Review: South Bend – Gilded Balloon at the Museum, Edinburgh

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First published in The Times, Friday August 10 2018

Four Stars

Like many teens of his generation, obsessed with The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and mad with love for Blossom Russo, the playwright and actor Martin McCormick was soaked in American culture long before he set foot on US soil. A spell in California as an exchange student did nothing to quell his enthusiasm. The sojourn brought him a legion of friends, attracted by his cute Scottish brogue, and his first serious girlfriend.

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Review: First Snow / Première Neige – Canada Hub at King’s Hall, Edinburgh

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First published in The Times, Friday August 10 2018

Two Stars

The process of debating national identity that characterised the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence continues to make cultural waves in the four years since the vote. In Canada, Québécois artists have had an even longer interval to spend on their national post mortem. It is 23 years since the province held its second referendum on whether to declare independence, a plebiscite that resulted in a wafer-thin “no” vote.

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Review: Once Seen on Blue Peter – Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh

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First published in The Times, Friday August 10 2018

Three Stars

Like counting the rings on a tree, you can tell a person’s age by which Blue Peter presenter they grew up watching. Love it or loathe it (and there were plenty who thought it sanctimonious, preferring its edgier ITV rival Magpie) the children’s magazine programme has clung on long after its many imitators have fallen foul of the axe. This year the show celebrates a phenomenal 60 years of funny encounters with animals, eye-watering feats of daring, and making models out of old washing-up liquid bottles and sticky-back plastic.

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Review: The Aspirations of Daise Morrow – Assembly George Square, Edinburgh

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First published in The Times, Wednesday August 8 2018

Three Stars

Down at the Dump is the forthright title of the Patrick White short story on which this intimate piece by Australia’s Brink Productions is based. Change of name aside, the show remains strikingly faithful to the work of the Nobel laureate. Indeed, the stated aim of Chris Drummond, the company’s artistic director, was to “take on White’s incredible text holus-bolus rather than whittling away at an adaptation”.

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Review: Before the Party – Pitlochry Festival Theatre

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First published in The Times, Thursday July 26 2018

Three Stars

There is something discomfiting, even perversely fascinating, about watching Rodney Ackland’s 1949 play in the very week that warnings about food shortages and rationing in the event of a hard Brexit have dominated the news agenda. The backdrop to Ackland’s adaptation of a short story by W Somerset Maugham is a Britain caught in the painful aftershocks of the war where almost every conversation contains references to cost and availability.

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Review: Edward II – Botanic Gardens, Glasgow

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First published in The Times, Wednesday July 18

Three Stars

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.

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Review: Travesties – Pitlochry Festival Theatre

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First published in The Times, Tuesday July 10 2018

Four Stars

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.

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