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Stage | The Guardian



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



Published: Fri, 22 Sep 2017 23:00:17 GMT2017-09-22T23:00:17Z

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



Politicians v the people: what our leaders could learn from Coriolanus

Fri, 22 Sep 2017 11:30:49 GMT2017-09-22T11:30:49Z

Shakespeare plucked an obscure Roman general from Plutarch and made him a principled but uncompromising hero. As the RSC brings the play back, its brutal statement on class divide and conviction politics has never hit harder

The Romans liked to commemorate their military victories with a showy gesture. Why just win a battle if you could also perform that victory with a triumphal procession, a few days of gladiatorial games, or a brand new name? The emperor Claudius – after he added Britain to the Roman Empire – was voted an additional title by his obedient Senate. He didn’t use it, according to the historian Cassius Dio. He preferred to pass it on to his son, who was thenceforth known as Britannicus. Nominative acquisition obviously ran in the family, because Claudius’s brother had been named Germanicus, after an earlier generation of family victories.

The more obscure figure of Gaius (or Caius or Cnaeus) Marcius is usually known to us by his toponym: Coriolanus. He lived (perhaps – his life is not well-attested) at the start of the fifth century BCE and acquired his name after acts of incredible bravery in the Roman attack on the Volscian city of Corioli. His story – a man of military prowess and political principle whose refusal to compromise entails his eventual downfall – was interesting enough to capture the attention of the Roman historian Livy, the Greek historian Dionysius of Halicarnassus and the biographer Plutarch.

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Our Town review – Wilder's hymn to ordinary lives is remade for Manchester

Fri, 22 Sep 2017 11:48:43 GMT2017-09-22T11:48:43Z

Royal Exchange, Manchester
Sarah Frankcom stages Thornton Wilder’s 1938 drama with tenderness, bleak honesty and a community choir

Edward Albee loved Thornton Wilder’s 1938 paean to ordinary people, set over 12 years at the start of the 20th century in the sleepy New Hampshire town of Grover’s Corners (population 2,642). But he hated that “everyone performs it like it was a Christmas card”. He would have no such complaints about Sarah Frankcom’s austere yet tender revival, which uses the British actors’ natural accents – except for the American-inflected narrator-cum-stage manager (Youssef Kerkour) who moves the drama along and comments on the action.

Frankcom’s production keeps the lights on in the auditorium for most of the duration and dispenses with the normal demarcations of space between actors and audience. For a long time you can’t quite work out who is a performer and who isn’t.

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Katy Brand review – standup goes on an interstellar adventure

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 12:33:29 GMT2017-09-21T12:33:29Z

Soho theatre, London
I Could Have Been an Astronaut is an amusing ramble through Brand’s childhood obsessions, fate and the factors that make us who we are

Some comics have extraordinary stories to tell about their lives. Katy Brand is among them – but perhaps she used hers up on last year’s offering, I Was a Teenage Christian. So she has to work a bit harder at this second show of her reborn career, as an ex-sketch and character actor turned autobiographical storyteller. I Could’ve Been an Astronaut asks why our lives turn out as they do. Was Brand bound to become an entertainer? Or – had her childhood interest in astronomy been encouraged – could she have worked in astrophysics instead?

Related: Angels and demons: the unmissable theatre, comedy and dance of autumn 2017

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Chewing Gum's Susan Wokoma: 'The door shuts firmly on us a lot quicker'

Tue, 19 Sep 2017 16:35:33 GMT2017-09-19T16:35:33Z

She was a demon hunter, stole scenes as Michaela Coel’s sister and is in a farce about Labour’s identity crisis. But Susan Wokoma is turning to her own family to write her next roles

‘You’re quite chatty, shut up, go use your energy somewhere else.” Susan Wokoma is explaining how she ended up as an actor by imagining how her teachers saw her. “I’m from quite an opinionated bunch of Nigerians. I’m the second youngest, and to make your space in that group of people is really hard. At school I had the space to be funny.” Her school suggested she use up her excess energy by joining theatre groups. It’s easy to see why. When we first meet, she makes the story of the “ugly jumper” she’s wearing, a cross between festive knitwear and something in a Swedish crime thriller, into a highly entertaining mini-saga.

Wokoma, 29, has had an astonishingly busy few years since graduating from drama school in 2010. As well as a stage career that took her to New York with the Donmar’s all-female Julius Caesar and Henry IV, she’s appeared on TV in Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s pre-Fleabag comedy Crashing and was the lead in witty supernatural teen drama Crazyhead. She also played devout, Ludo-loving Cynthia in Michaela Coel’s Chewing Gum, which took her to some eye-opening places: meticulously planning to lose her virginity to a stranger who then robs her house, for example, or using olive oil as a lubricant while preemptively breaking her own hymen.

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Austen gets lost in Pascoe's Pride and Prejudice: is her novel unadaptable?

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 09:54:44 GMT2017-09-21T09:54:44Z

Standup Sara Pascoe’s scattershot production throws into relief how funny Elizabeth Bennet and co already were, without any need of updating

Jane Austen gazes out from the £10 notes handed over for interval ice-creams. Or is she glaring? Her inscrutable expression is now printed on the currency that Austen’s despairing female protagonists were desperate to secure through marriage. These particular notes are changing hands at the Nottingham Playhouse, where yet another adaptation of Pride and Prejudice is being staged.

Comedian Sara Pascoe is the latest to wrestle with the modern-day relevance of Austen’s marriage plotting. Out goes the Regency-era restraint, along with any shred of subtext. Using a play-within-a-play structure, this new version careers between a GCSE English cheat-sheet and an attempt at pithy contemporary critique.

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Mae Martin: ‘Waiting for Guffman is the funniest film I’ve ever seen’

Fri, 22 Sep 2017 12:00:26 GMT2017-09-22T12:00:26Z

The Canadian standup and actor on the things that make her laugh the most, from suede waistcoats to PG Wodehouse

This is so hard. I feel sick. OK, I’m going to say Tom Allen taking out a drunk heckler at the Soho theatre was probably one of my favourite live comedy experiences. Tom calmly destroyed this horrible cretin, while keeping us all on his side and even charming the heckler. He’s one of my favourite people to watch on stage.

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Child's play: Melbourne Fringe goes gaga over theatre for babies

Fri, 22 Sep 2017 01:22:44 GMT2017-09-22T01:22:44Z

The audience is invited to chew the scenery at this Fringe festival show. But attention spans might be a problem

Some theatre-goers dress to the nines; others prefer to keep it casual and comfortable. Sartorial choices in the crowd at Only a Year are no different. At the high fashion end, we have carefully coordinated outfits in trendy geometric prints; at the other, stripey onesies and swaddles.

We’re waiting for the theatre doors to open when one ticket holder spits up on his date’s leg, while her head is turned.

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Wings review – Juliet Stevenson soars in stroke recovery tale

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 10:08:40 GMT2017-09-21T10:08:40Z

Young Vic, London
Performing 360-degree loops, pummelled by voices and piecing together her shattered speech, Stevenson goes bravely to the limit in this high-concept show

Juliet Stevenson must require danger money when she works at the Young Vic. In the 2014 production of Beckett’s Happy Days, she was buried nightly under a mound of cascading shingle. Now in Arthur Kopit’s play, she is strapped in a harness and required to swoop and dive through the air like an acrobat. I admire her heroic dedication, but the production by Natalie Abrahami, who also directed the Beckett, strikes me as wildly overelaborate in its attempt to visualise the consequences of a stroke.

Kopit’s play was conceived for radio, where it worked perfectly: it gave you the uncanny sensation of being inside its protagonist’s head. John Madden’s 1979 stage version, seen in New York and at the National with Constance Cummings, was less effective in spite of its ingenious use of revolving black screens. Abrahami and her designer, Michael Levine, go much further. Seizing on the fact that Kopit’s heroine, Emily Stilson, is an aviator, they show her in constant flight as she seeks to recover her fragmented sense of self. They also give us a perpetually mobile platform, projections and aural bombardment, but what you lose in all this busyness is Kopit’s lightning shifts from Emily’s inner consciousness to the external world.

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Black Rider review – Tom Waits, William S Burroughs musical is beautiful but cold

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 07:07:05 GMT2017-09-21T07:07:05Z

Malthouse theatre, Melbourne
Meow Meow steals the show from a diverse – or disparate – cast, but the cult fable resonates regardless

It’s a helluva thing to be born to play the devil … but there’s the cabaret star Meow Meow, all fingers, black and spindly limbs and hair, owning her every evil second she’s on stage in The Black Rider – the moral little opera created by William S Burroughs and Tom Waits.

Satan purrs as she sings; known as “Pegleg” in the text, she still manages to creep as she limps in thick black heels. She feeds silver bullets to the hapless hero even as she nibbles at his soul.

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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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We're Still Here review – a blast of anger, love and grief in Port Talbot

Wed, 20 Sep 2017 12:54:36 GMT2017-09-20T12:54:36Z

Byass Works, Port Talbot
The community speaks out about the fight to save its steelworks in a kaleidoscopic promenade-style production that is laced with earthy humour

‘This town is ours. They don’t get to speak for us, only we speak for us.” So says a steelworker as fury rises at a meeting with the union about a possible deal to keep the Tata steelworks at Port Talbot open, albeit with cuts to pension benefits.

Related: From Tata to the NHS: how Kully Thiarai is making theatre for Wales

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For Love or Money review – Northern Broadsides strike comedy gold

Wed, 20 Sep 2017 11:46:03 GMT2017-09-20T11:46:03Z

Viaduct, Halifax
Blake Morrison transposes a corrupt, covetous 18th-century Paris to 1920s Yorkshire in a lively satire directed by and starring Barrie Rutter

Northern Broadsides have made a habit of giving European classics a Yorkshire setting. So it seems fitting that Barrie Rutter’s farewell, at least on home soil, to the company he founded should be a version by Blake Morrison of Alain-René Lesage’s Turcaret.

Related: Angels and demons: the unmissable theatre, comedy and dance of autumn 2017

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The Unknown Island review – Saramago odyssey asks the audience to dream

Tue, 19 Sep 2017 14:41:55 GMT2017-09-19T14:41:55Z

Gate, London
Adapted from José Saramago’s short story, Ellen McDougall’s grownup fairytale draws spectators into a circle of bread, wine and storytelling

The Gate’s new artistic director, Ellen McDougall, begins her tenure by offering us the essentials of life, sharing bread, wine and storytelling with her audience in this version of Nobel prize-winning writer José Saramago’s short story.

Adapted by McDougall and Clare Slater, it becomes something like a grownup version of Jackanory as we are told of a man who asks the king for a boat so he can find an unknown island. Rosie Elnile’s design wraps the entire Gate space in blue fabric, suggesting both the sea and a dreamworld. As we enter, the only other flash of colour is from a red sailing boat.

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Bullish review – gold horns and glitter beards in minotaur cabaret

Tue, 19 Sep 2017 13:41:37 GMT2017-09-19T13:41:37Z

Camden People’s theatre, London
A crack cast of trans and gender-fluid actors deliver a playful and often moving version of the Greek myth

Gender fluidity and the trans experience were highly visible themes at this year’s Edinburgh fringe. Now, the Come As You Are festival at Camden People’s theatre presents a smart lineup of shows that suggests the stage will continue to be a fruitful space for exploring the possibilities and complexities of a gender-free world.

The theatre company Milk Presents previously had a hit with Joan, which offered a different take on the Joan of Arc story, performed by drag king champion Lucy Jane Parkinson. Now they turn their attention to the Greeks and the tale of the minotaur confined in the maze and stalked by Theseus. They season it with a dash of Icarus myth.

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Rules for Living review – ingenious take on a family's Christmas crisis

Tue, 19 Sep 2017 08:29:27 GMT2017-09-19T08:29:27Z

Royal & Derngate, Northampton
Sam Holcroft’s comedy, which debuted at the National and is now directed by Simon Godwin on a UK tour, begins in Ayckbourn mode then turns vicious

‘Too much, this is too much,” declares Edith, the mother of grownup sons, Matthew and Adam, who have gathered with their partners for Christmas to welcome home the family patriarch, Francis, who has been in hospital. The audience may think the same of Sam Holcroft’s knowing comedy as it layers on family dysfunction like icing on a Christmas cake. The evening begins in Ayckbourn mode, turns into something more vicious and becomes an all-out farce where the food flies and it is not only the turkey that gets stuffed.

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Henry Arthur Jones' new play – archive, 19 September 1913

Tue, 19 Sep 2017 04:30:08 GMT2017-09-19T04:30:08Z

19 September 1913 The subject of the play is the battle of social advancement, the atmosphere is “provincial” and the ambitions are petty

LONDON, THURSDAY NIGHT
Mr. Henry Arthur Jones’s ingenuity in beating out a comedy subject very thin is, when he is at his best, as artistically attractive as his studious avoidance of everything except the banal and the ordinary in character and conversation in illustrating his theme – and, indeed, in the choice of it. In both of these qualities he was at his most typical in the play produced at the Playhouse to-night. His theme and his characters and his conversation were even something lower than the banal and the ordinary. They were downright mean. But his restraint in keeping the play in the key in which he had conceived it and his skill in elaborating the variations on his slender material made the whole thing a high technical accomplishment.

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Oslo review – the political gets personal as tense peace talks are given epic sweep

Mon, 18 Sep 2017 22:59:01 GMT2017-09-18T22:59:01Z

Lyttelton, London
In JT Rogers’ engrossing play on a historic moment in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in 1993, we are reminded that diplomacy requires duplicity

JT Rogers is an American dramatist fascinated by global issues. In The Overwhelming (2006), he dealt with the Rwandan genocide and in Blood and Gifts (2010) with western attitudes to Afghanistan. Now in this new Tony award-winning play, which shortly moves into the West End, he tackles a historic moment in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Related: Oslo: the smash hit about the peace accords that's been scrutinised by 1,000 UN delegates

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Dead Club – Poe meets Lynch in a wickedly deviant disco riot

Mon, 18 Sep 2017 10:53:15 GMT2017-09-18T10:53:15Z

The Place, London
The performers morph from party kids to Victorians to hipsters in Requardt & Rosenberg’s subversive, surreal spectacle of death and the afterlife

Choreographer Frauke Requardt and director David Rosenberg have previously collaborated on works for outdoor spaces, but in Dead Club they move inside, to mastermind one of the most enjoyably baffling productions I’ve seen in ages.

A disorienting tangle of riddles around notions of death, memory and perception, the work messes with us from the moment we enter The Place, whose auditorium has been so radically reconfigured as to be almost unrecognisable. The area is dominated by a large raised stage, decorated with a riotous gestalt of patterns, and the audience are left to squeeze around the edges, squinting up at the performers who loom over us, like grotesques from a dream.

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Faithful Ruslan: The Story of a Guard Dog review – a haunting experience

Sun, 17 Sep 2017 07:00:35 GMT2017-09-17T07:00:35Z

Belgrade theatre, Coventry
This tale of a guard dog in Stalin’s Russia captures the essence of the gulags only too well

All is grey, wind howls, light is dim: design, sound and music suggest boundless, cruel space. The setting is a labour camp in Stalin’s Soviet Union, where Ruslan is a guard dog, faithful to his guard Master and to the service (a term that refers to the staff who run the gulag and to the strict codes by which they operate). The action of Helena Kaut-Howson’s episodically structured play, adapted from an allegorical novel by Georgi Vladimov, switches between Ruslan’s rigidly structured past (the time of training) and his confusing present (the time of learning). The performance opens on the transition between the two.

Orders issue from an unseen loudspeaker. From the back of the stage, a line of armed guards march forwards, morph into dog handlers, who morph into guard dogs, who morph into cowering prisoners (shape-shifting actors are movement-directed by Marcello Magni). Sirens blare. Stalin is dead. The gulag is closed. All are “free”. Two main questions emerge: can repression destroy the spirit; can love and hope revive it?

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Hofesh Shechter Company: Grand Finale review – the ultimate danse macabre

Sun, 17 Sep 2017 07:00:35 GMT2017-09-17T07:00:35Z

Sadler’s Wells, London
In a bracing return to form, Hofesh Shechter’s existential anguish and his often beautiful choreography fight to the death

Ten years ago, during a question and answer session following a performance at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, Hofesh Shechter told the audience that, in his opinion, most contemporary dance was boring. It was a combative statement that did little endear him to his fellow choreographers, but since then he has created a body of work which, while veering wildly between the thrilling and the baffling, has never been remotely boring.

His big productions, works such as In Your Rooms (2007) and Political Mother (2010), set to thundering percussive scores composed by Shechter himself, were as much rock concerts as dance pieces. They raged against demagoguery, totalitarianism and the death of truth. Specific targets for Shechter’s fury included the state of Israel, in which he grew up, and his mother, who, he announced on the soundtrack of The Art of Not Looking Back (2009) “left me when I was two years old”. These vengeful, noirish works were as compelling as they were physically deafening, but in pieces such as Survivor (2012), a misfiring collaboration with the sculptor Antony Gormley, and tHE bAD (2016), a formless “attempt to make a piece without thinking”, featuring dancers in gold unitards shouting “Motherfucker!” at the audience, Shechter seemed to have lost his way.

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The March on Russia review – subtle drama of hope and regret

Sun, 17 Sep 2017 07:00:35 GMT2017-09-17T07:00:35Z

Orange Tree, Richmond
Sue Wallace and Ian Gelder are outstanding as a bickering elderly couple in David Storey’s play about a family reunion

It is a long time since I have seen a tasselled lampshade on stage. Or an antimacassar. But then it is a long time since I have heard such gradually uncoiling, slowly deepening dialogue as that in David Storey’s The March on Russia.

When Storey died in March, he was celebrated for work based on his own early days: fictional and theatrical evocations of northern working-class life. His novel This Sporting Life (1960), filmed by Lindsay Anderson, drew on his career as a professional rugby league player: he was as much athlete as aesthete, and once hit the Guardian’s Michael Billington after an adverse review. The March on Russia, set in a retirement bungalow near the Yorkshire coast in 1989, has an intense naturalism that suggests personal experience: Storey bought his own parents such a bungalow. It might have been written to prove that lack of dramatic action does not mean dramatic inertia. This is an evening when a tiny movement, such as a light and unexpected kiss, can send a gasp and a sigh through the audience.

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Boudica review – action spurs debate

Sun, 17 Sep 2017 07:00:34 GMT2017-09-17T07:00:34Z

Globe, London
Gina McKee is a brave, bloody-minded queen of the Iceni in Tristan Bernays’s vigorous and earthy play

Outside the House of Commons stands one of the few London statues of a woman. Thomas Thornycroft’s 1902 bronze shows Boudica (always Boadicea to me), rampaging in her chariot with her two daughters. It’s one of many versions of the queen of the Iceni. She has been embraced as an imperial heroine and a fighter against male tyranny. “Mad and maddening all that heard her,” wrote Tennyson.

Tristan Bernays’s vigorous new play sees her as bloody, brave and fiercely maternal. Strongly plotted and directed with exceptional clarity by Eleanor Rhode, Boudica is an occasion for debate and action, not for nuance. After an overlong prologue (finely spoken by Anna-Maria Nabirye), Bernays’s dialogue is sturdy. There is some iambic pentameter, and some quasi-archaic inversions – “Then let us haste to this our hall” – but the sense is never strangled. And occasionally speech flashes into something really striking. “Flex your tongues like bows,” Boudica commands. Not long afterwards, she is tearing out an enemy’s tongue. The Globe suggests that this is not a drama for infant audiences. There is flogging and rape. There is also robust demotic from the Roman squaddies, who like to josh about icicles on their cocks. The pure of ear might need to know about the swearing: “You have news?” “Of course he has news. He’s a fucking messenger.”

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The Caretaker review – vintage Pinter becomes an electric parable for our times

Fri, 15 Sep 2017 15:49:11 GMT2017-09-15T15:49:11Z

Bristol Old Vic
Christopher Haydon updates the 1960 play about the machinations of a homeless houseguest into a piece about paranoia and the migrant experience

Entering the theatre, it looks as if there has been an explosion: chairs hang in mid-air, a wardrobe tilts in empty space and a ladder to nowhere is suspended above the stage. Designer Oliver Townsend has borrowed to clever effect from Cornelia Parker’s 1991 installation Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View to create the setting for Harold Pinter’s Godot-influenced 1960 play about what happens when damaged Aston invites a homeless man, Davies, back to his room in a house owned by his bully boy brother, Mick.

It might be read as a play about how a good deed does not go unpunished; it could be seen as a warning that blood will always be thicker than water; and it is often like watching a chess game in which one player thinks he has a winning move only to discover that he has been tactically outplayed.

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Prism review – Robert Lindsay brings Jack Cardiff's movie memories into focus

Fri, 15 Sep 2017 11:47:31 GMT2017-09-15T11:47:31Z

Hampstead theatre, London
Lindsay is magnetic as the celebrated cinematographer, who looks back over his life from Alzheimer’s-affected old age in Terry Johnson’s moving play

Jack Cardiff, the celebrated cinematographer who is the subject of Terry Johnson’s new play, once wrote that if you submitted your life to a decent script editor, it would be rejected on structure alone. While Johnson’s play is a bit bumpy, it movingly records the fragmentation of Cardiff’s Alzheimer’s-affected memory and yields a riveting performance from Robert Lindsay.

We see Cardiff in his declining years when his son, Mason, has set up the garage of his dad’s Buckinghamshire home as a sanctum where he can finally write his memoirs. Copies of Cardiff’s favourite paintings and lustrous images of the female stars with whom he worked adorn the walls. But although Mason engages a young woman, Lucy, to act as both carer and typist, Cardiff prefers to re-enact the past rather than record it. Not only Lucy and Mason but also Cardiff’s wife, Nicola, increasingly become figures from his crowded cinematic memory leading at one stage to a re-creation of the hazards of location shooting for The African Queen.

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Kingdom Come review – RSC's playful glimpse at England's theatre of power

Thu, 14 Sep 2017 14:09:33 GMT2017-09-14T14:09:33Z

The Other Place, Stratford-upon-Avon
Walking the audience through the struggle between the monarchy and the people during the English civil war, this show chimes with our own times

Gemma Brockis and Wendy Hubbard’s ambitious production is set during the English civil war and the interregnum that followed. It’s told by a troupe of the king’s actors who are blown hither and thither by changing times. This is a show about show: what is monarchy but a form of theatre with its protagonists lavishly costumed up?

Initially we find ourselves in a chocolate-box theatre with the king as a gold-masked god at the centre of an Inigo Jones-style court masque. We watch like respectful courtiers from afar. But then it’s out of our seats and we are ushered backstage, where Charles I is meeting his end. As the trappings of kingship are removed in preparation for his execution, he becomes a vulnerable man, like any other. We stand, a silent mob. He may be the focus, but we hold the power. At least for now.

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Boudica review – Gina McKee reigns supreme in Brexit-baiting epic

Thu, 14 Sep 2017 11:10:04 GMT2017-09-14T11:10:04Z

Shakespeare’s Globe, London
McKee brings an imposing stillness to Tristan Bernays’s play about the ancient British queen whose uprising is crushed by the Romans

Gina McKee plays Boudica, the rebellious queen of the Iceni, in Tristan Bernays’s new play about Roman subjugation and she is predictably good. The real surprise is finding a play that, for all its mixed messages for the Brexit age and odd blend of pastiche Shakespeare and four-letter excess, holds the stage with confidence. I enjoyed it infinitely more than all the rough Shakespeares seen at the Globe this summer.

The setting is AD61 and Bernays expands on the few facts about Boudica – or Boadicea, as she is still known on a triumphalist statue on Westminster Bridge. We see her being deprived of her rightful kingdom, in modern East Anglia, after the death of her husband, whose wealth the Romans appropriate. Boudica is publicly flogged and her two daughters are raped. In alliance with other local kings – including Cunobeline, who actually died 20 years before the play starts – Boudica leads an uprising against the Romans and, after early military triumphs, is crushingly defeated.

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Ghosts of partition: a musical odyssey about the desperate train journeys that divided India

Wed, 20 Sep 2017 06:00:39 GMT2017-09-20T06:00:39Z

Railways played a crucial role in partition, as Hindus and Muslims took crammed, dangerous and often deadly journeys to their new homes. Those momentous days have now been turned into a devastating show by experimental musicians

In 1988, having turned classical music on its head with his radical minimalism, Steve Reich unveiled what remains one of his most recognisable and admired works. With its three movements of chopping strings, air raid-like drones and repeated snatches of speech, Different Trains was Reich’s meditation on rail travel, the American composer contrasting the easy cross-country journeys he made during the second world war with the enforced transportation of his Jewish kin in Europe.

In that same grim period, just a few years after the liberation of the concentration camps, train travel again became a symbol of human tragedy. An exhausted postwar Britain carelessly scored a line through India, creating Pakistan, and sowed the seeds for decades of bitter conflict. In the chaos, Muslim families crammed themselves into carriages bound for Pakistan, while Hindus travelled in the opposite direction, both fearing for their lives. It wasn’t unknown for “ghost trains” to arrive at their destination ablaze, their passengers burned to death.

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Peter Hall: a titan of the theatre and a vulnerable, sensitive man

Wed, 13 Sep 2017 08:36:48 GMT2017-09-13T08:36:48Z

In conversations with Hall over 40 years, I encountered a creative powerhouse who exuded confidence yet could be a strangely solitary figure

Peter Hall was a man of infinite contradictions. In public, he exuded confidence, authority and the gift for leadership that enabled him to both found the Royal Shakespeare Company and overcome the manifold crises surrounding the early days of the National Theatre. Yet, having interviewed Hall countless times over the past 40 years, I also saw that he was vulnerable, sensitive and even sometimes strangely solitary. I have a vivid memory of travelling to Athens in the mid-1980s with a party of critics to see Hall’s production of Coriolanus, with Ian McKellen, staged in the Herod Atticus theatre. One morning we announced we were going to Athens’ National Archaeological Museum. “Do you mind if I come with you?” Hall asked, almost apologetically. It was a sudden glimpse into the loneliness of a director once the task of getting the show up and running has been achieved.

Related: Peter Hall: a life in pictures

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Royal Ballet performance reopens Hull's New Theatre

Sun, 17 Sep 2017 16:11:09 GMT2017-09-17T16:11:09Z

Thousands watch national and international ballet stars at Opening the New

Dance teacher Vanessa Hooper puts it down to the city’s history and geography while Royal Ballet boss Kevin O’Hare talks of a “can do, work hard” determined spirit. Whatever the reason, Hull has produced more than its share of world-class ballet dancers.

On Saturday they were part of an emotional Royal Ballet performance in Hull as part of the 2017 city of culture programme, reopening the city’s New Theatre after its £16m refurbishment.

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RSC chooses female directors for all plays in summer 2018 season

Tue, 12 Sep 2017 14:01:49 GMT2017-09-12T14:01:49Z

Royal Shakespeare Company’s artistic director says decision to name first ever all-woman lineup was not a deliberate act

For the first time in its history, all plays in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s new season at its two main theatres will be directed by women.

On Tuesday the company announced its summer 2018 season, with a directorial lineup of Polly Findlay, Erica Whyman, Fiona Laird, Maria Aberg and Jo Davies.

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Toby Jones, Stephen Mangan and Zoë Wanamaker to star in The Birthday Party

Tue, 12 Sep 2017 10:34:11 GMT2017-09-12T10:34:11Z

A star-studded new West End production of Harold Pinter’s classic play, directed by Ian Rickson, is scheduled for 2018

It was famously savaged by theatre critics who dismissed it as “puzzling” and “half-gibberish”, and pitied a cast forced to “struggle valiantly” to give it life. By the time the only rave review came out, the production had already been shut down. Sixty years after that disastrous London premiere, The Birthday Party by Harold Pinter, now recognised as a classic, is receiving a starry revival.

Toby Jones, Zoë Wanamaker and Stephen Mangan will appear in a 2018 West End production at, appropriately enough, the Harold Pinter theatre (renamed for the Nobel prize-winning playwright after his death in 2008).

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The second coming of Kanye: rapper is reborn as a woman in new play

Mon, 11 Sep 2017 15:42:08 GMT2017-09-11T15:42:08Z

Sam Steiner’s Kanye the First, which opens at the HighTide festival, imagines West’s reincarnation as a middle-class Brit

What would you do if one day you woke up and you were Kanye West? To most people it’s a ludicrous question, others may have given it more thought, but it sits at the heart of a new play written by rising playwright Sam Steiner.

Kanye the First imagines a scenario where the superstar rapper dies and returns to the world in the body of a 27-year-old, middle-class British woman called Annie. Confusion reigns for Annie, her family and the world at large, but she eventually comes to take advantage of the persona thrust upon her.

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Hamilton's London premiere delayed – leaving ticket holders in limbo

Fri, 08 Sep 2017 16:50:24 GMT2017-09-08T16:50:24Z

Overrunning building work means 16,000 people who had booked to see musical in first two weeks face wait for new dates

The London opening of smash US stage musical Hamilton has been delayed by a fortnight, leaving thousands of ticket holders unsure when they will see the record-breaking show.

Impresario Cameron Mackintosh blamed the delay on problems with building works at the Victoria Palace theatre as he announced that previews will begin on 6 December rather than 21 November.

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Pinter's The Caretaker: an outsider's tale for xenophobic times

Wed, 06 Sep 2017 10:43:15 GMT2017-09-06T10:43:15Z

Director Christopher Haydon on his new staging, which casts Sierra Leonean actor Patrice Naiambana in the role of Davies, a tramp whose predicament mirrors the immigrant experience

During rehearsals for The Caretaker, I’ve sometimes felt that Harold Pinter was trying his hardest to disprove John Donne’s line that “no man is an island”. The play depicts three men – a tramp named Davies and two brothers, Mick and Aston – who each in their own way seem trapped entirely in their own individual worlds. The plot is minimal: Aston brings Davies back to his junk-filled flat after the latter has been involved in a fight. They proceed to try and work out a way of living together, but any chance of connection is persistently disrupted by Aston’s protean and unpredictable brother, Mick, who torments, deceives and bullies Davies at every opportunity.

The story is absurdist, but despite having been written in the late 1950s it also feels tragically relevant for today’s world. Davies’s homelessness is acutely poignant in the context of the steady rise of rough sleeping that the UK has seen in recent years. And it is impossible, in the current climate, to tell any story about the search for a home without feeling aware of the shadow cast by the burnt husk of Grenfell Tower.

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The food Network: play starring Bryan Cranston becomes immersive dining experience

Fri, 08 Sep 2017 15:37:45 GMT2017-09-08T15:37:45Z

A limited number of tickets at the National Theatre’s production will allow audiences to watch the play from onstage restaurant

Its intense plot may be enough to give anyone indigestion, but a new production of Network at the National Theatre is inviting audiences to watch the ferocious media satire while having a three-course meal on its vast Lyttelton stage.

A limited number of tickets will be available through a ballot system for theatregoers to have an “immersive dining experience” as they watch the play, which will star Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston as the desperate TV news anchor Howard Beale. The show will have its own onstage restaurant, entitled Foodwork, where theatregoers will be seated by a maitre d’ after arriving through a secret entrance.

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Oslo: the smash hit about the peace accords that's been scrutinised by 1,000 UN delegates

Thu, 08 Jun 2017 12:36:18 GMT2017-06-08T12:36:18Z

How do you turn a grinding peace deal into a sellout show that’s up for seven Tony awards? Easy, says JT Rogers. Just violate your heroes – and stir in some Noël Coward

“If you had told me that three hours of Norwegian peace negotiations, with the Palestine Liberation Organisation thrown in, would be a Broadway hit and go to the National and the West End, I wouldn’t have put money on that,” laughs JT Rogers.

But this unpromising scenario has brought the American playwright to the National Theatre in London to attend auditions for its staging of Oslo, with a London commercial transfer already booked, before he flies back to New York for the Tony awards, where his play has seven nominations.

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Shock jocks and moron presidents: Eric Bogosian on how his Talk Radio nightmare came true

Wed, 30 Aug 2017 09:52:21 GMT2017-08-30T09:52:21Z

When Bogosian’s king of the trolls took to stage and screen in the 80s, subversive radio hosts were fun – then they led to Trump. The actor and playwright talks about punk pranks, harassing audiences and naked hecklers on lawnmowers

It’s been 30 years since Eric Bogosian’s acerbic play Talk Radio premiered in New York. Stewart Lee directed it at the Edinburgh festival in 2006 and Liev Schreiber starred in an acclaimed Broadway production the following year but, returning this month, it seems more pertinent than ever.

When Bogosian wrote Talk Radio, the media landscape was strikingly different. With the world not yet online, public opinion in America could be shaped and inflamed over the airwaves by figures similar to the show’s brilliant and monstrous anti-hero, the hell-for-leather shock jock Barry Champlain. Over the course of the play, which unfolds in real time during one edition of Barry’s call-in programme, he taunts, provokes and antagonises callers of every political persuasion. A woman pontificating about the dangers of drugs is lectured by him on the CIA’s role in the narcotics trade, a 16-year-old is berated for falling pregnant and an African-American man who praises the show is accused of being an Uncle Tom. What’s dangerous about Barry is not his beliefs but his lack of them; he’s the king of the trolls.

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Javaad Alipoor: 'The response to radicalism is to shut down debate for young people'

Tue, 15 Aug 2017 06:00:06 GMT2017-08-15T06:00:06Z

In his ambitious Edinburgh show The Believers Are But Brothers, Alipoor invites audiences to experience the world of young disaffected men online

Javaad Alipoor is interweaving a series of stories that take us from a prison cell in Egypt in 1957 to George Bush’s post 9/11 declaration that, “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists” and beyond to the war in Syria. Alongside Alipoor on stage, a young man sits hunched behind a screen, typing feverishly on his laptop. Images pop up, taken from Islamic State propaganda sites and 4Chan – one of the haunts of the alt-right and a place where young, disaffected men post pornographic, racist and misogynist material.

Related: Edinburgh festival 2017: the shows we recommend

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Musicals back in vogue, and business, as genre lights up Broadway and TV

Thu, 14 Sep 2017 18:22:17 GMT2017-09-14T18:22:17Z

From Spongebob SquarePants to Mean Girls, Broadway is gearing up for a wave of new musicals and with TV and film projects too, the genre is back on top

On the heels of its most lucrative season yet, with a record-setting $1.37bn in ticket sales, Broadway has experienced something of a rebirth. From the success of La La Land on the big screen to Hamilton on stage, there’s a renewed interest in theater that’s been reflected in a wave of movie-musicals and televised live-concert experiences.

Related: Broadway blockbusters: why theater attendance is at an all-time high

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Edinburgh festival 2017: standup shows going on tour

Mon, 28 Aug 2017 16:58:08 GMT2017-08-28T16:58:08Z

Now the fringe is over, comics from Desiree Burch to John Bishop are hitting the road with jokes about fertility anxiety, political correctness and life as a ‘virgin dominatrix’

Maybe you’re frustrated – or delighted – that the Edinburgh festival is over and you didn’t see a thing. Either way, fringe comedy can’t be so easily avoided. Not so long ago, only a handful of festival acts went on to tour or perform substantial runs elsewhere. Now, several dozen take to the touring circuit, and many more tip up at London’s Soho theatre – a perpetual Edinburgh fringe-on-Thames.

In the former category, John Bishop was one among several high-end standups (Jason Manford, Tim Key and Mark Watson also among them) using Edinburgh to road-test material in advance of a future life elsewhere. Some complain that these works-in-progress divert custom from emerging acts who work year-round to prep their Edinburgh shows. Others would rather have under-rehearsed big hitters than no big hitters at all. Bishop brings a notebook on stage and tells us he’ll be ticking and crossing off the try-out jokes that do and don’t work. But that’s just patter: his set doesn’t feel raw, the gags go unticked and uncrossed.

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From Fleabag to Flying Lovers: 15 surefire Edinburgh festival shows

Tue, 18 Jul 2017 05:00:11 GMT2017-07-18T05:00:11Z

Maddie Rice performs Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s filthy smash, Stacey Gregg delivers a scorching study of gender fraud and there are life lessons at a wake

Pauline Goldsmith resurrects her alternative wake, a show I remember with huge affection from its first fringe outing in 2002. She invites us into her living room where the coffin stands, then she hands around the tea and proceeds to offer a lesson about living, as seen through the prism of death. Funny and moving.
Assembly Rooms, 3-26 August (not 14). Box office: 0131-226 0000.

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Can Daphne and The Pin save Radio 4 comedy?

Fri, 14 Jul 2017 14:06:13 GMT2017-07-14T14:06:13Z

One act offers Badults-style sketches, the other does mindbending meta-gags. Both bring new shows to a station that specialises in self-satisfied comedy

The Pin and Daphne were part of a wave of creative, self-reflexive new sketch comedy that peaked at the Edinburgh festival two or three years ago. Now, both acts have shows on BBC Radio 4. I was interested to hear how their respective shticks transferred to the airwaves, and whether they could resist the tone of self-satisfaction that often afflicts comedy on the nation’s most urbane station.

The Pin’s show is entering its third series, and claims fans ranging from Ben Stiller to David Walliams. Daphne Sounds Expensive – starring the trio George Fouracres, Phil Wang and Jason Forbes – is returning for its second run. I hadn’t listened to either outfit on the radio before, although I know both from the Edinburgh fringe. In neither case can Radio 4 be said to be striking out into bold new territory – both companies are graduates of UK comedy’s most privileged finishing school, the Cambridge Footlights.

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World Fringe Day: 70 years of risky, revolutionary theatre

Tue, 11 Jul 2017 05:00:01 GMT2017-07-11T05:00:01Z

Edinburgh fringe was born in 1947 and its spirit is felt at festivals across the world, where talent is spotted and careers are forged

If you’ve been lamenting that you somehow overlooked International Yoga Day and Take Your Dog to Work Day then it’s time to perk up, particularly if you love theatre. Today marks a new event on the international calendar: World Fringe Day.

It marks the birth, 70 years ago, of the world’s first fringe festival after eight companies who asked to be part of the programme of the inaugural Edinburgh international festival (EIF) were refused entry. They decided to perform in Edinburgh during August anyway, resulting in the idea of an open-access, satellite event that is not curated in any way and where all-comers are welcome. Those eight companies have now risen to 3,398 companies on the Edinburgh fringe this summer, dwarfing the EIF and arguably doing more for internationalism.

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David Mamet's move to punish theatres for debating his work is absurd

Mon, 10 Jul 2017 12:43:47 GMT2017-07-10T12:43:47Z

It’s true that plays often defy instant analysis but Mamet’s attempt to prevent post-show discussions perpetuates the notion of theatre as a sanctified temple

It would be easy to mock David Mamet for his decision to slap a $25,000 fine on theatres that stage post-play discussions of his work. It sounds arrogant, high-handed, even undemocratic. It also seems especially tough on America’s non-profit theatres which depend heavily on interaction with their local community. Yet it’s worth speculating on Mamet’s motives and asking ourselves whether he has a point.

Related: David Mamet’s $25,000 threat to theatres over post-show talks

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Leap over Beethoven: how his fiendish fugue inspired three dances

Tue, 05 Sep 2017 08:26:05 GMT2017-09-05T08:26:05Z

Dancers are cast as string instruments in a show set to the composer’s ‘frighteningly powerful’ late work. Lucinda Childs, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and Maguy Marin discuss turning his music into movement

A piece of music deemed unplayable by a composer often thought undanceable doesn’t sound like the most promising start for a show, but Lyon Opera Ballet thought it was worth a shot.

When the company comes to London this autumn, as part of the Dance Umbrella festival, audiences will not only get to hear Beethoven’s challenging late work Grosse Fuge interpreted in dance, they’ll get to hear it three times in a row, visualised by three different choreographers: the American Lucinda Childs, Belgian Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and France’s Maguy Marin.

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Nederlands Dans Theater review – reach for the moon

Tue, 22 Aug 2017 12:53:29 GMT2017-08-22T12:53:29Z

Edinburgh Playhouse
Pairs of dancers push together and pull apart in this thrilling triple bill from choreographers Sol León, Paul Lightfoot and Gabriela Carrizo

With a near 60-year history and a world-class reputation, Nederlands Dans Theater are no strangers to Edinburgh’s 70-year-old festival. In this week of the eclipse, the moon scans across their triple bill of dance. Shoot the Moon (2006), with its black-and-white silent-movie savvy, uses the angular, arcing, ballet-based choreography of Sol León and Paul Lightfoot (together now leading the company) to best advantage. The moon catches couples in intimate expressions of their relationships – the push and pull of staying and leaving – and a revolving set of empty rooms allows us to enter these moments.

The beauty of this piece lies in the precision that draws the multi-layered elements together. The dancers’ performances are filmed and streamed live on screens above them, mirroring their movements, to the accompaniment of Philip Glass’s Tirol Concerto for piano and orchestra. Only the intrusion of an angry shout of “I am”, by a partner lost in his thoughts, seems misplaced.

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Skin review – brave attempt to dance gender transition

Sun, 13 Aug 2017 10:15:57 GMT2017-08-13T10:15:57Z

Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh
Despite past form in translating complex emotion into dance, 201 Dance Company’s attempt to navigate gender-reassignment intricacies feels too tidy

There was a thrill and a buzz around 201 Dance Company when they brought their last production, Smother, to Edinburgh. In telling the stories of two gay men and their community of friends, 201 were staking out significant new ground for hip-hop, proving that the language of street dance was supple and expressive enough to deal with complex character and emotion.

With Skin, choreographer Andrea Walker tackles even more demanding material, charting the story of one child’s journey towards gender transition. This is a theme that’s currently blowing through the theatrical zeitgeist, but the challenge of navigating its psychological and political intricacies is a particularly tricky one for pure dance.

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+/- Human review – Is this the future of artificial intelligence? Bring it on

Wed, 09 Aug 2017 19:00:18 GMT2017-08-09T19:00:18Z

Roundhouse, London
Random International’s installation, Zoological, features a flock of airborne spheres that glide and swoop and dance and swarm above and among us. What a mind-boggling show

In René Magritte’s surrealist painting La Voix des Airs (1931), three inscrutable spheres hover in an empty blue sky above green fields. I’ve always wondered what these enigmatic objects really are. Do they come from outer space? Are they about to open and unleash a robot army? What strange message do they bring from their impersonal dimension?

At last I know, because I have met them. I have even danced with them. In the darkened heights of the Roundhouse in north London, a flying flock of white spheres that uncannily resemble Magritte’s dream objects float intelligently and curiously, checking out the humans below, hovering downward to see us better. They are the most convincing embodiment of artificial intelligence I have ever seen. For these responsive, even sensitive machines truly create a sense of encounter with a digital life form that mirrors, or mocks, human free will.

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Bop till you drop: the staggering true stories behind America's dance marathons

Fri, 04 Aug 2017 10:00:40 GMT2017-08-04T10:00:40Z

No Miracles Here, a new show at the Edinburgh festival, revisits the Depression-era craze that had couples dancing for weeks in pursuit of big prize money. Today, that spirit lives on in reality TV

In 1933, 14-year-old Anita O’Day went home to her Chicago apartment and told her mother that she was dropping out of school to go dancing. For 24 hours a day, seven days a week. She was to be part of an endurance spectacle that had taken a feverish grip on the nation, the dance marathon, where couples would dance non-stop for days, weeks, even months, to try to win a huge cash prize. “They feed you seven times a day and see that you get free medical care,” she told her mother, which proved good selling points in a time of severe financial crisis.

Related: Edinburgh festival 2017: 10 shows to see

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From rural Taiwan to the frozen north via a great white whale: dance at the fringe spreads its wings

Fri, 11 Aug 2017 16:44:22 GMT2017-08-11T16:44:22Z

The most exciting dance is on the fringe this year, dealing with epic themes and a common inspiration of being lost or set adrift in strange places

Dance has had an uneven history at the Edinburgh fringe. For decades it seemed to be marooned within the official festival – considered either too posh or too delicate to survive elsewhere. But this year the situation has been entirely reversed, and while the official programme looks predictable and lacklustre, the fringe is presenting one of its boldest, sparkiest seasons yet. At Dance Base, the modest but excellent complex of studios on Grassmarket, I saw three seriously interesting works in one afternoon.

038, Kuo-Shin Chuang’s minimalist but intensely felt work for Pangcah Dance theatre is rooted in the folk culture of rural Taiwan. Its concerns, however, are those of the restless, rootless 21st century as it addresses the core of yearning that’s carried within those who’ve migrated far from home.

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Trajal Harrell – the dirty dancer voguing his way into history

Tue, 01 Aug 2017 06:00:10 GMT2017-08-01T06:00:10Z

From the runway strut to the hoochie koochie, choreographer Trajal Harrell is turning outlaw dance forms into radical, booty-shaking spectacle

The voguing balls of Harlem, the hoochie koochie dances of rural America, the elaborate, prancing gait of runway models – these aren’t influences that routinely feature in contemporary dance. Yet for the American choreographer Trajal Harrell they’ve proved extraordinarily fertile. Over the last two decades he’s produced a body of work that’s as rigorously scholarly in its historical background as it is transgressively original in style. Occupying a performance spectrum between gallery and theatre, his pieces might feature a man posing semi-naked in a pair of Hermès scarves, a woman encased in a small black cube meticulously removing her swimsuit, or a man in a gaudy oriental skirt, gravely shaking his booty.

Harrell’s work is currently enjoying an extended season at the Barbican and when the choreographer – graceful, compact and ferociously articulate – talks me through his work he explains that exploring the history of dance subcultures has long been his obsession.

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Nureyev ballet to open in Moscow, despite director's house arrest

Fri, 22 Sep 2017 16:10:19 GMT2017-09-22T16:10:19Z

After last-minute cancellation in July, Bolshoi to bring life story of gay dancer who defected to stage in December

A controversial ballet about the Russian dancer Rudolf Nureyev will premiere on the stage of the Bolshoi theatre in December, despite being pulled from the schedule at the last minute in July, and its director placed under house arrest.

Nureyev, which chronicles the life of the gay dancer who fled the Soviet Union for the west and achieved worldwide fame before dying of Aids-related illnesses in 1993, was due to open in July, but the theatre announced its cancellation just three days before opening night.

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Follies and Acosta Danza: this week’s best UK theatre and dance

Fri, 22 Sep 2017 09:30:43 GMT2017-09-22T09:30:43Z

Dominic Cooke’s revival of Stephen Sondheim’s beautiful musical continues its run at the National, while the celebrated choreographer returns to London

1 Follies
Stephen Sondheim’s flawed but achingly beautiful 1971 musical can raise ghosts and it does in Dominic Cooke’s unsentimental revival. Set in an old theatre scheduled for demolition, it features the cast of a pre-second world war revue meeting up one last time. This is a show about the dangers of looking back through rose-tinted spectacles, and is quite a spectacle in its own right.
At the National Theatre: Olivier, SE1, to 3 January

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Our Last Tango review – passion and pain in tango doc well timed for Strictly season

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 09:00:30 GMT2017-09-21T09:00:30Z

This engaging film focuses on a couple who once dazzled audiences with their intimate dance routines but whose off-stage love turned to heartbreak

The return of what is now known as Strictly season on TV is as good a time as any for a release of this very warm and thoroughly watchable documentary from 2015 about Argentinian tango stars María Nieves Rego and Juan Carlos Copes.

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Dashes, commas, and judgmental twitchers | Brief letters

Wed, 20 Sep 2017 18:36:26 GMT2017-09-20T18:36:26Z

Harry Dean Stanton | Boris Johnson | Dancing about architecture | Fatberg | Ornithology of meetings | Ambridge antidote

Your obituary for Harry Dean Stanton (18 September) mispunctuates the title of the TV series Have Gun – Will Travel by substituting a comma for the dash. This had a curious effect on the list of TV horse operas Stanton acted in: “Laramie, The Gun, Have Gun, Will Travel, Bonanza and Rawhide.”  Even the Oxford comma, which coincidentally played a part in Sunday’s episode of Strike, can’t come to our rescue with that one, though it could have helped with Bonanza and Rawhide.
Hugh Darwen
Warwick

• Boris Johnson must know that birds do not sing in the nest (Report, 20 September). It is a place of secrecy and security. It is the immature that call out, eager to be fed. This is especially true if an over-sized cuckoo is among them, ensuring that they are ejected and crash to the ground below.
Dick Curtis
Gloucester

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Akram Khan: ‘My father hated my waitering – how I’d prance around’

Sun, 17 Sep 2017 11:00:39 GMT2017-09-17T11:00:39Z

The dancer and choreographer on rehearsing in the kitchen, snacking in the studio and getting his head around broccoli

When five or six months old I was taken to Bangladesh by my father for four months or so to be presented to his family, while my mother stayed in Wimbledon, quite traumatised. I’m not sure how I was fed. When I went back to Bangladesh as a boy, I remember being unable to cope with the powdered milk there. Anything mixed with that milk is contaminated for me.

My mother says my strongest curiosity as a little boy was to taste things and this caused great problems – I’d clean stones of mud with my tongue and I’d eat worms. But my earliest actual memory is of sitting in a pram, sticking my tongue out to catch snowflakes and being very excited by their temperature and tastelessness.

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Jane Eyre and Royal Ballet Gala: this week’s best UK theatre and dance

Fri, 15 Sep 2017 09:30:03 GMT2017-09-15T09:30:03Z

Sally Cookson’s witty, inventive take on Charlotte Brontë’s novel comes to Hull, while the city’s New theatre reopens with a visit from the Royal’s dancers

1 Living With the Lights On
Earlier this year, Mark Lockyer was a superb and plausibly evil Iago in Othello at Bristol’s Tobacco Factory. It was good to see him in such fine form because, just over 20 years ago, when he was playing Mercutio for the RSC in Stratford, he had an encounter with the devil on the banks of the Avon. He was subsequently diagnosed with bipolar disorder and has been living with the condition – which, on occasion, makes him go way off script, with discomfiting results – ever since. In this 75-minute one-man show, he spares himself nothing. It’s a story that is not just about triumph over adversity but also what it means to be in character.
Tobacco Factory, Bristol, 18-22 September; touring to 11 November

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John Kearns: a supreme standup hidden behind bad teeth and a tonsure

Wed, 20 Sep 2017 12:43:33 GMT2017-09-20T12:43:33Z

The wig-wearing comic’s new show about humdrum heroism is his best yet. But as his act strives for knockout poignancy, does the goofy get-up help or hinder?

When John Kearns corpses, is he coming out of character? It happens on a few occasions during his current Soho theatre gig, and – even though I know the official line on Kearns’ act, which is “it’s not a character: it’s me” – these moments feel like a glimpse behind the curtain. For the uninitiated, Kearns is a double Edinburgh comedy award winner, the only act ever to win best newcomer and best show. He performs in party-shop false teeth and a tonsure wig and is frequently compared to Tony Hancock because his shtick is suburban loserdom and plangent existentialism, the minutiae of a humdrum life mined for flights of poetry and meek heroism.

Related: From Del Boy’s cap to Steve Martin’s arrow – what happened to the comedy trademark?

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Cariad Lloyd: ‘The funniest heckle I’ve had came from Nancy Dell’Olio’

Fri, 08 Sep 2017 12:00:31 GMT2017-09-08T12:00:31Z

The actor, podcaster and improv star on the things that make her laugh the most

Broad City. It was the first time I saw female characters allowed to be just funny: not having to facilitate plot, ask key questions, be a love interest; just be funny. One is an idiot, the other is more of an idiot, that’s it.

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The fing about Micky Flanagan: irresistible rise of a minted everyman

Mon, 18 Sep 2017 16:00:29 GMT2017-09-18T16:00:29Z

The UK’s most popular comic is taking his cockney shtick on tour but he’s more than a cheeky caricature – his democratic brand of humour is smart and generous

I’m not sure whether to review Micky Flanagan’s comedy or weigh it. The biggest-selling comedian of 2016 is doing 12 nights at the O2 Arena. He is the country’s most popular comic and, by some measures, its most popular entertainer full stop. At one point in tonight’s show, random cheering breaks out at the back of the O2 auditorium and Flanagan jokes that Michael McIntyre or Peter Kay must have set up a rival gig in the crowd. When you can joke, from a position of strength, that the best-loved comedians of this millennium are busking to pockets of your audience – well, you’re a long way from Billingsgate fish market, where the young Micky once plied the family trade.

Class identity, of course, is part of Flanagan’s gargantuan draw. Not because he’s an uncomplicatedly old-school, working-class comic, which isn’t – or hasn’t always been – the case. As his earlier shows documented, Flanagan is something of a class chameleon, an ex-window cleaner turned university graduate, an Eastender now resident in East Dulwich, as apt to be found dissecting his new-found middle class habits as peddling the traditional values with which he grew up.

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When comedy's big hitters take a short cut to the punchline

Sun, 17 Sep 2017 12:48:04 GMT2017-09-17T12:48:04Z

The stars of the Greenwich comedy festival had to concertina their standup routines. But can the likes of Dylan Moran and Bridget Christie ruminate and rage against the clock?

What is the basic unit of comedy performance? As comedy festivals spring up nationwide, as the Edinburgh fringe expands annually and spawns ever more touring comics, the hour-long solo show has started to feel like the art form’s default setting. But it isn’t. As any casual comedy watcher – the occasional visitor to their local club; the magpie Live at the Apollo viewer – will tell you, standup is usually served in 20-minute chunks. The Greenwich comedy festival, now eight years old, celebrates this species of comedy. Over five days, in the grounds of the National Maritime Museum, the country’s higher-end acts (Dara Ó Briain, Alan Davies, Adam Hills) rub shoulders in a tent.

Much is made in comedy of the progression from club set to full show. Some acts take years honing the skills, or plucking up the courage, to make the leap. But what of the leap in the other direction? On Saturday in Greenwich, I watched three acts who I usually see in long-form mode. Of course, you’d expect comics such as Bridget Christie and Dylan Moran to be excellent whatever the time slot. But what sacrifices do they make when they don’t have time to develop an argument? What routes do they take to a faster, flightier kind of laugh?

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Edinburgh star Mae Martin: ‘I had a breakup and noticed how similar it felt to getting off drugs'

Tue, 15 Aug 2017 13:30:42 GMT2017-08-15T13:30:42Z

The Canadian comic may look like she needs ID to get into her own shows, but her Fringe show is her frankest (and funniest) yet

‘I love being gut-wrenchingly honest,” says elfin comic Mae Martin when we meet in an Edinburgh cafe. “It’s so satisfying.” Other standups booked on the same bill as her should consider themselves forewarned. “I find it hard not to say personal things when I’m compering. Like the other night, I was introducing a friend and I told the audience: ‘This guy’s great, we had a threesome once …’ He was, like: ‘What are you doing?’ The crowd heckled him so much. All they wanted to hear about was the threesome.” She gives the sort of bashful, butter-wouldn’t-melt smile that enables her to get away with anything on stage. “I really need to be careful.”

Now may not be the best time to start. The Toronto-born, London-based comedian, who is 30 but would surely need to produce ID to be allowed into one of her own shows, is at the fringe with Dope, her funniest and frankest set to date. It examines addiction in all its forms, from social media to relationships to drugs, and relies for its success on her ability to bring comic effervescence to a heavy subject.

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Comedian Phil Wang: 'I enjoy a level of patriotism that only immigrants can have'

Sun, 20 Aug 2017 05:00:34 GMT2017-08-20T05:00:34Z

The British-Malaysian comic on why conversations about race in the UK have become absurd, his favourite standups and how to outdo a rival’s nipple tassels

You talk a lot in your show about having one foot in British society and one foot out of it.

I’ve always felt like an outsider. I was always the white guy in Malaysia [where he lived until 2006], and then the Chinese guy in the UK. I think that sort of thing is quite common in comedy, not quite belonging.

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Tez Ilyas: 'When comics talk about religion, it's not very funny'

Mon, 07 Aug 2017 08:31:49 GMT2017-08-07T08:31:49Z

His show Made in Britain debunked myths about Muslims in the UK. As he returns to Edinburgh, Tez Ilyas talks about the cut and thrust of panel shows and why the fringe is like a freshers’ week for standups

Hi, Tez. This is your third standup show. What’s it all about?
In the crudest terms, the first one was about religion, the second was about culture and this is about politics. It’s called Teztify. I confront a lot of the assumptions people make about me. The main one is that I’m religious in a secular world and an extremely secular industry. I had a working-class upbringing in Blackburn, my politics are leftwing and I’m a man of colour – these are what I talk about.

Related: Tez Ilyas review – clever comedy about British National Pakistani life

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Shelley Berman obituary

Tue, 05 Sep 2017 15:58:10 GMT2017-09-05T15:58:10Z

Actor and comedian who first became known for his ‘sitdown’ routines with an imaginary telephone

In the 1950s and 60s, Shelley Berman, who has died aged 92, was the US’s favourite “sitdown” comedian – he would sit on a stool, pick up an imaginary phone in front of him and, in a scratchy voice, start talking. His gripes were aimed partly at “Ma Bell”, as the big American phone network of the time was colloquially known, but also at any other aspect of life that happened to annoy or perplex him. The humour travelled, and when Berman appeared on British television screens – as he often did – his sophisticated approach to everyday problems drew appreciative responses.

During one performance, he was interrupted midway through his monologue by a real phone ringing off-set. He later went backstage and ripped the offending phone from the wall. The incident featured in a 1963 documentary, Comedian Backstage, and viewers were appalled. Berman attributed a dip in his popularity to this brief loss of temper (in fact he said it made him a “pariah” in the industry), but nevertheless he enjoyed a long and prolific stage and screen career.

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Sara Pascoe: how I overcame my Jane Austen prejudice

Fri, 01 Sep 2017 14:00:10 GMT2017-09-01T14:00:10Z

Austen’s women have the same rights as children; her ‘romantic’ match-making smacks of desperation. So how did the standup see the funny side of Pride and Prejudice for her new stage adaptation?

“Why does no one talk about how funny Jane Austen is?” I ask my friend Katie. We’d done English literature for three years at Sussex University – how was I only discovering these perceptive comedies a decade later?

“It’s all anyone ever says!” Katie is annoyed with me. “I tried to tell you how great she was but you insisted you’d never read any 19th-century novels.” She’s right. I got through my entire degree avoiding anything from the 19th century. I didn’t care if the steam train ended up in the workhouse, or the bonnet ran out of gruel. Regency literature was too coal-y for me, too long-winded and describey. I preferred modern books where you had to read other books explaining what the first book meant to know what happened.

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The superhero and the standup: Spider-Man Tom Holland and his dad Dominic

Sat, 19 Aug 2017 05:00:05 GMT2017-08-19T05:00:05Z

The star of Marvel’s blockbuster is the subject of his father’s comedy show at the Edinburgh fringe. They discuss the art of getting laughs, sending Spidey back to school and finding the old man a part in a webslinging sequel

There is no shortage of up-and-coming comedians with famous parents at this year’s Edinburgh fringe: Elliot Steel (son of Mark), Will Hislop (son of Ian) and Ruby Wax’s daughters, Maddy and Marina Bye, are all performing. At the Voodoo Rooms venue in the New Town, the situation is a little different. Standup Dominic Holland, who recently turned 50, is in Edinburgh with a free fringe show, 24 years after winning the best newcomer award at the festival. The subject of his new set? How his success has been surpassed by that of his 21-year-old son, Tom, star of Marvel’s latest blockbuster, Spider-Man: Homecoming.

“I genuinely don’t need to be here,” Dominic states in his show, Eclipsed, with reference to his son’s lucrative webslinging contract. He describes his own gig as “indoor busking” – it’s free to get in but he holds a bucket for punters’ donations on their way out. Tom is currently filming sci-fi thriller Chaos Walking, co-starring Daisy Ridley and based on Patrick Ness’s book trilogy, but has flown in from Canada to see the show with his family. It’s a surprise for his dad and, when I meet the two of them afterwards, they whip out a phone to play the video of Dominic’s ecstatic reaction when Tom turned up that morning.

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Phoebe Walsh: 'We've all spent five minutes looking for the right emoji'

Sat, 12 Aug 2017 15:07:01 GMT2017-08-12T15:07:01Z

She self-eviscerates in the style of tragic Instagram feeds and harvests jokes from unsent tweets. But comedian Phoebe Walsh’s twitchy social-media spin is revitalising singleton standup at Edinburgh this year

During her debut solo show, I’ll Have What She’s Having, comic Phoebe Walsh rattles off an onslaught of self-eviscerating one-liners in the style of a pointy-fingered club comic. She is the “sassy best-friend character in her own life story”. She is “Pocahontas on the streets, Grandmother Willow from Pocahontas between the sheets”. She is, quite simply, “Miss Selfridge”.

Much of Walsh’s set taps into the online trend for self-absorption and self-deprecation. It recalls popular social-media accounts that trade in the bleak realities of being a gross, lonely human on the internet, the antithesis of the humourless humble-bragging epidemic. She channels the essence of So Sad Today, Expectation v Reality, Girl With No Job, The Fat Jewish and your vacant reflection in the black screen between Netflix episodes. Such is her zeitgeisty and somewhat unhinged take on the single-girl-in-the-big-city schtick, she is also probably not for everyone. “You’ll either relate to what she’s saying or feel glad that you don’t,” reads the show’s blurb.

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Comic Rose Matafeo: 'I definitely probably have a moderate amount of talent'

Thu, 03 Aug 2017 05:00:07 GMT2017-08-03T05:00:07Z

Since first picking up the mic at 15, the standup has tap-danced, done Aerosmith karaoke and starred in her own TV show. So why does she want to disappear offstage?

Was there ever a greater discrepancy between talent and confidence? Rose Matafeo, at 25, is an award-winning standup, a TV star in her native New Zealand and made a striking Edinburgh fringe debut last summer. That show wasn’t perfect, but Matafeo’s force of personality – dominant, dorky-excitable – was a sight to behold. Here was a comedian whose power couldn’t be denied. Except by Matafeo herself, it turns out, whose stellar charisma on stage is matched by subterranean self-esteem off it.

This becomes clear over coffee as Matafeo girds herself for a return to Edinburgh with her new show, Sassy Best Friend. When I ask what it is about her comedy that is winning such acclaim, Matafeo squirms with discomfort. “That’s the most uncomfortable position to put someone like me in,” she says. “I’m not going to be forced to answer that.”

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Deborah Frances-White: ‘Fleabag’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge is a genius’

Fri, 15 Sep 2017 12:00:07 GMT2017-09-15T12:00:07Z

The Guilty Feminist podcast host on the things that make her laugh the most, from Tim Minchin to Better Off Dead

A tie between two Australians: Tim Minchin’s Ready for This? and Hannah Gadsby’s coming-out story, which I saw in Edinburgh years ago. She’s a big deal now but back then there were only seven people in the audience. I roared alone in the dark and introduced myself at the end, explaining to her that we were friends now.

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Angels and demons: the unmissable theatre, comedy and dance of autumn 2017

Tue, 12 Sep 2017 05:00:26 GMT2017-09-12T05:00:26Z

Hamilton hits London, Bryan Cranston’s news anchor goes berserk, Wayne McGregor turns his DNA into dance, Mae Martin revisits her teen addictions and Toyah Willcox is a time-travelling queen

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Absurdist comedians Tim and Eric: 'Our show is a trainwreck of a live experience'

Fri, 08 Sep 2017 13:00:39 GMT2017-09-08T13:00:39Z

The comedy duo recently celebrated the ten-year anniversary of their cult show and talk about finding the funny in the mundane and how they met

For almost two decades now, comedy duo Tim (Heidecker) and Eric (Wareheim) have honed their absurdist and often gross sketch comedy. After a summer of touring and the recent 10th anniversary special of The Awesome Show, they’ve become the kings of out-there alternative comedy, by way of mock infomercials, situational humor, and the occasional song-and-dance routine. The second season of Bedtime Stories, their mock-horror after-hours series on Adult Swim, returns this month to magnify the humdrum tropes of suburban American life, cementing the duo as two of comedy’s most amusing satirists.

Related: Decker: Unclassified's Tim Heidecker: 'Watching failure is amusing'

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How we made West Side Story

Mon, 18 Sep 2017 14:14:04 GMT2017-09-18T14:14:04Z

‘I wanted to be the first guy to use a four-letter word in a musical – but the line ended up as “krup you” instead’

I was at a party with Arthur Laurents who was about to write a musical with Leonard Bernstein based on Romeo and Juliet. I asked who was doing the lyrics and he said: “Gosh, we’ve been thinking about that. We don’t have anybody.” Lenny wanted Comden and Green (Singin’ in the Rain) but they were in Hollywood under a contract. Arthur asked if I’d play for Lenny.

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'The church of the lost cause': inside Kneehigh's wild Cornish home

Mon, 18 Sep 2017 05:00:01 GMT2017-09-18T05:00:01Z

To create The Tin Drum, the theatre company spent two weeks tucked away in a cluttered rural retreat where they eat, run and rehearse together – just don’t call it a commune, says artistic director Mike Shepherd

‘We’re not a bunch of bloody hippies,” Mike Shepherd growls by way of introduction. Turns out the last time a journalist paid Kneehigh a visit at its Cornish home, that was the verdict. The time before, the company wound up being compared to a cult, the rehearsal rooms a commune. Its artistic director has had enough.

Kneehigh’s headquarters are in Truro, but its heart is in Gorran Haven, a little village on Cornwall’s south coast. Bunting hangs, house to house, over its winding streets, and kids in wetsuits trot home from the beach. Seagulls sit on every other antenna. The nearest rail station is half an hour away by car.

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James Graham: 'Rupert Murdoch? He has a weird kind of loneliness'

Mon, 03 Jul 2017 05:00:03 GMT2017-07-03T05:00:03Z

Ink charts the sensational rise of the Sun and its unquenchable thirst for sex and scandal. Its playwright explains how he found the man behind the media monster

Rupert Murdoch was missing at the opening night of Ink, the play about his first year as the owner of the Sun. But there are rumours that Jerry Hall wants to see this account of how her octogenarian husband became the UK’s most powerful press baron. “That’d be fun,” says playwright James Graham. “Weird and fun.”

Set in 1969, Graham’s play charts the Sun’s battle to become more “popular” – both in sales and as the legitimate voice of the working classes – than its more successful rival, the Daily Mirror. The production, directed by Rupert Goold at the Almeida theatre in north London, has received glowing write-ups from a newspaper industry cheered by its depiction of a hot metal world fuelled by scotch and cigarettes. Kelvin MacKenzie has compared Ink to a documentary while another former editor of the Sun, David Yelland, tells me it is “joyful - the best presentation I’ve ever seen of what popular journalism is about: ideas, creativity, madness, sex, sports, glamour, news and fun”.

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Rita, Sue and Bob today: Andrea Dunbar's truths still haunt us

Thu, 14 Sep 2017 15:46:44 GMT2017-09-14T15:46:44Z

Dunbar’s bleakly funny tale of a menage a trois captured 80s austerity. What can her defiant heroines tell audiences today?

‘This is life,” Andrea Dunbar told the Yorkshire Post in 1987, defending the film version of her play Rita, Sue and Bob Too. “The facts are there.” Dunbar was adamant about telling the truth in her work, insisting “you write what’s said, you don’t lie”. Her second play, an unvarnished tale of a married man having an affair with his teenage babysitters, still has that startling matter-of-factness today.

As a single mother living in poverty on a council estate in Bradford, Dunbar had a perspective that has rarely been shared on major stages. It’s hard to imagine a play like The Arbor, the autobiographical script she wrote as a teenager, making it to the stage now. In another age of austerity, under another Tory government, putting on her work is an implicitly political gesture.

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Hamlet review – lucky few see Tom Hiddleston combine sweet sadness with incandescent fury

Fri, 01 Sep 2017 23:09:37 GMT2017-09-01T23:09:37Z

Jerwood Vanbrugh theatre, Rada, London
Hollywood star shines in limited run production directed by Kenneth Branagh and designed to raise funds for Rada

Few shows are seemingly more exclusive than this. Tom Hiddleston plays the great Dane in a Kenneth Branagh production designed to raise funds for the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

Since it runs for three weeks in a 160-seat auditorium and all the seats were long since sold by public ballot, you might expect it to have an air of chi-chi privilege.

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'Visionary, master diplomat – and absolute smoothie': stars pay tribute to Peter Hall

Tue, 12 Sep 2017 18:40:43 GMT2017-09-12T18:40:43Z

He gave Peter Brook his big break, helped Elaine Paige conquer her fear, showed Griff Rhys Jones the joy of farce and dazzled a teenage Samuel West. They celebrate the great director who has died aged 86

Sir Peter Hall obituary: powerful force in British theatre

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Taylor Mac on queering history: 'Someone like me doesn't normally get to represent America'

Tue, 12 Sep 2017 18:00:42 GMT2017-09-12T18:00:42Z

Set to headline Melbourne festival, the performer’s epic 24-hour show presents an alternative history that celebrates the outsiders

You know you’re witnessing something special when it’s 7am and a school marching band is battering the hell out of their drums while a person of indeterminate gender cavorts near-naked in glittery hot pants with an enormous psychedelic peace sign strapped to his/her/their back, as you and everyone around you belts out Curtis Mayfield’s civil rights anthem Move On Up.

And that was just a tiny fragment of Taylor Mac’s astonishing miesterwerk, A 24-Decade History of Popular Music.

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Barney Norris: Theatre is still catching up with Max Stafford-Clark

Mon, 11 Sep 2017 05:00:04 GMT2017-09-11T05:00:04Z

As Stafford-Clark tours Rita, Sue and Bob Too with his company Out of Joint, his one-time assistant celebrates a career spent speaking up for the nation – and nurturing talents such as Andrea Dunbar and Caryl Churchill

Max Stafford-Clark is leaving Out of Joint, the touring company he has led since 1993. It will take theatre years to catch up with the example he set through his work there.

He is moving on at a moment when the industry is finally beginning a sincere engagement with gender representation and with cultural and regional diversity; when the question of what it’s like to be middle-class has been overtaken by the exploration of how big the world is. No theatre could really claim to have been doing that even five years ago, but it’s what Out of Joint always did.

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How to play dead: the corpse’s view of Joe Orton’s Loot

Thu, 07 Sep 2017 10:19:56 GMT2017-09-07T10:19:56Z

In Orton’s dark farce, staged uncut for the first time, Anah Ruddin plays the recently deceased Mrs McLeavy whose body is extravagantly manhandled. She describes the stiff challenges of the role

As the audience arrive, I wait on stage in an open coffin. This is obviously rather eerie but I like listening to the people come in. With my eyes shut, it’s quite restful. Thankfully I haven’t fallen asleep yet. Starting the play this way is such a contrast to most roles. But then, this isn’t your usual role.

Related: Loot review – Joe Orton's savage farce now even funnier and filthier

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'I wrote it in a frenzy': David Harrower on the play that saved him

Fri, 25 Aug 2017 15:43:45 GMT2017-08-25T15:43:45Z

He was living with his mum and working as a dish-washer. But he threw all he had into a brutal play that became a Scottish classic. The dramatist talks about the return of Knives in Hens – and writing an angry film about Lockerbie

David Harrower seems faintly surprised that he’s being interviewed. Sitting in a Glasgow bar on a slow weekday lunchtime, he squints doubtfully at me. “I’m not a very good describer of my work, to be honest,” he ventures after one particularly freighted silence. “I don’t always understand it myself.”

But you don’t expect glib answers from Harrower: ambiguity, obliqueness and uncertainty are more his thing. The author of seven original plays, plus a scattering of adaptations, he is often called the most talented Scottish playwright of his generation. But he is also one of the hardest to pin down. His breakthrough play – in fact his first produced script – was 1995’s Knives in Hens, an elemental and brutal fable set in what might be medieval Scotland. A decade later, he came to broader attention with Blackbird, a jagged depiction of an encounter between a man in his mid-50s and a woman in her late 20s in which it becomes apparent that they had a relationship when she was 12. Although it could barely be clearer that she has been abused, the drama is somehow, queasily, a love story.

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Kenneth Cranham on Joe Orton: the charming mischief-maker

Wed, 09 Aug 2017 11:00:39 GMT2017-08-09T11:00:39Z

Kenneth Cranham was a teenager when Joe Orton cast him in a radio play and the pair became close friends. Fifty years after the great playwright’s murder, he remembers a flat full of cream cakes, 400 performances of Loot and the whitest T-shirt he ever saw

When you hear about successful people’s lives, there is often an inspirational school teacher involved. But I don’t think Joe Orton had one. Instead, he had Kenneth Halliwell, his boyfriend, who was everything rolled into one: a mentor, literary pathfinder and a terrible maiden aunt. They had met at Rada in 1951. Kenneth was seven years older and in the early years, supported him financially. At Joe’s centre was his concern for the quality and future of his writing, and Kenneth shared that. They were both line-by-line obsessed with Joe’s work.

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Josette Bushell-Mingo: ‘Nina Simone is my GPS’

Sun, 09 Jul 2017 08:00:18 GMT2017-07-09T08:00:18Z

It was to celebrate Nina Simone’s political passion as much as her musical genius that Josette Bushell-Mingo created her one-woman show about the singer. Here, the acclaimed actor talks about the danger, decadence – and rage – of her heroine

Josette Bushell-Mingo remembers the first time she saw Nina Simone sing – long before she became an actor herself: “I was at my aunt’s house, watching television. I’d have been about 11, and while the others were in the kitchen, she suddenly came up – I think it must have been on video. She was black as the night, with short hair, and she was sweating – it was almost obscene. She was at the piano and so filled with power, I was mesmerised. I’d never seen anything like it. I asked my aunt: ‘Who was that?’ And she said: ‘Nina Simone.’”

Among the things that Bushell-Mingo could not guess aged 11 (she grew up in southeast London, the daughter of Guyanese parents, a bus driver and a nurse), was that, more than 40 years on, she would be transfixing audiences with her own take on the legendary singer. Her show, Nina: A Story About Me and Nina Simone, started life at the Liverpool Unity theatre and is, if reviews are to be believed, an unforgettable rallying cry and, for white audiences, a thought-provokingly uncomfortable experience. It is about to open at the Young Vic and there is already talk of it being made into a movie.

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Play it again, Sam: why Krapp's Last Tape still leaves us reeling

Tue, 08 Aug 2017 15:11:36 GMT2017-08-08T15:11:36Z

Albert Finney sobbed like an animal, Harold Pinter ramped up the terror and John Hurt even resembled Beckett himself. Now, at the Edinburgh festival, Barry McGovern takes on the role that never ceases to astonish

Anyone who has seen Barry McGovern’s solo show Watt or caught him in multiple versions of Waiting for Godot – where he has played three of the five characters – will know that he is a consummate Beckett actor. It is no surprise, therefore, to discover that he is superb in Michael Colgan’s musically precise production of Krapp’s Last Tape which, playing at the Church Hill theatre, shines like a gem at this year’s Edinburgh international festival.

Why, though, are we so happy to return to this particular play? Even to someone like myself, who is not a fully paid-up member of the Beckett club, the work never ceases to astonish.

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Laser Beak Man: how an artist with autism created his own superhero

Fri, 22 Sep 2017 04:46:40 GMT2017-09-22T04:46:40Z

Art was Tim Sharp’s way of communicating as a child; now it’s inspiration for a joyful 90 minutes of puppetry, live music, animation and dad jokes

Tim Sharp takes things literally. Consider the term “flat white”. Most of us would imagine our morning coffee, perhaps being served to us by a bearded barista. Sharp, however, sees a steamroller and a rather unfortunate Anglo person.

Sharp is an artist with autism, who communicates his unique perspective on the world through quirky, hilarious and colourful drawings. The words “Virgin Mobile”, for example, see cherubic young men and women spinning from a ceiling fan. The hymn Then Sings My Soul translates to a shoe opening like a mouth, spewing forth music. And a figure standing in front of a bright green crop of footballs, soccer balls, tennis balls with a watering can – well, if you have trouble with that one, click here.

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Spectacular Fast and Furious car stunt live show is a £25m gamble

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 23:01:31 GMT2017-09-21T23:01:31Z

Producers of a show based on the film franchise are banking on there being enough petrolheads to fill arenas the world over

It will have a fuel tanker engulfed in flames bouncing across the arena, a jack-knifed lorry pursued by screeching Honda Civic EJ1s, at least two tanks, a souped-up Dodge Charger and a bright orange Lamborghini, obviously, and a submarine crashing through the ice.

“It is not a real Akula-class submarine,” said Rowland French regretfully, who is the creative brains behind the live arena show that he believes is one of the biggest and most ambitious ever staged. “Much as I would like to have the opportunity to play with a real one. It will look like one though.”

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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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'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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Kings and fools: Barrie Rutter on Northern Broadsides at 25 – in pictures

Thu, 08 Jun 2017 09:50:00 GMT2017-06-08T09:50:00Z

Northern Broadsides’ ‘dark, austere and genuinely disturbing’ production of Richard III is staged in Hull this month as the company celebrates its 25th birthday. Its founder and artistic director Barrie Rutter revisits some of the theatre company’s greatest hits

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Unveiled: the sensational stage history of Salomé – in pictures

Wed, 17 May 2017 10:35:43 GMT2017-05-17T10:35:43Z

The biblical sorceress dances across two of Britain’s stages this summer, in shows at the National and the RSC. Explore past versions of the story, from Marisa Tomei and Zawe Ashton’s performances in Oscar Wilde’s play to the operatic heights of Richard Strauss

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From Miss Trunchbull to Mr Chips: top teachers on stage - in pictures

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 11:13:54 GMT2017-04-24T11:13:54Z

A new production of Alan Bennett’s Forty Years On has Richard Wilson playing the headmaster. Take a look at theatre’s best school staff through the years

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Angels in America at the National Theatre – in pictures

Fri, 28 Apr 2017 10:30:37 GMT2017-04-28T10:30:37Z

Twenty-five years after it was first staged in London, Tony Kushner’s wildly inventive play about the Aids crisis is back. The cast includes Nathan Lane, Andrew Garfield, Russell Tovey and Denise Gough. It’s one of London’s hottest theatre tickets: the next ballot opens at noon BST on 28 April. There are NT Live broadcasts of the play on 20 July (part one) and 27 July (part two)

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Antony Gormley's iron men come alive for A Winter's Tale – video

Fri, 02 Dec 2016 12:00:15 GMT2016-12-02T12:00:15Z

Writer Frank Cottrell-Boyce and director Carl Hunter reimagine Shakespeare’s late tragedy in an otherwordly film set among the statues of Antony Gormley’s installation Another Place on Crosby beach, Liverpool.

This is the 10th film in the British Council’s series Shakespeare Lives in 2016, celebrating the playwright on the 400th anniversary of his death.

King Lear in a care home: Phil Davis plays the storming monarch – video

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Et tu, Trump? Political cartoons inspired by Shakespeare – in pictures

Wed, 08 Mar 2017 09:00:03 GMT2017-03-08T09:00:03Z

The RSC’s exhibition Draw New Mischief shows how, for 250 years, political cartoonists have taken inspiration from Shakespeare’s plays. Curator David Francis Taylor, associate professor of English at the University of Warwick, introduces a selection of works from the show, which runs at the Royal Shakespeare theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, until 15 September

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Kenya's slum ballet school – in pictures

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 08:28:46 GMT2017-01-18T08:28:46Z

The Kibera ballet school is part of the Anno’s Africa and www.onefineday.org projects working in slum areas in Kenya. Weekly ballet classes are held by the teacher and former dancer Mike Wamaya. In collaboration with a ballet studio in Karen, an upperclass area in Nairobi, young dancers are given the opportunity to be part of productions at the city’s national theatre

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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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