Review: Arctic Oil – Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

First published in The Times, Friday October 12 2018

Two Stars

It is fitting that Clare Duffy’s play should open in the week that the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned of catastrophic global warming unless governments, corporations and individuals take unprecedented action. Environmental activism, the fate of the planet and personal responsibility are the big themes Duffy has set out to explore here.

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Review: How to Disappear – Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

First published in The Times, Thursday December 14 2017

Two Stars 

If you peer closely enough into the murky corners of Becky Minto’s set for this new play by Morna Pearson, you will spot a tiny Christmas tree, lying on its side and pathetically decorated with a couple of strands of tinsel. At the end of the play’s 90-minute running time, snow floats gently down over the stage.

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Review: God of Carnage – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Monday March 13 2017

Three Stars

Yasmina Reza’s most famous play, the frequently revived Art, depicted a friendship tested to breaking point following the acquisition of a large, completely white painting. In Gareth Nicholls’s new production of Reza’s recent hit comedy, God of Carnage, most of the set, created by Karen Tennent, is itself a dazzling white canvas. The furniture and fittings sparkle, like something out of an interior designer’s vision of heaven. Refreshment is served on a white tray bearing gleaming espresso cups and plates.

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Review: Trainspotting – Citizens Theatre, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Thursday September 22 2016

Three Stars

It is now 20 years since Danny Boyle’s film version of Trainspotting burst onto cinema screens, and it is fascinating to note the degree to which its structure and imagery have almost supplanted Irvine Welsh’s nonlinear source novel and the 1994 stage adaptation by Harry Gibson. This revival, directed by Gareth Nicholls for the Citz, owes a marked visual debt to Boyle’s movie, right down to the bold orange-and-black lettering on the promotional material.

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Review: Blackbird – Citizens Theatre, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Tuesday March 1 2016

Four Stars

The old adage has it that you’re never more than six feet away from a rat, but something similar could be said of David Harrower’s Blackbird. The Scottish dramatist’s disturbing two-hander, which premiered at the Edinburgh International Festival in 2005, is even now in the midst of a run on Broadway and has been adapted for film, to be released later in the year.

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Review: Into That Darkness – Citizens Theatre, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Tuesday May 26 2015

Four Stars

Of all the ways that theatre, film and literature have found to deal with the Holocaust, Gitta Sereny’s book Into That Darkness has to be one of the most powerful, with its unyielding focus on one man’s guilt and complicity. First published in 1974, it is a rigorous distillation of 60 hours of interviews with Franz Stangl, commandant of the extermination camps of Treblinka and Sobibor, under whose responsibility about 900,000 prisoners lost their lives.

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