Reviews: The Match Box – Byre Theatre, St Andrews; Company – Aberdeen Arts Centre

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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.

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Review: And Then Come the Nightjars – Byre Theatre, St Andrews

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First published in The Times, Monday April 17 2017

Three Stars

Bea Roberts’s award-winning two-hander, which debuted at London’s Theatre 503 in 2015, is that rare beast: an unapologetic lament for a pastoral way of life that is fast disappearing. It is fitting that this first major tour of the play, which touches upon the foot-and-mouth outbreak of 2001, should be playing to rural audiences, from Cumbria to Crieff. A drama with a cattle farmer at its centre was always going to have its opening night in Scotland at the Byre.

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Review: Grounded –Byre Theatre, St Andrews

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First published in The Times, Sunday March 13 2016

Four Stars

Firebrand, the theatre company based in the Borders, has a knack for identifying new plays that are destined to become contemporary classics. Recent work includes revivals of Lucy Prebble’s The Effect, which focused on guinea pigs in a drugs trial, and The Great Train Race, Robert Dawson Scott’s comedy about rival rail companies, both written only within the past four years.

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Reviews: Beauty and the Beast – Perth Theatre; Cinderella – Byre Theatre, St Andrews

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First published in The Times, Tuesday December 16 2015

Beauty and the Beast: Four Stars

Cinderella: Three Stars

 

Perth’s Victorian theatre may be in the midst of an extensive restoration but, for the second festive season in a row, the proscenium archway has been lovingly recreated on the stage of the city’s concert hall. This year’s pantomime, scripted by the ever-reliable Alan McHugh, is Beauty and the Beast, with a refreshing emphasis on the former rather than the latter.

The story unfolds against an array of gorgeous painted backdrops, created by the designer Ken Harrison, with stunning costumes to match, from Belle’s (AmyBeth Littlejohn) sumptuous gold ball gown to the increasingly over-the-top frocks and topknots modelled by Barrie Hunter’s Dame Betty Blumenthal.

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Review: Shirley Valentine – Byre Theatre, St Andrews

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First published in The Times, Thursday July 30 2015

Three Stars

The unique selling point of live theatre is, of course, its unpredictability. Due to bereavement the actress Angela Darcy has had to withdraw from the Byre’s production of Shirley Valentine, with Irene Allan her eleventh hour replacement. With barely two days’ rehearsal under her belt, Allan bravely takes to the stage for the opening night of Willy Russell’s bittersweet comedy, performing the second part of the play with the script in hand.

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