Experimental feature

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Experimental feature

The Nightmares of Carlos Fuentes, Arcola, London

Nicolas Kent, who for 18 years ran the Tricycle Theatre, emerges back on the London theatre scene to direct the world premiere of Rashid Razaq’s play. It’s a black comedy about an Iraqi refugee who is working hard at becoming a British citizen, but whose violent past in Iraq starts to catch up with him. Based on a short story by Hassan Blasim. SH

arcolatheatre.com, 020 7503 1646, Tuesday to August 16

Porgy and Bess, Open Air Theatre, London

Summertime in the park and the Open Air Theatre stages its first production of the great Gershwin opera. Rufus Bonds Jr plays Porgy, the disabled beggar who loves Bess, played here by Nicola Hughes, and tries to save her from her troubled past.

Sharon D Clarke also joins Timothy Sheader’s production and a balmy summer evening in the open should be just the place to savour those all-time classics, “I Loves You Porgy”, “It Ain’t Necessarily So”, “I Got Plenty O’ Nothing” and, of course, “Summertime”. SH

openairtheatre.com, Monday to August 23

Stalin’s Daughter, Tobacco Factory, Bristol

In the 1990s Lana Peters arrives in Bristol, bearing a new name, to seek a new life and to leave past traumas behind. But, as Stalin’s daughter, how easily can she move on? And what has she herself experienced and achieved? Svetlana Alliluyeva, as she was originally called, lived a remarkable life during a turbulent time, as David Lane’s play explores. SH

tobaccofactorytheatres.com, 0117 902 0344, Thursday to August 9

Invincible, St James Theatre, London

The north-south divide and class tensions are alive and kicking in Torben Betts’ shrewd, sharp farce, which first played at Richmond’s Orange Tree Theatre in March. Driven by economic necessity as the recession bites, a middle-class couple abandon London and move to a cheaper dwelling in a small northern town. But when they try to bond with their working-class neighbours, trouble ensues.

The cultural clashes are agonisingly funny, but there is real poignancy too in Betts’s play, as he peers behind the stereotypes, and there are fine performances from Laura Howard, Darren Strange, Samantha Seager and Daniel Copeland in Ellie Jones’s production. SH

stjamestheatre.co.uk, 0844 264 2140, to August 9

Amadeus, Chichester Festival Theatre

The handsomely refurbished theatre opens with a flourish. Rupert Everett puts in a great performance as the crazed old composer Antonio Salieri, recalling his all-consuming jealousy for his young rival Mozart. As he confesses to the way his envy drove him to increasingly destructive behaviour, the past comes alive and we see him confronted with Joshua McGuire’s giggly, childish, immensely talented Mozart. The play, a melodramatic thriller written by Peter Shaffer in 1979, is great fun when well delivered, and here it is staged and performed with aplomb, balancing excess with poignancy. Threaded throughout are snatches of what makes Salieri so jealous: Mozart’s music at its most sublime. SH

cft.org.uk, 01243 781 312, to August 2

Medea, National Theatre, London

This Medea looks comparatively low-rent, like a 1980s eastern European presidential palace: recent but already falling apart, not unlike its anti-heroine’s marriage. In the title role Helen McCrory conjures up not a fiery incandescence but a spirit of savage drought, as if she has run out of hope and with it tolerance; we see her show an instant of remorse and whimperingly question her own resolve, only to rebut herself in a flat mutter. Characteristically, Carrie Cracknell’s production sets great store by movement and dance, but its greatest success is in confronting and dismantling expectations of what Medea should be as a woman: no sign here of the “virtues” of nurturing and passivity. IS

nationaltheatre.org.uk, 020 7452 3000, to Sept 4

Perseverance Drive, Bush Theatre, London

Robin Soans’ principal work as a playwright has been in making verbatim work, and this Barbadian family drama has a similar feel of the author getting out of the way of his subjects. The Gillards are a devout clan, splitting and asserting themselves over each other in terms of a narrow band of evangelical Christianity.

This kind of fast-breeding fission is familiar in political as well as personal circles, and Soans is implicitly asking, in both contexts, what should it profit a man if he should lose his whole world but retain his principles. At the end, Maya Angelou’s exhortation “Be, and be better” echoes around the bereaved family, in equal parts hollow and hopeful. IS

bushtheatre.co.uk, 020 8743 5050, to August 16

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