First published in The Times, Friday November 23 2018
The rise of Motown as a record label in the 1960s was bolstered by a series of concert tours in which its artists often showcased their talents under gruelling circumstances.
One such concert forms an early set piece in this hit musical, based on the label’s mighty back catalogue. Early Motown acts, led by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, take to the stage in Birmingham, Alabama, against a backdrop of racially motivated death threats and before an audience that is segregated into black and white by a police-guarded rope.
Continue reading “Review: Motown the Musical – Edinburgh Playhouse”
First published in The Times, Monday November 7 2016
Was there ever a more contradictory figure in literature than Lady Macbeth? On the one hand she is an enthusiastic accessory to murder whose avowed readiness to commit infanticide has made her a byword for perverse maternity. Yet, by the end of Shakespeare’s tragedy she has become a pathetic figure, taking refuge from assorted torments in madness and suicide.
Continue reading “Review: Lady Macbeth: Unsex Me Here – Tron Theatre, Glasgow”
First published in The Times, Friday December 4 2015
There have been enough retellings and parodies of Little Red Riding Hood to nearly constitute an entire genre. Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the woods, along comes this startling piece of dance theatre, created by the Glasgow-based company Barrowland Ballet, which compels its audience to look anew at the caped heroine and her lupine adversary.
Continue reading “Review: Little Red – Tramway, Glasgow”
Published in The Times, Friday February 6 2015
You know you’re getting old when the people sitting next to you in the theatre start looking younger and younger. This lively piece of dance theatre from Barrowland Ballet and Stirling’s Macrobert Arts Centre is aimed at children under the age of four, a tough demographic at the best of times, with a nerve-shredding propensity to vote with its feet (not to mention its lungs). The fact that this show manages to hold the attentions of its young audience for a full 40 minutes is testament to just how tuned in director/choreographer Natasha Gilmore and her creative team are to what fascinates young children.
The story takes the form of a voyage of discovery, in which the audience are invited to participate at regular intervals. Vince Virr is delightfully wide-eyed as the young boy who, despite his distaste for mud and fear of climbing trees, ventures into a pine forest in search of honey for his toast. He is joined on his quest by Poggle (Jade Adamson), a wood nymph with butterflies in her hair and a frock that seems a patchwork of scraps from every corner of the forest.
It’s a simple enough tale, but it is the multi-sensory nature of Gilmore’s show that makes it such a winner. The protagonists forge their own means of communication through slapping their bare bellies, stamping and clapping, which in turn leads to some joyous arm waving and bottom-waggling dance routines. Sequences in which the two friends explore the pleasures of splashing through the mud and chasing bees are made all the more infectious by Daniel’s Padden’s offbeat musical compositions (played live and recorded).
What’s also admirable about the production is that it is genuinely and fearlessly interactive, with audience members invited onstage to cover the sleeping Poggle with branches and a mid-show game of hide and seek that spills out into the auditorium. Meanwhile, the setting is evoked in Fred Pommerehn’s ingenious set design: a jigsaw puzzle composed of building blocks, each of which contains flora and fauna from the forest floor.
The performers (Virr in particular) enjoy an effortless rapport with their young audience. If some gentle, patient coaxing is required to encourage the first child onto the stage, it only requires one intrepid youngster to plunge in before the rest enthusiastically follow suit, so that, by the end, pretty much the entire audience is wandering around, exploring Poggle’s leafy habitat.
Touring to Feb 13. For further details see barrowlandballet.co.uk