Theatre review: Orphans – SEC Armadillo, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Sunday April 10 2022

FOUR STARS

Nostalgia for the 90s is pervasive at present, and this new musical from the National Theatre of Scotland will be catnip to those who hark back fondly to the decade of New Labour, devolution, Trainspotting and Friends. The production is an adaptation of the 1998 film directed by Peter Mullan: one of a string of Glasgow-set gems from the era that also includes Small Faces and Stella Does Tricks.

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Review: The Alchemist – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Friday October 11 2019

Three Stars

When Mark Twain observed that “humour is tragedy plus time” he may well have had The Alchemist in mind. Ben Jonson’s 1610 play about a trio of con artists who commandeer a gentleman’s house for a series of scams is the original riotous farce, complete with door slamming, mistaken identity and characters hiding in cupboards and lavatories. Yet its humour is savage, the language violent and the backdrop — a plague-ridden London — forbidding.

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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: Jack and the Beanstalk – SEC Armadillo, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Friday December 22 2017

Three Stars

Comic turns have always taken precedence over the romantic leads in pantomime. Widow Twankey regularly gets higher billing than her own son. Sarah the Cook is generally further up the food chain than Dick Whittington. Even at the ball the Ugly Sisters and Buttons tend to outshine poor Cinderella.

 

In the case of the Armadillo’s panto, the roll call of comedians and celebrities is brasher and starrier than at any other seasonal offering in Scotland. After all, this is no ordinary festive show, but a “giant pantomime spectacular”.

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Review: Cuttin’ a Rug – Citizens Theatre, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Wednesday February 15 2017

Four Stars

The middle instalment of a trilogy can often feel inessential: the slightly sagging bridge between a punchy opening and satisfactory denouement. This revival of the second part of John Byrne’s Slab Boys trilogy reaffirms the play as every bit as funny and poignant as episode one. If anything, Caroline Paterson’s production is a cut above the David Hayman-directed revival of The Slab Boys – staged at the same theatre a couple of years ago.

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Reviews: The Witches – Dundee Rep; Sleeping Betty – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

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.

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