Kate Maltby is a columnist and critic, based in London. She is also a doctoral candidate in Renaissance literature at University College London. (October 2018)

Follow Kate Maltby on Twitter: @KateMaltby.


Viktor Orbán’s Masterplan to Make Hungary Greater Again

Mounted gendarmes moving through the city of Sopron in support of West-Hungarians protesting the Trianon Treaty that would turn over the territory to Austria, Hungary, 1921

As Versailles was to Germany, so Trianon was to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In both treaties, the victors of World War I redrew the borders of the defeated dominions, shoring up resentments and seeding dreams of revenge. The junior partner in the then-defunct empire, Hungary lost 72 percent of its land and 64 percent of its population to newly formed neighbor states. The treaty of Trianon is known in Hungary as the békediktátum, or “dictated peace.” It should be no surprise that Hungary’s nationalists harbor grievances.

Tom Stoppard’s Theatre of Memory

Ed Stoppard as Ludwig, Alexis Zegerman as Eva, Faye Castelow as Gretl, and Adrian Scarborough as Hermann in Tom Stoppard’s Leopoldstadt, directed by Patrick Marber at the Wyndham’s Theatre, London, 2020

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.

When Climate Change Moves Center-Stage

Matt Smith as M, and Claire Foy as W, in Lungs, directed by Matthew Warchus at the Old Vic Theatre, London, 2019

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.

What the Speaker Bercow Stories Failed to Say

John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons, at the Palace of Westminster, London, May 24, 2019

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.

From Gilead to Gay Disco: Nicholas Hytner’s ‘Dream’

David Moorst (Puck) and Gwendoline Christie (Titania) in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Bridge Theatre, London

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.

What to Expect When a Woman Accuses a Man in Power

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford being sworn in before testifying during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing regarding Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination, Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C., September 27, 2018

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.