First published in The Times, Thursday July 26 2018
There is something discomfiting, even perversely fascinating, about watching Rodney Ackland’s 1949 play in the very week that warnings about food shortages and rationing in the event of a hard Brexit have dominated the news agenda. The backdrop to Ackland’s adaptation of a short story by W Somerset Maugham is a Britain caught in the painful aftershocks of the war where almost every conversation contains references to cost and availability.
First published in The Times, Tuesday July 10 2018
At first glance, there appears to be a bulky, Oscar Wilde-shaped hole in Pitlochry Festival Theatre’s summer season programme. Lively, intelligent productions of the great aesthete’s masterpieces, from An Ideal Husband to The Importance of Being Earnest, all directed by Richard Baron, have been among the rural theatre’s more memorable outings in recent years.
First published in The Times, Friday September 16 2016
Size isn’t everything. When David Edgar adapted Charles Dickens’s The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby for the Royal Shakespeare Company back in 1980, the production ran to eight-and-a-half hours and featured a dramatis personae of 115 speaking parts. The show, directed by Trevor Nunn, scooped major awards and transferred to Broadway, but it doesn’t take a genius to explain why Edgar’s 1000-page script has rarely been revived since.
First published in The Times, Thursday June 23 2016
A couple of years back the playwright and actor Clive Francis was charged with dusting down Ben Travers’s 1927 farce for a revival at London’s Park Theatre. “He wasn’t brilliant with endings,” said Francis. “So hopefully with Ben’s voice firmly in my ear I’ve come up with a twist which will be pleasing to a modern day audience, especially those who have never seen the play.”
First published in The Times, Monday September 7 2015
The final production in this year’s summer season at the theatre in the hills is an intimate affair: a welcome revival of David Greig’s haunting 2005 play. Pyrenees is a loose sequel to Greig’s 1999 work, The Cosmonaut’s Message to the Woman He Once Loved in the Former Soviet Union, whose many strands includes the search conducted by a woman named Vivienne for her missing husband, Keith. Where the earlier play is a mosaic of connections between seemingly disparate characters across multiple locations, this follow up is notable for its quiet restraint and melancholic humour.
First published in The Times, Thursday August 6 2015
Line by line, Oscar Wilde’s masterpiece is so familiar you can almost hear the audience mouthing along to some of the speeches. Yet there’s a reverent hush before Margaret Preece, as Lady Bracknell, delivers the play’s most famous line. Will she opt for the time-honoured Edith Evans method of enunciating all nine of the syllables in the word “handbag” or, as it transpires, something altogether more understated but just as devastating?
First published in The Times, Tuesday July 14 2015
Faced with the prospect of having a stranger’s Bedford van parked in their driveway for more than a decade, most homeowners would have seen red. Alan Bennett, however, spotted a creative opening in his uninvited guest’s filthy clothes, offhand manner and ripe odour. His 15-year relationship with the eccentric, reactionary Miss Shepherd would ultimately lead the playwright to pen a radio series, a play and a feature film, to be released later this year.