During the recent strike, the National Theatre lost as much money in four days as it would take to keep the Upstream Theatre Club going for two years. The shoestring company, at its premises near Waterloo Station, is young, lively and dedicated to getting godly standards back into British theatre.
For the third year running they have mounted a production of The Tree That Woke Up, a play based on a medieval legend of Christmas. People who have a bent for medieval symbolism will delight in the play.
Upstream's director this year is the Young Vic' s Jeremy James Taylor, who made his name with "Rosencranz and Gildenstern are Dead." Under his skilful band the Angel Gabriel is played with economy of movement and the Annunciation is a moment of rare beauty.
But even Taylor has a hard time with the first half of the play, in which nearly every member of the cast has a triple identity of tree, archetype and human being. However, it makes interesting theatre and a demanding evening.
The Upstream people have previously put on work by Ibsen and Mankowitz and have kept their seat prices down to £1.50. They have been playing to 65 per cent capacity audiences well above average for fringe theatre.
Some years ago a serious play was staged in London, I cannot recall its name, but it was so ludicrous that it became a comic riot and overnight success.
Spine Chiller, at the Duke of York's Theatre, qualifies for being the funniest thriller I have ever seen, though George Bast, who wrote the play, did not seem to be aware of it.
If there is any crime which might vaguely interest us at the Duke of York's Theatre, it will be the murder by the playwright of the author of the play within the play, and subsequently the elimination of the playwright himself. The setting of the play is the rehearsal of a play the play within the play but both are as unfinished as the scenery suggests. As a Brian Rix farce, it might have been hilarious!