The week in review

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The Independent Culture


Set in Dublin in 1963, Suri Krishnamma's film (screenplay by Barry Devlin) tells of virgin bus conductor Albert Finney (route No 34) who has a penchant for his driver Rufus Sewell, recites Oscar Wilde's poetry to his spellbound passengers and organises them into an amateur production of Salome starring the local butcher as Herod.

The adverts quote Gerald Kaufmann as saying "excellent entertainment". Other critics were less enamoured. "It reaches new lows in top-o'-the- morning Irish whimsy and in amateur theatrical-romps" said the Guardian. The Times declared, "If I found a bus conductor spouting verse instead of ringing the bell I would promptly jump off."

Gate Notting Hill; MGM Haymarket, Fulham Road and Tottenham Court Road. Across the country from next Friday.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. If it weren't so patronising, it might have had a video life as a camp classic.

A flurry of expectation surrounded the mainstage debut of 26-year-old Jez Butterworth with his award-winning first play (discounting those he wrote at Cambridge). A blackly comic, bad-mouthed tale of Fifties seedy, small-time gangsters.

Opinion about the production was mixed, but the cast won unanimous praise. As for Butterworth, "a knockout debut," sang the Daily Telegraph. "We will hear more of this man" agreed the Financial Times. Everyone was seduced by the cracking dialogue, but the Times concluded that his sheer verve "makes you long to see his next play".

At the Royal Court, London SW1 until 12 August (0171-730 1745/ 2554)

David Mamet meets Tarantino meets the Kray twins. Violent, fast, funny and almost content-free, it's a quintessentially Nineties piece. Less than meets the eye.

This year, instead of championing neglected opera, Buxton co-produced two small-scale jewels, Monteverdi's The Return of Ulysses (above) and Britten's The Turn of the Screw. Annabel Arden (of Theatre de Complicite) directed the Monteverdi with Opera North, while Jonathan Cocker directed and designed the Britten with Pimlico Opera.

"A production that gets to the very heart of the story and of Britten himself," Daily Telegraph said of The Turn of the Screw. Ingrid Attrot as the Governess won praise in particular. There was a genuinely mixed response to Arden's Monteverdi staging, but universal praise for Jean Stilwell and Glenn Winslade as Penelope and Ulysses.

Final performances: Monteverdi 22, 27, 29, July; Britten 28 July, Opera House, Buxton. 01298 72190. The Monteverdi then tours with Opera North.

Both operas usually suffer in large-scale houses. Definitely worth a trip to see two great works in Buxton's Edwardian intimacy.