Describe the Night (2017): Rajiv Joseph

Describe the Night

★★★★

(Hampstead Theatre, 2 June 2018)

What is truth? Who decides what truth is? Does truth change depending on who is speaking? Can the truth be remade? Can we remake our own truths? And what happens if you dare to articulate a truth that the authorities would prefer not to acknowledge? These are all very timely questions, in a world where truth seems more flexible than ever before, and certain high-profile political figures seem to be confusing ‘true’ with ‘convenient’. Our relationship with the truth is constantly in flux, but this daring and sweeping play by Rajiv Joseph (directed for Hampstead Theatre by Lisa Spirling) points out that it’s far from a contemporary phenomenon. Set in three different periods of modern Russian history, linked by a common thread, Describe the Night focuses on questions of truth, lies, reality, fiction and integrity, and centres on an unexpected figure whose words resonate through history: the writer Isaac Babel.

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The Oresteia (458 BC): Aeschylus

The Oresteia

★★★★

(The Globe, London, 6 September 2015)

Seeing this the day after Hamlet, I definitely feel that I’ve met my Great Tragedy Quota for this month. Written in 458 BC, when Aeschylus was in his late sixties, this feels like the Dane’s ancient counterpart: if Hamlet is the great modern exploration of the self, then the Oresteia is a monument not just to human nature, but to civilisation itself. Continue reading