Monthly Archives: August 2016




(Peter Crawley’s article appeared in the Irish Times, 8/26.)

Stacey Gregg’s play Scorch, produced by Belfast’s Prime Cut Productions, has won a coveted Fringe First Award in the final round of awards for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Judged by the reviewers of the Scotsman, the most influential newspaper in Edinburgh during the festival season in August, the Fringe Firsts are awarded specifically for new writing.




(Koya Segi’s article appeared in the Japan Times, 8/19.)

OSAKA – A robot-themed theater production in Kyoto has attracted packed houses since opening in 2012.

“Gear,” a 75-minute nonspeaking performance that combines music, projected images and human movement, tells the story of humanoid “Roboroids” who continue to make dolls at the assembly line of an abandoned toy factory.

Since the acting parts are nonverbal, the show is popular among people who don’t understand Japanese and people with hearing impairments, with many coming in groups, according to producer Keito Kohara.

The show has been performed some 1,300 times since its opening.

The cast for the twice-a-day performances that take place most days of the week includes mimes, break dancers, magicians and jugglers.


Listen to ‘THE PIANO LESSON’ by August Wilson at:

In August Wilson's Pulitzer Prize-winning play set in Pittsburgh in 1936, an ancient upright piano carved with African faces dominates the parlour of Doaker Charles. Boy Willie and his partner Lymon have come up from the south to sell watermelons. Boy Willie has just got out of prison and he wants to buy the land his ancestors once worked as slaves but his sister is not about to sell the piano.

Creative consultant, Ricardo Khan Pianist, Ernie Scott

"The glow accompanying August Wilson's place in contemporary American theatre is fixed." Toni Morrison.

August Wilson (1945-2005) is America's foremost black playwright. 'The Piano Lesson' is the fourth of his cycle of ten plays about the African American experience in the twentieth century. It opened at the Yale Repertory Theatre in 1987 and the 1990 Broadway production won a Pulitzer Prize, a Drama Desk Award and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play. The play was inspired by Romare Bearden's painting of the same name. August Wilson saw its scene of a teacher and student as an allegory for how African Americans must learn to negotiate their history.

This radio production was recorded at Tony Award winning Crossroads Theatre, New Brunswick, New Jersey, with the support of August Wilson's widow, and an outstanding cast which includes actors like Stephen Henderson and Anthony Chisholm who worked extensively with August Wilson. Anthony and Stephen were both in the Olivier award winning production of 'Jitney' which took London by storm ten years ago and Stephen and Chris Chalk were both in the Broadway Tony award winning production of August Wilson's 'Fences' starring Denzel Washington in 2010.

First broadcast in November 2011.



(Hedy Weiss’s article appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, 8/26.)

If you’ve been following news of the art world in recent months you may have come across two intriguing front page stories. In one, actor Alec Baldwin accused a major New York gallery owner of selling him a canvas by painter Ross Bleckner that was a more recent version of the original painting he had requested. In another (a case that played out in a Chicago courtroom), a man who wanted to sell an early painting by Scottish artist Peter Doig he believed to be worth $10 million, was told it was not a work by Doig at all.

Whether being purchased or sold by an individual or a museum, matters of authenticity and provenance (the trail of ownership attached to a work of art) have long been of crucial importance. Forgeries and copies are as old as the making of art itself, and ownership (marred by everything from wartime looting to ordinary theft), can be dubious. But art is now seen as a major investment – a high-priced commodity – as much as a thing of beauty, wonderment, mystery or delight. And egos are heavily involved in its vetting and acquisition.



(Lyn Gardner’s article appeared in the Guardian, 8/27.)

Not so much a show as a mass hallucination, the latest piece from James Thierrée puts a spell on the audience with its mixture of ravishing visuals, seductive music and breathtaking acrobatics. Thierrée was raised in a circus; Charlie Chaplin was his grandfather and the American playwright Eugene O’Neill was his great-grandfather. All of those influences are apparent in a piece that doesn’t give a damn whether it’s theatre, dance, circus, slapstick or a beguiling mix of all of them.

The Chaplin influence is particularly strong in a series of silent clowning sequences executed by the seemingly rubber-boned Thierrée, who does one-armed combat with a grudgeful violin and wears a coat that sprouts hands from its pockets. He shares a fruitful relationship with Yann Nédélec, who plays mournful, impish stooge to Thierrée’s floppy-haired maestro, who seems constantly both delighted and stunned by his own virtuosity.



Americans can’t get China right in Christopher Chen’s Caught, now being produced by the Play Company at La Mama and directed cleanly by Lee Sunday Evans in a white downstairs studio. The author’s four loosely connected playlets are comic and subversive, cerebral exercises on the culture wars in the U.S., as well as in China.  We are reminded of the lapses in judgment of Mike Daisey and James Frey—and their lashings in the media–as well as the enormous prices Chinese artists have had to pay regarding freedom of speech. The playwright’s technique is reminiscent of that in Dadaism, and one of his early impulses may have been to draw mustaches on capitalistic artists who, although working on socially relevant subjects, are, in reality, more interested in personal success (“tasting a peach to understand an apple”).  Slyly, Chen plants tares in with his dramaturgical wheat, and these one acts become about rooting them out, as, ultimately, little jokes sprout into lies.  The characters are intellectuals, wannabe artists, editors, and professors—people who seem more drawn to the dangerous art of packaging and interpreting. They are examining the infrastructure and cultural paradigms of a China critically misinterpreted in the West—and come up dumbfounded or physically ill:  One of Chen’s strong abilities in these works is to destabilize an audience, finding intellectual soft spots and toying with illusion vs. reality. Nevertheless, whether Chen is just being playful or proud of his heritage or both, he appears to be saying that those from China have more cultural dimension, more understanding of life than Americans or even Chinese-Americans, portrayed here scarfing down fast food.


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(Pam Green writes on Her Again by Michael Schulman)

Fascinating in-depth look at Meryl Streep's early life, especially her training at Yale as a post-graduate. In a culture where most actors are so eager to break into the business they don't bother to get a college degree, and make or break their careers in their teens or early twenties, she started landing leading roles when she was 26.

The book winds up with her marriage to Don Gummer, so no insights on her later career. Here's hoping there will be a follow-up.

I should add that Meryl Streep didn't co-operate with the writer at all, but the acknowledgments go on for pages.

View Her Again on Amazon:

(c) by Pam Green.  All rights reserved.



(Lyn Gardner’s article appeared in the Guardian, 8/25.)

The storm clouds gather over England in Thomas Ostermeier’s robust production, originally seen at Berlin’s Schaubühne. Lars Eidinger stars as a mesmerising, rapping, swearing Richard; an outsider who seizes centre stage with relish, caressing his microphone like a rock star gone to seed.

In this 400th anniversary year of his death, the Edinburgh international festival has already featured two Shakespeare productions. Dan Jemmett’s Shake reimagined Twelfth Night as an end-of-the-pier show and Declan Donnellan presented his punchy, sinister, Russian version of Measure for Measure. Both Jemmett and Donnellan are from the UK but, like Ostermeier, they work mostly in Europe, where directors such as Ivo van Hove are reinventing these old familiar plays with real vigour and insight, unfettered by several hundred years of performance history and the reverence that afflicts so much Shakespeare produced in England.



(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 8/24.)

You have to admire the ambition of Adam Brace. In his 2009 play Stovepipe, he looked at the use of private security companies in Iraq. Now he tackles the vast question of how we come to terms with what is happening in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Along with Anders Lustgarten, Brace is one of the few British dramatists to think internationally, and although this play is overloaded and overlong, it poses disturbing questions.

The focus is on Stef, a guilt-ridden Cambridge graduate who has seen Congolese violence first-hand but is determined to show the country’s positive side. Her big idea is to create a British festival called Congo Voice that will include a rumba band, dancers and poets. Stef is adamant that one third of her committee will be Congolese, but she runs into difficulties. There are divisions in the Congolese diaspora – above all, the active hostility of a group called Les Combattants de Londres, which is dedicated to creating a free Congo. Stef is faced with death threats, defections and the inherent contradiction of creating a depoliticised jamboree.

Behind the play lurks the big question of how we represent what is happening in distant countries and cultures. Brace begins by having a Congolese campaigner mocking our own fitful interest in foreign affairs and predicting yet another evening of “white words from black mouths”. He answers that in several ways. One is by showing Stef, who has suppressed her memories of a Congolese atrocity, learning to acknowledge it. Another is by having the Congolese characters periodically resort to their native tongue. We hear nothing but English spoken on stage, but know when they are doing so because, in an ironic reversal of the usual process, we see surtitles where their dialogue is translated into Lingala. Brace hits us hardest when he reminds us of British complicity with the DRC president, Joseph Kabila, and our parasitic dependence on the country’s mineral resources.