On the brink

YOUNG VIC THEATRE: THE CHERRY ORCHARD, 2014

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...]

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...]

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

sheffield

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...]

Beyond the peter meter

Rosen

So, let’s start with me. Spindly and saggy. Generously beconked, meagrely maned. A cavalcade of design flaws, a factory second at knock down prices. That’s me. And to an extent, that’s most of us. Even among critics there are eye-wateringly scrumptious exceptions (you know who you are), but in general, if they start hiring hacks for their looks, we’re all in trouble. Good looks and how to … [Read more...]