First published in The Times, Tuesday July 10 2018
At first glance, there appears to be a bulky, Oscar Wilde-shaped hole in Pitlochry Festival Theatre’s summer season programme. Lively, intelligent productions of the great aesthete’s masterpieces, from An Ideal Husband to The Importance of Being Earnest, all directed by Richard Baron, have been among the rural theatre’s more memorable outings in recent years.
No one is quite sure who coined the phrase “writing about music is like dancing about architecture”, but the enduring sentiment could just as easily be applied to the obvious incongruity of “staging” a radio play.
Watching actors poised in front of microphones, scripts in hands, while their co-stars rhubarb in the background, creating crowd noise, may not sound promising, and yet, done well, it can be surprisingly absorbing. Mull Theatre’s ingenious production of Whisky Galore, set in a BBC studio and based upon Compton Mackenzie’s radio adaptation, has been regularly revived to appreciative responses since it premiered around a quarter of a century ago.
First published in The Times, Friday December 22 2017
Comic turns have always taken precedence over the romantic leads in pantomime. Widow Twankey regularly gets higher billing than her own son. Sarah the Cook is generally further up the food chain than Dick Whittington. Even at the ball the Ugly Sisters and Buttons tend to outshine poor Cinderella.
In the case of the Armadillo’s panto, the roll call of comedians and celebrities is brasher and starrier than at any other seasonal offering in Scotland. After all, this is no ordinary festive show, but a “giant pantomime spectacular”.
First published in The Times, Friday December 15 2017
Some people know each other so well they finish each other’s sentences. This is literally true of the entertainers Allan Stewart, Andy Gray and Grant Stott, the trio that has been at the heart of the King’s Theatre’s annual pantomime for the past 13 years. Whenever one of them struggles to spit out his lines, usually due to cracking up with laughter, the other two are on hand to clear up the verbal clutter – or simply exacerbate the sense of anarchy.
First published in The Times, Tuesday December 12 2017
There was drama on and offstage at the opening performance of Perth’s pantomime. Ten minutes before the finale, a few too many puffs of smoke triggered the newly refurbishment theatre’s fire alarm system, dispatching cast, crew and audience onto the High Street for an impromptu second interval. Everyone involved took the disruption in good grace. The fire fighters were even called onstage to take a bow when the action resumes.
First published in The Times, Tuesday December 5 2017
In true Wonderland style, the sign above the bar at Northern Stage reads: “We’re all mad here!” Yet the young audience members who have gone to the trouble of dressing up in spotless pinafores and Alice bands look out of step with what’s happening onstage. This festive show may share its title with the enduring classic but its raucous tone is a world away from Lewis Carroll.
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.