THE WEEK IN REVIEW

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The Independent Culture
THE PLAY

KNIVES IN HENS

David Harrower's sensual and compelling tale of a 16th-century woman's journey towards love via the power of language in Philip Howard's production from Edinburgh's Traverse Theatre.

Robert Hanks praised its "unusual assurance, wit and intelligence... Harrower is a name to watch." "The company are clearly inspired as much as we are stimulated," cheered Time Out. "With astonishing economy Harrower conjures up a world of drudgery, fear and superstition. Howard directs with great skill," applauded the Guardian. "A genuinely original evening," admitted the Times.

At the Bush Theatre, London W12 (0181-743 3388)

This tightly-structured 80-minute piece is the theatrical debut of the year. The Film: The American President Michael Douglas is a popular Democrat President in election year who starts dating Annette Bening in Rob Reiner's timely comedy about the personal lives of those in public office.

Adam Mars-Jones felt the slick direction "keeps things spinning along either because he doesn't see the pitfalls... or because he does." "When Harry Truman met Sally - a little pat," observed the Guardian. "Rob Reiner's feelgood movie exudes so much sympathy, it sweats," sneered Time Out. "The film starts slowly and rarely picks up much speed... this soft boring film," concluded the Times.

On general release.

After Fatal Attraction, Basic Instinct and Disclosure, this is the movie in which Michael Douglas keeps his clothes on. (Saints be praised.)

The Concert: Solti Conducts Bartok Solti conducted the LSO in a Bartok series including Bluebeard's Castle with Laszlo Polgar and Julia Varady, the titanic Second Piano Concerto and the Sonata for two pianos and percussion.

Robert Maycock was mightily impressed. "At 83, Solti has lost none of his animal magnetism." "Solti spun a glittering web, impassioned beyond the norm [and] swept many distinct sections up into great dramatic curves... electrifying," approved the Financial Times. "There was the crackle of tension in the air right from the start," commented the Times.

The concerts are over but buy Solti's Bluebeard's Castle, or wait for the forthcoming Boulez recording with Laszlo Polgar and Jessye Norman.

Bartok novices and fans should sample Solti's recording of the Concerto for Orchestra or the Music for Strings, Percussion and Celeste.

The Christmas Show: The Jungle Book Young Vic director Tim Supple follows up last year's dark, delicious production of Grimm Tales with his own adaptation of Kipling's classic with a score by Adrian Lee and design by Melly Still.

Robert Hanks liked the adaptation and found it "thrilling and funny". "Powerful, fluent staging that suggests all the fascination and ancient mystery of the original," agreed the Financial Times. "Rescues the Jungle Book from Disney," approved the Times. "Exuberant and violent enough to entrance most restless juveniles and intelligent enough to please adults," said the Evening Standard.

Until 27 January, Young Vic, London SE1 (0171-928 6363) Performance times vary.

Proof that you don't need tinsel and soap stars to give the kids a good time at the theatre this Christmas.

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