Theatre review: Don Juan – Perth Theatre

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First published in The Times, Monday October 18 2021

Three Stars

Nineteen months ago, before the pandemic ushered in theatre’s long hibernation, Perth Theatre staged a riotous version of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, with five actors tackling the nine speaking parts. This new adaptation of Molière’s comedy, featuring a script by Grant O’Rourke and direction from Lu Kemp, is an even more ambitious test of its ensemble’s versatility, with a trio of performers covering the dozen or so roles.

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Theatre review: Road – Northern Stage, Newcastle

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First published in The Times, Friday October 15 2021

THREE STARS

Natalie Ibu’s revival of Road is an ambitious calling card for the new artistic director of Northern Stage. Jim Cartwright’s theatrical tapestry, first staged in the mid-1980s, famously weaves together the lives of some 35 characters: residents of a single street in a run-down working-class pocket of Lancashire.

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Theatre review: Krapp’s Last Tape / Go On – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

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First published in The Times, Wednesday October 6 2021

FOUR STARS

With his new production of Samuel Beckett’s one-act play, Dominic Hill’s tenure as artistic director of the Citizens Theatre has come full circle. A declared Beckett aficionado, Hill chose Krapp’s Last Tape to round off his first season in charge, back in 2012, with the late Gerard Murphy in the title role.

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Theatre review: The Signalman – Perth Theatre

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First published in The Times, Monday September 27 2021

FOUR STARS

This is not the first time that Peter Arnott, the prolific Scottish dramatist, has explored the Tay Bridge disaster of December 28, 1879. Tay Bridge, his 2019 play, gave voice to some of those who lost their lives when the original Tay Rail Bridge collapsed during a storm, killing all onboard the Burntisland-to-Dundee train, which was crossing at the time. The series of vivid monologues combined to create a broader picture of late 19th century Scottish society.

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Theatre review: Wings Around Dundee – Dundee Rep

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First published in The Times, Friday September 10 2021

THREE STARS

As Andrew Panton, the artistic director, reminds us in his opening address, the auditorium at Dundee Rep has been empty since March 2020. It is fitting somehow that the company’s first in-person show in 18 months should be a play set in Dundee in the midst of the pandemic that also touches upon aspects of the city’s heritage. John McCann’s script is rich in references to local landmarks such as Balgay Hill, the old music school and the McManus, which the audience laps up enthusiastically. There is even a cameo appearance from the museum’s most famous resident, the Tay Whale.

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Review: Alan Cumming is Not Acting His Age – Old College Quad, Edinburgh

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First published in The Times, Monday August 30 2021

Four Stars

This was cabaret but we weren’t in Weimar Germany or the East Village, Manhattan. Live performance may be rebounding in Scotland following the pandemic, but residual restrictions meant that a show that felt tailor-made for an intimate space lit only by candlelight was being staged in an airy, socially distanced, makeshift venue. “It feels like we’re inside an ice cube,” says Alan Cumming, our host for the evening. “It’s like a really posh shopping centre.”

This 90-minute compendium of songs and humorous storytelling at the Edinburgh International Festival would have worked better in a spiegeltent or perhaps in Club Cumming, the performer’s bar and nightclub in New York City, with its “postage stamp-sized stage”. Yet it’s hard to imagine many other performers with the presence and charisma to conquer this rather unforgiving space.

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Theatre review: Lament for Sheku Bayoh – Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh

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First published in The Times, Thursday August 26 2021

Four Stars

The bare facts of the event that inspired Hannah Lavery’s poignant and powerful play now ring horribly familiar. In May 2015 Sheku Bayoh, a young black man who had been reported to police for his erratic behaviour in a Kirkcaldy street, was confronted and forcibly restrained by a number of officers. He lost consciousness at the scene and never recovered.

The most shocking element — to some at least — is that this tragedy took place in a Scottish town and not in Missouri or Minneapolis. Characters in Lavery’s play lament that such an event could occur in a country that sees itself as inclusive. “This is Scotland,” one says. “It’s not Black Lives Matter.”

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Theatre review: Niqabi Ninja

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First published in The Times, Thursday August 19 2021

Two Stars

There is a lot going on in Sara Shaarawi’s immersive audio theatre piece. Originally written for the stage, the new format is ideal for audiences tentatively returning to live performance post-Covid. The intimacy of the audio play is just one strand in a multilayered production that also includes graphic artworks by Gehan Mounir, viewed while walking around Edinburgh at sunset.

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Theatre review: With You in the Distance – EHG Theatre, Glasgow Green

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First published in The Times, Friday July 23 2021

Four Stars

Scotland’s theatre makers are finding increasingly inventive ways of reconfiguring work for outdoor spaces, with shows due to open soon in a car park, on a beach and on a caravan site.

This new piece from the Glasgow-based EHG Theatre is a hybrid of walking tour and monologue that uses a diverse portion of the city as both backdrop and setting.

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Theatre review: The Wind in the Willows – Pitlochry Festival Theatre

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First published in The Times, Thursday July 15 2021

FOUR STARS

Could there be a more superlative setting for a production of The Wind in the Willows than the banks of the Tummel? There have of course been numerous stage adaptations of Kenneth Grahame’s classic, but few can boast an actual riverbank as the backdrop to the adventures of Ratty, Mole, Badger and Toad.

Elizabeth Newman and Ben Occhipinti’s production, from a new script by Mark Powell, stays faithful to the spirit if not the letter of the original, sustaining a good balance between action and hi-jinks with some quieter, more reflective scenes. Powell makes a few tweaks to the story, adding extra dimensions to the conflict between the four chums and the Wild-Wooders and in the process touching upon land use and ecology, creating a timely edge to the piece.

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