Theatre review: The Signalman – Perth Theatre

First published in The Times, Monday September 27 2021

FOUR STARS

This is not the first time that Peter Arnott, the prolific Scottish dramatist, has explored the Tay Bridge disaster of December 28, 1879. Tay Bridge, his 2019 play, gave voice to some of those who lost their lives when the original Tay Rail Bridge collapsed during a storm, killing all onboard the Burntisland-to-Dundee train, which was crossing at the time. The series of vivid monologues combined to create a broader picture of late 19th century Scottish society.

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Review: Maim – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Thursday March 12 2020

Four Stars

There is so much going in this collaboration between Theatre Gu Leòr and the band Whyte that it comes as something of a surprise to realise that the show’s running time is a tight 75 minutes. Maim blends movement, story vignettes and multimedia with the band’s characteristic fusion of electronica and Gaelic song to explore life in Scotland’s far-flung communities, notably the fragile status of the Gaelic language and culture. The result is a unique hybrid that works its spell slowly, exerting a powerful pull.

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Review: The Importance of Being Earnest – Perth Theatre

First published in The Times, Monday March 9 2020

Four Stars

Creating a truly original production of Oscar Wilde’s great comedy is no easy task. Its very familiarity is a major part of its popularity. Much of the dialogue is so axiomatic that you can almost hear the audience pre-empting the actors.

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Review: Mrs Puntila and Her Man Matti – Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh

First published in The Times, Thursday March 5 2020

Two Stars

On paper this gender-swapped version of Bertolt Brecht’s 1940 comedy looks intriguing. The novelist Denise Mina adapts, with the redoubtable Elaine C Smith in the lead and the award-winning Turkish director Murat Daltaban at the helm. Yet while the production features some fine flourishes, there is no escaping the overall sense of a messy and incoherent assemblage.

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Review: The Panopticon – Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

First published in The Times, Thursday October 17 2019

Four Stars

It seems that you can’t move these days for stage adaptations of literary works. A familiar title is a strong draw, whether it’s the dramatisation of Matt Haig’s mental health memoir Reasons to Stay Alive or the National Theatre of Scotland’s production of Red Dust Road, which just completed its Scottish tour.

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Review: Billy Connolly – The Sex Life of Bandages

First published in The Times, Tuesday October 15 2019

Four Stars

There is a moment early in this silver-screen tribute to Billy Connolly in which he reveals, with a certain amount of bemusement, that his most famous comedy routines are to be published in a forthcoming book. “It doesn’t make sense,” he says. “They don’t have a beginning, middle and an end. Sometimes the punch line comes at the beginning.”

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Review: Still Game: The Final Farewell – SSE Hydro, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Monday October 7 2019

Two Stars

When the BBC Scotland sitcom Still Game bowed out this year its writers Ford Kiernan and Greg Hemphill left fans in no doubt that this was the end for Jack Jarvis, Victor McDade and the Craiglang posse. Not since the final episode of Blake’s 7, in 1981, has a television series more ruthlessly dispatched most of its starring cast.

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Review: Russell Howard –SEC Hydro, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Monday September 23 2019

Four Stars

By any standards Russell Howard is a megastar. The atmosphere in the 13,000-seat arena at this early show in the stand-up’s year-long international tour was more akin to a rock concert than a comedy gig. Those little-known turns Cher and Björk, who will play the venue in the coming weeks, will be lucky to attract the same deafening levels of excitement.

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Review: Nora: A Doll’s House – Tramway, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Monday March 25 2019

Two Stars

A Doll’s House by Ibsen is one of those theatrical gifts that keep on giving. The play about a middle-class woman, Nora Helmer, who comes to realise that her seemingly perfect marriage is a pretty cage, has been endlessly updated since its premiere in 1879. Lucas Hnath’s sequel, A Doll’s House, Part 2, which speculates on what happened to Nora after she closed the door on her old life, opened on Broadway in 2017.

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Review: Cinderella – SEC Armadillo, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Monday December 17 2018

Three Stars

Manchester’s loss is Glasgow’s gain. Last Christmas, the legendary comedy pairing of Ian and Janette Tough aka the Krankies, along with their performing partner-in-crime John Barrowman, hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons when their innuendo-laden production of Dick Whittington at the Manchester Opera House attracted a barrage of complaints from outraged panto-goers.

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