First published in The Times, Tuesday July 13 2021
Spontaneous applause breaks out at the announcement welcoming everyone to the new season of Bard in the Botanics. It has been nearly two years since audiences last gathered on the grassy rise behind the glasshouses in the Botanic Gardens, Glasgow, for the venerated Shakespeare festival.
As a specialist in outdoor performance, this company, led by Gordon Barr, the artistic director, may have an advantage over its contemporaries as theatre in Scotland slowly emerges from its Covid-era hibernation.
This dynamic new play from Wonder Fools is part drama, part history lesson. Jack Nurse and Robbie Gordon’s script was inspired by the true story of four young miners from Prestonpans in East Lothian who fought in the Spanish Civil War. The company’s UK tour includes an interactive exhibition featuring stories of the Scottish volunteers who served as part of the International Brigades.
First published in The Times, Thursday August 17 2017
Roll up, roll up – the circus is back in town. The music as we enter the big top may be full of fanfare, but an air of melancholy pervades the atmosphere backstage. Having dragged his uncomprehending charges around the states of 1930s Dustbowl America for more years than he cares to remember, trainer Francis (played by Jesse Rutherford) is dejected, lonely, spent. He longs for one final perfect routine from his performing chimpanzee (Lucy Roslyn).
First published in The Times, Monday August 14 2017
The writer and performer Daniel Bye has a track record for staging performance lectures that wear their hefty subjects and the depth of his research admirably lightly. He is best known for Going Viral, his award-winning exploration of viruses (in every sense of the word) and his multi-layered look at the idea of value, called The Price of Everything.
Bye’s performance style, which combines affable audience interaction with elements of multimedia, has always been something of an onstage juggling act, with lots of ideas thrown up in the air at once. His new piece, which deals with border crossings, in all their menace and absurdity, feels stylistically overstuffed, befuddling his message.
First published in The Times, Friday January 27 2017
Downtrodden single mother Alice (Kerry Ellis) is having a bad day. Her car has been stolen, she’s lost her house keys and when she arrives late for work her heartless boss fires her. Topping it all off, her ex-husband, for whom she still holds a torch, has been in touch with news of his latest marriage.
Clearly, we are not in Lewis Carroll territory, although his iconic characters are nominally present and correct in this contemporary musical update of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, written by Gregory Boyd and Jack Murphy, with music by Frank Wildhorn. Their version of Alice sports killer boots and drops into Wonderland, accompanied by her teenage daughter (Naomi Morris) and socially awkward neighbour (Stephen Webb), by way of the out-of-order lift in her dingy high-rise block.
First published in The Times, Tuesday October 24 2016
This eerie slice of contemporary noir is not what we’ve come to expect from the playwright Rob Drummond. His notable earlier works include Bullet Catch, in which Drummond recreated the classic magic trick with the help of audience participants. In Fidelity, which debuted at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, explored questions of love and monogamy through a Blind Date-style game show format involving single audience members.
First published in The Times, Friday October 14 2016
Any mention of North Sea Oil is most likely to bring to mind the city of Aberdeen, which has weathered the ups and downs of the industry for over 40 years. So, it’s refreshing that this ambitious exploration of oil production and its human and environmental impact, is brought to us by Grid Iron Theatre Company from Dundee, a city at the forefront of Scotland’s efforts to secure a slice of the lucrative oil rig decommissioning industry.
First published in The Times, Saturday February 13 2016
When Mike Bartlett’s 2009 comedy drama received its first production in New York in 2012, newspaper reviewers and advertisers primly rechristened it The Cockfight Play. Glasgow’s Tron, which is producing the Scottish premiere, seems similarly conflicted about the play’s original title. While the poster depicts a pair of fowls knocking the feathers off each other, the theatre is promoting the show on social media using the hashtag #NotAboutChickens.
First published in The Times, Wednesday August 12 2015
As its title implies, crime and punishment are the big subjects at the heart of this new work from Belgium’s SKaGeN theatre company. Performed by a trio of actors on a revolving stage and based on verbatim transcriptions, the piece is structured as a series of interrogations by austere authority figures of criminals whose transgressions range from the pathetic to the unpardonable.