Review: The 306: Dusk – Perth Theatre

First published in The Times, Monday October 15 2018

Three Stars

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.

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Review: Cuttin’ a Rug – Citizens Theatre, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Wednesday February 15 2017

Four Stars

The middle instalment of a trilogy can often feel inessential: the slightly sagging bridge between a punchy opening and satisfactory denouement. This revival of the second part of John Byrne’s Slab Boys trilogy reaffirms the play as every bit as funny and poignant as episode one. If anything, Caroline Paterson’s production is a cut above the David Hayman-directed revival of The Slab Boys – staged at the same theatre a couple of years ago.

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Review: The Choir – Citizens Theatre, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Thursday November 5 2015

Four Stars

Talk about prescient. This new play with songs revolving around the members of a North Lanarkshire choir opened in the week Oxford University published a study suggesting that community singing can play a powerful role in reducing loneliness and promoting social cohesion.

The list of problems afflicting the characters in The Choir – book by Paul Higgins with music by Ricky Ross of Deacon Blue – is seemingly endless, touching upon mental illness and bereavement, unemployment, marital breakup and class tensions. The play’s message – there’s no heartache so great it can’t be solved by a rousing singsong – may sound facile, but it is communicated with such verve and commitment in Dominic Hill’s production that you end up forgiving the conventional sentimentality of the storytelling.

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Review: The Driver’s Seat – Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh

First published in The Times, Wednesday June 24 2015

Four Stars

Muriel Spark’s 1970 novella The Driver’s Seat would probably be considered too much of a curiosity for publication today. The protagonist is Lise, a woman in her thirties, alienated and unhinged by the rituals of her office job, who travels from northern to southern Europe, ostensibly in search of “her type”. Spark pulls the carpet out from under her readers’ feet by revealing, barely three chapters in, that her central character will be brutally murdered.

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