First published in The Times, Monday February 24 2020
It is said that all political careers end in failure; the same observation could be made about most football managers. Jim McLean’s final match in charge of Dundee United ended in a 4-1 loss to Aberdeen. Nonetheless, the fans insisted on their club’s longest-serving manager taking a lap of honour.
First published in The Times, Tuesday December 4 2018
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.
First published in The Times, Wednesday December 7 2016
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.
First published in The Times, Tuesday March 8 2016
It would appear there are two possible approaches that can be taken when dramatising the crime fiction of Agatha Christie. The BBC may have made a bold attempt to inject some social context and depth of characterisation into their recent dark adaptation of And Then There Were None. Yet, the work of the Queen of Crime is still more familiar to stage and screen audiences as a kind of camp pageant, in which characters with all the complexity of Cluedo figurines gather to hear the solution to what amounts to an intricate puzzle.
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, Friday March 27 2015
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.