17 December 2006 Scotland on Sunday

Hitting an exciting stage

Review of 2006

AS reported last week, 2006 was the year of the National Theatre of Scotland Such a high hit rate owes much to the way the NTS operates, promoting talent that already exists in the theatre infrastructure. Roam, for example, was nurtured by Edinburgh's Grid Iron which, for many years, had dreamt of staging a show at an airport. The NTS made it possible, but the success of the performance, which took place in the check-in desks, baggage carousels and waiting lounges of Edinburgh International Airport, was a testament to the site-specific know-how developed over the past decade by Grid Iron in playgrounds, shops and underground chambers.

10 December 2006 Scotland on Sunday

Looking past the theatre of war

Vicky Featherstone interview

BY anyone's reckoning it's been a phenomenal year for Vicky Featherstone. At the start of February no one had seen a production by the National Theatre of Scotland, the shape-shifting organisation to which she was appointed artistic director in 2004. By the end of November, her company had been behind no fewer than 28 shows, including the acclaimed Black Watch, the popular hit Tutti Frutti and Roam, the only play ever performed at Edinburgh airport.

21 November 2006 The Guardian

Oedipus the King

NTS Young company review.

FORGET Freud: Oedipus isn't that complex. Yet the National Theatre of Scotland's Young Company acts as though Sophocles' play was in need of clarification. The result is a production that starts off like The Blair Witch Project, twists into the most patronising sort of theatre in education and ends up as a disconnected echo of a tragedy that has been keeping people on the edge of their seats for 2,400 years without any such help.

November 2006 Hi-Arts

Oedipus the King

NTS Young company review.

THE recent Wee Stories children's show, ‘Is this a Dagger?’, was a fine example of a theatre company making accessible a play – in this case, ‘Macbeth’ – to a young audience not yet familiar with the classics.

12 November 2006 Scotland on Sunday

Life's a bitch as Ferguson stars on stage and street

Brian Ferguson interview.

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. "I'm not sure how I feel about that, but it's been fantastic."

November 2006 Hi-Arts


By Davey Anderson play. NTS Workshop review.

I FIRST saw Davey Anderson's play about a paranoid young man holed up in his Glasgow high-rise last year when it arrived at Edinburgh's Traverse Theatre with a clutch of rave reviews from its initial low-key run at Glasgow's Arches. I couldn't see what all the fuss was about. While the play was an ambitious attempt to frame global politics in a domestic setting, it struck me as being awkwardly structured and overloaded with ideas that were never fully resolved.

15 October Variety

Mary Stuart

Translated by David Harrower. Citizens Theatre review.

SCHILLER'S magnificent drama about the imprisonment and execution of Mary Queen of Scots at the hands of Elizabeth I of England would seem to be the perfect way to bolster nationalistic pride in this, the first mainstage classical drama produced by the National Theater of Scotland. Helmer Vicky Featherstone undercuts such certainties, however, by casting an English actor as Mary and a Scottish actor as Elizabeth in a production that repeatedly plays against type. Although she draws forth two forceful performances in the central roles, she fails to set the political pulse racing in the machinations going on around them.

8 October The Sunday Times

Tutti Frutti? It's all rutti

By John Byrne. NTS review.

ROBBIE Coltrane claims a day doesn’t go by without someone asking him what happened to Tutti Frutti. John Byrne’s 1987 comedy-drama was a huge hit, picking up six Baftas and rave reviews. Yet, through conspiracy or neglect, it has gathered dust in the BBC archives ever since.

1 October The Sunday Times

Drama queens keep a strategic distance

Siobhan Redmond and Catherine Cusack on Mary Stuart

IN reality, 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 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.

26 September 2006 The Guardian

Tutti Frutti

By John Byrne. NTS review.

A GOOD John Byrne gag is a thing of baroque beauty. It is erudite and earthy, linguistically playful and daft. When Tam Dean Burn's bequiffed Vincent, guitarist with 1960s one-hit wonders the Majestics, speculates about finding a replacement for their late frontman, he suggests it might be time to find someone a tad younger. "Tad Younger," comes the deadpan reply. "Country blues howler from Banff."

13 September 2006 The Guardian


Translated by Zinnie Harris. NTS review.

AS misogynists go, they don't come more cranky than August Strindberg. Writing in 1888, the Swedish playwright characterised his Miss Julie, the well-bred lady with a passion for a servant, as a "half-woman ... synonymous with corruption". What hope when even your author thinks you a "poor species"?

September 2006 Hi-Arts


Translated by Zinnie Harris. NTS review.

ONE of the ambitions of the National Theatre of Scotland is to increase the number of Scottish translations of foreign classics. In October, David Harrower's version of Schiller's ‘Mary Stuart’ hits the stage, and here, for the new fleet-footed NTS Ensemble, Zinnie Harris takes on August Strindberg's 1888 three-hander, ‘Miss Julie’, the salutary fable of a well-to-do young lady who breaks social taboos by having an affair with a servant.

September 2006 Hi-Arts


By David Greig. NTS review.

YOU know you're in for a good time the moment you step inside the theatre. Instead of a stage, the room is laid out with tables. There are silver streamers cascading from the ceiling, a glitter ball spinning and a table full of tawdry looking raffle prizes.

September 2006 Hi-Arts


By Douglas Maxwell. NTS review.

CYCLING home beneath a full moon after the first night of Douglas Maxwell's ‘Mancub’ I passed two full grown foxes and a fox cub. It was if the strange animalistic world of the play, in which a dog bays endlessly at the moon "because it's full" and a teenage boy thinks he's taking on the form of rhinos, flies and birds, had seeped into the evening landscape.

27 August 2006 Variety


By Anthony Neilson. NTS review.

A ONE-MAN play for seven actors, "Realism" takes place inside the head of romantically troubled thirtysomething Stuart. It's a vision of a mundane Saturday at home after a heavy night on the town, made extraordinary by the dramatization of the man's every passing thought. On the surface, his day is an uneventful litany of eating, sleeping, defecating and watching TV. On another level it's a surreal fantasy that would keep Freudians busy for weeks.

20 August 2006 Scotland on Sunday


By Anthony Neilson. NTS review.

IN the first week of his final run around the block, McMaster has offered two shows which have their particular challenges and which have split audiences accordingly. The first, Anthony Neilson's Realism, takes us into a landscape of subconscious desires which many would rather he had kept repressed.

20 August 2006 Variety

Black Watch

By Gregory Burke. NTS review.

THE runaway hit of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe is a vibrant piece of verbatim theater that celebrates the lives of the soldiers of the ancient Scottish Black Watch regiment who served in Iraq. Largely sidestepping the debate about the rights and wrongs of military action, it puts the experience of the ordinary, working-class soldier centerstage to create a performance that is hard-headed yet tender, open-minded yet polemical, particular yet universal.

13 August 2006 Scotland on Sunday

Black Watch

By Gregory Burke. NTS review.

IN the early 1990s, Bill Bryden staged two epic plays at the Harland and Wolff engine shed in Govan, a cavernous space two-thirds the size of a football pitch. One of them, The Ship, was a tribute to the shipbuilders of the Clyde; the other one, The Big Picnic, a salute to the soldiers of the First World War.It is these productions that John Tiffany's staging of Gregory Burke's Black Watch for the National Theatre of Scotland most strongly recalls.

6 August The Sunday Times

A play written in rehearsal

By Anthony Neilson. NTS preview.

SANDY Neilson is sitting next to his son Anthony and recalling the moment everything changed. “To begin with, Anthony was known as Sandy Neilson’s son,” says the actor. “Now I’m Anthony Neilson’s dad.” It is more than 20 years since Sandy directed his son, then 17, in a production of Marat/Sade at Edinburgh’s Telford College. This time the younger man is directing his father in Realism in the Edinburgh International Festival. It’s a state of affairs they seem entirely comfortable with as they enjoy a pint — dad cider, son lager — in a rehearsal break at Glasgow’s CCA.

9 July 2006 Scotland on Sunday

Acting like old friends

East Glasgow Youth Theatre collaborates with children from the Priyut No 1 Special Boarding School in Togliatti, Russia

21 May 2006 Scotland on Sunday

Cast of thousands aim to transform lives

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.

4 May 2006 The Guardian

Elizabeth Gordon Quinn

Review of the Chris Hannan play

WITH her defiant cry, "I am not the working class: I am Elizabeth Gordon Quinn", the woman at the heart of Chris Hannan's thorny historical drama stands as a champion of freedom. Born into the poverty of Glasgow's turn-of-the-century tenement slums, Elizabeth tries to dream her way into a better life, trusting in romance, art and aesthetics to rescue her from penury.

22 April 2006 Scotland on Sunday

New Lease of Life for Rent Strike Heroine

Interview with Chris Hannan about Elizabeth Gordon Quinn

A LOT happens in 21 years. In 1985, Chris Hannan (pictured) was the 27-year-old spearhead of a promising generation of Scottish playwrights. He had written a couple of short plays for Edinburgh's Traverse, an agit-prop collaboration with John McGrath for 7:84 and was about to make a name for himself with a play called Elizabeth Gordon Quinn, a powerful historical drama infused with the miners' strike politics of the day.

15 April 2006 Variety


Grid Iron review.

AT a time when a pair of nail clippers on a short-haul flight can set alarm bells ringing, it will be interesting to see if Edinburgh Intl. Airport remains the only such venue with the boldness of vision to host Grid Iron's remarkable "Roam." Performed as the last airplanes of the evening are arriving on the runway, lead writer-director Ben Harrison's site-specific show takes over four airport check-in desks, several TV monitors, a baggage carousel and a section of the lounge to create a funny and polemical impressionistic collage of a population taking to the skies.

14 April The Sunday Times


Grid Iron review.

THE baggage you deposit at airports is all physical. They want your suitcases, holdalls and rucksacks. But to every check-in desk you also bring emotional baggage: memories of those you’ve left behind, anxieties about your journey ahead and fears for your sense of self in the big wide world.

2 April 2006 Scotland on Sunday

Roam flight is ready for departure

Preview of Grid Iron's Roam

IN Edinburgh Airport, Ben Harrison sees a child scooting around the check-in area. Everyone else is dutifully lining up in ordered rows, but she is just a slip of a thing and the finer points of airport etiquette are lost on her. Her game is to run headlong into the tensile barriers and make believe she has been knocked out. It's a flagrant breach of the unwritten rules, but who's to stop her?

14 April 2006 The Guardian

The Crucible

Review of TAG's Arthur Miller

WHILE the RSC is fielding that fine Scottish actor Iain Glen in their current production of The Crucible, the National Theatre of Scotland has chosen to stage the same play in an altogether less starry fashion. Collaborating with the schools-friendly TAG theatre company, the NTS is taking Arthur Miller's witch-hunting tragedy on a small-town tour, drafting in a dozen locals to flesh out the cast at each destination.

April 2006 Hi-Arts

The Crucible

Review of TAG's Arthur Miller

THE thing they always teach you at school about Arthur Miller's witch-hunting tragedy is that it was written as a metaphor for Senator McCarthy's communist-baiting House Un-American Activities Committee of the early-1950s. It's an allegory that makes perfect sense, but put that thought aside and you see that, over half-a-century after it was written, ‘The Crucible’ is much more fluid in its application.

2 April 2006 Variety

The Wolves in the Walls

Review of the Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean adaptation. NTS production.

THEY call it a "musical pandemonium," which is stretching a point. But if this through-composed adaptation of the children's picture book by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean, "The Wolves in the Walls," doesn't have quite the anarchic spirit of helmer-designer Julian Crouch's best-known creation, "Shockheaded Peter," it does have a fertile energy of its own. As a junior introduction to the dark side of musical theater, it's a lot of grisly fun and will be welcomed by younger Stateside audiences when it crosses the pond to tour in 2007.

22 Marchl 2006 The Guardian


Review of Sandy Thomson's Poorboy show

THOSE you'd most like to hear from are the drinkers in Waxy O'Connor's who break into a round of Let's All Do the Conga as 10 strangers walk hand in hand through their pub. Or the travellers on Buchanan Street underground who find themselves next to three dancers in devilish red fluttering on the platform to a Spanish guitar. Or the pedestrians walking down Midland Street as a gang of Asbo angels in white hoodies usher us into a blacked-out minibus.

5 March 2006 Variety

Scotland's "Home" Run

Review from Aberdeen, Shetland, Dundee, Glasgow and Edinburgh. NTS production.

IT was a red-letter night for Scottish theater, but you'd have been hard pressed to find a red carpet. The National Theater of Scotland launched Feb. 25 with 10 site-specific productions in places as unlikely as a public housing project in Glasgow and a ferry boat in Shetland. It was a declaration of intent that helmer Vicky Featherstone's new org is going to be no ordinary national theater.

March 2006 Hi-Arts


Review from Aberdeen, Dundee, Glasgow and Edinburgh. NTS production.

ONE of the pleasant spin-offs of being a theatre critic is you end up as a bit of a social anthropologist. Travelling round, you get to see not only the performances on stage, but also the audiences they attract. In class, age, outlook and sensibility, every theatre engages with a different group of people and it's fascinating to observe how they differ.

March 2006 Hi-Arts

Home Shetland

Review of the Lerwick show. NTS production.

BY staging shows in all corners of Scotland in its inaugural week, the National Theatre of Scotland was making a clear statement of intent: this is an organisation determined to serve the whole population, not just a metropolitan elite. You couldn't find a better example of that than in Lerwick, which, for all its charms, is hardly known as a theatrical hotspot.

27 February 2006 The Guardian

National Antics

A review of five shows in the inaugural Home project. NTS production.

'WHY should we not be proud of our national genius, humour, music, kindness and fidelity?" wrote the theatre critic of the Scotsman in 1819, stirred into a nationalistic fervour by the first-night staging of Sir Walter Scott's Rob Roy. "Why not be national?" It's taken 187 years, but that ambition to establish a National Theatre of Scotland has finally been realised.

February 2006 Hi-Arts

The Long Way Home

Preview of four of the Home productions

PEOPLE have been talking about setting up a National Theatre of Scotland since as long ago as 1822. That was when King George IV paid a visit to the Edinburgh Theatre Royal (long since gone), and a buzz of aspiration whipped round the theatre community.

6 November 2005 Variety

Scots Stage a Coup

Report on the launch of the National Theatre of Scotland programme

NEARLY 200 years in the making, the National Theater of Scotland came one step closer on Nov. 1 with the launch of an inaugural 2006 program that will reach across Scotland and as far as the U.S. Backed by a two-year budget of £7.4 million ($13 million) public funds, the NTS is the only national body to be formed since the establishment of the Scottish Parliament in 1999.

6 November 2005 Scotland on Sunday

Let the Mad things Commence

Reactions to the launch of the National Theatre of Scotland programme

THE inaugural programme of the National Theatre of Scotland was launched in Glasgow last week amid much fanfare and celebration. It includes an adaptation by John Byrne of his cult TV hit Tutti Frutti, a 'site-suggestive' show called Roam staged beyond the check-in desks at Edinburgh International Airport by Grid Iron, and The Wolves in the Walls, a family musical based on the terrifying 2004 children's graphic novel by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean.

30 October 2005 Scotland on Sunday

National Not Nebulous Plays for Today

Preview of the launch of the National Theatre of Scotland programme

WHEN Vicky Featherstone announces the inaugural programme for the National Theatre of Scotland on Tuesday, it will be a milestone in Scottish theatre history. Insiders indicate the list of productions for 2006 is large. It is expected to include shows by an ensemble company and several to be seen at home and abroad. There'll also be behind-the-scenes workshops, performances for children and community theatre. Opening night will feature several site-specific performances, one of which will be performed at Edinburgh Airport, called Roam. Another work which has been confirmed is Gregory Burke's The Black Watch.

This is a sample caption