• Digtial-only imprints: inclusive or cynical?

    Poor old big-name publishers. Stick to your guns by insisting on the value of your traditional, print-centric gatekeeping, and you’ll be shunted straight to the top of the endangered species list. Pander to the plebs by putting a fancy cover on fan fiction, and you’ll be decried as an opportunis

  • Scary Christmas shows

    It was the blow job joke that did it.

    Admittedly, the RSC’s new winter show, The Heart of Robin Hood, had signalled from the start that we weren’t in for wholesome derring-do amid dappled sunshine. Within the first few minutes our ungallant hero had shot dead a monk with an arrow through the

  • Theatre embraces old age

    Martin McDonagh’s The Beauty Queen of Leenane, currently running at the Young Vic, is a feast of quotable lines and memorable scenes. But of all the reasons why this 1996 play consistently charms audiences and press alike – the black wit, the flashes of gore, the beautifully observed detai

  • The secret of great sets? Less is more

    When was the last time you looked up the name of the set designer in your theatre programme? I did so only last week, at the first night of the Young Vic’s new production of Vernon God Little. Tanya Ronder’s musical adaptation of DBC Pierre’s dark, witty and weird Booker-winning novel, whic

  • Wild mothers and mild daughters

    Julie was delighted when I told her I was getting married, but there was a flash of amusement in her smile.

    “What?”

    “It’s just that your generation seems so … conventional”. Julie, a theatre director and actor, is 60. Although she has a long-term partner, she has never married, and h

  • Is your reading suffering from multimedia overload?

    Two years ago, I had a very straightforward reading pattern. Every few days, I’d read a book. I would immerse myself in its characters and storylines, swim in its style, snatch every opportunity throughout the day to return to its enveloping world. Then I would finish it, and start another o

  • Premature evacuation

    Eddie Izzard didn’t look happy, and I wasn’t surprised. He’d been riffing his comedic heart out for the past two hours, he’d finished with a flourish, he’d obeyed the calls for an encore. And when he stepped back out on to the stage, what did he find? An audience on its feet, yes; but on it

  • Can quirky West End theatres survive?

    We love to moan about the West End. There are the prices (of programmes and over-packaged cashews, not just tickets), the discomfort (at six foot, my knees have been known to blossom with what I call Mackintosh bruise), the short-run musical disasters (Love Never Dies: will it, won’t it?),

  • Does theatre absolve us of responsibility?

    In the past few weeks, I’ve seen more evidence than ever that the recession has injected a shot of adrenalin into theatre land. Three “state of capitalism” plays stand out: Money, a delirious satire based on Zola’s L’Argent and the 19th-century collapse of the French bank Union Generale, at

  • Bonding with books

    Lunchtime. Parked beside the window in the Covent Garden branch of a well-known café chain, drinking horrible tea just so I can escape the rain and absorbed in the last few chapters of Possession, I’m startled by a salvo of banging at my left ear. There is a woman, about sixty, resplendent

  • When did a story last change you?

    I’d never heard of William P Young’s US-chart-topping novel The Shack until I got it free on the front of a magazine (I know, I know. I was tired and cold and in need of the sort of magazine that comes with a free paperback attached. I’m not proud.) Unsurprised that such a tooth-achingly m

  • Why are the British so shy about sex onstage?

    Why do the British find sex such a difficult subject to stage? Watching Michael Grandage’s new production of Madame de Sade, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Yukio Mishima’s complex exploration of seduction and desire was in fact an adaptation of a Mills and Boon. Grandage himself has l