Review: International Waters – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

 

First published in The Times, Saturday March 26 2016

Three Stars

At first glance, the new play from David Leddy looks not at all the kind of thing we’ve come to expect from the most audacious of Scotland’s contemporary theatre-makers. We open on a luxurious function room, into which tumbles a quartet of upper crust characters in white tie and cocktail dresses. There’s a trophy wife (Claire Dargo), a self-important crooner (Robin Laing), a celebrated photojournalist (Lesley Hart) and a senior bureaucrat (Selina Boyack).

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Review: The Destroyed Room – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Wednesday March 2 2016

Three Stars

A single image can change the entire public conversation. The most powerful recent example was the picture of three-year-old Alan Kurdi’s lifeless body washed up on a Turkish beach, which inspired a softening in attitudes towards the Syrian refugee crisis. Nonetheless, in today’s world, where we are bombarded with images of human suffering, online and on television, it is increasingly difficult to interrogate and fully process what we are seeing.

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Review: Cock – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Saturday February 13 2016

Three Stars

When Mike Bartlett’s 2009 comedy drama received its first production in New York in 2012, newspaper reviewers and advertisers primly rechristened it The Cockfight Play. Glasgow’s Tron, which is producing the Scottish premiere, seems similarly conflicted about the play’s original title. While the poster depicts a pair of fowls knocking the feathers off each other, the theatre is promoting the show on social media using the hashtag #NotAboutChickens.

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Review: Tracks of the Winter Bear – Traverse, Edinburgh

First published in The Times, Tuesday December 15 2015

Four Stars

 

An encounter between Mother Christmas and a talking polar bear sounds like the premise for one of Raymond Briggs’s wintry graphic novels for children. This double bill of thematically linked plays may dabble in the realms of the fantastic and metaphorical but, like The Devil Masters, last year’s seasonal show at the Traverse, the content is aimed squarely at grown-ups.

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Review: Hector – Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

First published in The Times, Friday November 13 2015

Three Stars

To the casual eye, Major-General Sir Hector MacDonald looks the ultimate pillar of the British establishment. Popularly known as “Fighting Mac”, he was knighted for his leadership at the Battle of Omdurman and during the Boer War and was reportedly Queen Victoria’s favourite general. His square-jawed, moustachioed image was even said to be the model for the Gordon Highlander soldier depicted on the label for Camp Coffee.

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Review: What Goes Around – Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

First published in The Times, Monday September 28 2015

Three Stars

Liz Lochhead’s new play features more layers than a Viennese torte. The rich base is La Ronde: that once-scandalous work by the Austrian playwright Arthur Schnitzler, famously structured as a chain of sexual encounters that eventually comes full circle. In Lochhead’s version, this “sexual daisy chain” provides the inspiration for a tangy backstage comedy in which multiple characters revolve around an impoverished two-handed production of Schnitzler. The result is frequently entertaining, even if it proves to be not quite the sum of its many parts.

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Pardon / In Cuffs – Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh Fringe

First published in The Times, Wednesday August 12 2015

Two Stars

As its title implies, crime and punishment are the big subjects at the heart of this new work from Belgium’s SKaGeN theatre company. Performed by a trio of actors on a revolving stage and based on verbatim transcriptions, the piece is structured as a series of interrogations by austere authority figures of criminals whose transgressions range from the pathetic to the unpardonable.

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Review: Swallow – Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh Fringe

First published in The Times, Tuesday August 11

Four Stars

In a relatively short space of time Stef Smith has established herself as a remarkably diverse and elusive playwright. Having first attracted attention as the writer of human trafficking drama RoadKill, which won an Olivier Award in 2012, her subsequent work includes a site-specific piece focusing on three generations of beekeepers and a decidedly off-centre play in which a married couple cope with their grief at the death of their daughter by endlessly dressing up and performing routines from The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour.

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Review: The Day the Pope Emptied Croy – Òran Mór, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Thursday March 19 2015

Three Stars

Mention the papal visit to Scotland in May 1982 and the image that comes to mind is probably that of John Paul II saying mass for 300,000 Scottish Catholics in Glasgow’s Bellahouston Park. While that now legendary occasion forms the backdrop to this three-hander, presented by A Play, a Pie and a Pint in association with the Traverse Theatre, Martin McCormick, the playwright, astutely chooses to focus on those who were left behind or excluded on the day rather than the crowds waving banners in the park.

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Review: Leviathan – Òran Mór, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Wednesday March 11 2015

Two Stars

You know all is not well in this disappointing three-hander from the moment the lights go up to reveal Karen (Claire Cage) slumped in an armchair in her back garden, staring into the middle distance. Whey-faced and clad in jumpsuit and slippers, she launches into a staccato stream of consciousness before flopping back spent, the light going out in her eyes. Meanwhile, life goes on around her: the cat prowls the garden for birds; her neighbour mows his lawn incessantly; her mother Mavis (Siw Hughes) and daughter Hannah (Gwawr Loader) soak up the late summer sun. Continue reading “Review: Leviathan – Òran Mór, Glasgow”