First published in The Times, Monday October 18 2021
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.
First published in The Times, Monday September 27 2021
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.
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.
First published in The Times, Tuesday December 3 2019
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?).
First published in The Times, Friday November 8 2019
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.
First published in The Times, Wednesday May 1 2019
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.
First published in The Times, Wednesday March 27 2019
Patrick Hamilton’s 1938 play has long been a staple of repertory theatre. The “Victorian thriller in three acts” certainly supplies plenty of crowd-pleasing elements: shadowy setting, spooky sound and lighting effects, and plot revelations that can make an audience gasp.
First published in The Times, Wednesday February 20 2019
Unlike those pesky, proverbial buses, productions of August Strindberg’s Miss Julie tend to come along with reassuring frequency. Since its premiere in 1889 the story of the aristocratic young Swedish woman fatally drawn to her father’s servant has reached far beyond its original setting and time frame.
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.
Some Richards are so grotesquely charismatic that they overwhelm everything else onstage. This was the case with Lars Eidinger’s performance as the Machiavellian prince in Thomas Ostermeier’s acclaimed production of Shakespeare, which stopped off at the Edinburgh International Festival a couple of years back. The German actor exploded the stage at the Lyceum with a raucous turn that included berating members of the audience and enticing the entire house into chanting along with his most profane lines.