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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Review: The Last Bordello – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Thursday February 15 2018

Three Stars

On entering the auditorium, the audience is handed a “programme” in the form of a crumpled piece of paper that’s festooned with scribbled notes and illustrations. As the house lights go down the curtain slides hurriedly back and forth across the front of the stage, offering a narrow, keyhole-view of the scene within.


Such novelties might provoke a few raised eyebrows among the uninitiated, but followers of the work of David Leddy and Fire Exit are accustomed to expecting the unexpected. This, after all, is the writer and director who conducted his audience around the bowels and backstage of the Citizens Theatre for his gothic melodrama, Sub Rosa, and invited us to don kimonos and sit within a circle of origami birds as the action unfolded on the Japan-inspired White Tea.

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Review: Cinderella – Citizens Theatre, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Monday December 4 2017

Four Stars

There are a couple of golden rules that must be observed when it comes to staging a winning Christmas show. The first is never to forget the importance of a good story, simply yet effectively told in theatrical form, and in Stuart Paterson’s enduring adaptation of Cinderella, Dominic Hill, the director, and his team at the Citizens are working from a copper-bottomed classic.

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Review: Mary Rose – Pitlochry Festival Theatre

First published in The Times, Tuesday June 20 2017

Three Stars

JM Barrie, the author of Peter Pan, was afflicted in later life by writer’s cramp and could only write for any length of time with his left hand. He noted that the work he produced at this point took on an eerier quality, as though his left hand was channelling darker aspects of his personality. Mary Rose, written in the immediate aftermath of the First World War, with its portrayal of a young life frozen in time, is strikingly similar in theme to the Kirriemuir-born author’s most enduring and iconic work, though laced through with subtle chills.

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Review: The Crucible – Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh

First published in The Times, Monday February 22 2016

Four Stars

Over the past decade the director John Dove has made the work of Arthur Miller a regular fixture of the Royal Lyceum’s repertoire. As well as offering strong, compelling productions of the acknowledged classics, including Death of a Salesman and All My Sons, he has also staged rare revivals of neglected works such as The Price and The Man Who Had All the Luck.

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Review: Shirley Valentine – Byre Theatre, St Andrews

First published in The Times, Thursday July 30 2015

Three Stars

The unique selling point of live theatre is, of course, its unpredictability. Due to bereavement the actress Angela Darcy has had to withdraw from the Byre’s production of Shirley Valentine, with Irene Allan her eleventh hour replacement. With barely two days’ rehearsal under her belt, Allan bravely takes to the stage for the opening night of Willy Russell’s bittersweet comedy, performing the second part of the play with the script in hand.

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