First published in The Times, Tuesday March 17 2020
Vanishing Point, the Glasgow-based theatre company led by Matthew Lenton, tends to develop much of its acclaimed, highly distinctive work in rehearsal, often creating radical versions of plays such as Maurice Maeterlinck’s Interiors and John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera. However, the company’s stunning take on Franz Kafka’s novella The Metamorphosis (in collaboration with the Tron and Italy’s Emilia Romagna Teatro Fondazione) is remarkably faithful to its source, and it marks a culmination of Lenton’s concerns and signature style.
First published in The Times, Thursday March 12 2020
There is so much going in this collaboration between Theatre Gu Leòr and the band Whyte that it comes as something of a surprise to realise that the show’s running time is a tight 75 minutes. Maim blends movement, story vignettes and multimedia with the band’s characteristic fusion of electronica and Gaelic song to explore life in Scotland’s far-flung communities, notably the fragile status of the Gaelic language and culture. The result is a unique hybrid that works its spell slowly, exerting a powerful pull.
This is the first time Marius von Mayenburg’s 2007 satire has been seen on a Scottish stage but there is much in Debbie Hannan’s production that will be familiar to those with even a sketchy knowledge of the horror genre. The trope of slowly unwrapping bandages from some strangely altered face has been so endlessly sent-up that it surely deserves a subgenre classification of its own.
First published in The Times, Monday April 29 2019
The life of Mary, Queen of Scots is the apparent inspiration for this new play from House of Mirth, though its tone is less conventional historical drama than something akin to Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected. The tragic monarch doesn’t even make her entrance until halfway through the hour-long show.
First published in The Times, Tuesday December 4 2018
The annual Tron pantomime is not exactly renowned for its restraint. This year, every gaudy element has been dialled up to the max. The baroque colour palette of Kenny Miller, the designer, feels more intense than ever. The amount of glitter and PVC on display makes Lady Gaga’s stage costumes look refined. The script, written by Johnny McKnight, who also directs and stars as the titular matriarch, is dizzyingly dense in pop cultural references.
First published in The Times, Wednesday July 4 2018
The accoutrements of Sunday evening TV costume drama are present and correct in Blood of the Young’s refreshed take on Jane Austen. A chandelier hangs above an upright piano. A harp waits in a corner of the stage next to a row of high-backed chairs with floral upholstery. As the house lights go down we await the rattle and chink of the Bennet family’s best china plate being wheeled into the parlour for the benefit of gentleman visitors.
First published in The Times, Saturday March 31 2018
Jack Thorne’s monologue about a teenage girl who finds herself caught up in a revenge attack on a young Asian boy debuted in one of the dank, dark venues on the Cowgate at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2010. Since then, the writer has gone on to script the West End and Broadway megahit Harry Potter and the Cursed Child as well as winning five BAFTA awards for his work on television dramas such as This is England and National Treasure.
First published in The Times, Monday October 16 2017
It takes a certain amount of chutzpah to condense a 900-page novel into a two-hour play. Richard Crane’s venerable stage adaptation of Dostoevsky is all the more intriguing when you consider that, in his version, only four actors enact the Russian master’s sprawling, densely populated saga.
Crane’s dramatisation was commissioned for the Edinburgh International Festival in 1981, with Alan Rickman and Peter Kelly among the original cast. This revival at the Tron reunites the script with Faynia Williams, Crane’s partner in the Brighton Theatre, and the director of that first production.
A few lines from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, describing a world whose seasons are in disarray, perfectly encapsulate the experience of seeing theatre in Scotland at present: “The spring, the summer, the childing autumn, angry winter change their wonted liveries, and the mazèd world, by their increase, now knows not which is which.”
Not only is Pitlochry Festival Theatre currently staging Alan Ayckbourn’s Absurd Person Singular, a play set over three consecutive Christmas Eves, the Tron’s summer show is a revival of Anthony Neilson’s The Lying Kind, whose farcical action unfolds against a backdrop of tinsel and holly wreaths.
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.