Review: Mammy Goose – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Tuesday December 4 2018

Four Stars

The annual Tron pantomime is not exactly renowned for its restraint. This year, every gaudy element has been dialled up to the max. The baroque colour palette of Kenny Miller, the designer, feels more intense than ever. The amount of glitter and PVC on display makes Lady Gaga’s stage costumes look refined. The script, written by Johnny McKnight, who also directs and stars as the titular matriarch, is dizzyingly dense in pop cultural references.

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Review: Bingo! – Assembly Hall, Edinburgh

 

First published in The Times, Monday March 11 2018

Two Stars

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.

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Review: Deathtrap – Dundee Rep

First published in The Times, Saturday February 24 2018

Three Stars

According to the principle of Chekhov’s gun, if we see a firearm on stage in Act One, it must be used by the play’s end. Ira Levin’s thriller Deathtrap certainly sticks faithfully to the Russian’s view that everything we see on stage must have some relevance to the action. As the props on display include several pistols as well as daggers, swords, a mace and a crossbow, the audience spends much of the play bracing itself for the inevitable bloodbath.

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Review: Chick Whittington – Macrobert Arts Centre, Stirling

 

First published in The Times, Tuesday November 28 2017

Three Stars

As 2017 is an odd-numbered year, Johnny McKnight is not only writing the pantomime at the Macrobert but also directing and pouring himself in and out of a ludicrous selection of wigs and frocks in his role as dame. The artistic director of Random Accomplice switches between the Stirling arts centre and Glasgow’s Tron at this most wonderful time of the year.

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Review: The Snaw Queen – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Wednesday December 7 2016

Four Stars

 

Imagine Hans Christian Andersen, John Waters and a young Pedro Almódovar getting together for Christmas and you have some measure of the lurid delights of this year’s Tron panto. The title is, of course, derived from Andersen’s wintry classic, but the mix of bawdy, outrageous fun and good, old-fashioned pantomime tradition, is pure Johnny McKnight.

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Review: Weans in the Wood – Macrobert Arts Centre, Stirling

First published in The Times, Monday November 28 2016

Four Stars

If Johnny McKnight, the playwright, performer and artistic director of Random Accomplice, could split himself into multiple clones, he would probably be called upon to write, helm and play the dame in half a dozen pantomimes across Scotland every festive season. As the ability to be in several places at once isn’t yet de rigueur, theatres must take it in turns for the full McKnight Christmas package of script, direction and virtuosic improvised banter.

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Review: Cock – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Saturday February 13 2016

Three Stars

When Mike Bartlett’s 2009 comedy drama received its first production in New York in 2012, newspaper reviewers and advertisers primly rechristened it The Cockfight Play. Glasgow’s Tron, which is producing the Scottish premiere, seems similarly conflicted about the play’s original title. While the poster depicts a pair of fowls knocking the feathers off each other, the theatre is promoting the show on social media using the hashtag #NotAboutChickens.

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Reviews: The Little Mermaid – Macrobert Arts Centre, Stirling; The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh

First published in The Times, Monday November 30 2015

The Little Mermaid: Four Stars

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: Three Stars

 

With its red-haired heroine, shimmering backcloth and bold, primary-coloured costumes, this year’s Christmas show at the Macrobert owes as much of a debt of influence to Walt Disney as it does to Hans Christian Andersen. The witty, up-to-date script and irreverent atmosphere are very much in keeping with what we’ve come to expect from the Stirling panto, however. We’ve barely taken our seats before Drop Dead Gorgeous Daz (played by Robert Jack in the same fright wig he wore last year as Wishee Washee) lets off the show’s first fart gag, and this pretty much sets the tone for the next two hours.

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Review: And the Beat Goes On – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Friday March 27 2015

Two Stars

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.

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