First published in The Times, Monday March 11 2018
In many ways, the bingo hall is the ideal place in which to set a site-specific show. Like live theatre at its best, a night at the bingo is a collective experience that’s a little different every time, leaving its participants trembling on the edge of their seats, on the verge of elation or disappointment.
It is surprising that this new musical comedy, produced by Stellar Quines in collaboration with Grid Iron, the leading company specialising in site-specific work in Scotland, makes no attempt to fully immerse its audience within such a giddy atmosphere. We watch the action unfold against the glittery backdrop of Carys Hobbs and Becky Minto’s set at one remove, and the experience is akin to spying on a party to which we haven’t been invited.
First published in The Times, Thursday January 25 2018
The weaving of dance elements into drama has become so widespread as to be unremarkable, even if certain productions tack on passages of movement in such marginal ways that they seem almost afterthoughts. Unusually, this adaptation of Marguerite Duras’s novel, created by Fleur Darkin of Scottish Dance Theatre and Jemima Levick, the artistic director of Stellar Quines, professes a 50:50 split between the two forms. While sporadically effective, their collaboration fails to capture the visceral power of its source.
First published in The Times, Friday August 11 2017
Idi Amin had such an obsession with Scotland that he regularly wore kilts, relaxed to bagpipe music and named four of his sons Campbell, McLaren, McKenzie and Mackintosh. For Jaimini Jethwa, growing up in Dundee in the 1970s, the fascination was mutual. Jethwa and her family were among the 60,000 south Asians expelled from Uganda by the dictator in 1972. Following a spell in a refugee camp in Kent, Jethwa’s parents opted to resettle in the “Jute City” because, unlike other parts of the UK, there was no waiting list.
When, a year ago, the National Theatre of Scotland unveiled the first instalment in its proposed trilogy of plays addressing the forgotten voices of World War I, the company effectively created a bespoke theatre space in a vast barn on a Perthshire farm. This follow-up, again written by the playwright Olivier Emanuel, with music by Gareth Williams, shifts the focus from a trio of men shot for cowardice or desertion during the Great War to women munitions workers, pacifists and suffragettes. The production, directed by Jemima Levick, has a stripped-back, intimate feel, and is being toured around smaller venues the length and breadth of Scotland.
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, 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.