Monthly Archives: June 2009


(Diane de Beer's review appeared in the Cape Times, June 9.) 



Theatre Review:

Brothers In Blood

Director: Greg Homann

Playwright: Mike van Graan

Cast: Dale Abrahams, Kim Cloete, David Dennis, Karabo Kgokong, Murray Todd

Venue: Barney Simon at the Market

Until: July 12

Rating: ****

"You people!" It's a phrase that rules the hearts and minds of people whenever they view human beings as other.

To many, it's threatening when people don't look or act like they do, pray to a different god and adhere to another set of social structures.

All these play into the fear of those who are only comfortable with the familiar.

Fearing, rather than embracing differences between people, has dominated the South African psyche and led to a system that oppressed many and favoured few. And still we determinedly dwell negatively on things that keep us apart rather than those that bind. We should be celebrating the differences – it's what makes us unique.

Always the activist, Van Graan taps into something that transcends race, gender and age.

We all do it in some fashion and yet, when you explore the headlines closely, the human stories are very similar: people looking out for their families, the ones they love, the ones they want to protect.

And when anyone close to them has been harmed, it becomes more obsessive, often to the point where they lose sight of the needs of those they're confronting.

It's neatly packaged, as Van Graan's wont to do, but here he has counteracted with the Crash/Robert Altman formula, bringing together a group of people who are unrelated yet their lives almost run into and through one another in an explosive fashion.

(Read more)

Visit Mike van Graan’s Web site:


(Robert Hurwitt's interview in The San Francisco Chronicle appeared May 31, 2009.)

Edward Albee writes prequel to 'Zoo Story'

"I thought 'The Zoo Story' was OK but slightly one-sided, all about Jerry and not a lot about Peter. I thought it would be better if we knew more about Peter," Edward Albee says of his first play. The explosive one-act, paired with the New York premiere of Samuel Beckett's "Krapp's Last Tape," made Albee the hot, new playwright to keep an eye on when it opened off-Broadway in 1960.

Almost 50 years later, the 81-year-old author has long been widely acknowledged as the leading American playwright of the post-Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller generation while never losing a kind of enfant terrible aura.

The savage wit, sharp ear for contemporary speech, telling surreal touches and underlying anger that first surfaced in "Zoo Story" have continued to surprise, offend and delight audiences in plays from "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" to "Three Tall Women" and "The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?" ever since. Meanwhile, the short, dense park bench confrontation between the passive, academic Peter and the intrusive, talkative loner Jerry has remained one of the most popular plays of each decade.


(The following article appeared in The Guardian, June 17. Lyn Gardner, Brian Logan, Andrew Celemtns, Alexis Petridis, Judith Mackrell and Adrian Searle outline the festivities.)

Edinburgh festival 2009: our critics pick the best

Don't listen to the doom-mongers – the Edinburgh festival is adapting in style to changing times. Lyn Gardner introduces this year's lineup, and our critics pick out the highlights

For the 20-odd years I've been going to Edinburgh in August, the nay­sayers have been predicting the festivals' imminent ­demise. (There are at least three of them: the international festival, the Fringe, the Free Fringe.) Their critics say they are too big, too baggy, too highbrow, too lowbrow; that the ­international festival (EIF) can't ­afford the best of the best; that the Fringe has been overrun by comedians and exhibitionists. Add to that the ­recession, and last year's ­fiasco on the Fringe – a chaotic new ticketing system – and many thought that 2009 would be the year Edinburgh went pop.

Well, there's no sign of catastrophe. Neither the Fringe nor the EIF would still be in existence if they hadn't proved their ability to adapt to ­changing ­circumstances. Certainly, Edinburgh faces challenges to its ­cultural status from other cities: the Manchester international festival is securing exciting new commissions, while programmes such as Bite at London's Barbican offer a wide range of inter­national work. The EIF has had to up its game.

In his third year of programming. EIF's director, Jonathan Mills, continues to remind us just how dusty things had become under his predecessor, Sir Brian McMaster. This year's programme is an invigorating one, loosely linked to the Scottish Enlightenment and the theme of homecoming. Mills, reflecting the trend towards cross-fertilisation, has programmed work that encourages audiences to look beyond their ­preferred art forms.

As for the Fringe, it seems to be defying the recession: now in its 63rd year, it is still expanding, albeit by the tiniest of margins (there are 10 more shows this year than last). On the Fringe, of course, bigger doesn't always mean better: an ever-expanding festival must also find an ever-expanding ­audience, which could be tricky in the current climate.

Still, I think this year's ­programme shows signs of real quality. The Traverse theatre is mixing new work with proven hits, including Simon Stephens's Sea Wall, David Greig's Mid­summer and Judith ­Thompson's acclaimed triptych, Palace of the End. We also have the British Council's ­biannual showcase of the best of UK ­theatre, including companies such as Subject to Change, Cartoon de Salvo, Uninvited Guests and Sound & Fury. (This takes place over the final week of the Fringe, so if you are only going for a short time, it makes sense to go then – by which time the EIF will also be in full swing.) The Scottish Arts Council is doing something similar, funding ­Scottish artists such as Grid Iron, The Arches, Nic Green and David Leddy.

Of course, audiences may decide that costs are too great this year, and stay away. But so far, the signs are good: ticket sales for the EIF are close to last year's figures (it's too soon to say for the Fringe, whose programme was only announced last week). Meanwhile, the Free Fringe continues to grow, offering 465 free performances; Forest Fringe, a free mini-festival, is expanding, too.

One thing is for certain: Edinburgh 2009 will be a unique experience, as it always is – quite unlike any festival that came before it, and any yet to come.

Full festival details at and



Dennis Kelly is a writer with a real ­ability to surprise and shock. His latest, directed by Roxanna Silbert, is a contemporary suspense story with a twist about moral responsibilities and what goes on behind the curtains. Traverse Theatre (0131-228 1404), 1-30 August.

The Last Witch

Playwright Rona Munro was inspired by the true story of Janet Horne, the last woman to be executed for witchcraft in Scotland. Dominic Hill directs a new play about the psychology of fear in closeknit communities. Royal Lyceum (0131-248 4848), 23-29 August.

The Girls of Slender Means

Judith Adams is the perfect choice to adapt Muriel Spark's sly and tender novel about a group of young women living on little more than hope and euphoria in the period between VE and VJ Day in 1945. Assembly@St George's Street (0131-623 3030), 6-31 August.

Forest Fringe

An extraordinary festival of experimental work, free to all, from such stellar ­companies as Improbable, BAC, The Miniaturists, Curious, Third Angel, Rotozaza, Little Bulb, Coney, Mel ­Wilson, Hide & Seek and Stoke Newington ­International Airport. Forest Fringe (, 17-29 August.

Peter and Wendy

Mabou Mines, whose infamous version of A Doll's House played at Edinburgh in 2007, uses puppetry and a live band to reinvent JM Barrie's story. Forget panto and Disney – this avant-garde company mines the cruelty. Royal Lyceum ­(0131-248 4848), 2-5 September.

Beachy Head

Analogue were one of the finds of the 2007 festival with their debut, Mile End. The multimedia company returns to where it all started with a horribly topical show exploring one man's decision to kill himself. Pleasance Dome (0131-556 6550), 5-30 August (except 17 and 24).


(The text of of the following monologue, one of Spalding Gray's last, is included in One on One:  The Best Men's Monologues for the 21st Century-–from Applause Theatre and Cinema Books. Listen  at the following You Tube links:) 

The Anniversary:

Part 1: 

Part 2:

Visit Spalding Gray’s official Web site:


(Imogen Russell Williams's Q&A with Mark Henderson appeared in the Guardian on June 16.)

Theatre masterclass: Lighting designer Mark Henderson

Actors and sets might steal the show – but only if they're well lit. Award-winner Mark Henderson shares some illuminating thoughts on his craft

When did you decide to be a lighting designer?

I sort of fell into it. I started out as a lighting technician, was asked to do a little bit of design, and carried on from there.

Where did you learn your profession?

The design part of it? As I went along – on the job. I started as a technician in my home town in Nottinghamshire, and then I moved to Opera North, where I made the transition from technician to designer.

What was your breakthrough production?

Probably one of the first ones that I did. It was at the Royal Exchange in Manchester, a play called Lady from the Sea, and that was my first real, serious, piece of design. Then I realised that design was probably actually quite a good thing to do.

Favourite part of the job?

I like the creative process, working with clever and talented people. I like the camaraderie. My favourite and most hated time is the technical rehearsal, when it's all frantically put together – that's the most creative time, but also the most painful, because it's so pressurised. Either it all comes together or it completely falls apart.

(Read more)


Each week the expert staff of the renowned Drama Book Shop in Manhattan, just seconds away from Broadway, recommends one play that's new, interesting, or just flat-out fantastic. Picking the best of published work, they help keep us up to date and aware of the little known, broadening our horizons and encouraging dialogue. Order a play from The Drama Book Shop, read it, and e-mail them with your thoughts–they'd love to hear from you:


Dust by Billy Goda

Dust is a thriller with a really interesting plot. Young guy gets out of jail and gets a job working in a luxury apartment's gym. Older guy/resident comes to the gym to exercise on doctors orders and get's really bent out of shape over some dust on an air vent. Young guy laughs it off and refuses to clean the dust himself which pisses off the old guy, who threatens to get him fired. Young guy refuses the old guy and says, "this doesn't end here."

Then he falls in love with old guy's hot daughter who's angry with daddy.

Also including young guy's best friend/cop and old guy's ex-military/mob thug-friend, we add in just the right amount of push and pull needed to escalate the situation further until someone shows up with a gun. Someone might even die.

Dust is a fascinating play to work on because there is a lot of depth to the characters, which allows for many interpretations and character choices. The girl is a little one dimensional, but with some good choices, an actress can bring it to life. It has good scenes between the young guy and the daughter, and between the young guy and old guy. Also two good scenes for two older men (40's-50's).

Cast: 5 M (2 early 30's, 2 late 40's), 1 W (early 20's) (1 man doubles a role)

Scenes/Monologues: A few good monologues, but some really good two and three person scenes.

Recommended by: Adam


The Drama Book Shop, Inc.
250 W. 40th St.
New York, NY 10018
Tel: (212) 944-0595
Fax: (212) 730-8739

Order online: http://www.dramabookshop.c



Dust is a power play. One man is an executive with money and a paunch. The other is an ex-con with street smarts and a minimum-wage position. One man says "jump." The other won’t say "how high," but defiantly asks "why?". What starts off as a battle of wills over who will do the dusting escalates into a war for respect, the upper hand and survival. Who will be standing when the dust settles? –

Product Details

Publisher : Samuel French Trade
Published : 04/01/2009
Format : Paperback , pages 88
ISBN-10 : 0573696527
ISBN-13 : 9780573696527


(The following interview with Angela Lansbury appeared on The New Yorker Web site June 11.) 

Conversations with John Lahr: Angela Lansbury

Last month, John Lahr sat down with the actress Angela Lansbury, who recently won a Tony award for her portrayal of Madame Arcati in the Noël Coward play “Blithe Spirit.” In this video, Lansbury talks about the challenges of performing Coward and recalls some of her happiest moments on stage.


(Jeremy Gerard's article appeared on Bloomberg June 11.)

Kushner’s ‘Intelligent Homosexual’ Premieres at Guthrie: Review

In the land of Lake Wobegon, these last few weeks have belonged to Tony Kushner as the Guthrie Theater turned its entire, astonishingly beautiful Minneapolis complex over to three of his plays, including the world premiere of “The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism With a Key to the Scriptures.”

Brevity, as anyone familiar with his most famous work, “Angels in America,” already knows, is not the soul of Kushner’s wit. In the new play, an Italian-American family’s Brooklyn brownstone becomes the setting for clan warfare that continues for three-and-a-half hours. (The length is likely to change as the play wends its way to New York.)

Son Pier, known as Pill, is a high-school history teacher married to a black man but obsessed with a white hustler, upon whom he has lavished $30,000 borrowed from his sister, Maria, known as Empty.

Divorced from Adam, who lives in the basement, Empty is having a baby with her pregnant lover Maeve. The seed for the baby was planted by Empty’s and Pill’s brother Vito, a working- class hero who was counting on inheriting the house. Unfortunately, father now plans to sell it before making good on his threat to commit suicide. Dad’s sister, Benedicta, known as Bennie, is an ex-nun who works with the poor in New Jersey; her unflappable presence is nearly spectral.

Horace Man

Pulling the strings is Augusto Giuseppe Garibaldi Marcantonio, the father known as Gus. He’s a retired longshoreman, fiercely but imperfectly committed socialist and, lately, translator of Horace from the original Latin. The Marcantonios and their kith have an astonishing capacity to hurt, love, parry, thrust and, above all, talk. We will learn, on this unsentimental journey, a great deal about the labor movement in New York, the consequences (or possibilities) of paying for sex, the housing market, dry-wall construction.

The play’s style varies nearly as much as its themes. Father-child confrontations may have the solemn grace of an Arthur Miller moral drama or a Bernard Shaw moral farce (the title is a play on Shaw’s 1927 pamphlet, “The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism and Capitalism”). No-holds-barred free-for-alls with overlapping dialogue recall the Robert Altman of “Nashville.”

Guthrie Web site:


(Henry Hitchings's article appeared in The London Evening Standard 6/12.)

Dame Helen Mirren sets pulse sprinting in Phèdre

Jean Racine's 17th-century tragedy is a handsome study of the destructiveness of love, and the central role of Phèdre — the Queen of Athens, here realised by Helen Mirren — is psychologically rich.

This is the story of a woman who, while her husband Theseus is mysteriously absent, falls in love with her stepson, the sexily post-adolescent Hippolytus. It’s a passion doomed to have grave consequences.

The male characters in Racine’s play are important. Half of it is about a son who believes he has lost his father, half about a father who believes he has lost his son. Yet it’s the two men’s connections with Phèdre that impel the drama inexorably.

We don’t see Phèdre and Hippolytus together until 40 minutes into the play’s two hours (there is no interval), but when the moment comes it is electric. After Phèdre declares her feelings for her stepson, he has to take a shower to cool off — the production’s one snatch of pure comedy.

The most compelling moment comes later when Theseus tells Phèdre that Hippolytus’s affectations have gravitated elsewhere: an ashen Mirren registers the information and then, alone, feels beneath her ribcage for the “smouldering” resentment that threatens to “burst into hard flames”.

Phèdre’s passions are complex, and she sees herself as unreadable. Indeed, the whole of Racine’s play is clouded by uncertainty. Mirren evokes Phèdre’s conflicted identity with skittish command. She is a heroic lover, yet also viciously self-lacerating, capable of being rhapsodic, delicate, hysterically imploring, tyrannically possessive, haunted and ultimately quavery and spectral. Dominic Cooper’s Hippolytus is an idler with a gift for lofty rhetoric.


THE NATURALIST: a five minute play

 by Robin Goldfin


Time: just yesterday.

Place: North of England, an auditorium.  There is a standing microphone on stage.  The ACTOR enters and speaks into it.



I was sitting in the doctor’s office.  In London.  My foot hurt.  I remember thinking: something always hurts.  I feel like such a strange bird.  I picked up a magazine.  It was a Nature magazine.  In it, I found another strange bird.


I have learned that most of my writing starts as a complaint.  My attempt is to transform it into something….It begins with—


(He puts on a pair of glasses, becomes The Naturalist.  Strong North of England accent.)


Access—to the attic—was via trap door—in the ceiling.   By precarious means—I realize now how soon I might have departed this life—I entered the loft and recorded egg laying, hatching and fledging.  For my tree, I chose the flowering cherry in the garden, recording bud changes, first leaves, first flowers, first fruits and their development.  My school was Highly Commended, two medals were awarded, one to me.


So began my love affair with Nature.  It is impossible to estimate here the influence of these early events on my development…as today I stand before you not to accept yet another award, but to pass on the legacy…of love.  I know we are all waiting impatiently to hear from this year’s winner who has so diligently devoted him/her self to observing these creatures in their native surroundings.  So!  Without further ado: The Tree Warden Society of The Home Parish Council of Wombourne, South Staffordshire hereby presents a FIRST for Animal In Its Natural Habitat Appreciation to–


Scout Ernesto Hermon (my strange bird) and his outstanding work, “Defenestration and the Little Finches.”


Scout Ernesto, do come up and tell us—how does it feel to come first?


(The Actor takes two steps forward, pivots, takes off the glasses and stashes them in a pocket to return as 12 year old Ernesto.  Shy?  Mortified.  He stands frozen at the mic.  Speaks to his Scoutmaster.)


I don’t know what to—.  There are so many people—(a whisper) Ok.

I want to thank me Ma, me Da, the…Good Lord!  Don’t move, don’t breathe!


(He gropes in his pocket for telescope and slowly extends it—the sexual metaphor should not be lost—he can barely contain his excitement.  Scanning the audience.)


There!  A snag-toothed warbling frustration!  And there—a belly-throated regret! Wait, it couldn’t be—it is!  A red-breasted lust!  And right next to her—the sleek-throated shame!  Oh, what a pair… this is my…Ah!…..The full breasted loneliness is feeding her babies!  Oh!  The flat-footed failure has laid another egg!…..(Gasp!)—I don’t believe—so rarely seen in these parts: The dark hued blue-crested sadness.  (Whistles)  Look at that wing span…


            (He watches as the bird flies off.  Lights fade.  End of play.)





© 2009 by Robin Goldfin


(Robin Goldfin’s work is included in One on One:  The Best Men’s Monologues for the 21st Century from Applause Theatre & Cinema Books.)