Play about World War I on English stage


This video from Britain says about itself:

An August Bank Holiday Lark Trailer

24 February 2014

Northern Broadsides and the New Vic Theatre mark the centenary of the start of the First World War with the world premiere of Deborah McAndrew’s moving new play An August Bank Holiday Lark.

Set in the idyllic summer of 1914 rural Lancashire, everyone in the community is excited about Wakes week; a rest from field and mill and a celebration of the Rushbearing Festival with singing, courting, drinking and dancing. The looming war barely registers … but it will.

By Susan Darlington in England:

Theatre: An August Bank Holiday Lark

Thursday 17th April 2014

A new play movingly evokes the loss of community and tradition in WWI, says SUSAN DARLINGTON

An August Bank Holiday Lark

West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds

4 Stars

It’s unlikely that Michael Gove will approve of An August Bank Holiday Lark.

Commissioned to commemorate the centenary of WWI, Northern Broadside’s latest play certainly doesn’t celebrate it as a “just war.”

Rather, Deborah McAndrew’s gentle tale depicts the kind of village life creaking under the weight of holidays to Blackpool and votes for women even before the arrival of Kitchener‘s recruitment drive.

In the Pennine mill village where the play is set in 1914, the greatest worry is finding eight Morris men for the annual rush-cart festival and securing trim for the squire’s hat after an incident involving the neighbour’s chickens.

The war seems a distant threat yet it is an opportunity for top clog dancer Frank (Darren Kuppan) to prove his worthiness to wed the squire’s daughter Mary (Emily Butterfield) and a chance for young men to make a stand for “ideas.”

The poignancy of this vanishing community is beautifully captured during one of the key scenes when a rush-cart – a towering wagon piled with cut reeds and flowers – is constructed before the audience.

Accompanied by Conrad Nelson’s joyous music and exhilarating clog-dancing choreography, the festive spirit is such that when the cart is paraded around the stage with hapless jockey Herbert (Mark Thomas) waving from the top, the audience waves back.

Fast-forward a year and the community has been torn apart, with the lives of young millworkers lost in the Dardanelles and the women left behind contemplating a life without a sweetheart.

This shift in mood is powerfully signalled by Barrie Rutter as the squire. Having spent the first act being a parody of his larger than life persona, now he is a broken man symbolising the loss of life, community and tradition.

This sombre note contrasts sharply with the bantering humour earlier and, while the plot may occasionally be spread thinner than dripping, the play is superbly evocative and poignantly acted throughout.

Highly recommended.

Tours until June 14, details: www.northern-broadsides.co.uk.

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World War One in London musical


This music video is called We need recruits! – “Oh! What a lovely war!

The lyrics of the songs of this musical are here.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Theatre: Oh What A Lovely War

Tuesday 18th February 2014

The revival of a classic play on WWI is a must-see, says JOHN GREEN

Oh What A Lovely War

Theatre Royal, London E15

5 Stars

How well has Oh What A Lovely War, that iconic collaboration between Charles Chilton, Joan Littlewood and Gerry Raffles, survived the ravages of half a century since its first production in 1963?

The answer is that it is as hale and hearty as ever and remains one of the most powerful anti-war dramas ever. This improbable collision of form and content still sends out an unexpected explosion of dramatic intensity.

At its opening, we’re greeted by a troupe of pierrots who banter and play lightheartedly and engagingly with us before we’re transported to the first world war front and immersed in the horrors of that conflict.

Simply by donning helmets and jackets over their pierrot costumes, they present us with Tommies, Germans or French soldiers, generals and businessmen. Making full use of creative lighting techniques and the sounds of gunshot and detonations, we are in the trenches with the troops on the Somme, at Ypres and Verdun.

The story of the war is told in short, snappy episodes, interrupted by the songs of the time – full of pathos, earthy humour and irony – and jolly cabaret routines. Even Michael Gove makes a fleeting photographic appearance as a donkey at the beginning.

In true Brechtian style, and despite tearful and poignant moments, we are not allowed to wallow in sentiment but forced to confront the harsh realities of an incompetent ruling class indifferent to human misery and mass slaughter.

On a moor in Scotland we see businessmen having a pop at grouse while discussing their war profits and expressing their fears of an early peace.

An army chaplain tells the troops that God is on their side and, despite mounting losses, the generals order the troops forward regardless.

In the background above the stage, rolling text on a panel gives the unbelievable numbers of dead as the weeks and months pass.

There is not a minute of boredom with this excellent ensemble in which there are no stars or main roles. They keep us transfixed with their bursting energy and enthusiasm, easy banter, dancing and singing.

The leader of the troupe at the end brings us back to the present by reminding us that this war game has continued since that century-old conflict and is still being played today.

A really must-see drama. It can’t be recommended strongly enough.

Runs until March 15. Box office: (020) 8534-0310.

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Shakespeare’s King Lear on stage in London


This video from Britain is called King Lear.

By Gordon Parsons in Britain:

Theatre: King Lear

Tuesday 4th February 2014

In its depiction of societal and personal breakdown, a new production of King Lear by Sam Mendes speaks directly and uncomfortably to our own times, says GORDON PARSONS

King Lear

National Theatre, London SE1

4 Stars

More than any other of Shakespeare‘s plays, this great symphonic drama of the human condition has mirrored each successive age, often unbearably, with its own self-image.

Our own nihilistic day, obsessed with media accounts of what seems the dissolution of both civilised society and personal relationships, finds its ugly reflection in Sam Mendes’s eagerly awaited production.

From the opening, when Simon Russell Beale‘s ageing dictator enters his conference chamber walled with his own military imperial guard, we recognise a common scene of power and insecurity.

Ordered to express the degree of their affection for their unlovable father, his older daughters, Goneril and Regan, outbid one another in their amplified, effusive offerings and are duly rewarded with his divided kingdom.

Only Olivia Vinall’s Cordelia refuses defiantly to play the game and consequently is violently cast off. This is the cue for the first of Beale’s frenetic rages, a state which constantly marks his downward spiral into a dementia fuelled by the treatment from his favoured offspring.

Beale’s Lear is a definitive portrayal of a man progressively stripped of power over others and control of his own identity – “Who is it that can tell me who I am?” he asks.

And, as he slowly loses his mind, with the pitiful plea of “Let me not be mad,” his is an increasingly shambling figure, nervously pawing at a troublesome hip.

The last vestiges of his authority are lost as his substantial personal bodyguard slip away into the night.

Unlike Hamlet, where we see events subjectively through the protagonist’s eyes, in King Lear we watch with a horrible objective fascination and even fear.

This is not only Lear’s world it is ours. The parallel Gloucester plot, in which betrayal and physical cruelty deny family bonds, make Shakespeare’s universal intentions clear.

Mendes squeezes the play dry of any comfort, with the normally moving conclusion rejigged to expunge any medieval heroics – no mummers’ challenge and barnstorming duel between good and evil here. Edgar simply stabs his bastard half-brother in revenge for his own and his father’s betrayal.

A huge cast gives the impression that at times Lear has all of his 100 knights on stage and there are excellent supporting performnces.

Sam Troughton‘s Edmund is the budding, suavely suited potential corporation man while his brother, Tom Brooke’s Edgar, is a student drop-out who shows perhaps an understandably muted sympathy for their blinded father, Stephen Boxer‘s naive Gloucester.

The demonic daughters, Kate Fleetwood‘s Goneril and Anna Maxwell Martin‘s Regan, are equally differentiated, the former cunningly calculating, while the latter comes across as hysterically high on cruelty.

Adrian Scarborough as the Fool for once makes the character’s often meaningless babble analytically clear as he dissects Lear’s condition, only to be unknowingly clubbed to death by his master in one of his demented frenzies.

If the production loses something in subtlety it certainly speaks uncompromisingly to its audience.

Runs until May 28. Box office: (020) 7252-3000.

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Four-hundred-year-old Lope de Vega play found in Spain


This video from England is about Lope de Vega’s play Punishment Without Revenge.

By Agence France-Presse news agency:

Four-hundred-year-old lost work of playwright Felix Lope de Vega found in Madrid

Wednesday, January 22, 2014 13:39 EST

A 400-year-old unpublished romantic comedy by the great Spanish Golden Age playwright Felix Lope de Vega has been found in Spain’s national library, officials announced Wednesday.

A 17th-century manuscript of the play, “Mujeres y Criados” (Women and Servants), was identified within the library’s archives in Madrid by Alejandro Garcia Reidy, a researcher specialising in Lope de Vega at the Universidad Autonoma de Barcelona, library and university officials said.

Never published before, the work written in 1613-14 can be seen online and is to be staged later this year by the Fundacion Siglo de Oro (Golden Age Foundation) for the first time in nearly four centuries.

The play, written by Lope de Vega at the peak of his theatrical success, tells the story of two sisters in Madrid, Violante and Luciana, and their secret lovers Claridan and Teodoro, one a waiter and the other a secretary to a certain Count Prospero.

Complications begin when two new suitors arrive on the scene — Count Prospero himself, who chases Luciana, and the wealthy Don Pedro, who courts Violante with her father’s approval.

“This comedy reaches out to today’s audience as well,” said Garcia Reidy, an assistant professor of Spanish at Syracuse University in New York.

“Some scenes are more proper of a vaudeville show, a theatrical genre whose mechanics and rhythm are still quite popular,” he said in a statement issued by the Universidad Autonoma de Barcelona.

“Many of the scenes have their complexity, which is very promising, coming from a theatre play from the Golden Age.”

Lope de Vega, a prolific playwright and poet who is widely regarded as being one of the Western world’s finest dramatists, included the play in a list of works in 1618 but it had been believed lost.

The Spanish National Library had acquired the manuscript in 1886 when it bought the Library of Osuna.

“Several internal elements of the text and the relation the manuscript has with data in documents from that period confirm that the text was written by the ‘Phoenix of Wits’,” Garcia Reidy said, referring to the playwright’s nickname.

Though the 56 sheets are in a relatively modern binding, they are “without a doubt” a handwritten copy of Lope de Vega’s work set down in 1631 by Pedro de Valdes, a theatre director who staged Lope de Vega’s play, he said.

Garcia Reidy, a renowned Golden Age researcher, is already working on an annotated edition of the text, to be presented in the next few months, the Barcelona university said.

“This is a very important discovery,” said Alberto Blecua, director of the Barcelona university research group.

“Although attributing works to certain authors is always subject to possible controversies, the well-known prestige of the researcher and the validity of his arguments make me think that there will be unanimity among the scientific community,” he added.

Born in Madrid, Lope de Vega (1562-1635) is credited with hundreds of plays, many of them considered masterpieces.

An online link to the work is at: http://bdh.bne.es/bnesearch/detalle/4265202.

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