Tuesday, November 29, 2022


Reviewd by James Karas

Something astounding, unprecedent and almost earth-shaking took place in London, England in 1833. A black American actor played Othello at the Theatre Royal Covent Garden. The actor was Ira Aldridge and the reaction came from theatre people, theatre owners  and critics. That is what Lolita Chakrabarti’s play Red Velvet is about and it is a dramatic and shocking portrayal of vicious racism against a great actor in a great role. 

In 1833 the great Edmund Kean collapsed on the stage of the Theatre Royal  while playing Othello. Ira Aldridge, a black American actor, I repeat, went on stage, replacing Kean. As acted by Allan Louis in Red Velvet, he was man of impressive stature with a magnificent and melodious voice able to make an astounding Othello. On stage Louis becomes Aldridge so completely that I saw only Aldridge, But in 1833 Aldridge the black actor faced the brutal racism of some actors, theatre owners and critics as well as the unhindered hatred and opposition to him.

Chakrabarti brings the contemporary hot issue of the abolition of slavery that was considered with disgust by some while others tried to point out some facts about the institution.

We meet the cast of Othello and Charles Kean, the son of Edmund  (played superbly by Jeff Lillico), goes ballistic at the thought of a Negro replacing his father. He speaks stentoriously and mockingly about Aldridge and his acting style. Charles represents racism in its ultimate savageness and ferocity. But he is not alone.

Patrick McManus, Jeff Lillico, Ellen Denny, Nathan Howe, 
Amelia Sargisson. Photo: John Lauener 

Aldridge and Ellen Tree (Ellen Denny) enact two scenes from Othello including the one  where the Moor demands the handkerchief from Desdemona. Aldridge shows the fury of the jealous Othello who is descending into the madness that will lead him to kill his wife. But the black man is touching a white actress. Some of the actors meet the image with revulsion. No one objects to the black servant Connie (Starr Domingue) who serves them tea. 

Denny gives a nuanced performance as Ellen Tree and as Desdemona and she is attracted by Aldridge’s’ forcefulness and display of virility both as Othello and as a person.

The performances received wild ovations from a full theatre but  the racist screeches reached an apogee when the newspaper critics spoke. They were expressions of brutal racism with comments about Aldridge’s thick lips, his pronunciation, and his invasion of the English stage until recently occupied by a great actor like Kean.  Pierre Laporte (Kyle Blair), the manager who is a decent man and a friend of Aldridge’s is pressured by the theatre owners to close the theatre. He does after only two performances. Blair gives a powerful performance as he tries to argue that Aldridge’s style of naturalistic acting may be the problem and the actor needs to tone down his forcefulness in the role. It sounds like an eager rationalization of an act that is based purely on bigotry and has nothing to do with Aldridge’s style of acting.

Aldridge had all but disappeared from the history of English and American theatre until Chakrabarti “discovered” him after assiduous research. Her play begins in Poland in 1867, where Aldridge is an old man enjoying a rewarding and marvelous career in Europe  In the opening scene Aldridge is preparing preparing to play King Lear in Lodz. It then flashes back to Covent Garden in London in 1833. The final scene takes place in Poland where, near the end of his career,  Aldridge is putting on white makeup on his face as he prepares to play King Lear. How is that for biting irony?

Allan Louis and Ellen Denny. Photo: Lohm Lauener

The play points out that Aldridge, in addition to acting extensively, received a knighthood from a German Duke and was honoured by the Emperor of Austria and the Tsar of Russia.

The play does have some creaky parts especially the opening scene in Poland. We meet Halina (Amelia Sargisson who also plays the actress Betty Lovell and Aldridge’s wife (Margaret), a young Polish reporter, and Casimir (Nathan Howe), speaking German. I found this unnecessary and annoying.

The performances of the cast in general are excellent and the those of Louis, Denny, Lillico and Blair are superb.    

The set and props by Julie Fox represent an actor’s  dressing room and the back of the stage where Aldridge is playing. Cherissa Richards’ direction is exemplary leaving us with a splendid production of a stunning play.

Why is Chris Abraham, the Artistic Director of Crow’s Theatre  not producing Othello? In Allan Louis, he has a magnificent Othello and wonderful actors for the other roles. If Soulpepper can do King Lear and Lear’s Daughter back-to-back, Crow’s can do an even better pair by offering Othello and Red Velvet.


Red Velvet by Lolita Chakrabarti will run until December 18, 2022, at Streetcar Crowsnest Theatre, 345 Carlaw Avenue, Toronto, Ontario M4M 2T1.  http://crowstheatre.com/

Thursday, November 24, 2022


Reviewed by James Karas

Ronnie Burnett is not only a master puppeteer, but he is also a master entertainer. He has been in the wilderness for three years, he tells us, and he is back with Little Dickens in Toronto. That suggests A Christmas Carol, of course, but it is as far as you can get from the original and be on the same planet. Burkett wants to make us laugh and entertain us and he does not hesitate to get raunchy – really raunchy – unorthodox, imaginative and, well, a hilarious entertainer. 

Little Dickens starts with strip tease and a song, Santa Claus Got Stuck in My Chimney,” and as you may imagine, it is not appropriate for a grade school production of A Christmas Carol. In fact, Burkett judiciously asks evangelicals to leave the theatre and some of his comments cannot be printed in general circulation media. Yes, the show is intended for adults only and children under 16 are verboten in the theatre.


The show has characters like Schnitzel, Edna Rural and Esmé. The latter is a drunk, washed-out actor who will meet the three Ghosts of Dickens’ novella. But don’t be in any hurry because Burkett has other things to do. We, and I do mean all the audience, will sing Christmas carols, badly, and hear some songs as well and we will laugh because nothing happens on stage or in the audience that Burkett does not interrupt and make it hilarious.

Burkett is a master of using the audience to generate laughter. He took three members of the audience at random (we assume) and used them good naturedly to generate laughs. He could do almost anything and the audience just loved it. A man taken on stage from the audience was asked to remove his shirt. He did and made us laugh. A young man and a woman went on stage and Burkett made us laugh with very little stage business with  them.

We did get to parts of A Christmas Carol but they were parodies beyond recognition. Burkett can come up with pithy comments that are no doubt well-thought out but makes it look as if they just sprang up at the spur of the moment.  He handles numerous marionettes with complete control and mastery. He makes “mistakes” but I think everything is planned and rehearsed. We see him above the stage handling the marionettes and talking all the time, commenting on and engaging us and generating laughter during our rendition of Deck the Halls.

Did I say he is a master puppeteer and entertainer? Did I say you should give yourself a Christmas present and see Little Dickens?

The show is a production of Ronnie Burkett Theatre of Marionettes and is presented by Canadian Stage.


Little Dickens by Ronnie Burkett continues until December 18, 2022, at the Marilyn and Charles Baillie Theatre, 26 Berkeley Street, Toronto, Ontario. www.canadianstage.com

Wednesday, November 23, 2022


Reviewed by James Karas 

Our Place is the ironic title of a new play by Kanika Ambrose, now playing at Theatre Passe Muraille in Toronto. It tells the dramatic, funny and moving story of two undocumented Caribbean migrants in Canada who fight to survive and maintain their humour and humanity. It is superb theatre.

Playwright Kanika Ambrose’s play has four characters and is set in a Caribbean food restaurant in the Toronto suburb of Scarborough. Andrea (Virgilia Griffith) and Niesha (Sophia Walker) work for the unseen owner Yvonne and of necessity are paid under the table. They live under the Sword of Damocles which may fall on them at any time if the police find out their status and deport them. 

Andrea is an attractive, fun-loving woman with a lissome body who loves dancing but is not too crazy about working. She has a relationship with Malcolm (Tremaine Nelson), a fun-loving young man who is averse to serious relationships and to providing information about himself.

Niesha is a hard worker who has children “back home” and struggles to support them. Both women come from fictitious Caribbean islands. She is a tragic figure who eschews passing relationships until she meets the charming and manipulative Eldrick (Pablo Ogunlesi). He goes to the restaurant where she works and slowly weasels his way into her life and offers her a way out. He will marry her because he loves her and she will become a legal immigrant. This would involve some expenses that she will have to defray but, he insists, he loves her.

Virgilia Griffith and Sophia Walker. Photo: Gesilayefa Azorbo

Both women look for a refuge, for a place they can call their own. Malcolm, the shallow fun-seeker, can offer nothing more than a casual sexual relationship. Andrea’s fate is devastating.

Niesha’s relationship with Eldrick is developed more slowly as we see a decent woman manipulated into giving all her money and borrowing even more to Eldrick who will use his connections to legitimize her status by marrying her. The final scene takes place in a hotel room after their wedding. Eldrick wants to have sex with his bride. Niesha has finally grasped her fate completely. She tries desperately to delay or avoid having sex with Eldrick. In a heart-wrenching moment, she calls her children in the Caribbean and tells them she loves them. She must make the ultimate choice. I will not disclose it.

The play has a split set in the small theatre. The restaurant with the chairs and tables and a view of the kitchen is the main set.  On the side, there is a large bed representing a bedroom or a hotel room. Kudos to Sim Suzer for designing the set and costumes.

The acting is superb. Nelson does fine work as the fun-loving Malcolm. Griffith as Andrea and the choreographer of the production does superb and provocative dances and maintains a sunny view of life despite the ugly reality that threatens to destroy her.

Ogunlesi’s Eldrick is a subtle, patient, manipulative man who sees his prey Niesha and makes her fall in love with him and then springs his trap on her. She trusts him completely in the beginning and his protestations of love start to sound hollow. A marvelous performance by Ogunlesi. 

                               Pablo Ogunlesi and Sophia Walker. Photo: Gesilayefa Azorbo
Sophia Walker’s performance as Niesha is stunning. We see Niesha as a hard worker, calculating her pennies for her survival and the care of her children. Her relationship with the decent-looking Eldrick develops into love until he starts asking for some money to pay for expenses like the wedding. The truth of his intentions strikes her after the wedding when in her wedding gown in the hotel room, she has to face her horrifying situation.          

All the characters speak in a thick and often incomprehensible Caribbean accent. Director Sabryn Rock who does an excellent job in directing the entire play makes sure that the actors maintain the accent throughout. She also understands that many of us may not be able to follow all that is said and she provides us with surtitles. They helped but I found myself at times trying to read the surtitles instead of following the action. To the credit of the actors, the emotional range of the pay was delivered so missing a few words did not affect the power of the play.

A view of the lives of people that are open to exploitation and living under the fear of deportation is a reality that many  people prefer to ignore. Our Place tells us that we should not. But I do need more exposure to their accent so I will not have to read the surtitles.

Stunning theatre.


Our Place by Kanika Ambrose in a production cy Cahoots Theatre and Theatre Passe Muraille will run until December 3, 2022 at Theatre Passe Muraille, 16 Ryerson Avenue, Toronto, Ontario. www.passemuraille.on.ca

Tuesday, November 22, 2022


Reviewed by James Karas

A new play by Hannah Moscovitch is something to anticipate and cheer about. Post-Democracy, now playing at the Tarragon Theatre in Toronto, has a lot to cheer about but it is also a short play (one  hour) that hits you over the head and sends you home. 

In a program note, Moscovitch tells us that Pot-Democracy is about “the 1% who hold and exert power in our culture.” Most of us have heard and know of them without having any contact with any of them but Moscovitch “hung around”  them in her 20s.

The title tells us that democracy is finished and after its demise the world will be or is run by and for the benefit of the super wealthy. That may have been true for some time and the dictum that the United Sates has the best Congress that money can buy is indisputable.

The 1% in Post Democracy is represented by a family that runs a large publicly-traded company. Bill (Diego Matamoros) is the Chief Executive Officer and his fifth cousin Lee (Jesse LaVercombe) is the Chief Operating Officer. Bill’s adopted daughter Justine (Chantelle Han) is the Chief Financial Officer who is also seriously involved in philanthropy in Africa, travelling in her private jet.

Jesse LaVercombe and Diego Matamoros. Photo: Mike Meehan 

That’s the situation but now we need conflict, tension and plot development. Bill is looking at his cellphone while shuffling his feet around the stage. We will later find out that he is suffering from cancer and he wants to appoint Lee as a temporary CEO. They are in South America to purchase a company that they consider essential for the success of their own corporation. There are some problems. Lee is a sexual predator and he has sex with an underage girl in the hotel where they are staying and trying to close the deal. The young  girl was sent to his hotel room as a gift by the company they want to purchase. It is a grotesque encounter.

There is a culture of sexual impropriety in the company and Bill warns Lee to stay away from from Shannon (Rachel Cairns), the attractive human relations manager who is with them. Bill may be bothered by the animalistic behaviour of Lee and the stories of sexual impropriety in the company but his main interest is keeping it under tabs using non-disclosure agreements with the victims and keeping the news away from the press. The acquisition of the South American company is most important.

Shannon had a troubled childhood and was sexually abused by her stepfather. She engages in a lengthy, enthusiastic and graphic sexual scene with Lee. The moral code of Bill’s company is somewhere between the gutter and the sewer.

Justine does claim to have a moral compass even if she is in her private jet caring about abused girls and she does demand that her father fire Lee.

Rachel Cairns and Jesse LaVercombe. Photo: Mike Meehan

We hear enough and may think we know the conduct of some of the creeps from the 1% sliver of the population but Moscovitch paints them with a quick and broad brush without much detail. She gives herself only one hour and that may not be enough time to produce much more than stereotypes. Lee is a heavy-drinking, swaggering monster who rationalizes that these people (the girls) are paid for what they do, that they have no opportunities and there are millions of prostitutes in the world. He did notice the blood on the girl after their encounter but his morality registered nothing because he has no morality to move the needle. LaVercombe does superb work as the cool. ambitious businessperson and sexual pig. The girl was sent to Bill’s room but he refused her. Was it because of his moral code or because he was contemplating his mortality after the diagnosis of cancer? He does almost nothing about his company’s lax sexual conduct code.

The money and power attached to the purchase of the South American corporation wash away all moral compunctions. Justine’s moral concerns are assuaged in a way that becomes someone in the 1% and you may want to find out about it when you see the play. Han gives a powerful performance.

The set by Teresa Przybylski is an aggressively white room with a red sofa and a portable bar. The bar is needed for Lee and Shannon to drink until they become roaringly drunk. The large red couch can be used for many things. Excellent and economic design.

Director Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu keeps a brisk pace as we go through the confrontations among the characters. Moscovitch goes for the jugular and Otu follows suit. I would have preferred a more deliberate pace and a more substantial script to represent the rulers of our post-democracy world but Moscovitch does deliver the punches.


Post-Democracy by Hannah Moscovitch continues until December 4, 2022, at the Tarragon Theatre, 30 Bridgman Ave. Toronto, Ontario.  www.tarragontheatre.com

Thursday, November 17, 2022


Reviewed by James Karas 

Narcissistic megalomaniacs have no doubt existed since time immemorial but there are so many around us now that it seems that there is a pandemic of them on top of COVID-19. They are obscenely rich, of course, but they want to be richer. They have power but they want more power with which to control everyone around them and beyond. Think of a few political figures such as Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin Jair Bolsonaro and the numerous tinpot dictators and you get a taste of them in the political sphere. In business, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Bernie Madoff and Jeffrey Epstein, men who want(ed) to have the “most”, who want to be the “first” and when they reach those goals they want(ed) “more”. That is just a small sampling.

Henrik Ibsen took on greed and megalomania and its destructive effects in his 1896 play John Gabriel Borkman. Borkman’s megalomania is so overwhelming that it leaves no room for consideration of investors, people, friends, family and love. His relentless desire to acquire money and power endows him with moral and legal blindness that leads him to destroy everyone around him and in the end be convicted of fraud and imprisoned.  

 Simon Russell Beale and Lia Williams. Photo by Manuel Harlan. 

The production of John Gabriel Borkman at the Bridge Theatre in London in a new version by Lucinda Coxon is directed by Nicholas Hytner. It stars the great Simon Russell Beale, an actor who can exude the power and the tragedy of the megalomaniac and narcissistic Borkman with stupendous effect. His Borkman struts around the stage like an animal. He thinks he had a grand vision when in fact all he had was a delusion of wealth, power and control. Russell dominates the production even when he is not on stage. At the beginning we hear his footsteps as he paces back and forth in a room on the second floor of his house that, in its concrete austerity, resembles a prison or a castle. His hideous character is revealed as all his offenses are revealed including his greatest crime, the betrayal of his love.

There are two women in Borkmans life, his wife Gunhild (Clare Higgins) and her sister Ella (Lia Williams). Both are victims of Borkman’s megalomania and narcissism. Higgins as Gunhild presents a woman full of hatred and bitterness but also a woman harboring an illusory dream of gaining the power and wealth that her husband lost through her son Erhart (Sebastian de Souza). An amazing performance by Higgins.        

Ella is tragic figure who was betrayed by Borkman as he committed the unforgivable crime of abandoning her love for power and money. She raised Borkman’s son and as she approaches death, she wants a monument to her decency by having Erhart take her name. Ella has her illusory dream as well 

Erhart wants nothing to do with his parents or his aunt. He wants to have fun in Rome and has his own illusions. He is leaving with an older and rich neighbour, Fanny Wilton (Ony Uhiara) and Frida (Daisy Ou) a young and ambitious pianist. The three seekers of happiness struck me as the basis of a play that Ibsen did not get around to write. But we know they are chasing a mirage and their illusions may be as bad as those of the other characters.

Vilhelm Foldal (Michael Simkins) is Frida’s father and a former friend of Borkman’s who lost everything and is discarded by his friend as if he were used chewing gum. He is dreaming of becoming a published writer and is perhaps the most sympathetic character in the play.

The set by Anna Fleischle represents the Borkmans’ house outside of Oslo. The furnishings of the house are sparse with the exception of a piano prominently displayed on the second floor. Frida plays the Dance of Death on it.

The production has a superb cast directed by one of the best directors in the business. The play is not one of Ibsen’s best and you can sketch the characters and their illusions almost schematically. But Hytner brings out the best of the play in a memorable evening at the theatre.   

John Gabriel Borkman by Henrik Ibsen in a new version Lucinda Coxon continues until November 26, 2022 at the Bridge Theatre, 3 Potters Fields Park, London, SE1 2SG, https://bridgetheatre.co.uk/

James Karas is the Senior Editor- Culture of The Greek Press. The review is published in the newspaper. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2022


Reviewed by James Karas

Mary, a new play by Rona Munro, refers to the Queen of Scots and it has nothing to do with her execution by Queen Elizabeth I many years later. Munro has found a niche, writing plays about Scottish history and Mary is a superb thriller that takes place in April and June of 1567. There are only three characters and the Queen is not one of them. In fact, she appears only briefly and it is in the imagination of Sir James Melville, the main character in the play.

Melville (Douglas Henshall) is a powerful lord, a confident man and a loyal supporter of the Queen. He confronts Thompson (Brian Vernel) a young servant of the court and Agnes (Rona Morison) a servant of the royal household in Holyrood Palace, Scotland.

Thompson has been bloodied and knocked senseless by Lord Bothwell, an ambitious and brutal man. We hear much about him and he is the absent villain of the play. The question in the first act is if Mary should be removed from Holyrood to Stirling Dunbar Castle. Melville argues forcefully in favour of Thompson opening the gates for her to be taken to Dunbar. Thompson, on orders from Bothwell, hesitates but eventually informs Bothwell of his intention to take Mary to Dunbar.

Dougla Henshall, Brian Vernel and Rona Morison. 
Photo: Manuel Harlan 

The next scene takes place in June of 1567. Mary was abducted by Bothwell and taken to Dunbar and what he did to her there becomes of crucial importance. In any event, they were married in May 1567. There are some problems and questions about Bothwell. Did he or did he not murder Mary’s husband Lord Darnley, the father of the future James VI of Scotland and James I of England? And more more importantly, did he rape Mary after abducting her? Was it a consensual act that the lustful Mary enjoyed?

In the June confrontation, Thompson has risen in rank and has become confident and even aggressive. Agnes, a fearless woman who does not hesitate to express her opinions and a resolute Protestant and despiser of the Catholic Church, thinks that Mary was raped but she wants the Protestant James VI to become king. (He is the one who becomes King James I of England after the death of Elizabeth I.) In the end Agnes does becoming sympathetic to Mary.

Many of the Scottish nobility want Mary to abdicate because she is unfit to be the queen and she is a Catholic. Melville argues vehemently against her abdication and refuses to sign the letter demanding that she abdicate. Thompson confronts Melville and conducts what amounts to a meticulous and brilliant cross-examination that leads to Melville having to admit that he may be wrong about the rape and Mary’s subsequent conduct and agrees to her abdication.

It is a thrilling play that takes an unusual approach to the famous queen. Thompson and Agnes are fictitious characters but Manville is a historical figure. The three of them take us through cogent arguments that rest on loyalty to Mary and love of Scotland. We are never sure what side we support as the arguments seesaw  between Melville’s principled loyalty and support of the Queen and Thompson’s arguments debunking her as inept as a queen and as a bringer of peace. The “rape” scene in done in a room full of men who are yelling as if they are watching a sports event. It is a horrific image and the quotation marks may suggest what Thompson and Agnes believe which is that Mary willingly gave in to Bothwell and in any event her marriage to him suggests that she did not despise him.  

Brian Vernel and Rona Morison. Photo: Manuel Harlan 
Henshall gives a superb performance as a man of principal, ability and above all loyalty. Thompson starts as a lowly, beaten-up servant but he gains greater authority and becomes  a powerful but subtle persuader.  A marvelous performance by Vernel.

Rona Morison as Agnes is attractive and fearless as she stands her ground against men in an era when she would have been dismissed as unworthy of attention. She digs her heels in, does not hesitate to use foul language and does not budge. Kudos to Morison for a terrific performance.

Mary, as I said, does appear at the end of the play and she says a few words. Mary is played  Meg Watson who graduated from acting school in June 2022. The role is her professional stage debut and one wishes that Munro had given her a few more lines. We could have done without the dozen women yelling at the end of the play.

Director Roxana Silbert does excellent work in pacing a play with numerous tough arguments and keeping us riveted for its 90-minute duration. 


Mary by Rona Munro  continues until November 26, 2022, at the Hampstead Theatre, , Eton Avenue, Swiss Cottage, London, NW3 3EU. https://www.hampsteadtheatre.com/

Sunday, November 6, 2022


Reviewed by James Karas 


Those three letters can express accurately  one’s reaction to The Doctor, Robert Icke’s play  with Juliet Stevenson playing at the Duke of York’s Theatre in London. You can say WOW to your friends or use other stock phrases of enthusiasm for outstanding acting in a brilliant production of a play that inspires thinking and provides heated discussion. I say WOW again but that is not enough to fill my column in the paper and I must elaborate.

Ruth Wolff is a brilliant doctor and the director of the Elizabeth Institute, a major health centre dedicated to finding a cure for Alzheimer’s. She is an outstanding researcher and a powerful woman who is called  Professor but also BB, for Big Bad Wolff. One of her colleagues refers to her as a woman in name only.

Professor Wollf is played by Juliet Stevenson and you will remember her performance long after you have forgotten the play.

Even though the Institute concentrates on dementia patients, a 14-year-old girl is admitted after a botched, self-administered abortion and she is dying. She is Dr. Wolff’s patient. A priest comes to the Institute to give the girl last rites.

Stevenson with Juliet Garricks as Charlie. Photograph: Manuel Harlan

There is a fierce confrontation between Wolff and the priest. She refuses to allow him to see the girl, while he insists on going in her room Dr, Wolff repulses him to the point of some physical contact. The girl dies without getting last rites which, according to the priest, would have erased her sins.

The battle line is drawn. The doctor in her medical judgment believed that letting the priest see the girl would have caused her to die in distress. The priest and her parents believe she would have died at peace having received last rites.

The medical defence of not allowing the priest to visit the patient explodes into a question of the religion versus science and then into a non-practicing Jew (Dr. Wolff) not respecting the position of the Catholic Church.

That’s just the beginning. The brilliant staff of the Institute become divided and antisemitism creeps in. The appointment of the next director of pharmacology becomes an issue. Do you appoint the most qualified who happens to be a Jew or the black Catholic who will be more acceptable to the donors for the construction of a new centre?

The issue becomes viral in social media and a pained Dr. Wolff has to defend herself on television before a hostile panel of journalists.

 Naomi Wirthner as Hardiman and Juliet Stevenson as Ruth Wolff. 
Photograph: Manuel Harlan

I will mention a few of the eleven cast members that carry the brilliant and provocative arguments and conversations in the play.  Fierce opinions, pride, convictions and arrogance erupt in riveting arguments and sit-on-the edge of your seat theatre. Naomi Wirthner as Dr. Hardiman, is a Catholic and an antisemite but a great neurosurgeon; Dona Croll as Cyprian, is the medical director and Wolff’s opponent. Chris Osikanlu Colquhoun as Copley and Daniel Rabin as Murphy join in the fierce arguments. The calm priest (John Mackay) visits Wolff after the issue blows over and shows that he did more in defence of Catholicism than of truth. Preeva Kalidas as Flint, the Minister of Health, is prepared to be treacherous for her own reason.   

There is an opaque side to the play in relation to Wolff’s home life, Charlie (Juliet Garricks) is her partner but I was not sure about the reality of his existence. Sami (Matilda Tucker) is her transgender daughter and we see Wollf’s tender and human side as opposed to the fierce defender of her medical ethics.

There are riveting arguments about identity, racism and the preponderance of science over religion. There are quick scene changes as the protagonists and antagonists move on and off the stage before can digest the last exchange.    

The set and costumes by Hildegard Bechtler are pristine and clinical as one might except in a hospital.

The Doctor is an adaptation by Icke of Arthur Schnitzler’s 1912 Viennese “comedy” Professor Bernhardi. Icke is fairly faithful to that play by he brings in his own ideas and the result is riveting and unforgettable theatre.


The Doctor by Robert Icke adapted from Arthur Schnitzler’s play Professor Bernhardi  continues until December 11, 2022 at the Duke of York’s Theatre, 104 St. Martin’s Lane, London, WC2N 4BG  https://www.thedukeofyorks.com/the-doctor

Tuesday, November 1, 2022


Reviewed by James Karas

Arthur Miller’s The Crucible is such a powerful play that it leaves you stunned and breathless no matter how many times you have seen it. The current production by the National Theatre of Great Britain in the Olivier Theatre has the same effect. 

The play is ostensibly about the witch hunts in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692 but its immediate inspiration was the witch hunts conducted by Senator Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in the 1950’s in their relentless search for Communists. Miller was imprisoned for failing to disclose the names of people who were communists or leftists. Witch hunts are ever-present in American life today.

Lyndsey Turner directs a lean and highly focused production in the Olivier theatre that concentrates on the fate of the simple people of the village. They are caught in the morass of hysteria, bigotry and greed in a theocratic society terrified of the Antichrist. For the people of Salem witches and Satan were real and had to be fought with devotion and dedication.

Fisayo Akinade as the Reverend John Hale with 
Erin Doherty as Abigail. Photograph: Johan Persson

The problem in The Crucible starts when Reverent Samuel Parris (Nick Fletcher), the local preacher discovers that his daughter is inexplicably ill. She and the village girls participated in a dance in the woods near the village and may have performed some pagan rituals like dancing.

The village begins to buzz with the idea of witchcraft. Fletcher’s Parris is a small man, afraid for his position in the village and full of hatred and bigotry. Fletcher gives us a truly loathsome man.

With the town girls going hysterical, Parris invites Reverend John Hale (Fisayo Akinade), a learned man and an expert in diagnosing the existence of witchcraft, to come and investigate. Hale takes his expertise in the subject seriously and goes about investigating with zeal. In the end he realizes that the trials and executions of the villagers of Salem are indeed a witch hunt in the modern sense and he tries to instill some humanity into the proceedings. He fails but we sympathize with the presence of a decent man who is able to see the truth in the midst of hell.

The most frightful people are Judge Hathorne (Henry Everett) and Deputy Governor Danforth (Matthew Marsh). They are powerful characters, convinced of their righteousness and are warriors against Satan. Everett and Marsh gave such stunning performances, one was terrified of them even as characters on stage. The people of Salem did not stand a chance in these paragons of evil dressed in the guise of devout Christians fighting against the Antichrist. Shivers up your spine.

The hero of the play is John Proctor (Brendan Cowell), a decent farmer, a man who committed adultery, and is caught in the maelstrom of hysteria and bigotry. He tries to save his wife Elizabeth (tautly performed by Eileen Walsh) and his life but to do that he must give up his name or his integrity and sense of decency. He is sent to the gallows as are so many other villagers. Kudos to Cowell  for a superb performance.

The rainy stage. Photo: Johan Persson

The hysterical children led by the master of hysterical and devious pretence Abigail (Erin Doherty) are as scary as anyone because they pretend to have to have seen Satan.

As you enter the Olivier Theatre, you see that the stage is engulfed by rain. Real rain that necessitates the people in the rows closest to the stage to wear plastic covers. The rain stops when the performance begins, of course, but it is repeated after intermission.

The set by Es Devlin is sparse using only tables and chairs and a bed where needed an. Spotlights are used where the action takes place and almost nothing more. As I said, the director wants us to concentrate on what is happening to the people without being distracted by stage sets or props. There is no real indication about era when the play takes place. It could be in 1692 and it could be almost any time in history. And this outstanding production of a great play gives us an extraordinary example of how it can happen.


The Crucible by Arthur Miller continues until November 5, 2022, at the Olivier Theatre in the National Theatre, South Bank, London, England.  http://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/