Theatre review: The Signalman – Perth Theatre

First published in The Times, Monday September 27 2021

FOUR STARS

This is not the first time that Peter Arnott, the prolific Scottish dramatist, has explored the Tay Bridge disaster of December 28, 1879. Tay Bridge, his 2019 play, gave voice to some of those who lost their lives when the original Tay Rail Bridge collapsed during a storm, killing all onboard the Burntisland-to-Dundee train, which was crossing at the time. The series of vivid monologues combined to create a broader picture of late 19th century Scottish society.

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Review: The Last Witch – Pitlochry Festival Theatre

First published in The Times, Tuesday September 18 2018

Four Stars

When Rona Munro’s The Last Witch debuted at the Royal Lyceum as part of the 2009 Edinburgh International Festival, the play, inspired by the true story of the last woman to be burned for heresy in Scotland, got lost in an over-the-top staging that included elaborate multimedia, sound and special effects.

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Review: High Society – Pitlochry Festival Theatre

First published in The Times, Tuesday May 30 2017

Three Stars

The 1956 film High Society was one of the biggest box office hits of the year. Yet the MGM musical is considered a pale imitation of The Philadelphia Story, the play and film on which it is based. Even on its original release one reviewer called it “as dated today as the idle rich”. What one remembers of the musical is the iconic staging of some of Cole Porter’s best-loved songs: Bing Crosby serenading Grace Kelly with True Love on a yacht; Bing and Frank Sinatra teaming up for a cracking rendition of Well, Did You Evah!

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Review: Para Handy – Pitlochry Festival Theatre

First published in The Times, Tuesday November 1 2016

Three Stars

You can almost pinpoint a person’s age by which screen version of the Para Handy tales they most fondly recall. The wily captain of the Vital Spark, the Clyde puffer immortalised in Neil Munro’s short stories, has been portrayed on television no less than three times since the 1950s. The most recent adaptation, which starred Gregor Fisher and Rikki Fulton, aired in the mid-Nineties, so we are probably due another remake.

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Review: Carousel – Pitlochry Festival Theatre

First published in The Times, Wednesday June 8 2016

Three Stars

Someone once said that it takes a village to raise a child, and the same thing could be said of staging musical theatre. There are so many specialist talents involved, from the performers to the creative team and musicians that it is hardly surprising most companies would prefer to give shows requiring large casts and big bands a wide berth, not least in these cash-strapped times.

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Review: A Little Night Music – Pitlochry Festival Theatre

First published in The Times, Tuesday July 7 2015

Four Stars

As a producing house in Scotland with the audacity to stage at least one musical each year, Pitlochry Festival Theatre continues to find itself in a minority of one. Having impressed audiences and awards panels alike with recent polished productions of crowd-pleasers such as My Fair Lady and White Christmas, artistic director John Durnin and his team have now set themselves the challenge of tackling something altogether more nuanced.

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