Arts

Theatre: Dazzled by brothers’ 140 tons of junk

Clever and distinctive: Andrew Scott and David Dawson in The Dazzle

The American playwright Richard Greenberg says his play The Dazzle is based on the lives of the Colyer Brothers, about whom he knows almost nothing. Homer and Langley Colyer were two eccentric American recluses who became famous when they died in 1947. They were found in their barricaded house in Harlem, buried beneath 140 tons of junk which they had accumulated over many decades.

When we first meet them they look like dapper young men who might have stepped out of the novels of Henry James or Edith Wharton. A beautiful and rich heiress (Joanna Vanderham) falls in love with Langley. But by the end of their lives the brothers look like Samuel Beckett’s tramps.

Greenberg, who has a real feeling for words, writes in a self-consciously stylish and witty way. The play is at its best in the first act. Simon Evans’s production has in Andrew Scott and David Dawson two clever and distinctive actors who know exactly how to play the quirkiness.

The Dazzle is performed in a temporary space in the former Central St Martin’s School of Art building at 111 Charing Cross Road, London WC2.

Dr Seuss (1904-1991) won major prizes for his substantial contribution to children’s literature. The Lorax, published in 1971 and now adapted for the stage in rhyme by David Grieg at the Old Vic, is an allegory and it has a strong environmental and anti-capitalist message.

Since the turn of the century the Earth has lost 13 million hectares of forest (the size of England) every year. The Lorax, guardian of the forest, attempts to protect his native forest from Big Business (Simon Paisley Day), who is chopping down all the trees.

The Lorax (a cantankerous critter with an orange potato-like body and a walrus moustache) is played by a puppet created by Finn Caldwell. He needs three puppeteers who, in the Japanese Bunraku manner, are always visible. He is voiced by one of the puppeteers, Simon Lipkin, who gives him the authority he needs.

The inventive, humorous and lively production, directed by Max Webster, designed by Rob Howell and choreographed by Drew McOnie, is aimed at young audiences (six plus) but will also delight their parents and grandparents.

When the Second World War ended Australia wanted 50,000 children to boost the population. Government, churches and charities in Britain and Australia colluded. But the children were not always orphans: some were taken away from single mothers. Three thousand children were shipped to Australia between 1945 and 1970. Some ended up in orphanages or farms, where they were used as cheap labour. Many were neglected and abused. In 2010, you may remember, the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown made a formal apology for this. Australian playwright Tom Holloway, in Forget Me Not at Bush Theatre, concentrates on one child (Russell Floyd), who in his sixties learns that his mother (Eleanor Bron) is still alive and journeys to Liverpool to meet her.

Two starving North Korean sisters want to escape a cruel regime. One sister succeeds and ends up in America. You for Me for You, written by Korean-American playwright Mia Chung and staged at Royal Court Theatre, is a surreal satire on American values which never really works.