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A hotel to inspire Wanders lust

THEATRE / Rocky road: Paul Taylor reviews Strindberg's final play, at the Gate

We think we know where we are with idealists in plays. There's the sort, like Susan in David Hare's Plenty, whose maladjustment is meant to expose the rottenness of a society that fails to live up to their expectations. Then there's the type, like Moliere's Alceste, whose railings at imperfection are so extreme as to turn them into the play's principal satiric butt. It's a fate that would suit the third kind, those monologuing heroes of Thomas Bernhard, with their relentless bile against everything under the sun. But it's the hallmark of this type that the plays decline to evince any contrasting sense of proportion.

THEATRE / Out of the doll's house: Robert Hanks finds something missing after An Inspector Calls moves house

THE MOST striking thing about Stephen Daldry's production of An Inspector Calls is the distortion of scale: Ian McNeil's set turns the solidly bourgeois Birling family into ogres inhabiting an Edwardian doll's house, swollen heads occasionally poking out of tiny windows to peer into the surrounding wasteland. The acting is larger than life, too - particularly Kenneth Cranham's savage Inspector Goole, come to lay responsibility for the suicide of a young girl at the family's door. Hectoring, sarcastic, even faintly camp, Cranham's performance at times seemed strained and melodramatic; but he made a persuasive emotional focus for Daldry's expressionist rethinking of the play.

The Sunday Preview: The five best plays

Oleanna (Royal Court, 071-730 1745, to 21 Aug). Cult anti-feminist piece with unmissable performances by Lia Williams and David Suchet.

Letter: Passing comment

Sir: In memory of deceased Norwegian commentators. 'Victor Borge, Thor Heyerdahl, Edvard Munch, Edvard Grieg - Are you reading Roald Amundsen - Our boys took a hell of a beating'.

Letter: A solution to Modigliani mystery

IN APRIL 1957 Paul Alexandre, Modigliani's friend and patron, invited me to his home in Paris to see paintings, drawings and letters of Modigliani ('Mystery of the Modiglianis', Review, 4 April). At the time, the artist's daughter Jeanne lent me a copy of her grandmother's journal.

Art Market: Kandinsky defies the slump to reach 5.5m pounds

WHEN A dramatic abstract by Kandinsky, the Russian modern master, sold for pounds 5.5m at Sotheby's last night, it confirmed that serious pictures fetch serious prices in any economic climate.

THEATRE / When We Are Married - West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds

Unmoved, it seems, in the 25 years J B Priestley's three West Riding couples have been wed, the earth literally gapes when the young chapel-organist reveals that their fractious marriages are void on a technicality. All Cleckleywyke reverberates to Tchaikovsky as he delivers the news, seated triumphantly at his organ, rising from Hades through the Helliwells' floor. As the calamity deepens, the very walls split to reveal the scarlet leer of sensuality's revenge upon stolidity.

THEATRE / The Dybbuk - New End, London NW3

Cheekily upstaging the Royal Shakespeare Company, whose own version of Anski's classic opens in two weeks' time, Julia Pascal has transformed Hasidic myth into an urgent play for today - a timeless drama that reaches back into the rituals of the past and looks forward into the ashes of the 20th century. Framed by the musings of a young Jewish girl on the sterility of present-day Germany ('I go to Germany and I think that Hitler won') the play is set in 1942 in a Jewish ghetto where the inhabitants confront their terror by ritually acting out the story - deeply rooted in their culture - of the bride who is possessed on her wedding day by the restless soul of the young student who loved and lost her. Pascal's simple, cleverly designed and movingly acted production throws naturalism and expressionism, dance, music and dialogue (in English and Yiddish) into the melting pot and comes up with something distinctly and refreshingly un-British. Purists will no doubt argue that Anski's original has been subsumed, but this is genuinely creative work which boasts a final sequence that is as spine-tingling as anything you'll see in the theatre this year.
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