Monthly Archives: January 2015


(The following is a live interview with forensic investigator John Morgan on Talk Radio Europe, which aired 1/22—the interviewer is Bill Padley.  Addressed is the new book How They Murdered Princess Diana and also the West End play Truth Lies Diana currently showing at London’s Charing Cross Theatre. Via Patricia N. Saffran.)



A Chronicle Play in Six Scenes and an Epilogue
by Bernard Shaw

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It would be unthinkable not to include a new production of Saint Joan in Radio 3's Conviction season, which features new plays and classic drama about people with unwavering and uncompromising beliefs – and the consequences for those around them.

Shaw's Saint Joan is the embodiment of absolute conviction. Given, as she believes, a divine mission to lead the French to victory and nationhood, she is also divinely forbidden to shed a single drop of blood. Her only weapon is her belief, and the courage it puts into those around her. In Joan, Shaw presents us with a character of remarkable talent and unshakeable faith – but no grace – and reveals her fate at the hands of normal men and women who, as Shaw notes, do what they find they must do, in spite of their best intentions. Joan's convictions are contagious. They make her an unstoppable force. They also lead her to destruction. 'There were only two opinions about her', Shaw observes in his preface to the play, 'One that she was miraculous: the other that she was unbearable.'

Joan of Arc was canonised in 1920, a fact which galvanised Shaw to complete the play with which he had long been toying. A humane masterpiece, full of comedy, outrage, satire and anger, it examines the seismic changes in medieval society of which Joan was a precursor, for an audience themselves struggling with a shocking new post-war order. An immediate success, the play restored Shaw to universal popularity, helping him to the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1925, as the Academy observed, "for his work which is marked by both idealism and humanity, its stimulating satire often being infused with a singular poetic beauty".

The music is taken from 'The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace', by Karl Jenkins.

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(Stevens’s article appeared in the Daily Mail, 1/21; via Patricia N. Saffran.)

There’s something oddly familiar about Shakespearean heavyweight Mark Rylance, as Thomas Cromwell, the central figure in BBC2’s Wolf Hall.

His insolence, the edge of sarcasm as he addresses ‘my lord’ or ‘my lady’, and, above all, the hint of a nasal whine in his London vowels… this blacksmith’s son resembled Blackadder’s devious servant Baldrick. But of course Cromwell’s plans are far more cunning.

The dash of humour is what makes Hilary Mantel’s two Booker-winning novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies, set in the maelstrom of Tudor politics, so entertaining.



(Patrick Healy’s article appeared in The New York Times, 1/15.)

Ghosts are all around John Cameron Mitchell, and not just those said to haunt Broadway’s Belasco Theater.

There’s his ex-boyfriend Jack Steeb, dead these 10 years, who now feels like his missing half. There’s Mr. Mitchell’s father, an Army general, a source of inspiration who passed away in 2013. Then there’s the performance that filled up the Belasco last year: the Tony Award-winning star turn by Neil Patrick Harris in Mr. Mitchell’s hit musical, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.”

Most of all there is the old girl herself, Hedwig, who Mr. Mitchell seared into memories when he created the “internationally ignored song stylist” at downtown clubs in the 1990s and in a 2001 movie. A worn-out blond wig for Hedwig sits on a shelf at the Belasco, where Mr. Mitchell, 51, will take over the role on Wednesday, playing her on Broadway for the first time.



(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 1/23.)

“Oppenheimer’s stature is not in question, but do we have a playwright big enough to depict him?” That was the question posed by critic Eric Bentley in 1969. The answer has been found in the shape of Tom Morton-Smith, a 34-year-old dramatist with a handful of fringe credits, who has come up with this massively impressive three-hour play for the RSC: one that shows the father of the atomic bomb and leader of America’s Manhattan project to be a genuinely tragic hero.

Oppenheimer’s tragedy, in Morton-Smith’s version, takes many forms. The most obvious is that this visionary scientist, who led the team that created the bombs released on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, had to live with the moral consequences of his discoveries: “I feel,” he says, “like I’ve dropped a loaded gun in a playground.”

But Oppenheimer is also tragic in that his espousal of communism in the 1930s forces him, once he is employed by the US military, to either abandon or, in the case of the academic Haakon Chevalier, betray his former colleagues. And, in terms of his own nature, Oppenheimer is a man in whom professional pride is accompanied by “a core of cold iron”.



(Ben Brantley’s article appeared in The New York Times, 1/15; via Pam Green)  

Wake up and smell the mai tais, New York. Las Vegas has come calling on you. And it’s on such good behavior, you’d be a churl not to embrace it as if it were a long-lost sibling.

As embodied by the bright and bouncy new musical “Honeymoon in Vegas,” which opened on Thursday night at the Nederlander Theater, the world capital of gambling and neon is everything you want it to be. That means a little hip, a little square, a little dangerous, a little kitschy and a whole lotta delicioussh fun. (Oh dear, am I slurring? Sorry.)

But here’s the bonus, in which East (Coast) meets West: This production is also a real-live, old-fashioned, deeply satisfying Broadway musical in a way few new shows are anymore. Adapted by Andrew Bergman from his 1992 movie, with a swinging score by Jason Robert Brown and a smooth-as-Ultrasuede star turn by Tony Danza, this show offers the perfect sunny holiday for frozen Eastern city dwellers.



(Charles Isherwood’s article appeared in The New York Times, 1/14via Pam Green.)

Imagine running a marathon in stilettos. While singing your heart out. That’s the kind of mad feat the singular performer Taylor Mac has embarked upon in his magnum opus, “A 24-Decade History of Popular Music,” which will ultimately climax in an epic show to be performed for 24 straight hours.

For now, Mr. Mac — and his collaborators, and his audiences — are merely in the training stages. The first two parts of this staggering undertaking, celebrating the songs from the first half of the 20th century, are being presented at New York Live Arts in association with the Under the Radar Festival. (The whole will cover the life span of America: 1776 through 2016, when that epic performance will take place.) The first program, which runs through Saturday, explores the songs from the first three decades: the 1900s through the 1920s. Next week, it’s on to the following three decades, and on Jan. 25, Mr. Mac will perform both parts together, in a miniature (!) six-hour marathon. 



(Jen Yamato’s article appeared on Deadline, 1/21.)

EXCLUSIVE: Documentary filmmaker Stevan Riley (Blue Blood, Fire In Babylon) got the chance of a lifetime when he was granted access to more than 200 hours of audio tapes Marlon Brando made during the course of his life, a personal archive of never-before-heard musings, acting studies, self-hypnosis and insights the enigmatic Oscar winner had hoped to turn into an autobiographical film before his death in 2004.



(Mary Leland’s article appeared in The Irish Times, 1/14.)

Going to the theatre in Cork can feel like going to a pub, at least in the case of this show at the Everyman Palace. The combination of the Everyman’s new season launch reception with the opening night of Ger Fitzgibbon’s two-act play resulted in a talkative stream of wine- and beer-bearing latecomers in the opening minutes of the show.

This inevitably disrupts the impact of Nicholas Kavanagh’s initial appearance as the suitor Looney-Bagenal. It also means that the detail of Deirdre Dwyer’s economic but beautifully pitched set is diminished, and it erodes the impact of Fitzgibbon’s rewriting of two Chekov vaudeville pieces being rooted in rural Ireland instead of rural Russia.

This is important because, in his writing and direction, Fitzgibbon sets a brisk pace. His cast of three – Kavanagh, Jack Healy and Aideen Wylde – relish the controlled canter at which they work, and are skilled and comfortable enough to accommodate the reaction to their paired comedies.