First published in The Times, Monday October 9 2017
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.
First published in The Times, Saturday August 26 2017
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.
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?
First published in The Times, Tuesday June 27 2017
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.
First published in The Times, Monday November 7 2016
Was there ever a more contradictory figure in literature than Lady Macbeth? On the one hand she is an enthusiastic accessory to murder whose avowed readiness to commit infanticide has made her a byword for perverse maternity. Yet, by the end of Shakespeare’s tragedy she has become a pathetic figure, taking refuge from assorted torments in madness and suicide.
First published in The Times, Friday August 18 2016
Of all Shakespeare’s problem plays, Measure for Measure is the one that leaves the sourest taste in the mouth. Though the story ends in the usual flurry of marriages demanded by the rules of comedy, two of these unions are meted out as punishments, while all the characters – even the saintly Isabella – have become compromised in some way. Theatre directors are increasingly unwilling to summon up a festive mood for such an unremittingly pessimistic depiction of corrupted power and human sexuality and relationships.
Staging outdoor theatre in Scotland is a risky business. Just ask Gordon Barr, the artistic director of Bard in the Botanics, who has been anxiously watching the skies above Glasgow’s west end every summer for the past 15 years.
The weather gods were smiling on the opening performance of his new production of the Scottish Play, however. As the city sizzled in a heat wave, the crowd gathered in extraordinary numbers on the grassy embankment at the back of the glasshouses in the Botanic Gardens. For once, the extra clothes, the blankets and sleeping bags, proved surplus to requirements.