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...]

Dead parrot ballet

R&J main

Prokofiev’s score for Romeo and Juliet is pitiless in its tragedy, singing with a desperate hope. I mention this, because you’d never have guessed from the flatlining revival that opened the Mariinsky’s London season earlier this week. As Clement Crisp remarks, Romeo and Juliet was created during the siege of Leningrad, a response perhaps to cruel historical forces and to the fragility of … [Read more...]

Survivor stories

Burns 1

I’ve been fretting about memory this summer. How fragile it is. A snapped synapse, a broken connection, and it’s as if a shelf of books and photo albums has fallen away, leaving only a phantom sense of loss. Cultural memory is equally vulnerable. There is something so haunting in the notion of what survives. Wisps of endurance swirling through the tempest of history. It's mind boggling to … [Read more...]

People watching


It’s theatre by any other name. Usually we call it theatre when we’re sitting in the dark, the people are on stage, with the trappings of formality to tell us where we are. Now, however, it’s a Tuesday afternoon, and I’m sitting in the sun in the Peace Gardens in Sheffield. People watching. The busy civic space, with the splash of waterworks and fountains, inhibits earwigging, so I just look. … [Read more...]

Off with their heads

NP in Wolf-Hall-11-2013-361x541

You can’t move for gilt and ermine in London theatre. At the annual state opening of Parliament – pantomime for one night only! – poor Elizabeth II must mouth her government’s platitudes, but on stage, monarchs get lines that she can only dream of. King Charles III, Mike Bartlett’s beady vision of monarchy future, will soon transfer to the West End, joining Moira Buffini’s Handbagged about … [Read more...]