Who knew Ibsen had a canine following in Holland? I thought as I stood in line at the Stadsschouwburg Amsterdam directly behind a woman carrying a small dog in her purse. I was there to see Toneelgroep Amsterdam’s performance of “Hedda Gabler,” helmed by the company’s artistic director Ivo van Hove and starring the luminous Halina Reijn, one of seven productions being presented with English surtitles on Thursday evenings. (Nevertheless, from the sound of things it seemed the tiny pooch and I were the only ones in the Stadsschouwburg unable to speak Dutch.)
When you’re doomed to lead a perpetually exciting life, playwriting is not the best way of attaining peace and balance. This may surprise people who only know Russian drama through painfully earnest productions of Chekhov, but nothing surprises me anymore.
Mid-week at the annual Lyubimovka festival of young playwriting, I had witnessed a number of great readings – the most memorable one being Anna Yablonskaya’s “Pagans” – when the general excitement was upped a notch by a drunk director. The director and had briefly crossed paths when I joined the Laboratory of Modern Playwriting as a way of distracting myself from my perpetual bad mood (I hadn’t yet realised that one can become a playwright out of desperation). Continue reading
Steven Berkoff goes all, “Old Testament on our ass” with his contemporary reworking of Adam and Eve, David and Goliath, Samson and Delilah and Moses and Pharaoh. Using the Bible, as social commentary is nothing new, priests try and do it every Sunday but to paraphrase Frank Carson, “It’s the way he tells ‘em.”
A single tortured branch extends over the stark white set like the wizened hand of god. This is the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, its blackened twigs promising so much direction. But what real opportunity can its dead claws point the way to? Continue reading
Growing up on a council estate in London, or any estate in the United Kingdom for that matter, can be alright for some, but for others, the disadvantages outweigh the good. Many people have a love-hate relationship with council estates, and there are specific council estates which are deemed dangerous or not suitable for anyone to live in.
When I first came to the UK, I remember two notorious council estates many did everything they could to avoid living in. Continue reading
Amir Nizar Zuabi has been credited for his role in bringing Palestinian theatre to international attention with his hard-hitting and thought-provoking productions. However, his primary aim is simply to tell the stories of the Palestinian people, he explains to Belinda Otas.
Amir Nizar Zuabi’s current play, I am Yusuf And This Is My Brother, is playing to packed audiences at the Young Vic, one of London’s most prestigious theatre venues. A compelling drama about dislocation and dispossession, it tells the story of Yusuf and his younger brother Ali. Yusuf is the eldest of the two, but is eccentric and has a rather child-like point of view on life. Ali, meanwhile, is in love with Nada, whose father refuses to allow them to get married, because his brother Yusuf is ‘odd.’ While at the heart of this play is the love between two individuals, the bigger picture tells the more painful story of the people of Palestine and the devastating effects the loss of their land had on them in 1948, and how this loss still reverberates today. Continue reading
Kyiv’s Gogolfest has both grown and remained distinctly itself – not the easiest feat to pull off. Combining theater, music, visual art and workshops, the festival is the brainchild of Vlad Troitsky, the man behind the Dakh Center of Contemporary Art, a tiny theater near Lybidska metro station in Kyiv that has already achieved legendary status among those in the know.
In Ukraine, theater is regarded as genteel and boring – something for dainty virgins to enjoy when they’re not crocheting. By contrast, Troitsky is not afraid to be jarring both visually and emotionally. The work he does as director and organizer is organic to the chaos at hand in Ukraine, and local and international audiences have been responding strongly to everything from his weird, mystical takes on Shakespeare to his own biting commentary on modern times.
After the close of this year’s Gogolfest, I had an opportunity to speak to Troitsky about Ukraine, modern theater, politics, travel visas, people who drink beer at 9 a.m., and what potentially awaits us after the 2010 presidential elections.