For Stoppard, this play is a personal “coming-out.” That may be a difficult concept for some American Jews to understand, but England is not America. Leopoldstadt is not so much a narrative-drama as a painful, public process of late remembering. It often feels like watching a man performing an autopsy on himself. It is a play about what it means to be English, what it means to be Jewish, and what it means to bury the latter identity in the hope of outrunning the next European genocide. For those of us who are the offspring of similar twists of family fate, Anglo-washed by the surnames of Gentile fathers or stepfathers, these habits of suppression, easy as breathing, are resonantly familiar—seeing them staged is a punch to the gut.
Duncan Macmillan, the author of Lungs, is one of the most interesting playwrights working in Britain today. American audiences may know him from People, Places and Things, a bleach-bright drama about a young female addict that transferred from London to New York’s St. Ann’s Warehouse in 2017. With his characteristic talent for fresh dialogue, Macmillan also wrought from Rosmerholm, one of Ibsen’s less performed plays, a darkly resonant commentary on the twenty-teens’ clashes between principle and populism. But where Rosmerholm depicted ideological struggles in a small Norwegian town during the industrial revolution, Lungs, now at the Old Vic, feels as though it could have been written about a pair of Extinction Rebellion activists on London’s streets today.
For many Americans, particularly progressive Americans dismayed at all but a handful of Republicans’ willingness to criticize President Trump, this parliamentary insurgency to thwart Johnson has made Bercow a British role-model. Appealing as this narrative is, however, it contains significant omissions. Bercow’s resignation this week was not merely a punctuation point in the magical-realist telenovela that is Britain’s attempt to exit the European Union. It marks an intersection between two sweeping international movements: a story as much about #MeToo, which casts Bercow as a villain, as it is about the wave of populism against which Bercow has cast himself as resistance hero.
A half-century on, the majesty of Peter Brook’s Royal Shakespeare Company production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream still hangs heavy over theatre in Britain. For all Nicholas Hytner’s chutzpah in confronting the primal scene of modern British theatre, his new production lacks the courage of his convictions. There’s no follow-through to the opening act’s sense of sexuality’s threat, no lingering darkness. It’s just another attempt to get down with hyper-current sexual politics, without interrogating their complexities. And no one needs another Dream populated with fairies in disco spandex and body glitter.
Last week, the world gazed on as Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testified against a man backed by the strongest political forces in America. I couldn’t watch. Last year, I was the woman giving evidence against one of the most powerful men in my nation’s political life. They told me I was malicious, that I was seeking feminist celebrity, that I was deceived by my own false memory. I knew I was not. In the end, a government inquiry agreed with me. Here are six things that happen when you accuse a senior political figure of misconduct.