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The Triumph Thunderbird, originally made famous by Marlon Brando, is now a modern bike with traditional style, says Roland Brown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

Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – MS Swiss Corona - seven nights from £999pp
Lake Maggiore, Orta and the Matterhorn – seven nights from £899pp
Sicily – seven nights from £939pp
Pompeii, Capri and the Bay of Naples - seven nights from £799pp
Istanbul Ephesus & Troy – six nights from £859pp
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Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?