First published in The Times, Thursday August 26 2021
The bare facts of the event that inspired Hannah Lavery’s poignant and powerful play now ring horribly familiar. In May 2015 Sheku Bayoh, a young black man who had been reported to police for his erratic behaviour in a Kirkcaldy street, was confronted and forcibly restrained by a number of officers. He lost consciousness at the scene and never recovered.
The most shocking element — to some at least — is that this tragedy took place in a Scottish town and not in Missouri or Minneapolis. Characters in Lavery’s play lament that such an event could occur in a country that sees itself as inclusive. “This is Scotland,” one says. “It’s not Black Lives Matter.”
First published in The Times, Thursday October 17 2019
It seems that you can’t move these days for stage adaptations of literary works. A familiar title is a strong draw, whether it’s the dramatisation of Matt Haig’s mental health memoir Reasons to Stay Aliveor the National Theatre of Scotland’s production of Red Dust Road, which just completed its Scottish tour.
First published in The Times, Friday August 16 2019
Tanika Gupta’s adaptation of the bestselling memoir by Jackie Kay, Scotland’s makar (national poet), is full of moments that break the heart and stir joy. It was almost bound to be. The book, which weaves the author’s 20-year search for her birth family with memories of her upbringing as the mixed-race, adopted daughter of white Scottish parents, is written with an irresistible vitality and generosity of spirit. Its universality comes from its attempt to address the great mystery of what makes us who we are.
There is so much going in this new show from the director-writer team of Stewart Laing and Pamela Carter that even the cavernous space of the Tramway struggles to contain it. As in previous works from the pair’s Untitled Projects, which include Slope and Paul Bright’s Confessions of a Justified Sinner, this collaboration with the National Theatre of Scotland takes the form of a dense collage of ideas, images and provocations. The mix results in some fascinating moments, even if the disparate elements don’t entirely cohere.
First published in The Times, Monday October 15 2018
Each instalment in Oliver Emanuel’s trilogy exploring the forgotten voices of the First World War has felt distinctive, both in focus and atmosphere. Indeed, this concluding part, Dusk, is the only one of the sequence to be staged in a traditional proscenium-arch theatre. Dawn, which reimagined the stories of three young men shot for cowardice or desertion, took place in a converted barn on a Perthshire farm, while Day, which gave voice to women munitions workers and suffragettes, premiered in a room in the city’s Station Hotel.
First published in The Times, Monday September 10 2018
The autumn theatre season has rolled around again, but for Dominic Hill and the Citizens Theatre it is far from business as usual. Cyrano de Bergerac is the company’s first production since taking up residence at nearby Tramway while its Gorbals HQ undergoes renovations. Hill’s take on Edmond Rostand’s 1897 verse drama, based on the celebrated 1992 Scots translation by Edwin Morgan, is an ambitious team effort, co-produced by the National Theatre of Scotland and the Royal Lyceum, that will tour stages around the country.
First published in The Times, Wednesday August 22 2018
It is 30 years since Daniel Day-Lewis won the first of his three Academy awards for Best Actor for his role as Christy Brown in the biopic My Left Foot. While the actor’s remarkable performance as the Irish writer and artist, born with cerebral palsy, was lauded for its bravery and commitment, with hindsight it seems a prime example of “Oscar bait”, whereby actors take on extreme physical transformations with one eye fixed firmly on the awards season.
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, Friday April 27 2018
Clearly, there is something in the zeitgeist. From Outnumbered to Motherland, there has been a steady trickle of television sitcoms in recent years lampooning the chaos, guilt and tedium of modern parenting. Frances Poet’s latest play occupies the same gaudy terrain of soft play centres, nurseries and adventure playgrounds. Yet, aside from one amusing sequence involving a tussle between two adults over a Kermit the Frog figurine, its mood never strays far from the dark end of the spectrum.
First published in The Times, Saturday September 30 2017
A rocket filled with letters fired from one island to another sounds like the premise for an offbeat fairy tale or children’s fantasy. The image is a resonant one, combining benign public service with a technology more commonly used in warfare. The idea is all the more intriguing when you consider that Lewis Hetherington’s new play for young people is based on true events.