First published in The Times, Monday October 24 2022
Joseph Knight, the young black slave brought to Scotland by Sir John Wedderburn from Jamaica in the late 18th century, disappeared from history following the landmark court case that secured his freedom in 1778. His name has returned to the public consciousness in recent years. James Robertson’s eponymous 2003 novel sets Knight’s story against a rich backdrop of fallout from the Jacobite uprising, Enlightenment Edinburgh, and Scotland’s immersion in the transatlantic slave trade.
Continue reading “Theatre review: Enough of Him – Pitlochry Festival Theatre”
First published in The Times, Thursday September 1 2022
Pitlochry Festival Theatre has opened the doors on its smart 172-seater studio, not with fanfare and pageantry, but with a play of remarkable stillness and restraint. Sara Shaarawi’s two-hander about a pair of Iranian-born sisters sharing a flat in Edinburgh over a period of some 40 years, is unafraid to dwell on the silences, comfortable and uncomfortable, that open up between these two women at various points in their life.
Continue reading “Theatre review: Sister Radio – Pitlochry Festival Theatre”
First published in The Times, Wednesday August 3 2022
The first volume of Little Women appeared more than 150 years ago, but Louisa May Alcott’s evergreen tale of the March sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy, their struggles and romantic entanglements, finds fresh audiences with every generation. The most recent film adaptation, directed by Greta Gerwig, appeared in 2019. There are no fewer than three theatrical versions running at the moment in the UK, including Mark Adamo’s opera at Holland Park and Anne Odeke’s reimagining for Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre in Chester, which transports the action from Civil War-era Massachusetts to Britain at the outbreak of the First World War.
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First published in The Times, Tuesday June 28 2022
The cocktails are waiting on the terrace, the Duke of Westminster’s yacht is moored in the harbour at Deauville, and in the near distance a band is playing Someday I’ll Find You. We are unmistakably in Noël Coward’s sophisticated, world-weary milieu, and though all appears calm on the polished surface of Ken Harrison’s elegantly simple set, fireworks are about to go off.
Continue reading “Theatre review: Private Lives – Pitlochry Festival Theatre”
First published in The Times, Monday June 13 2022
This major production of Sunshine on Leith may have originated at Pitlochry Festival Theatre, but it is only fitting that a revival of the hit musical featuring the songs of those Hibs-supporting sometime-Leith-dwellers The Proclaimers should include a run in the capital.
At times the atmosphere in the auditorium resembles the frenzy that greets the King’s legendary annual panto, with the audience chuckling appreciatively at references to local landmarks and singing along wholeheartedly.
The playwright Stephen Greenhorn, who wrote the show for Dundee Rep in 2007, has updated his book to include mention of everything from Brexit to Netflix to Fifty Shades of Grey. In one poignant scene, characters discuss going for a coffee in Jenners, the Princes Street department store that has stood empty since the onset of the pandemic, leading to regretful murmurings in the stalls.
Continue reading “Theatre review: Sunshine on Leith – King’s Theatre, Edinburgh”
First published in The Times, Thursday July 15 2021
Could there be a more superlative setting for a production of The Wind in the Willows than the banks of the Tummel? There have of course been numerous stage adaptations of Kenneth Grahame’s classic, but few can boast an actual riverbank as the backdrop to the adventures of Ratty, Mole, Badger and Toad.
Elizabeth Newman and Ben Occhipinti’s production, from a new script by Mark Powell, stays faithful to the spirit if not the letter of the original, sustaining a good balance between action and hi-jinks with some quieter, more reflective scenes. Powell makes a few tweaks to the story, adding extra dimensions to the conflict between the four chums and the Wild-Wooders and in the process touching upon land use and ecology, creating a timely edge to the piece.
Continue reading “Theatre review: The Wind in the Willows – Pitlochry Festival Theatre”
First published in The Times, Monday June 14 2021
Live theatre in Scotland in a time of Covid has come full circle. Pitlochry Festival Theatre’s exuberant production of Neil Simon’s Barefoot in the Park was the last show to open north of the border before the national lockdown, its run at the Perthshire theatre coming to an abrupt end after a brace of performances.
Sixteen months on, the theatre is bouncing back with a wide-ranging programme of outdoor shows, promenade performances, monologues and musical recitals. While borne out of necessity, this 70th anniversary season’s alfresco flavour is apposite for a company that began life in a tent by the Tummel.
Continue reading “Theatre Review: Adventures with the Painted People – Pitlochry Festival Theatre”
First published in The Times, Friday December 6 2019
You can’t move at this time of year for stage versions of Dickens’s great tale of regret and redemption. Pitlochry’s festive outing is especially intriguing as Isobel McArthur, who scored a hit with her irreverent, karaoke-fuelled reimagining of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, has written the new adaptation.
Continue reading “Review: A Christmas Carol – Pitlochry Festival Theatre”
First published in The Times, Thursday October 24 2019
First performed in 1979, Brian Friel’s Faith Healer is a play with a formidable reputation. Yet Elizabeth Newman’s production for Pitlochry Festival Theatre is notable for its restraint and transporting intimacy. The staging is sparse and steadfast. The play’s three characters deliver four monologues with the ease of old friends sharing confidences across a café table. As the house lights stay lit throughout we feel almost as though we are part of the action.
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First published in The Times, Saturday September 7 2019
It is easy to see why Elizabeth Gaskell’s 1854 social novel should resonate in an age of Remain versus Leave. The book is structured around a series of binary oppositions. As well as the contrasting of the pastoral south of England, where the heroine Margaret Hale comes of age, with the industrialised north, to which the Hale family moves, Gaskell explores tensions between received wisdom and dissent, authority and a restless workforce, class and conflicting approaches to matters of the heart.
Continue reading “Review: North and South – Pitlochry Festival Theatre”