Monthly Archives: December 2022


(The Guardian readers’ article appeared 12/19 in that media; via Pam Green; Photo: ‘It managed to surpass my expectations’ … Davina De Campo in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Photograph: The Other Richard.

This year readers saw some amazing theatre, provoking tears, recognition, anger, inspiration and awe.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Leeds Playhouse

I had been wanting to see Hedwig live for the better part of four years and it somehow managed to surpass my expectations. The atmosphere in the room during the first preview was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, and I really hope it comes back next year as more people should get to see it. Ella Catherall, 22, Edinburgh


Traverse theatre, Edinburgh

From the beginning, this show was so funny and tender and shocking. I cackled with glee, the performers were fantastic, the writing was stunning, the use of music, the sound, the lights, the design – everything! As a theatre director (especially a sick director at the fringe) you can become desensitised to work and notice the container more than the story, or you don’t always leave plays as euphorically inspired as others. I voicenoted 10 friends immediately after the show because I desperately wanted them to share this experience. Stephanie Kempson, 35, Bristol

Magnolia Walls

Northern Stage, Newcastle upon Tyne

An amazing show that used testimonies from real military spouses to present a piece of theatre that gave a voice to a silent group of women who aren’t acknowledged or celebrated by the armed forces. Powerful storytelling. Sarah Dodd, 40, Northumberland

To Kill a Mockingbird

Gielgud theatre, London

This year it has to be, hands down, To Kill a Mockingbird. It was well worth the wait after the first run was postponed. Rafe Spall was brilliant as Atticus. It’s such a wonderful story and this production really did it justice (pardon the pun). I still get emotional when I think of the last line, “All rise”. Jenny Hughes, 52, Northamptonshire


Theatre Royal Bath

After an overwhelming and difficult year, watching this show by Dickie Beau helped restore my faith in humanity. It reminded me how beautiful humanity’s freakish obsession with sharing and creating stories really is. It reminded me how sympathetic humans are as creatures; we are all just tiny little specks in a massive confusing universe, and all we are trying to do is recognise and be recognised in return. This show honours that endeavour so cleverly and beautifully. Lorelei, 21, London

The Book Thief

Bolton Octagon

I knew the book but didn’t know what to expect from a musical adaptation – and it turned out to be superb. The songs worked well, the stage scenery and lighting were stunning on such a small stage. There was also a bit of puppetry, which was just beautiful. It was a standing ovation and floods of tears from me. This show should definitely tour. Jan, 48, Manchester


Hampstead theatre, London

I heard good things and went without knowing much about it. It’s an intimate, very moving show. The writing and directing were great, and the four players performed gracefully. One of the rare times where theatre really speaks to you and makes you part of it. Julio Roel, 50, NHS nurse, London

Whale of a Time

Alphabetti theatre, Newcastle upon Tyne

A beautiful story of two men, one old and one young, thrown together in the belly of a whale with no idea what connects them. It explores generational differences and how the world has changed in the north-east through a growing relationship between the two. It made me laugh out loud and sob my heart out. It stayed with me for a long time after. Ann Hunter, 54, Gateshead

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(Laura Snapes’s article appeared in the Guardian, 12/24; Photo:  ‘A desperate cry’ … (L-R) Diana Burkot, Taso Pletner, Maria Alyokhina and Olga Borisova of Pussy Riot performing in Edinburgh in November. Photograph: Roberto Ricciuti/Redferns. )

The collective said Mama, Don’t Watch TV – a reference to the words of a captured Russian conscript soldier – rails against the Russian leader’s ‘bloodthirsty puppets’ and ‘war criminals’

Pussy Riot have released a new song protesting against the war in Ukraine, Russian censorship and the west “sponsoring” the regime through buying oil and gas from Russia. They have also called for the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, to be tried at an international tribunal.

In a statement, they described Putin’s government as a “terrorist regime” and call him, his officials, generals and propagandists “war criminals”.

They called Мама, не смотри телевизор (Mama, Don’t Watch TV), which comes 10 months after Russia invaded Ukraine: “The music of our anger, indignation, disagreement, a reproachful desperate cry against Putin’s bloodthirsty puppets, led by a real cannibal monster, whose place is in the infinity of fierce hellish flames on the bones of the victims of this terrible war.”

The collective, in this instance represented by Maria Alyokhina, Olga Borisova, Diana Burkot and Taso Pletner, said the chorus is based on the words of a captured Russian conscript soldier who told his mother: “Mum, there are no Nazis here, don’t watch TV.”

ussian propaganda daily poisons the hearts of people with hatred,” they wrote. “The law on foreign agents is used to silence opposition activists and journalists, to stop the activities of the last independent human rights organisations.”

Pussy Riot release song protesting against Putin’s war on Ukraine – video

They outlined the consequences for anyone who defies the regime. “Those who oppose Putin are imprisoned, poisoned with military poisons and killed,” they said, drawing attention to the “tradition of political poisoning” represented by Russia’s Lab X, a poison factory that helped silence the Soviets’ critics and that is believed to play a similar function today.

“Opposition figures of anti-government movements became victims of the ‘experiments’. Putin and the FSB are proud of this “tradition” and continue it: Alexander Litvinenko, Sergei Skripal, Vladimir Kara-Murza, Pyotr Verzilov, Alexei Navalny.”

The group said that the money the Kremlin receives from the international community conducting business with Russia is converted “into Ukrainian blood”.

They issued a three-point demand, calling for an embargo on the purchase of Russian oil and gas and the sale of weapons and police ammunition to Russia; the seizure of western bank accounts and property of Russian officials and oligarchs and personal sanctions against them; and an international tribunal to try Putin, employees of Russian state propaganda, army officers and everyone responsible for the genocide of the Ukrainian nation.

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(David Belcher’s article appeared in The New York Times, 12/23; Photo: Members of the cast of “The Threepenny Opera” at the Volksoper in Vienna. The production’s cross-gender casting put Oliver Liebl, wearing the blue coat, in the role of Jenny the prostitute.Credit…Barbara Pálffy/Volksoper Wien.)

Starting with “The Threepenny Opera,” the Volksoper in Vienna is reconsidering a series of works and inviting audiences to join the discussion.

“The Threepenny Opera” could be considered an antiopera as much as its menacing lead character, Macheath, is an antihero. This satirical and existential piece spoofed opera and, in doing so, broke the rules and pushed the art form of musical theater forward.

And this is precisely the lure for the Volksoper in Vienna. The house stages musicals and operas, often with a new spin. Right now, it is exploring “The Threepenny Opera,” with a new production running through January.

The 1928 work, based on the 18th-century work “The Beggar’s Opera” by John Gay, was written by the German composer Kurt Weill and the German dramatist Bertolt Brecht as a harsh satire of capitalism just before the rise of Nazism. The show’s antihero, Macheath, is a criminal among a rogue’s gallery of friends and business acquaintances relishing in the corruption and greed of 19th-century England, but with a wink to pre-fascist Germany.

Cue the Volksoper’s new Manifesto concept, which seeks to reconsider two pieces each year and give them life to new generations of theatergoers. While some might consider “The Threepenny Opera” to be off-putting, the Volksoper found it to be the perfect springboard.

“When we started reading the text, we realized that everyone thought that they knew the text really well, but that nobody really did,” said the production’s director, Maurice Lenhard. “It felt like an experiment. But ‘The Threepenny Opera’ allows for that more than, say, a Mozart opera.”

That experiment revealed that the sinister elements of the musical, from characters to the production design, were open to interpretation. The Kurt Weill Foundation for Music in New York, which oversees all of Weill’s productions, allowed for cross-gender casting, which was a way to dive deeper into the piece and find something more abstract, Mr. Lenhard said, rather than the usual gritty realism. More colorful costumes and sets (versus the street-urchin depiction of most productions) helped transform this production.

“The Threepenny Opera” premiered in 1928 in Berlin and was performed thousands of times across Europe in several languages before Weill and Brecht fled Germany in 1933 as the Nazis seized power. Its initial New York production that same year closed after 12 performances. A revival in the 1950s cemented its place in theater history. But its many commercial productions, with such famous Macheaths as Raul Julia, Sting and Alan Cumming, have not always been successful critically or financially. It’s probably most famous for “Mack the Knife,” the sinister ballad about Macheath that became a perky, up-tempo jazz standard thanks to Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and Bobby Darin.

How the musical has been interpreted over the decades is part of the lure for the Volksoper team. Mr. Lenhard said the idea of cross-gender casting seemed ideal for “The Threepenny Opera” because of how Brecht revolutionized theater by challenging the audience with his “verfremdungseffekt.” This is often translated in English as the distancing, or alienation, effect, which sought to break the theatrical “fourth wall” and lure the audience into the production more as a critical observer, not just as the emotional passive observer. “Brecht was happy when the youngest character in one of his plays was played by an old person,” Mr. Lenhard said. “Then the audience had to really pay attention and to listen.”

In “Die Dreigroschenoper” at the Volksoper (this production is sung in the original German and runs through Jan. 23), Macheath is played by a woman, Sona MacDonald, and Jenny, the prostitute who was once Macheath’s lover and is in many ways the heart and soul — and hope — of the musical, is played by a man, Oliver Liebl.

Despite these bold changes, no words have been altered, said Lotte de Beer, the artistic director of the Volksoper.

“Not a word has been rewritten,” Ms. de Beer said. “Manifesto is not an invitation to rewrite anything.”

But part of the Manifesto concept is bringing the audience into the discussion. For the debut of the series, the Volksoper held three evenings of talks with the public, with numbers from different musicals and operas performed. About 80 people attended each session, as well as an open rehearsal of “The Threepenny Opera” with an audience discussion afterward.

It all seems suited to the vision of Weill and particularly Brecht, who was constantly pushing the boundaries of theater and how it can change culture.

“Doing Brecht, you’re forced to reflect on the whole idea of how he imagined theater to be played,” Ms. de Beer said. “Brecht wanted to actively pull people out of their comfort zones.

“This production is stirring up some reaction here in Vienna,” she added. “And I think that’s good.”

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(PJ Cresswell’s article appeared in TimeOut, 12/22; Photo: Croatian National Theatre.)

New backing and expertise to transform the experience for audiences at this venerable Zagreb landmark

The Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb has just announced a major new sponsorship with the M+ Group. Currently with 13 bases across south-eastern Europe, this multinational independent contact centre and outsourcer of business process technology is perfectly placed to partner with Zagreb’s most venerable cultural institution in the heart of Croatia’s capital. This has been the prestigious home of theatre, opera and ballet for the best part of two centuries, having evolved from Zagreb’s first theatre in 1834 and granted an ornate landmark building unveiled in the presence of the Emperor Franz Joseph in 1895.

In the modern day, many theatres around Europe and beyond have been cultivating win-win business relationships with the corporate world, allowing them to stage productions of the highest standard, both from an artistic and a technical standpoint.

With its innovative business model, the M+ Group has achieved significant growth over the last five years and expanded its operations to the markets of western Europe, providing services to leading global companies. Founded in Croatia in 2007, M+ successfully integrates the dynamic industries of contact centre, information technology and employment services with the aim of solving global challenges in the field of customer support.

Now, thanks to this new agreement said to be worth a total value of 500,000 Croatian kuna, the Zagreb theatre, known by its local acronym of HNK, can look forward to a richer repertoire and a more interactive experience for its audience. With the help of the resources, knowledge and experience of M+ Group, the HNK will be able to offer greater user satisfaction, faster information and notifications, and a better overall service.

HNK intendant Iva Hraste Sočo pointed out the mutual benefits of the new relationship: “The Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb and the M+ Group share common values. Here at HNK, foreign artists work alongside Croatian ones, making this an international ensemble in which creatives and exceptional people from all over the world are gathered. In the same way, the M+ Group covers the needs of its own users with a diverse international team operating in eight markets. Both the HNK and the M+ Group are proof that it is possible to achieve a regional and international reputation by operating out of Zagreb, therefore M+ has proved to be the best choice for our needs”.

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In Our Time

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Orson Welles’ film, released in 1941, which is widely acclaimed as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, films yet made. Welles plays the lead role of Charles Foster Kane, a newspaper magnate, and Welles directed, produced and co-wrote this story of loneliness at the heart of a megalomaniac. The plot was partly inspired by the life of William Randolph Hearst, who then used the power of his own newspapers to try to suppress the film’s release. It was to take some years before Citizen Kane reached a fuller audience and, from that point, become so celebrated.

The image above is of Kane addressing a public meeting while running for Governor.


Stella Bruzzi
Professor of Film and Dean of Arts and Humanities at University College London

Ian Christie
Professor of Film and Media History at Birkbeck, University of London


John David Rhodes
Professor of Film Studies and Visual Culture at the University of Cambridge

Producer: Simon Tillotson


(Steve Dow’s article appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald, 12/20; Photo: Ivo van Hove’s four-hour Dutch-language play A Little Life is based on Hanya Yanagihara’s bestselling 2015 novel.CREDIT: JAN VERSWEYVELD.)

Warning: This article contains some graphic images

As the gay, middle-class son of a pharmacist, Ivo van Hove felt unaccepted growing up among the children of coal miners and farmers in a small village in rural Belgium in the 1960s and early 70s. He longed to escape.

His outsider status would eventually give him observational acuity as a theatre maker, however. “I was blessed my father and mother sent me to a boarding school, a very good one,” recalls the 64-year-old, sitting in the book-lined study of his Amsterdam apartment.

 “There, I became happy. There, I found myself, my sensitivities, my true love – namely, boys [to whom] I was sexually attracted; I didn’t know that before.”

Over six years’ boarding, relationships deepened his empathy. One Saturday evening, van Hove lost his best friend in a “stupid” bicycling accident, “probably he had been drinking too much”, presaging a long and lonely mourning.

Later, studying at art school in Antwerp, van Hove met lithography student Jan Versweyveld at a dance workshop. Partners now for 42 years, Versweyveld designs the sets on all of Van Hove’s productions.

“He’s a real original,” says van Hove, having just finished breakfast with Versweyveld at their home, which overlooks a canal. “Once he has read a play, he will remember it for the rest of his life.”

Van Hove has been director of the Internationaal Theater Amsterdam since 2001, and his productions feature stark visuals and visceral sex and physicality: the Dutch actor Eelco Smits has said the director engineers “explosive combinations” among his actors, “like a kid who lets insects fight”.

Van Hove’s take on the John Cassavetes film Opening Night featured at Melbourne Festival in 2010, and to Adelaide Festival he has brought Shakespeare’s Roman Tragedies in 2014 and Kings of War in 2018.

His work divides critics, peers and audiences. Now, van Hove’s four-hour Dutch-language play A Little Life, based on United States writer Hanya Yanagihara’s bestselling 2015 novel, is coming to Adelaide Festival in March.

Set in New York, it is a study of the lingering impact of trauma and tells the stories of four friends: lawyer Jude, actor Willem, artist Jean-Baptiste, and architect Malcolm.

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(via Michelle Farabaugh, Adrian Bryan-Brown)


The New York Times



Los Angeles Times


Extends Broadway Engagement

Through July 2, 2023

At the Longacre Theatre 


Tickets On Sale Now



Leopoldstadt feels like both an elegy and a warning.”

–       Michelle Goldberg, The New York Times


 Due to popular demand, lead producers Sonia Friedman Productions and Roy Furman are pleased to announce that Leopoldstadt, Tom Stoppard’s Olivier Award-winning Best New Play, directed by two-time Tony Award nominee Patrick Marber, will now play through July 2, 2023 at the Longacre Theatre (220 West 48th Street) on Broadway.

Tickets for Leopoldstadt’s entire Broadway engagement are on sale now at, by phone at 212-239-6200, or in person at the Longacre Theatre box office.

Leopoldstadt opened on October 2 to rave reviews. New York’s critics said:

“It is virtually inconceivable that this theater season will produce anything superior to Tom Stoppard’s Leopoldstadt. This inexpressibly moving play ranks among Mr. Stoppard’s greatest works.”

–       Charles Isherwood, The Wall Street Journal

 “A breathtakingly brilliant and gorgeously acted production.”

–       Chris Jones, The Chicago Tribune

 “CRITIC’S PICK. The acting is excellent across the board, with too many standouts to name.”

–       Jesse Green, The New York Times

 “I can’t recall the last time I broke down with the brutal release I felt at the conclusion of Leopoldstadt. Patrick Marber directs this meticulously acted production with breathtaking dexterity.”

–       Peter Marks, The Washington Post

“As a vehicle for recovered memories, and for interrogating the injustice of difference and persistent intolerance, Leopoldstadt is remarkable.”

–       Naveen Kumar, New York Magazine

“As it threads a tapestry of grand themes around philosophy, violence, anti-Semitism, and assimilation, Leopoldstadt is also a play about family. It is an investigation as well as a treatise, a full-blooded drama, as well as a meditation on history, hatred, identity, survival, and place—all themes with a resonance today.”

–       Tim Teeman, The Daily Beast

Set in Vienna, Leopoldstadt takes its title from the Jewish quarter. This passionate drama of love and endurance begins in the last days of 1899 and follows one extended family deep into the heart of the 20th Century. Full of his customary wit and beauty, Tom Stoppard’s late work spans fifty years of time over two hours. “Tom Stoppard is endlessly intrigued by questions of fate, chance, coincidence, in history as well as in love, and in the epic, breathtaking Leopoldstadt, he examines the consequence of an entire people trapped in a common fate” (The Washington Post). With a cast of 38 actors and direction by Patrick Marber, Leopoldstadt is now playing on Broadway. This is a play that ‘demands to be seen’ (The Daily Beast).

Perhaps the most personal play of Stoppard’s unmatched career, Leopoldstadt opened in London’s West End to rave critical acclaim on January 25, 2020. A planned extension due to overwhelming demand was curtailed due to the COVID-19 lockdown seven weeks later. In late 2021, the play returned for a further 12-week engagement. Both runs completely sold out and Leopoldstadt received the Olivier Award for Best New Play in October 2020.

Leopoldstadt marks Tom Stoppard’s 19th play on Broadway since his groundbreaking Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead opened 55 years ago. Stoppard has won four Best Play Tony Awards, more than any other playwright in history.

Leopoldstadt’s creative team includes scenic design by Tony Award winner Richard Hudson (The Lion KingLa Bête); costume design by Brigitte Reiffenstuel; lighting design by three-time Tony Award winner Neil Austin (Harry Potter and the Cursed ChildCompanyTravesties); sound and original music by Tony Award winner Adam Cork (RedTravesties); video design by Isaac Madge; movement by Emily Jane Boyle; hair, wig & makeup design by Campbell Young Associates; casting by Jim Carnahan CSA and Maureen Kelleher CSA; and UK casting by Amy Ball CDG. The dialect coach is Kate Wilson.

Leopoldstadt is produced by Sonia Friedman Productions, Roy Furman, and Lorne Michaels, with co-producers Stephanie P. McClelland, Gavin Kalin, Delman Sloan, Eilene Davidson, Brad Edgerton, Patrick Gracey, Hunter Arnold, Burnt Umber Productions, Cue to Cue Productions, The Factor Gavin Partnership, Harris Rubin Productions, Robert Nederlander, Jr., No Guarantees, Sandy Robertson, Iris Smith, Jamie deRoy / Catherine Adler, Dodge Hall Productions / Waverly Productions, Ricardo Hornos / Robert Tichio, Heni Koenigsberg / Wendy Federman, Thomas S. Perakos / Stephanie Kramer, Brian Spector / Judith Seinfeld, and Richard Winkler / Alan Shorr.


Tickets are on sale online at or by phone at 212-239-6200.

For 10+ Group Sales information contact Broadway Inbound at or call 866-302-0995.

A limited number of $47 digital lottery tickets are available for each performance of Leopoldstadt. For more information, visit A limited number of $35 rush tickets, and $25 student rush tickets (valid student ID required), are also available in person at the Longacre Theatre box office on the same day as the performance.



The words and wisdom of Constantin Stanislavski:

Our aim (as actors) is not only to create the life of a human spirit, but also to ‘express it in a beautiful, artistic form.’ An actor is under the obligation to live his part inwardly, and then to give his experience an external embodiment. I ask you to note especially that the dependence of the body on the soul is particularly important in our school of art.” (AP)


(David Jays’ article appeared 12/12 in the Guardian; Photo: ‘Action, activism and engaging with the world’ … Lillian Hellman in 1945. Photograph: AP.)

As Hellman’s 1941 play is revived at the Donmar Warehouse in London, director Ellen McDougall and dramaturg Emma Jude Harris explain how it remains a call to arms

“We’re shaken out of the magnolias, eh?” muses a matriarch towards the end of Watch on the Rhine. In Lillian Hellman’s 1941 play, a comfortable Washington family is confronted with the reality of Europe’s fight against fascism – and must make a choice about where it stands.

Written and set during a time when the US was reluctant to enter the second world war, it occupies a genteel living room, but the world rattles the walls. It’s undoubtedly an engrossing period thriller – but, according to Ellen McDougall, directing the Donmar’s new production, “there’s something really exciting about doing this play now. It’s a powerful call to arms.”

We meet during a rehearsal lunch break, but neither McDougall or dramaturg Emma Jude Harris touch their food. There’s way too much to discuss. McDougall zeroes in on the time of writing. “It’s very specific – if it was set even a month later, it might have been a different picture.”

American-born Harris expands on that moment, when the neutral US was still trading with both Nazi Germany and fascist Italy. “America was coming out of its isolationist period, with an idea that they can’t get involved [in another European war]. There was also an antisemitic notion that this is a special interest, Jewish problem for a particular marginalised community very far away, and that America needs to focus on America. It wasn’t until after Pearl Harbor was attacked in December 1941 that it got involved. In July 1940, when the play is specifically set, there has not yet been a decision. This is the hinge point.”

Considering the characters, McDougall says, “what they don’t know but we now do is huge. The specificity of that moment actually opens up why it’s relevant now – the idea of being on the brink, not knowing what’s coming but having conviction. Hellman’s position is that we have a responsibility to step up to the plate. It translates to now: about action, activism, and engaging with the world.”

Sara, the matriarch’s long-estranged daughter, returns from Europe with her husband, Kurt Müller: both are active in the resistance to Hitler. Strangely, perhaps, there are no Jewish characters. “The only time it comes up,” Harris notes, “is to negate [the suggestion] that Kurt is Jewish.” She believes Hellman felt her ethnicity might indicate special pleading: “particularly as she’s of German Jewish heritage. The stakes would have been especially high for her. We see this kind of soft pedalling on Jewishness with playwrights of that time, in order to make a universal point – but it’s very much there.”

Hellman was no armchair pundit. “She has seen a lot of the things she talks about first-hand,” McDougall says. “She’s been in Spain during the civil war. She was in Germany during the rise of fascism, and met people doing similar work to the Müllers. She’s writing about a world that she knows all too well.” For this reason, McDougall bridles when Hellman’s writing is dismissed as melodramatic. “She’s writing in a state of emergency, and renders that in a way that is thrilling, in all senses of the word – but it’s a protest play.”

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(Boyan Tonchev’s and Will Tizard’s report is  from Radio Free Europe, 12/16.)

(The report is by Boyan Tonchev and Will Tizard,  from Radio Free Europe, 12/16.)

Musico is a glowing, vertical, keyless musical instrument and drum kit that responds to touch and gesture — but it’s no toy. The novel device was designed to allow deaf and blind children to make music together and to appeal to those on the autism spectrum. Bulgarian visual artist Polina Gerasimova and a team of engineers and musicians created Musico with infrared sensors to detect movement, producing the sounds of a small orchestra. Their mission: Allow blind children to hear a melody while the deaf can see music in color.

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