Review: Cockpit – Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh

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First published in The Times, Friday October 13 2017

Four Stars

The promotional image for this revival of Bridget Boland’s Cockpit is a frenzied blue scribble in the middle of the map of Europe. The simple image encapsulates the impossible task – depicted in the play – of returning displaced peoples to their countries of origins in the aftermath of World War Two, yet it also speaks eloquently of the inadequacies of the nation state in 2017. Boland’s script feels so up-to-date that it inspires repeated glances at the programme notes to double check that it really does date back to 1948.

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Review: The Macbeths – Citizens Theatre, Glasgow

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First published in The Times, Monday October 9 2017

Three Stars

One can’t help but wonder whether this abridged version of the Scottish Play is the kind of thing Shakespeare would be writing if he were embarking on his career in an era dominated by small-scale studio shows. Frances Poet and Dominic Hill’s adaptation strips the tragedy down to its essentials, creating an intense domestic two-hander that requires its actors (Charlene Boyd and Keith Fleming) to divest themselves of everything but raw emotion.

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Review: Rocket Post! – Platform, Easterhouse

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First published in The Times, Saturday September 30 2017

Three Stars

A rocket filled with letters fired from one island to another sounds like the premise for an offbeat fairy tale or children’s fantasy. The image is a resonant one, combining benign public service with a technology more commonly used in warfare. The idea is all the more intriguing when you consider that Lewis Hetherington’s new play for young people is based on true events.

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Review: Faithful Ruslan: the Story of a Guard Dog – Citizens Theatre, Glasgow

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First published in The Times, Tuesday September 26 2017

Three Stars

This is not the first time this year that a performer has taken on the role of man’s best friend on the stage at the Citizens. In May, the actor Ewan Somers gave a memorable turn as an amorous Irish wolfhound in a revival of Giles Havergal’s celebrated version of Graham Greene’s Travels with My Aunt.

 

A mere four months on and another literary adaptation is affording Somers and a dozen of his fellow actors the opportunity to play not only dogs and chickens but also guards and prisoners in a Soviet labour camp. In the opening moments of Helena Kaut-Howson’s production, based on the 1975 allegorical novel by Georgi Vladimov, the dissident writer, we watch the company being put through its paces in a military-style drill, snapping from canine to human and back again in response to barked commands.

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Review: A Streetcar Named Desire – Macrobert Arts Centre, Stirling

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First published in The Times, Friday September 15 2017

Two Stars

The Scottish company Rapture Theatre, which specialises in revivals of classic plays, has mainly focused in the past couple of years on the great works of the American stage. After a production of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons and a triumphant imagining of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? it was inevitable that the company, led by artistic director Michael Emans, would get around to staging Tennessee Williams’s most celebrated drama.

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Review: Europe – Pitlochry Festival Theatre

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First published in The Times, Saturday September 9 2017

Three Stars

What could be timelier, in this era of Brexit, mass migration and right-wing populism, than a revival of David Greig’s play about borders, identity and the perceived threat from immigrants? Europe, one of the playwright’s earliest successes, was first performed at the Traverse a quarter of a century ago, yet its portrayal of a rundown railway station in a small European town, haunted by refugees and dejected locals, might have been dreamed-up yesterday.

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Review: A Song for Ella Grey – Northern Stage, Newcastle

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First published in The Times, Friday September 8 2017

Three Stars

David Almond is one of the most prolific and highly acclaimed writers of novels for children and young adults to hail from the northeast of England. Known for his distinctive merging of realism with the fantastic, the author has adapted several of his best-known works of fiction for the stage, notably Heaven Eyes, which follows a trio of runaways from an orphanage, and The Savage, about a young boy’s grief following the death of his father.

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