Monthly Archives: December 2013



(Michael Billington's article appeared in the Guardian, 12/17.)

Ivan Turgenev has long been thought of as a one-play man who, in A Month in the Country, anticipated the delicate ironies of Chekhov. But Mike Poulton has adapted this neglected piece from 1848 and, after earlier showings in Chichester (1996) and New York (2002), it finally gets a slap-up London production from Lucy Bailey. It's no lost masterpiece, but it has two great roles and offers a scathingly honest picture of rural Russian life.

Dramatically, it is a play of two distinct halves. In the first we watch, appalled, the humiliation of an impoverished gentleman, Kuzovkin, who sleeps in the linen cupboard of a big country house. Previously tolerated as a jester, he nervously awaits the arrival of the estate's new owner, the recently married Olga, 20, whom he adored when she was a child. Over a disastrous lunch, however, Kuzovkin is egged on by a local landowner, Tropatchov, to resort to the role of resident fool: he gets wildly drunk, insults everyone and comes up with a shattering revelation about Olga herself. In the more nuanced second half, we see the consequences of Kuzovkin's disclosure, though there is no disguising the clumsiness of Turgenev's dramaturgy: there seems no good reason why Olga should miss the crucial lunch except that it makes for a strong end to the first act.


(We wonder if the following applies to seeing a good play.)

(Tomas Jivanda’s article appeared in the Independent, 12/28.)

Being pulled into the world of a gripping novel can trigger actual, measurable changes in the brain that linger for at least five days after reading, scientists have said.

The new research, carried out at Emory University in the US, found that reading a good book may cause heightened connectivity in the brain and neurological changes that persist in a similar way to muscle memory.

The changes were registered in the left temporal cortex, an area of the brain associated with receptivity for language, as well as the the primary sensory motor region of the brain.


(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 12/16.)

Ruth Wilson and Sam Yates have joined forces to direct, in a former Victorian music hall, three early Eugene O'Neill plays written between 1913 and 1918. The result is a spellbinding 90-minute evening, in which the occasional crudity of the writing is overcome by fine acting and the atmospheric power of Alex Baranowski's prefatory jazz music and the resonant singing of Nicola Hughes, who sombrely tells us that "death is slow, death is sure".

Death comes relatively swiftly in all three plays – of which the first, Before Breakfast, is easily the best. In this experimental monologue, an aggrieved working wife outlines the misery of her life to her husband, a poetic wastrel, who remains unseen, except for a brief glimpse of an alcoholically trembling hand. Wilson, directed by Yates, is magnificent in her mixture of anger, apprehension, cruelty and concern. You feel you're watching a whole life unravelling. No sooner is this finished than Wilson is back in The Web, playing a tubercular prostitute who has a momentary vision of happiness when she evades her brutal pimp to encounter a good-hearted gangster. Even if the form is melodramatic, you see hints of O'Neill's later belief in an implacable fate, and Wilson is once again breathtakingly good as the cornered heroine.


1 photo-the clearing-w

(via David Gibbs, DARR Publicity; (L-R): Gene Gallerano and Brian McManamon play lovers in The Clearing. Photographer: Gertjan Houben.)

“The Clearing shows all the characteristics of a Jake Jeppson play: complex human beings with a desire and inability to connect, and from his eloquent heart, the author’s own empathic urgency to connect to us all.” ~ Pulitzer Prize Winner Paula Vogel

Theatre at St. Clement’s will host the World Premiere of The Clearing, written by Jake Jeppson (Jerome Fellowship recipient and recent Yale graduate) and directed by Josh Hecht (Drama Desk Award winner for Christine Jorgensen Reveals). The cast includes Allison Daugherty (Sir Peter Hall’s An Ideal Husband on Broadway, Holiday on Broadway, As Bees in Honey Drown Off-Broadway). The Clearing is the story of two brothers bound together by a terrible secret they’ve guarded for 18 years, exploring the difference between loving someone and living for them.

The Clearing runs Off-Broadway from January 15 – February 9, 2014. Previews begin January 15 for a January 19 opening. Theatre at St. Clement’s is located at 423 West 46th Street between 9th and 10th Avenues in New York City.

Performances are Tuesdays – Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 3pm with a special opening night show on Sunday, January 19 at 7pm. Tickets are $49.50 and can be purchased online at or by calling 1-866-811-4111. A limited amount of student rush tickets will be available at the box office before each performance. The running time is approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes with no intermission. The space is accessible from the 1,2,3,7,A,C,E,N,Q,R or S train to 42 Street. For more info visit

Continue reading



(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 12/17.)

A chamber production of Coriolanus? It sounds a contradiction in terms. But, as the programme points out, Shakespeare's epic Roman play was probably first staged in the small-scale Blackfriars theatre. Josie Rourke also uses the Donmar's intimacy to come up with a fast, witty, intelligent production that in Tom Hiddleston boasts a fine Coriolanus. Even if I have a few niggles, this is a thoroughly good evening.

The first thing one notices is how ingeniously Rourke uses the space. Roman discontent is quickly evoked through graffiti-sprayed walls demanding: "Grain at our own price."



(via Sina-English)

Beijing Dance Theater: Hamlet Description

Together with East Shanghai Broadway Theatre Management Co, Ltd., Beijing Dance Theater will present their brand-new work Hamlet, created by choreographer Wang Yuanyuan, on the occasion of their 5th anniversary. It is based on Shakespeare’s best known tragedy Hamlet and film director Feng Xiaogang’s 2006 movie The Banquet. Taking the intersection of the oriental and the occidental culture as the starting point, Beijing Dance Theater embraces contemporary art and sets out to establish the new stage aesthetics they’ve been pursuing.

The story is set in a non-specific period of time, and through the main characters of Shakespear’s canon – the ghost, the new king, the queen, the prince and the young lady who is the prince’s love interest – it rebuilds a story about life, death and love. The ghost of the late king lingers among the living souls; the prince takes revenge for the ghost and ends up losing both his love and his life; the new king, the queen and the chancellors make transactions with their bodies and souls under the temptation of evilness as well as their struggles within themselves. It is an epic tragedy, and the stage presentation will bring the art of contemporary dance theater to a new height through the ultimate beauty it creates.



(Lyn Gardner’s article appeared in the Guardian, 12/5.)

Murder gets the razzle-dazzle treatment in Paul Kerryson's galvanising revival of Kander and Ebb's sardonic musical. We're in 1920s Chicago, a place where fame and celebrity are valued over truth and justice, and murder has become just another form of light entertainment. Here the windy city appears as you imagine hell itself might look – a cross between the neon gaudiness of Piccadilly Circus and a purple-hazed prison.

Bob Fosse's original choreography was undoubtedly revolutionary in its time, and proved a hit in the long-running London revival, which closed in 2012 after a 15-year run. But Kerryson and choreographer Drew McOnie give the show a much-needed makeover, retaining the its sparseness and fluidity, but placing more emphasis on the contrast between appearance and reality, the illusions of theatre itself and the vaudevillian circus of justice.