

Sun, 19 Nov 2017 09:00:01 GMT2017-11-19T09:00:01Z

The award-winning Irish actress talks about taking her performance in People, Places and Things to the States, being bullied in the theatre, and who writes the best roles for women

Three years ago, Denise Gough nearly gave up the stage. This extraordinarily gifted chameleon actress was not getting enough work to keep herself. Then in 2015 she shot to electrifying prominence playing an actress in rehab in Jeremy Herrin’s National Theatre/Headlong production of Duncan Macmillan’s People, Places and Things. She is now, as she says “shiny”: reprising that role, to acclaim, in New York. Where, in the New Year, she opens in Marianne Elliott’s National Theatre staging of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America.

You said you didn’t want to go to New York until you were in an off-Broadway play. How is it?
To do the lead in a massive show and then be part of one of the most beautiful ensembles – this is what dreams are made of. I was photographed by the New Yorker last week and I couldn’t stop laughing. It’s entirely overwhelming. But it’s a bit strange. I’m so tired that I can’t do the New York sights. I sleep for about 10 hours, and during the day I stay around Brooklyn – and order food in. Luckily everything in New York is designed for people who don’t want to do anything for themselves.

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On my radar: Alexei Sayle’s cultural highlights

Sun, 19 Nov 2017 09:00:00 GMT2017-11-19T09:00:00Z

The writer, actor and comedian on the joys of cheap restaurants, Otto Dix and that single seat under the stairs on London buses

Born in Anfield, Liverpool, Alexei Sayle studied art before training to be a further-education teacher. When London’s Comedy Store opened in 1979, he became its first MC and, over the following decade, became a central figure in the alternative comedy movement. He has starred in a number of TV shows including The Young Ones (1982-4) and the Emmy-winning Alexei Sayle’s Stuff (1988-1991). His credits also include theatre (The Tempest, Old Vic, 1988), film (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, 1989) and radio (the award-winning Alexei Sayle and the Fish People). His book Alexei Sayle’s Imaginary Sandwich Bar is out now, while the second series of his BBC radio programme of the same name is broadcast on weekdays on Radio 4.

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Meg Stuart: Until Our Hearts Stop review – like a form of competitive gymnastics

Sun, 19 Nov 2017 08:00:55 GMT2017-11-19T08:00:55Z

Sadler’s Wells, London
Six dancers strip and grapple with abandon in this Bauschian take on intimacy. Then it’s time for audience participation…

Meg Stuart is an American choreographer based in Brussels and Berlin, and since 1994 has been the director of the dance company Damaged Goods. Her work, she says, “revolves around the idea of an uncertain body, one that is vulnerable and self-reflexive”. Last week Stuart brought her 2015 piece Until Our Hearts Stop to London. It’s about intimacy, and our difficulties with it. What are the limits of human interaction. What are the protocols? How far can we go? The two-hour work, which unfolds to the accompaniment of a three-piece onstage jazz band, addresses these questions through a series of set pieces in which personal boundaries are repeatedly broached, and social conventions flouted. Some of these incursions are startling, some comic, some merely indulgent.

The six-strong cast create tableaux of mutual support – leaning, holding, interlocking – and these increase in complexity until they start to implode. The performers gasp, pant and get squashed. As if uncertain as to how they should relate to each other, they pull their clothes on and off. Half-naked, they form a shaky human centipede. The three men grapple, tear and gouge, and Maria F Scaroni and Claire Vivianne Sobottke strip naked and wrestle like schoolchildren.

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Inside Pussy Riot review – a soft-labour sentence

Sun, 19 Nov 2017 08:00:55 GMT2017-11-19T08:00:55Z

This immersive story of the art-punk group sent to a Russian labour camp has too many laughs to hit home

You will remember Pussy Riot as the art-punk group who, thanks to a 40-second guerrilla performance of their song Holy Shit at a Moscow Orthodox cathedral, ended up sentenced to two years’ hard labour in a penal camp after a show trial played out in the world press.

Inside Pussy Riot, the latest from immersive theatre group Les Enfants Terribles (fresh from their Olivier-nominated Alice’s Adventures Underground), recreates the trial and punishment doled out to three group members, in particular Nadya Tolokonnikova, associate writer of the show. Audiences are led by actors dressed as prison guards and law enforcement officers through different sets – cathedral, courtroom, labour camp. It’s an opportunity to experience what it’s like to have freedoms curtailed and spirits broken, albeit in the well-heeled Saatchi Gallery, which caters to some of the most privileged people in the world.

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Network review – Bryan Cranston creates studio mayhem

Sun, 19 Nov 2017 08:00:55 GMT2017-11-19T08:00:55Z

Lyttelton, London
Cranston is compelling as the TV anchorman-gone-rogue in Ivo Van Hove and Lee Hall’s dazzling stage version of the 1976 film

Flesh and gizmo. Substance and reflections. Watchers and watched. A massive whirling mix of the mechanical and the human. Ivo van Hove’s electric staging of Network restores at a stroke my faltering esteem for this director. Lee Hall’s adaptation of Paddy Chayefsky’s 1976 film makes this look like a prescient, urgent text. It lands with messianic zeal: on press night the audience at the National, not instinctive risers, were up on their feet as if at a revivalist meeting.

A jutting-jawed anchorman, galvanically embodied by Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston, gets fired from a commercial news channel because of poor ratings – and cracks up. Or cracks open, to reveal a palpitating, anti-news-as-entertainment spirit. “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more!” he yells. At which point a hard-nosed young producer (who despite being a woman is, hurrah, not the voice of sentiment but the jagged edge of ambition) realises that his attack on the channel could be the making of it. Especially if the guy tries, as he threatens, to commit suicide on air. How audience-boosting that would be.

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We are the Lions, Mr Manager review – powerful tale of workers’ rights

Sun, 19 Nov 2017 08:00:55 GMT2017-11-19T08:00:55Z

The story of Jayaben Desai, heroine of the notorious Grunwick strike in the 70s makes you laugh, feel and think

Across the walls of the simple office set runs stencilled lettering: “Grunwick Photographic Processing Mail Order Dept”. A woman enters, huddled in a grey coat. This is Jayaben Desai, arriving in London in 1967: “It is not what I had imagined.” She conjures her life up to this moment: childhood in India during the people’s fight for freedom from British colonial power; married life in east Africa, until south Asians were made unwelcome there.

As British citizens, Desai and her family decide to start a new life in England. Discrimination makes it hard for this educated woman to find work. Settled in Wembley, she takes a job at the Grunwick plant. Here, overtime is compulsory but advance notice isn’t; workers’ conditions are draconian. We join Desai in the office on the day she confronts a management bully: “What you are running here is not a factory, it is a zoo. But in a zoo there are many types of animals... We are the lions, Mr Manager!” It is August 1976. Desai and her fellow workers (mostly immigrant women) begin a strike for union recognition that continues until July 1978.

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Quiz review – James Graham has all the right answers

Sun, 19 Nov 2017 07:55:55 GMT2017-11-19T07:55:55Z

Minerva, Chichester
This acute take on the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? cheating case looks set to be another West End transfer for the playwright

James Graham’s Quiz is an oblique look at television fame, crowd power and the pleasure we take in being angry. A spinning-on-its-heels play that confirms Daniel Evans’s sure touch as director and runner of a theatre, and Graham as a writer who can show that a trend may suggest a whole psychological swerve.

Quiz is about Major (much was always made of his army status) Charles Ingram, the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? contestant accused of cheating by getting chums in the audience to endorse his answers by a code of coughs.

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Tiger Bay the Musical review – all-singing, all-dancing hard times

Sun, 19 Nov 2017 07:50:55 GMT2017-11-19T07:50:55Z

Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff
Cardiff’s fabled docks are given the Les Mis treatment in a hulking, lacklustre new musical graced by some exceptional voices

It is my favourite place name. Tiger Bay could be the result of that game where you find your sex-worker name by adding your pet’s name to your street name. And the area itself, Cardiff’s docks, the birthplace of Shirley Bassey, is brimming over with material: gambling, prostitution, warmth, poverty, unfairness, multicultural harmony. A vivid photographic archive shows these relatively unsung streets as completely distinctive.

So why is a sense of place so lacking in composer Daf James and lyricist Michael Williams’s energetic but flabby new musical? It is not lack of talent among the performers. There are exceptional voices. Busisiwe Ngejane as the prostitute Klondike Ellie. John Owen-Jones, a veteran/survivor of Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera. Ruby Llewellyn (good actress too) as Ianto the water “boy”, whose real identity looks like a rather desperate attempt to get the show to keep up with the 21st century.

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Greg Davies review – supremely silly standup shouts the unsayable

Fri, 17 Nov 2017 14:59:41 GMT2017-11-17T14:59:41Z

Hammersmith Apollo, London
In an exuberant new show, Davies scrutinises his own ridiculousness and goes from outre stories about his mum to a musical tribute to his dad

Greg Davies has got a trigger warning at the start of his show for every section of his fanbase. If you love him for The Inbetweeners or Man Down, you’ll be fine. Fans of Taskmaster – and of Cuckoo, even more so – may find his outre stage persona hotter to handle. This is big, delinquent and often blue comedy from the former We Are Klang man. The material would seem juvenile from a performer half his age (he’s 49), but it is largely redeemed by Davies’ infectious sense of fun and of his own ridiculousness. Life is forever ambushing this arrested developer with more evidence of his own and other people’s flamboyant idiocy – and his eagerness to share his findings is easy to submit to.

I’d call him the Peter Pan of comedy, but – what with all the farting and wanking gags – the JM Barrie estate might demur. At any rate, he gleefully avoids the road well travelled by middle-aged comics, towards world weariness and carping about how distasteful young people are. His stock-in-trade remains jokes about his mum and dad, which is good going for a near 50-year-old, the more so given that his dad died three years ago – a bereavement from which his standup show You Magnificent Beast draws its modest emotional charge. It culminates in a musical tribute to Davies’ eccentric father. But before then it’s bound only by a tenuous motif about how each of us is judged on things we might not expect and cannot control.

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Tiger Bay review – Cardiff's docks get the Les Mis treatment in overblown epic

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 12:08:35 GMT2017-11-16T12:08:35Z

Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff
This three-hour hymn to Welsh dockers in the early 20th century is a throwback to the musical theatre of the 80s – and exhausting to watch

Writing a new musical, particularly one that boasts an original book, is no task for the faint-hearted. This three-hour hymn to the people who lived and worked in Tiger Bay, Cardiff, in the early 20th century is big, bold and hugely ambitious. It is as if everyone involved has sat around a table and decided: the only way is epic.

With music by Daf James and book and lyrics by Michael Williams, the show whizzes us back over a century to the docks where labourers known as donkey men haul their filthy loads, helped by ragged street children called water boys. At the drop of a hat everyone is ready to break into a song and dance à la Oliver!

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Miss Julie review – passion and pain of Strindberg's midsummer lovers

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 11:52:02 GMT2017-11-16T11:52:02Z

Jermyn Street theatre, London
Howard Brenton’s new adaptation of the Swedish master’s tragedy is given a classy staging that strikes the right note of intimate realism

We endlessly revive Strindberg’s 90-minute tragedy, presumably because of its very British obsession with class and sex. While I sometimes wish we would look at other plays by the Swedish master such as Creditors, this new adaptation by Howard Brenton (from a literal translation by Agnes Broomé) is given a very classy production by Tom Littler. You know it will strike the right note of intimate realism when you smell the kidneys cooking on the kitchen stove.

Everything hinges on the fatal Midsummer’s Eve collision between the aristocratic Julie and her father’s valet, Jean. Charlotte Hamblin’s Julie, in white muslin, has just the right mix of hauteur, coquettishness and frenzy.

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Network review – Bryan Cranston is mad as hell in blazing staging of Oscar winner

Mon, 13 Nov 2017 23:00:14 GMT2017-11-13T23:00:14Z

National Theatre, London
The Breaking Bad star is magnetic as a raging anchorman in writer Lee Hall and director Ivo van Hove’s extraordinary version of the prophetic satire

I am normally wary of people ransacking the movie archive to make plays, but this version of the Oscar-winning Network is an almost total triumph. Lee Hall has kept the best of Paddy Chayefsky’s 1976 script while excising its excesses. Bryan Cranston, best known for the hit series Breaking Bad, brings a wiry magnetism to the role of the TV news anchor, Howard Beale. Ivo van Hove and his designer, Jan Versweyveld, have also transformed the National Theatre’s normally inflexible Lyttelton stage into an extraordinary blend of television studio and public restaurant.

The most obvious point to make about the Chayefsky script is how uncannily prophetic it seems. It is famously based on the idea of a veteran newsman experiencing a public breakdown. Having first threatened to kill himself on air, he launches a series of on-screen jeremiads, which turn him into a pop Savonarola and rescue a failing network by achieving astronomical ratings.

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Quiz review – James Graham explores the thin line between courtroom and showbiz

Sun, 12 Nov 2017 14:36:52 GMT2017-11-12T14:36:52Z

Minerva, Chichester
In resurrecting the case of a trio convicted of trying to defraud Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, Graham reminds us we live in a quiz-obsessed culture

Theatre has often dramatised famous trials, most notably that of Oscar Wilde. But James Graham goes a step further in this highly entertaining play by resurrecting the famous case of a trio convicted of attempting to defraud the makers of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? through audience-based coughing. Graham, who already has Ink and Labour of Love running in the West End in London, uses the courtroom drama to explore both popular culture and the speculative nature of justice.

The play itself is full of kaleidoscopic razzmatazz. The bulk of it rehearses the prosecution and defence cases in the matter of Charles and Diana Ingram and their alleged accomplice, Tecwen Whittock: their crime was that of trying to cheat the system in 2001 in a famous TV programme. But Graham reminds us that we live in a quiz-obsessed culture.

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Kathy Griffin review – Trump's nemesis laughs away the pain of persecution

Sun, 12 Nov 2017 13:58:22 GMT2017-11-12T13:58:22Z

London Palladium
The standup leans too heavily on showbiz mudslinging here, but the remarkable story of the fallout from her severed-head stunt is uplifting comedy catharsis

American comic Kathy Griffin fainted on stage in Dublin last week, and there were doubts over whether this London gig would go ahead. Consider those doubts resoundingly dismissed: Griffin performed for two and a quarter hours without pause, motormouthing through screeds of showbiz gossip, self-promotion and an account of “how my life crumbled” when she posed for a photo with a bloodied Trump mask resembling the president’s severed head. The latter story is gripping, but there’s too much celebrity tattle around it at this sprawling show – at least for those of us with strictly limited interest in Kim Kardashian’s domestic life or the dissolute habits of American comedian Andy Dick.

Related: Kathy Griffin: 'Trump went for me because I was an easy target'

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The Last Testament of Lillian Bilocca review – Maxine Peake’s tribute to Hull’s headscarf revolutionaries

Sun, 12 Nov 2017 08:00:49 GMT2017-11-12T08:00:49Z

The Guildhall, Hull
Peake’s rich new play, with music by the Unthanks, tells the story of the Hull women who fought the government on fishermen’s safety and won

In 1968, extraordinary storms lashed northern waters. Between 11 January and 4 February, three Hull trawlers sank and al but one of the 59 trawlermen aboard them drowned. Wild weather was one thing, but poor safety standards, including inadequate radio provision, may have contributed to the losses. Trawlermen, ashore only for short periods, had little hope of organising action to improve matters.

The women in the fishing community centred around Hessle Road decided to take action. One stood out – all 17 stone of her: Lily Bilocca (1929-88). She, along with Christine Jensen, Mary Denness, Yvonne Blenkinsop and others, collected 10,000 signatures on a petition demanding improvements, which they delivered in person to Westminster. They got a result: a new Shipping Act met their demands.

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Royal Ballet triple bill review – yet more sexual violence

Sun, 12 Nov 2017 08:00:49 GMT2017-11-12T08:00:49Z

Royal Opera House, London
This mixed programme – including the latest new piece to include a rape scene – suggests the Royal Ballet’s commissioning policy needs a total overhaul

This Royal Ballet triple bill, which had its first night on Monday, saw two new works introduced to the repertoire. Both are well made and danced, but raise serious questions about the company and the vision of its directors.

The opening piece is Twyla Tharp’s The Illustrated “Farewell”. Set to Haydn’s Symphony No 45 (known as the “Farewell”), it’s an expansion of Tharp’s abstract work As Time Goes By, choreographed in 1973 to part of the same symphony. Most of the new material is danced by Steven McRae and Sarah Lamb, and they hit every beat, delivering Tharp’s jazzy shoulder rolls, foxy footwork and rubato phrasing as if to the manner born. The ensemble, led by Mayara Magri and Joseph Sissens, are fluency itself.

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Glengarry Glen Ross review – Christian Slater doesn't steal the show

Sun, 12 Nov 2017 08:00:49 GMT2017-11-12T08:00:49Z

Playhouse, London
Robert Glenister, Stanley Townsend and Don Warrington join Slater in David Mamet’s searing 80s study of four real estate salesmen who will stop at nothing

Liars, cheats, bullies, saps. David Mamet’s 1983 play, revived here by director Sam Yates with Christian Slater as top dog salesman, Roma, still thrills as a spectacular interrogation of self-deception and greed in a world of merciless capitalism.

Glengarry Glen Ross takes its title from a parcel of dud real estate being sold off by trickster salesmen to gullible clients, or leads, as they’re called in the business. At the end of the month, pressed by office boss Williamson (Kris Marshall), the four Chicago salesman are pitted against each other in an increasingly aggressive competition to close the deal and hang on to their jobs. In this feral atmosphere, has-been Levene (Stanley Townsend) pleads for more leads, pitiful Aaronow (Don Warrington) is coerced by sly Moss (Robert Glenister) into breaking into the office, and Roma ruthlessly exploits a vulnerable client.

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Jubilee review – Anarchy in the UK, 2017 style

Sun, 12 Nov 2017 08:00:48 GMT2017-11-12T08:00:48Z

Royal Exchange, Manchester
With its ‘no future’ message, Chris Goode’s riotous update of Derek Jarman’s punk film Jubilee rings true

Of course it is meant to be a mess. A coherent, rational or beguiling version of Derek Jarman’s punk picture of England, Jubilee, would be not simply a paradox but stage suicide. Sometimes Chris Goode’s new theatrical version – directed by the writer to mark the movie’s 40th anniversary next year – does feel like a sort of death. “We’ve lost a few people,” Travis Alabanza’s Amyl Nitrate pointed out, looking at the audience after the interval on press night. A bit of me went with them. But the leavers missed something. There are throughout jolts and jokes. And the swifter, more urgent second half has moments that can spin you around.

Not least in Alabanza’s rasping, expansive, melancholy confrontations with the audience. In powder-pink skirt and jacket, a long string of pearls and high bootees with pom-poms, Alabanza (who prefers to use a gender-neutral pronoun) dynamically wires spectators into what’s going on. Which is the opposite of a plot: a series of detonations constantly exploding the possibility of a developing narrative.

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This Beautiful Future review – delicate, ambiguous and forceful

Sun, 12 Nov 2017 07:55:48 GMT2017-11-12T07:55:48Z

The Yard, London E9
Jay Miller directs an exemplary production of Rita Kalnejais’s bittersweet love story set in occupied France

When people grumble about theatre being middle-aged they aren’t looking in the right places. In London’s Hackney Wick, the Yard glimmers with new life. Focused and adventurous. Carved out of an old warehouse six years ago, it shelters a cafe (very good cauliflower pakoras) under the rake of the auditorium. Videos of forthcoming shows flicker on the whitewashed wall. On some nights the bar becomes a revenue-spinning club. The Yard’s founder and artistic director, Jay Miller likes the idea of people seeing a show, talking about it over a drink – and then dancing.

Cambridge-taught and Lecoq-trained, Miller is as clear about the need for tight text as for fluid performance. His production of Rita Kalnejais’s This Beautiful Future, first seen here earlier in the year, is exemplary: delicate, ambiguous and forceful.

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Big Fish review – lifeless male bonding musical

Sun, 12 Nov 2017 07:50:48 GMT2017-11-12T07:50:48Z

The Other Palace, London
Kelsey Grammer plays a father recovering from a stroke in this soppy, short-lived Broadway show

John August and Andrew Lippa’s musical Big Fish, adapted from Daniel Wallace’s novel and Tim Burton’s 2003 movie, did not last long on Broadway. It’s not hard to see why. It is a soppy story – after his father has a stroke, his son tries to bond – in which characters don’t so much burst as straggle into song. Kelsey Grammer – yes, he of Frasier, though here strangely irony-free – is benign, even when saddled with really ancient jokes. Still, he often looks as if he has indeed woken up from a stroke and found himself trapped in a cumbersome half-frozen body.

Nigel Harman’s production has a lively red, white and blue second world war chorus, a weirdly affecting song about lambs sung by a girl trio wearing sheep ears, and a disarming performance from Frances McNamee as Grammer’s daughter-in-law. But the psychology and the fantasy interludes – green witch! bearded giant! – are equally clumping. Big Fish is small fry.

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London diners get immersed in the jazz age, Bombay style

Sat, 18 Nov 2017 13:58:59 GMT2017-11-18T13:58:59Z

Actors reproduce lost world of ‘Indian noir’ in former art deco department store, which will afterwards become part of the Dishoom restaurant chain

Amid clouds of cigarette smoke and the pungent aroma of spices, the swirling sounds of jazz took off in Bombay almost a century ago. Now, thanks to a group of actors and musicians associated with the successful Punchdrunk immersive theatre company, this lost and dangerous world of “Indian noir” is to be reborn in London.

When Night at the Bombay Roxy opens its doors, for a few nights only, in Kensington, west London next week visitors will be transported back to an era of sultry saxophone solos and Indian street food. The show has been designed to be performed around diners while they eat; tickets sold out in September, despite a hurried, though limited, extension of the performance dates. The location, inside a corner of Barkers, the former art deco department store, will afterwards start its real, intended commercial life as an Indian restaurant.

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Old Vic says ‘cult of personality’ meant Kevin Spacey claims were not reported

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 19:33:31 GMT2017-11-16T19:33:31Z

London theatre apologises for failings after revealing it has received 20 allegations of inappropriate behaviour against the actor

The Old Vic theatre has “wholeheartedly” apologised for not creating an environment where people could raise concerns about Kevin Spacey after receiving 20 individual allegations of inappropriate behaviour by the actor.

The theatre said 14 of the allegations were so serious that it had advised complainants to take the matter up with the police.

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How should women respond when a man we like is accused of harassment? | Emer O’Toole

Mon, 13 Nov 2017 16:40:55 GMT2017-11-13T16:40:55Z

Reflecting on my time with Dublin theatre titan Michael Colgan, I realise power can be wielded with kindness as well as less subtly

This post-Weinstein moment is, as the feminist writer Rebecca Traister has remarked, “some renegade ’70s-era feminist shit going on. I’ve never lived through anything like it.” Me neither. We’re watching goliaths fall, battalions of women with slingshots firing back – finally. And there’s a pleasure in watching the colossus stumble, isn’t there? Take him down, ladies, I thought as the allegations against Harvey Weinstein mounted; sing it, I cheered, as women shared stories of theatre director Max Stafford-Clark; likewise as young men came forward to confront Kevin Spacey.

Michael Colgan ran Dublin’s Gate theatre for 33 years and was, until his retirement last year, probably the most powerful man in Irish theatre. Now he’s facing allegations of sexual harassment and bullying from women in the Irish arts. He is accused of frequent inappropriate touching and sexualised comments. In an article published on Sunday, he apologised to anyone he might have hurt, while also casting the alleged harassment – unhelpfully, some victims feel – as a failure to distinguish between his personal and professional life.

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Robert Glenister freezes on stage during West End performance

Sat, 11 Nov 2017 17:53:53 GMT2017-11-11T17:53:53Z

Production of Glengarry Glen Ross halted for 30 minutes and understudy brought on to finish David Mamet play

The actor Robert Glenister has frozen on stage while performing in a West End production of Glengarry Glen Ross – just weeks after collapsing in the middle of a performance.

Reports suggested the Hustle star “froze up” before the curtain came down and the play was halted for 30 minutes on Friday night.

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Maxine Peake’s play Queens of the Coal Age to get stage premiere

Wed, 15 Nov 2017 07:00:01 GMT2017-11-15T07:00:01Z

True story of four women who occupied Lancashire colliery in 1993 set for run at Manchester’s Royal Exchange

A play by the actor Maxine Peake that tells the true story of four women who went underground to occupy a Lancashire colliery during a wave of mine closures in 1993 is to get its stage premiere in Manchester.

The Royal Exchange announced details of two 2018 projects involving Peake, an associate artist at the theatre. As well as her play Queens of the Coal Age, Peake will tackle Samuel Beckett when she stars in Happy Days as Winnie, determinedly cheerful despite being buried up to her waist and then her neck.

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Audiences to be served a taste of Nigel Slater's Toast

Sun, 12 Nov 2017 00:05:40 GMT2017-11-12T00:05:40Z

Theatre to offer dishes during stage version of food writer’s memoir

Toast: The Story of a Boy’s Hunger, the bestselling food memoir by Observer writer Nigel Slater, is to be brought to the stage. Audiences will be treated to more than just the author’s memories, as the show’s director plans to offer samples of the dishes and tastes that are so central to the story.

A series of “communal eating interventions”, involving a slice of bread-and-butter pudding, or a jam tart, are to be staged, while the potent kitchen smells of boiled ham and cabbage are to be wafted across the stalls at the Lowry theatre, Salford, next year.

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UK actors’ union Equity launches inquiry to tackle sexual harassment

Wed, 08 Nov 2017 17:01:40 GMT2017-11-08T17:01:40Z

Union will gather suggestions on how to combat the problem and has given itself two months to come up with a plan

The union Equity has launched a wide-ranging investigation in an attempt to find solutions to the sexual harassment crisis that has engulfed the entertainment industry.

The union, representing more than 40,000 actors, performers and creative practitioners, said now was the time to harness energy generated by people telling their stories about harassment and abuse of power.

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Louis CK responds to allegations of sexual misconduct: 'These stories are true'

Sat, 11 Nov 2017 13:06:48 GMT2017-11-11T13:06:48Z

The comedian released a statement regarding the claims: ‘The power I had over these women is that they admired me. And I wielded that power irresponsibly’

Disgraced comedian Louis CK on Friday admitted to allegations of sexual misconduct that were made public against him on Thursday.

Related: Louis CK: laughter ends as years of allegations dog comedy superstar

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More pow! to you: Touretteshero's utterly joyous Barbican takeover

Mon, 06 Nov 2017 08:21:41 GMT2017-11-06T08:21:41Z

Jess Thom’s wonderful weekender featured bipolar pop star Captain Hotknives, a witty striptease by blind performer Amelia Cavallo and poetry done in BSL

“Is there anything going on for us?” a family asked an usher in the Barbican’s main foyer. “There is something funny going on downstairs,” he replied, pointing towards the lifts to the Pit theatre.

There certainly was something going on. Jess Thom, who created her superhero alias, Touretteshero, as a creative response to living with Tourette’s syndrome, took over the Pit for a weekender called Brewing in the Basement. It was a participatory, fully inclusive, always relaxed celebration of difference, constantly punctuated by Thom’s own vocal tics: she says the words biscuit and hedgehog hundreds of times a day.

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The US president nukes the world: read Harold Pinter's newly discovered play

Fri, 27 Oct 2017 13:00:30 GMT2017-10-27T13:00:30Z

Antonia Fraser, the playwright’s wife, is always being asked what he would have made of Trump. Now we know – thanks to her discovery of a sketch about a gung-ho ‘Pres’ unleashing a nuclear attack

I did something I’ve never done before. I scribbled some notes on a page from one of Harold’s yellow legal pads because I was waiting for a taxi to go to Mass, and too lazy to go upstairs.

I took all the leftover pads when Harold died on Christmas Eve 2008, and for sentimental reasons kept them. Although up till now, I have never written anything on any of them. But about a month ago, I installed one in a writing case in the drawing room in theory for occasional use, but really out of tenderness for the past.

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Art on the frontline: how theatre is taking on today’s big issues | Julie Hesmondhalgh

Thu, 02 Nov 2017 15:50:08 GMT2017-11-02T15:50:08Z

Immigration is the latest topic to be tackled by the Take Back collective in Manchester, which is creating a space where the creative and political meet

• Julie Hesmondhalgh is an actor and co-founder of Take Back

Is art political? Should it be? What do we expect from theatre in these troubled times?

When writer Rebekah (Becx) Harrison, visual artist Grant Archer and myself set up Take Back theatre collective two years ago, we felt there was a gap in the theatrical landscape in Manchester. There was a need for people to come together and discuss the big social issues of the moment, through script-in-hand responses by politically engaged writers that could be performed around the city.

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Shakespeare's Rose theatre gets go-ahead to pop up in York

Wed, 01 Nov 2017 17:25:03 GMT2017-11-01T17:25:03Z

The 13-sided temporary structure, modelled on the Elizabethan playhouse, will house four Shakespeare plays directed by Lindsay Posner and Damian Cruden

A 950-capacity pop-up open-air theatre modelled on Shakespeare’s Rose will rise next summer on a scruffy car park in York, to present a three-month season of Shakespeare plays. York planners have just given permission for the 13-sided theatre to be built on the open ground in the historic city centre, beside Clifford’s Tower.

The season at the grandly named Shakespeare’s Rose theatre will begin on 25 June. Two well-known directors will take on the four plays. Damian Cruden, artistic director of the Theatre Royal in York for the last two decades, and director of the much revived production of The Railway Children featuring a real steam train, will direct A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Macbeth. Lindsay Posner, a multi-award-winning director who has worked extensively in the West End and with the RSC, and whose Death and the Maiden at the Royal Court won two Olivier awards, will direct Richard III and the opening production of Romeo and Juliet.

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New theatre industry guidelines to be drawn up after harassment claims

Sat, 28 Oct 2017 19:21:05 GMT2017-10-28T19:21:05Z

Move by the Royal Court follows a day of action that saw more than 150 accounts of sexual harassment read out on stage

The sexual harassment allegations concerning the director Max Stafford-Clark are just one of many “skeletons in the cupboard” in the theatre industry, according to the artistic director of one of Britain’s most famous theatres, who will be drawing up behaviour guidelines she hopes all theatres – and other industries – will adopt.

Vicky Featherstone, who has been in her post at the Royal Court theatre in London since 2013, was speaking after No Grey Area, a day of action at the theatre, which aimed to shine a light on the systemic nature of sexual harassment in the industry.

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Max Stafford-Clark pestered me for sex long before his stroke | Tracy Ann Oberman

Thu, 26 Oct 2017 13:00:06 GMT2017-10-26T13:00:06Z

The theatre director’s inappropriate behaviour is not new. He was disinhibited, objectifying and disrespectful back in 1992

• Tracy Ann Oberman is an actor and writer

Director Max Stafford-Clark humiliated me

Last week I read an article in the Guardian about Max Stafford-Clark being forced to step down from his theatre company, Out Of Joint, over lewd and inappropriate behaviour towards young female colleagues. Gina Abolins, the young education officer at the company, had claimed that this year Stafford-Clark had said to her “back in the day I’d be up you like a rat up a drainpipe”. Steffi Holtz, a former young PA, has also gone on record saying that when she recently worked for Stafford-Clark he said (among other things), “if you were sat on that desk there in front of me I would eat you out”.

Related: 'Disinhibited' director Max Stafford-Clark humiliated me, actor Tracy-Ann Oberman says

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V&A rescues treasures from historic Wilton's Music Hall archive

Sun, 29 Oct 2017 15:48:45 GMT2017-10-29T15:48:45Z

Collection charts London’s oldest grand Victorian music hall in the world from heyday to near collapse, before modern redemption

An archive recording the glory days as well as the decay and near collapse of Wilton’s Music Hall has been acquired by the V&A theatre collection.

The archive includes a tattered and yellowed campaign poster, showing a shattered window in a mouldering brick wall, a reminder of the half century of attempts to save the rotting building, which claims to be the world’s oldest Victorian music hall. The poster will need expensive conservation work before it can be preserved as a precious relic.

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It's business time as Flight of the Conchords announce UK tour

Tue, 24 Oct 2017 10:09:39 GMT2017-10-24T10:09:39Z

Musical comedy duo Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement reunite for a string of live dates after solo roles in Hollywood and on TV

OK, band meeting! The Flight of the Conchords have announced that they are preparing to tour the UK and Ireland. The musical comedy duo, comprising Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement, will be dusting down classics such as Hiphopopotamus v Rhymenoceros, Foux du Fafa and Business Time for a string of dates starting at the Hammersmith Apollo, London, in April 2018.

McKenzie and Clement met at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand and began to play genre-mashing spoof songs at fringe nights, gaining an international audience with their award-winning set at the Edinburgh festival in 2002. The following year they returned to Edinburgh and played the Gilded Balloon, where their show High on Folk was heralded by the Guardian as a “late-night gem”. After recording a BBC radio series and winning a Grammy for best comedy album, they made two seasons of an Emmy-nominated TV series for HBO, charting the band’s attempts to break America.

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Hurray for Riz Ahmed’s Netflix Dane – but is it time for a moratorium on A-list Hamlets? | Nosheen Iqbal

Tue, 17 Oct 2017 17:58:53 GMT2017-10-17T17:58:53Z

The importance of playing the prince isn’t just overstated, it’s boring. Which is why we should welcome a break from the usual narrow casting

To be or not to be? It’s not so much the question as it is a Netflix negotiation: Riz Ahmed, Emmy winner, Star Wars star, him from Four Lions, is in hotly reported talks to see his Hamlet staged on your laptop screen. It’s not quite the Olivier at the National Theatre – Ahmed’s contemporary adaptation, “set in a modern-day London of economic and political uncertainty”, will be seen by far younger audiences, for one. But it does work to flex one of the most persistent myths in acting-land: that the chance to play Hamlet is the greatest gig of all. The actor’s white whale. The most serious mark of the most serious thespian (and, yes, please ignore the fact that it also gave us The Lion King musical).

Except, well, is it though? No shade to Shakespeare, chill out everyone: this isn’t quite a revisionist reading on what is permanently stamped The Greatest Play Ever Written – ©everyone’s English teacher. More, a stock take of artistic imagination: if, in any given year, somewhere up and down the UK, you can see a starry production of Hamlet being staged with Big-Name Acclaimed Actors showing off their Big-Name Acclaimed Acting Chops, then the cachet of that role is reduced. No question. It’s the basic economics of scarcity: when every Tom (Hiddleston), Dick (Burton) and Jude Law has had a crack at moodily wafting on stage, like a Smiths fan in search of legitimate melancholy, then theatre’s great and good might consider that it is time to call a moratorium on more Hamlets. For a few years at least. There are only so many versions of a big-name actor in the same play that Michael Billington should have to watch.

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Hijabi Monologues: dating, the weather and Islamophobia in frank, funny tales

Mon, 02 Oct 2017 15:28:02 GMT2017-10-02T15:28:02Z

The radical international theatre project sharing the voices of hijab-wearers is both serious and playful – but needs to be more fearless

Hijab. What’s the first thought that comes into your head? Prop of the patriarchy? Expression of emancipation? A non-issue?

In the west, discussions about hijabis – Muslim women who wear the headscarf – often concentrate on passivity or piety. Those tired traits are blown away by the female playwrights behind Hijabi Monologues. Taking inspiration from the hugely successful Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler, it was co-created in the US by Sahar Ullah, Zeenat Rahman and Dan Morrison. Referred to as a project rather than a play, the piece has a set of core monologues but incorporates new writing from each place to which it tours. After performances in the US, Holland, Ireland and Indonesia, it arrived last week at the Bush theatre in west London.

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Is sexual violence being trivialised in ballet?

Mon, 13 Nov 2017 15:35:00 GMT2017-11-13T15:35:00Z

Controversy over the portrayal of rape in two recent productions highlights the art form’s historical tendency to reinforce the sexist tropes of victimhood

Love, grief, terror and desire: ballet can communicate raw physical emotion with an immediacy no words can match. But precisely because the art form lacks the contextualising power of language, its depictions of extreme sex and violence can struggle for nuance.

Last month, when the Royal Ballet revived Kenneth MacMillan’s The Judas Tree, the work’s graphic portrayal of gang rape reignited a long-running controversy. While admirers hail this 1992 ballet as a courageous exposé of male sexuality, critics have argued that MacMillan unintentionally allowed his material to veer into a queasy zone of “sexploitation”, failing to explain or even acknowledge the woman’s perspective as she taunts her attackers before their brutal assault.

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Don't wait for the punchline: Jordan Brookes and comedy's rule breakers

Wed, 08 Nov 2017 13:05:56 GMT2017-11-08T13:05:56Z

Shows that delight in flouting conventions, like Brookes’s Body of Work, make us question our expectations of standup – including whether it should all be funny

An offstage voice announces his entrance, but our host refuses to appear. That’s the first shredded expectation in Jordan Brookes’s show Body of Work, which opens at Soho theatre in London this week. Brookes is not the first to upend conventions about how comedians take the stage. Doctor Brown fans will remember his elongated entrances, tangled up in curtains, and many comics get a quick laugh from confessing that the offstage announcer is usually, in fact, the comic themselves. But when Brookes’s show debuted in Edinburgh this summer, critics – myself included – hailed the way that it demolishes so many conventions of comedy.

Related: Don't go there? Standups on Weinstein, taboos – and the gags they regret

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'White governments gave us guns and turned a blind eye': Kyle Abraham on his Boyz N the Hood dance

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 14:53:56 GMT2017-11-16T14:53:56Z

His political fury and upbeat moves make Kyle Abraham one of America’s most original choreographers. He talks about systemic racism, his wrecked home town of Pittsburgh, creating an African opera and playing Obama’s speeches backwards

“I grew up making dances in my bedroom long before I knew anything about dance. It was my outlet. I’d put on a song by Prince or Morrissey, and when I danced to it I’d feel like I was sharing my life with that singer, I’d feel like I was having a relationship with him.”

Related: Kyle Abraham: Pavement review – dancing in handcuffs with aggression and grace

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Myth, magic and mortality: Darbar's divine festival of Indian dance

Sun, 12 Nov 2017 13:23:49 GMT2017-11-12T13:23:49Z

From jazz-like showdowns to gender-fluid love stories, the festival’s electrifying debut dance programme showcased a thrillingly diverse performance tradition

The 12th edition of the annual Darbar festival of Indian classical music was also the first to include dance. It was a canny and probably crucial move for the festival director, Sandeep Virdee, to invite Akram Khan to curate the dance programme – not only because Khan’s name is widely recognised both outside and within the dance world but also because his career has been so directly informed by his training in the classical Indian dance style kathak.

Khan presented a short piece called /X/ – not so much an excerpt as a foretaste of /Xenos/, a full-length solo based on the Prometheus myth, which will be premiered in 2018.

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Dance legend Twyla Tharp on truculent men, selling hot dogs and her idol Agatha Christie

Thu, 02 Nov 2017 06:00:47 GMT2017-11-02T06:00:47Z

She shook up the male world of modern dance in the 1970s and never slowed down. The US choreographer talks about fending off flak, videoing her entire career – and why you should never ask her to ‘dance a sunrise’

The last time Twyla Tharp was working at the Royal Ballet it was 1995 and she was creating her comic Rossini ballet, Mr Worldly Wise. Now, as she returns, it’s hard to recognise that two decades have passed. The 76-year-old choreographer is wearing much the same working uniform as when I interviewed her around that time – blue jeans, crisp shirt, tennis shoes – and there’s no diminution in the sharpness of her gaze or in the crackle, and occasional acerbity, of her conversation.

Her workload is similarly unreduced. Starting at 6am with the daily physical regime that allows her, still, to try out most of her dance material on herself, Tharp is full-on busy. There are new works to create, old ones to stage, an online archive to manage, a book deadline to meet and a university course to devise. Recently Tharp presented a three-week season in New York, during which she made a 10-minute appearance with a choreographed dance lecture. Retirement is not a word you care to mention in her presence.

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'Dancers didn’t speak to Merce Cunningham like this!': Ben Duke's backstage Rambert diary

Wed, 18 Oct 2017 06:00:01 GMT2017-10-18T06:00:01Z

He has 22 dancers, five musicians and six weeks to create a work that answers Nina Simone’s call for artists to reflect the times. Choreographer Ben Duke on the battles and breakthroughs of his new show, Goat

I am on the train up to London. I am about to start making a piece for Rambert Dance Company. There is about to be a general election. I wonder how both of these unexpected events will turn out?

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The Russian revolution goes up the wall: thrilling new life for Diaghilev's great cubist uprising

Thu, 26 Oct 2017 15:20:44 GMT2017-10-26T15:20:44Z

Premiered just before the revolution, Parade was Les Ballets Russes’ most radical work. This dazzling update, with a robot politician and a silver wall-walker, captures its spirit – and the horrors that followed

Many of the ballets that Serge Diaghilev commissioned between 1909 and 1927 have been lost, and many of the surviving ones are creakily showing their age. Yet the legend of Les Ballets Russes as one of the creative powerhouse of history has persisted – in part because of the multitude of choreographers who have reinvented and reimagined individual works from its repertory.

Some have been drawn to the music (most popularly Stravinsky’s 1913 score for Rite of Spring); some to librettos (Firebird and Petrushka); and some to the visual iconography, the jazz age imagery of Le Train Bleu or the perfumed poetry of Le Spectre de la Rose. But for National Dance Company Wales (NDCW), it is Diaghilev’s relation to the Russian revolution that has provided the starting point of its show P.A.R.A.D.E. Part of a season of cultural events marking the revolution’s centenary, the company has revisited one of Diaghilev’s own most consciously radical experiments, created in 1917.

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Eun-Me Ahn review – eye-scorchingly colourful dance goes K-pop

Wed, 25 Oct 2017 13:47:50 GMT2017-10-25T13:47:50Z

The Place, London
From a snail’s-pace procession to techno-pogoing in hot pink light, the Korean choreographer’s relentless routines are hypnotic but empty

The opening of Eun-Me Ahn’s Let Me Change Your Name really doesn’t prepare you for what is to come – but then the distinctive Korean choreographer, known for her colourful clothing and shaven head, has a reputation for wrong-footing expectations. She trained in traditional Korean dance, then went to New York to learn modern techniques. She became a leading figure of contemporary dance in Korea, presenting and developing her choreography in Germany and France, but also turning her hand to glitzier projects, such as the opening of the 2002 Fifa World Cup.

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'The body is a living archive': Wayne McGregor on turning his DNA into dance

Tue, 03 Oct 2017 09:25:40 GMT2017-10-03T09:25:40Z

The brainbox of British dance is creating choreography from his own genetic code in an adventurous new show. It’s the latest experiment at his hi-tech dance HQ, where the lift changes colour and dancers rehearse in playful spaces

In a shiny Airstream trailer, on the roof of his company’s new headquarters, Wayne McGregor looks across the Olympic Park in Stratford, east London. This is not your usual dance HQ. But McGregor isn’t what you’d expect from a choreographer. The resident brainbox of British dance is always questing for new territory. His work with ballet companies often attracts headlines – it’s a world new to extreme moves, music by Mark Ronson and the White Stripes, big ideas about the multiverse – but his own company is a research lab for innovation.

Now, the science geek is using his own DNA, and collaborating with scientists at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, as the inspiration for a show called Autobiography. “If you’re looking for a document of my life with a narrative arc about me growing up in Stockport, you’ll be frustrated,” he grins. Instead, it’s Who Do You Think You Are? but with genes. The show began taking shape when McGregor wondered how artificial intelligence (AI) might animate his archive of 25 years’ working in dance. This led him to consider the body itself as “a living archive. Not as a nostalgia-fest but as an idea of speculative future. Each cell carries in it the whole blueprint of your life, basically.” Your genetic code tells the story of your past – and predicts possible stories of your future.

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The Judas Tree/Song of the Earth review – from torrid violence to delicate majesty

Wed, 25 Oct 2017 16:45:23 GMT2017-10-25T16:45:23Z

Royal Opera House, London
A five-company tribute to Kenneth MacMillan continues with brave and brilliant stagings of two very different works

This season’s Kenneth MacMillan celebration continues with a double bill that lays out the extremes of the choreographer’s sensibility to brutal and sublime effect. While the evening closes with the majesty and delicacy of his setting of Mahler’s Song of the Earth, it opens to the torridly graphic violence of his most controversial ballet, The Judas Tree.

Related: Kenneth MacMillan: A National Celebration review – sublime, slinky salute to the master

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'You leave part of yourself on stage': Royal Ballet dancers on Kenneth MacMillan

Mon, 25 Sep 2017 10:10:18 GMT2017-09-25T10:10:18Z

For Edward Watson they’re terrifying and exhilarating. Sarah Lamb struggles to return to reality after performing them. Twenty-five years after Macmillan’s death, his visceral works have made a mark on the whole company

Kenneth MacMillan holds a peculiarly revered position within the culture of the Royal Ballet. Many junior dancers say that it’s the principal roles within his story ballets – Romeo and Juliet, Mayerling and Manon – to which they most aspire. Older dancers acknowledge that performing the MacMillan repertory has not only shaped them profoundly as artists but has stamped a collective identity on the company. MacMillan’s works may be several decades old, the Royal may be about to commemorate the 25th anniversary of his death, but still there are elements of his style – his richly textured realism and his raw-edged characterisation – that dancers claim they find in no other choreographer.

Related: Mayerling review – sex, drugs and revolution in the Royal Ballet's superb staging

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Kenneth MacMillan: A National Celebration review – sublime, slinky salute to the master

Thu, 19 Oct 2017 16:00:29 GMT2017-10-19T16:00:29Z

Royal Opera House, London
All five of the UK’s leading classical companies collaborate for the first time in a heartfelt celebration of the choreographer who changed the course of ballet

The Royal Ballet was Kenneth MacMillan’s home company for much of his career, but as a choreographer his influence spread far beyond London. The psychological realism of his story ballets, the detail of his characterisation, the intrinsic emotional texture of his style – all these elements came to stamp the ways in which the British, as a nation, have done ballet. And, as the Opera House marks the 25th anniversary of the choreographer’s death, it’s entirely fitting that this short season of one-act ballets should be performed by all five of the UK’s leading classical companies – a historic first.

Related: 'You leave part of yourself on stage': Royal Ballet dancers on Kenneth MacMillan

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Hull’s year of culture: ‘We look at our city with new eyes’

Sun, 19 Nov 2017 07:00:54 GMT2017-11-19T07:00:54Z

The real story of Hull’s year as City of Culture is how it’s transformed the lives of local people. Here they discuss 2017’s highlights – and what its legacy might be

In July 2016, Sheila Annis and her daughter Caron Mincke saw an ad for volunteers for Hull UK City of Culture. “We fancied having a go,” she says. “But we didn’t think for a minute we’d be picked.” Nevertheless, they answered it, and soon afterwards, somewhat to their amazement, they were invited to an interview, given uniforms to try on, and photographed. “And then we got an email. We were so shocked. They wanted us. We thought they’d want someone more… professional, someone who knew what they were doing.” How did being chosen make them feel? “Ecstatic,” says Mincke. And it was catching. Now Mincke’s daughter, Leanne Ayre, wanted in, too. “I began to suffer badly from Fear of Missing Out,” she says. “When they went to the KCOM Stadium [home of Hull City football club] to do a lap in their uniforms and hand out flags [part of efforts to promote City of Culture], I was jealous. So I signed on as part of wave two.”

Mincke and Ayre, who are both teachers, have always been keen theatregoers, though as Mincke notes, this wasn’t something she grew up with: “We were a working-class family,” she says. “We went to museums – they were free. But the theatre was too expensive.” Annis, though, worked in a fish and chip shop until her retirement, for which reason it is fair to say that it is on her that the last year has had the most transformative effect. “I’m 75,” she says. “I looked after my children, and helped out with my grandchildren; I looked after my mum, who was in a wheelchair, until she died. I worked in the fish shop for 47 years, until I was 67. So when this came along, I thought: right, I’m going to do something for myself. Someone said to me: ‘You’re doing it for the people of Hull, not yourself,’ which is true, in a way. But oh, it has brought me out of my shell. When I was a child, art was just a picture on a wall. Now I go to the Humber Street Gallery [a new space in Hull’s Fruit Market] every week, and I love it.”

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Culture highlights: what to see this week in the UK

Sat, 18 Nov 2017 09:00:27 GMT2017-11-18T09:00:27Z

From wartime race drama Mudbound to Phil Collins’s UK tour, here is our pick of the best films, concerts, exhibitions, theatre and dance in the next seven days

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Sarah Silverman: ‘Jokes I made 15 years ago I'd not make today’

Sun, 19 Nov 2017 08:00:55 GMT2017-11-19T08:00:55Z

Sarah Silverman’s comedy has always aimed a laser into the dark corners of sexism, racism and religion. But now she’s using her wit to make sense of the huge issues facing America. Sophie Heawood meets her in Hollywood

Arriving at the Hollywood studio complex where Sarah Silverman has her office, I am surprised to find nobody can tell me where it is. She’s one of the biggest comedians in America, but it takes 15 minutes of shrugged shoulders and wrong turns before I find a door with a handwritten sign: “If you feel unwell turn around and go home and rest! Do not walk thru this door! You are loved, feel better! Sarah!” So far, so adorable.

Germs and visitors might struggle to make their way past reception, but dogs are clearly welcomed like sacred Indian cows here: two of them trot past me unaccompanied. The animals have just left a script meeting in the writers’ room, soon to be followed by a gaggle of comedy writers, including Silverman herself, who is wearing glasses and stopping to stare at her phone. Once installed on the sofa in her own room, with an assistant bringing her black tea, she admits she didn’t realise this interview was in person, hence the phone. “But you’re here!” she says, getting her legs comfy on the furniture. “Great!” Her impromptu welcome is so friendly and her smile so full of shiny teeth, that it only occurs to me afterwards that she might be lying through them – surely nobody wants to be surprised by a journalist.

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No holds barred and funny as hell: the fierce humour of Margaret Cho

Sun, 19 Nov 2017 00:05:46 GMT2017-11-19T00:05:46Z

One of America’s most politically outspoken standups is finally bringing her savage brand of comedy to Britain

If you have never heard of Margaret Cho, think the caustic, crude comedy of Joan Rivers, the politically-charged jibes of Bill Hicks and the quick-witted improvisation of Robin Williams – all rolled into one but with a feisty Korean twist. Now the US comedian is about to embark on a UK tour, starting in Edinburgh on 25 November and ending at the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire on 10 December.

Cho is a five-time Grammy and Emmy nominee and a household name in America, and earlier this year Rolling Stone magazine named her as one of the 50 best standup comics of all time. She has worked with all the above comics, and others such as Jerry Seinfeld, but says her greatest mentor and influence was Rivers. “I try to carry on her legacy,” she says. “I feel like I learned everything I know from her.”

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Are you gruesome tonight? The comedy hit splicing Evil Dead 2 and Elvis songs

Tue, 14 Nov 2017 12:48:54 GMT2017-11-14T12:48:54Z

In Sam Raimi’s horror classic, a man is tormented by demons and his own severed hand. All the story needed was a few tunes by the king of rock’n’roll, says Rob Kemp

By day, he was a mild-mannered examinations officer at a school near Wolverhampton. By night, he was a chainsaw-wielding maniac with a soft spot for Elvis numbers. No, that’s not a pitch for a B-movie, but the life of standup comic Rob Kemp. The 39-year-old will spend much of the next month commuting between the West Midlands and Soho theatre in London, shedding the briefcase and tie en route to re-enter the underworld of The Elvis Dead, his rock’n’roll-meets-horror one-man comedy show that became the cult hit of this summer’s Edinburgh fringe.

Hitherto, Kemp had been a specialist in “whimsical” (so he’s told) standup and was “bumping along largely unnoticed”. His only previous show, little seen, was a Dave Gorman-esque comedy lecture about hubris. The Elvis Dead (it’s a retelling of Evil Dead 2 set to the music of Elvis Presley) was dreamed up in conversation with a friend, based on Kemp’s supposed resemblance to horror icon Bruce Campbell. “There was nothing cynical about it,” he says, in case you’re thinking that the Elvis/Evil Dead mashup was a ruthlessly commercial cash-in. “I just wanted to write something that I knew my mates would enjoy.”

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Shazia Mirza: ‘My local rabbi is funnier than most standups’

Fri, 10 Nov 2017 14:00:20 GMT2017-11-10T14:00:20Z

The Brummie standup and writer on the things that make her laugh the most, from Woody Allen to Curb Your Enthusiasm

Robin Williams, Mill Valley, San Francisco 2013, a year before his death. He is the funniest standup I have ever seen and ever will see. There will never be anyone like him; unique, intelligent, unpredictable, himself.

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Ken Dodd at 90: the rib-tickling genius is still crazy after all these years

Sat, 04 Nov 2017 09:00:14 GMT2017-11-04T09:00:14Z

With a gag for every occasion, the tattyfilarious comic clocks up 50,000 miles a year performing his epic standup shows. He talks about stage fright, playing Yorick for ‘Sir Kenneth All-Bran’ and taking on the audience like a gladiator

Is theatre the best rejuvenating pill on the market? I’ve recently talked to a sprightly, 92-year-old Peter Brook and seen the 90-year-old playwright Peter Nichols hold an audience spellbound. I’m also recovering from two extraordinary encounters with Ken Dodd, who turns 90 next week: one was a private lunch in Liverpool, the other a public lunch in London where Sir Ken was lauded by members of the British Music Hall Society. On both occasions, I got a glimpse into the transformative power of comedy. As Ken said to me: “I’m told that before I go out on stage, I look my age. Once I’m there, I suddenly turn into a 32-year-old.”

I was in the church choir – till they found out where the noise was coming from

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A bleary agent of chaos: Tony Slattery returns to live impro

Wed, 01 Nov 2017 09:34:10 GMT2017-11-01T09:34:10Z

The charismatic Whose Line Is It Anyway? star is a blithely uninhibited lord of misrule at a new improvisation night in London

On the way to Slattery Night Fever, the new weekend impro night featuring ex-Whose Line Is It Anyway? man Tony, I read two old interviews with its star. One was from 15 years ago, when Slattery was just emerging, it seemed, from a breakdown that derailed his career. The other was from this summer, when he ventured back to the Edinburgh fringe with the Whose Line Is It? team. In each instance, the interviewer wrote about being reduced to tears by how low Slattery fell – and by his resilience. I’d not quite registered the extent of his difficulties – with mental health, drugs, alcohol. The lurid stories Slattery has to tell – chucking his possessions into the Thames, lying naked under a car, being bitten by rats – almost beggar belief.

Related: How we made Whose Line Is It Anyway?

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Lefty Scum: Josie Long and the protest jokers serenading the Labour faithful

Thu, 02 Nov 2017 15:24:06 GMT2017-11-02T15:24:06Z

Can funny songs change the world? Jonny & the Baptists and Grace Petrie join Josie Long for a spirited night of comedy that imagines nationalising the Queen’s swans and banning Daily Mail readers from seeing their grandchildren

Prospects have changed dramatically for UK lefties over the last six months. As recently as spring, leftwing politics was strictly for masochists, as the Labour party – according to received wisdom – set its course for electoral oblivion. Now, it’s the government in waiting, even after losing that June election. “I know we lost,” says protest singer Grace Petrie on stage tonight. “But it was my favourite one we’ve lost.”

Related: Josie Long review – a wistfully witty bid to find a bright side to Brexit

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Paul Chowdhry: ‘When I was 15, I wore snakeskin-patterned trousers with pride'

Fri, 03 Nov 2017 14:00:04 GMT2017-11-03T14:00:04Z

The standup comic on the things that make him laugh the most, from people falling over to his dad

Mr Chowdhry, AKA my dad. In my lifetime he has provided me with countless material. My surroundings are an integral part of my comedy, which he unintentionally orchestrated. He has been watching British comedy since immigrating to England in 1964 and is more knowledgable on the subject than most standups I know.

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'So the universe implodes – no matter': comedians share their best one-liners

Wed, 04 Oct 2017 11:03:33 GMT2017-10-04T11:03:33Z

In Steve Best’s new book Joker Face, standups pick some of the funniest gags they’ve told. Here are 10 of our favourites

Jenny Collier: The worst sport ever is throwing a hand-sized round thing as far as you can. Discus.

Candy Gigi: Who’s a northerner’s favourite R&B star? Our Kelly.

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Frank Skinner's impro odyssey: should we expect more for a fiver?

Fri, 27 Oct 2017 10:15:48 GMT2017-10-27T10:15:48Z

The master comedian’s off-the-cuff routine gets more laughs than most scripted standup. But he’s hardly breaking sweat. Will Skinner ever pull out all the stops?

Is Frank Skinner a restless standup comedian, or a lazy one? Since he returned to live shows a decade ago, he’s tried on a few guises. His 2013 show Man in a Suit promised a new, more sophisticated Skinner. Before that, a Credit Crunch Cabaret in the West End cast him as an old-school variety MC. Now, aged 60, he’s embarking on his third stint at Soho theatre in The Man With No Show, for which he steps on stage without a script and improvises an hour’s worth of standup.

Related: Brian Logan on how improvisation is finally catching on in Britain

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I was a dad at 17, now I’m a grandad at 40 – it saved my life

Sat, 18 Nov 2017 06:00:24 GMT2017-11-18T06:00:24Z

Gary Meikle has forged a career in standup after finding inspiration from his life as a single dad. He also tried material about being a grandad, but audiences didn’t believe he was old enough to be one

When Gary Meikle was 17, he had sex in a cupboard at a party with a girl he barely knew. A child was conceived, and later born. In 99.9% of cases like this (I am making up the statistic, but you get the drift), a teenage dad would not play much part in raising his accidental child, and would probably have lost contact with her by the time she reached adulthood. But Meikle is the 0.1%: not only did he raise his daughter, mostly singlehanded, but also he still lives with her and is helping her to bring up her own daughter, 12-month-old Gracie.

Gary is now a youthful-looking 40, and it seems as remarkable that he is a grandfather as that he raised his child alone. In fact, he says, he doesn’t yet use much material from his life with Gracie for his act as a standup comedian, because when he tried it, the audience thought he was bluffing and couldn’t possibly be a grandad. But his performances draw heavily on his years as a single dad raising Ainsley, who is now 22.

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Lloyd Griffith: ‘I love both Mick Hucknall and Grimsby Town’

Fri, 17 Nov 2017 14:00:04 GMT2017-11-17T14:00:04Z

The standup, TV presenter and choirboy on the things that make him laugh the most

Matt Lucas as George Dawes in Shooting Stars singing Peanuts. Whenever I’m feeling down I always watch it and, by ’eck, it makes me smile.

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As a comic, Al Franken joked about rape, sex robots and Afghan women

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 21:13:39 GMT2017-11-16T21:13:39Z

The Minnesota senator has apologised following allegations of sexual misconduct, and it is not the first example of his attitudes about women and sex

Senator Al Franken of Minnesota apologised on Thursday after being accused of sexually harassing the journalist Leeann Tweeden in 2006, highlighting the comedian-turned-politician’s past history of crass jokes towards women.

Related: Al Franken apologizes after accusation he kissed and groped TV news anchor

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Harlem shake-up: how Guys and Dolls found its swing

Mon, 13 Nov 2017 12:39:40 GMT2017-11-13T12:39:40Z

A new version of the classic musical moves Damon Runyon’s characters to uptown New York, with an all-black cast and a burst of bebop and gospel

The cast of Guys and Dolls are lending some extra sass to the moves of the Salvation Army band when director Michael Buffong steps in. He’s looking for Abiona Omonua, as sergeant Sarah Brown, to be a touch more disdainful to gambler Sky Masterson (Ashley Zhangazha), who is feigning spiritual fervour to win her heart – and a juicy bet. As they take the scene from the top, the pianist pounds away in the corner of the room and Omonua stops dead in her tracks. She raises a lone cautionary finger at her would-be suitor before turning on her heel and leaving him high and dry. Onlookers whoop from the sidelines.

“Ooh, cold!” someone calls out. “So cold.”

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Chekhov's revolutions: the Russian master still speaks to a world in flux

Tue, 14 Nov 2017 07:30:03 GMT2017-11-14T07:30:03Z

On the centenary of the Russian revolution, a glut of revivals show Chekhov’s characters struggling to adjust to the social earthquakes that engulf them

It’s over a decade since Katie Mitchell’s groundbreaking production of Martin Crimp’s version of The Seagull at the National Theatre. At the time, the production was vilified by some for its European influences and precisely articulated naturalism, and for releasing the play from the 19th century. But its long-term influence on a subsequent generation of theatremakers staging Chekhov has been clear to see – and welcome. Chekhov’s plays have increasingly been stripped of the birch trees and given an invigorating, contemporary edge. Audiences might seem pre-programmed to kick and scream against these reimaginings of the classics, but the plays prove remarkably robust. Productions such as Benedict Andrews’ Three Sisters at the Young Vic and Sean Holmes’ recent staging of Simon Stephens’ version of The Seagull at the Lyric Hammersmith have been revelatory.

At Cardiff’s Sherman theatre, in one of the best productions of the year so far, Gary Owen and Rachel O’ Riordan transplanted The Cherry Orchard from a Russia trembling on the brink of revolution to Pembrokeshire in 1982 as Thatcherism ushered in an era of social change, the effects of which are still being felt today. It felt very much like Owen, but no less like Chekhov.

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Sex under siege: Ukrainian drama uncovers how war affects intimacy

Mon, 06 Nov 2017 17:42:22 GMT2017-11-06T17:42:22Z

The playwright Natal’ya Vorozhbit’s Bad Roads explores the brutal effects of conflict on personal relationships. Sasha Dugdale reveals the pain of translating its harrowing scenes for a new Royal Court production

What happens to people’s personal relationships – and, more specifically, their sexual lives – in a time of conflict? In the Donbass region of east Ukraine, fighting began in 2014 and has smouldered on to this day. The towns all contain temporary military populations, made up of young men and women living in close proximity to death, far from routine and families. These “heroes” have followings on Facebook. Women want their babies. Underage girls go with the garrisoned soldiers, although in these areas allegiances are mixed and some get in trouble for befriending Ukrainian soldiers.

This is territory few writers have covered, particularly from a woman’s point of view. In Natal’ya Vorozhbit’s new play, Bad Roads, teenagers sleep with the garrisoned soldiers because it makes their drab, war-torn lives more glamorous. A paramedic drives the body of her soldier-lover along wild, bad roads to his wife. The most harrowing of all is the portrayal of the relationship between a hostage-taker and his female victim, which moves unnervingly between sadism, abuse and something approaching human warmth.

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Minefield: two sides of the Falklands war – on one stage

Sun, 12 Nov 2017 08:00:49 GMT2017-11-12T08:00:49Z

Thirty-five years after a conflict that cost hundreds of British and Argentinian lives, veterans appear in a documentary play to explore its impact on them

Lou Armour is a special needs teacher, an introspective man with a walking stick. If you passed him on the street you probably wouldn’t notice anything about him beyond his limp. But 35 years ago he yomped across the Falkland Islands and ran through a minefield under artillery fire on Mount Harriet. His section killed several Argentinians in a bloody battle and Armour found himself attending to a fatally wounded Argentinian soldier who spoke to him in English about visiting Oxford. He watched as the young man died.

Gabriel Sagastume is a grey-haired lawyer with sleepy eyes and an easy smile. He was an Argentinian conscript during the Falklands war and was positioned on Wireless Ridge. His unit was short of food and so several of them waded across a river to a nearby house to raid its kitchen. When they came back they were blown up by a mine, planted by the Argentinian army. It was Sagastume’s job to collect the body parts and put them in his blanket.

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'Tear it down and start again': playwright Elinor Cook on sexism in British theatre

Tue, 24 Oct 2017 17:19:50 GMT2017-10-24T17:19:50Z

Her sharp and funny plays have feted female friendship. As Elinor Cook takes Ibsen to the Caribbean with her version of The Lady from the Sea, she talks about fighting against the industry’s inequality

Elinor Cook remembers when she first wanted to be a playwright. It was 2005 and she was doing a postgraduate degree at drama school, watching friends troop in and out of auditions. “The men were going up for these exciting parts,” she says, “and the women were grateful that they were being chucked Third Wench.”

Many actors would have sighed and buckled down, hoping that Third Wench would eventually – somehow – metamorphose into something more meaningful. But Cook began to write instead: at first cautiously, then with more confidence. The following year, she won a place on the Royal Court young writers’ programme; soon she was working on her first full-length script. It took a few years for one of her plays to be professionally staged but she was sure she had found her path. “I felt a hunger,” she explains. “I needed to do it.”

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Fog, smog and eco-drag: these climate change dramas are a breath of fresh air

Tue, 07 Nov 2017 16:12:35 GMT2017-11-07T16:12:35Z

From cabaret to a witty teenage odyssey, the Shoot the Breeze festival at Camden People’s theatre considers global warming and pollution in striking style

Was Shakespeare a chronicler of climate-change disaster? A Midsummer Night’s Dream presents nature in crisis, brought about by the disruptions of the fairy and human worlds. In Joe Hill-Gibbins’ glumly dark revival at the Young Vic this year, the stage was covered in mud, suggesting not only how relationships get bogged down but also a sliding-away world of rotting crops and drowned fields. As Titania proposes, it is down to us to acknowledge responsibility for this “progeny of evils”. But isn’t it odd that what is seen by many as one of the greatest challenges of our time receives so little theatrical attention, particularly in the mainstream?

Katie Mitchell has vowed to make one work a year that addresses environmental issues; at the Royal Court, her collaborations with scientists in the dramatised lectures Ten Billion and 2071 presented the world that our children – and theirs – will inherit. This year the remarkable Slung Low have produced a three-part epic, Flood, in Hull, which is the 2017 city of culture and could also be one of the first UK cities to be drowned as sea levels rise.

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'It's very sweary!' What Labour MPs make of James Graham's political comedy Labour of Love

Wed, 01 Nov 2017 06:00:09 GMT2017-11-01T06:00:09Z

The mountains of leaflets, the WhatsApp groups, the election night panic … Harriet Harman, Tracy Brabin and David Lammy on what the play gets right – and wrong

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Sacha Dhawan, star of The Boy With the Topknot: ‘Why didn’t I do this sooner?’

Fri, 10 Nov 2017 17:13:06 GMT2017-11-10T17:13:06Z

The actor nearly turned down the starring role in the BBC’s primetime drama because it felt too close to his own roots. So why did he change his mind?

Sacha Dhawan is exaggerating, I think, when he tells me he spent most of his life embarrassed about being Asian. But then he talks about joining in the “Paki banter” at school to fit in, trying to “join in with the lads”. He remembers his English nanny making him roasts, not being able to speak Punjabi to his aunties, and being called a coconut – “you know, ‘brown on the outside, white on the inside’” – by his family.

“I felt like I was running away, not just from my culture, but from stuff that was going on at home.” He winces. “I was just not manning up and taking responsibility. My mum and dad were struggling with stuff, but I was too focused on acting … It got to the point where I had to stop everything in London and go home. And I was like: ‘Why didn’t I do it sooner?’”

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Protests and power games: how James Fritz's plays caught fire

Tue, 24 Oct 2017 05:00:37 GMT2017-10-24T05:00:37Z

In James Fritz’s powerful new drama, Parliament Square, an activist stands up and leaves us wondering how to take action in a broken world

James Fritz’s new play, Parliament Square, was written almost by accident. He hadn’t planned to enter the 2015 Bruntwood prize for playwriting and, changing his mind at the last minute, found himself with nothing to submit and hardly any time to write. In a few frantic days before the deadline, he pulled together the script that went on to win one of the judges’ prizes.

It’s a mark of daring that the play produced in that feverish sprint is so structurally inventive. Now running in the main space at Manchester’s Royal Exchange after several months of development, Parliament Square plays games with time and perspective. One pivotal morning is spun out into an entire act, while several years are condensed into a series of impressionistic flashes.

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Lesley Sharp webchat – your questions answered on football, female roles and lipsyncing with David Tennant

Mon, 23 Oct 2017 13:23:01 GMT2017-10-23T13:23:01Z

Currently starring in Simon Stephens’ version of The Seagull, Lesley Sharp talked about creating characters with Mike Leigh, teaming up with Suranne Jones, writing her first novel – and the joy of animated caterpillars

That’s all for today!

Thanks very much - great questions! It's been lovely. Farewell!

maxine64 says:

Hi Lesley, I love everything you’ve done, you’re an inspiration. What has been your favourite thing so far, and is there something you’re longing to do but haven’t yet?

Actually, The Seagull is one of the things I've longed to do for a very long time. Going on stage is always a process that causes anxiety and nervousness. You don't know whether you'll end up with something you can wholeheartedly commit to for the length of time you've got to perform it. This has been one of those moments that is intensely pleasurable - the play, the role, the rehearsal process, the company of actors - it's all come together. I actively, even though I get anxious, look forward to doing it. That's a real privilege to have a job where you feel like that. And I'm really grateful for that.

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‘A lad in a frock’: the gay teen who inspired a West End show

Sat, 04 Nov 2017 06:15:11 GMT2017-11-04T06:15:11Z

Jamie Campbell came out at 14, wore a dress to his school dance and dreamed of being a drag star. Throughout it all, he was supported by his mother. Now, their lives are the subject of a musical

Jamie Campbell had never thought of himself as a trailblazer, but, as he turned up for his school prom, aged 16, in a gorgeous frock, high heels and with a flowing blond wig – not knowing if he would be ridiculed by the schoolmates who had bullied him for being gay or, worse, turned away by his teachers – he was just that.

He knew there might be trouble. His school, having got wind of his plan, had told him he could not attend the prom in a dress. He had heard that a parent had described him as “disgusting”. He had had many homophobic insults spat at him over the years, but he had learned to bat them away. “I used to say: ‘Well, I am gay and I’m comfortable with that, so what’s your point?’” Yet the word disgusting got to him. “I thought it was the worst thing anyone could call me,” he says, wincing at the memory.

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Punchdrunk's Kabeiroi: a shapeshifting six-hour mystery tour of London

Wed, 27 Sep 2017 07:01:27 GMT2017-09-27T07:01:27Z

Part tourist trip, part cult initiation ceremony, the experimental theatre outfit’s new show blurs the boundary between the real world and the imagined

It is designed for audiences of two, lasts for six hours and is harder to get tickets for than Tom Hiddleston’s Hamlet. Kabeiroi, the latest creation by experimental theatre company Punchdrunk, is a shapeshifter of a show. Based on fragments of a lost play by Aeschylus, it takes you on a journey across London (you’re advised to top up your Oyster card before arrival) and is by turns tourist experience, treasure hunt and descent into an unsettling world. These shifts keep you on edge, leading you to constantly question what the show is.

Related: Welcome to Fallow Cross: inside the secret village built by Punchdrunk

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Peter Brook: 'To give way to despair is the ultimate cop-out'

Mon, 02 Oct 2017 17:00:08 GMT2017-10-02T17:00:08Z

At 92, the visionary director refuses to slow down. He talks about how to silence audiences, the trouble with doing Shakespeare in French, the difference between Olivier and Gielgud, and why Elizabethan theatre would shock us today

Peter Brook returns to the empty space: an extract from Tip of the Tongue

Sixty-five years ago, Kenneth Tynan identified the qualities of a young Peter Brook as “repose, curiosity and mental accuracy – plus, of course, the unlearnable lively flair”. Now 92, Brook may walk more slowly than he did but those gifts are still abundantly there. He is as busy as ever, with a new book full of aphoristic wisdom, Tip of the Tongue, and a new stage project, The Prisoner, due to open in Paris next year.

Related: Peter Brook returns to the empty space: an extract from Tip of the Tongue

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Rodney Bewes obituary

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 20:07:20 GMT2017-11-21T20:07:20Z

Actor and comedian best known for his role as Bob Ferris in TV’s The Likely Lads

Rodney Bewes, who has died aged 79, will be most remembered for playing Bob Ferris, the well-intentioned and socially aspiring half of The Likely Lads, the BBC television series which at its 1960s peak and beyond regularly attracted 27 million viewers. He would later talk with gratitude about how the show, featuring the economic, emotional and amatory ups and downs of two working-class lads in the north-east, had made his career.

The Likely Lads (1964-66) and its successor, Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? (1973-74), cast Bewes alongside James Bolam. In 1975 there was a BBC radio version, since reheard on Radio 4 Extra, and the following year a feature film. But Bolam, who played Ferris’s derisive and self-limiting mate Terry Collier, could not later bear any reference to his presence in the show. He did not speak to his acting other half for 40 years. When the TV programme This Is Your Life was devoted to Bewes in 1980, Bolam did not appear in it.

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Top billings: the poster art of the National Theatre – in pictures

Sat, 30 Sep 2017 16:00:37 GMT2017-09-30T16:00:37Z

After 54 years of enticing audiences into the stalls, the National Theatre’s posters are getting their own moment in the spotlight with an exhibition curated by Rick Poynor in the NT’s Wolfson gallery (4 Oct-31 March). National Theatre Posters raids the archives to tell a fascinating story about the theatre and its visual communications, which have been under the watchful eye of just five head designers. “In the 60s the designs are very clean and modernist,” says Poynor, professor of design and visual culture at the University of Reading. “By 2003, there’s an emerging sense of the theatre as a brand, and the poster imagery and typography having to reflect that.” As for what makes the perfect poster, “there is no formula” Poynor says, “but what you absolutely have to do is grab the viewer’s attention, magnetise the eye.”

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Shiny leather in the dark: Venus in Fur with Natalie Dormer and David Oakes – in pictures

Fri, 13 Oct 2017 13:14:02 GMT2017-10-13T13:14:02Z

David Ives’ dark comedy of desire tells of the power struggle between an actor and a director during an electrifying audition. Take a closer look at one of this autumn’s hottest West End shows. Production shots by Tristram Kenton

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Dancing in the street: watch the National Youth Dance Company perform in Hull – video

Tue, 26 Sep 2017 10:00:39 GMT2017-09-26T10:00:39Z

Forty of the UK's top young dancers take sequences from their latest Sadler's Wells production to various locations around Hull, this year's UK city of culture. The National Youth Dance Company, run by Sadler’s Wells, is the country’s flagship organisation for young dancers

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Willkommen! Will Young and Louise Redknapp take Cabaret on tour - in pictures

Tue, 10 Oct 2017 13:16:38 GMT2017-10-10T13:16:38Z

In Rufus Norris’s revival of Kander and Ebb’s classic musical, Will Young reprises his role as the Emcee and Louise Redknapp stars as Sally Bowles

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Dangerous dreams: the mind-blowing world of designer Bunny Christie – in pictures

Mon, 04 Sep 2017 13:38:18 GMT2017-09-04T13:38:18Z

From mapping the journey of The Curious Incident’s teen hero to putting Shakespeare in prison and erecting a towering newsroom for Ink, Bunny Christie talks through five of her creations

Bunny Christie doesn’t design stage sets. She creates worlds. Audaciously theatrical and frequently startling, her creations pull spectators headlong into the universe of a play – whether through the disorienting aperture of The Red Barn or the vintage newsroom pile-up in Ink. Christie often places us inside a protagonist’s head – she designs psychology as well as space, most notably for the singular hero of The Curious Incident, which won her one of her three Olivier awards. She relishes how design unites the entire production. “Designers are often a conduit from the rehearsal room to the rest of the team,” she says. “We’re with the director from the moment of starting the show, but also go into the wardrobe, prop shop and stage management. You share the thinking. It’s really important.”

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Making Wonderland: the Australian Ballet's biggest show – in pictures

Wed, 20 Sep 2017 18:00:11 GMT2017-09-20T18:00:11Z

Christopher Wheeldon’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is the biggest production the Australian Ballet has ever undertaken and it’s also one of the most spectacular. Created for the Royal Ballet and designed by Bob Crowley, it involves puppetry, optical illusions, major setpieces and immersive projections, as well as costumes that some dancers have to actually climb into. The Australian Ballet’s design co-ordinator, Sukie Kirk, and Kat Chan, the design associate for the production, offered Guardian Australia the inspirations and stories behind the designs – and some of the challenges.

The Australian Ballet’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland runs in Melbourne until 30 September, and opens in Sydney on 5 December

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'I don't want any more sadness in my life' - comedy theatre about life in the Calais refugee camp

Mon, 14 Aug 2017 06:00:35 GMT2017-08-14T06:00:35Z

PsycheDelight, a social theatre company made up of people who met in the Calais refugee camp known as the ‘Jungle’, have devised a tragicomedy play, Borderline, about their experiences which premiered at this year’s Brighton fringe festival. We meet three of the show’s main actors, who are all facing extradition from the UK, and see how they are using laughter as an antidote to their struggles.

PsycheDelight are crowdfunding to take Borderline on tour

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'How does the internet feel?' Chloe Lamford's astounding stage designs - in pictures

Wed, 12 Jul 2017 11:46:10 GMT2017-07-12T11:46:10Z

Hacktivists in ball pools, teenagers riding unicorns and a world powered by actors on bikes … Chloe Lamford’s playful sets take audiences by surprise. She explains how she creates them

“Making metaphor – that’s what I do.” Theatre designer Chloe Lamford is describing her rigorous, playful and provocative work. Some of her designs have an immersive, installation-like quality (“I think I design atmospheres”). Others seem to explode a play, whether the period drama of Amadeus or Ophelias Zimmer, which questioned the romantic image of Hamlet’s tragic heroine. Her acclaimed design for 1984, currently on Broadway, moves from a “future retro” setting into a shocking vision of Orwell’s Room 101. “Anything kinetic, that takes an idea and dismantles it – that’s really me,” she says. “I want theatre to be exciting, visceral. You just have to hold your nerve.”

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Old Vic apologises in wake of Kevin Spacey allegations – video

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 17:34:03 GMT2017-11-16T17:34:03Z

Old Vic executive director Kate Varah apologises 'wholeheartedly to the people who told us they had been affected' following the company’s revelation that it has received 20 allegations of inappropriate behaviour against its former artistic director Kevin Spacey. The London theatre launched an investigation into Spacey last month after claims of sexual harassment emerged in the United States

• Old Vic says ‘cult of personality’ meant Kevin Spacey claims were not reported

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Peter Hall: a life in pictures

Tue, 12 Sep 2017 14:25:45 GMT2017-09-12T14:25:45Z

The former director of the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre has died at the age of 86. Revisit some of his major productions, including Waiting for Godot, No Man’s Land and Amadeus, with stars such as John Gielgud, Judi Dench and Ralph Richardson

Sir Peter Hall dies aged 86
Mark Lawson on Peter Hall: the showman who transformed British theatre

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Staffordshire village holds Britain's 'oldest folk dance' – in pictures

Tue, 12 Sep 2017 08:00:30 GMT2017-09-12T08:00:30Z

The Abbots Bromley horn dance is an English folk dance whose origins date back to the middle ages and is performed annually on Wakes Monday – which is the first Monday after 4 September. The tradition, which takes place in the Staffordshire village, is believed to be the oldest folk dance in Britain and some of the antlers have been carbon dated to be more than 1,000 years old

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Moon dances, chaotic comedy and a hymn to envy: Edinburgh festival 2017 – in pictures

Sat, 26 Aug 2017 11:00:34 GMT2017-08-26T11:00:34Z

Rachel Mars asks us to look into our hearts, Jordan Brookes eyeballs the audience, Elf Lyons clowns around with Swan Lake and Jon Snow considers the social divide. As the Edinburgh festival draws to a close, look back at a selection of shows photographed by Murdo MacLeod

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Edinburgh fringe's funniest jokes, from 2012 to 2017 – video

Tue, 22 Aug 2017 16:22:54 GMT2017-08-22T16:22:54Z

Chuckle at officially the best gags from the Edinburgh fringe festival in recent years. From Stewart Francis’s one-liner in 2012 to Ken Cheng’s 2017 triumph, all were voted winner of the Dave funniest joke of the fringe award

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