Marieke Heebink and Gaite Jansen in Persona. Photo: JAN VERSWEYVELD

Secret negotiations—and a return to the blasted heath: The best plays on this month

Political thrillers and old classics
August 15, 2017

National Theatre, 5th to 23rd September

JT Rogers’s play about the secret negotiations organised by a couple of young Norwegian diplomats that led to the historic 1993 Oslo Accords won every best play award on Broadway last season, so the NT re-staging—with Toby Stephens and Lydia Leonard leading the cast—is already booked into the West End in October. Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat shook hands at the White House, but the breakthrough originated in a castle in a forest near Oslo. Rogers charts the build-up as a political thriller featuring dozens of characters and locations.

King Lear

Minerva Theatre, Chichester, 22nd September to 28th October

Ten years after scaling the heights of King Lear with the Royal Shakespeare Company, Ian McKellen returns to the blasted heath in a scaled-down performance, exchanging bombast and declamatory fireworks, we presume, for conversational intimacy. The minimalist approach paid off for David Warner in the same role on the same stage in 2005. McKellen is buttressed in Jonathan Munby’s production by Sinéad Cusack as Kent and Phil Daniels as the Fool.

After the Rehearsal/Persona

Barbican Theatre, 27th to 30th September

The best work of director Ivo van Hove is invariably made with his Toneelgroep company of Amsterdam. Here they offer a double bill based on two of Ingmar Bergman’s striking, highly personal films about the theatre. Where other directors “use” video as an element of theatrical design, van Hove creates a new scenography of beautiful cinematic irony and realism. And his actors are extraordinary.