Creating a truly original production of Oscar Wilde’s great comedy is no easy task. Its very familiarity is a major part of its popularity. Much of the dialogue is so axiomatic that you can almost hear the audience pre-empting the actors.
First published in The Times, Tuesday December 3 2019
When the New Year rolls around the actor Barrie Hunter will surely be grateful for a well-earned rest. Having strutted the boards in high heels and higher wigs as Perth Theatre’s resident dame these past few years, Hunter not only stars in, but also writes and directs this year’s panto. Little wonder the good-natured mammy he plays in the show is called Jackie Alltrades (geddit?).
First published in The Times, Monday April 29 2019
The life of Mary, Queen of Scots is the apparent inspiration for this new play from House of Mirth, though its tone is less conventional historical drama than something akin to Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected. The tragic monarch doesn’t even make her entrance until halfway through the hour-long show.
First published in The Times, Monday October 15 2018
Each instalment in Oliver Emanuel’s trilogy exploring the forgotten voices of the First World War has felt distinctive, both in focus and atmosphere. Indeed, this concluding part, Dusk, is the only one of the sequence to be staged in a traditional proscenium-arch theatre. Dawn, which reimagined the stories of three young men shot for cowardice or desertion, took place in a converted barn on a Perthshire farm, while Day, which gave voice to women munitions workers and suffragettes, premiered in a room in the city’s Station Hotel.
First published in The Times, Tuesday December 13 2016
Perth’s lovely Victorian theatre may have been closed for refurbishment for the past couple of years, but this hasn’t prevented Scotland’s oldest repertory company from mounting its successful annual pantomime. For this year’s production, the shelf-like stage of the city’s concert hall has once again been transformed with the addition of a proscenium arch and layers of painted flats.
First published in The Times, Wednesday June 1 2016
Since its inauguration a decade ago, the National Theatre of Scotland has staged work in a number of remarkable places, including pubs, a swimming pool and Edinburgh International Airport. The latest production is perhaps its most adventurous undertaking yet. Audiences are bussed from Perth Concert Hall to an ambitiously reconfigured barn in a field in nearby Pitcairngreen. This is the immersive setting for Oliver Emanuel’s haunting play about three soldiers who were shot for cowardice during the First World War.
First published in The Times, Tuesday June 16 2015
Stage and screen adaptations of Dickens have tended to emphasise the epic scale of the author’s novels. The 15-part Bleak House for BBC television is a case in point, as is the Royal Shakespeare Company’s nine-hour version of Nicholas Nickleby from 1980. But this revival of Jo Clifford’s adaptation of Great Expectations for Dundee Rep and Perth’s Horsecross Arts is one of those rare things: a literary adaptation that abridges the novel’s sprawl without losing sight of the author’s themes of class, social mobility, love and hope.
First published in The Times, Friday March 27 2015
The playwright Stef Smith, who wrote the multi-award-winning Roadkill, knows how to grab an audience’s attention. In the opening scene of her bizarre new play And the Beat Goes On we watch a couple (Julie Brown and Johnny McKnight), decked out in flower power regalia, performing the classic Sonny & Cher anthem of the title against a backdrop of stacked boxes in their suburban garage.