First published in The Times, Tuesday March 17 2020
Vanishing Point, the Glasgow-based theatre company led by Matthew Lenton, tends to develop much of its acclaimed, highly distinctive work in rehearsal, often creating radical versions of plays such as Maurice Maeterlinck’s Interiors and John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera. However, the company’s stunning take on Franz Kafka’s novella The Metamorphosis (in collaboration with the Tron and Italy’s Emilia Romagna Teatro Fondazione) is remarkably faithful to its source, and it marks a culmination of Lenton’s concerns and signature style.
First published in The Times, Thursday September 5 2019
The City of Discovery’s best-known stories and characters inspire all the shows in Dundee Rep’s 80th anniversary programme. The season has opened on perhaps the most infamous event in the city’s history: the collapse of the original Tay Bridge during a gale in December 1879 with the loss of all 75 people making the journey by train from Fife to Dundee that night.
First published in The Times, Thursday March 21 2019
The National Theatre of Scotland’s motto of “theatre without walls” has led the company to stage its work in offbeat venues, from pubs and village halls to an airport lounge and a swimming pool.
The setting for this trio of new plays on the theme of technology is no less striking: a corner of a sprawling office complex that once housed a cigarette factory. While its façade is imposing, inside the building is much more anonymous. As we make our way from the reception area through the central courtyard and beyond, all signs of human life start to disappear.
First published in The Times, Tuesday February 26 2019
Visions of the afterlife in drama can range from the terrifying to the strangely reassuring. Vanishing Point’s meditation on death, the torment of grief and the comforts of the supernatural imagines Hamlet’s “undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveller returns” as a gothic mirror of the world above ground, in which the dead reciprocate the pain and grief of the living.
First published in The Times, Thursday February 8 2018
David Harrower’s play, about a young woman in a pre-industrial setting whose life and consciousness are transformed by literacy, is a true contemporary classic, renowned globally, having been staged in some 25 countries since its premiere at Edinburgh’s Traverse in 1995. Indeed, the three-hander is arguably better appreciated abroad than at home, with this revival at the newly restored Perth Theatre only the fourth Scottish production in 20 years.
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.
First published in The Times, Friday October 27 2017
A religious upbringing can cling to even the staunchest atheist like the lingering smell of incense. For the theatre director Nicholas Bone and Rob Drummond, the acclaimed playwright, both sons of clergymen, the institutional memories and associations of religion are rather harder to shrug off.
First published in The Times, Thursday May 25 2017
John Knox (Jamie Sives) stands at the front of the stage, watching the audience file into the auditorium. Clad in black, with Bible in hand, he is utterly immobile save for his eyes, which roam the stalls, picking out individual audience members and holding them with an unyielding gaze.
It is a discomforting start to Linda McLean’s new play about the 16th century Scottish Reformer – who was credited with founding the Presbyterian Church – and his various exchanges with that other great icon of the period, Mary, Queen of Scots. The feeling of unease provoked by this opening gambit will be familiar to anyone who has passed under the stare of the statue of Knox that is at the entrance of the Assembly Hall on the Mound in Edinburgh – ironically now a major venue every August during the Festival Fringe.
First published in The Times, Tuesday January 31 2017
The Edinburgh-based visual theatre company Tortoise in a Nutshell is nothing if not versatile. Its award-winning 2013 fringe show, Feral, invited audiences to cram into a small venue to watch an entire town built from tiny paper models come to life before our eyes. The company’s latest work, presented in association with the Macrobert Arts Centre and Denmark’s Teater Katapult, is a different prospect entirely. All the action of this main stage production takes place on or around a solitary life-sized boat, tossed on a vast, undulating sea.
First published in The Times, Tuesday October 24 2016
This eerie slice of contemporary noir is not what we’ve come to expect from the playwright Rob Drummond. His notable earlier works include Bullet Catch, in which Drummond recreated the classic magic trick with the help of audience participants. In Fidelity, which debuted at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, explored questions of love and monogamy through a Blind Date-style game show format involving single audience members.