First published in The Times, Friday October 26 2018
The elevator pitch for Clear White Light is certainly attention-grabbing: a contemporary retelling of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher set in a psychiatric unit and featuring the songs of Alan Hull of Lindisfarne.
The production — the first to be mounted by the new artistic director of Live, Joe Douglas — is an odd hybrid of enjoyable, if hackneyed, gothic drama, scripted by Paul Sirett, interspersed with dynamically staged musical numbers performed by a live band alongside members of the acting ensemble. The idiosyncratic premise makes sense in the light of Hull’s experiences of working at St Nicholas Hospital in Newcastle as a trainee psychiatric nurse in the Sixties. He escaped into Poe’s short stories during quiet night shifts.
First published in The Times, Tuesday June 20 2017
JM Barrie, the author of Peter Pan, was afflicted in later life by writer’s cramp and could only write for any length of time with his left hand. He noted that the work he produced at this point took on an eerier quality, as though his left hand was channelling darker aspects of his personality. Mary Rose, written in the immediate aftermath of the First World War, with its portrayal of a young life frozen in time, is strikingly similar in theme to the Kirriemuir-born author’s most enduring and iconic work, though laced through with subtle chills.
How often do we reach for technology – unlock our phones or fire up our laptops – to escape the daily grind or overcome the transient blues? In Stef Smith’s new play, Polly (Rosalind Sydney) and Owen (Michael Dylan) are that enviable couple who appear to have it all: youth, energy, career success and a genuine, burgeoning love. Still, there is something almost inevitable about Polly’s tragic slide into dependency on a seductive new piece of hardware.
It is no mean feat to take a play as endlessly revived and oft discussed as Arthur Miller’s Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece and make audiences feel as though they are seeing it for the first time. Yet this production, directed by Joe Douglas for the Dundee Rep ensemble, offers an abundance of fresh perspectives on a text many people first encounter as high school students.
First published in The Times, Tuesday October 13 2015
Ibsen’s naturalistic social drama was famously described by one early critic as “a loathsome sore unbandaged”. Megan Barker’s modernised version, currently playing at the Tron, attempts to up the ante, opening with a bloody collision with a deer and advancing through a roll call of pathologies – paedophilia, adultery, alcoholism and drug addiction – to the play’s grotesque final scenes. Yet, despite all the violence and profanity on display, the tone achieved in Andy Arnold’s production is more akin to histrionic soap opera than a ghost story with unsettling contemporary resonance.