Reviews: Fiddler on the roof, Spring Awakening and An August Bank Holiday lark

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A round up of what we’ve been to see this week

Theatre

Fiddler on the roof - Sheffield Lyceum

This is a big show, with big songs, that is big on heart.

Director-choreographer Craig Revel Horwood’s Fiddler on the Roof is a triumph, due in no small part to Paul Michael Glaser’s subtle interpretation of Tevye.

Here he plays the impoverished milkman as a much-loved wise village elder, who while ostensibly trying to cling on to tradition, realises that it is impossible to stop the tide of change intruding upon the tiny Russian village of Anatevka.

The Starsky and Hutch star’s Tevye is a world away from the barnstorming of the film version’s Topol and Henry Goodman, who was in the production at The Crucible eight years ago.

Glaser, who is 71 next week, brings out the humour of the character with knowing looks and facial expressions, steering well clear of caricature.

But he’s still obviously got his Starsky twinkle.

During the epilogue, a woman of a certain age was on her feet in the front row applauding as her idol looked out from the front of the stage.

Revel Horwood demands a lot of his fantastic cast.

They act, sing, dance and play musical instruments – brilliantly.

Glaser played the student Perchik in the 1971 film.

He is now the master actor who everyone else can learn from.

- Tim Cotton

Theatre

An August Bank Holiday Lark, Viaduct Theatre, Halifax

I feel sorry for Southerners sometimes. When a show like this comes along you realise that we really do have a lot of which to be proud around these parts – and it is only us lot that can really understand a play like this. While around the country they might see it, you need to be from up north to really get it.

To borrow a quote, it’s like the difference between listening to Jimi Hendrix and being able to hear him.

With a title taken from a Philip Larkin poem, Deborah McAndrew has written a play that is ostensibly about the horror of the First World War and the idea of it as an unknown monster, lurking outside the door for communities across the country.

Really this play is about family and what that word means in the very broadest sense.

In the hills above North Lancashire, just across the Pennines, life is rolling on. Feuds over flowerbed-ruining chickens and blossoming young love are the order of the day.

Everything is geared around the annual revealing of the rushcart. Then the war kicks the door down and everything changes.

This vigorously danced, beautifully acted play is the story of a Northern mill town that speaks with sadness about the futility of war and an undercurrent of anger at those men who led a campaign littered with the bodies of dispensable working class, ordinary lads.

You might not realise this is an important play because, especially with the clog dancing, it is also an awful lot of fun.

The sho w has various Yorkshire dates. Visit Various Yorkshire dates.www.northern-broadsides.co.uk for more details.

- Nick Ahad

Theatre

Spring Awakening, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds

Bill Hicks died 20 years ago. So when a play invokes Hicks today, it really ought to be doing something at least vaguely postmodern.

To simply quote the comedian – and to quote one of his rare missteps (it’s a quote about sex that appears to forget the liberation of the female libido) without any reason other than it is vaguely shocking reveals the immaturity at the heart of this new production.

It’s supposed to be immature, it’s about teenagers and the confusion felt at a sexual awakening. Well, Dennis Kelly’s brilliant DNA and the Playhouse’s own youth theatre production Girls Like That were both about teenagers and the difficult things faced in adolescence, but neither of those plays induced quite the eye-rolling of this production.

If you’re shouting ‘look at this, aren’t I shocking?’ then you kind of negate the shock value.

This is the first production in a three-year collaboration between the Playhouse and highly respected theatre company Headlong – who have an impressive track record, so this weak first venture is not too much cause for concern. Based on the controversial Frank Wedekind play, Anya Reiss has updated the German play which was banned in England for a number of years.

At its heart an exploration of the difficulties of being a teenager and the confusion of sexual awakening.

Reiss walks straight into the pitfall of forgetting that teenage angst is quite dull without a reason to care about the characters.

It needs more than Skype and video streamed-suicides to make it compelling.

- Nick Ahad