The history of LGBT rights in the UK goes hand in hand with Edward II’s production history. Though the title is now synonymous with queer art, Christopher Marlowe’s 1594 tragedy didn’t come out of the closet until the late 1960s, thanks to an infamous staging from Prospect Theatre Company that made explicit the homoerotic content. A small screen version of the same production (which starred Ian McKellen) included the first gay kiss to be shown on British television.
First published in The Times, Wednesday July 4 2018
The accoutrements of Sunday evening TV costume drama are present and correct in Blood of the Young’s refreshed take on Jane Austen. A chandelier hangs above an upright piano. A harp waits in a corner of the stage next to a row of high-backed chairs with floral upholstery. As the house lights go down we await the rattle and chink of the Bennet family’s best china plate being wheeled into the parlour for the benefit of gentleman visitors.
August Strindberg wrote Creditors in 1888 as part of the creative torrent that also produced his most famous work, Miss Julie. Both plays exhibit the visceral dialogue and intense exploration of shifts in power within relationships for which the prolific and influential Swedish playwright is known, while also giving vent to his mordant and rather contradictory view of women. He was known to refer to Siri von Essen, the first of his three wives, as “the vampire”, though he also maintained that “the presence of women tends to elevate men”.
First published in The Times, Wednesday April 18 2018
In 2002 the inaugural production from Streetwise Opera, which works with people affected by homelessness, was a staging of Benjamin Britten’s Canticles at Westminster Abbey in London. So it is a nice touch that this show should take its title from one of Britten’s Cabaret Songs, written in collaboration with WH Auden.
First published in The Times, Monday December 4 2017
There are a couple of golden rules that must be observed when it comes to staging a winning Christmas show. The first is never to forget the importance of a good story, simply yet effectively told in theatrical form, and in Stuart Paterson’s enduring adaptation of Cinderella, Dominic Hill, the director, and his team at the Citizens are working from a copper-bottomed classic.
First published in The Times, Tuesday November 28 2017
As 2017 is an odd-numbered year, Johnny McKnight is not only writing the pantomime at the Macrobert but also directing and pouring himself in and out of a ludicrous selection of wigs and frocks in his role as dame. The artistic director of Random Accomplice switches between the Stirling arts centre and Glasgow’s Tron at this most wonderful time of the year.
First published in The Times, Monday August 21 2017
Festivals love a good anniversary. When Verdi’s Macbeth was staged at the inaugural Edinburgh International Festival back in 1947, it was to mark the centenary year of the opera’s first ever performance. Seventy years on, this new production, from Teatro Regio Torino, conducted by Gianandrea Noseda, has been programmed as part of the EIF’s own birthday celebrations.
First published in The Times, Thursday August 17 2017
An opera based on the Bigfoot legend is precisely the kind of off-the-wall creative fare on which the Fringe was built. The fact that said experimental opus is the brainchild and passion project of Roddy Bottum, the musician, composer and keyboard player for the hard rock band Faith No More, gives the piece a further curiosity value it might not otherwise have had.
First published in The Times, Monday February 27 2017
For lengthy stretches of David McVicar’s new production of Debussy’s only completed opera, the audience is confronted with a plain black curtain while the orchestra plays between scenes. This element may be borne of necessity: after all, these interludes were written to cover scenery changes. Still, it is a striking feature of McVicar’s production for Scottish Opera that the director repeatedly seeks to facilitate our intense engagement with the music, consistently drawing attention to the ways in which Debussy’s score fills out the ellipses in the enigmatic story.