Music for the children of our time

The Edukators

The angry man of sculpture

Attack on artistic freedom in Russia

Pushing at the edges

The secret life of objects

Porcelain that challenged the world

Bill Brandt

Heaven on Earth: Art from Islamic Lands


The inspiration of Italian cinema


Pissarro in London

Of Villains and Villeins

Piazzas on the eve of destruction

Modernism resurgent

Wilkie - Painter of everyday life

Techno-gothic fusion


Gagarin Way


Vietnam behind the lines

Romney - mirroring the gentry

Caspar David Friedrich - the essential Romantic

The awesome effects of the sublime

Earth & fire

Paul Klee: The nature of creation

John Pilger's Great Eyewitness Photographers

Sarah Medway: In the Realm of the Senses

A glimpse of the Hermitage

Vermeer at the National Gallery

Paul Signac: Travels in France

The other story of British abstract art

Breaking the silence

Century City

Digitising the Hermitage

Ghosts of christmas past

The disasters of war

Picturing the people's game

Picasso as political icon

An art world Schindler

British modernism reclaimed

Brush Power

The modern bronze age

The first museum of modern art

Six women who shook the world

Frances Aviva Blane

Caro's challenge

Ellsworth Kelly at the Tate

Magnum resists the lure of the dollar

Rebel behind the American movement

E-mail to hear about site changes, placing 'update' in body of message



by John McGrath

review by Anna Tate

This is a play of literally two halves - the second added in response to the events of September 11. The first, by far the better, is a passionate critique of globalisation. It is performed in a refreshingly dispassionate, but questioning, manner by a member of Her Majesty's secret service who is faced with a dilemma. Should she accept her new assignment to spy on anti- capitalist protesters? The alternative is retirement in a white cottage in Wiltshire, where she fears she will see out her days being vomited on by TV.

Elizabeth MacLennan takes us through the M15 controller's voyage of self discovery in a elegant and strong performance that gripped this viewer from the minute she entered the stage and sat on a park bench on a sunny September day.

In reaching her decision during the first half of the play, she questions the chemicals being added to our milk by Monsanto, the African villages dying of AIDS because of the drugs companies refusal to sell cheap drugs, and attempts to work out in her own mind who the enemy of democracy really is nowadays. Not a bunch of young people who care for the future of humanity she concludes.

The themes are not new, but the eloquent and articulate writing and delivery are. What could easily have slipped into a patronising and repetitive diatribe, is instead a fascinating journey which goes off on tangents - hence the title of the play - as one thought takes us into new territory. We learn about this middle aged character, from the fiancÚ in Aden with whom she broke off the engagement after he killed a Palestinian with his bare hands, to her husband, a fellow secret agent, who died in mysterious circumstances, and her work on the Afghanistan and Iraq desk. While the certainties of the Cold War give way to intangible enemies, she grapples with the new world order and her place in it.

She shares with us the dirty tricks she could use to discredit the anti-capitalists by infiltrating the movement with violent elements who would lose it public support. Or she could turn double agent and write a book in that Wiltshire cottage about the real threat posed by multinational companies.

When her mobile phone rings (yes, you think it is someone in the audience) and her boss asks her to meet to discuss her decision, you're under no illusions about her choice.

In the second act MacLennan is as captivating as before, the material sadly isn't. The questions are still there; this time she's on the park bench on September 11 having just heard the news of the terrorist attacks and trying to figure out what drives people to such acts. Powerlessness, peace in the Middle East and a fear of Western values appear to be the answer. And she rather naively draws parallels between the terrorists and the anti-capitalist protestors, who we learn she is spying on, in order to write her book.

McGrath tries to raise the tension by bringing in the possibility that the character's son, an investment banker, could be in the twin towers. But it doesn't work. The dilemma ever present in the first act is missing in the second. Nevertheless the strength of MacLennan's performance - the more poignant for being McGrath's widow, he died earlier this year - the intelligence of the writing and the skillful direction from their daughter, make this play an illuminating theatrical experience.

Hyperlynx is at the Tricycle Theatre, Kilburn until 14 September.

Box Office 020 7328 1000
Tricycle Cinema 269 Kilburn High Rd, NW6