First published in The Times, Saturday September 30 2017
A rocket filled with letters fired from one island to another sounds like the premise for an offbeat fairy tale or children’s fantasy. The image is a resonant one, combining benign public service with a technology more commonly used in warfare. The idea is all the more intriguing when you consider that Lewis Hetherington’s new play for young people is based on true events.
First published in The Times, Monday December 7 2015
The Witches: Three Stars
Sleeping Betty: Three Stars
A Roald Dahl adaptation at Dundee Rep has become as much a staple of the Christmas season as mince pies. This is the third year in a row that the ensemble has staged one of David Wood’s adaptations of the celebrated author’s twisted children’s tales, with a production of George’s Marvellous Medicine already slated for next year.
Like George’s potion or the formula developed by the Grand High Witch to turn children into mice, at its best Dahl’s absurdist, somewhat menacing sensibility is a recipe for dark theatrical magic. Jemima Levick’s production of The Witches certainly doesn’t lack pungent set pieces, notably the anarchic hotel dining room sequence, in which the tale’s boy-to-mouse hero (Matthew Forbes) tries to turn the tables on the dastardly coven. The show gains further levity from its use of live music, developed by Gavin Swift and performed live.
First published in The Times, Thursday August 6 2015
Line by line, Oscar Wilde’s masterpiece is so familiar you can almost hear the audience mouthing along to some of the speeches. Yet there’s a reverent hush before Margaret Preece, as Lady Bracknell, delivers the play’s most famous line. Will she opt for the time-honoured Edith Evans method of enunciating all nine of the syllables in the word “handbag” or, as it transpires, something altogether more understated but just as devastating?
As the writer of nearly 80 full-length plays, there can’t be much Alan Ayckbourn does not know about the creative process. The thrill of letting the imagination run riot is at the heart of his 2005 play Improbable Fiction – a theme he explores through the dreams and frustrations of a motley rural creative writing circle, led by the mild-mannered Arnold (Ronnie Simon).