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, Monday December 4 2017
There are a couple of golden rules that must be observed when it comes to staging a winning Christmas show. The first is never to forget the importance of a good story, simply yet effectively told in theatrical form, and in Stuart Paterson’s enduring adaptation of Cinderella, Dominic Hill, the director, and his team at the Citizens are working from a copper-bottomed classic.
First published in The Times, Monday November 13 2017
At first sight, the two strands of Anders Lustgarten’s 2015 play seem, quite literally, worlds apart. Stefano (Andy Clark) relates the first of the alternating monologues. A former fisherman from a “little dusty island you’ve never heard of”, Stefano now spends his days and nights retrieving corpses from the tide of refugees who have drowned on the journey from North Africa to Italy.
First published in The Times, Monday October 9 2017
One can’t help but wonder whether this abridged version of the Scottish Play is the kind of thing Shakespeare would be writing if he were embarking on his career in an era dominated by small-scale studio shows. Frances Poet and Dominic Hill’s adaptation strips the tragedy down to its essentials, creating an intense domestic two-hander that requires its actors (Charlene Boyd and Keith Fleming) to divest themselves of everything but raw emotion.
First published in The Times, Tuesday September 26 2017
This is not the first time this year that a performer has taken on the role of man’s best friend on the stage at the Citizens. In May, the actor Ewan Somers gave a memorable turn as an amorous Irish wolfhound in a revival of Giles Havergal’s celebrated version of Graham Greene’s Travels with My Aunt.
A mere four months on and another literary adaptation is affording Somers and a dozen of his fellow actors the opportunity to play not only dogs and chickens but also guards and prisoners in a Soviet labour camp. In the opening moments of Helena Kaut-Howson’s production, based on the 1975 allegorical novel by Georgi Vladimov, the dissident writer, we watch the company being put through its paces in a military-style drill, snapping from canine to human and back again in response to barked commands.
Graham Greene described his 1969 novel, Travels with My Aunt, as “the only book I have written just for the fun of it.” Indeed, there appears to be little urgent reason to revive the acclaimed theatrical adaptation, written by Giles Havergal, the former artistic director of the Citizens Theatre, other than for its sheer entertainment value. The play, first staged in 1989, and still regularly performed, can certainly draw appreciative laughter, even if it shows its age.
First published in The Times, Friday March 17 2017
Dominic Hill, the artistic director of the Citizens Theatre, has won acclaim and awards in recent years for productions of Crime and Punishment and Hamlet presented on near-bare stages, with only a few essential props and the cast doubling as musicians. While his production of Hay Fever is not as skeletal as his previous shows, the staging here is more restrained than the usual lavish naturalism you get in productions of Coward.
Tom Piper’s set design provides just enough detail to convey the comfortably moth-eaten atmosphere of the Bliss residence. That the wings are in sight of the audience feels wholly appropriate to a play about a family who enact the mother of all pantomimes for the benefit of their houseguests, one of whom decries their antics as “artificial to the point of lunacy”.