Pantomime review: Snow White – Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

First published in The Times, Saturday December 24 2022


This is the legendary King’s panto, but not as we know it. We’re definitely not in Kansas, or even at the King’s theatre, currently undergoing refurbishment. Allan Stewart, in his annual outing as the dame, Nurse May, has to stop for a breather as he scurries across the stage. “If this were the King’s I’d be there by now,” he pants.

As the backdrop is bigger, so elements of the show have swollen to epic proportions, not least when it comes to the stage effects. Jordan Young, playing Muddles, the palace jester, closes the first act with a sleigh ride that soars above the stalls. An enormous dragon, half the size of the auditorium, also puts in a brief appearance.

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Theatre review: James IV: Queen of the Fight – Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

First published in The Times, Wednesday October 5 2022


Eight years on from the epic trilogy that formed the centrepiece of the 2014 Edinburgh International Festival, the playwright Rona Munro continues her history cycle, based around the lives and (mostly) violent deaths of Scotland’s Stuart kings and queens. Familiar names returning for this latest instalment include Laurie Sansom, the former artistic director of the National Theatre of Scotland, and the veteran actor Blythe Duff, who was the linchpin of the original James Plays.

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Edinburgh review: A Little Life – Festival Theatre

First published in The Times, Monday August 22 2022


The Belgian theatre director Ivo van Hove is renowned for his stark, uncompromising productions of classic plays, from Greek to Renaissance tragedies and, memorably, works by Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams. His latest project is an adaptation of a more recent literary phenomenon, A Little Life by the American novelist Hanya Yanagihara, which was shortlisted for the Booker prize in 2015.

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Review: Cinderella – Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

First published in The Times, Thursday December 10 2015

Three Stars


In an early draft of the Grimms’ folk tale, the wicked stepmother tells her daughters to cut off their heels and toes in order to fit the glass slipper. It’s the stuff of which children’s nightmares are made, and a world away from the unfettered sweetness of Christopher Hampson’s Cinderella, which was originally choreographed for the Royal New Zealand Ballet and staged for the first time in the UK by Scottish Ballet.


Here, the stepsisters are not so much bad as misunderstood and the title character (danced by Bethany Kingsley-Garner) smiles even through the drudgery of the opening scenes.

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There’s life in this old doll yet – Coppélia at Edinburgh Festival Theatre

Published in The Times, Friday February 6 2015

Four Stars

If there are echoes of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in ETA Hoffman’s tale of an inventor who attempts to breathe life into an inanimate doll, the ballet Coppélia, created at the Paris Opera in 1870, is a determinedly light confection, full of youthful high-jinks and comic misunderstandings. Birmingham Royal Ballet’s production, first staged in 1995 by Peter Wright and based on the choreography of Petipa and Cecchetti, has a playful, summery energy to match the effervescence of the Delibes’s score. And now and again it manages to find the story’s dramatic heart in amongst all the delicious froth.

The atmosphere of middle European fairy tale is beautifully evoked in Peter Farmer’s set design, which, in the opening town square scene, resembles a faded woodcut illustration, with the soloists made to appear marionette-like against a depthless landscape backdrop. Principals Elisha Willis and Joseph Caley are well matched as the bickering lovers, Swanilda and Franz. He’s a spring-heeled Jack the Lad with a mischievous twinkle in his eye; she’s forever on the front foot, whether pursuing her intended around the square or plunging without thinking into the mysterious house on the corner with the beautiful haughty girl on the terrace. The lively corps dances in this opening scene, meanwhile, move in perfect tandem with the Delibes melodies.

Like the lovers, by the end of Act One, we are desperate to get inside Dr Coppelius’s workshop, and it is in this sequence that Wright’s production comes into its own. While the movement becomes increasingly cartoon-like, with Michael O’Hare’s wonderfully nutty inventor at one point bouncing Franz around the room, repeatedly spanking the naughty youth’s bottom, the moment at which Coppelius realises that he has been duped by Swanilda into believing that his adored doll is alive, is one of piercing sadness.

We return to a string of bouncy divertissements for the final act, but if, dramatically, the ballet is anticlimactic, the strength of the characterisations in this production keeps us onside.


Box office: 0131 529 6000, to Feb 7; touring to Mar 28.