Edinburgh review: A Little Life – Festival Theatre

First published in The Times, Monday August 22 2022

TWO STARS

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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Edinburgh review: Medea – The Hub

First published in The Times, Monday August 15 2022

FOUR STARS

Liz Lochhead’s celebrated adaptation of Euripides first took Edinburgh by storm in 2001 in an award-winning production by Theatre Babel at the Assembly Rooms, with Maureen Beattie in the title role. It has taken more than 20 years for the play to make the short journey from New Town to Old, and from the Fringe to the international festival, courtesy of Michael Boyd’s revival for the National Theatre of Scotland.

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Edinburgh review: Counting and Cracking – Lyceum Theatre

First published in The Times, Wednesday August 10 2022

FIVE STARS

A stage epic is a rare beast in Edinburgh, where audiences are accustomed to shows of one hour tops in makeshift venues. Counting and Cracking is novelistic in its scope and ambition, featuring several storylines that sprawl over two continents and nearly half a century. Its three-and-a-half-hour running time goes by in a blink.

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Review: Alan Cumming is Not Acting His Age – Old College Quad, Edinburgh

First published in The Times, Monday August 30 2021

Four Stars

This was cabaret but we weren’t in Weimar Germany or the East Village, Manhattan. Live performance may be rebounding in Scotland following the pandemic, but residual restrictions meant that a show that felt tailor-made for an intimate space lit only by candlelight was being staged in an airy, socially distanced, makeshift venue. “It feels like we’re inside an ice cube,” says Alan Cumming, our host for the evening. “It’s like a really posh shopping centre.”

This 90-minute compendium of songs and humorous storytelling at the Edinburgh International Festival would have worked better in a spiegeltent or perhaps in Club Cumming, the performer’s bar and nightclub in New York City, with its “postage stamp-sized stage”. Yet it’s hard to imagine many other performers with the presence and charisma to conquer this rather unforgiving space.

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Theatre review: Lament for Sheku Bayoh – Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh

First published in The Times, Thursday August 26 2021

Four Stars

The bare facts of the event that inspired Hannah Lavery’s poignant and powerful play now ring horribly familiar. In May 2015 Sheku Bayoh, a young black man who had been reported to police for his erratic behaviour in a Kirkcaldy street, was confronted and forcibly restrained by a number of officers. He lost consciousness at the scene and never recovered.

The most shocking element — to some at least — is that this tragedy took place in a Scottish town and not in Missouri or Minneapolis. Characters in Lavery’s play lament that such an event could occur in a country that sees itself as inclusive. “This is Scotland,” one says. “It’s not Black Lives Matter.”

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Theatre review: Niqabi Ninja

First published in The Times, Thursday August 19 2021

Two Stars

There is a lot going on in Sara Shaarawi’s immersive audio theatre piece. Originally written for the stage, the new format is ideal for audiences tentatively returning to live performance post-Covid. The intimacy of the audio play is just one strand in a multilayered production that also includes graphic artworks by Gehan Mounir, viewed while walking around Edinburgh at sunset.

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Edinburgh review: Purposeless Movements – The Studio

First published in The Times, Tuesday August 20 2019

Four Stars

One of the highlights of last year’s Edinburgh Fringe was the musical My Left/Right Foot from the Birds of Paradise theatre company. Focused on a hapless am-dram troupe’s endeavours to win an award by embracing diversity, the show poked merciless fun at the long line of able-bodied actors being lauded as “brave” and rewarded with Oscars for playing disabled roles.

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Edinburgh review: Red Dust Road – Royal Lyceum

First published in The Times, Friday August 16 2019

Three Stars

Tanika Gupta’s adaptation of the bestselling memoir by Jackie Kay, Scotland’s makar (national poet), is full of moments that break the heart and stir joy. It was almost bound to be. The book, which weaves the author’s 20-year search for her birth family with memories of her upbringing as the mixed-race, adopted daughter of white Scottish parents, is written with an irresistible vitality and generosity of spirit. Its universality comes from its attempt to address the great mystery of what makes us who we are.

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Edinburgh review: Roots – Church Hill Theatre

First published in The Times, Monday August 12 2019

Three Stars

The company 1927, known for mixing live performance with animation, is always warmly received in Edinburgh. Its debut production, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, won a clutch of awards at the Fringe in 2007. The troupe’s collaboration with Barrie Kosky on an expressionist version of Mozart’s The Magic Flute was the big hit of the 2015 Edinburgh International Festival (EIF) programme.

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Review: Letters Live – King’s Theatre, Edinburgh

First published in The Times, Tuesday August 29 2017

Three Stars

Perhaps the highest compliment you can pay an actor is that they could read from the phonebook and still make it engaging. Letters Live, in which well-known (and not so well-known) personalities read from significant correspondence, obviously provides the performers with far greater scope than the Yellow Pages. Yet, perhaps inevitably, the show, which has toured widely, attracting A-list participants, proves something of a mixed postbag.

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