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.
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.