When, a year ago, the National Theatre of Scotland unveiled the first instalment in its proposed trilogy of plays addressing the forgotten voices of World War I, the company effectively created a bespoke theatre space in a vast barn on a Perthshire farm. This follow-up, again written by the playwright Olivier Emanuel, with music by Gareth Williams, shifts the focus from a trio of men shot for cowardice or desertion during the Great War to women munitions workers, pacifists and suffragettes. The production, directed by Jemima Levick, has a stripped-back, intimate feel, and is being toured around smaller venues the length and breadth of Scotland.
First published in The Times, Monday August 22 2016
The prospect of a second co-production between the National Theatre of Scotland and the New York-based Theatre of the Emerging Moment (TEAM) is mouth-watering. Their first collaborative piece, Architecting, which drew on characters from Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind to show how history is constructed through popular culture, won awards at the fringe in 2008.
First published in The Times, Wednesday June 1 2016
Since its inauguration a decade ago, the National Theatre of Scotland has staged work in a number of remarkable places, including pubs, a swimming pool and Edinburgh International Airport. The latest production is perhaps its most adventurous undertaking yet. Audiences are bussed from Perth Concert Hall to an ambitiously reconfigured barn in a field in nearby Pitcairngreen. This is the immersive setting for Oliver Emanuel’s haunting play about three soldiers who were shot for cowardice during the First World War.
First published in The Times, Friday August 21 2015
James Hogg’s 1824 novel The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner is a key text of the Scottish literary canon: its fingerprints can be seen on everything from Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde to the performance videos of Douglas Gordon. Yet this co-production from Stewart Laing’s Untitled Projects in association with the National Theatre of Scotland and Tramway is no reverent adaptation. This, after all, is the director and company that brought us the immersive The Salon Project and a version of Genet’s The Maids that cast young men in the leads and featured a question-and-answer session with the director midway through act two.
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, Wednesday June 24 2015
Muriel Spark’s 1970 novella The Driver’s Seat would probably be considered too much of a curiosity for publication today. The protagonist is Lise, a woman in her thirties, alienated and unhinged by the rituals of her office job, who travels from northern to southern Europe, ostensibly in search of “her type”. Spark pulls the carpet out from under her readers’ feet by revealing, barely three chapters in, that her central character will be brutally murdered.
The 1991 BBC adaptation of Roberto Cossa’s La Nona featured no less a comedy legend than the late Les Dawson in the title role. By the same token the cast list for this National Theatre of Scotland production reads like a who’s who of Scottish comedy, with Rab C Nesbitt star Gregor Fisher returning to the stage for the first time in 30 years to tackle the pitiless 100-year-old matriarch who literally eats her family out of house and home.