Review: A Streetcar Named Desire – Macrobert Arts Centre, Stirling

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First published in The Times, Friday September 15 2017

Two Stars

The Scottish company Rapture Theatre, which specialises in revivals of classic plays, has mainly focused in the past couple of years on the great works of the American stage. After a production of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons and a triumphant imagining of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? it was inevitable that the company, led by artistic director Michael Emans, would get around to staging Tennessee Williams’s most celebrated drama.

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Review: Europe – Pitlochry Festival Theatre

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First published in The Times, Saturday September 9 2017

Three Stars

What could be timelier, in this era of Brexit, mass migration and right-wing populism, than a revival of David Greig’s play about borders, identity and the perceived threat from immigrants? Europe, one of the playwright’s earliest successes, was first performed at the Traverse a quarter of a century ago, yet its portrayal of a rundown railway station in a small European town, haunted by refugees and dejected locals, might have been dreamed-up yesterday.

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Review: A Song for Ella Grey – Northern Stage, Newcastle

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First published in The Times, Friday September 8 2017

Three Stars

David Almond is one of the most prolific and highly acclaimed writers of novels for children and young adults to hail from the northeast of England. Known for his distinctive merging of realism with the fantastic, the author has adapted several of his best-known works of fiction for the stage, notably Heaven Eyes, which follows a trio of runaways from an orphanage, and The Savage, about a young boy’s grief following the death of his father.

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Review: August: Osage County – Dundee Rep

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First published in The Times, Saturday September 2 2017

Four Stars

In this era of 90-minute plays, a three-and-a-half hour drama feels like a real theatrical banquet. August: Osage County, Tracy Letts’s multi award-winning play, which made its Broadway debut in 2008, features all the bristling dialogue and steady ratcheting-up of tension found in great American stage works such as Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night and Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Yet, Letts’s family saga, with its large cast of dysfunctional characters, multiple plot strands, twists and revelations, is also unapologetically entertaining, like a soap opera only speeded-up.

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Review: Letters Live – King’s Theatre, Edinburgh

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First published in The Times, Tuesday August 29 2017

Three Stars

Perhaps the highest compliment you can pay an actor is that they could read from the phonebook and still make it engaging. Letters Live, in which well-known (and not so well-known) personalities read from significant correspondence, obviously provides the performers with far greater scope than the Yellow Pages. Yet, perhaps inevitably, the show, which has toured widely, attracting A-list participants, proves something of a mixed postbag.

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Review: Venus and Adonis – C Primo, Edinburgh

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First published in The Times, Saturday August 26 2017

Four Stars

Published in 1593, the narrative poem Venus and Adonis was a bestseller and the work that made Shakespeare’s name. The Bard obviously intended it to be read rather than performed on stage, but the actor Christopher Hunter finds an electrifying new form for the poem in this small gem of a Fringe show.

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Review: How to Act – Summerhall, Edinburgh

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First published in The Times, Friday August 25 2017

Three Stars

Legend has it that when Dustin Hoffman was filming Marathon Man, the renowned method actor stayed up for 72 hours so his performance as a sleep-deprived torture victim would be authentic. His co-star, Lawrence Olivier, was scathing: “My dear boy, why don’t you just try acting?”

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