First published in The Times, Thursday October 17 2019
It seems that you can’t move these days for stage adaptations of literary works. A familiar title is a strong draw, whether it’s the dramatisation of Matt Haig’s mental health memoir Reasons to Stay Aliveor the National Theatre of Scotland’s production of Red Dust Road, which just completed its Scottish tour.
First published in The Times, Friday October 12 2018
It is fitting that Clare Duffy’s play should open in the week that the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned of catastrophic global warming unless governments, corporations and individuals take unprecedented action. Environmental activism, the fate of the planet and personal responsibility are the big themes Duffy has set out to explore here.
First published in The Times, Friday February 16 2018
The comedian Mark Thomas is clearly a man who relishes a challenge. The inspiration for this show came to him while he was in the West Bank to promote Extreme Rambling, his book chronicling his experience of walking the length of the Israeli West Bank separation barrier in 2010. Could he, he wondered, set up and run a comedy club in Gaza for one night only?
While Hamas-controlled Gaza proved too much of a stretch even for Thomas, the veteran political comedian and his team eventually settled on running a series of workshops in the West Bank city of Jenin with actors from the Jenin Freedom Theatre, culminating in a comedy showcase for the students.
First published in The Times, Thursday December 14 2017
If you peer closely enough into the murky corners of Becky Minto’s set for this new play by Morna Pearson, you will spot a tiny Christmas tree, lying on its side and pathetically decorated with a couple of strands of tinsel. At the end of the play’s 90-minute running time, snow floats gently down over the stage.
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 August 24 2017
Inua Ellams first came to the attention of fringe audiences with his award-winning one-man show The 14th Tale, in which the poet, playwright and performer told stories of his childhood in Nigeria, London and Dublin. Passages of Ellams’s first stage success find their way into this vivid, multi-layered piece of storytelling. The autobiographical building blocks are the same, but here the performer allows his righteous anger – as well as his considerable charm and generosity of spirit – free rein.
First published in The Times, Friday August 18 2017
The painter Marc Chagall often depicted himself and his first wife, Bella Rosenfeld, as lovers floating through the air. An equally poignant image is that of Bella “with white collar” as a giant standing over a pastoral landscape. Chagall would outlive his great love by some 40 years, but her vitality and quiet strength would loom large in his work until he died.
First published in The Times, Wednesday August 9 2017
So much happens in this new show from the National Theatre of Scotland that it seems impossible that it only runs for 75 minutes. A loose companion piece to Jo Clifford’s Eve, which also debuts as part of this year’s Traverse festival programme, Adam charts an Egyptian transgender man’s early life, including his experience of homelessness, abuse, mental illness and self-harm, before he is reborn – in every sense – at the age of nineteen, in Scotland.
First published in The Times, Monday August 7 2017
It seems almost unfair to review a piece of theatre based on a single performance when its complexion changes fundamentally at every outing. Nassim Soulemainpour’s White Rabbit, Red Rabbit, in which a different actor is drafted in for each performance, rewards multiple viewings for the way the change in personnel affects our perception of what is happening onstage. To date, the play has been performed more than 1000 times in 15 languages.
How often do we reach for technology – unlock our phones or fire up our laptops – to escape the daily grind or overcome the transient blues? In Stef Smith’s new play, Polly (Rosalind Sydney) and Owen (Michael Dylan) are that enviable couple who appear to have it all: youth, energy, career success and a genuine, burgeoning love. Still, there is something almost inevitable about Polly’s tragic slide into dependency on a seductive new piece of hardware.