Arts and Entertainment Show 1 at the Lyric Hammersmith

The known quantity is a factor that London theatre has a depressing habit of unduly relying upon.  Think of all those screen-to-stage adaptations that angle to clean up at the box office by feeding audiences with the safely familiar or the slew of preview pieces that these days excessively prime punters on what to anticipate. 

Best foot forward: Power & Influence in the Arts: Dance. Critics call John Ashford bullish, but without him where would modern dance be? Judith Mackrell on the director of the Place Theatre

The dance world has always been able to produce charismatic stars and articulate bodies, but it seems less good at breeding tough-talking administrators, bullish manipulators of committees and budgets. It's possibly no accident, then, that the man who has been most responsible for promoting and selling small-scale British dance over the last decade, the man with one of the biggest controlling shares in the future's big names, came out of the verbally more aggressive world of theatre.

THEATRE / From Hampstead . . . to Broadway: Harold Pinter and Tony Kushner in New York; Caryl Churchill's 'The Skriker' in London

FROM THE co-billing of Christopher Plummer and Jason Robards in the Broadway revival of Pinter's No Man's Land, there is no guessing who is playing what - Spooner the apologetic visitor, or Hirst the masterful householder. But if, like me, you take these two characters to be alternative versions of the same man, paying the respective price of worldly success and failure, then mutual resemblance is as important as contrast. In the case of Paul Eddington and Pinter himself in last year's West End production, it was inconceivable that they had begun as the same personality. That was one way of doing it; but perhaps the ideal would be a film with one actor playing both roles. In the meanwhile, New York offers a performance by two massively accomplished old heavyweights, each capable of stepping into the other's shoes.

THEATRE / Spirit levels: Paul Taylor and Judith Mackrell cast separate eyes on Caryl Churchill's The Skriker at the Cottesloe

The Skriker, Caryl Churchill's new play, is collaborative and multi-media, but it begins with a massive mouthful of words. The title character, a shapeshifter and death portent from English folklore, appears in the guise of a monstrous spider and spouts a long bewildering monologue in which the train of thought careers along in a madly associative, James-Joyce- meets-Professor-Stanley-Unwin fashion. A sentence like 'Bloody Bones in the dark dark dark we all go into the dark cupboard love all' jumps track from English faery to Eliot's East Coker to childhood terror to cliche, to tennis score. No wonder Kathryn Hunter, brilliant in all the Skriker's manifestations, looks at times as if it is language that's controlling her.

THEATRE / Flights of fancy: Perhaps. Dancers swamp the actors in Caryl Churchill's The Skriker. Judith Mackrell talked to the playwright during rehearsals

Anyone who listened, ears agape, to the funny and frenetic dialogue that rattled out of the characters' mouths in Top Girls or Serious Money might be astonished to hear the slow and careful diffidence with which their creator, Caryl Churchill, talks about her work. Anyone who has sat among the packed and fashionable crowds that attend her plays might also be unprepared for the unintimidatingly unmanufactured style of the real woman.

THEATRE / The Theatre Shows of 1994


Nicholas Wright's Masterclass: The Art of Theatre: 6 Dialogue

LORD JOHN: Miss Leete trod on a toad.

RADIO / Accusations and guilt

TIME, as is well known, heals wounds: but it also has a useful way of taming art - taming your reaction to it, anyway. The avant-garde can have an unpleasantly medicinal taste when you swallow it straight: but sweetened with 25 years' worth of nostalgia it can be a positive delicacy. If Peter Handke's Self- Accusation (Radio 3, Friday) was made now, you suspect, you'd be reluctant to touch it. Rooted up out of the archives, for the closing stages of the 1968 season (stifled gasps of relief all round), it seemed a kind of radio truffle.

Appeals: Soho Theatre Company

A photograph of children from Vienna, Bremen and Berlin arriving at Harwich, Essex, en route for Hull, on 2 December 1938. About 10,000 refugee children, under threat from Nazi aggressors, were granted asylum in the UK before the Second World War. Their evacuation is the subject of Diane Samuels's Kindertransport, a play having its premiere staged on Thursday 15 April by the Soho Theatre Company, at the Cockpit Theatre, London.

THEATRE / Between the Lines: The actor and director Burt Caesar on Serious Money

'There's ugly-greedy and sexy-greedy, you dope / At the moment, you're ugly, which is no hope / If you stay ugly, God knows what your fate is] / But sexy-greedy is the late Eighties.'

THEATRE / The Taking of Liberty - Man in the Moon, London SW3

The setting for Cheryl Robson's play, which won the 1990 South London Playwriting Competition but has never been produced, is post-revolutionary France, but her concern is less with insurrectionary tactics than with sexual politics. As the world turns upside down and the men of a small town near Lyon espouse radicalism and Robespierre, the women's seething discontent with their lot boils over into a rebellion focused on the new statue of Liberty in the town square.
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