THEATRE / The Threepenny Opera, or whatever that is in Ecus

The Threepenny Opera Donmar Warehouse, London

THEATRE / A twist in the cocktail: Paul Taylor on Design for Living at the Donmar

The design on the poster and the programme for Sean Mathias's revelatory Donmar revival of Design for Living is studiedly deceptive. At first (or even second and third) glance, you seem to be looking at a cocktail glass into which an olive is tumbling from on high. Then it dawns on you that the olive might actually be a navel, and that the glass has a pair of vertical lips swimming in it . . .

THEATRE / Three's company, two's a crowd: The menage a trois is full of theatrical promise, and nobody has better exploited it than Noel Coward in Design for Living. By Paul Taylor

The snappiest gag about menages a trois was delivered by Groucho Marx. In Animal Crackers, he ogles a couple of starlets and quips, 'We three would make an ideal couple. Pardon me while I have a strange interlude.' He's referring, of course, to Eugene O'Neill's nine-act drama Strange Interlude (1928) and to its heroine who is torn, protractedly, between two men. Groucho's joke would work even better, though, as a gloss on Noel Coward's Design for Living, which was premiered in New York five years later with the same actress, Lynne Fontanne, in the leading role.

MUSIC / Always good for a quote: Nicholas Williams on the many voices of Berio and T S Eliot

Don't quote me on it, but any write-up of a week that included Berio's multi-referential Sinfonia and Eliot's The Waste Land was likely to begin with an allusion.

No time to beat around the Bush: Dominic Dromgoole has made a success of the Bush Theatre by fibbing and attacking his critics. Sabine Durrant risked a face-to-face meeting

Several people are a bit frightened of Dominic Dromgoole. 'Ooh no,' said one, 'he certainly doesn't like me.' 'Ouch,' said another, 'whatever you do, don't mention my name.' 'I don't envy you,' winced a third.

THEATRE/ The companies act: Going it alone has a powerful allure for actors, but the life of the impresario is not all bouquets and sell-out shows. By Jasper Rees

To set up your own business in more or less any walk of life is absolutely in line with prevailing government doctrine. But in the theatre it tends to be financial suicide. Witness Mark Rylance's 1991 Tempest, which toured the nation's leylines and stone circles and, without the help of magic, made money disappear into the ether. Any actors who fancy their chances as impresarios for big companies or small might like to tick off the following sine qua nons: the emotional constitution of an ox, the ability to slave round the clock on a shoestring, a penchant for paperwork and a cast-iron reason for doing it.

THEATRE / West End

----------------------------------------------------------------- PAUL TAYLOR'S CHOICE ----------------------------------------------------------------- 1 Wind in the Willows . . . . .National 2 Angels in America . . . . . .National 3 Machinal . . . . . . . . . . National 4 Cabaret . . . . . . . . . . .Donmar Warehouse 5 Medea . . . . . . . . . . . .Wyndhams -----------------------------------------------------------------

THEATRE / Theatre Choice

----------------------------------------------------------------- 1 Wind in the Willows . . . Olivier 2 Millennium Approaches . . Cottesloe 3 Cabaret . . . . . . . . . Donmar Warehouse 4 Medea . . . . . . . . . . Wyndhams 5 Wallenstein . . . . . . . Barbican -----------------------------------------------------------------

First Night: Musical glories in the seedy smell of success: Cabaret - Donmar Warehouse

JOHN KANDER, who wrote the music for Cabaret, watched this production for 20 minutes then turned to Sam Mendes, the director, whispering with pleasure his verdict on Alan Cumming's pouting androgynous master of ceremonies: 'He's disgusting,' purred the composer. 'He's right in your face.'

THEATRE / The story of a crazy mixed up kid: Paul Taylor reviews English Touring Theatre's Hamlet at the Donmar Warehouse

But I have that within which passes show,' claims Hamlet, and the best Hamlets manage, through one of the paradoxes of acting, to show that this is true - no matter how outre or frenetic they make the character's antic disposition. Mark Rylance, the outstanding Hamlet of our times, kept veering into behaviour that was ostentatiously barking, yet convinced you that his pyjama-clad lunacies were somehow seamlessly consistent with an injured spirituality. Alan Cumming, who assumes the role now in Stephen Unwin's English Touring Theatre production, is a dazzling performer who excels in showy, limelight-hogging parts like his madman with the calculated identity crisis in Accidental Death of an Anarchist or Valere, the self-infatuated playwright who gambolled about David Hirson's La Bete, making your average Restoration fop look like a tongue-tied shrinking violet.

THEATRE / Paul Taylor's theatre choice

1. The Life of Stuff, Donmar Warehouse, London

THEATRE / Discovering a world of interiors: Paul Taylor reviews Michael Frayn's new play, Here, at the Donmar Warehouse

HAMLET couldn't get his act together 'for thinking too precisely on th'event', but compared with the young people in Here, Michael Frayn's delicious new chamber comedy, the Prince of Denmark was an almost slap-happy decision-maker. Why, he could have killed Claudius, rustled up a ratatouille and retiled your bathroom for you in the time it takes this pair to make up their minds on such momentous issues as whether, say, to put the toy dog on top of the television or on the table, or whether to place their bed in the centre of the room or, less symbolically, in one of the corners.

THEATRE / A world lost in the translation: Paul Taylor on a lucid revival of Brian Friel's Translations at the Donmar Warehouse

TACITLY embedded in Brian Friel's Translations is a huge, ironic discrepancy between the way the imagined events would have happened at the time (Ireland, 1833) and their theatrical representation over a century later. For nowadays, English is the language all the participants use - even those playing Irish-speaking Baile Beag locals, who would then have known more words of Greek and Latin, Translations suggests, than of the colonialists' mother-tongue. So, for long stretches of the drama, we have to pretend we are listening to Gaelic when what we are hearing is Irish-English. The play's own medium is a pointed, palpable reminder of where the linguistic and cultural changes, shown here as they are just being broached, eventually led.

THEATRE / Blind men's bluff: Paul Taylor reviews Cheek by Jowl's double bill

The celebrated Cheek by Jowl opens its London season at the Donmar Warehouse with a 20-minute curtain-raiser that involves three Flemish blind men, on the march (as they think) to Rome for a cure, who refuse to believe the news that they are in fact walking round and round in circles and end up sinking to their deaths in a bog. It's hard to extract anything much but a brisk dose of the obvious from Michel de Ghelderode's dour, droll playlet. Its central image is inspired by Breughel's famous painting The Parable of the Blind; its dramatic effect is like Beckett minus the genius.

THEATRE / Coming apart at the themes: Playland - Donmar Warehouse

People who ask whether the dismantling of apartheid will leave South African theatre bereft of a subject are posing the wrong question. Themes no less daunting and arguably more difficult than the old struggle loom into view as this bloodstained society, switching course, tries to come to terms with its guilt-ridden past. Rather as with the dramatists of eastern Europe, the problem is not a lack of raw material but a certain stiffness in the playwriting joints. Can new forms be found flexible enough to capture and respond to the emerging realities?
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