A few lines from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, describing a world whose seasons are in disarray, perfectly encapsulate the experience of seeing theatre in Scotland at present: “The spring, the summer, the childing autumn, angry winter change their wonted liveries, and the mazèd world, by their increase, now knows not which is which.”
Not only is Pitlochry Festival Theatre currently staging Alan Ayckbourn’s Absurd Person Singular, a play set over three consecutive Christmas Eves, the Tron’s summer show is a revival of Anthony Neilson’s The Lying Kind, whose farcical action unfolds against a backdrop of tinsel and holly wreaths.
First published in The Times, Tuesday December 16 2015
Beauty and the Beast: Four Stars
Cinderella: Three Stars
Perth’s Victorian theatre may be in the midst of an extensive restoration but, for the second festive season in a row, the proscenium archway has been lovingly recreated on the stage of the city’s concert hall. This year’s pantomime, scripted by the ever-reliable Alan McHugh, is Beauty and the Beast, with a refreshing emphasis on the former rather than the latter.
The story unfolds against an array of gorgeous painted backdrops, created by the designer Ken Harrison, with stunning costumes to match, from Belle’s (AmyBeth Littlejohn) sumptuous gold ball gown to the increasingly over-the-top frocks and topknots modelled by Barrie Hunter’s Dame Betty Blumenthal.
First published in The Times, Wednesday August 19 2015
Dragons are everywhere in popular culture at present, but the emotional landscape depicted in this Scottish/Chinese co-production is worlds away from the high fantasy territory of Tolkien or Game of Thrones. Oliver Emanuel’s play for ages nine and upwards, staged by the Glasgow-based company Vox Motus in association with the National Theatre of Scotland and the Tianjin People’s Art Theatre of China, features the sense of adventure, pace and visual humour you expect from the best popular entertainment. Yet, in its depiction of the grief suffered by a young boy at the death of his mother, it is remarkably unflinching.
First published in The Times, Tuesday April 28 2015
It takes a long time to adjust to the bizarre universe of Douglas Maxwell’s new comedy. The action ostensibly takes place in the Govanhill area of Glasgow during a sweltering heat wave but the off-centre atmosphere created in Dominic Hill’s production is more akin to Twin Peaks than River City.
First published in The Times, Thursday March 19 2015
Mention the papal visit to Scotland in May 1982 and the image that comes to mind is probably that of John Paul II saying mass for 300,000 Scottish Catholics in Glasgow’s Bellahouston Park. While that now legendary occasion forms the backdrop to this three-hander, presented by A Play, a Pie and a Pint in association with the Traverse Theatre, Martin McCormick, the playwright, astutely chooses to focus on those who were left behind or excluded on the day rather than the crowds waving banners in the park.