First published in The Times, Friday August 10 2018
The process of debating national identity that characterised the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence continues to make cultural waves in the four years since the vote. In Canada, Québécois artists have had an even longer interval to spend on their national post mortem. It is 23 years since the province held its second referendum on whether to declare independence, a plebiscite that resulted in a wafer-thin “no” vote.
First published in The Times, Thursday May 25 2017
John Knox (Jamie Sives) stands at the front of the stage, watching the audience file into the auditorium. Clad in black, with Bible in hand, he is utterly immobile save for his eyes, which roam the stalls, picking out individual audience members and holding them with an unyielding gaze.
It is a discomforting start to Linda McLean’s new play about the 16th century Scottish Reformer – who was credited with founding the Presbyterian Church – and his various exchanges with that other great icon of the period, Mary, Queen of Scots. The feeling of unease provoked by this opening gambit will be familiar to anyone who has passed under the stare of the statue of Knox that is at the entrance of the Assembly Hall on the Mound in Edinburgh – ironically now a major venue every August during the Festival Fringe.
First published in The Times, Friday August 19 2016
Over the past few years, the Edinburgh International Book Festival has included an increasingly ambitious theatre element in its programme. Previous productions include a starry staging of Alasdair Gray’s play Fleck and Letters Home, a co-production with Grid Iron, the site-specific company.