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Stage | The Guardian



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



Published: Mon, 19 Feb 2018 10:24:44 GMT2018-02-19T10:24:44Z

Copyright: Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. 2018
 



Juliet and Romeo review – star-crossed lovers try couples therapy

Mon, 19 Feb 2018 07:00:06 GMT2018-02-19T07:00:06Z

Battersea Arts Centre, London
In Ben Duke and Lost Dog’s smart, wryly subversive and sexy dance-theatre piece, Juliet and Romeo didn’t die in that tomb. Worse … they grew old together

Shakespeare’s lovers sit side by side in matching armchairs, a pot plant in the space between. They’re approaching middle age and their marriage has hit a rough patch; they no longer talk, and Juliet starts to reveal that Romeo “is having difficulty …”, before he wincingly silences her. The point is they are now trying couples therapy, and the clever conceit of Ben Duke’s funny but achingly sad revision of Shakespeare’s tragedy is that the formerly star-crossed lovers are about to embark on a memory exercise in which they have to relive and re-evaluate key moments of their lives.

The first half of the work is pure pleasure as Duke and his partner, Solène Weinachter, dance and talk their way through a blissfully wry, subverted version of Romeo and Juliet. They don’t die in the tomb but elope, set up house and produce a daughter, Sophie. The truth of how they fell in love also turns out to be far more prosaic than the rarefied narratives of Shakespeare’s play or the Kenneth MacMillan ballet (both of which Duke adroitly references). When Romeo re-enacts his first encounter with Juliet, his lurching euphoric dance – accompanied by the Beatles rather than Prokofiev – is fuelled not by poetry but blind lust. When Juliet prepares to drink the Friar’s sleeping potion, her exultancy is tempered by the memory that the last drug he administered gave her thrush.

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Sandra Bernhard webchat – post your questions now

Wed, 14 Feb 2018 11:00:45 GMT2018-02-14T11:00:45Z

The comic, singer and actor, performing in the UK for the first time in seven years, will answer your questions at 1pm GMT on Monday 19 February

Sandra Bernhard webchat – post your questions now

To call Sandra Bernhard a triple threat would be selling her short. Since she started out in LA’s comedy scene and on The Richard Pryor Show, she’s been a provocative force in standup, and her cabaret-style shows prove she can deliver a song as well as a punchline.

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‘I wanted to channel the anger’: Europe's fearless political playwrights

Mon, 12 Feb 2018 07:00:50 GMT2018-02-12T07:00:50Z

They’ve stormed the Reichstag, turned terrorism into absurd comedy and asked their audiences for answers. Meet five theatre-makers grappling with crises across the continent.

By Daniel Boffey, Constanze Letsch, Philip Oltermann, Helena Smith and Kit Gillet

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Chaos, conflict – and conga: Fanny and Alexander takes the stage

Thu, 15 Feb 2018 08:00:10 GMT2018-02-15T08:00:10Z

Ingmar Bergman saw the sumptuous period drama as his masterpiece, the movie he should be remembered by. We ask: would he enjoy the stage version?

At the age of 64, flushed with international success and bruised by a long-running dispute with the Swedish tax office, Ingmar Bergman announced his retirement. His final work would be his grandest – a film that mined his own childhood, a lavish family saga set deep in the past yet pointing to the future. He referred to it as his mountain peak, a love affair he would never surpass, “a summing up of my entire career”. After Fanny and Alexander, he said, there would be nowhere else to go.

But real life has a way of confounding such neat, scripted endings. After completing his supposed swansong, Bergman continued writing and directing for a further two decades. More recently, Fanny and Alexander has taken a fresh direction as well. For this, Bergman’s centenary year, it has been merrily reworked as a play at London’s Old Vic. “It’s a bit different from the film,” cautions its writer, Stephen Beresford. “But that’s probably as it should be.”

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Dead and Breathing review – tense question of life or death

Sun, 18 Feb 2018 06:59:37 GMT2018-02-18T06:59:37Z

Unity theatre, Liverpool
Moral conundrums abound in this ‘breath-holdingly taut’ tale of an dying millionaire who asks her nurse to end her life

Carolyn is a 68-year-old multimillionaire living with terminal cancer who, for the past two years, has been cared for at home by a succession of nurses: Veronika is the 17th. Carolyn wants out of this “lousy, stupid, useless life”. She wants Veronika to help her. Veronika, however, is a committed Christian. This doesn’t look like a problem to Carolyn: “How about you say a little prayer while you hold the pillow over my face, if that’ll make you feel better about it?” Veronika doesn’t take issue with the notion of ending Carolyn’s life. She doesn’t, she explains, feel any attachment to the crotchety invalid; nor does she believe that God will condemn her for ending the life of a person in pain. Her sticking point is that she is likely to be responsible for sending Carolyn straight to hell. Before Veronika will consider killing, Carolyn must repent - truly repent. This is “moral malingering”, in Carolyn’s eyes. She adds a significant financial incentive to the proposition: think of all the good Veronika can do with the money!

Chisa Hutchinson’s sharp-dialogued play breathes new life into an old moral conundrum and throws in a few more twists for added ethical probing (although a tricksy ending feels like a cop-out). Lizan Mitchell gives a tour-de-force performance as Carolyn (a role she created in the US premiere): combative, vicious - touching with no trace of schmaltz. Kim Tatum’s Veronika, less assured overall, has moments of intensity - blazing, when describing prejudice endured. Under Rebecca Atkinson-Lord’s finely paced direction, tensions are, at times, breath-holdingly taut.

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Storm.1: Nothing Remains the Same review – a symphony of creation and ruin

Fri, 16 Feb 2018 11:44:23 GMT2018-02-16T11:44:23Z

Pafiliwn Bont, Pontrhydfendigaid, Ceredigion
National Theatre Wales’s multimedia adaptation turns Ovid’s Metamorphoses into an environmental parable of cosmic scale and elemental power

The audience sits in the pitchy black, headphones on, in a featureless shed-like building. The Pafiliwn Bont could be anywhere or nowhere, so utterly dark is it here. Out of the sound of distant wind comes a male voice, speaking softly. It asks us to imagine the universe before creation, when liquid was not liquid and air was not air and matter was not matter. Gradually, the voice describes the elements grappling together, brawling and wrestling, the Earth being moulded by vast hands, the oceans separating, the plains unrolling “like patterned oriental carpets”. This soundscape becomes a symphony of cracking ice floes and down-rushing avalanches. Animals and birds are introduced to this new paradise. Then man. The narrator’s voice, hitherto solemn, suddenly laughs. Humans will be a black joke.

Storm.1 is Mike Pearson and Mike Brookes’s new piece for National Theatre Wales. Their work for the company in the past has been epic and poetic: a version of Aeschylus’s Persians in a Brecon Beacons military training ground; a staging of Christopher Logue’s poems based on the Iliad.

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The week in dance: Juliet & Romeo/The Winter’s Tale review – bloody valentines

Sun, 18 Feb 2018 08:00:39 GMT2018-02-18T08:00:39Z

Battersea Arts Centre, Royal Opera House, London
Shakespeare’s lovers live on as a warring couple trapped in a romantic narrative, while a superb cast atone for a flawed Winter’s Tale

Lost Dog, formed by Ben Duke and Raquel Meseguer in 2004, use dance and story to create new and singular narratives. Their new show, Juliet and Romeo: A Guide to Long Life and Happy Marriage, which had its premiere on Wednesday, follows the huge success of Duke’s award-winning Paradise Lost (lies unopened beside me). The premise for Juliet and Romeo is that the star-crossed lovers, performed by Duke and Solène Weinachter, survived the final act of Shakespeare’s play, stayed together, and a decade or so later are going through a “rough patch”, and attempting to analyse their relationship for us.

Duke’s Romeo is introspective and excruciatingly diffident; Weinachter’s Juliet is hurt, frustrated and censorious. She loves Prokoviev, he prefers New Order. Their physical exchanges have an angular, bruising quality. There are problems in the bedroom: Weinachter tells us, “Romeo is having difficulties...” Duke looks shifty. “They don’t need to hear about that,” he tells her.

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The week in theatre: Girls & Boys; The York Realist – review

Sun, 18 Feb 2018 08:00:39 GMT2018-02-18T08:00:39Z

Jerwood Theatre Downstairs, Royal Court; Donmar Warehouse, London
Alone on stage for an hour and a half, Carey Mulligan is extraordinary in Dennis Kelly’s gripping new play. Plus, a dream double act at the Donmar

“Remember that this did not happen to you, and that it is not happening now. All right?” Like all the best theatre, Dennis Kelly’s new play, sharply directed by Lyndsey Turner, makes this command impossible to follow. As the sole speaker in Girls & Boys, Carey Mulligan takes you inescapably into the heart of what has happened to her character. She makes sure you feel, squirmingly and ashenly, that it is occurring as you watch. And no, it is not at all right.

The twist and terror that darken the final scenes must be kept secret. But not what leads up to them. Mulligan comes on with scraped-back hair, tailored maroon trousers, an estuary accent and a big attitude. She begins like a standup, telling chirpy anecdotes in front of a pale backdrop. There is the one about how she first met her husband in an easyJet queue and discovered – via an intervention from some cocky models whom she takes off with aplomb – that this “creepy little slack-jawed simpleton” is no chump. There is the one about her swearing her way past the ponied classes into a job in documentary film. There is the sly destructiveness with which she gets rid of one of her husband’s friendships. Mulligan delivers the hour-and-a-half-long history with spikiness, dimples and apparent composure – but nearly all the time her hands are whirling, as if they are trying to escape.

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The Shadow Factory review – Howard Brenton's bolshy drama declares war

Fri, 16 Feb 2018 12:35:15 GMT2018-02-16T12:35:15Z

NST City, Southampton
The Luftwaffe’s destruction of a Spitfire factory sparks vivid tensions between local people and the state in this Southampton-set play

An expansive new arts complex in this austere age is something of a miracle. For £32m, however, Southampton has acquired a gallery, film lab and two new theatres in the heart of the city to complement the existing Nuffield out on the university campus. The opening programme is highly adventurous, boasting plays by Aristophanes, Friedrich Schiller and Tennessee Williams. It kicks off with a new piece by Howard Brenton about Southampton’s response to the devastating German bombing in 1940. This local story is turned into a study of what Angus Calder, in a landmark book, called the people’s war.

Like Peter Whelan in the recently discovered Sleepers in the Field, Brenton is keen to demythologise the war. The starting point is the Luftwaffe’s destruction of the Supermarine Spitfire factory in the suburb of Woolston. The machine tools survived the German raids and Lord Beaverbrook, as minister of aircraft production, is given the power to requisition local properties in order to keep up the production of Spitfires: hence the shadow factories that give the play its title. Brenton’s focus is on a fictional laundry owner, Fred Dimmock, who resists the government’s draconian powers and threats of imprisonment.

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Girls and Boys review – gut-wrenching Carey Mulligan charts a marriage's end

Thu, 15 Feb 2018 23:59:29 GMT2018-02-15T23:59:29Z

Royal Court, London
Mulligan is a joy to watch as she brings her expressive powers to bear in Dennis Kelly’s flawed but compelling one-hander

Carey Mulligan has had quite a week. First she shone as the warily intelligent cop in David Hare’s compelling TV drama, Collateral. Now she occupies the stage alone for 90 minutes in Dennis Kelly’s new play and charts with consummate skill the disintegration of a relationship. She is a joy to watch; only later did I find myself asking serious questions of the play itself.

Mulligan plays an unnamed woman (can characters please have monikers?) who begins by describing her first sight of her future husband in an easyJet queue at Naples airport. An amused smile plays about Mulligan’s lips, and her eyes sparkle as the woman recalls her hitherto rackety life and the delight with which she saw her spouse-to-be put a couple of queue-jumping models in their place. We are instantly intrigued, as we are by the next scene, which shows the woman as a harassed young mum coping with two unseen children who have the luck to be named as Leanne and Danny.

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Mark Thomas: Showtime from the Frontline review – clowning for Palestine

Thu, 15 Feb 2018 12:52:50 GMT2018-02-15T12:52:50Z

Traverse theatre, Edinburgh
The West Bank’s nightly curfews, checkpoints and pipe bombs make for gallows humour in this defiant comedy that gives a voice to the voiceless

Your average Mark Thomas gig is crammed with characters. No story goes by without reference to the pranksters, activists and frontline workers – still less, the police officers and security guards – in whose company he has stood up to the forces of power. Yet, in his 33 years as a standup-cum-theatremaker, Thomas has always done it alone. Even when he got volunteers to play the Wakefield locals in The Red Shed, an inspirational tribute to small-town resistance, it was fundamentally a one-man show.

Not so in Showtime from the Frontline. Although he uses the narrative arc of one man’s adventure into the unknown – in this case, the Freedom theatre in the Jenin Palestinian refugee camp – this one is a three-hander. Rather than simply tell the story of running comedy workshops in the occupied West Bank with tutor Sam Beale, he illustrates the experience by sharing the stage with two of his students.

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Still Alice review – dementia drama aims for the heartstrings

Thu, 15 Feb 2018 12:27:45 GMT2018-02-15T12:27:45Z

West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds
In this adaptation of Lisa Genova’s bestselling novel, it’s the subject rather than the staging that moves the emotions

This stage version of Lisa Genova’s novel, which is best known from the 2014 movie version and Julianne Moore’s Oscar-winning performance as a 50-year-old Harvard professor with young-onset dementia, is part of the West Yorkshire Playhouse’s admirable Every Third Minute festival. The festival takes its name from the idea that every third minute, someone in the UK will begin living with dementia.

It’s a heartbreaking story, and the cast perform it with grace and commitment. No one more so than Sharon Small, who, in a wonderfully unguarded performance, captures the increasing frustration and panic of a capable woman. As the illness takes hold, she gets lost in her own house and goes to work in her dressing gown. “I miss myself,” she says simply.

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The Almighty Sometimes review – vivid take on teenage mental health

Thu, 15 Feb 2018 00:00:00 GMT2018-02-15T00:00:00Z

Royal Exchange, Manchester
Kendall Feaver’s striking debut pits a daughter who wants to give up medication against the mother who wishes to keep her safe

When Anna (Norah Lopez Holden) was seven she bequeathed her toys to her friends and threw herself out of a window. She survived, but her mother, Renee (Julie Hesmondhalgh), was so disturbed by the stories her precocious daughter was writing that she took her to see a child psychiatrist, Vivienne (Sharon Duncan-Brewster). She prescribed a cocktail of drugs.

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The York Realist review – town and country clash in Peter Gill's moving romance

Wed, 14 Feb 2018 10:49:58 GMT2018-02-14T10:49:58Z

Donmar Warehouse, London
Robert Hastie’s excellent revival of Gill’s 2001 play about class, sex and divided loyalties brings out its poetry


The intersection of class and sex has long fascinated dramatists: you only have to think of August Strindberg, DH Lawrence and John Osborne. Peter Gill’s beautiful play, first seen in 2001, owes a lot to that tradition, but Robert Hastie’s revival, shared between the Donmar and Sheffield Crucible, reminds us that it adds a layer of understated poetry.

The situation is relatively simple. George, a farm labourer living in a tied cottage with his mother, gets involved with John, who has come up from London in the 1960s to work as assistant director on a revival of the York Mysteries. What is moving is the way their affair is tacitly accepted by George’s family. But this is also a play about the way art has, over the centuries, become the property of the middle classes. One of the reasons George is hesitant about appearing in the Mysteries, initially performed by medieval guild members, is that the cast is made up of “doctors and that”. One of the play’s best scenes shows George’s family returning from a performance and nervously expressing their enthusiasm. As George’s mum says, “It was very Yorkshire, wasn’t it? Not that I mind.”

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Giselle review – exquisite Francesca Hayward is on her way to greatness

Mon, 12 Feb 2018 07:00:50 GMT2018-02-12T07:00:50Z

Royal Opera House, London
The ballerina brings an illusion of spontaneity to the choreography while mining a wealth of emotion from this gothic ghost story’s fantastical plot

Francesca Hayward, in her first official performance of Giselle, is nothing less than exquisite. The lightness of her jump corresponds to the luscious melt of her plié; the sensitivity of her phrasing responds to all the light, shadow and nuance of the accompanying music. Yet, perversely, it’s only at occasional moments of imperfection – the infinitesimal hesitation when she hits an extended balance – that I find myself focusing on the physical nuts and bolts of her technique. Hayward’s special gift, and the one that may push her towards ballerina greatness, is not so much the way she executes the choreography as the illusion of spontaneity she brings to it. She is one of those performers who can make dancing look entirely natural – a transparent expression of feeling and thought. What makes her Giselle so transportingly good is the wealth of emotion she manages to mine from the ballet’s slender, fantastical plot.

The focus of Hayward’s act one is Giselle’s fragility. Falling in love with Albrecht, she looks physically overwhelmed by terror and bliss, holding herself at a distance to contain the sensations thrumming inside her. It’s with tiny, telling details that she portrays her character’s delicate progression towards trust: the shy moment of assertion when Giselle shows Albrecht how to partner her in the harvest dance; the little flourishes of vanity with which she basks in his admiring gaze. When Giselle learns the truth about her lover’s concealed identity her descent into madness doesn’t feel like a plot device, but the poignantly credible fate of one whose precariously assembled confidence has been violently torn apart.

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Geraldine Stephenson obituary

Thu, 08 Feb 2018 15:09:18 GMT2018-02-08T15:09:18Z

Dancer, choreographer and movement director who worked on hundreds of films, television programmes and stage plays

Geraldine Stephenson, who has died aged 93, was a dancer, choreographer, movement director and teacher on more than 150 films and television programmes and more than 200 stage productions. Her work was characterised by its immense range: from productions by young people to historical pageants and serious drama, with routines for The Two Ronnies along the way.

In a typical year she would be involved in four or five TV and film productions, and as many more for stage. She worked closely with a number of BBC directors, including Jane Howell on her productions of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale (1982), Henry VI Parts 1–3 and Richard III (both 1983), and her former pupil David Giles on Vanity Fair (1967), Sense and Sensibility (1971) and Mansfield Park (1982).

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Hannah Gadsby on the male gaze in art: 'Stop watching women having baths. Go away.'

Sun, 18 Feb 2018 17:00:49 GMT2018-02-18T17:00:49Z

In her new ABC show Nakedy Nudes, the Tasmanian-born comedian delights in taking the highbrow mantle off art history

“Art history taught me I have no place in history,” said Hannah Gadsby in her furious, hilarious, devastating stand-up show Nanette. “Women didn’t have time to think thoughts; they were too busy taking naps naked in the forest.”

This is the central idea advanced in Gadsby’s new two-part ABC series Nakedy Nudes. Her thesis is that the current ideals of beautiful bodies and strict gender norms have a long past, inherited from the ancient Greeks and their Renaissance relatives.

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Rose Matafeo: 'I looked like a tiny, chubby Prince'

Fri, 16 Feb 2018 14:00:48 GMT2018-02-16T14:00:48Z

The writer and comedian lifts the lid on the things that make her laugh the most

Bedazzled is a great comedy film. Dudley Moore really kills me. And the 2000 remake is funny as hell, too.

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Denis Leary's No Cure for Cancer: still electrifying and obnoxious 25 years on

Wed, 07 Feb 2018 10:56:48 GMT2018-02-07T10:56:48Z

Cited as one of the all-time great standup sets, Leary’s show both hasn’t aged well and has never been more topical

‘I’m an asshole,” sings Denis Leary in a signature number at the start of No Cure for Cancer, first televised 25 years ago this month. Still regularly cited among the great standup sets of all time, the show – performed off-Broadway, directed for TV by Ted Demme and released as a book and CD – launched Leary as a superstar, in the US at least. There was a follow-up, Lock’n’Load, along with countless movie roles and an Emmy nomination for his TV series Rescue Me. He’s still a fixture of the US entertainment scene and appeared last year in a double act with James Corden on The Late Late Show. Leary dressed as Bill Clinton, Corden as Hillary, and together they sang Trump’s an Asshole.

“No Cure for Cancer’s caustic spirit not only hasn’t waned in 25 years,” wrote one critic recently, “it’s been heightened considerably.” I can see why you’d argue that, but having just watched the special for the first time in years, I only partially agree. Yes, it’s a masterclass in standup technique. Yes, it inhabits a certain mindset with electrifying conviction, but the show seems more hymn to assholery than satire.

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'My accent's ridiculous so it's great for comedy': standups on their home town's humour

Mon, 05 Feb 2018 10:00:52 GMT2018-02-05T10:00:52Z

Does a regional accent give you a headstart in standup? Are some places funnier than others? Jayde Adams, Tez Ilyas and Ardal O’Hanlon explore laughter and locality

An Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman walk into a bar. The punchline? That depends on which part of the country you’re in. We’ve long been making gags about our neighbours. The English joke about the Irish, southerners make fun of the north, Liverpudlians tease Mancunians. And vice versa. A comedian can go on stage at a comedy club anywhere in Britain and call a nearby town a dump, and that’s the audience won over.

But what about the crowds themselves? Do some jokes go down better in the Midlands than the Highlands? Is there such a thing as a regional sense of humour?

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Kenneth Haigh obituary

Tue, 13 Feb 2018 13:21:03 GMT2018-02-13T13:21:03Z

Actor who took the role of Jimmy Porter in Look Back in Anger, the groundbreaking 1956 play by John Osborne

The actor Kenneth Haigh, who has died aged 86, was the original Jimmy Porter in John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger at the Royal Court in May 1956, the game-changing new play that gave voice to a new generation, disaffected, provincial, working class, alienated by the Sunday newspapers, disgusted by the dreariness and hypocrisy of public life and private behaviour.

The play, in some ways, was a rant, but it was also a call to arms and, in Haigh, Osborne found his ideal representative on the stage: as abrasive as he was bright, Haigh was a “school of hard knocks” Yorkshireman who, like Osborne, had served time in weekly rep and the touring theatre of the 1950s and disliked most of what he had been required to do.

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The pram in the hall is no enemy of good art – it inspires great theatre

Thu, 08 Feb 2018 07:00:22 GMT2018-02-08T07:00:22Z

From Frances Poet’s Gut to Monica Dolan’s The B*easts, new plays about parenthood raise vital questions about society

When playwright Frances Poet ventured out alone as a child she knew her father would sometimes secretly follow her to keep her safe. He had good reason, having previously suffered the loss of a child.

Now she is a mother herself, Poet understands the constant drip of parental anxiety: the desire to let your children climb and the dread that they will fall, their injuries a punishment for your negligent parenting.

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The Mildew: Sam Shepard's 'lost' play finally makes it to the stage

Wed, 14 Feb 2018 12:00:46 GMT2018-02-14T12:00:46Z

An early one-act play from the late Pulitzer prize winner is being performed for the first time, hinting at the great playwright he would later become

Sam Shepard didn’t stay long at Mt San Antonio College, where he enrolled as a freshman in 1961 with thoughts of becoming either a teacher or veterinarian. After less than a year, he left the school, fled his home and abusive father, and eventually hit the road with a traveling theater troupe. When the troupe’s bus stopped in New York City many months later, Shepard got off, and within two years was well on his way to becoming the darling of off-off-Broadway.

Related: Sam Shepard was wild at heart and mapped the American soul

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I was wary of writing the Carole King musical, but she opened herself up completely | Douglas McGrath

Thu, 08 Feb 2018 00:45:00 GMT2018-02-08T00:45:00Z

Of all the great pop stars, she is the least diva-like – the one who most seems like a regular person

I once tried to write a movie biography of a legendary ballet dancer. He was alive, then in his senior years, and I interviewed him at length. He was a person with a vivacious personality, a store of anecdotes and many dramatic events upon which to draw.

But I learned as I went on that he would not allow himself to be portrayed as anything less than perfect: a god in tights and toe shoes. Ballet dancers are all about perfection; they are somehow human and not human at all. Though I had the greatest admiration for this man, I had to abandon the project when it became clear that he did not want a portrayal that showed any struggle on his part.

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Sets by Picasso, costumes by Matisse: artists who designed for dance – in pictures

Tue, 06 Feb 2018 08:30:04 GMT2018-02-06T08:30:04Z

This year, Sadler’s Wells in London presents collaborations with sculptor Antony Gormley and the late painter Howard Hodgkin. Here are some classic examples of how art has mixed with dance

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50 years of circus photography – in pictures

Sat, 27 Jan 2018 09:00:45 GMT2018-01-27T09:00:45Z

The year 2018 is the 25oth anniversary of the creation of the circus, and Peter Lavery has been photographing behind the scenes across the UK for 50 years. His fascination is with the disparity between the glitz of the shows and the ordinariness backstage. His pictures are the subject of a new exhibition at the Harley Gallery in Welbeck, Nottinghamshire, which is the first to document his decades-long project. It opens on 3 February and runs until 15 April

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'I became a black man when I arrived in England': Inua Ellams on his play Barber Shop Chronicles

Tue, 12 Dec 2017 12:09:02 GMT2017-12-12T12:09:02Z

Inua Ellams was recently nominated for the Writers’ Guild award for best play for Barber Shop Chronicles, which is currently on at the National Theatre. He speaks to the Guardian journalist Iman Amrani about black masculinity, his story as an immigrant and how he channels anger into his art

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The Bolshoi Ballet in London - in pictures

Thu, 21 Dec 2017 16:57:42 GMT2017-12-21T16:57:42Z

Photographer Sasha Gusov documents the Russian corp’s dancers rehearsing and performing in London between 1993 and 2016 in his book The Bolshoi

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Addiction v art: the radical theatre in the heart of Crackland

Thu, 30 Nov 2017 11:32:27 GMT2017-11-30T11:32:27Z

As police yesterday yet again applied brute force to the residents of São Paulo's 1,000-strong encampment of addicts, a group of artists is trying something wildly different

• Inside Crackland: the open-air drug market that São Paulo just can’t kick

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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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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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The problem with immersive theatre: why actors need extra protection from sexual assault

Mon, 12 Feb 2018 16:45:01 GMT2018-02-12T16:45:01Z

Performers in the experiential show Sleep No More allege that they were sexually assaulted by patrons, raising concerns about the vulnerability of actors

Last week, Buzzfeed published an article detailing multiple instances in which performers and staffers of Sleep No More, New York’s long-running immersive experience, allege that they were sexually assaulted by patrons. These claims suggest that Sleep No More lacked policies to curb and manage audience misconduct. They also suggest that a culture of demeaning and degrading actors, a millennia-old phenomenon, is still very much with us.

Related: Punchdrunk's luxury rebrand is the theatrical version of gentrification

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Chainsaw juggling, human cannonballs and Coco the Clown! The astounding 250-year story of circus

Fri, 19 Jan 2018 06:00:15 GMT2018-01-19T06:00:15Z

When was the first trapeze performance? Who launched ‘the greatest show on Earth’? And which showman was celebrated in song by the Beatles? Here’s a history of circus in 25 moments

In 1768, Philip Astley, a former cavalry officer, opens an equestrian school in London, close to the site that is now Waterloo station, giving riding lessons in the morning and performing trick riding stunts in the afternoon. Performances take place in a circular ring but it’s not called a circus. Within two years, acrobats and clowning are part of the mix.

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You want a flamingo? No problem! A rare glimpse inside the RSC's mind-boggling props HQ

Mon, 08 Jan 2018 06:00:03 GMT2018-01-08T06:00:03Z

From gleaming crowns to bubbling cauldrons, from pink flamingos to forklift trucks, the Royal Shakespeare Company’s gigantic prop store is a place of jaw-dropping theatrical alchemy. Our writer gets a tour by its miracle-workers

Looking for a crocodile? Well, what size are you after? Because the Royal Shakespeare Company has loads, in all shapes, colours and sizes, from tiny to humungous. Jaw agape, I’m wandering round its vast props department in Stratford-upon-Avon. Part Aladdin’s Cave, part Steptoe’s junkyard, the store contains shelf after shelf of exotic – and everyday – objects. Here be candlesticks, lanterns, golf clubs and cake stands, not to mention a whole rack of jangling manacles. There’s a squat scarlet TV sitting atop a pile of outmoded electrical items, while a selection of stoppered glass bottles includes one intriguingly labelled “sperm oil”. But most eye-catching are those crocs, the largest a hinge-jawed beast that hung over the stage in a production of The Alchemist. “Colin, we call him,” the RSC’s Alan Fell says fondly.

If you can wear it, it’s a costume. If you can move it, it’s a prop. If you can’t move it, it’s scenery. And, with enough props in store, you can stage anything. In 1598, Philip Henslowe, Shakespeare’s own impresario, made an inventory of his company’s props: along with numerous weapons and crowns, there was a boar’s head, a wooden leg, a golden fleece and the cauldron in which Marlowe’s Jew of Malta is boiled to death.

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Mikhail Durnenkov: the Russian writer capturing the everyday dread of modern life

Wed, 24 Jan 2018 10:30:02 GMT2018-01-24T10:30:02Z

In his dark comedy The War Has Not Yet Started, characters are bombarded by propaganda on TV and the constant threat of terror. Durnenkov speaks about the play’s universal concerns

If you want to understand modern Russia – or modern life in general – consider Mikhail Durnenkov’s The War Has Not Yet Started. Crackling with wit and anxiety, casual in how it portrays horror, the play evokes the same kind of dread I experience when I read Donald Trump’s tweets – whether they threaten war with North Korea or taunt the courts and the free press. It’s the same cold feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you ask yourself, “Who’s flying this plane?” and no obvious or comforting answer is forthcoming.

On the surface, the 12 parables that make up the play are distinctly Russian, focusing on everything from the angry debate over the value of street protests to the constant threat of terror attacks, from Russia’s undeclared war with Ukraine to the awful psychological effects of propaganda on state television. Yet Durnenkov’s characters are also universal in their shimmering frailties and their tendency to betray one another and, ultimately, themselves.

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Politics, star power and prison Shakespeare: how Josie Rourke rocked the Donmar

Thu, 11 Jan 2018 18:02:22 GMT2018-01-11T18:02:22Z

Rourke, who will leave the London theatre in 2019, staged perky experiments, rapid-fire responses and invigorating revivals. Who will take her place?

When Josie Rourke leaves London’s Donmar theatre in 2019, she will have the distinction of being one of the few artistic directors to have featured as a character in one of their productions. Michelle Terry portrayed Rourke in James Graham’s Privacy (2014), which dramatised his struggles in writing a play for the Donmar about the social impact of online technology.

Graham’s play was pioneering in its attempt to reimagine theatre for a digital culture, an area in which Rourke has been a leading thinker. In a reversal of usual protocol, audiences for Privacy were asked to leave their mobile phones on, and use them interactively during the show. Rourke and Graham were similarly innovative with The Vote, a rapid-reaction play set on the night of the 2015 general election, broadcast live on Channel 4.

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Creativity can be taught to anyone. So why are we leaving it to private schools? | Rufus Norris

Wed, 17 Jan 2018 06:00:46 GMT2018-01-17T06:00:46Z

The UK’s creative industries are world leading. Excluding state-educated people from the arts will throw that excellence away

The myth goes that the true artist is born, mysteriously fully formed in their own exceptional talent. A second myth holds that creativity thrives in adversity; a third that creative sorts are somehow morally wayward, something to be tolerated as long as the results are diverting, but not a model for citizenship. These three combine gloriously in the icon of a lascivious and poverty-stricken Mozart, writing sonatas while still in the womb.

Related: Creative industries are key to UK economy

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Patrick Stewart: my nerve-racking RSC audition with the great John Barton

Fri, 19 Jan 2018 13:11:32 GMT2018-01-19T13:11:32Z

The actor pays tribute to his mentor John Barton, the Royal Shakespeare Company co-founder who has died aged 89

On a cold, wet November evening in 1965, I plodded nervously across the Bancroft Gardens in Stratford-upon-Avon. I had at last been accepted to audition for the Royal Shakespeare Company, although a Sunday evening would not have been my occasion of choice. I was in rep at the Bristol Old Vic company and Sunday was my only day off. I would have preferred the afternoon, but what the hell – they were seeing me and I had waited four years for this day to arrive.

A puzzled stage-door man let me in and directed me to the stage, which was entirely bare, like the auditorium, except for three indistinct figures sitting halfway back in the gloomy stalls. A voice called out: “Hello, Patrick. Stay where you are – we’ll come to you.” Out of the gloom emerged the instantly recognisable artistic director of the RSC, Peter Hall, and his casting director, Maurice Daniels, who was arguably the most significant as he had arranged this audition. The third man, dark-haired, bearded and smoking, I did not recognise. Peter said: “You know Maurice, of course, but perhaps not John Barton.” True, I had only the vaguest memory of seeing his name in the reviews for The Wars of the Roses, then in the RSC repertoire.

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King Lear review – Geoffrey Rush owns role but fails to sate craving for fury

Sun, 29 Nov 2015 02:22:39 GMT2015-11-29T02:22:39Z

Roslyn Packer theatre, Sydney
Tackling a play driven by its protagonist’s unreasonable expectations, Sydney Theatre Company’s season-ending blockbuster doesn’t quite deliver on the hype

It is King Lear’s unreasonable expectations that drive Shakespeare’s plot. After abdicating in order to “unburden’d crawl toward death” Lear expects the fawning and flattery only power can procure to continue undiminished. It doesn’t, and so his suffering begins.

Related: Geoffrey Rush on playing King Lear: 'What's to like? His parenting skills are appalling!'

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Chris Rock: Tamborine review – Netflix special balances shock with introspection

Wed, 14 Feb 2018 15:38:13 GMT2018-02-14T15:38:13Z

The comic’s first recorded special in 10 years is a sharp combination of social commentary and self-analysis deftly covering race, politics and relationships

In a comedy landscape with rapidly changing standards of taste, new stand-up specials from elder statesmen of taboo-poking humor arrive with a faint sense of queasiness. Whether they’ll break with propriety to challenge the status quo or jam their foot in their mouth is anyone’s guess, and Chris Rock likes keeping his audience in suspense. During his latest special Tamborine (and that’s not a typo), he comports himself like a man who knows his audience is hanging on his every incendiary word, even going so far as to tease with a “Yeah, I said it!” on two occasions.

Related: Don’t fall for it. Chris Rock’s use of the N-word on television is not OK | Edward Adoo

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Brunel's Thames tunnel (and accidental brothel) becomes new arts space

Fri, 15 Apr 2016 10:47:50 GMT2016-04-15T10:47:50Z

The entrance hall to Brunel’s 19th-century tunnel under the Thames has been turned into a unique auditorium, complete with the rumble of Tube trains

The engineers Marc and his son Isambard Kingdom Brunel would have approved, the director of the Brunel Museum Robert Hulse reflected, as he removed the legs from a Bechstein grand piano and helped wrestle it down a twisting staircase into the massive iron shaft they sank into the banks of the Thames 190 years ago.

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Katherine Ryan, Simon Evans and John Robins dissect their comedy

Tue, 18 Feb 2014 12:10:00 GMT2014-02-18T12:10:00Z

Continuing our series on the art of standup, three comedians take apart their routines Continue reading...Simon Evans, John Robins and Katherine Ryan Photograph: Idil Sukan/Karla GowlettSimon Evans, John Robins and Katherine Ryan Photograph: Idil Sukan/Karla Gowlett


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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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‘It was unbearable’: Tim Minchin on life under Trump and the collapse of his $100m movie

Sun, 28 Jan 2018 17:00:24 GMT2018-01-28T17:00:24Z

Back on home soil, the Australian polymath discusses politics, musicals and #MeToo – and the worst year of his professional life

Tim Minchin has segued from Donald Trump to homophobia, from race relations to nationalism. In his answer to a single question, he has woven together a stream of cohesive, progressive thought – taking in the UK, Australia and the US – before interrupting himself with a comedic double-take: “Should I go into politics?”

We are there ostensibly to discuss Squinters, an upcoming ABC TV comedy about Australian commuters created by Trent O’Donnell and Adam Zwar. The six-part show stars an ensemble cast of Australian luminaries – including Jacki Weaver, Miranda Tapsell, Sam Simmons and Andrea Demetriades – who play everyday travellers on their early morning drives to work (squinting into the sun), before each episode catches up with them on the drive back.

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Hannah Gadsby review – electrifying farewell to standup

Sat, 19 Aug 2017 11:11:44 GMT2017-08-19T11:11:44Z

Assembly George Square, Edinburgh
Comedy proves inadequate consolation for battling the patriarchy in the Tasmanian standup’s uncomfortable but indelible swansong

Hannah Gadsby’s extraordinary Nanette arrives in Edinburgh trailing plaudits from its Australian run. But it is, she announces, her swansong: “I’m quitting comedy. Done. Bored.” Gadsby has lost patience with the elisions and deceptions standup entails. “I’ve made my story into a joke,” she says, in a show that’s passionately concerned with challenging the (patriarchal, heteronormative) stories our culture tells itself. There are jokes in Nanette, too: some good ones, initially. But they dry up – and something more confrontational, an angry repudiation of the consolations of comedy, takes their place.

Related: The 10 best jokes from the Edinburgh fringe

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Romeo and Juliet review – Branagh’s star-crossed lovers fail to soar

Sun, 29 May 2016 07:10:00 GMT2016-05-29T07:10:00Z

Garrick, London
Lily James and Richard Madden certainly look the part, but are doomed by their diction

It’s easy to think the famous golden lines, the swift, sad arc of Romeo and Juliet will carry a production. But it can easily go wrong. The plot is slapdash; the coincidences preposterous; the main characters not interestingly conflicted, just doomed. The play must be ardently spoken and bewitchingly choreographed. If not, it ends up looking less like a tragedy and more like an accident.

Which is what happens in Rob Ashford and Kenneth Branagh’s star-led, star-crossed staging. It has intermittent fizz but never feels urgent or perilous. Lily James and Richard Madden look unusually fresh and credible as febrile young lovers. They come with form as a couple, having been directed by Branagh in Cinderella. They were meant to hoist the production sky-high, towards Phoebus’s lodging. But their speaking is earthbound.

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Mamma Mia! review – thank Abba for the music (and leave your cynicism at home)

Fri, 16 Feb 2018 01:02:24 GMT2018-02-16T01:02:24Z

Capitol Theatre, Sydney
Mamma Mia! is not a great musical, but for an audience that still holds a candle for Abba, that’s beside the point

The jukebox musical behemoth that is Mamma Mia! opened on West End in 1999, where it’s now the eighth longest-running show in West End history. On Broadway, where it opened in 2001, it’s the ninth. Australia first got a taste of it in 2001, brought it back in 2009, and now – if you’ll forgive the reference – here we go again.

But of course here we go again: Australia has a longstanding close relationship with Abba. Fernando was number one on the national charts for 14 weeks in 1976, a record that held for a whopping 41 years until last year, when Ed Sheeran’s Shape of You took over the distant drums and sounds of bugle calls. An Abba-in-Australia TV special in 1976 got more viewers than the 1969 moon landing. Our top politicians and music executives still talk about the group’s 1977 Australia tour, which was met with Beatles- and One Direction-style hysteria.

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