Arts and Entertainment

"Bo Burnham: What", Pleasance Grand, Edinburgh Fringe, August

LETTER: West End is alive and well

THE West End theatre is always having a thin time of it ("A theatrical misrepresentation", 22 October). I have just been reading some reviews of the 1920s and 1930s. Practically every year is described as thin. I have no doubt critics sitting watching Euripides's Medea at Epidauros in 431BC were complaining that it was a thin decade and things were better in Aeschylus's day.

Reviews: Comedy Eddie Izzard Shaftesbury Theatre, London

Eddie Izzard has now acquired the status of comedy untouchable. What other dispenser of stand-up, a low-brow art form if ever there was one, sends the big-hitter critics from the heavies scurrying for their pens. I don't recall Jack Tinker ever clamouring to review Billy Connolly. But then what other comedian can fill a West End theatre for months on end?

Eddie Izzard: man or turtle?

COMEDY

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"I'm into yoga, though I've only done two sessions - I'm in the middle of touring.

Spare us the nudity and the collapsing set...

Jessica Lange was once interviewed about the film version of Beth Henle y's Crimes of the Heart. Asked if there should have been someone around to stop the movie hurtling over the top, she replied, "You mean the taste patrol?" Thi s autumn the patrol will be out in force as audiences pour in through the doors of theatres across the l and. The new season will bring six versions of Macbeth, two Sondheims, and work by Wole Soyinka, Clifford Odets and Dennis Potter. In among the bold, the brig ht and the brill iant, however, there will be the inevitable, stale, second-hand stuff in which dim or despairing directors resort to tired old devices to wring a reaction out of an audience. The line between convention and cliche is perilously thin. At what point does s tyle become stultifying? When does stagecraft become merely stagey? David Bened ict fingers some good ideas that are, so the cliche goes, well past their sell- by date...

Television Mondo Rosso / Shooting Stars (BBC2)

Jasper Rees on the rise of schlock

An ace party with a great venue attached

As Edinburgh's premiere comedy venue celebrates its 10th birthday,

I am the Izzard king

What happens when the crown prince of the comic monologue tackles Edward II? Eddie Izzard records his far-from-regal progress to the classical stage

ARTS; To play the king (and be a woman)

History is about to be made at the National Theatre - a woman will play Richard II. Why, asks Andrew Temple

Radio 4's lounge Izzard

Comedian in panel-game shock! Eddie Izzard tells James Rampton why he's the new Meryl Streep

Time to stand up and be counted

Stand-up comedy on television rarely works because, invariably, the comedian is given a mere soundbite's worth of airtime to show off his wares. Well that's never stopped the likes of Frank Carson, but there are so many comics about today whose acts are more complexly structured than wham-bam one-liners that they tend to be squeezed out of the equation when it comes to television. Eddie Izzard was irreversibly deterred from TV by his experiences on the BBC's comedy show Paramount City where he found the producers more or less enforcing gag rewrites on the spot.

critical list The essential weekly guide to the Arts

Jenny Agutter (below) has been cast in Ian Judge's Oxbridge-style RSC production of Love's Labour's Lost. Anyone mesmerised by her cool grasp on adolescence in The Railway Children should hotfoot it to the Barbican before its international tour. A lternatively, stay home and watch her in the BBC dramatisation of Edith Wharton's The Buccaneers beginning on Sunday.

CHOICE: Stand up, Izzard

The fact that Eddie Izzard (right) doesn't do television is almost as big a cliche as "comedy is the new rock'n'roll". It is, nevertheless, a remarkable phenomenon. Without regular living-room exposure, the stand-up has still achieved a huge live following, which has happily filled out West End venues for months on end. Fans can now catch Izzard on a national tour, opening at Beck Theatre, Hayes, Middlesex, this week. It doesn't matter what subject he's riffing on - bees; Custard Creams; cats dri lling for oil; the difficulties of learning French at school; how you always know which Star Trek crew-member is about to be zapped because he's wearing a different-coloured jersey from the rest; why are Daleks so scary when all you have to do to avoid t hem is run upstairs? The man has presence - and that is something television cameras just can't capture.

Question Time; with Sophia Chauchard-Stuart: Eddie Izzard, comedian/actor

Eddie Izzard used to hang around Covent Garden, as a street performer, honing his comedy act. Many years later he took the Ambassadors Theatre by storm, wearing a little black cocktail dress on stage. Avoiding the mass appeal of television in his rise as a comedian, he has taken a sideways step into the theatre as an actor. He is now appearing in David Mamet's Cryptogram back at the Ambassadors. Every Friday night, he encourages the audience to miss the last Tube home and stay behind to watch him in improvisation with the cast. In his spare time, Izzard keeps trying to avoid finishing his sitcom, The Cows.
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