Live theatre in Scotland in a time of Covid has come full circle. Pitlochry Festival Theatre’s exuberant production of Neil Simon’s Barefoot in the Parkwas the last show to open north of the border before the national lockdown, its run at the Perthshire theatre coming to an abrupt end after a brace of performances.
Sixteen months on, the theatre is bouncing back with a wide-ranging programme of outdoor shows, promenade performances, monologues and musical recitals. While borne out of necessity, this 70th anniversary season’s alfresco flavour is apposite for a company that began life in a tent by the Tummel.
First published in The Times, Monday September 16 2019
The best-known novel by the Polish science-fiction writer Stanislaw Lem is a story that never dies. Solaris, which depicts a group of scientists attempting contact with a seemingly sentient planet, has been filmed three times, notably by the Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky in 1972 and Steven Soderbergh in 2002, and has been adapted several times for theatre and opera.
August Strindberg wrote Creditors in 1888 as part of the creative torrent that also produced his most famous work, Miss Julie. Both plays exhibit the visceral dialogue and intense exploration of shifts in power within relationships for which the prolific and influential Swedish playwright is known, while also giving vent to his mordant and rather contradictory view of women. He was known to refer to Siri von Essen, the first of his three wives, as “the vampire”, though he also maintained that “the presence of women tends to elevate men”.
First published in The Times, Saturday September 9 2017
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.
First published in The Times, Thursday May 25 2017
John Knox (Jamie Sives) stands at the front of the stage, watching the audience file into the auditorium. Clad in black, with Bible in hand, he is utterly immobile save for his eyes, which roam the stalls, picking out individual audience members and holding them with an unyielding gaze.
It is a discomforting start to Linda McLean’s new play about the 16th century Scottish Reformer – who was credited with founding the Presbyterian Church – and his various exchanges with that other great icon of the period, Mary, Queen of Scots. The feeling of unease provoked by this opening gambit will be familiar to anyone who has passed under the stare of the statue of Knox that is at the entrance of the Assembly Hall on the Mound in Edinburgh – ironically now a major venue every August during the Festival Fringe.
First published in The Times, Thursday October 6 2016
You couldn’t find a bolder statement of intent than this, the first significant production of David Greig’s tenure as artistic director of the Lyceum in Edinburgh. The co-production with the Actors Touring Company returns its audience to the dawn of drama, with a version (penned by Greig himself) of one of the oldest surviving plays, written by Aeschylus and first performed in competition as part of the Athenian Festival of Dionysus in about 470BC.
First published in The Times, Monday October 26 2015
Outside, the wind is blowing the leaves around in the street, but inside the Bharatiya Ashram, the sun is shining. Granted, there may be something a little disorientating about watching a play set on the longest day of the year a mere week before the clocks go back, but this revival of David Greig and Gordon McIntyre’s sparkling romantic comedy proves the ideal pre-winter warmer.
First published in The Times, Monday September 7 2015
The final production in this year’s summer season at the theatre in the hills is an intimate affair: a welcome revival of David Greig’s haunting 2005 play. Pyrenees is a loose sequel to Greig’s 1999 work, The Cosmonaut’s Message to the Woman He Once Loved in the Former Soviet Union, whose many strands includes the search conducted by a woman named Vivienne for her missing husband, Keith. Where the earlier play is a mosaic of connections between seemingly disparate characters across multiple locations, this follow up is notable for its quiet restraint and melancholic humour.
First published in The Times, Tuesday August 25 2015
Eyebrows were raised when it was announced that the Edinburgh International Festival and the Citizens Theatre were teaming up to create a theatrical adaptation of Alasdair Gray’s Lanark. The author himself had a go at translating his mammoth dystopian novel for film 30 years ago but was forced to abandon the project as a fool’s errand. It is therefore much to the credit of playwright David Greig that his adaptation of Gray’s big beast of a book for the stage is both comprehensive and reassuringly coherent.