All stories by Michael Billington on BroadwayStars

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Alan Curtis obituary by Michael Billington

There has always been a strong affinity between acting and cricket, and my friend Alan Curtis, who has died aged 90, was a perfect example of that. He combined a long theatrical career with …

SOURCE: The Guardian at 02:06PM
Friday, February 26, 2021

Ronald Pickup: a theatrical great from a golden generation by Michael Billington

The actor, who has died aged 80, had a thriving screen career but was also a terrific stage star and an essential member of Laurence Olivier’s National Theatre company Ronald Pickup, who h…

SOURCE: The Guardian at 07:18AM
Monday, February 15, 2021

Claire Bloom at 90: a phenomenal actor with poise, spirit and steel by Michael Billington

The star’s long career, from her stage debut at 15 to her film, TV and literary success, reveals a shrewd talent who has risen to many a challenge Acting must be the best rejuvenation pill…

SOURCE: The Guardian at 04:18AM
Monday, February 1, 2021

Oh what a lovely archive: British Library gets Joan Littlewood treasure trove by Michael Billington

Theatre Royal Stratford East’s colourful history is documented in more than 100 boxes of material collected by actor Murray Melvin It is cheering to learn that the Murray Melvin Archive, d…

SOURCE: The Guardian at 11:03PM
Thursday, January 7, 2021

Robot wars: 100 years on, it's time to reboot Karel Čapek's RUR by Michael Billington

The play Rossum’s Universal Robots clearly belongs to the 1920s but its satirical take on the meeting of humans and machines is all too relevant today Not many plays introduce a new word t…

SOURCE: The Guardian at 04:12AM
Monday, December 28, 2020

Beyond the silk pyjamas: the style of Noël Coward by Michael Billington

A new exhibition is devoted to the visual flair of a debonair playwright whose tastes are almost impossible to define Noël Coward was the epitome of style. Fittingly that is the subject of …

SOURCE: The Guardian at 03:54AM
Friday, December 11, 2020

Barbara Windsor: a priceless and mischievous stage sensation by Michael Billington

The late actor took on Brecht, Falstaff and panto and will be remembered for her collaborations with Joan Littlewood Peter Bradshaw on her film career Fame is a funny thing. Barbara Windsor …

SOURCE: The Guardian at 09:03PM
Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Ronald Harwood's The Dresser: an actor's life in all its grot and glory by Michael Billington

Harwood’s witty tribute to actors’ endurance, with its echoes of King Lear, is likely to be his permanent claim on posterity I last saw Ronald Harwood, who has died aged 85, at Harold Pi…

SOURCE: The Guardian at 04:03PM
Monday, September 7, 2020

Joy, radicalism and bare bottoms: the Young Vic turns 50 by Michael Billington

The giant street party has been cancelled. But there are still plans to celebrate the theatre that wowed young crowds, championed black playwrights and conjured finales from Italian cuisine …

SOURCE: The Guardian at 02:32PM
Sunday, August 16, 2020

Forgotten Plays: No 12 – Votes for Women (1907) by Elizabeth Robins by Michael Billington

Our series ends with a passionate play about gender politics and women’s rights that still rings true When Elizabeth Robins’s play was first produced in 1907, it was billed as “A Drama…

SOURCE: The Guardian at 08:06PM
Monday, August 10, 2020

Forgotten Plays: No 11 – The High Bid (1908) by Henry James by Michael Billington

James’s rich dialogue and clashing-cultures theme make his country-house play worthy of a renewed offer Henry James had a love-hate relationship with the theatre. He had boyhood dreams of …

SOURCE: The Guardian at 01:24AM
Sunday, August 2, 2020

Forgotten plays: No 10 – Mary Rose (1920) by JM Barrie by Michael Billington

The Peter Pan author caught Hitchcock’s eye with a Hebridean ghost story about the intensity of mother-son relationships Read the rest of our Forgotten plays series I have neglected Scotla…

SOURCE: The Guardian at 08:12PM
Monday, July 27, 2020

Forgotten Plays: No 9 – The Words Upon the Window-Pane and Purgatory by WB Yeats by Michael Billington

A drama in which the spirit of Jonathan Swift haunts a seance and an astonishingly brief update of the Oresteia confirm the poet’s remarkable skills as a playwright Few plays are more forg…

SOURCE: The Guardian at 02:03AM
Friday, July 24, 2020

You name it, she's played it: the sublime classical actor Barbara Jefford by Michael Billington

She has given unforgettable performances in Shakespeare, Chekhov and Shaw over her extraordinary 70-year career. Where’s this great actor’s damehood? The concept of the classical actor i…

SOURCE: The Guardian at 01:54AM
Thursday, July 23, 2020

Helen Mirren at 75: wild costumes, blazing performances – and a spell as a rock banshee by Michael Billington

She has played cops, rockers, monarchs and murderers. As Helen Mirren turns 75, we celebrate her astonishing career – and remember her letter to the Guardian that led to questions in parli…

SOURCE: The Guardian at 04:12AM
Monday, July 20, 2020

Forgotten plays: No 8 – Saint’s Day (1951) by John Whiting by Michael Billington

The critics howled derisively but this challenging story of the violence lurking beneath society’s surface was a game-changer Where does it all begin? Is there a moment that marks a radica…

SOURCE: The Guardian at 03:42AM
Sunday, July 12, 2020

Forgotten plays: No 7 – Skyvers (1963) by Barry Reckord by Michael Billington

Reckord’s unflinchingly honest social document pinned down the flaws in a UK education system that consigned an underclass to a dead-end future Why are there so few good plays about school…

SOURCE: The Guardian at 07:36PM
Sunday, July 5, 2020

Forgotten Plays: No 6 – Occupations (1970) by Trevor Griffiths by Michael Billington

The collapse of the 1968 protests left this incisive political dramatist searching for answers – and his response delved brilliantly into the dilemmas of revolution Aside from Comedians (1…

SOURCE: The Guardian at 09:12PM
Friday, July 3, 2020

Dear Oliver Dowden, have you even begun to grasp the scale of our arts crisis? | Michael Billington by Michael Billington

It’s time to accept artists know more about art than politicians. Without a proper plan, the industry will be decimated Dear Oliver Dowden, You presumably heard Boris Johnson, when asked a…

SOURCE: The Guardian at 10:18AM
Sunday, June 28, 2020

Forgotten plays: No 5 – Owners (1972) by Caryl Churchill by Michael Billington

The writer unleashed her gift for black comedy to excoriate British attitudes to property and possessions in this sprightly drama Caryl Churchill is rightly admired for many qualities: her f…

SOURCE: The Guardian at 11:36PM
Monday, June 22, 2020

Forgotten plays: No 4 – Bloody Poetry (1984) by Howard Brenton by Michael Billington

This magnificently honest play about the Shelleys and Byron’s summer of sexual experimentation raises difficult questions about the cost of utopian aspirations Howard Brenton’s output is…

SOURCE: The Guardian at 12:03PM
Friday, June 19, 2020

Sir Ian Holm obituary by Michael Billington and Ryan Gilbey

Acclaimed actor whose dazzling career included memorable roles in Alien, Chariots of Fire and The Lord of the Rings Ian Holm, who has died aged 88, was a brilliant actor in all media whose c…

SOURCE: The Guardian at 10:48AM
Monday, June 15, 2020

Forgotten plays: No 3 – The Coup (1991) by Mustapha Matura by Michael Billington

A Caribbean-set ‘play of revolutionary dreams’ acquires a chilling new relevance when protests confront the legacy of colonialism Although I admired its ambition, I was sceptical about T…

SOURCE: The Guardian at 01:54AM
Monday, June 8, 2020

Forgotten plays: No 2 – Three Birds Alighting on a Field (1991) by Timberlake Wertenbaker by Michael Billington

Our series on forgotten theatre classics continues with Wertenbaker’s stylish dissection of Thatcher-era morality I recently caught on BBC Four a repeat of Andrew Marr’s History of Moder…

SOURCE: The Guardian at 01:48AM
Monday, June 1, 2020

Forgotten plays: No 1 – The No Boys Cricket Club (1996) by Roy Williams by Michael Billington

Our new series on lost theatre classics begins with an exceptional play about the dashed hopes of a middle-aged Jamaican woman When the theatrical lockdown ends, I suspect there will be a te…

SOURCE: The Guardian at 03:54AM
Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Velvet wonderlands: the plush pleasure palaces of Frank 'Matchless' Matcham by Michael Billington

He was our ‘greatest theatrical architect’, the creator of 150 magnificent buildings that delighted crowds from Glasgow to Blackpool to London. On the centenary of his death, we celebrat…

SOURCE: The Guardian at 02:36AM
Friday, April 17, 2020

Judi Dench lets us in on the secret while remaining a true enigma by Michael Billington

A lengthy 2017 interview, to be streamed online, shows the acting great opening up about her craft and sharing priceless memories One of the many tantalising shows lost to the lockdown was …

SOURCE: The Guardian at 10:06AM
Friday, April 3, 2020

Six of the best plays about confinement | Michael Billington by Michael Billington

Dramatists have long focused on the agonies and irritations of self-imposed or enforced isolation ‘I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space,” says Hamle…

SOURCE: The Guardian at 01:42AM
Thursday, March 19, 2020

It's curtains for theatre – but not, let us hope, for too long | Michael Billington by Michael Billington

This is the art form that makes us feel most acutely human. We are going to need it more than ever How will society cope with the total shutdown of theatres for the foreseeable future? It wi…

SOURCE: The Guardian at 10:18AM
Monday, March 16, 2020

Roy Hudd: a charming star immediately embraced by audiences | Michael Billington by Michael Billington

A versatile master of stage, radio and TV, Hudd survived changes in popular taste through his good-hearted skill I last saw Roy Hudd, who has died at the age of 83, at a lunch organised by t…

SOURCE: The Guardian at 02:48PM
Thursday, March 5, 2020

Hail, Coriolanus! The greatness of Shakespeare's shape-shifting epic by Michael Billington

From Olivier’s strangled fury to Ralph Fiennes’ Oedipal embraces, this complex political play is extraordinarily flexible ‘The tragedy of Coriolanus is one of the most amusing of our a…

SOURCE: The Guardian at 01:33AM