Theatre review: The Scent of Roses – Lyceum, Edinburgh

First published in The Times, Wednesday March 9 2022

TWO STARS

The new drama by Zinnie Harris, the award-winning Scottish playwright and director, presents an assortment of characters trying with varying degrees of success to say the unsayable. In the opening sequence Luci (Neve McIntosh) resorts to locking Christopher (Peter Forbes), her husband of 21 years, in their bedroom, with supplies of food and wine, so she can confront him about a suspected affair. In a later scene their daughter Caitlin (Leah Byrne) spins a grotesque and increasingly elaborate lie to reconnect with a former lover, Sally (Saskia Ashdown).

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Review: The Duchess (of Malfi) – Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh

First published in The Times, Thursday May 23 2019

Four Stars

John Webster’s 1614 tragedy is a bold, provocative choice of play for inclusion in the Citizens Women season. The Jacobean dramatist was astonishingly ahead of his time in addressing the patriarchy’s horror of female agency. This new version by Zinnie Harris, which relocates the action to a world disturbingly close to the present, is similarly unflinching. The pared-down intensity of her update feels acutely right for our times.

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Review: Miss Julie – Perth Theatre

First published in The Times, Wednesday February 20 2019

Three Stars

Unlike those pesky, proverbial buses, productions of August Strindberg’s Miss Julie tend to come along with reassuring frequency. Since its premiere in 1889 the story of the aristocratic young Swedish woman fatally drawn to her father’s servant has reached far beyond its original setting and time frame.

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Review: Gut – Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

First published in The Times, Friday April 27 2018

Three Stars

Clearly, there is something in the zeitgeist. From Outnumbered to Motherland, there has been a steady trickle of television sitcoms in recent years lampooning the chaos, guilt and tedium of modern parenting. Frances Poet’s latest play occupies the same gaudy terrain of soft play centres, nurseries and adventure playgrounds. Yet, aside from one amusing sequence involving a tussle between two adults over a Kermit the Frog figurine, its mood never strays far from the dark end of the spectrum.

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Review: A Number – Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh

First published in The Times, Tuesday April 11 2017

Four Stars

It is so rare to see revivals of the work of Caryl Churchill on Scottish stages that two productions in the space of a week feels like an embarrassment of riches. The prolific, versatile and endlessly experimental playwright’s two-hander Drunk Enough to Say I Love You?, which implicitly explores the so-called “special relationship” between Britain and the United States through a conversation between male lovers, has recently completed a week-long run in the Circle Studio at Glasgow’s Citizens Theatre.

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Review: This Restless House – Citizens Theatre, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Thursday May 5 2016

Four Stars

There’s a wealth of Greek literature in Scottish theatre at present. The blood is still wet on the stage at Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum (during the current run of Chris Hannan’s adaptation of Homer’s Iliad), as the curtain begins to rise on this ambitious reimagining of Aeschylus’s Oresteia trilogy, with a punchy, contemporary version of the text by the playwright Zinnie Harris.

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Review: Tracks of the Winter Bear – Traverse, Edinburgh

First published in The Times, Tuesday December 15 2015

Four Stars

 

An encounter between Mother Christmas and a talking polar bear sounds like the premise for one of Raymond Briggs’s wintry graphic novels for children. This double bill of thematically linked plays may dabble in the realms of the fantastic and metaphorical but, like The Devil Masters, last year’s seasonal show at the Traverse, the content is aimed squarely at grown-ups.

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