First published in The Times, Tuesday November 5 2019
Ellie Stewart’s play opens in a room in the maternity unit of a hospital where Hope (Kim Gerard) is giving birth alone. A brief exchange with the sunny-natured hospital cleaner, Joy (Beth Marshall), offers respite from contractions. The stage seems set for a tale of quirky friendship and heart-warming realism.
The power of three is pervasive in fairytales. Whoever heard of two magic wishes, or a beginning and middle with no end? It is no accident that the Wicked Queen makes a trio of attempts to kill Snow White or that the miller’s daughter tries three times to guess Rumpelstiltskin’s name.
First published in The Times, Monday March 11 2018
In many ways, the bingo hall is the ideal place in which to set a site-specific show. Like live theatre at its best, a night at the bingo is a collective experience that’s a little different every time, leaving its participants trembling on the edge of their seats, on the verge of elation or disappointment.
It is surprising that this new musical comedy, produced by Stellar Quines in collaboration with Grid Iron, the leading company specialising in site-specific work in Scotland, makes no attempt to fully immerse its audience within such a giddy atmosphere. We watch the action unfold against the glittery backdrop of Carys Hobbs and Becky Minto’s set at one remove, and the experience is akin to spying on a party to which we haven’t been invited.
First published in The Times, Thursday January 25 2018
The weaving of dance elements into drama has become so widespread as to be unremarkable, even if certain productions tack on passages of movement in such marginal ways that they seem almost afterthoughts. Unusually, this adaptation of Marguerite Duras’s novel, created by Fleur Darkin of Scottish Dance Theatre and Jemima Levick, the artistic director of Stellar Quines, professes a 50:50 split between the two forms. While sporadically effective, their collaboration fails to capture the visceral power of its source.
First published in The Times, Friday August 11 2017
Idi Amin had such an obsession with Scotland that he regularly wore kilts, relaxed to bagpipe music and named four of his sons Campbell, McLaren, McKenzie and Mackintosh. For Jaimini Jethwa, growing up in Dundee in the 1970s, the fascination was mutual. Jethwa and her family were among the 60,000 south Asians expelled from Uganda by the dictator in 1972. Following a spell in a refugee camp in Kent, Jethwa’s parents opted to resettle in the “Jute City” because, unlike other parts of the UK, there was no waiting list.
When, a year ago, the National Theatre of Scotland unveiled the first instalment in its proposed trilogy of plays addressing the forgotten voices of World War I, the company effectively created a bespoke theatre space in a vast barn on a Perthshire farm. This follow-up, again written by the playwright Olivier Emanuel, with music by Gareth Williams, shifts the focus from a trio of men shot for cowardice or desertion during the Great War to women munitions workers, pacifists and suffragettes. The production, directed by Jemima Levick, has a stripped-back, intimate feel, and is being toured around smaller venues the length and breadth of Scotland.
First published in The Times, Friday August 19 2016
Over the past few years, the Edinburgh International Book Festival has included an increasingly ambitious theatre element in its programme. Previous productions include a starry staging of Alasdair Gray’s play Fleck and Letters Home, a co-production with Grid Iron, the site-specific company.
First published in The Times, Saturday August 22 2015
The Latin phrase omne trium perfectum (the notion that everything that comes in threes is complete) is being put to the test at the Fringe this year. Not only is the award-winning Scottish theatre company Stellar Quines premiering its production of The Deliverance – the final instalment in a trilogy written by the Québécoise playwright Jennifer Tremblay – audiences have the opportunity to see the three instalments back-to-back for the first time.