Thursday, 28 June 2012

Dr Dee

London Coliseum
25 July

A pair of crows fly low across the stage,
menacing dark and death, and in their wake
the music creeps on us, a cautious strain
made bold to fill a world unknown,
so strange and old and bright and brilliant,
book-filled and full of calculation,
learning and alchemy, ambition and avarice.

We drown in one man’s dreams,
burgeoning thought and lust, his love
and then the strange and bloody moment
of his sacrifice. He is at home with angels,
black with scars and warped with his mistakes.
The cost is great: all heart and happiness,
a lifelong sentence of pain and disgrace.

Damon Albarn’s Dr Dee plays at the Coliseum until 7 July

Friday, 22 June 2012


Old Vic
19 June 
Ten men on stage and you can almost smell
the smoke and sweat,
Ostpolitik, speeches and booze.

They pace a world of low-lit rooms
and creaking floorboards, secrets, shadows
and the threat of spies.

They stand or fall by stories and salutes,
women in tears and love, handshakes
and sex. They gloat in private trains

and dark, plush cars,
a room of telephones and secret files
and an endless cavalcade of wine bottles.

We drink it in slow draught, a riveting account
of one small slice of German history
brought back to life; whilst there on stage

one chancellor, one spy
hang in the balance, caught in the lime-light,
crossing and coupling and moving apart at last.
Democracy plays at the Old Vic until 28 July

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Old Earth

Village Underground
16 June

In crumbling earth
and ancient tree-roots, one man
sifts the residue.

In light and shadow,
music and stillness, he sits
looming and fading,

questioning a world
uncanny, beautiful,
leaf-strewn and mould-ridden.

Old Earth premiered at Village Underground, as part of the Spitalfields Music Festival, June 2012

Friday, 15 June 2012

The Suit

The Young Vic
13 June
Here is a story, simple, slow and strange,
that’s lifted from another time and place
and set down on a stage that holds it like a pearl,
glistening in a clam shell.

There’s no embellishment, only a row of chairs,
an orange blanket and an old clothes rail
to summon up the bubbling township
of Sophiatown. But here is a world

and in it love and heartbreak, jealousy
and tortuous humiliation. Here is an awful loss of heart
and understanding, too much silence,
too much tongue-biting. It is a bitter lesson,

hidden in a soaring song, behind the bars of table legs
and in the hollow arm-holes of a suit jacket;
not about love at all but sheer humanity,
communion, language and the power of speech.

The Suit plays at the Young Vic until 16 June

Monday, 11 June 2012


Royal Court
Theatre Local, Peckham
9 June

Sleeping it off in London,
city of hangovers and handbags,
kit kats and booze.

Nigeria is louder, brighter, full of shouts
and prayers, fighting and dancing,
fly-blown market sellers crying their wares.

In both, displacement is a wrack
that wrenches love and family apart,
scores off ambition, questions our sense of right;

in both, a niggling unrest and accusation
darkens our belief in nationality,
fires us up and leaves us with a fight.

Belong will play at Theatre Local, Peckham, until 23 June

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

The Duchess of Malfi

The Old Vic
4 June

If this play were an animal it would be so sharp-clawed
and with the taste of blood upon its teeth;
it would carry a dagger in each paw and hide itself
deep in the shadows of the night.
Such a creature could be hid from, but what we have here
is a world, and all-encompassing: a tall and terrifying place
where love and innocence are but  a name
and count for naught;

and here, hidden well in incense smell and candlelight
there lurks a penalty of death and blood,
incest and cruelty; a secret hid in every pocket
and a knife clasped cruelly at every throat.
There is a lesson here of terror, life pulled taught
and strained almost to breaking point by treachery,
treason and torments, vipers poised between palace and prison,
poison, pain, and the fear of blood.

The Duchess of Malfi plays until 9 June at the Old Vic

Monday, 4 June 2012

Children’s Children

29 May

Here is a slick dissection of the way humanity can fail,
pushed to its brink and groping for a way to right itself.
Here are six creatures spurred by self-obsession,
lust, edacity, yearning for immortality

and the weight of substance.
They drink obsessively, talk endlessly
and endlessly flaunt themselves: their lives and bodies,
dreams, ideals, cash.

There’s no perfection here,
only veneer, fa├žade, exquisite beauty - look at the set,
all well-stocked bars, glittering house,and a real swimming pool 
to dive into and swim, swim, swim away.

There’s not much love, for all their talk of it,
not much friendship or generosity;
and, in the end, not much comfort in plush houses
and sports cars, money and fame,

when it may disappear overnight.
Here is a funny, bitter lesson in the fear of loss,
fear of failure, and the inescapable solution
that things do not last.

Children's Children plays at the Almeida until 30 June