The ability to transform everyday objects into the stuff of magical adventures is the very essence of imaginative play. An empty cardboard box becomes a pirate ship. A nailbrush zooms along the side of the bathtub, becoming a train speeding along the track. A courageous wooden spoon takes on a fire breathing washing up bottle in a battle for dominance over the kitchen table.
First published in The Times, Tuesday December 6 2016
Anthony Neilson is an inspired choice to create and direct a new version of Lewis Carroll’s dreamlike fantasy. His most celebrated play, The Wonderful World of Dissocia, which depicts a journey through the mind of a woman with a mental illness, is, in outline, a hybrid of Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz, shot-through with humour but edged in desolation and horror.
First published in The Times, Friday November 25 2016
If you are going to stage Roald Dahl’s children’s adventure, the big fruit in question had better not be limp and past its best. Fortunately, when it comes to spectacle, Mark Calvert’s production for Northern Stage is both eye-catching and mouth-watering. The opening scene alone features the cast whizzing around the circular stage on scooters, a skipping routine and a basketball display, all set to Jeremy Bradfield’s jazzy live soundtrack.
First published in The Times, Tuesday August 23 2016
There aren’t many fringe theatre shows that can truly be said to offer something for all ages, but this dramatisation of Hans Christian Andersen’s wintry fairy tale is that rare thing: a genuine family entertainment. The adaptation represents a promising new string to the bow of Theatre Anon, the Shanghai-based collective, which won recognition for its Edinburgh show Black is the Colour of My Voice, about the singer Nina Simone, in 2014.
First published in The Times, Wednesday June 1 2016
The Story of the Little Gentleman: Four Stars
Tales of a Grandson: Four Stars
It must be that time of year again. Sunlight is streaming into the grand gallery at the National Museum of Scotland. Storytelling events, workshops and even a puppet-led yoga class are taking place in various corners of the building. At one end of the foyer a band is just striking up for the latest in a series of gigs for families entitled Sprog Rock! Clearly, the annual Imaginate festival of performance for children and young people is well underway.
Was there ever a more maligned creature in folklore than the wolf? The creature’s appalling public image can be traced all the way back to Aesop, and in European fairy tales the big bad wolf is either a predatory beast, devouring grandmothers and innocent young girls without remorse, or hoist with his own petard: lured to the boiling pot by little pigs and mother goats.
First published in The Times, Tuesday January 5 2016
The pantomime at King’s, Edinburgh, has long acquired the status of venerable institution, running to more than 80 performances annually and featuring a triumvirate of stars – Allan Stewart, Andy Gray and Grant Stott – who have appeared together on and off for the past 17 years. Stewart, a variety performer and much-loved dame since 1997, has acknowledged that his character stays more or less the same no matter the script. Certainly, the actor has been performing in the same lavender bouffant wig for at least a decade.