Theatre review: Sunshine on Leith – King’s Theatre, Edinburgh

First published in The Times, Monday June 13 2022

THREE STARS

This major production of Sunshine on Leith may have originated at Pitlochry Festival Theatre, but it is only fitting that a revival of the hit musical featuring the songs of those Hibs-supporting sometime-Leith-dwellers The Proclaimers should include a run in the capital.

At times the atmosphere in the auditorium resembles the frenzy that greets the King’s legendary annual panto, with the audience chuckling appreciatively at references to local landmarks and singing along wholeheartedly.

The playwright Stephen Greenhorn, who wrote the show for Dundee Rep in 2007, has updated his book to include mention of everything from Brexit to Netflix to Fifty Shades of Grey. In one poignant scene, characters discuss going for a coffee in Jenners, the Princes Street department store that has stood empty since the onset of the pandemic, leading to regretful murmurings in the stalls.

Continue reading “Theatre review: Sunshine on Leith – King’s Theatre, Edinburgh”

Theatre review: The Wind in the Willows – Pitlochry Festival Theatre

First published in The Times, Thursday July 15 2021

FOUR STARS

Could there be a more superlative setting for a production of The Wind in the Willows than the banks of the Tummel? There have of course been numerous stage adaptations of Kenneth Grahame’s classic, but few can boast an actual riverbank as the backdrop to the adventures of Ratty, Mole, Badger and Toad.

Elizabeth Newman and Ben Occhipinti’s production, from a new script by Mark Powell, stays faithful to the spirit if not the letter of the original, sustaining a good balance between action and hi-jinks with some quieter, more reflective scenes. Powell makes a few tweaks to the story, adding extra dimensions to the conflict between the four chums and the Wild-Wooders and in the process touching upon land use and ecology, creating a timely edge to the piece.

Continue reading “Theatre review: The Wind in the Willows – Pitlochry Festival Theatre”

Theatre Review: Adventures with the Painted People – Pitlochry Festival Theatre

First published in The Times, Monday June 14 2021

FOUR STARS

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 Park was 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.

Continue reading “Theatre Review: Adventures with the Painted People – Pitlochry Festival Theatre”

Review: Faith Healer – Pitlochry Festival Theatre

First published in The Times, Thursday October 24 2019

Four Stars 

First performed in 1979, Brian Friel’s Faith Healer is a play with a formidable reputation. Yet Elizabeth Newman’s production for Pitlochry Festival Theatre is notable for its restraint and transporting intimacy. The staging is sparse and steadfast. The play’s three characters deliver four monologues with the ease of old friends sharing confidences across a café table. As the house lights stay lit throughout we feel almost as though we are part of the action.

Continue reading “Review: Faith Healer – Pitlochry Festival Theatre”

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.

Continue reading “Review: North and South – Pitlochry Festival Theatre”

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.

Continue reading “Review: The Crucible – Pitlochry Festival Theatre”

Review: Summer Holiday – Pitlochry Festival Theatre

First published in The Times, Wednesday June 5 2019

Four Stars

When the stage version of Summer Holiday premiered at the Blackpool Opera House in 1996, the big talking point was the double-decker London bus that trundled across the stage, with a lustrous Darren Day at the wheel.

Continue reading “Review: Summer Holiday – Pitlochry Festival Theatre”