Edinburgh review: A Little Life – Festival Theatre

First published in The Times, Monday August 22 2022

TWO STARS

The Belgian theatre director Ivo van Hove is renowned for his stark, uncompromising productions of classic plays, from Greek to Renaissance tragedies and, memorably, works by Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams. His latest project is an adaptation of a more recent literary phenomenon, A Little Life by the American novelist Hanya Yanagihara, which was shortlisted for the Booker prize in 2015.

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Edinburgh review: Medea – The Hub

First published in The Times, Monday August 15 2022

FOUR STARS

Liz Lochhead’s celebrated adaptation of Euripides first took Edinburgh by storm in 2001 in an award-winning production by Theatre Babel at the Assembly Rooms, with Maureen Beattie in the title role. It has taken more than 20 years for the play to make the short journey from New Town to Old, and from the Fringe to the international festival, courtesy of Michael Boyd’s revival for the National Theatre of Scotland.

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Edinburgh review: Cassie Workman: Aberdeen – Just the Tonic Nucleus

First published in The Times, Friday August 12 2022

FOUR STARS

Edinburgh may be sweltering in the glare of a heatwave, but in the main room of the Charteris Centre (temporary home of Just the Tonic) we are in rain-soaked Aberdeen. Not to be confused with its Scottish namesake, the industrial city in the Pacific Northwest is notorious as the crime capital of Washington state and was once nicknamed “the hellhole of the Pacific”. It has also produced a startling number of artists and musicians, most notably Kurt Cobain of the rock band Nirvana.

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Edinburgh review: Blood Harmony – Traverse Theatre

First published in The Times, Wednesday August 10 2022

THREE STARS

Three sisters gather in their childhood home following the death of their mother, to bid farewell, tie up loose ends and hunt for a missing will. There are long-held grievances to unpack and sort through, along with mum’s belongings.

The disparate siblings navigate their grief in different ways. Anna (Philippa Hogg), the eldest, newly returned from the US, is in practical mode, making plans and taking charge, much to the irritation of middle sister Maia (Keshini Misha), a self-described “hot mess”, who couch-surfs and drifts between jobs.

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Edinburgh review: Counting and Cracking – Lyceum Theatre

First published in The Times, Wednesday August 10 2022

FIVE STARS

A stage epic is a rare beast in Edinburgh, where audiences are accustomed to shows of one hour tops in makeshift venues. Counting and Cracking is novelistic in its scope and ambition, featuring several storylines that sprawl over two continents and nearly half a century. Its three-and-a-half-hour running time goes by in a blink.

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Edinburgh review: Rajesh and Naresh – Summerhall

First published in The Times, Tuesday August 9 2022

THREE STARS

This romantic comedy about two men, one a British-Indian, the other a Mumbai cricket-bat craftsman, is so sweet and sincere that you almost overlook its slightly rough edges. Rajesh (Brahmdeo Shannon Ramana) is a smooth, handsome Londoner torn between a domineering mother and a demanding job while tentatively looking for love on dating apps and out on the scene.

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Edinburgh review: Boris the Third – Pleasance Courtyard

First published in The Times, Tuesday August 9 2022

TWO STARS

As things stand, we don’t know precisely how the final chapter in the saga of the prime minister will play out. In some ways an X-Men-style origin story seems surplus to requirements: there has long been a prurient fascination with Boris Johnson’s backstory, and his shambling ascent to the highest office in the land.

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Edinburgh review: This is Paradise – Traverse Theatre

First published in The Times, Saturday August 6 2022

FOUR STARS

The Good Friday Agreement has been much in the news lately, whether in the context of wrangles over the future of the Northern Ireland protocol, or as the backdrop to the highly praised final episode of the sitcom Derry Girls. The Easter weekend of 1998 is also the setting for Michael John O’Neill’s powerful monologue, This is Paradise, but the spectacle of triumphant politicians with pens in hands and the weight of history on their shoulders is held very much at one remove.   

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Edinburgh review: Happy Meal – Traverse Theatre

First published in The Times, Saturday August 6 2022

FOUR STARS

This endearing comedy focuses on the ups and downs of a friendship that evolves over several years, but the two protagonists of Tabby Lamb’s play only briefly meet in person. Teenagers Al (Sam Crerar) and Bette (Allie Daniel) strike up a virtual rapport in cyberspace sometime in the early Noughties, and quickly graduate from primitive online gaming to something altogether deeper and more meaningful.

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Theatre review: Little Women – Pitlochry Festival Theatre

First published in The Times, Wednesday August 3 2022

THREE STARS

The first volume of Little Women appeared more than 150 years ago, but Louisa May Alcott’s evergreen tale of the March sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy, their struggles and romantic entanglements, finds fresh audiences with every generation. The most recent film adaptation, directed by Greta Gerwig, appeared in 2019. There are no fewer than three theatrical versions running at the moment in the UK, including Mark Adamo’s opera at Holland Park and Anne Odeke’s reimagining for Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre in Chester, which transports the action from Civil War-era Massachusetts to Britain at the outbreak of the First World War.

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