First published in The Times, Thursday April 7 2022
Ellen Wilkinson — one of the first female members of parliament — may not have the name recognition of some of her male counterparts, but her life and political career were no less eventful. As the Labour MP for Middlesbrough East from 1924-31, then Jarrow in Tyne and Wear between 1935-47, she organised and participated in the most famous of the “hunger marches” of the 1930s. She rubbed shoulders with Ernest Hemingway during the Spanish Civil War, and later served as a minister in Churchill’s wartime coalition and in the postwar Attlee government.
Continue reading “Theatre review: Red Ellen – Northern Stage, Newcastle”
First published in The Times, Wednesday November 3 2021
Jo Clifford’s translation of Life is a Dream was originally due to be staged at the Lyceum back in May 2020. In the intervening period, when at times everyday life has taken on the character of nightmare, Pedro Calderón’s classic of the Spanish Golden Age has only acquired new potency.
Continue reading “Theatre review: Life is a Dream – Lyceum, Edinburgh”
First published in The Times, Wednesday March 27 2019
Patrick Hamilton’s 1938 play has long been a staple of repertory theatre. The “Victorian thriller in three acts” certainly supplies plenty of crowd-pleasing elements: shadowy setting, spooky sound and lighting effects, and plot revelations that can make an audience gasp.
Continue reading “Review: Gaslight – Perth Theatre”
First published in The Times, Thursday December 14 2017
If you peer closely enough into the murky corners of Becky Minto’s set for this new play by Morna Pearson, you will spot a tiny Christmas tree, lying on its side and pathetically decorated with a couple of strands of tinsel. At the end of the play’s 90-minute running time, snow floats gently down over the stage.
Continue reading “Review: How to Disappear – Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh”
First published in The Times, Tuesday November 14 2017
Live music has long been an integral part of Scottish theatre. The influence of the music hall can be found in everything from pantomime to political works by 7:84 and Wildcat. Recent successes from the National Theatre of Scotland have included the musical Glasgow Girls and The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart, a piece of “ceilidh-theatre” that toured pubs and village halls.
Continue reading “Review: Tabula Rasa – Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh”
First published in The Times, Friday October 13 2017
The promotional image for this revival of Bridget Boland’s Cockpit is a frenzied blue scribble in the middle of the map of Europe. The simple image encapsulates the impossible task – depicted in the play – of returning displaced peoples to their countries of origins in the aftermath of World War Two, yet it also speaks eloquently of the inadequacies of the nation state in 2017. Boland’s script feels so up-to-date that it inspires repeated glances at the programme notes to double check that it really does date back to 1948.
Continue reading “Review: Cockpit – Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh”
First published in The Times, Tuesday December 15 2015
An encounter between Mother Christmas and a talking polar bear sounds like the premise for one of Raymond Briggs’s wintry graphic novels for children. This double bill of thematically linked plays may dabble in the realms of the fantastic and metaphorical but, like The Devil Masters, last year’s seasonal show at the Traverse, the content is aimed squarely at grown-ups.
Continue reading “Review: Tracks of the Winter Bear – Traverse, Edinburgh”
First published in The Times, Friday August 14 2015
Stoirm Òg – the bilingual English-Gaelic theatre company founded by writer-performer Elspeth Turner – caused a modest splash at the fringe in 2012 with the gothic Hebridean family drama The Idiot at the Wall. Turner’s new work, inspired by the folklore and storytelling traditions of the north-east of Scotland, further reveals a company of significant range and ambition even if at times both the play and this production feel a little overstuffed.
Continue reading “Review: SpectreTown – Assembly Hall, Edinburgh Fringe”
Published in The Times, Wednesday April 8 2015
Kai Fischer’s brief, beautiful piece of immersive theatre brings together two seemingly disparate stories. The more familiar tale is that of the first manned flight into space by the Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. Fischer places this alongside personal accounts of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa attempting to cross the Mediterranean into Europe.
In different hands this combination might have appeared contrived, but by maintaining a tight focus on the first-person point of view, the Glasgow-based director and designer achieves a subjective, at times quietly devastating portrait of human courage in adversity.
Continue reading “Review: Last Dream (On Earth) – Tron Theatre, Glasgow”