Panto review: Jack and the Beanstalk – Perth Theatre

First published in The Times, Monday November 28 2022

FOUR STARS

We are in the village of Mickle Muchty, in the shadow of Beinn Mucklemichty, a peak as formidable as the north face of the Eiger, and the rumoured home to a fearsome giant. The setting for this year’s Perth panto also bears a remarkable resemblance to the Fair City, with its references to Murrays Bakers and karaoke night at the Bee Bar.

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Theatre review: Don Quixote – Dundee Rep

First published in The Times, Friday September 30 2022

THREE STARS

There is a gem of an idea at the heart of this comedy by Ben Lewis. Echoing the famous line in Miguel de Cervantes’s 1605 prototype novel, “When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies?”, the playwright reimagines Cervantes’s Man of La Mancha as an octogenarian resident of Clackmannanshire, hovering somewhere between lucidity and delusion, who takes to the road in a mobility scooter, armed with antique weaponry and an unshakeable sense of heroic destiny.

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Theatre review: The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar – Perth Theatre

First published in The Times, Wednesday March 30 2022

FOUR STARS

Audiences are accustomed to seeing Roald Dahl’s children’s stories on stage. Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory were turned into blockbuster musical hits, while David Wood’s faithful adaptations of James and the Giant PeachThe BFG and The Witches are mainstays of the Christmas season.

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Panto review: Cinderella – Perth Theatre

First published in The Times, Monday November 29 2021

FOUR STARS

“I’m a wee bit out of practice,” gasps dame Barrie Hunter, catching his breath and straightening his wig following a strenuous opening number, “it’s been a couple of years.” This moment of witty adlib contains more than a hint of poignancy. It’s hard to believe that two years have passed since audiences cheered and booed along to Perth’s pre-lockdown festive outing, Sinbad.

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Theatre review: Don Juan – Perth Theatre

First published in The Times, Monday October 18 2021

Three Stars

Nineteen months ago, before the pandemic ushered in theatre’s long hibernation, Perth Theatre staged a riotous version of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, with five actors tackling the nine speaking parts. This new adaptation of Molière’s comedy, featuring a script by Grant O’Rourke and direction from Lu Kemp, is an even more ambitious test of its ensemble’s versatility, with a trio of performers covering the dozen or so roles.

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Theatre review: The Signalman – Perth Theatre

First published in The Times, Monday September 27 2021

FOUR STARS

This is not the first time that Peter Arnott, the prolific Scottish dramatist, has explored the Tay Bridge disaster of December 28, 1879. Tay Bridge, his 2019 play, gave voice to some of those who lost their lives when the original Tay Rail Bridge collapsed during a storm, killing all onboard the Burntisland-to-Dundee train, which was crossing at the time. The series of vivid monologues combined to create a broader picture of late 19th century Scottish society.

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Review: The Importance of Being Earnest – Perth Theatre

First published in The Times, Monday March 9 2020

Four Stars

Creating a truly original production of Oscar Wilde’s great comedy is no easy task. Its very familiarity is a major part of its popularity. Much of the dialogue is so axiomatic that you can almost hear the audience pre-empting the actors.

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Review: Sinbad – Perth Theatre

First published in The Times, Tuesday December 3 2019

Four Stars

When the New Year rolls around the actor Barrie Hunter will surely be grateful for a well-earned rest. Having strutted the boards in high heels and higher wigs as Perth Theatre’s resident dame these past few years, Hunter not only stars in, but also writes and directs this year’s panto. Little wonder the good-natured mammy he plays in the show is called Jackie Alltrades (geddit?).

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Review: Kes – Perth Theatre

First published in The Times, Friday November 8 2019

Four Stars

The story goes that Disney considered acquiring the rights to Barry Hines’s 1968 novel A Kestrel for a Knave but withdrew their interest when the author refused to change the book’s downbeat ending. That the non-bowdlerised adaptation, directed by Ken Loach, has proved so enduring since its release 50 years ago is testament to a widespread acceptance on the part of audiences that stories about children need not always be sugary or optimistic.

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Review: Lost at Sea – Perth Theatre

First published in The Times, Wednesday May 1 2019

Four Stars

Morna Young began work on this, her first full-length play, in 2011, but the tragic story at its heart has been bubbling beneath the surface for much longer. Young, from the fishing community of Burghead in Moray, lost her own father, a trawlerman, to the sea in 1989, when she was five years old.

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