Review: You Only Live Forever – Assembly George Square, Edinburgh

First published in The Times, Wednesday August 22 2018

Four Stars

The quest for eternal life has long fascinated storytellers. Usually the treatment of immortality has a nasty edge: think of the torment of Swift’s Struldbruggs or Wilde’s Dorian Gray, with the latter’s portrait putrefying while its subject stays physically flawless.

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Review: My Left / Right Foot – The Musical – Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh

First published in The Times, Wednesday August 22 2018

Four Stars

It is 30 years since Daniel Day-Lewis won the first of his three Academy awards for Best Actor for his role as Christy Brown in the biopic My Left Foot. While the actor’s remarkable performance as the Irish writer and artist, born with cerebral palsy, was lauded for its bravery and commitment, with hindsight it seems a prime example of “Oscar bait”, whereby actors take on extreme physical transformations with one eye fixed firmly on the awards season.

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

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: Enterprise – Assembly George Square, Edinburgh

First published in The Times, Saturday August 12 2017

Three Stars

The enterprise itself in Brian Parks’s latest play is never identified, and, like the elusive World Wide Wicket Company in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, we are never made aware exactly what goes on within its skyscraper HQ. The playwright names his protagonists Landry, Owens, Sanders and Weaver, but they could be any quartet of floundering middle managers trying to stay afloat in the commercial stew.

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Review: Solo Date – Assembly George Square, Edinburgh

First published in The Times, August 26 2016

Three Stars

This solo piece from the writer and performer Tsai Pao-Chang packs a lot of ideas into its 50-minute running time. On one level, the show (staged as part of the fringe’s Taiwan Season) is a poignant love story, about a young man grieving for his recently deceased lover. The piece gradually expands, drawing on the myth of Orpheus in the Underworld to speculate about the implications of artificial intelligence on the way we cope with death and grief.

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Review: Octopus – Assembly George Square

First published in The Times, Monday August 22 2016

Three Stars

The most powerful dystopian dramas are those that resound with the nerve-jangling ring of familiarity. This new play by Afsaneh Gray, set in a post-Brexit UK in which “Britishness” is defined by the state, raises the hairs on the back of your neck precisely because we are already so far down the road towards the destination Gray so entertainingly portrays.

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Review: In Tents and Purposes – Assembly George Square, Edinburgh

First published in The Times, Monday August 15 2016

Three Stars

If the Edinburgh Festival Fringe is a shop window for new talent, this debut production from Viscera Theatre is offbeat and original enough to encourage jaded passers-by over the threshold and into the store for a browse. The writer, Roxy Dunn (who also performs, alongside Alys Metcalf), dares to keep her audience on its toes. Is this a comedy drama? Is it a meta-theatrical sketch show? Or a blueprint for a radio series – think early evening Radio 4.

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Review: SpectreTown – Assembly Hall, Edinburgh Fringe

First published in The Times, Friday August 14 2015

Three Stars

Stoirm Òg – the bilingual English-Gaelic theatre company founded by writer-performer Elspeth Turner – caused a modest splash at the fringe in 2012 with the gothic Hebridean family drama The Idiot at the Wall. Turner’s new work, inspired by the folklore and storytelling traditions of the north-east of Scotland, further reveals a company of significant range and ambition even if at times both the play and this production feel a little overstuffed.

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