REVIEWS, thoughts and observations about theatre in Scotland.
ARTICLES about theatre published in the daily newspaper and online
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REVIEWS, articles and extensive database about Scottish theatre.
REVIEWS and news items about Scottish theatre in the US theatre bible.
13 February 2011 Scotland on Sunday
DANIEL Jackson has heard that the last person to walk through a door is the one with the highest status. So he and fellow playwrights Douglas Maxell and Johnny McKnight are standing in the corridor outside a Scottish Youth Theatre meeting room arguing over who should come in first.
Three years ago, I wrote a review of Sleeping Beauty that compared the comedy legs of Gavin Mitchell with those of Gerard Kelly. Mitchell was playing Norval, the witch's son, in the Glasgow King's panto and it looked as though his pins were ready to give way beneath him. Kelly, of course, was the high priest of knock-kneed hilarity and, as Chester the Jester, gave his legs a life of their own. I suggested Mitchell had been paying attention to Kelly's technique.
EVERYONE loved the mop of black hair, the half-length trousers, the bright Dr Martens and the cry of "Hiya pals", but you could spend hours figuring out exactly what made Gerard Kelly such a physically funny pantomime star. It was something to do with the knobbly knees, the way one leg would drag coyly behind the other, and the impression of Kelly having feet that headed in opposite directions. The actor Karen Dunbar, who appeared alongside him in three Christmas shows at the King's theatre in Glasgow, has her own theory. "I think it came from his hips," she said. "He used his whole body."
By Sandy Thomson. A Poorboy Theatre review.
IT is only when you are half way through Poorboy's rich and rewarding promenade performance that the pieces start falling into place. You are sitting alone in Café Cossachok, a Russian restaurant, sharing a table with a larger-than-life white doll with woolly red veins and prominent belly button, like the ghost of some distant relative in a faraway land. On your headphones, you are trying to keep track of several stories running in parallel, taking you back and forth from the siege of Leningrad to the 1960s Glasgow of Alex Harvey, from the 1980s of anti-Thatcher protest to the witch-burning of the 17th century.
23 February 2010 Unpublished
WE live in a society disconnected from death. For a certain generation this messy inevitability takes place unseen in far away hospitals and care homes. When finally it intrudes, as intrude it must, it generates a sense of outrage in the bereaved, as if it had no right to be there. This is why so many contemporary plays treat death as the starting point of a study of mourning and not, as in the less sentimental classical tradition, the end point of a tragedy.
22 November 2009 Scotland on Sunday
WHEN Katharine Brown, aka Miss Scotland, performs a rap song to a global audience of 2.8 billion in Johannesburg on December 12, it promises to be one of the more unlikely moments in the history of Miss World. Brown, after all, grew up in Dunblane not the Bronx, works as a tennis coach and is very, very blonde (admittedly, no more so than Eminem).
30 October 2007
IN the spring of 2006, Scotland's Grid Iron theatre company staged a site-specific show called Roam in Edinburgh International Airport. The audience arrived by bus, passports in hand, and were ushered towards the check-in desks. Instead of flight arrivals, they saw images of exotic destinations on the monitors. Instead of a tedious wait in departures, they watched a row of air hostesses, with matching blonde bobs and lurid turquoise outfits, performing a line-dance to a soundtrack of groovy 60s jazz.
7 October 2007 The Sunday Times
Bladnoch Distillery, Wigtown, and touring. NTS review.
WHEN Brian Friel's Molly Sweeney played at the Citizens' Theatre in Glasgow at the end of 2005, it arrived without fanfare or fuss. Tucked away in the studio theatre, it was a low-key alternative to the mainstage family-friendly production of Charlotte's Web and to the many pantomimes in town. At that point, director Gregory Thompson was yet to be appointed to run the city's Tron Theatre and it would be several months before he and his lead actor, Cara Kelly, would be lauded in the Critics Awards for Theatre in Scotland.
September 2007 Scotland on Sunday
HAMLET is a play with a reputation for messing with the lead actor's head. When Daniel Day-Lewis starred as the morose student driven to distraction by his father's death and his mother's marriage to his uncle, he collapsed on stage, believing he had seen his own father in the ghost scene.
23 August 2007 Scotland on Sunday
ON the top of an outcrop in the centre of a flat plain near the Mid-Argyll coast, there's a rock carving in the shape of a footprint. It's a baking hot summer's day and Angus Farquhar has discarded his sandals to climb this hill to what was once the fort of Dunadd, capital of the kingdom of Dalraidia. When he gets to the rock, he places a bare foot in the indentation. As legend has it, this is what leaders of the Scotti tribe, Scotland's earliest kings, would do as part of their crowning ceremonies some time between the 5th and. 8th centuries AD.
12 August 2007 Scotland on Sunday
Translated by David Greig. NTS review.
THE buttocks come first. After 16 years away from the Scottish stage, Alan Cumming enters head first from above, his backside exposed for all to see. It's a gesture that sets the cheeky tone of John Tiffany's thrilling production of Euripides' great tragedy, one that injects the 24000-year-old play with a vigorous dose of 21st century theatricality and gender-bending fun.
5 August 2007 Scotland on Sunday
YOU FEAR it's going to be one of those modishly anaemic plays in which no one says more than a few words at a time and the conversation never gets to the point. Certainly Selma Dimitrijevic's mainstage debut, Night Time, is a delicate spider-web of a play, so fragile it could snap apart at any moment. For a while, it seems it's only the careful choreography of Lorne Campbell's direction and the humane performance of Kananu Kirimi that are holding the gossamer threads together. The enigmatic conversation, the bare white set, the self-conscious shadows of Jon Clark's odd lighting design in the Traverse's temporary tent inside the University of Edinburgh Drill Hall, all conspire to push the play beyond mere intrigue and into the inconsequential.
17 June 2007 Scotland on Sunday
Preview of the Elgin Macbeth. NTS preview.
THERE'S a theory that Shakespeare wrote Julius Caesar with the intention of opening it on a summer solstice. Certainly many an outdoor production of A Midsummer Night's Dream has been arranged for that date. Neither of those plays, however, is the choice of director Simon Sharkey to stage beneath the open skies at the ruined Elgin Cathedral on the weekend that the northern hemisphere tilts closest to the sun. What ghosts and other-worldly demons will he conjure up on that auspicious date when, with the Learn division of the National Theatre of Scotland, he mounts a pro-am production of Macbeth?
January 2007 Scotland on Sunday
VANESSA Rigg has two children. Her daughter is two and her son is four. Young though he is, the boy is already too old to see his mum's latest show. Little Light has an upper age limit of three. "When I tell people I'm creating theatre for babies, people do ask me why," she laughs in a rehearsal break at the North Edinburgh Arts Centre.
November 2006 Scotland on Sunday
IT'S been a good year for Brian Ferguson. It's only November and the 26-year-old actor has already appeared in three shows by the National Theatre of Scotland, a company that is barely 10 months old. "I was called the National Theatre bitch," he laughs.
October 2006 Sunday Times
CARA Kelly caught the theatre bug at a very young age. It was in 1971 as a wide-eyed seven-year-old that she visited the Citizens' Theatre to see Cinderella starring David Hayman as Buttons. "We've got a very special person in the audience today," he'd said, leading the whole theatre in a round of "Happy Birthday" for Kelly who was born on Christmas Day.
October 2006 Sunday Times
IN real life, Elizabeth I never met Mary Queen of Scots. Neither did the two of them share a confidante in Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. But in the theatre things are different and the great centrepiece of Friedrich Schiller's magisterial drama, Mary Stuart, is a confrontation between the two queens in which French Catholic Mary pleads with English Protestant Elizabeth to lift her death sentence.
21 May 2006 Scotland on Sunday
Interview with Simon Sharkey
HERE'S an experiment. Imagine you took four areas in Scotland - say East Lothian, Fife, North Ayrshire and East Ayrshire - and you gave local people the chance to put on a show. The starting point would be the same: they'd be given professional support, they'd be expected to produce a piece of outdoor theatre with up to 400 participants and it'd be known as Transform because of the effect it would have on actors and audiences. Beyond that, the subject matter and style would be up to them.
February 2006 Scotland on Sunday
THIS time last year, John Clifford was tidying up his stage adaptation of Anna Karenina. The Royal Lyceum was about to put it on – in a production later described by The Scotsman as "beautiful and gripping" – giving him cause to reflect on the time, 13 years earlier, when he'd first tackled Tolstoy's epic romantic tragedy.
October 2005 Sunday Times
FREUD would have had a field day. You'd think it was enough for the Citizens' Theatre to put on a musical adaptation of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, one of the darkest – and campest – studies of sibling rivalry ever put on screen. But the Glasgow company has gone one step further . . .
July 2005 Sunday Times
"I'm Richard," says the tall, 69-year-old greeting me at Edinburgh's Traverse Theatre. Of course he's Richard. There's no mistaking him. Even if you didn't recognise that sexy growl of a Greenock accent, you couldn't fail to spot the figure of Victor Meldrew standing before you.
February 2005 Scotland on Sunday
ANDY Gray has taken the floor. He's up on his feet and demonstrating the acting technique that was expected of him in his early stage career at Perth Theatre. He positions himself balletically, his right leg one step forward, ensuring his body is titled toward the audience.
January 2005 Sunday Times
IF John Osborne had known David Tennant when he was writing his most famous play, he’d have had to call it Look Back in Niceness. A less angry young man it is hard to imagine. Far from the ranting and raving of Osborne’s Jimmy Porter – the part Tennant will play in Look Back in Anger at Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum this month – the actor is the very personification of mild-mannered charm.
8 August 2004 Scotland on Sunday
By Linda McLean. Traverse Theatre review
DAVID Mamet talks about the “Death of my Kitten” speech. He says it’s that point in a play, usually three-quarters of the way through, when the writer interrupts the action with a pretty monologue. It often begins: “When I was young I had a kitten . . .”
April 2004 Independent on Sunday
BRIAN Cox is a ball. If I didn't know better, I'd say he's just rolled his way to my table. His donkey jacket is hunched around his shoulders, his head is tucked in, his stocky body is the same size in every direction. His stubby fingers are made of the same amorphous lump of clay as his face.
July 2003 Sunday Times
IMAGINE the scene. It's one night in Glasgow just after the first Lord of the Rings movie has come out. A gang of young lads leave the cinema and get on the bus home. That's when they see him. "Are you Pippin?" asks one incredulously. "Yes," says Billy Boyd, for it is he. "What're you doing on a bus?"
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