First published in The Times, Monday October 24 2022
Joseph Knight, the young black slave brought to Scotland by Sir John Wedderburn from Jamaica in the late 18th century, disappeared from history following the landmark court case that secured his freedom in 1778. His name has returned to the public consciousness in recent years. James Robertson’s eponymous 2003 novel sets Knight’s story against a rich backdrop of fallout from the Jacobite uprising, Enlightenment Edinburgh, and Scotland’s immersion in the transatlantic slave trade.
Continue reading “Theatre review: Enough of Him – Pitlochry Festival Theatre”
First published in The Times, Wednesday October 5 2022
Eight years on from the epic trilogy that formed the centrepiece of the 2014 Edinburgh International Festival, the playwright Rona Munro continues her history cycle, based around the lives and (mostly) violent deaths of Scotland’s Stuart kings and queens. Familiar names returning for this latest instalment include Laurie Sansom, the former artistic director of the National Theatre of Scotland, and the veteran actor Blythe Duff, who was the linchpin of the original James Plays.
Continue reading “Theatre review: James IV: Queen of the Fight – Festival Theatre, Edinburgh”
First published in The Times, Monday August 15 2022
Liz Lochhead’s celebrated adaptation of Euripides first took Edinburgh by storm in 2001 in an award-winning production by Theatre Babel at the Assembly Rooms, with Maureen Beattie in the title role. It has taken more than 20 years for the play to make the short journey from New Town to Old, and from the Fringe to the international festival, courtesy of Michael Boyd’s revival for the National Theatre of Scotland.
Continue reading “Edinburgh review: Medea – The Hub”
First published in The Times, Sunday April 10 2022
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.
Continue reading “Theatre review: Orphans – SEC Armadillo, Glasgow”
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.”
Continue reading “Theatre review: Lament for Sheku Bayoh – Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh”
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 Alive or the National Theatre of Scotland’s production of Red Dust Road, which just completed its Scottish tour.
Continue reading “Review: The Panopticon – Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh”
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.
Continue reading “Edinburgh review: Red Dust Road – Royal Lyceum”
First published in The Times, Monday July 1 2019
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.
Continue reading “Review: Them! – Tramway, Glasgow”
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.
Continue reading “Review: The 306: Dusk – Perth Theatre”
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.
Continue reading “Review: Cyrano de Bergerac –Tramway, Glasgow”