Flying off the outside edge

It's no secret that Brenda Blethyn has just been voted Best Actress at Cannes. But it would be a lie to say that success has gone to her head

Letter: Berkoff bites back

Robert Butler, reviewing my book Free Association, makes the extraordinary allegation that I must be "off my rocker" for entertaining ideas unpalatable to him ("Rambling woes", Review, 21 April). To give substance to his charge of mental confusion he quotes my comment about the Donmar Warehouse: "a squirty little theatre with high-priced glasses of cheap wine". From another point of view my comments might indicate a heightened lucidity.

Theatre Endgame Donmar Warehouse

Ever since the Beckett estate fell with punitive pedantry on Deborah Warner's staging of Footfalls, I've found myself fantasising about ways you could produce his plays that would liberate them from the strait-jacket of his stage directions while not being untrue to the spirit or the significance of the works. How about Happy Days where the mound of earth in which Winnie is embedded had a different spatial relationship with the audience (brought right into its midst, say) in Act 2, by which time the mound has risen from waist to neck level? Or how about a version of Endgame that took place not in that dingy skull of a room, but on a plush, bourgeois stage set, thereby suggesting that the characters' bleakly terminal vision of external reality is a neurotically subjective one?

David Benedict on theatre

"It struck a chord in Winnipeg." It's not the commonest of responses to a play, but Ian Brown, outgoing artistic director of Edinburgh's Traverse Theatre, took his production of Sue Glover's Bondagers to Canada and it went down a storm.

Theatre: The King of Prussia; Donmar Warehouse, London

Here's an unexpected delight. As the first show in its short "Four Corners" season of work from Scotland, Ireland and Wales, the Donmar Warehouse has brought in a piece from Britain's fourth Celtic extremity - Cornwall. There are metropolitan sophisticates for whom the idea of community theatre has about as much appeal as a plate of Yorkshire pudding would have had for Proust. But I bet Kneehigh Theatre Company's production of the new Nick Darke play would leave them totally disarmed. This is community theatre not just in the sense of drawing its inspiration from the locality but also in the sense of offering audiences the rare and heartening spectacle of genuine, vibrantly eloquent company work.

What price favouritism?

The Donmar has been saved from closure. But at what cost, asks David Benedict

Theatre Rupert Street Lonely Hearts Club Donmar Warehouse, London

Rupert Street Lonely Hearts Club contains one of the most gut- wrenching love scenes between two men ever put on stage. If I tell you that the author is Jonathan Harvey, you will assume that the participants are gay, but you'd only be half right. The men are, in fact, brothers and 23-year-old Shaun, the younger by 10 years, is wholly straight.

This is a job for the Arts Council

The shows sell out. The director (Sam Mendes, above) is a star. How can the Donmar be allowed to close?

Theatre; THE GLASS MENAGERIE, Donmar Warehouse, London

The timing is exquisite. First you announce that your unfunded theatre is facing the threat of imminent closure (owners no longer prepared to underwrite losses, three-year sponsorship deal with a TV company coming to its close). The next day, you unveil a well-nigh flawlessly lovely production of The Glass Menagerie, thereby offering a piercing reminder of the quality of work that London would lose if the Donmar Warehouse under Sam Mendes were allowed to go dark.

true gripes noisy theatre-goers

When I win the lottery I'm going to pay for all West End theatres to be wired up to huge neon signs which react to audience noise by flashing "Shut the f*** up" in bright white light. If I hit the big time in roll- over week, I'll even stretch to minor electric shocks, administered through devices in the Dralon flip-up seats.

THEATRE:Friends, Romans and cross-dressers

FROM THE Amphitheatre of Delphi to his father's graveyard in Leeds, Tony Harrison has specialised in releasing the genius loci; but he has never found a better place than the Roman arena at Carnuntum - midway between Vienna and the Slovak border - for dramatising the paradoxes of civilisation.

THEATRE / Choice: DAVID BENEDICT

For superb ensemble playing, robust, infectious humour, and an urgent theme powerfully handled, don't miss Our Boys (right) at the Donmar Warehouse. Set in a military hospital in 1984, Jonathan Lewis's play turns by degrees into a devastating attack on the hypocrisy of the Army, which pretends to be a close family but quickly drops servicemen when their traumas and injuries make them an embarrassment.

BOOKS: WHAT THE ARDEN MEANS TO ME

David Thacker, director: The Arden Shakespeare is at the centre of scholarly and performance practice in the work I do. I might work from my own typed copy of the script, but I cross-refer to the Arden all the time. Particularly useful for me is the collation which gives you the various crucial editorial amendments, like: "Now might I do it pat, now he is sleeping" or "Now might I do it but now he is sleeping." I try to get the actors to research as thoroughly as they can, too.

critical list

Lindsay Kemp is here as part of the London International Mime Festival, but all thoughts of po-faced clowns should be banished. As lush as Ernst Lubitsch, Cinderella - A Gothic Operetta opens on Tuesday for two weeks. Kemp's darkly extravagant co mbination of dance, theatre and music drives purists to distraction, but he cannot be ignored.

THEATRE / Critics Choice

Beautiful Thing Positively your last chance to catch Hettie MacDonald's beautifully deft production of Jonathan Harvey's witty feel-good comedy of young love. Closes tomorrow.
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