First published in The Times, Monday December 10 2018
The Snow Queen is no stranger to Dundee Rep. The most recent production of Hans Christian Andersen’s tale, in 2012, starred the aptly named Emily Winter in the role of the icy monarch, negotiating a pine forest on stilts.
As one of the longer-serving members of the Rep ensemble, Winter also appears in this latest incarnation, though this time in the role of the Summer Princess, ruler of a balmy, fruit pastille-coloured region the heroine Gerda (Chiara Sparkes) has to pass through on her way to the frozen north.
First published in The Times, Tuesday October 23 2018
It feels misleading to refer to this new production of Gagarin Way as a “revival” — as though the director Cora Bissett and her cast had somehow breathed life back into a corpse. Gregory Burke’s black comedy, which was plucked out of the slush pile at the Traverse Theatre and went on to stun audiences at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, has thrived on stages around the world pretty much nonstop since its premiere in 2001.
First published in The Times, Monday September 3 2018
There are moments during this production of Anne Downie’s oft-revived play about a family of Scottish travellers in the 1930s when the audience appears to be lost in a haze of nostalgia. Mentions of pearl fishing on Speyside, neep gathering in Angus and berry picking in Perthshire are met with appreciative murmurs. When the nine-strong ensemble performs Adam McNaughtan’s song, which gives the play its title, everyone sings along, word-perfect.
No one is quite sure who coined the phrase “writing about music is like dancing about architecture”, but the enduring sentiment could just as easily be applied to the obvious incongruity of “staging” a radio play.
Watching actors poised in front of microphones, scripts in hands, while their co-stars rhubarb in the background, creating crowd noise, may not sound promising, and yet, done well, it can be surprisingly absorbing. Mull Theatre’s ingenious production of Whisky Galore, set in a BBC studio and based upon Compton Mackenzie’s radio adaptation, has been regularly revived to appreciative responses since it premiered around a quarter of a century ago.
First published in The Times, Friday March 16 2018
It was in the aftermath of the Columbine massacre in 1999 that Steven Slater and Duncan Sheik conceived their musical adaptation of Frank Wedekind’s 1891 play about the unheard cries of young people. Fast forward 20 years and it is poignant that this energetic new production, featuring students from the Royal Conservatoire under the direction of Andrew Panton of Dundee Rep, is opening in the same week as a walkout of students across the United States in protest at yet another high school shooting.
First published in The Times, Saturday February 24 2018
According to the principle of Chekhov’s gun, if we see a firearm on stage in Act One, it must be used by the play’s end. Ira Levin’s thriller Deathtrap certainly sticks faithfully to the Russian’s view that everything we see on stage must have some relevance to the action. As the props on display include several pistols as well as daggers, swords, a mace and a crossbow, the audience spends much of the play bracing itself for the inevitable bloodbath.
First published in The Times, Wednesday December 6 2017
This year’s Christmas show at Dundee Rep (the ensemble’s first under its new artistic director Andrew Panton) represents a welcome return to festive themes. The company has spent the past four Christmases mining the unseasonal tales of Roald Dahl, from The BFG to George’s Marvellous Medicine.