Review: Mrs Puntila and Her Man Matti – Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh

First published in The Times, Thursday March 5 2020

Two Stars

On paper this gender-swapped version of Bertolt Brecht’s 1940 comedy looks intriguing. The novelist Denise Mina adapts, with the redoubtable Elaine C Smith in the lead and the award-winning Turkish director Murat Daltaban at the helm. Yet while the production features some fine flourishes, there is no escaping the overall sense of a messy and incoherent assemblage.

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Review: Barber Shop Chronicles

First published in The Times, Monday October 28 2019

Four Stars

In Inua Ellams’s acclaimed play, the barber’s shop is much more than a place to go for a haircut. “This is a space for talk,” says Emmanuel (Anthony Ofoegbu), the proprietor of the busy gents hairdresser that provides the play’s recurring setting. There is a sense throughout that no subject is off limits.

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Review: Solaris – Lyceum, Edinburgh

First published in The Times, Monday September 16 2019

Four Stars

The best-known novel by the Polish science-fiction writer Stanislaw Lem is a story that never dies. Solaris, which depicts a group of scientists attempting contact with a seemingly sentient planet, has been filmed three times, notably by the Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky in 1972 and Steven Soderbergh in 2002, and has been adapted several times for theatre and opera.

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Review: La Maladie de la Mort – Lyceum, Edinburgh

First published in The Times, Monday August 20 2018

Four Stars

In Marguerite Duras’s 1982 novella, The Malady of Death, a man pays a woman to spend time with him at a seaside hotel in order that he might “try to love”. The author sought to recreate on the page the immediacy of the theatre: the spare text is reminiscent of a script with stage directions. At one point, Duras describes the room in which her characters meet as a “theatre”.

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Review: Creditors – Lyceum, Edinburgh

First published in The Times, Thursday May 3 2018

Four Stars

August Strindberg wrote Creditors in 1888 as part of the creative torrent that also produced his most famous work, Miss Julie. Both plays exhibit the visceral dialogue and intense exploration of shifts in power within relationships for which the prolific and influential Swedish playwright is known, while also giving vent to his mordant and rather contradictory view of women. He was known to refer to Siri von Essen, the first of his three wives, as “the vampire”, though he also maintained that “the presence of women tends to elevate men”.

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Review: The Belle’s Stratagem – Lyceum, Edinburgh

 

First published in The Times, Tuesday February 20 2018

Four Stars

 

While Hannah Cowley is hardly a household name today, the playwright was well known to audiences in the late 18th century, at a time when the theatre was at its peak as a popular art form. Her most successful work, The Belle’s Stratagem, which premiered in 1780, and is a response to George Farquhar’s The Beaux Stratagem, was one of the most revived comedies of the period.

 

While originally set in London, the action transposes neatly to Georgian Edinburgh in Tony Cownie’s sparkling adaptation, with references to the burgeoning New Town, the loyal toast to the “King over the Water” and cameos from luminaries of the period, including the fiddler, Niel Gow.

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Review: Richard III – Lyceum, Edinburgh

First published in The Times, Friday August 26 2016

Three Stars

What a pity for Thomas Ostermeier that the legendary Moira Knox is no longer alive to see his raucous Shakespeare adaptation. The production, which originated at Berlin’s renowned Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz, contains all the ingredients that would have had the late Tory councillor and self-appointed guardian of public decency frothing at the mouth and therefore guaranteeing the director an Edinburgh International Festival smash hit.

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