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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Reviews: The Witches – Dundee Rep; Sleeping Betty – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Monday December 7 2015

The Witches: Three Stars

Sleeping Betty: Three Stars

A Roald Dahl adaptation at Dundee Rep has become as much a staple of the Christmas season as mince pies. This is the third year in a row that the ensemble has staged one of David Wood’s adaptations of the celebrated author’s twisted children’s tales, with a production of George’s Marvellous Medicine already slated for next year.

 

Like George’s potion or the formula developed by the Grand High Witch to turn children into mice, at its best Dahl’s absurdist, somewhat menacing sensibility is a recipe for dark theatrical magic. Jemima Levick’s production of The Witches certainly doesn’t lack pungent set pieces, notably the anarchic hotel dining room sequence, in which the tale’s boy-to-mouse hero (Matthew Forbes) tries to turn the tables on the dastardly coven. The show gains further levity from its use of live music, developed by Gavin Swift and performed live.

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Review: Ghosts – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Tuesday October 13 2015

Two Stars

Ibsen’s naturalistic social drama was famously described by one early critic as “a loathsome sore unbandaged”. Megan Barker’s modernised version, currently playing at the Tron, attempts to up the ante, opening with a bloody collision with a deer and advancing through a roll call of pathologies – paedophilia, adultery, alcoholism and drug addiction – to the play’s grotesque final scenes. Yet, despite all the violence and profanity on display, the tone achieved in Andy Arnold’s production is more akin to histrionic soap opera than a ghost story with unsettling contemporary resonance.

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Review: Magic Sho – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Tuesday October 6 2015

Four Stars

Over the past two decades, Shona Reppe has built a reputation as one of the leading purveyors of theatre for children and families, both at home in Scotland and internationally. In recent years she has fine-tuned her inventive, offbeat approach to storytelling in shows such as Potato Needs a Bath, in which a group of anthropomorphised vegetables and fruit get ready for a party, and Huff (created with Andy Manley), an ingenious art installation that reimagined the story of the Three Little Pigs as a CSI-style crime scene.

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Review: Can’t Forget About You – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Thursday July 9 2015

Three Stars

Sweet, sensitive 25-year-old Stevie (Declan Rodgers) is wallowing in grief following a painful break-up. Relief comes in the unlikely form of Martha (Karen Dunbar), an attractive, unaffected but lonely Glaswegian widow more than twenty years his senior. Stevie encounters her in his local Starbuck’s.

Both are determined to keep the relationship that follows on a strict friends-with-benefits footing, but when their fling reaches the eyes and ears of Stevie’s religious conservative Mammy (Carol Moore) and fervent Protestant sister (Abigail McGibbon), Stevie and Martha are forced to confront the depth of their feelings for one another.

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Review: Crazy Jane – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Monday June 1 2015

Three Stars

The name Jane Avril may not be instantly recognisable but the French can-can dancer’s image and appearance have long acquired iconic status. A star of the infamous Moulin Rouge nightclub in the late 19th century, she was known for her idiosyncratic style of dance, regularly attracting the unsentimental gaze of the painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

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Review: Happy Days – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Tuesday May 19 2015

Four Stars

The casting of Karen Dunbar as Winnie, the entombed heroine of Samuel Beckett’s 1961 play Happy Days, was always going to be an intriguing prospect. Though the actor and comedian has shown her “serious” acting chops on stage with a blistering performance as Rose in the National Theatre of Scotland’s revival of The Guid Sisters and in Phyllida Lloyd’s recent all-female production of Henry IV at the Donmar Warehouse, she’s still best known for her work in the BBC Scotland sketch series Chewin’ the Fat.

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Reviews: The Straw Chair – Tron Theatre, Glasgow; O is for Hoolet – Arches, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Saturday April 18 2015

The Straw Chair : Four Stars

O is for Hoolet: Four Stars

Unlike Bondagers, her regularly revived play about 19th century women farm labourers, Sue Glover’s The Straw Chair has rarely seen the light of a theatre auditorium since its first production at the Traverse back in 1988. Liz Carruthers’ strong, understated production for Borderline Theatre Company, now touring Scotland, makes you wonder where it’s been all these years.

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