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David Hare Season provides triple threat at Crucible

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Living in Salford, I get to see a great deal of theatre reviewing for WOS. But I also like to visit other parts of the UK and take in what they have to offer. These areas include London, Liverpool and Sheffield. I am extremely fond of The Crucible Theatre in Sheffield as it's very affordable, an hour away from Manchester and it always seems to deliver. I have seen superb versions of A Chorus Line, Me and My Girl, Hamlet, The Crucible and That Face here. Since the addition of the intimate Studio space, the venue is going from strength to strength. So, it felt right that I should spend my birthday weekend there to embrace their current David Hare Season. This excellent three venue event feels more like a festival and a celebration as you can see three very different plays by one excellent writer all across the road from one another.

The first one I saw was Racing Demon on Friday night and this is at the Crucible Theatre and is therefore the biggie. Although first staged in 1990, it has lost none of its bite and feels relevant today as many of the issues raised can be debated today. Homosexuality and the church, Does the church still have a place in society and should it update itself are all raised with clarity and passion by Hare. Daniel Evans' direction has a real sense of urgency yet he slows the pace down to gain some emotional resonance from the material and his talented cast all deliver stunning turns - including Malcolm Sinclair and Jamie Parker.

Saturday afternoon saw me sat in the Studio theatre which was sold out for the performance of the war time classic - Plenty. I had not seen the play before as I had missed it with Cate Blanchett in London when I was at university. But the film starring Meryl Streep and Tracey Ullman remains a favourite of mine. Staged in the studio but with none of the scale left wanting, this is a truly brilliant production. Opening with a naked soldier laying on the floor and also featuring a parachuting cast member, Plenty offers the audience with much to think about. Featuring a trio of perfect performances from Hattie Morahan, Edward Bennett and Kirsty Bushell - this intimate yet fully formed production is innovatively staged and gripping throughout.

Lastly, I saw Breath Of Life on Saturday night at the Lyceum. Having witnessed a wonderful performance by Maggie Smith in The Lady In The Van in London I was keen to see this Hare two hander with Smith and Judi Dench when it was at the Haymarket but could not get a ticket for love or money. Sheffield sees Patricia Hodge and Isla Blair battling it out as mistress and wife with one thing in common - the man they love. It sounds cliched but Hare's script sparkles especially when in the hands of these two gifted actresses. Dialogue driven, the narrative flits between laughter and sadness with each line. The music is slightly imposing and renders the play slightly OTT when it kicks in. But, otherwise - this is performance driven and these two give you plenty of bang for your buck.

The Crucible is brave for staging three plays by one writer at the same time. It pays off though, as soon after watching one play - you are longing to see another by the same writer. So, unless you go to the final performance, you always have that choice. With Company, The Pride and Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf yet to come, this fantastic space is set to continue thrill audiences this year.

Bravo Daniel Evans, Thea Sharrock and Peter Gill for coming up with the goods and to David Hare for writing such rich, quotable material. Here's to another triple bill at the Crucible sometime soon.

For more details on the excellent David Hare season, please visit the Sheffield Theatres website.


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