Theatre review: The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar – Perth Theatre

First published in The Times, Wednesday March 30 2022

FOUR STARS

Audiences are accustomed to seeing Roald Dahl’s children’s stories on stage. Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory were turned into blockbuster musical hits, while David Wood’s faithful adaptations of James and the Giant PeachThe BFG and The Witches are mainstays of the Christmas season.

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Panto review: Cinderella – Perth Theatre

First published in The Times, Monday November 29 2021

FOUR STARS

“I’m a wee bit out of practice,” gasps dame Barrie Hunter, catching his breath and straightening his wig following a strenuous opening number, “it’s been a couple of years.” This moment of witty adlib contains more than a hint of poignancy. It’s hard to believe that two years have passed since audiences cheered and booed along to Perth’s pre-lockdown festive outing, Sinbad.

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Review: Hope and Joy – Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

First published in The Times, Tuesday November 5 2019

Three Stars

Ellie Stewart’s play opens in a room in the maternity unit of a hospital where Hope (Kim Gerard) is giving birth alone. A brief exchange with the sunny-natured hospital cleaner, Joy (Beth Marshall), offers respite from contractions. The stage seems set for a tale of quirky friendship and heart-warming realism.

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Review: The Ugly One – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Tuesday July 9 2019

Three Stars

This is the first time Marius von Mayenburg’s 2007 satire has been seen on a Scottish stage but there is much in Debbie Hannan’s production that will be familiar to those with even a sketchy knowledge of the horror genre. The trope of slowly unwrapping bandages from some strangely altered face has been so endlessly sent-up that it surely deserves a subgenre classification of its own.

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Review: Bingo! – Assembly Hall, Edinburgh

 

First published in The Times, Monday March 11 2018

Two Stars

In many ways, the bingo hall is the ideal place in which to set a site-specific show. Like live theatre at its best, a night at the bingo is a collective experience that’s a little different every time, leaving its participants trembling on the edge of their seats, on the verge of elation or disappointment.

 

It is surprising that this new musical comedy, produced by Stellar Quines in collaboration with Grid Iron, the leading company specialising in site-specific work in Scotland, makes no attempt to fully immerse its audience within such a giddy atmosphere. We watch the action unfold against the glittery backdrop of Carys Hobbs and Becky Minto’s set at one remove, and the experience is akin to spying on a party to which we haven’t been invited.

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Review: The Last Bordello – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Thursday February 15 2018

Three Stars

On entering the auditorium, the audience is handed a “programme” in the form of a crumpled piece of paper that’s festooned with scribbled notes and illustrations. As the house lights go down the curtain slides hurriedly back and forth across the front of the stage, offering a narrow, keyhole-view of the scene within.

 

Such novelties might provoke a few raised eyebrows among the uninitiated, but followers of the work of David Leddy and Fire Exit are accustomed to expecting the unexpected. This, after all, is the writer and director who conducted his audience around the bowels and backstage of the Citizens Theatre for his gothic melodrama, Sub Rosa, and invited us to don kimonos and sit within a circle of origami birds as the action unfolded on the Japan-inspired White Tea.

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Review: How to Disappear – Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

First published in The Times, Thursday December 14 2017

Two Stars 

If you peer closely enough into the murky corners of Becky Minto’s set for this new play by Morna Pearson, you will spot a tiny Christmas tree, lying on its side and pathetically decorated with a couple of strands of tinsel. At the end of the play’s 90-minute running time, snow floats gently down over the stage.

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Review: Europe – Pitlochry Festival Theatre

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: Para Handy – Pitlochry Festival Theatre

First published in The Times, Tuesday November 1 2016

Three Stars

You can almost pinpoint a person’s age by which screen version of the Para Handy tales they most fondly recall. The wily captain of the Vital Spark, the Clyde puffer immortalised in Neil Munro’s short stories, has been portrayed on television no less than three times since the 1950s. The most recent adaptation, which starred Gregor Fisher and Rikki Fulton, aired in the mid-Nineties, so we are probably due another remake.

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Review: Hard Times – Pitlochry Festival Theatre

First published in The Times, Friday September 16 2016

Four Stars

Size isn’t everything. When David Edgar adapted Charles Dickens’s The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby for the Royal Shakespeare Company back in 1980, the production ran to eight-and-a-half hours and featured a dramatis personae of 115 speaking parts. The show, directed by Trevor Nunn, scooped major awards and transferred to Broadway, but it doesn’t take a genius to explain why Edgar’s 1000-page script has rarely been revived since.

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