Topless Mum

Tricycle Theatre, London

Ron Hutchinson has been fighting the British establishment a long time now. Topless Mum, his latest, about press cynicism and manipulation is, however, quite reminiscent of an earlier play, Rat in the Skull (1984) in which he pitted the ideologies of a Protestant RUC officer and a Catholic terrorist suspect against each other. A fierce dialectical debate, it showed Hutchinson’s remarkable ability to get inside the head of both protagonists and the singular symbiosis of their relationship. Continue reading


Unit 19, West 12 Centre, Shepherds Bush, London

A stone’s thrown down from The Bush theatre stands the West 12 Shopping Centre. Dwarfed by its pushy new arrival, Westfield, Unit 19 West 12 is now playing host to an unlikely nightly bombardment set in motion by the Bush’s enterprising Josie Rourke in collaboration with the National Theatre. Continue reading

Now or Later

Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Downstairs, London

Whilst other matters have recently overtaken the race to be the next President of the United States, the election proper in November still awaits us. In the interim, we can enjoy Christopher Shinn’s new play, set on the night of a fictional Presidential election. Continue reading

Chichester 2005 – July 7

The Government Inspector/Lee Miller, Chichester Theatre

The Government Inspector\Six Pictures of Lee Miller (Chichester) – Carole Woddis

*** (three stars\****)four stars)

It was a strange day to be seeing anything, never mind a double bill in West Sussex. How could anything, even Gogol’s gloriously ripe social farce or a musical about an American social rebel from upstate New York have anything useful to say about the reality of mayhem brought to one’s own backyard. On 7\705, I left London with a strange sense of unreality and returned at midnight with even stronger feelings of misgivings to a reality I really didn’t care to be returning to. Continue reading

The Sweetest Swing in Baseball

Royal Court Theatre, London

The Sweetest Swing in Baseball (Royal Court Theatre, London) – Carole Woddis

*** (three stars)

Rebecca Gilman and the Royal Court certainly have a big thing going. This is the fourth play they have premiered and the second master-minded by artistic director, Ian Rickson. The last time he took a Gilman play and nursed it into explosive fire was, as it turned out, the valedictory stage appearance of Katrin Cartlidge. She gave a devastating account of a female journalist under threat from stalking in Boy Gets Girl.

One of the impressive things about Gilman is the consistently moral thrust she gives her enquiries which has previously included links between deprivation and violence (The Glory of Living) and racism in white ivy-league academe (Spinning into Butter). Here, it’s an unexpected parallel between the questionable dictates of artistic success and, say, a baseball player who wins the World Series, to show the pressures both are under to continue hitting `home runs’.

This unlikely conjunction co-exists within the schizoid figure of Dana Fielding, a successful contemporary artist now feeling the heat who, having tried to commit suicide, takes refuge in a mental hospital and the comforting arms of an alter-ego, one Darryl Strawberry, sometime baseball ace.

An old ploy – truth-telling through pretence – Gilman’s new twist enlivens a play that  commands sympathy but, one major speech apart, feels muffled. X-Files’s Gillian Anderson, on her second West End outing, however seems far more at home here. The pressure is off her in Sloane Square and with her painfully skinny frame and rabbit-caught-in-the-headlights haunted vulnerability she persuasively embodies resistance and rediscovered independence of spirit, ironically, through false identity.

But then irony runs through Gilman like a blue vein. Rickson might, with advantage, have played it with a tad more wellie.

The Sweetest Swing in Baseball runs at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Downstairs to May 15, 2004

First published in The Herald in May 2004