THE EYE ON THEATRE

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Method and Madness toured the country last year with Mike Alfreds' productions of the chilling Jude The Obscure, Philip Osment's beautifully rendered Flesh and Blood (a case of Ivy Compton-Burnett meets Cold Comfort Farm) and Private Lives, the finest Coward revival in years. It came as no surprise when they waltzed off with awards, but anyone who missed them can console themselves with the knowledge that the company is back. After touring the country, they're about to settle in for a final four-week season at the Lyric Hammersmith with Ibsen's Ghosts and Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale.

Alfreds has directed Ghosts once before, in Hebrew. This time, he has translated the play (into English) himself, an act which he feels makes him much closer to the text. He is also surprised at how well the play has gone down on tour, but then not only is this revamped company on a high, but this play is a classic about the sins of the father, about absent parents, about lies and the costs of telling the truth, all of which are quite definitely in the water supply at the moment.

Looking at The Winter's Tale, written nearly 300 years before Ghosts, similar thoughts clearly weren't far from Shakespeare's head. As all good essay questions would say: compare and contrast.

What is it with monarchs and musicals? Camelot, Kings Rhapsody, The King and I... even the Samuel Pepys musical, And So To Bed, has a cameo role for Charles II. I know, I was in it back in my student days over which a veil, nay, a very heavy curtain will be drawn.

Court cavortings are making a comeback with Always, the love story of Edward VIII and Mrs Simpson, the woman for whom he abdicated. Recently unearthed evidence has pointed to Nazi sympathies in that particular neck of the woods, but this allegedly lavish staging is rather more bound up in romance, as suggested by Wallis Simpson's biography, The Heart Has Its Reasons.

Mind you, I'd point producers back 25 years to another Royal musical, I And Albert, in which Polly James gave us her Victoria as directed by none other than John Schlesinger. One song, to which I cannot quite remember the tune, went under the title: "I've 'Eard The Bloody 'Indus 'As It Worse". We were not amused.

Always is at the Victoria Palace, Allington Street, London SW1 (0171- 834 1317)

Ghosts and The Winter's Tale are at the Lyric Hammersmith, London W6 (0181-741 2311) from 9 Jun

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