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.
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.