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The Internet, it would seem, takes over everything. There is no escaping its’ clutch as it has become arguably the biggest source of information and communication. With its rise in popularity and accessibility newspapers, magazine, printed articles etc are steadily in danger of losing custom to people favouring the Internet- it’s free and you don’t have to go out and get it! But just how much of a hold does the Internet have over the world of theatre criticism? Has it turned into the main source of criticism today?

To some extent, yes. There is no denying the universality of The Internet. It is this feature that makes it so appealing the theatre critic. By having their work posted online, rather than a newspaper, the critic is potentially reaching out to a larger target audience. There is an abundance of websites dedicated to theatre criticism and the majority of reviews printed in newspapers and magazines can be found on that press house’s official website. In addition to this extension of traditional print reviewing, we seem to have become the age of blogging and creating our own spaces online to air our views and opinions on almost everything- and theatre criticism is no exception to this trend.

This surge of interest in online posting has created an outlet for new and or developing theatre critics who might not have had the chance to air their work previously. In a profession where experience is essential, but hard to come by, blogging has become crucial in acting as a platform for getting new reviewers noticed. By establishing themselves online they are creating a foundation for their work, which is a step in the right direction. The Internet is not exclusive and allows for anybody to publish their work- therein lies one of its’ faults. In creating an open space, in which any opinion can be voiced, the question of reliability arises. Isn’t the whole idea that a critic is someone you need to be able to trust? But with the sheer number of bloggers, how can you know whose opinion is dependable?   

However, when addressing the importance of The Internet in regards to a seasoned critic, the answer will be very different to a new or fledgling one. For a well established, ‘in print’ critic The Internet does not need to provide such important opportunities in comparison to a beginner. It would seem that every critic ultimately wants to be ‘in print’ and once a critic is blogging and publishing reviews online might not take such precedent.

Call me old-fashioned but something about reviews published in magazines or newspapers appear more finite and less liable to change. Once a review has been published- that’s it. There is no more editing or discussion around it. This is where I think The Internet excels any printed review. Online reviews allow for a continuation of discussion in comment threads, in which not only readers but also reviewers comment and a dialogue can develop- adding an interesting dimension to the relationship between reader and writer.

Essentially it can be said theatre critics’ relationship with The Internet is dependent on the progression of their careers. For those who are yet to be published, posting reviews or blogs online is the most credible and important outlet. Whilst it still provides an easily accessible means of communicating to a wider audience, ‘in print’ reviewers do not need to depend on the use of The Internet so much but it can remain a valuable outlet- just perhaps not their foremost one.

 

Greed, irresponsibility and ultimately- guilt; J. B. Priestley’s Inspector calls back into London and proves that he is still very much needed. This revival from director Stephen Daldry first opened at the National in 1992 and has been enjoying international success for the past two decades. Currently playing at the Novello, Daldry’s production presents a highly moralistic situation, which prompts the audience to face their own reality in regards to it.

The play’s action takes place over the space of one evening in the upper classhouse of the Birling family. The arrival of the ambiguous Inspector Goole interrupts the nuptial celebrations between Gerald Croft and Sheila Birling, the daughter of the former Lord Mayor of Brumley. The purpose of his visit seems clear enough; he is making enquiries into the death of the young Eva Smith, who had some sort of association with every family constituent. Throughout the duration of this investigation each member individually examines and exposes their guilt surrounding her death.

Daldry’s staging works extremely effectively in conjunction to Priestley’s text highlighting the selfish nature of the Birling household and their disregard of social responsibility. However, the reception that the inspector receives from the children, Eric and Sheila, suggests a generation divide present amongst the family and evidently the larger community. Marianne Oldham captivatingly depicts the impressionable Sheila through her want to adhere to the demands of the inspector and her frustration at her parents’ complacency towards him.

The centrepiece of this production is undoubtedly the set. Ian MacNeil’s design immediately places the audience on the periphery of the Edwardian world and highlights the class divide present in 1912. By initially observing the opulence of the Birling household from the outside there is a sense of social exclusivity in comparison to a number of children playing in the grim and dingy street outside. Daldry’s choice to have these youths watching a great deal of the action seems to indicate the notion of the innocence lost on the Birling children due to their nurture. The physical collapse of the household signifies the literal downfall of the family as they accept their personal involvement in the death of Eva Smith.

Nicholas Woodeson gives a wonderfully subtle portrayal of Inspector Goole as he stalks around the shadows, allowing his character to remain firmly in the dark. He adds an aspect of the unreal to the production so highly focused on realism with such implicit moral significance. Stephen Warbeck’s epic sounding music underscores the ethical urgency of the situation, which resonates in contemporary society: the inspector’s notion that “We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other”. Priestley’s play forces the audience to confront their individual obligation to society and the repercussions of selfish actions. The carefully crafted staging of Daldry’s production brings to question the subject of the human conscious in such a way that demands the audience to assess their social irresponsibility and make amends for it.

“You are no brother of mine. You shame me and you shame us.” This seems to be the message that the playwright Roy Williams is conveying in his new play, Category B, playing at the Tricycle Theatre. It is one of three plays running in repertoire in the theatre’s Not Black & White season. Williams’ play presents the workings of the judicial system and the current reality of black prisoners in British detention.

 

The play focuses on the spirited prison guard Angela and the relationships she maintains with the other guards and prisoners in her wing. Essentially it documents the politics from within the cells and the internal hierarchy created by the prisoners and guards alike. Angela’s interaction with the highly charged Errol and the physically impressive Saul highlights the corrupt nature of the guards and their affiliation with certain prisoners in turning a blind eye to their illicit misconducts.

 

 

 The transformation of the guard, David, from seemingly inept to brutally harsh signifies the resentment he harbours towards the number of black offenders in prison and the embarrassment it causes him. Kobna Holdbrook- Smith performs the quick-paced script with ease and humour in the appropriate places.

 

Despite strong performances, director Paulette Randall’s staging feels frequently awkward. It is predominantly noticeable in the choreographed violence, which does not maintain any sense of authenticity and detracts from the realistic nature of the production. It becomes difficult to invest in the characters when such an integral part of their nature, the brutal aspect, is depicted so cautiously.

 

“Who do you think is gonna win in the end? The greedy or the inept?” Perhaps neither within the production itself but it’s the producers who certainly strike gold with this one. Pure theatrical gold. Co-produced by Chichester Festival Theatre, Headlong Theatre and The Royal Court is proof enough that Lucy Prebble’s Enron is the stock that everyone wants a share in.

 

Inspired by real events, the play documents the glorious rise and spectacular fall of the Houston-based energy company, Enron. At the head of the company is the mogul Jeffrey Skilling. We see him gain his presidency in 1994 and watch his meteoric ascend in power. Alongside him, the office nerd, Andy Fastow, transforms into the CFO and it is here that we see the root of the company’s financial disasters commence.

 

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“You can never bury the truth” and this production proves it rightly so. This worldwide premiere of Tadeusz Siobodzianek’s Our Class, takes to the stage at the Cottesloe. Set in the small town of Jedwabne and based on true historical events, the play follows a class of ten Polish children, of both Jewish and Catholic faith, from the years of 1925-2002.

From the outset of the production, the division between the Jews and the Catholics is emphasized by their separation to different ends of the classroom for prayers, provoking the initial religious friction. This is followed by the invasion of both German and Soviet forces in Poland 1939. Increasingly political and social turbulence ensues between the classmates leading to the betrayal of the Jews wrongfully accused of collaborating with the Soviets.

Designed in the round and utilising direct address by the actors allows the audience to create a personal connection with the action onstage thus harshening the devastating fates of the characters. Despite this convention the majority of the audience’s attention is invested in the first act and in the lead up to the truly horrific event prior to the interval- leaving the second act to fall slightly flat. The individual stories in the form of monologues become long and drawn out in the search of the perpetrator of the betrayal of the Jewish classmates.                                              Read More »

Controversial issues? Annoyingly catchy songs? A bunch of small, furry puppets? If any of the above fit your criteria for an evening’s entertainment then this musical is most definitely up your (Sesame) street. Following its success at the Noel Coward Theatre, Avenue Q can now be found a few streets further west at London’s Gielgud Theatre, where is has firmly established itself at home. Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx’s distortion of children’s favourite Sesame Street follows the daily lives and tribulations of the residents of Avenue Q whilst offering a light hearted approach to very relevant contemporary issues.

 

It tells the story of fresh-faced graduate, Princeton, voiced and manipulated ably by Daniel Boys, of BBC’s Any Dream Will Do fame, who is in search of his true purpose in life. Cue mischief in the form of the Bad Idea Bears as they attempt to lead him astray from his goal and the impending doom of unemployment.

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