What we talk about when we talk about sex

Accolade 1

Accolade & The Institute of Sexology I thought I knew what the 1950s talked about when it talked about sex. It talked about family and heteronormative hearts and flowers. Or else it talked about shame, and disease, and unrequited desire and unnameable longings. The British theatre told me that. Noël Coward opened the fifties with the snob-bound, vamp-shaming Relative Values, while Terence … [Read more...]

Scarlett fever

A scene from The Age of Anxiety

Liam Scarlett’s The Age of Anxiety at the Royal Ballet Three guys and a gal walk into a bar. It’s a set up for a gag, a murder, or perhaps an Edward Hopper painting. And now a ballet – Liam Scarlett’s The Age of Anxiety, newly premiered by the Royal Ballet in London. It is another absorbing, tantalising piece by a prolific yet puzzling British choreographer. The one-act ballet, centrepiece … [Read more...]

On the brink


Katie Mitchell directs The Cherry Orchard It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there. I haven’t seen Katie Mitchell’s polarising 2071 at London’s Royal Court – an animated TED warning about falling off the climate change cliff – but the honed steel of the director’s Cherry Orchard at the Young Vic makes a similar argument with baleful panache. Snowclouds of cherry blossom, a backdrop shimmer … [Read more...]

Angry bird

Wild Duck duck

Belvoir Theatre's Wild Duck Shall we start with the duck? Ibsen’s stage directions keep the titular Wild Duck offstage. It remains a symbol of damage, or survival, or of secrecy long-subsumed. Well, pellets to that, because Belvoir Theatre from Sydney, whose lacerating 2011 production is at London’s Barbican, give us plenty of chances to see and adore a real live, flapping mallard. Twitter … [Read more...]

In and out of history

Lyubimov portrait

What happens when an artist outlives their own era? When a voice, once so urgent, seems out of time, flailing for connection? Yuri Lyubimov, the great Russian director who died earlier this month aged 97, was a theatrical lightning conductor during the icy Soviet years, gathering the implacable forces of the state and zapping them back in provokingly surreal and thrilling ways. His theatre in … [Read more...]

Mam’zelle Sexymoves

Manon Hayward

Seems I’m a lightweight. I thought that seeing two casts in the Royal Ballet's revival of Manon by Kenneth MacMillan was pretty dedicated, until one of my editors revealed she would watch six casts and had designs on a seventh. That's an awful lot of Manon: but MacMillan's 1974 ballet allows for a panoply of interpretation. Seeing how the pieces fall each time can become addictive. Manon, based … [Read more...]

Unleash the lulz

teh internet johan p

Using the theatre to discuss the internet is like trying to microwave your ready meal with a candle. Dawn-of-time tech, you get me? And yet, using the shonkiest tools available – actors in fuzzy animal suits, a multicoloured ballpond, cheesy dancing, inflatable penii – Teh Internet Is Serious Business at London's Royal Court gets a handle on the slippery potential of the shiny medium. It traces … [Read more...]

The revolution will not be staged

Alecky Blythe (right) in Little Revolution Photo: Manuel Harlan

Some shows marinate in time. Immediate gratification fades or problematic satisfactions deepen over weeks. I came round to Little Revolution just a couple hours after it ended on Saturday night, over a fish supper and the walk home. It hadn’t been what I expected: with its poster image of a brick smashing into a ‘Keep calm and carry on’ mug, the Almeida Theatre promises an incendiary bulletin from … [Read more...]

Universal mother

Medea Richard Hubert Smith

Medea is back, and it grips like a mastiff. No ancient tragedy feels more modern, despite its extremity: maternal infanticide and divine reclamation. NT Live sends its tightly-wound new production into cinemas this evening. How to account for a classic that clings? On the Paris Review website recently, Joseph Luzzi contrasted the currency of two 19th century Italian novels: Manzoni’s The … [Read more...]

The M word

Streetcar Johan P

Misogyny, hanging round our culture like a bad smell, has floated past my theatrical radar recently. From London, the critic Andrew Haydon boggled that Medea ('pretty anti-woman propaganda, saying that they’re well nuts and a more than a bit witchy?') and A Streetcar Named Desire ('intensely woman-hating') still received major revivals, calling out both plays as misogynist, with their protagonists … [Read more...]