Monthly Archives: May 2016

EDWARD BOND INTERVIEW: TORTURE AND BABY-STONINGS: WHY WE NEED SHOCK THEATRE … IN SMALL DOSES ·

 

(Mark Lawson’s article appeared in the Guardian, 5/22.)

Famous playwrights are traditionally honoured with productions to mark big birthdays or anniversaries of key plays. However, the theatrical establishment did nothing to acknowledge Edward Bond reaching 80 in 2014, nor was there a revival to mark the passing last year of five decades since the electrifying premiere of Saved, his tragedy about disaffected youth. And although Bond’s Bingo is probably the best biographical play about Shakespeare, it failed to feature in the epic death quadricentennial commemorations by the Royal Shakespeare Company and the BBC.

So is Bond bitter about his treatment by British theatre? “No!” he insists. “I’m far too busy.”

In Rome, there is a new production of Lear, his 1971 variation on Shakespeare, and another work from the same period, The Sea – a weird comedy of beachside goings-on – has become a hit at the Comédie-Française in Paris. Currently, Bond is working with the composer Laura Jayne Bowler on an opera based on his playEarly Morning  censored in 1968 for depicting Queen Victoria as a cannibal lesbian in love with Florence Nightingale – and is directing Dea at the Secombe theatre in Sutton, his first play (apart from pieces for teenagers) to be premiered in the UK for two decades.

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2016/may/22/edward-bond-medea-war-dea-play-sutton-interview

MOSCOW THEATER TAKES TALES OF SIBERIAN FARMERS TO NEW YORK ·

(Marina Shimadina’s article appeared in Russia Beyond the Headline, 5/25.)

Born in the remote Altai region, Soviet author Vasily Shukshin was a real Siberian original. And all the characters in his stories and movies, where Shukshin was the screenwriter, director and an actor, were also common people, ploughboys, "cranks" who lived not by calculations but by the heart.

These funny and sometimes ridiculous characters were so loved by readers and viewers, because they differed from the ideologically correct heroes of Soviet literature and cinema.

At the Theater of Nations in Moscow, these essentially Russian stories were directed by a foreigner – the head of the New Riga Theater, Latvian Alvis Hermanis. It was under him that the Theater of Nations started its cooperation with world-famous masters such as Thomas Ostermeier, Robert Lepage and Bob Wilson.

http://rbth.com/arts/theatre/2016/05/25/moscow-theater-takes-tales-of-siberian-ploughboys-to-new-york_597269

KATE TEMPEST: FROM GLASTONBURY TO BOOK AT BEDTIME: UNCONTAINABLE ·

(Lyn Gardner’s article appeared in the Guardian, 5/24.)

Listen to Kate Tempest read her novel ‘Monsters and Slimeballs and Showgirls’ at:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07byv7l

Kate Tempest was in Australia earlier this month socking it to them at the Sydney writers’ festival with a speech in which she insisted that guilt about racism is just another form of narcissism and that what is urgently required is “empathy, humility, reparation and change”. This week, she can be heard on Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime, reading a shortened version of her novel The Bricks That Built the Houses with such galvanising energy and, on occasion, fierce rapping, that listeners may need a second cup of cocoa to get to sleep.

She is, of course, a distinctive and unique talent. There may never again be someone who has both been nominated for the Mercury music prize and also won the Ted Hughes award for innovation in poetry. This is a writer and performer who has tried her hand at writing plays (Wasted for Paines Plough), pushed the boundaries between performance and gig in the mesmerising Brand New Ancients, and written her debut novel, which is about young people fleeing a drugs deal gone wrong in south-east London.

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/theatreblog/2016/may/24/kate-tempest-book-at-bedtime-radio-4

THE FIRST ROLE FOR MANY ACTORS: WAITER ·

(Leah Rozen’s article appeared in The New York Times, 5/19; via Pam Green.)

Right now on Broadway, audience members can glimpse the behind-the-scenes frenzy at an elite eatery in the comedy “Fully Committed.” And a ticket to the musical “Waitress” opens a window onto the lives of workers at a small-town diner, who find unlikely romance amid the pie-making and hash-slinging.

Entertaining? Hopefully. But for actors in these and other shows, what’s happening onstage may stir up bittersweet memories of earlier lean times when, as fresh-faced new arrivals in New York, their only chance to emote was reciting dinner specials for surly customers at the restaurants where they worked.

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/22/theater/the-first-role-for-many-actors-waiter.html

*****SARAH KANE: ‘4.48 PSYCHOSIS’ OPERA (SV PICK, UK) ·

(Steph Powers’s article appeared in the Independent, 5/26.)

Suffering from suicidal depression, Sarah Kane experienced her sharpest, most anguished clarity at 4.48am: hence her visceral final play, 4.48 Psychosis. In it, mental extremes are unflinchingly distilled. Wreathed in dark humour or bleak, lyrical beauty, words fragment and coalesce through angry pain and medicated stupor into skinless and terrible lucid freedom.

Where this first ever operatic setting by Royal Opera/Guildhall Composer-in-Residence Philip Venables succeeds is through simple honesty. With a score ranging guilelessly from motoric arrhythmia to wispy renaissance, director Ted Huffman and team attempt neither dramatic adornment nor explanation but allow the text to breathe within a kaleidoscope of inner-outer conflict.

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/theatre-dance/reviews/448-psychosis-lyric-hammersmith-review-sarah-kane-s-final-play-about-her-suicidal-depression-a7049726.html

PATRICIA N. SAFFRAN: THE GLOBAL CELEBRATION OF SHAKESPEARE, APRIL 23, 2016 ·

 

On April 23, 2016, events were held worldwide in celebration of the author William Shakespeare on the 400th anniversary of the death of Mr. William Shakspere (family spelling) of Stratford in 1616. The latter’s birth on the same day (it is assumed) in Stratford-upon-Avon, England, 52 years earlier, was observed the same weekend with a parade, a giant birthday cake pulled by a team of horses, and reenactors. Stratford also put on a gala including Dame Judi Dench and Benedict Cumberbatch performing excerpts from different plays. The festivities over the weekend may have been grand but were not out of the ordinary for the town of Stratford, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (SBT) and the Royal Shakespeare Company. Of late, they have been very vocal promoting the local purported author, William Shakspere. Oddly, the Stratford Shakspere was never known as a connoisseur of horses or as a horseman.

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2016 OBIE AWARDS: ‘THE HUMANS,’ ‘ECLIPSED’ SCORE; ‘GUARDS AT THE TAJ’ WINS PLAY PRIZE (FULL LIST) ·

 

 

(Gordon Cox’s article appeared in Variety, 5/23.)

The full list of 2016 Obies Awards follows:

PLAYWRITING

Lucas HnathThe Christians (Playwrights Horizons) and Red Speedo (New York

Theatre Workshop)

Stephen KaramThe Humans (Roundabout Theatre Company)

Musical Theater

Steven Levenson (book), Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (music & lyrics), Dear Evan

Hansen (Second Stage Theatre)

 

DIRECTION

Rachel ChavkinThe Royale (Lincoln Center Theater)

Michael LeibenluftI’ll Never Love Again (Bushwick Starr)

 

PERFORMANCE

Khris DavisThe Royale (Lincoln Center Theater)

Emily DonahoeThe Christians (Playwrights Horizons)

Georgia EngelJohn (Signature Theatre Company)

EnsembleEclipsed (The Public Theater): Pascale ArmandAkosua Busia, Zainab JahLupita Nyong’oSaycon Sengbloh

Jayne HoudyshellThe Humans (Roundabout Theatre Company)

Omar Metwally and Arian MoayedGuards at the Taj (Atlantic Theater Company)

Ben PlattDear Evan Hansen (Second Stage Theatre)

Lucas Caleb RooneyRed Speedo (New York Theatre Workshop)

Tamara TunieFamiliar (Playwrights Horizons)

http://variety.com/2016/legit/news/2016-obie-awards-full-list-1201781374/

GARRY WILLS: SHAKESPEARE: WAR IS KING (CHI) ·

 

(Wills’s article appeared in the New York Review of Books, 5/23.)

Shakespeare’s troupe, like theatrical companies everywhere, returned to what worked at the box office. That often meant mounting sequels to known “hits,” as Hollywood does now. In the patriotic 1590s, a tried and true subject was any story about England’s own history—especially about its fifteenth-century war-hero kings Edward III, his son the Black Prince, and Henry V. That is why Shakespeare spent so much of his career’s first decade writing so-called “history plays.”

Some of these nine works—Richard IIRichard IIIHenry IV, and Henry V—stayed in the repertory for performance as single plays. Every now and then the plays are performed as a sequence—or at least four of them are: Richard IIHenry IV, Parts One and Two, and Henry V. These have just been offered, one per night, by the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. More rarely, an earlier set of four plays has been mounted: Henry VI, Parts One, Two, Three, and Richard III.  These, though written earlier, treat later events than the popular four.

http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2016/05/23/shakespeare-history-plays-chicago-war-is-king/

ON CARSON MCCULLERS ·

 

Listen to the BBC Radio 4 podcast at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06zh03z

The writing of Carson McCullers has perhaps never been as popular or acclaimed as that of contemporaries such as Harper Lee and Tennessee Williams, but nonetheless she remains one of the most remarkable and individual writers to come out of twentieth century America. She only wrote a few works, in large part because rheumatic fever left her paralysed in her left arm, and she was beset by ill health and alcoholism for many of her fifty years. Her writing style was enormously sensuous, filled with the heat, sounds and smells of the American south, and the characters who populated books like 'The Ballad of the Sad Cafe', 'The Heart is a Lonely Hunter' and 'A Member of the Wedding' were most commonly troubled misfits. Her personal life was similarly idiosyncratic – the man she married twice committed suicide having tried to get her to do the same – though it is her very particular writing style, with a strong musicality drawn from the years she spent training as a classical pianist, that has made many of her fans so vociferous in their attachment to her.
Jarvis Cocker hears from a number of them, including academic Carlos Dews, author Laura Barton and musician Suzanne Vega, who has not only written and starred in three versions of a play about Carson, but often feels herself to be in conversation with her spirit.

Jarvis explains his own personal devotion, explaining how Carson's ability to bypass the brain and connect straight to the heart is what makes her such an important figure to him.