Theatre review: The Tempest – Botanic Gardens, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Monday July 25 2022

FOUR STARS

Nicole Cooper, the much-admired actor and a linchpin of the Bard in the Botanics company, is surely one of the few thespians to have played both Prospero (as part of an all-female adaptation at the Tron) and Miranda (for Bard) in The Tempest.

Her next step has been a deeper dive into Shakespeare’s swansong, radically reworking the play as well as directing this moving, pared-back production.

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Theatre review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Botanic Gardens, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Sunday June 26 2022

FOUR STARS

The first production in this year’s summer season sets off a double celebration for Bard in the Botanics. Having endured the many challenges wrought by the pandemic, the company, led by Gordon Barr, the artistic director, is marking its 21st anniversary in style, with its first full programme in three years. As well as revisiting its much-admired 2013 production of Much Ado About Nothing, the company moves beyond its Renaissance comfort zone with a fresh take on Euripides’ Medea.

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Theatre review: Twelfth Night – Botanic Gardens, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Tuesday July 13 2021

THREE STARS

Spontaneous applause breaks out at the announcement welcoming everyone to the new season of Bard in the Botanics. It has been nearly two years since audiences last gathered on the grassy rise behind the glasshouses in the Botanic Gardens, Glasgow, for the venerated Shakespeare festival.

As a specialist in outdoor performance, this company, led by Gordon Barr, the artistic director, may have an advantage over its contemporaries as theatre in Scotland slowly emerges from its Covid-era hibernation.

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Review: Hamlet – Botanic Gardens, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Saturday July 27 2019

Four Stars

It was only a matter of time before Nicole Cooper, a linchpin of the Bard in the Botanics ensemble, was invited to play the Dane. Having spend a decade with Gordon Barr’s company, showing her mettle in a range of roles, from Rosalind in As You Like It to last year’s Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing, her progression in the past couple of seasons to the title roles in Coriolanus (for which she won the Best Female Performance at the Critics Awards for Theatre in Scotland) and Timon of Athens has seemed entirely inevitable.

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Review: As You Like It – Botanic Gardens, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Thursday July 4 2019

Four Stars

Shakespeare’s great pastoral comedy is a gift for outdoor performance. Who needs elaborate stagecraft when you have trees and foliage and natural light? The last time Bard in the Botanics staged As You Like It – back in 2012 ­– the shift from the court of Duke Frederick to the Forest of Arden was achieved simply by moving the audience from one part of the gardens to another.

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Review: Richard III – Perth Theatre

First published in The Times, Monday March 26

Four Stars

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.

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Review: The Macbeths – Citizens Theatre, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Monday October 9 2017

Three Stars

One can’t help but wonder whether this abridged version of the Scottish Play is the kind of thing Shakespeare would be writing if he were embarking on his career in an era dominated by small-scale studio shows. Frances Poet and Dominic Hill’s adaptation strips the tragedy down to its essentials, creating an intense domestic two-hander that requires its actors (Charlene Boyd and Keith Fleming) to divest themselves of everything but raw emotion.

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Review: Venus and Adonis – C Primo, Edinburgh

First published in The Times, Saturday August 26 2017

Four Stars

Published in 1593, the narrative poem Venus and Adonis was a bestseller and the work that made Shakespeare’s name. The Bard obviously intended it to be read rather than performed on stage, but the actor Christopher Hunter finds an electrifying new form for the poem in this small gem of a Fringe show.

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Review: Measure for Measure – Botanic Gardens, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Monday July 16 2017

Four Stars

There is always an element of suspense for audiences to any production of Measure for Measure – even for those who have seen Shakespeare’s most problematic play many times. How will the director and company reconcile the pessimistic depiction of corrupted power, sexuality and relationships with the play’s supposedly comedic elements, including the final flurry of marriages, two of which are meted out as punishments?

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Review: The Taming of the Shrew – Botanic Gardens, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Tuesday June 27 2017

Three Stars

Last year, Bard in the Botanics, Glasgow’s long-running outdoor Shakespeare festival, launched a new strand, Writing the Renaissance, showcasing the work of the bard’s lesser-known contemporaries. The inaugural production was a radical adaptation of Christopher Marlowe’s Dr Faustus, whittled down to a fleet 90 minutes and performed by a cast of just three actors.

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