Anderson takes ‘Swing’

LONDON — Bloodied but presumably unbowed, Gillian Anderson is planning a return visit to the London stage. The “X-Files” star will headline the world preem of American writer Rebecca Gilman’s “The Sweetest Swing in Brooklyn,” which starts perfs March 25 with a March 31 opening at the Royal Court; the run ends May 1.

Anderson’s last London outing, the late-2002 two-hander “What the Night Is For,” was by another American scribe, Michael Weller, and it remains a tossup as to who came out of that West End stand less well, the author or his star. On this occasion, Anderson will be paired with the Court’s redoubtable artistic director, Ian Rickson, at a venue that will be marking its fourth Gilman show, following “The Glory of Living,” “Spinning Into Butter” and “Boy Gets Girl.” The TV star, who began in the theater, will play an artist who undergoes a crisis of identity.

Rickson, meanwhile, is lucky to have a home theater to keep him busy: His planned 2004 West End revival of “Anna Christie” with Calista Flockhart seems to have gone quiet, as the many rumored London theater engagements of Flockhart (“The Philadelphia Story,” “A Doll’s House”) seem to have a way of doing.


It’s not often that you find six London newspaper arts editors in the same room with row after row of critics, which is only one reason why a Jan. 14 Critics’ Circle midday gathering of Fleet Street’s finest represents real industry news.

What is the current status of reviews (and reviewers) in an increasingly competitive industry? Who are London reviews for? And what about feature coverage that virtually amounts to a review — or news stories that turn into de facto reviews, whether or not penned by critics or sanctioned by that show’s publicist? (The Evening Standard had an example that very day, running a “review” of onetime TV heartthrob Jason Donovan’s takeover as Caractacus Potts in “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” a performance that has not — yet, anyway — been offered up to critics.)

One’s assumptions going into the gathering might not have been good: that theater coverage has lost ground to the more accessible popular arts, like rock music and film. Or that the galloping editorial fondness for awarding stars has led to what one commentator called “a sledgehammer system, with no room for nuance.”

In fact, the consensus after 2½ hours was considerably cheerier than the cold, gray weather outside. The rise of entire pages devoted to overnight reviews in several of the broadsheets has actually increased the space given to critics, while the Daily Telegraph’s Sarah Crompton spoke for the assemblage in her continued desire — one, presumably, shared by her superiors — for critics to be “robust and unafraid.”

One could only be grateful for Britain’s multiplicity of papers, which is to say points of view, and the shared avidity for culture that goes with it. (Not always: The Observer’s Jane Ferguson spoke wryly of one erstwhile higher-up who didn’t like the word “arts” appearing in the paper.) One left the event taking a quintessentially British middle view: Things could be better, I suppose. But they could be a whole lot worse.


One more strike, and any hope of a loyal audience could well be out at the Hampstead Theater, which is hosting (through Jan. 31) the second dud in fledgling a.d. Anthony Clark’s regime. About the best that can be said of Stephen Lowe’s high-minded “Revelations” is that it improves upon last fall’s “The Maths Tutor,” with which Clark launched his tenure. A sexual roundelay with lunatic pretensions focusing on one couple’s attempts to host an orgy, Lowe’s play folds in to no avail snatches of Joni Mitchell, a discussion of the Greek word “agape,” or “love feast,” and at least one punning reference to “the naked truth.” At the perf I saw, the 325-seater was roughly 25% full: a revelation, in attendance terms, of an unlooked-for sort.

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