1 Sep 2019 The Guardian

North and South

By Janys Chambers after Elizabeth Gaskill. A Pitlochry Festival Theatre review.

THERE is a thrilling transition three scenes into this adaptation of the Elizabeth Gaskell novel. So far, it's been the very picture of a bucolic idyll. We've been in Margaret Hale's beloved childhood home of Helstone, where the pillars that formed the columns of a stately house in the first scene have the suggestion of trees, which are tall, shady and enveloping. Half a dozen community cast members come on to scatter petals that flutter in the breeze. It is languid, laid-back and carefree, like the sweeter moments of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

19 Jun 2018 The Guardian

Quality Street

By JM Barrie. A Pitlochry Festival Theatre review

VALENTINE Brown is trying to persuade Phoebe Throssel that age is no barrier to their romance. She might regret the decade that has passed since he abruptly left to fight in the Napoleonic wars, leaving their love unrequited, but he’s having none of it. “Instead of growing older you shall grow younger,” he says, promising to heal the wounds of time. No prizes for guessing the playwright is JM Barrie.

The Guardian 10 June 2014

Perfect Days

By liz Lochhead. A Pitlochry Festival Theatre review.

THE hair salon co-owned by Barbs Marshall in Liz Lochhead's midlife-crisis comedy is called Razor City. That's not an accident. When Perfect Days premiered at Edinburgh's Traverse in 1998, we were still adjusting to Glasgow's post-capital of culture makeover. A city once best known for gang violence had been rebranded as a fashionable hangout for the cappuccino and wine-bar set.

The Guardian 1 July 2013

Hello, Dolly!

BY Michael Stewart and Jerry Herman. A Pitlochry Festival Theatre review.

ACCORDING to Sotheby's, paintings with strong tones of red – the colour of sex and desire Ð sell better than those without. Designer Adrian Rees seems to have got the message. His costumes for Basienka Blake's Dolly Levi – all raunchy pinks and ravishing oranges – establish her as the show's unstoppable life force; and everything else, from the monochrome landscape of sprouting parasols to the pallid costumes of the rest of the cast, emphasises the reproductively vital role this matchmaker plays. She is the pulse and tempo by which this delightful, if gossamer-thin, musical is set.


6 December 2012 Northings

White Christmas

By Irving Berlin, David Ives and Paul Blake. A Pitlochry Festival Theatre review.

ON the first preview performance, the audience entered on an ordinary winter's evening and left, so I'm told, to see the first snowfall of the season. We knew the Pitlochry technical team were good, but choreographing the weather is something else. BY the time I get there on the press night, the snow is lying thick on the ground and it's impossible to think of a seasonal show better pitched at the Pitlochry audience.

7 September 2012 Northings

Dear Brutus

By JM Barrie. A Pitlochry Festival Theatre review.

IT isn t only in Peter Pan that the Kirriemuir-born writer lamented the swift passage of time and the tragic loss of childhood. It was a subject he came back to again and again. His 1908 play What Every Woman Knows, for example, is about a man who has attained high public office despite having the emotional intelligence of a child. And 19202 s Mary Rose concerns a woman who disappears for 21 years only to reappear unchanged while the rest of the world has moved on.

3 August 2012 The Guardian

The 39 Steps

By Patrick Barlow, after Nobby Dimon and Simon Corbie. A Pitlochry Festival Theatre review

SINCE director Richard Baron staged The 39 Steps at Perth Theatre in 1998, the adaptation has been on a journey as long and involved as that of Richard Hannay when he stumbles across an international spy conspiracy in John Buchan's thriller. Baron took a script by Nobby Dimon and Simon Corbie, which had been on a small-scale tour of village halls, and gave it a gag-laden production that got much mileage out of the ludicrous impossibility of staging Hannay's epic journey across Britain with only four actors.

15 June 2012 The Guardian


By Patrick Hamilton. A Pitlochry Festival Theatre review

THE murder-mystery always lets you down. It's a genre that compels you to piece together the clues, then leaves you with a sense of emptiness the moment the detective solves the puzzle. The answer to the riddle is as meaningless as a completed sudoku puzzle. Rope has the distinction of revealing the murderers from the start; the thrill of the play is to see whether his two pukka Oxford undergraduates will get away with it. Audaciously, they have invited friends and relatives of the victim to a party around the chest containing his corpse.

7 June 2012 The Guardian

Little Shop of Horrors

BY Howard Ashman and Alan Menken. A Pitlochry Festival Theatre review

SEYMOUR the florist has a lot in common with Macbeth. Like Shakespeare's antihero, the misfit at the centre of Little Shop of Horrors gets his first break through his own skill and resourcefulness. Where Macbeth wins favour by his bravery on the battlefield, Seymour puts Mushnik's flower shop on the map with his cultivation of a previously unseen variety of plant.


1 November 2011 Northings

Whisky Galore

By Shona McKee McNeil and Ian Hammond Brown. A Pitlochry Festival Theatre review.

IT'S strange enough that one of Scotland's most highly attended theatres is in one of the country's smallest towns. What's even stranger is that Pitlochry Festival Theatre now appears to be repeating its summer success in the autumn. For the first time, the theatre in the hills has staged a production immediately after the end of its regular repertoire season and, even on a damp Monday night with Halloween parties for competition, there's a sizeable audience turning up for the pleasure.


28 June 2011 Northings

Henceforward . . .

By Alan Ayckbourn. A Pitlochry Festival Theatre review.

THE PIVOTAL scene in My Fair Lady, the centrepiece of this year's Pitlochry programme, is the one in which Eliza Doolittle, a former flower girl, passes herself off as an elegant lady at a grand social gathering. Playing in the same season, Alan Ayckbourn's 1987 play Henceforward . . . revolves around a similar transformation. In this case, it is a life-like robot passing herself off as a middle-aged man's fiancŽe during a meeting to discuss the custody of his daughter.


28 June 2011 Northings

My Fair Lady

By Lerner and Loewe. A Pitlochry Festival Theatre review.

ALTHOUGH IT has clocked up 60 years of crowd-pleasing entertainment, Pitlochry Festival Theatre is a relative newcomer to the musical. This is surprising. Not only do big-hearted shows such as 20092 s Whisky Galore  a Musical! go down tremendously well with audiences holidaying in Perthshire, but also the company makes such a splendid job of them. You d think they d been doing them since the day John Stewart erected his tent at Knockendarroch in 1951.

24 June 2011 The Guardian

My Fair Lady

By Lerner and Loewe. A Pitlochry Festival Theatre review.

INTRODUCING the Pitlochry festival theatre's 60th anniversary gala night, Joss Ackland began by telling the audience about his time as an actor in the first company of 1951. He claimed that this Perthshire town on the edge of the Highlands is the most romantic place on Earth – and, to prove it, listed the children he conceived here.

14 September 2010 The Guardian

An Ideal Husband

By Oscar Wilde. A Pitlochry Festival Theatre review.

FOR today's audiences, the actions of Sir Robert Chiltern in Oscar Wilde's comedy of political intrigue seem romantic. Like more than one of our own leaders, he has a skeleton in his closet. His secret is that he made his fortune by what we now call insider trading: tipping off an investor about the government's plans for the Suez canal. Chiltern's prevarication when he is blackmailed by the manipulative Mrs Cheveley is a trait we recognise. Quite unrecognisable, however, is his decision to retire from public life even after he has successfully kept the secret quiet. Who today would show such scruples?


27 July 2010 The Guardian

Bus Stop

By William Inge. A Pitlochry Festival Theatre review.

IF you read contemporary accounts of mid-20th century American theatre, you routinely see the names of Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller and William Inge listed together. The first two are no surprise, but you wonder at the third. In the 1950s, Inge was celebrated for a run of Broadway hits including Come Back Little Sheba and Dark at the Top of the Stairs, and he attracted stars as big as Marilyn Monroe to his film adaptations. Today, he is largely forgotten in the UK.

21 June 2010 Northings

Bus Stop

By William Inge. A Pitlochry Festival Theatre review.

IN 1963, the critic John Mason Brown was able to write: "Since Pearl Harbor only three outstanding career dramatists have appeared in America Ð Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams and William Inge." Today, we routinely see plays by Miller and Williams, but Inge – at least in the UK – is a rarity. His name is virtually unknown here, yet back in the 1950s, he enjoyed four back-to-back Broadway hits. Although he had less success later in his career before his suicide in 1973, he was considered a force to be reckoned with.


17 June 2010 The Guardian

Rough Crossing

By Tom Stoppard. A Pitlochry Festival Theatre review.

LET us agree: theatre does not have to be about big ideas. Let us accept it can be a brilliantly executed artifice, as with Michael Frayn's Noises Off, also playing this season at Pitlochry. Let us acknowledge it can be lightweight, frivolous and throwaway Ð fun for fun's sake. But having allowed ourselves that, can we also make a case for Rough Crossing? What is the purpose, whether it be ambitious or modest, of Tom Stoppard's free reworking of Ferenc Moln‡r's The Play at the Castle? Is there any reason it should exist?

11 June 2010 Northings

Rough Crossing

By Tom Stoppard. A Pitlochry Festival Theatre review.

EVERYTHING looks to be in place for a breezy summer comedy at the start of this production of Tom Stoppard's Rough Crossing. The handsome set by Adrian Rees, a gleaming white cruise liner with jokey seagulls flapping away in the background, scores a round of applause and an early laugh from the audience.


15 June 2010 The Guardian

Kiss Me Kate

By Cole Porter. A Pitlochry Festival Theatre review.

THE lights come up on the second half, and the Pitlochry summer ensemble shows its colours. It is time for Too Darn Hot, Cole Porter's slinky, sticky jazz number, and the large cast is out in force. As with the company's first musical, Whisky Galore, nominated in Sunday's Critics' Awards for Theatre in Scotland, the actors not only prove themselves fine singers, but also spirited musicians, bringing clarinets and saxophones with them on stage. This time, they also dance.


10 June 2010 Northings

Noises Off

By Michael Frayn. A Pitlochry Festival Theatre review.

AFTER last year's all-Scottish season at Pitlochry, the theatre has lined up a set of plays that look at the idea of going away. You probably wouldn't have spotted that if you hadn't read it in the programme, but it is hard to miss the coincidental theme that is running in parallel. Just as Kiss Me Kate is about a theatre company staging a version of The Taming of the Shrew, so Noises Off is about a theatre company staging a fictitious old-school farce called Nothing On. Elsewhere in the summer repertoire, Rough Crossing is about two playwrights sailing towards a Broadway premiere, and Bus Stop features a nightclub singer and a Shakespeare scholar.

21 August 2009 Northings

The Life of Stuff

By Simon Donald. A Pitlochry Festival Theatre review.

I ADMIT to making the trip to Pitlochry as much to see the audience as to have another look at Simon Donald's 17-year-old play. The Life of Stuff is a black comedy that features drug taking, a severed body part, considerable violence and lots of swearing. It is as far from the sedate image of the theatre-in-the-hills as it is possible for a play to be.



1 July 2009 The Guardian

Good Things

By Liz Lochhead. A Pitlochry Festival Theatre review.

"THE good things some folk throw away," says Alan Steele's Frazer, eyeing up a bin bag of castoffs in Liz Lochhead's midlife crisis comedy. Like clothes in a charity shop, he and Carol Ann Crawford's Susan are good things that have been discarded – he bereaved by his mother, she dumped by her husband for a younger woman. Be it Christmas or Valentine's Day, they are the unwrapped presents nobody wants.

22 June 2009 Northings

Good Things

By Liz Lochhead. A Pitlochry Festival Theatre review.

IT’S RARE enough to see a second staging of a recent Scottish play, but Pitlochry Festival Theatre is earning a reputation not only for championing such work, but for doing it better than the debut productions. After turning out an interpretation of Outlying Islands by David Greig last year that was superior to the Traverse Theatre premiere, the company has revived Liz Lochhead's five-year-old mid-life crisis comedy Good Things and exceeded the fine Borderline original.

22 June 2009 Northings

What Every Woman Knows

By JM Barrie. A Pitlochry Festival Theatre review.

J M BARRIE is best known as the creator of Peter Pan, the boy who wouldn't grow up. Here in the Kirriemuir playwright's 1908 play, What Every Woman Knows, we find another boy who wouldn't grow up, except on the surface the circumstances are very different.

22 June 2009 Northings

Whisky Galore: A Musical!

By Shona McKee McNeil and Ian Hammond Brown. A Pitlochry Festival Theatre review.

GETTING A musical right is one of the hardest jobs in the theatre. Many a brilliant song has been axed on Broadway when it was blamed for hampering the rhythm of the show. And when musicals flop they flop spectacularly. So it's a double credit to Pitlochry Festival Theatre that not only is the premiere of Whisky Galore thoroughly entertaining, but it is also the first musical ever to be staged there. Whether it would survive the rigours of Broadway is a moot point, because Ken Alexander's feelgood production, with a sparkling cast of 14, makes a perfect fit for the theatre in the hills. It’s a wonder they never did a musical before.


18 June 2009 The Guardian

Whisky Galore: A Musical!

By Shona McKee McNeil and Ian Hammond Brown. A Pitlochry Festival Theatre review.

WHAT took them so long? Pitlochry Festival Theatre is a place you'd expect a musical to go down well, yet this adaptation of the Compton Mackenzie novel is the first one in the theatre's 60-year history. It sets the summer season off to such a rousing start, with one of the strongest casts I have seen here, that the Pitlochry musical deserves to become an institution.

5 September 08 Northings

Outlying Islands

By David Greig. Pitlochry Festival Theatre review.

FIVE years after Outlying Islands made its debut at Edinburgh's Traverse Theatre in 2002, playwright David Greig translated The Bacchae by Euripides for the National Theatre of Scotland.This was the show in which Alan Cumming played Dionysus, the god of good times, upturning the prim and proper world of Pentheus, played by a buttoned-up Tony Curran. With this in mind, it's fascinating to return to Outlying Islands, superbly staged by Ken Alexander as the last show of the Pitlochry season, and see that it is about exactly the same struggle between order and chaos, the head and the heart.

25 July 2007 Northings

The Philadelphia Story

By Philip Barry. Pitlochry Festival Theatre review.

THE Philadelphia Story is the play that was made into the film with Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant and James Stewart before being transformed into High Society, the Cole Porter musical. On one level it's a story of an upper-class American family who risk being humiliated on the daughter's wedding day by a magazine story about an adulterous affair between the father and a chorus girl, a scandalous prospect staved off only by a counter plot to blackmail the publisher.

24 July 2007 The Guardian

Passing Places/The Philadelphia Story

By Stephen Greenhorn/Philip Barry. Pitlochry Festival Theatre review.

THE latest two plays to join the summer repertoire at Pitlochry are journeys of self-discovery. In Stephen Greenhorn's Passing Places, two lads from Motherwell venture north in a stolen Lada and eventually find that they, like Scotland itself, have more going for them than they ever thought possible. In Philip Barry's The Philadelphia Story, the over-assertive Tracy Lord finally finds the humility to make the right choice in marriage (which just happens to be the choice she made in the first place).

24 July 2007 Northings

Passing Places

By Stephen Greenhorn. Pitlochry Festival Theatre review.

IN a country that has so recently voted in a nationalist government, you'd expect there to be a unified sense of what it means to be Scottish. But if Scotland has any distinctive quality it is surely not so much its coherence as its cultural diversity. It is a land of Highland tele-cottagers, Central Belt financiers, Polish hotel workers and island oil workers. Even the tourists must see through the clichés of bagpiping kilt-wearers and shortbread-making crofters.


20 May 2007 Scotland on Sunday

The Flouers o Edinburgh/Snake in the Grass

By Robert McLellan/Alan Ayckbourn. Pitlochry Festival Theatre review.

I write in praise of Carol Ann Crawford. For too long this fine actress has been seen in smaller character roles or behind the scenes working as a dialect coach. But those who remember her from major parts at the Traverse and the Royal Lyceum in the 1980s and 90s or who saw her performance in Further Than The Furthest Thing last year will know she's worth very much more than that. Should you be in any doubt, just check out the opening productions in Pitlochry's summer season and watch her command the stage in two completely contrasting parts.

12 June 2006 The Guardian


By Agatha Christie. Pitlochry Festival Theatre review.

THE opening week of the summer repertoire at Pitlochry has been dogged by ill luck. A key actor in Ayckbourn's Man of the Moment was unable to perform after dislocating her knee, and a power cut interrupted Wodehouse's Summer Lightning.But neither of these compares to the misfortune suffered by Agatha Christie's Chimneys. Scheduled to appear at London's Embassy Theatre in December 1931, it was mysteriously cancelled before the first night. Just as mysteriously, it resurfaced in Calgary in 2003 after an original copy was sent anonymously in the post. Its European premiere has come 75 years late.

9 May 2005 Northings

Kind Hearts and Coronets

Adapted by Giles Croft. Pitlochry Festival Theatre review.

ONE of the things that makes the original film of Kind Hearts and Coronets so special is that the many members of the aristocratic D’Ascoyne family are played by the one actor: Alec Guinness. It seems to us a theatrical idea because it breaks the naturalistic conventions of cinema. The film lets us in on its own self-conscious joke.


24 May 2005 Northings

A Man for all Seasons

By Robert Bolt. Pitlochry Festival Theatre review.

IN his programme note, director Richard Baron points out the similarities between A Man for all Seasons by Robert Bolt and The Crucible by Arthur Miller. Even though both are historical plays – Bolt writing about Sir Thomas More in the early 16th century; Miller writing about the 17th century witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts – they tell us a lot about the political atmosphere of the 1950s when they were written.

2 July 2004 Northings

The Government Inspector

By John Byrne. Pitlochry Festival Theatre review.

THE multi-talented John Byrne has had two translations staged in Scotland in quick succession. Earlier this year Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum presented his version of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, retitled Uncle Varick. Now Pitlochry has given his ribald treatment of Gogol’s The Government Inspector its first Scottish airing since its London debut in 1997.

8 May 2004 The Guardian

The Shop at Sly Corner

By Edward Percy. Pitlochry Festival Theatre review.

VILLAIN number one is a Frenchman with a secret. Subtext: never trust Johnny Foreigner. Villain number two has a host of unpleasant traits, the most damning of which is his supposed homosexuality. Evidence: he wears silk underwear. Villain number two is blackmailing villain number one which is just the kind of behaviour you'd expect from his sort.

31 May 2004 Northings

The Shop at Sly Corner

By Edward Percy. Pitlochry Festival Theatre review.

AS plays and styles go in and out of fashion, there’s always a case for re-evaluating neglected works from the canon. Tastes change, society changes, ideas of what constitutes theatre change. There was a time in the 18th century when King Lear was considered unstageable – now, many people regard it as the greatest play ever written. In a more minor way, Stephen Daldry allowed modern audiences to see JB Priestley’s An Inspector Calls as something richer than the repertory warhorse it had become by presenting it in a fresh and original style.

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