Theatre Review: The Tempest – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Monday November 1 2021


It is fitting that this new production of Shakespeare’s swansong should be opening on Halloween weekend when ghosts and monsters are out in force wandering the dark streets.

The show, adapted and directed by Andy Arnold, has a strongly Gothic flavour, with Prospero’s cell a forbidding library topped with lancet windows and characters moving in and out of the shadows.

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Review: Antony and Cleopatra – Botanic Gardens, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Monday June 25 2018

Four Stars

“Star-cross’d lovers” is the theme of this year’s Bard in the Botanics, and in its pair of opening productions, the annual Shakespeare festival offers up the perfect complement of innocence and experience in tragic love.


Jennifer Dick’s production of Romeo and Juliet features a 13-strong cast performing against an al fresco backdrop while, at the other end of the botanical gardens, Gordon Barr stages Antony and Cleopatra beneath the glass roof of the Kibble Palace. It is an instructive pairing, reminding us of Shakespeare’s delight in recycling patterns of events in his plays. The latter couple may steal a march on the former in terms of erotic and worldly experience, yet both pairs of lovers die by their own hands, believing death infinitely preferable to life without their soul mate.

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Review: The Winter’s Tale – Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh

First published in The Times, Friday February 17 2017

Three Stars

The perennial problem in staging The Winter’s Tale is how to realise credibly its time-jumps and uncomfortable emotional leaps, not to mention the more fantastical elements in the story. “Exit, pursued by a bear” – perhaps the most famous stage direction in theatre history – is only one of several logistical challenges posed by the bard in this late play.


Max Webster, the director of this production for the Royal Lyceum, rejoices in Shakespeare’s dismantling of the conventions of dramatic storytelling, exhibiting a childlike delight in the fundamentals of putting on other people’s clothes and making up worlds. A kingdom is depicted through the use of paper crowns and a plywood castle. At one point the ensemble rolls out a carpet of grass with the words “scene change” scribbled on its underside. The vertical shutters that open and close on the scenes at the court of King Leontes (John Michie) frame proceedings in the style of a letterbox movie screen.

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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 Tempest – Northern Stage, Newcastle

First published in The Times, Friday October 2 2015

Four Stars

The significance of the washing machine sitting downstage centre doesn’t become apparent until the ensemble arrives onstage, ceremonially bearing a box of detergent. The brand? Ariel, of course.

Into the drum goes the dirty laundry, and as the machine starts to judder, the stage darkens, the curtain rises and the cast swirl away into the evocative opening storm scene.

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Review: Titania – A Solo Cabaret at Summerhall, Edinburgh Fringe

First published in The Times, Friday August 28 2015

Three Stars

This strange, hypnotic show, performed by cellist and theatre practitioner Anna-Helena McLean, is not so much a compression of A Midsummer Night’s Dream as a total immersion in the play’s themes and atmosphere, created principally through layers of sound. It may take a while to acclimatise to the unwaveringly abstract performance but, like Shakespeare’s queen of the fairies, McLean does cast an intoxicating spell over her audience.

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Review: Richard II – Botanic Gardens, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Friday July 24 2015

Four Stars

In recent years, Bard in the Botanics, Scotland’s annual summer Shakespeare festival, has complemented its programme of full-scale outdoor productions with one radically pared-down adaptation, performed by a handful of actors in the Kibble Palace glasshouse. Last year’s ambitious reworking of Henry IV Parts I and II, performed by a cast of just three, was a powerful, drum-tight account of Prince Hal’s relationships with his two parental guides, his father the king and feckless Falstaff.

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