The Jungle, the play about a French refugee camp which finished its run at London’s National Theatre last month, was an obvious candidate to transfer to New York: critically lauded, commercially successful, timely and talked about. The show’s creative team and producers were reluctant to move the play without all the cast members, saying their life experiences – several had lived in the Calais refugee camp being depicted – gave the show its authenticity. “The odds were against us,” says Stephen Daldry, who is directing the play alongside Justin Martin.
Kevin Hart has stepped down as Oscars host just two days after he was named in the role, amid anger over a series of homophobic tweets. The actor and comedian said he had refused to apologise for the tweets, which were posted from 2009-2011 and have mostly been deleted, when asked to do so by the Academy Awards organisers.
Matthew Dunster’s production of True West is the first major revival of a Sam Shepard work since the playwright’s death in July last year. The 1980 play is a wonderfully warped and blackly farcical study of sibling rivalry, of the self-division within Shepard himself, and of two sides of the national psyche pitted against each other. There’s been no shortage of major talent keen to play the warring brothers as these are meaty parts – John Malkovich and Gary Sinise portrayed them for Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company in 1982, and Philip Seymour Hoffman and John C Reilly performed on Broadway in 2000.
The heroine’s magical journey takes her from a family party to the glitter of the Land of Sweets, where Marianela Nuñez is a Sugar Plum Fairy of radiant warmth and grandeur. The Nutcracker is an inevitable part of ballet’s Christmas, with its irresistible Tchaikovsky score and a storyline packed with transformations and fantasy. The actual plot itself is subject to change – drastically in Disney’s recent The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, or more gently from ballet company to ballet company.
Last year the 33rd manifestation of the Turner Prize hit the buffers. The Ferens itself had just been newly refurbished, and the entire institution seemed to pivot about the Turner – it has seldom felt quite so feted at its home base, Tate Britain, to which it has returned this year, even though the Stuckists seem to have lost interest in hating it so much these days. Could that be because there’s too much else that’s truly appalling happening in the shrieking rat’s nest of contemporary art?
In last week’s episode of The Little Drummer Girl (BBC1), Commander Picton, Charles Dance’s contemptuous UK intelligence officer, recalled torturing a young Israeli man decades earlier in a failed attempt to extract information. “When I let him go,” he said, “I thought to myself, ‘God if I haven’t made a little drummer boy right here, ready to bang his gong into the next battle they find for him, I don’t know what I’ve done’.” The question heading into tonight’s final episode was this: into which battle will our little drummer girl be marching? Charlie, whose moral flip-flopping would be infuriating if it wasn’t for the warm, nuanced charisma with which Florence Pugh imbues her, is newly returned from the exhilarating hell of her Lebanese training camp.
“I looked at my partner [the actor Tom Anderson] and he looked at me, and we thought there’s no way,” she says, with a laugh. When she did indeed take the Charles Wintour Award for Most Promising Playwright, for her debut play Nine Night (which comes with a substantial cheque donated by Wintour's daughter, Anna), the warmth and depth of the applause sustained her all the way across the stalls.
It’s not a typical problem in the life of a theatre reviewer, but then, audience lap dances and all, Magic Mike Live is not your typical theatrical experience. Instead, this much-hyped extension of Hollywood star Channing Tatum’s film franchise about “male entertainers” is strip show, dance spectacular, and wannabe feminist entertainment all rolled into one. Through two films, and now this stage off-shoot, Tatum has certainly played a blinder, in capitalising on his brief pre-Hollywood career as an exotic dancer.
In Ireland, it’s not the John Lewis advert or the Coca Cola bus that heralds the arrival of Christmas: it’s The Late Late Toy Show. Since its debut in 1975, the Toy Show has won a special place in Irish hearts, and a legion of viewers. Once a year, a few weeks before Christmas, it delivers a festive highlight: The Late Late Toy Show.
On 2 November 1987, Bruce Willis, having just dashed from the set of hit TV romcom Moonlighting, found himself gazing down from the roof of a five-storey parking garage on the Westside of Los Angeles. John McTiernan’s valentine to every-dude grit, pump-action one-liners and blood-stained vests would achieve more or less immediate recognition as one of the greatest action movies ever made. Along the way, Die Hard gave us one of the all-time great cinematic villains in Alan Rickman’s German terrorist Hans Gruber – the alpha and omega of the Hollywood Euro-baddie.
Fernand Léger was different. The years between 1918 and 1923 have become known as his “mechanical period”, his work from the time reflecting an infatuation with machinery. In 1924, Léger even made his own film, Ballet Mécanique: an experimental, narrative-free piece featuring 300 shots in just 12 minutes, with pistons, carnival rides and egg whisks among the fleetingly captured subjects.
I always thought I would get into painting, but I got waylaid by rock 'n' roll. And then I had children, so that was game over for me. Finally, once the girls were out of the house and I was living in a place that had a room I could use as a studio, I thought, "Now's the time." As soon as I was in a situation where I could be alone and paint without any interruptions, I just couldn't stop.
“God, I’ve played a lot of policeman,” says Daniel Mays with a smile. Perhaps his most powerful constabulary turn, though, was in the third series of Line of Duty, in which he played a ruthlessly corrupt firearms officer covering up his unlawful lethal shooting of a suspect. Then came The Interrogation of Tony Martin.
Die Stadt ohne Juden – “The City without Jews” – was the title of a novel published in Vienna in 1922, whose author Hugo Bettauer wanted to highlight growing anti-Semitism. Its plot sounds familiar: a fictional politician in his fictional city of Utopia orders the expulsion of all Jews, with the government borrowing special trains to help carry out the order. Breslauer was a lifelong opportunist who later joined the Nazi party, but at the time of making the film his vision of the gathering political storm was clear-eyed.
William (Aneurin Barnard) is in the middle of his tenth suicide attempt. Leslie (Tom Wilkinson) is an assassin who, after a drop in demand, has pivoted his services to those who would like their own lives to be ended. There is a contract to be signed (non-refundable), in return for a promise: “dead in a week, or your money back”.
A sweet festive tradition – or perhaps the zenith of a capitalist takeover of culture, depending on how Grinch-like you’re feeling today – the John Lewis Christmas advert song has, over the past decade, become one of the biggest talking points of the festive season. The resulting cover, usually sung by an up-and-coming (often female) singer, soundtracks a whimsical Christmas tale extolling the joys of commercialism. Here is every John Lewis advert song since the ancient tradition began (2008), ranked.
Mark Morris, that most musical of choreographers, sometimes takes a back seat to his music. A tale of forbidden love, Layla and Majnun has been told across the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent for more than a thousand years. This staging is based on the opera by Azerbaijani composer Uzeyir Hajibeyli, freely adapted by Alim Qasimov for the Silk Road Ensemble.
Idris Elba has been transformed into an £850 doll, but fans aren’t impressed by the “upsetting” replica. The doll, created by British doll manufacturer Emperis, was meant to model the actor, who was recently named the “Sexiest Man Alive” by People magazine. Others compared the attempt to copy Elba to a Cristiano Ronaldo bust that was mocked for looking nothing like the soccer star.
Jamie Lloyd's six-month season celebrating the complete corpus of Pinter's short plays got off to a scorching start last September with a clutch of pieces that show the playwright at his most overtly political, in particular his acute insights into torture. It continues now with plays that explore loneliness (the shared solitary confinement in certain marriages, say) and the way that the subjective, tactical nature of memory can undermine a sense of intimacy. Lloyd has done a dazzling job of curating.
US standup comedian Maysoon Zayid likes to joke that if there were a competition called the Oppression Olympics, she would win gold. “I’m Palestinian, Muslim, I’m a woman of colour, I’m disabled,” Zayid, who has cerebral palsy, tells audiences, before pausing a beat to hang her head, her long dark hair curtaining her face, “and I live in New Jersey”. The joke lands laughs whether Zayid tells it in red states or blue, and puts people exactly where Zayid wants them: disarmed, charmed and eager for more.
Once a week, someone posts to Reddit asking for everyone’s favourite conspiracy theory. Among the most recent responses, some gems: Elon Musk is a stranded alien who’s only researching space travel to find his way back to Mars, the period AD 614-911 didn’t exist, and the Olsen twins are just one person who moves from side-to-side rapidly to trick the human eye. In other words, conspiracy tends to be entwined with idiocy - but in one of New York’s most fascinating exhibitions, the Met Breuer explores the interplay between conspiracy and art, and how we perceive the hidden forces over our lives - both real and imagined.
As part of her opening season at the transformed Tricycle (now re-dubbed the Kiln), Indhu Rubasingham has produced the first ever stage adaptation of Zadie Smith’s White Teeth, a novel that is embedded in the Kiln Theatre‘s bustling northwest London communities. You enter the place from Kilburn High Road to discover that this thoroughfare has been reproduced onstage in a fine receding design by Tom Piper. Smith’s book was such a spectacular critical and commercial success when it was published in 2000 that you may think it odd to that it has taken so long to reach the boards.
The Royal Ballet’s revival of La Bayadère is lit up by starry casting. Nikiya, the bayadère or temple dancer of the title, is in love with the warrior Solor, who is pushed into a political marriage with Gamzatti.