First published in The Times, Saturday July 16 2022
For all his renown as a visual artist and playwright, in a career spanning five decades, John Byrne is also synonymous with rock’n’roll. Tutti Frutti and Your Cheatin’ Heart, the hit television serials he wrote for the BBC, both of which charted the travails of aspiring musicians, are as much remembered for their soundtracks as their storylines. Byrne also designed album covers for his friend and Paisley compatriot Gerry Rafferty, and his bands, the Humblebums and Stealers Wheel.
Continue reading “Theatre review: Underwood Lane – Tron Theatre, Glasgow”
First published in The Times, Monday November 1 2021
It is fitting that this new production of Shakespeare’s swansong should be opening on Halloween weekend when ghosts and monsters are out in force wandering the dark streets.
The show, adapted and directed by Andy Arnold, has a strongly Gothic flavour, with Prospero’s cell a forbidding library topped with lancet windows and characters moving in and out of the shadows.
Continue reading “Theatre Review: The Tempest – Tron Theatre, Glasgow”
First published in The Times, Friday October 11 2019
When Mark Twain observed that “humour is tragedy plus time” he may well have had The Alchemist in mind. Ben Jonson’s 1610 play about a trio of con artists who commandeer a gentleman’s house for a series of scams is the original riotous farce, complete with door slamming, mistaken identity and characters hiding in cupboards and lavatories. Yet its humour is savage, the language violent and the backdrop — a plague-ridden London — forbidding.
Continue reading “Review: The Alchemist – Tron Theatre, Glasgow”
First published in The Times, Monday October 8 2018
A first glance at Michael Taylor’s minutely detailed one-room set raises fears that we will be trapped for 90 minutes in the limited territory of kitchen-sink realism. However, as the lights go up we realise there is something not quite right about this crowded picture. For starters, this is a room with no discernible door or windows. Odder still, the kitchen sink contains neither bowl nor dishes but a record player stacked with 45s.
Continue reading “Review: Ballyturk – Tron Theatre, Glasgow”
First published in The Times, Monday July 10
A few lines from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, describing a world whose seasons are in disarray, perfectly encapsulate the experience of seeing theatre in Scotland at present: “The spring, the summer, the childing autumn, angry winter change their wonted liveries, and the mazèd world, by their increase, now knows not which is which.”
Not only is Pitlochry Festival Theatre currently staging Alan Ayckbourn’s Absurd Person Singular, a play set over three consecutive Christmas Eves, the Tron’s summer show is a revival of Anthony Neilson’s The Lying Kind, whose farcical action unfolds against a backdrop of tinsel and holly wreaths.
Continue reading “Review: The Lying Kind – Tron Theatre, Glasgow”
First published in The Times, Wednesday July 13
The “West” in this case refers to Leenane in deepest County Galway, yet there is also something of the lawless frontier about Martin McDonagh’s Connemara. As imagined by the acclaimed playwright, the quaint Irish village is a hotbed of murder, domestic violence and dismemberment. As the hapless Father Welsh (Michael Dylan) has it: “I’d have to kill half me relatives to fit into this town.”
Continue reading “Review: The Lonesome West – Tron Theatre, Glasgow”
First published in The Times, Tuesday May 24 2016
To say that Roger Casement was a complex and paradoxical figure is something of an understatement. A Protestant, born to an Anglo-Irish family, he worked as a diplomat for the British government, receiving a knighthood. Yet he is remembered today as the revolutionary Irish nationalist who attempted to enlist German military aid for the 1916 Easter Uprising.
Continue reading “Review: Shall Roger Casement Hang? – Tron Theatre, Glasgow”
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.
Continue reading “Review: Cock – Tron Theatre, Glasgow”
First published in The Times, Tuesday October 13 2015
Ibsen’s naturalistic social drama was famously described by one early critic as “a loathsome sore unbandaged”. Megan Barker’s modernised version, currently playing at the Tron, attempts to up the ante, opening with a bloody collision with a deer and advancing through a roll call of pathologies – paedophilia, adultery, alcoholism and drug addiction – to the play’s grotesque final scenes. Yet, despite all the violence and profanity on display, the tone achieved in Andy Arnold’s production is more akin to histrionic soap opera than a ghost story with unsettling contemporary resonance.
Continue reading “Review: Ghosts – Tron Theatre, Glasgow”
First published in The Times, Tuesday May 19 2015
The casting of Karen Dunbar as Winnie, the entombed heroine of Samuel Beckett’s 1961 play Happy Days, was always going to be an intriguing prospect. Though the actor and comedian has shown her “serious” acting chops on stage with a blistering performance as Rose in the National Theatre of Scotland’s revival of The Guid Sisters and in Phyllida Lloyd’s recent all-female production of Henry IV at the Donmar Warehouse, she’s still best known for her work in the BBC Scotland sketch series Chewin’ the Fat.
Continue reading “Review: Happy Days – Tron Theatre, Glasgow”