Theatre review: Little Women – Pitlochry Festival Theatre

First published in The Times, Wednesday August 3 2022

THREE STARS

The first volume of Little Women appeared more than 150 years ago, but Louisa May Alcott’s evergreen tale of the March sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy, their struggles and romantic entanglements, finds fresh audiences with every generation. The most recent film adaptation, directed by Greta Gerwig, appeared in 2019. There are no fewer than three theatrical versions running at the moment in the UK, including Mark Adamo’s opera at Holland Park and Anne Odeke’s reimagining for Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre in Chester, which transports the action from Civil War-era Massachusetts to Britain at the outbreak of the First World War.

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Theatre review: Private Lives – Pitlochry Festival Theatre

First published in The Times, Tuesday June 28 2022

THREE STARS

The cocktails are waiting on the terrace, the Duke of Westminster’s yacht is moored in the harbour at Deauville, and in the near distance a band is playing Someday I’ll Find You. We are unmistakably in Noël Coward’s sophisticated, world-weary milieu, and though all appears calm on the polished surface of Ken Harrison’s elegantly simple set, fireworks are about to go off.

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Review: North and South – Pitlochry Festival Theatre

First published in The Times, Saturday September 7 2019

Three Stars

It is easy to see why Elizabeth Gaskell’s 1854 social novel should resonate in an age of Remain versus Leave. The book is structured around a series of binary oppositions. As well as the contrasting of the pastoral south of England, where the heroine Margaret Hale comes of age, with the industrialised north, to which the Hale family moves, Gaskell explores tensions between received wisdom and dissent, authority and a restless workforce, class and conflicting approaches to matters of the heart.

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Review: The Crucible – Pitlochry Festival Theatre

First published in The Times, Thursday July 11

Four Stars

One of the pleasures of taking in several performances in one stretch at Pitlochry lies in the sheer variety of the summer season repertoire. This year, that sense of variety seems turbocharged, with everything from the musical revival of Summer Holiday to the amiable froth of Noël Coward’s Blithe Spirit and the heavyweight allegory of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible in the mix.

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Review: Blithe Spirit – Pitlochry Festival Theatre

First published in The Times, Friday June 28 2019

Four Stars 

“The action takes place in the Condomines’ house in Kent” runs the succinct programme note for Gemma Fairlie’s revival of Noël Coward’s “improbable farce”. The period setting is less instantly apparent. As designed by Adrian Rees, the interior of the Condomines’ home is clinical and sparse, with doors, drawers and drinks concealed in the gleaming walls. Until the moment when Eddie (David Rankine), the bumbling servant, searches for music on a MacBook, there are few visual clues as to when the devil we are meant to be.

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Review: The Last Witch – Pitlochry Festival Theatre

First published in The Times, Tuesday September 18 2018

Four Stars

When Rona Munro’s The Last Witch debuted at the Royal Lyceum as part of the 2009 Edinburgh International Festival, the play, inspired by the true story of the last woman to be burned for heresy in Scotland, got lost in an over-the-top staging that included elaborate multimedia, sound and special effects.

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Review: Before the Party – Pitlochry Festival Theatre

First published in The Times, Thursday July 26 2018

Three Stars

There is something discomfiting, even perversely fascinating, about watching Rodney Ackland’s 1949 play in the very week that warnings about food shortages and rationing in the event of a hard Brexit have dominated the news agenda. The backdrop to Ackland’s adaptation of a short story by W Somerset Maugham is a Britain caught in the painful aftershocks of the war where almost every conversation contains references to cost and availability.

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Review: Bold Girls – Citizens Theatre, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Wednesday January 31 2018

Four Stars

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.

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