Theater and Dance
By Rebecca Ponsford and Richard Phillips, 5 May 2005
Two Brothers, written by Hannie Rayson, directed by Simon Phillips and designed by Stephen Curtis
The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare, directed by Michael Radford
By Joanne Laurier, 17 March 2005
The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare, directed by Michael Radford, screenplay by Radford
By David Walsh, 9 December 2004
Pugilist Specialist, by Adriano Shaplin, production by The Riot Group, at The Culture Project, New York City, November 3-28, and The Magic Theater, San Francisco, December 1-18
Canada House, a two-act play, by J. Karol Korczynski
By David Walsh, 24 November 2004
Canada House, a two-act play, by J. Karol Korczynski, at the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace, Toronto, through November 28
By Robert Stevens, 12 November 2004
The production of Friedrich Schiller’s (1759-1805) classic historical drama Don Carlos (1787) directed by Michael Grandage recently finished its run at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, England. The play will transfer to the Gielgud Theatre in London from February 3, 2005 (previewing from January 28) for a limited 12-week run.
Rutherford and Son, by Githa Sowerby, directed by Jackie Maxwell
By Joanne Laurier, 28 August 2004
Rutherford and Son, by Githa Sowerby, directed by Jackie Maxwell, at the Shaw Festival, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, until October 9
By Ramón Valle, 7 August 2004
One World, Robert Litz’s two-act play at the Elephant Theatre in Hollywood, has been extended for two weeks. Not bad for a play whose political content and social commentary the director/producer originally thought would make audiences walk out.
By Barbara Slaughter, 3 July 2004
A new play based on George Orwell’s book Homage to Catalonia ended its international run in Barcelona on June 14. The drama’s theme was one which has rarely if ever been dealt with on stage—the revolutionary nature of the struggle of the Spanish working class in 1936-37 and the role of international Stalinism in suppressing it.
3 July 2004
Barbara Slaughter of the WSWS interviewed Spanish writer Pablo Ley, who co-adapted George Orwell’s Homage to Cataloniafor the stage, and Josep Galindo, who directed the recent production. [See: “A new dramatization of Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia”]
By David Walsh, 22 March 2004
Mother Courage and Her Children by Bertolt Brecht, at the Classical Theater of Harlem, February 4-29
“McKinsey Is Coming”
By Ulrich Rippert, 9 March 2004
At the conclusion of five short acts, the flag of the European Union is burning on stage and a demonstrator shouts: “A lack of imagination and submissiveness towards our master, the US, has led us Europeans to copy their star-spangled banner. Here too in Europe, profit has now become our only god.” The curtain falls.
Myth, Propaganda and Disaster in Nazi Germany and Contemporary America: A Drama in 30 Scenes by Stephen Sewell
By Margaret Rees, 11 September 2003
Australian writer Stephen Sewell’s latest play attempts to examine the rapid expansion of the US state apparatus since September 11, 2001 and how the Bush administration’s “war against terrorism” is being used to attack democratic rights and victimise innocent citizens. Directed by Aubrey Mellor and with a strong cast, it recently played at Melbourne’s Playbox Theatre and the South Australian State Theatre in Adelaide.
By Stephen Griffiths, 24 June 2003
In response to the Sydney Theatre Company’s (STC) production of Ben Jonson’s Volpone last year, I determined to undertake a study of the life and work of this extraordinary playwright and poet. Although his work is seldom performed these days, Jonson was one of the leading protagonists in the most vibrant period of early English theatre. For a time, he was considered the virtual Poet Laureate of England. His literary stature rivalled, and for the century after his death, even overshadowed that of Shakespeare.
By Carl Bronski, 20 May 2003
“I know what men can be!”—Clifford Odets, 1935
By Carl Bronski, 20 May 2003
Carl Bronski: You’ve recently revived Waiting for Lefty here in Toronto. You’ve just finished a run with Awake and Sing! What is it about Odets’ work that attracts you?
Just Before the Rain and Coal Not Dole
By Liz Smith and Harvey Thompson, 12 May 2003
In the past months two plays—Coal Not Dole, on the 1984-1985 British miners strike, and Just Before The Rain, on the Oldham riots of 2001—have been touring theatres in Britain.
An evening with Nederlands Dans Theatre II
By Andrea Peters, 8 May 2003
“Real art can never escape from life. In histrionic* terms, illusions are not false impressions or misconceptions of reality. The world of illusion which the audience expects from the artist is, in fact, the world of their real selves, the image of their own world, the translation of their hopes and fears, their joys and sufferings into the magic of the stage.”
Royal Shakespeare Company on tour in the US
By Joseph Kay and David Walsh, 20 March 2003
The British Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) recently concluded a residency at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. In addition to Shakespeare’s Coriolanus and The Merry Wives of Windsor, performed by the company, a special cast presented the North American premier of Midnight’s Children, an adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s award-winning novel. Originally published in 1981, Rushdie’s novel was awarded the Booker Prize in 1981.
By Joanne Laurier, 15 March 2003
Billed as “The Largest World-Wide Theatrical Protest for Peace,” readings of the ancient Greek antiwar comedy Lysistrata were held in 59 countries and in all 50 states in the US on March 3.
King Lear by William Shakespeare, at the Stratford Festival of Canada, directed by Jonathan Miller
By David Walsh, 21 November 2002
King Lear is among the most complex and contradictory of Shakespeare’s works. While the play has no single character with the intellectual or sensual appeal of a Hamlet, Falstaff, Cleopatra, Richard III or even a Rosalind, it treats in the most vivid and dense language a vast array of problems. The tragedy’s cumulative effect is deeply troubling and, in its own fashion, subversive.
Sonduru Varnadasi (The Alluring Courtesan), directed by Premasiri Khemadasa, libretto by Lucien Bulathsinghala
By Piyaseeli Wijegunasingha, 16 October 2002
Sonduru Varnadasi, Premasiri Khemadasa’s latest opera, was recently staged at the Elphinston Theatre in Colombo. Based on one of the many traditional stories about the life of Buddha, the opera is another important example of Khemadasa’s fusion of Western and Asian dramatic and musical forms.
The legacy of Postmodernism in contemporary dance
By Andrea Peters, 6 March 2002
Over the first weekend in February audiences in Southern California had the opportunity to view recent work by Trisha Brown—the most widely acclaimed choreographer to emerge out of the “Postmodern era” in contemporary dance. Performing at UCLA’s Royce Hall, Brown’s company of nine dancers presented “El Trilogy,” pieces set to original scores by jazz composer Dave Douglas.
The Christian Brothers at The Playhouse, Sydney Opera House until November 3
By Erika Zimmer, 26 October 2001
Ron Blair’s one-man play The Christian Brothers deals with a significant social issue—education in a religious school and a system of teaching that he exposes as violent and incompetent. First produced in 1975, the work has consistently resonated with audiences who recognise in it their own school experiences. While the play deals with a specific type of schooling, it also raises a number of more universal questions about education.
Aliwa, by Dallas Winmar Directed by Neil Armfield at the Belvoir Street Theatre, Sydney
By Kaye Tucker, 10 October 2001
Aliwa, a recent joint production by Company B in Sydney and the Yirra Yaakin Noongar Theatre Company from Western Australia, is set in the south of Western Australia in the 1930s. It tells the story of the Davis family—half-caste Aborigines who battled attempts by Australian authorities to break up their family and relocate the children to government settlements. Author Dallas Winmar, a producer-director with ABC Radio and author of a biography on the late Aboriginal playwright Jack Davis, was commissioned to write the play in 1999. She developed the work from a series of lengthy interviews with Dot Collard, Ethel Abdullah and Judith (Jude) Wilks—three of the 10 children in the Davis family. Dot Collard, now in her 70s, appears as a narrator and oversees the actors on stage during the performance.
The Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov, directed by Andrew Benedict
By Stephen Griffith, 12 September 2001
At first glance, stories and plays by the celebrated Russian writer Anton Chekhov (1860-1904) are deceptively simple. His play The Three Sisters, which was recently staged by the Sydney Theatre Company (STC) under the direction of Andrew Benedict, is no exception. There are no heroic deeds or grand tragedy in this four-act examination of the unrequited hopes of the Prozorov sisters—Olga, Masha and Irina—and their friends in a small provincial Russian town. But this beautifully crafted work, written in 1901, explores a range of universal themes and issues that can strongly resonate with contemporary audiences if sensitively staged and performed.
Pappa Tarahumara, a Japanese contemporary dance company
By Andrea Peters, 10 September 2001
As part of a short, two-city tour of Australia, the Japanese contemporary dance company Pappa Tarahumara performed Love Letter, its most recent work, at the Seymour Centre in Sydney. The production was one work in a series of pieces that explore what choreographer Hiroshi Koike refers to as the “Island mentality”—the concept that the world is comprised of social boundaries according to religion, ethnicity, language, geography and class. According to the program notes, Love Letter examines the numerous divisions that the artist believes separate people and define their existence—“men v.s. women, oneself v.s. others, war v.s. peace”.
Expressions Dance Company
By Andrea Peters, 15 August 2001
Expressions Dance Company, one of Australia’s principal modern dance troupes, brought the newest work of company director Maggi Sietsma to Sydney at the end of July. While drawing a small crowd for this performance of Vanities Crossing, the company has gained international recognition since its debut in 1985 and maintains a worldwide touring schedule.
By Erika Zimmer, 8 August 2001
The recent Sydney Theatre Company production of Morning Sacrifice by Dymphna Cusack was a fervent and unsparing exposé of a hidebound education authority in Australia in the 1930s. In the course of the play, three teachers who attempt to defend a student caught kissing her partner at a school dance are more or less destroyed. Directed by Jennifer Flowers at the Wharf Theatre, the production captured the intense psychological drama and spirit of the original work and struck a chord with those aware of the difficulties facing contemporary teachers.
The Lingalayam Dance Company
By Andrea Peters, 4 August 2001
The Lingalayam Dance Company’s recent performance of The Courtesan’s Daughter at the Seymour Centre in Sydney, Australia provided audiences with an opportunity to experience the intricate beauty of classical Indian dance. Founded in 1996, the company’s entered its fifth season with yet another new work.
Up for Grabs by David Williamson
By Kaye Tucker, 31 May 2001
Up for Grabs is a new satire by veteran Australian playwright David Williamson. Having completed its season at the Sydney Opera House the production will now be performed at Parramatta, Wollongong, Canberra, Melbourne and Newcastle during the next months.
Thomas Ostermeier's adaptation of Büchner's classic Danton's Death at the Berlin Schaubühne
By Stefan Steinberg, 28 April 2001
Thomas Ostermeier is the 33-year-old head of one of Berlin's leading theatres, Schaubühne. Appointed to the theatre just over a year ago to revive its ailing fortunes, Ostermeier has concentrated on putting on a series of contemporary plays and dance pieces. In particular Ostermeier has personally directed work by the British playwrights Sarah Kane (Greed) and Mark Ravenhill ( Shopping and F**king). Kane and Ravenhill have both written plays featuring graphic depictions of sexual and physical violence dealing with the disintegration (or impossibility) of social relationships in today's developed industrial societies.
When you can't see it "the world is a wonderful place"
By Bernd Rheinhardt, 31 October 2000
Danish director Lars von Trier's latest film is the final part of a trilogy (including Breaking the Waves  and The Idiots ), whose basic motif is that of a fairy tale. The little girl “Goldenheart” is so good-hearted that she is prepared to sacrifice all she has for other people.
Life After George, Sydney Theatre Company, Wharf 1 Theatre—through December 9
By Kaye Tucker, 24 October 2000
Australian playwright Hannie Rayson's Life After George, which premiered at the Melbourne Theatre Company in January this year and is now being performed in Sydney, is an absorbing investigation into the life of Peter George, a recently deceased university professor. The gregarious professor, a defender of academic excellence and liberal humanism, had been under siege from the commercially oriented university administration. Rayson's play is a witty and insightful comment the general loss of hope amongst a section of the intellectual milieu.
By Anne Prochnik, 26 September 2000
Tabletop, a production of The Working Theatre in New York City, written by Rob Ackerman and directed by Connie Grappo, is not a play to relax with after a hard day at work. It captures with excruciating accuracy just what goes into making those 30-second commercials for frothy fruit drinks, ice cream, pizza and beer that we ingest visually and aurally every time we turn on the TV. This is a working world in which anxiety reigns supreme, deadlines are impossible to meet, bosses holler orders and curse out employees who slip up under pressure, all because the client is breathing down his / her neck and money is being hemorrhaged for every wasted second.
Seneca's Oedipus, directed by Barrie Kosky, Sydney Theatre Company
By Kaye Tucker, 2 September 2000
Barrie Kosky's recent Sydney Theatre Company production of Seneca's Oedipus, the Greek legend of the tormented King of Thebes who, unknowingly, kills his father and weds his mother, completes a cycle of four plays by the director (Tartuffe, Mourning Becomes Electra and King Lear) dealing with the issues of destiny, fate and the family.
Stolen, directed by Wesley Enoch, written by Jane Harrison
By Gabriela Notaras, 25 July 2000
Stolen is an honest and compassionate work that traces the lives of five Aboriginal children removed from their families in the 1960s under official Australian government policy. Written by Jane Harrison, the play dramatises the fear, persecution and desolation felt by the children and their families, and demonstrates the ongoing physical and psychological impact of this policy on generations of Aboriginal people. Harrison and all the cast are of Aboriginal descent. Pauline Whyman, one of the actresses, is the last of 11 children who were stolen from her family of 15.
Einar Schleef 's Verratenes Volk (A People Betrayed) at the Deutschen Theater in Berlin
By Stefan Steinberg, 26 June 2000
Director Einar Schleef's five and a half hour marathon at the Deutschen Theater is provocative in the most positive sense. It provokes and stimulates thought and reflection on some of the most crucial social experiences of the last century.
After 70 years in operation
By Andrea Peters, 17 June 2000
The board of directors for the Martha Graham Center for Contemporary Dance in New York City announced on May 25 that both the school and the company that bear the artist's name would cease operations immediately due to financial difficulties. Facing a $500,000 deficit, the board has stated that the dance center would need $325,000 at once in order to resume functioning. Beginning her work in the 1920s, Graham (1895-1991) was one of the founding figures of modern dance in the United States.
By Paul Bond, 27 May 2000
John Gielgud's death on May 21 at the age of 96 has not only robbed the world of one of its finest actors. It has also brought to a close a whole period of British theatrical history. His career of nearly 80 years encompassed the greater part of the century and took in the major media developments of the age. It was not hyperbole for many of the tributes to say that his death marked a belated end to the twentieth century for the British stage.
By Stefan Steinberg, 25 May 2000
Since its first performance in 1964, Peter Weiss' The Persecution and the Assassination of Jean Paul Marat as performed by the inmates of the Asylum of Charenton under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade (hereafter Marat/Sade) has become an integral part of German theatre repertoire. The current production at the Berliner Ensemble in the east of Berlin, a theatre associated above all with the name Bertolt Brecht, is nevertheless a historical first. Following Brecht's death in 1956, his wife Helene Weigel, who continued to run the theatre, turned down an opportunity to perform the piece describing it as “counterrevolutionary”.
By Piyaseeli Wijegunasingha, 3 April 2000
An adaptation in Sinhala of Euripides' play, translation by Ariyawansa Ranaweera, script by Ananda Wakkumbura and Dharmasiri Bandaranayaka, directed by Dharmasiri Bandaranayaka
The Brecht File, a new play at the Berliner Ensemble
By Stefan Steinberg, 29 January 2000
All the ingredients for an interesting and informative play about German playwright Bertolt Brecht were at hand. The Brecht File, at the Berliner Ensemble, deals with Brecht's period of exile in America and, in particular, with his persecution as a communist sympathiser by the FBI and the House Committee on Un-American Activities (known as HUAC).
The Small Poppies Company B, Belvoir Street, Sydney Until February 20
By Kaye Tucker, 14 January 2000
In these harsh times when the legal and democratic rights of children, and even the notion of childhood, are under attack on all sides, The Small Poppies is a breath of fresh air. A delightful two-act play about starting school, it is a wonderful reminder of all those things that are peculiar to and precious about childhood. Through this play we are constantly reminded that children are not mini-adults, but that they cognise the world in a very special way.
Doug Varone and Dancers at the Joyce Theater, New York City
By Andrea Peters, 11 January 2000
Doug Varone and Dancers began their season at the Joyce Theater in New York City this week with a remarkably ambitious program, including three New York and two world premieres. The company, bearing the name of its artistic director and founder, is known for what is often described as the distinctly “humanist” orientation of its choreography. The four pieces performed by the company on opening night ranged from the comedic to the disquieting. Each was insightful and engaging in its own way.
Review of Alexey Slapovsky's The Little Cherry Orchard
By Kaye Tucker, 8 December 1999
The Little Cherry Orchard by Alexey Slapovsky, translated by Anatoly Frusin and Alex Menglet, directed by Anatoly Frusin, at Company B Belvoir in Sydney, Australia until December 19
Stories from behind the statistics
By Kaye Tucker, 1 October 1999
The Melbourne Workers Theatre's award-winning production— Who's Afraid of the Working Class?—recently played at the Belvoir Street Theatre in Sydney. The play was first performed at the Victorian Trades Hall Council in May 1998. Founded in 1987, Melbourne Workers Theatre performs original plays dealing with the life and times of working people.
By Stefan Steinberg, 30 September 1999
One of Germany's leading theatre directors, Peter Zadek, has brought together many members of the Hamlet cast from his famous 1977 Bochum production and restaged Shakespeare's play at the Berlin Schaubühne. Ulrich Wildgruber, Zadek's Hamlet 22 years ago, now plays Polonius; Eva Mattes once again performs the role of Hamlet's mother Queen Gertrude. Knut Koch is Reynaldo and Herman Lause the ghost of Hamlet's father. In addition to his original cast, Zadek has cast Germany's actor of the year, Otto Sander, as Claudius. Finally Zadek has chosen one of Germany's outstanding actresses, Angela Winkler ( The Lost Honour of Katarina Blum, The Tin Drum, Danton), to play Hamlet.
An inarticulate hope
Playing at the Royal National Theatre, London through September 18
By Paul Bond, 14 September 1999
The first production of John Osborne's Look Back in Anger in 1956 provoked a major controversy. There were those, like the Observer newspaper's influential critic Kenneth Tynan, who saw it as the first totally original play of a new generation. There were others who hated both it and the world that Osborne was showing them. But even these critics acknowledged that the play, written in just one month, marked a new voice on the British stage.
An indictment of fascism and Zionism
Perdition by Jim Allen premiered at the Gate Theatre, London
By Paul Bond, 13 July 1999
Twelve years after its premiere was dramatically cancelled, Jim Allen's play Perdition has finally reached the stage. The Gate Theatre hosted the production, which opened shortly before Allen's tragic death from cancer on June 24, 1999. One of the more prestigious fringe theatres in London, their production is a fitting tribute to the socialist writer.
Alfred Döblin's Berlin Alexanderplatz, performed at the Maxim Gorki Theatre in Berlin
By Stefan Steinberg, 8 June 1999
“The human essence is no abstraction inherent in each single individual. In its reality it is the ensemble of the social relations. “ Karl Marx, Sixth Thesis on Feuerbach.
By Harvey Thompson, 4 June 1999
William Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale performed at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, England by the Maly Drama Theatre of St. Petersburg. Directed by Declan Donnellan. Designed by Nick Ormerod. Translated by Pyotr Gnedich.
By Andrea Peters, 2 June 1999
The Parsons Dance Company, currently nearing the end of a performance series at the Joyce Theater in New York City, is one of the leading companies in the world of mainstream contemporary modern dance. Critics have accused the ensemble, the brainchild of David Parsons, a former dancer with the Paul Taylor Co., of being flashy. While this is one notable aspect of the group's work, I would argue that Parsons' innovative theatricality is the most creative feature of this young artist. More substantively, however, the work the company is performing at the Joyce Theater suffers from other difficulties—above all, the inability to create a unified whole out of various complex formal tools. Parsons' work also clearly bears the mark of much current choreography—an overemphasis on technical virtuosity, coupled with an unsophisticated exploration of multifaceted themes or its absence altogether.
A Midsummer Night's Dream, based on the play by William Shakespeare, directed by Michael Hoffman
By David Walsh, 31 May 1999
Shakespeare apparently wrote the play in the mid-1590s, when he was thirty or so, during the last decade of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. It has been suggested, though not proven, that the piece was written for an aristocratic wedding and further conjectured that the queen attended the first performance. At any rate, according to its first printed edition in 1600, the play had already been “sundry times publicly acted” by the Lord Chamberlain's Men, the theater company Shakespeare helped establish in the summer of 1594, when London theaters reopened after a two-year hiatus due to fear of the plague.
A documentary directed and produced by Matthew Diamond
By Andrea Peters, 16 March 1999
The recent documentary film Dancemaker, featuring the work of Paul Taylor and his company, provides an important, if limited, window into the creative life of one of modern dance's most accomplished choreographers. While for the most part the film is grounded in unabashed adulation for this creative genius, it allows one to see certain aspects of the artistic life of Paul Taylor, as well as the larger reality encompassing modern dance as a whole.
The Thang Long Water Puppet Troupe of Hanoi
By Richard Phillips, 5 February 1999
The Thang Long Water Puppet Troupe of Hanoi, which performs the age-old craft of water puppetry or mua roi nuoc, has just ended a successful season at the Royal Botanical Gardens, part of the annual Sydney Festival.
Richard Phillips interviews water puppet director
5 February 1999
Le Van Ngo is the artistic director of Vietnam's internationally-acclaimed Thang Long Water Puppet Troupe of Hanoi. He joined Thang Long in 1970 and is leading figure in the popularisation of this ancient and unique art form.
By Tracy Montry, 31 March 1998
Theater review: A Woman of No Importance by Oscar Wilde, at the Hillberry Theatre, Detroit, Michigan, performances from February 13 to Apri1 23
By Andrea Grant-Friedman, 28 March 1998
Doug Varone and Dancers, as they recently demonstrated in performance at the Joyce Theater in New York City, exhibit some of the most well defined technical and physical elements that have emerged in late twentieth century modern dance.
By David Walsh, 28 July 1997
The occasion of Moisés Kaufman’s play, Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde, currently running at the Minetta Lane Theatre in New York City, provides the opportunity to begin a reexamination of Wilde’s intellectual legacy.