First published in The Times, Tuesday December 12 2017
There was drama on and offstage at the opening performance of Perth’s pantomime. Ten minutes before the finale, a few too many puffs of smoke triggered the newly refurbishment theatre’s fire alarm system, dispatching cast, crew and audience onto the High Street for an impromptu second interval. Everyone involved took the disruption in good grace. The fire fighters were even called onstage to take a bow when the action resumes.
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 April 17 2017
Bea Roberts’s award-winning two-hander, which debuted at London’s Theatre 503 in 2015, is that rare beast: an unapologetic lament for a pastoral way of life that is fast disappearing. It is fitting that this first major tour of the play, which touches upon the foot-and-mouth outbreak of 2001, should be playing to rural audiences, from Cumbria to Crieff. A drama with a cattle farmer at its centre was always going to have its opening night in Scotland at the Byre.
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, Tuesday December 16 2015
Beauty and the Beast: Four Stars
Cinderella: Three Stars
Perth’s Victorian theatre may be in the midst of an extensive restoration but, for the second festive season in a row, the proscenium archway has been lovingly recreated on the stage of the city’s concert hall. This year’s pantomime, scripted by the ever-reliable Alan McHugh, is Beauty and the Beast, with a refreshing emphasis on the former rather than the latter.
The story unfolds against an array of gorgeous painted backdrops, created by the designer Ken Harrison, with stunning costumes to match, from Belle’s (AmyBeth Littlejohn) sumptuous gold ball gown to the increasingly over-the-top frocks and topknots modelled by Barrie Hunter’s Dame Betty Blumenthal.