Bring on the extras. Clare Bayley on 'Mephisto' and the rise of the epic production

The miniskirt is said to be a sign of affluent times: skimpiness never catches on in times of hardship. Perhaps minimalism is the theatrical equivalent of the miniskirt - the bare stage, sparse-talking aesthetic of Beckett and the influence of Grotowski's Poor Theatre both rose to popularity during the wealthy Sixties. But now, in less prosperous times, we are seeing an explosion of large-scale theatrical extravaganzas with dozens of extras. Stephen Daldry put Equity's nose out of joint by employing non-union extras for The Kitchen. Jude Kelly uses West Yorkshire Playhouse Community Theatre members as extras, and is currently recruiting Hackney residents for the transfer of her Warren Mitchell King Lear. At the Riverside Studios, meanwhile, a young German director, Katrin Magrowitz, is presenting an ambitious production of Klaus Mann's Mephisto with a cast of 40.

Film put on hold

Film put on hold

The Wild One roars into the Nineties

The Triumph Thunderbird, originally made famous by Marlon Brando, is now a modern bike with traditional style, says Roland Brown

Cheyenne Brando buried

Cheyenne Brando buried

He should have been a contender

First he let a brilliant career slip into overblown, overpaid roles. Then his family slid into self-destruct. Where did Marlon Brando lose the plot, wonders David Shipman

Brando's daughter kills herself

The actor Marlon Brando was in mourning last night after his 25-year- old daughter Cheyenne, who had long suffered from bouts of depression, committed suicide by hanging herself on the South Pacific island of Tahiti.

Carte Blanche

I'M NOT sure what "roach bombs" are exactly, but they sound as though they demand respect. When Cheron Brylski set off six of them in her 10ft by 8ft kitchen in New Orleans last week, they exploded and destroyed the apartment, where Tennessee Williams wrote A Streetcar Named Desire.

Poet's look, killer's poise: Burt Lancaster: 1913-1994

BURT LANCASTER had been ill for four years. Too long for such an elegant athlete. It was hard to think of that walk without its spring, or to feel the grinning fierceness tethered.

Network: SuperMario and Aladdin meet Marlon Brando: The National Film and Television Archive, preserver of artistic heritage, is planning a collection of video games. Nick Wray reports

ANYONE brave enough to mention the word 'computer' at the average film festival would probably feel as though they had turned into a character from an HM Bateman cartoon. Film enthusiasts have long been snobbish about television; they look down on video games from an even more lofty height.

BOOK REVIEW / Method acting through a two-way radio: Songs my mother taught me - Marlon Brando with Robert Lindsey: Century, pounds 17.99

I WANTED to read Brando's autobiography for two reasons. First, because he agreed to do it only on condition that the receipt of several million dollars from his publisher would not oblige him to mention either his several wives or his many children (the details of their lives are of no interest to me, and I liked the idea of saving time by not having to listen to the usual half-truths and emotional self-justifications). Second, because it was unashamedly ghost-written, a once discredited process by which some of the most interesting documentation of pop culture is currently emerging.

FILM / America expects, Hollywood despairs: You're damned if you do, you're damned if you don't. But that doesn't stop Hollywood dishing the dirt on its own kind. Phil Reeves reports from Los Angeles on reaction to the Marlon Brando and Robert Evans autobiograpies

There is no point in pretending that either Hollywood, or those in Los Angeles who write about it, have ever been particularly respectable. Even when they wore spats and waistcoats, they always relished and often profited by scandal.

Profile: Excess after success: Marlon Brando - He squandered his talents, but don't expect his book to tell you why, says David Thomson

FOR MORE than two decades he has worked fleetingly in foolish or misguided projects; he has seemed intent on banking the maximum money for the least but most insolent effort; he has gathered in nets full of squalid press about acrimonious divorces, melodramatic love affairs and the disasters that have befallen his children. He has mocked and defaced his own reputation and the very idea of being a movie star. He has also, in his 71st year, grown famously fat - larger than Orson Welles, some say.

Captain Moonlight: Those Greene revelations in full

CAPTAIN'S compliments: Graham Greene, confused? Three biographies, serialisations, sales of letters and papers, revelation upon allegation. Need a little help to get by? Let me try to sum it all up for you in one semi-magisterial Moonlit sentence: Graham Greene, a writer with four nipples, a homosexual inclination, a tendency to borrow plots and an unhealthy interest in trunk murders, attempted to make love behind every altar in Italy with a woman not his wife during one period of a lifetime of travel in which he occasionally spied for any intelligence service you might care to name while always secretly accompanied by a teddy bear called Ted, a cuddly symbol of his sexual repression and confusion. Impressive extra fact to throw in as evidence of just how au fait you are with it all: the nanny of the children of the woman not his wife was called Twinkle. Captain's cultural trend note: Marlon Brando was cited last week as yet another example of excessively heterosexual activity prompted by worries about homosexual urges. I was wondering about Bill Clinton when I came across a picture of him meeting a 6ft 7in basketball player with the North Carolina University basketball team called Gwendolyn Gillingham. 'All my life I have been looking for a woman as tall as I am,' he said. So that explains it.
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Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’