Monthly Archives: January 2010



Siobhan Redmond and Paul Higgins head a cast of leading Scottish actors in this new production of Chekhov's classic drama. In part a tragic play about eternally unhappy people, Chekhov has always surprised his audiences by viewing it as a comedy, poking fun at human folly. All the characters are dissatisfied with their lives. Some desire love. Some yearn for success. Some crave artistic genius. But no one ever seems to attain happiness. When famous actress Irina Arkadina arrives to spend the summer on her brother Sorin's country estate, tempers inevitably get frayed.

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Adapted for radio by Stuart Paterson from the first ever English translation by George Calderon.

Arkadina……… Siobhan Redmond
Trigorin……… Paul Higgins
Konstantin …….. Robin Laing
Sorin…………. Sean Scanlan
Nina ………….. Ashley Smith
Shamrayev……… . Lewis Howden
Polina……….. Daniela Nardini
Masha ………….. Meg Fraser
Dorn…………. Finlay Welsh
Medvedenko ……….. Tom Freeman

Director – Dominic Hill.

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(Charlotte Higgins's article appeared in the Guardian, 1/30.)

The Iliad and what it can still tell us about war

As the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war holds the country in thrall, Charlotte Higgins reflects on the enduring power of a 3,000-year-old poem

The Iliad is the first great book, and the first great book about the suffering and loss of war. We love to tell stories about war. Tony Blair wove his own when giving evidence at the Chilcot inquiry yesterday: the latest, unpoetic attempt to make sense of an east-west clash of powers. He might note that "spin " goes back to The Iliad: the first-century writer Dio Chrysostom argued that Homer, for reasons of his own, suppressed the truth about the Trojan war – in reality, the Greeks lost. "Men learn with difficulty . . . but they are deceived only too readily," he wrote.

Why is the first book a book about war? Perhaps because war is inextricably bound up with humanity's urge to tell stories. Civilisation – with its settlements, its boundary lines, its hierarchies – breeds conflict and narrative alike. In The Iliad, two characters have the narrative urge, and something approaching a synoptic view of the scenes surging around them. Achilles sings stories of heroes' deeds in battle, and Helen embroiders scenes of fighting on an elaborate textile.

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(Jessie Waldman's article ran in The Independent, 1/8.)


Chekhov: The first truly modern master



Anton Chekhov's 150th anniversary is being marked by a host of theatre seasons, star-studded productions and special broadcasts. Paul Taylor joins in the celebration of the great writer – and wonders what the humble grandson of a serf would have made of all of the fuss


Anton Pavlovich Chekhov was born on 29 Jan 1860, so 2010 marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of the man who was not just the greatest dramatist of the 19th and early 20th centuries, but a short-story writer of genius, the author of a wonderfully observant and aphoristic notebook, and a large-minded and rewarding communicator by letter.



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(Charles Isherwood's article appeared in The New York Times, 1/29.)  


What’s Really Fair in Love and War?


Sarah Goodwin, the complicated woman at the heart of “Time Stands Still,” seems to thrive on conflict, at least professionally. A photojournalist who covers wars and global strife, she keeps chaos at arm’s length by trapping it in the camera lens, exerting a fierce control over moments of horror by fixing them in time.


But the flux of Sarah’s own life cannot be manipulated so easily, as she learns with growing sorrow in this thoughtful drama by Donald Margulies that stars Laura Linney and Brian d’Arcy James, giving performances of complementary sensitivity and richness. Conflicting needs cannot be held at a cool distance; the wounds of the past cannot be filed away like old negatives; the change that experience brings is not reversible.


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Faith, Hope and Charity?


Maeve Binchy writes about Christ Deliver Us!

To be young is to be riddled with doubt; to be young in the 1950s was probably the worst and most drear time of all.

We had begun to hear there was a bright colourful all-singing and all-dancing world out there, a generation of bobby-soxers having a great time, but we saw little signs of it at home. The air was heavy with what people might think or say or what conclusions they could draw, none of them good. Too much exuberance was bad, too little was moody.

But the optimism of youth shone all around us – while everything joyful might seem unlikely, nothing was impossible. Confused and frustrated we may have been, with a feeling that there was something definitely missing from our lives, but we didn’t really know exactly what it was.

I spent a lot of the 1950s hoping that Marlon Brando would reply to one of the many letters I wrote to him beseeching him to come and live with me and explaining that I would look after him properly. Astonishingly, he resisted this tempting offer and sent series of broody postcards thanking me for being a member of his fan club. At the girls school we all talked with feverish excitement about the First Night of marriage, which in everyone’s mind would be the First Sexual Experience. We had practical concerns like: did you go down the corridor to the bathroom first or might that look too eager? The imagination of the decade did not stretch to pre marital sex or rooms with ensuite bathrooms.

I had a very happy if slightly bewildered childhood. I couldn’t quite understand why, if I was so good and well behaved, God made me fat. This was unfair of God. But then on the other hand I saw poor children sitting on Dublin’s O’Connell Bridge with thin shivery faces and a cardboard tray for pennies in front of them. Why didn’t God let them have a winter coat and a fireside like we had?

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(The above video refers to the Broadway production of ‘Hamlet’ with Law.)

(Louise Cohen's article ran in the Times of London, 1/26.)

Jude Law and Rachel Weisz win at the Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards

Jude Law and Rachel Weisz brought a touch of Hollywood glamour to the Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards today, when they both won gongs for roles on the London stage.

Law, who recently starred as Dr Watson in Guy Ritchie’s film Sherlock Holmes, won the award for Best Shakespearean Performance for his role as Hamlet in Michael Grandage’s West End production, which later transferred to Broadway.

Weisz picked up the Best Actress gong for her role as Blanche DuBois in a new production of Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire. The award comes 16 years after Weisz first graced the London Awards ceremony, having picked up the award for Most Promising Newcomer back in 1994 for Design For Living.

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(Theresa Rebeck's article appeared in the Guardian, 1/27.)

Do playwrights moan? Damn right – and so we should

As long as Broadway remains in thrall to movie-star revivals, contemporary American theatre will stay in the doldrums

The big question in arts journalism was asked last week: Are American playwrights whiners? This is how it happened: TDF, an organisation whose initials stand for "Theater Defense Fund" published a book, which has been ruthlessly researched and documented for seven years. It's called Outrageous Fortune: the Life and Times of the New American Play, and it presents a spectacularly thorough compendium of facts about what the life of a playwright in America looks like.

The presentation of these facts – with pie charts, lists and statistics – irked a critic in Chicago, who published a blog about how playwrights are whiners. This blog was reported on in the arts page of the New York Times, in an article that also discussed whether or not playwrights were whiners.

(Read more)

(Theresa Rebeck's work is included in One on One: The Best Women's Monologues for the 21st Century–from Applause Theatre and Cinema Books.)

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 Joyce E. Henry, Ph.D.


"It was raining the day I met Ted Mann [one of the three producers at the Circle in the Square]; a cold relentless, depressing October drizzle, which soaked up the color of the world like a sponge and squeezed it back out again in dull tones of grey and black."


I came across this pseudo Melvillean passage from the beginning of one of the many pages I wrote while working at the Circle in the Square during the run of The Iceman Cometh.  Somehow, innocent, though I was, I recognized that I was a participant–albeit a very minor one–in theatrical history, and I wanted to observe and record as much as I could.  I wish I had done more.


Iceman opened on May 7, 1956; Brooks Atkinson, the Times theatre critic, ended his enthusiastic review proclaiming the play, "a mighty theatre work, O'Neill . . . a giant, and Mr. Quintero . . .  a remarkably gifted artist."  I was only dimly aware of this event, since the O'Neill reputation was in  eclipse–the common belief was that O'Neill was dated and unworkable–and I, personally, was involved with forthcoming summer stock plans.  Not until after a summer of Bus Stop, Tea and Sympathy, The Solid Gold Cadillac, and something called Time Out for Ginger, did I view Iceman for the first time.  When I emerged into Sheridan Square shortly after midnight, I was shattered emotionally, but also exhilarated, knowing that I had just seen theatre at its very best.  The heavy atmosphere of the theatre space, with its low ceilings, crowded seats, with tiny black tables bolted to the floor between each two (later I understood their necessity), and the physical immediacy of the actors was overwhelming, but most specifically, the electric performance of Jason Robards as Hickey was unforgettable.  Writing in The New York Times seventeen years later, stage manager Michael Murray stated, "His performance . . . defined O'Neill for a generation."


Much has been written about Jose Quintero, about Jason, and about the reestablishment of Eugene O'Neill as one of the great playwrights of the twentieth century, which began with that production of the Iceman, but, as I'm sure you know, theatre is the result of the collaboration of many people, and as one of them, I would like to describe some of the experiences of working during the run of such a historic production.


There were three producers of the play, Jose Quintero, Theodore Mann, and Leigh Connell.  If Jose was the creative genius, Ted was the administrative genius, and Leigh was the Southern gentleman who kept them from killing each other.


To return to that raining October day, I was applying for a job in the box office that I did not particularly want, but a friend had recommended me, and I could not think of an excuse fast enough.  "If you go to work there, Joyce," he said helpfully, "just don't let Ted Mann screw you."


(Read more next week.)   



© 2010 by Joyce E. Henry.  All rights reserved. 


(A graduate of the Neighborhood Playhouse, Joyce E. Henry acted, off-Broadway and in regional theaters, managed a dozen off-Broadway shows, wrote A Matter of Conscience, a play about Fanny Kemble, directed the theater program at Ursinus College, and edited five books, including One on One:  The Best Women’s Monologues for the 21st Century; One on One, The Best Men’s Monologues for the 21st Century; and Duo!:  The Best Scenes for Two for the 21st Century—all from Applause Theatre and Cinema Books.)


(Read Theodore Mann’s memoir, Journeys in the Night, also from Applause.)


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(Nigel Farndale's article appeared in the Telegraph, 1/19.)


Sir Tom Stoppard interview


As 'Every Good Boy Deserves Favour' is revived at the National Theatre, Britain's most infamous playwright talks politics, famous muses and the true meaning of 'Stoppardian'.


The tall, hunched figure smoking on the roof terrace of the National Theatre has his back to me, but his Wildean mien, and indeed mane, makes him unmistakable.


As he smokes, he contemplates the inky clouds over the equally black Thames and, for a moment, I contemplate him. If only he had a silk scarf draped over his shoulder, this tableau vivant would be complete.


Sir Tom Stoppard’s face, when he turns, is still, at 72, as brooding and handsome as ever. In his youth he was compared with Mick Jagger, because of his pout, but a better comparison would be with David Gilmour of Pink Floyd.


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(Ben Brantley's article appeared in The New York Times, 1/25.) 

A View From Brooklyn of Tragedy Most Classic

What’s extraordinary about Gregory Mosher’s beautifully observed production of “A View From the Bridge” is how ordinary most of it feels. Very little in this revival of Arthur Miller’s kitchen-sink drama with knives, which opened Sunday night at the Cort Theater, calls loudly for our consideration. Voices are often kept to a just audible murmur, and the Hollywood sheen of the show’s big-name stars, Liev Schreiber and Scarlett Johansson, has been dimmed to a matte finish.

Watching the daily rituals of the small family in mid-1950s Red Hook, Brooklyn, made up of the characters so exquisitely played by Mr. Schreiber, Ms. Johansson and Jessica Hecht, feels like spying across the alley on neighbors who would normally be invisible to you. Yet there’s no question of not paying them the attention that Miller demands.

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