The best theatre to see at the start of the yearby Michael Coveney / December 14, 2017 / Leave a comment
Published in January 2018 issue of Prospect Magazine
The Birthday Party
Harold Pinter, 9th January to 14th April
Pinter’s first play comes to the theatre now re-named for him 60 years after its controversial premiere. This is a significant revival for a play that only two or three critics first recognised as a modern masterpiece in 1958. Toby Jones, Zoë Wanamaker and Stephen Mangan lead a production by director Ian Rickson, lately associated with the new plays of Joe Penhall and Jez Butterworth. The setting is a boarding house on the south coast. A sense of menace and foreboding develops when two men in raincoats turn up unannounced.
National Theatre, 17th January to 3rd March 2018
Annie Baker is a lionised new American playwright who writes long plays about belonging. This is so unusual in the sound-bite age of post-modernism that she seems almost old fashioned. But The Flick at the National last year was a mesmerising work. John, another three-hour drama, brings a squabbling young couple—he’s Jewish, she’s Asian-American—to a B&B in Gettysburg, significantly close to a Civil War battle site, run by an ancient blonde lady with a kitsch collection of dolls and bric-a-brac.
Girl from the North Country
Nöel Coward, 29th December to 31st March
Easily the best musical theatre evening of 2017 earns a deserved New Year transfer from the Old Vic. The music and lyrics of some great, not always familiar, Bob Dylan songs are miraculously fitted by playwright/director Conor McPherson into a heart-breaking scenario. The setting is a guesthouse in Dylan’s home town of Duluth, Minnesota, in 1934, seven years before he was born. It’s like a dustbowl Eugene O’Neill epic. A great cast includes Shirley Henderson, Bronagh Gallagher, Sheila Atim and Ciarán Hinds.