First published in The Times, Monday February 5 2018
The Match Box: Four Stars
Company: Three Stars
Frank McGuinness, the Irish playwright, is as celebrated for his translations of classics, including tragedies by Sophocles and Euripides, as he is for original works such as Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme. His monologue, The Match Box, first performed in 2012, has a vividly described contemporary setting but the questions it asks are as old as civilisation itself.
First published in The Times, Wednesday January 31 2018
Rona Munro’s Bold Girls, first staged in 1990, is one of those disquieting works that lures its audience in gently before gradually exposing them to the sadness and desperation at its core. The play is set in Belfast at the height of the Troubles, but in the opening ten minutes of this revival at the Citizens – as Marie (Lucianne McEvoy) entertains her best friend, Cassie (Scarlett Mack), and Cassie’s mother, Nora (Deirdre Davis), in her cramped front room – we might just as easily be in sitcom-land. The women light-heartedly discuss their planned night out, diets and Saturday evening telly. Neil Haynes’s design is so detailed that you can almost feel the warm glow from Marie’s grill pan.
First published in The Times, Thursday January 25 2018
The weaving of dance elements into drama has become so widespread as to be unremarkable, even if certain productions tack on passages of movement in such marginal ways that they seem almost afterthoughts. Unusually, this adaptation of Marguerite Duras’s novel, created by Fleur Darkin of Scottish Dance Theatre and Jemima Levick, the artistic director of Stellar Quines, professes a 50:50 split between the two forms. While sporadically effective, their collaboration fails to capture the visceral power of its source.
First published in The Times, Tuesday January 23 2017
Miss Saigon, the Vietnam-set musical based on Puccini’s Madam Butterfly, is the long-running proof that theatrical lightning can strike twice. Prior to its premiere in the West End in 1989, few expected Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil to come close to the success of Les Misérables, their previous smash. Yet, despite teething problems, including controversies surrounding the casting of Caucasian actors in Asian roles, the story of a doomed love affair between a young Vietnamese woman and an American GI has proved every bit as durable as its predecessor.
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, Wednesday December 20 2017
It would be fair to say that stage musicals inspired by animated films have something of a chequered history. The experimental director and designer Julie Taymor gave Disney’s screen-to-stage version of The Lion King a truly theatrical treatment that still stands up 18 years on from its premiere. Other shows from the same stable, including lavish productions of Tarzan and The Little Mermaid, failed to exert the same grip on the public imagination.
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.