Review: Adam – Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

First published in The Times, Wednesday August 9 2017

Three Stars

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.

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Review: Nassim – Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

First published in The Times, Monday August 7 2017

Three Stars

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.

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Review: Girl in the Machine – Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

First published in The Times, Friday April 7 2017

Three Stars

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.

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Review: The Red Chair – Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

First published in The Times, Monday March 20 2017

Four Stars

“Warning: this performance may contain nuts,” runs the notice along the bottom of the programme’s cover. Sure enough, there is a hint of almonds in the madeleine cakes that are served to the audience during one of the brief pauses in the action. Later on, we are treated to chewy medjool dates and squares of rich dark chocolate, accompanying a dram of anCnoc single malt.

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Review: Heads Up – Traverse, Edinburgh

First published in The Times, Monday February 27

Three Stars

The stated ambition of Rantin, Kieran Hurley’s acclaimed performance ceilidh, first staged in 2013, was to build a theatrical portrait of what Hugh MacDiarmid described as “our multiform, our infinite Scotland”. The resulting patchwork of text and songs with its “multiple beginnings, abundance of middles and no clear ending” was delivered with warmth, gentle humour and an appealing lack of formality.

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Review: Fisk – Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

First published in The Times, Tuesday January 31 2017

Three Stars

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.

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Review: Black Beauty – Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

First published in The Times, Wednesday December 7 2016

Four Stars

 

For the first time in ages, Scotland’s new writing theatre has opted to present a family show as their main stage Christmas production. Yet, while the horsebox that sits centre stage contains much to keep younger audiences agog, there is an air of nostalgia to this inventive adaptation of Anna Sewell’s evergreen children’s tale that will also comfort those of a certain vintage.

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Review: Grain in the Blood – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Tuesday October 24 2016

Three Stars

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.

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Review: Greater Belfast – Traverse, Edinburgh

First published in The Times, Friday August 26 2016

Four Stars

In the long-running story of the United Kingdom’s constitutional make up and future, Northern Ireland is often treated as a footnote, as though eighteen years of peace have rendered the province unworthy of close attention. That situation may be changing, though, at least in cultural terms. Mark Cousins’ fluid documentary meditation on his hometown of Belfast was released earlier this year, and now we have this engaging, multifaceted exploration of the same city and her people from the musician and theatre-maker Matt Regan.

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Review: Expensive Shit – Traverse, Edinburgh

First published in The Times, Monday August 8 2016

Three Stars

“I used to dance,” says Tolu, the protagonist of this new one-act play from the award-winning writer/director Adura Onashile. “When I danced the world would disappear.” Tolu (Sabine Cameron) still plies her trade with music rumbling faintly in her ears, but there are fewer opportunities to dance these days. She attends the women’s loo at a nightclub somewhere in Scotland, dispensing bottled water and toilet paper to a dressed-up clientele.

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