It is hard to conceive of a time when electronic music was not a significant part of the soundtrack to our lives. Yet, back in the late 1950s, the establishment of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, which created sound effects for use in programming, was so controversial that its founders, Daphne Oram and Desmond Briscoe, found themselves operating on a miniscule budget out of two dingy rooms at the corporation’s Maida Vale studios.
First published in The Times, Monday March 13 2017
Yasmina Reza’s most famous play, the frequently revived Art, depicted a friendship tested to breaking point following the acquisition of a large, completely white painting. In Gareth Nicholls’s new production of Reza’s recent hit comedy, God of Carnage, most of the set, created by Karen Tennent, is itself a dazzling white canvas. The furniture and fittings sparkle, like something out of an interior designer’s vision of heaven. Refreshment is served on a white tray bearing gleaming espresso cups and plates.
First published in The Times, Wednesday December 7 2016
Imagine Hans Christian Andersen, John Waters and a young Pedro Almódovar getting together for Christmas and you have some measure of the lurid delights of this year’s Tron panto. The title is, of course, derived from Andersen’s wintry classic, but the mix of bawdy, outrageous fun and good, old-fashioned pantomime tradition, is pure Johnny McKnight.
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.
The “West” in this case refers to Leenane in deepest County Galway, yet there is also something of the lawless frontier about Martin McDonagh’s Connemara. As imagined by the acclaimed playwright, the quaint Irish village is a hotbed of murder, domestic violence and dismemberment. As the hapless Father Welsh (Michael Dylan) has it: “I’d have to kill half me relatives to fit into this town.”
To say that Roger Casement was a complex and paradoxical figure is something of an understatement. A Protestant, born to an Anglo-Irish family, he worked as a diplomat for the British government, receiving a knighthood. Yet he is remembered today as the revolutionary Irish nationalist who attempted to enlist German military aid for the 1916 Easter Uprising.
First published in The Times, Saturday March 26 2016
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).