Skip to main content


King's Theatre, Glasgow
4 stars
There's little in the way of sentimentality in much of the Original 
Theatre Company's new take on Sebastian Faulks' First World War novel 
by writer Rachel Wagstaff. Given that it looks at a doomed love affair 
between English officer Stephen Raysford and Isabelle Azaire, the 
French woman trapped in a loveless and abusive marriage who captivates 
him, this is somewhat surprising. But as the frontline troops let off 
steam with an increasingly desperate-looking sing-song that opens the 
play before marching to their deaths in the Somme, any ideas of a 
conventional war-time romance are instantly blasted into the trenches 
with the emotionally complex grit of what follows.

Where Faulks' story was originally told via a linear narrative, 
Wagstaff's script, revised since Trevor Nunn's original 2010 West End 
production, weaves her characters through time-frames to create an 
ambitiously realised memory play which moves seamlessly between each 
period. Alastair Whatley's fluid production, played out on Victoria 
Spearing's versatile bomb-site of set, focuses as much on Stephen's 
political awakening as much as his emotional one, as he finds empathy 
with squaddies just as Isabelle did with the striking factory workers 
she gave food to.

As Stephen, Jonathan Smith captures just the right balance of lovesick 
obsession and upper-crust bravura. Sarah Jayne Dunn's Isabelle is a 
quietly aloof presence, and a stirring symbol of the purity and passion 
he yearns for. As Stephen clings on to the impossible memory of 
Isabelle, the fragile peace of his own battle-scarred psyche comes into 
question. Ultimately, he survives the tug of love and war, but what's 
clear is how much war messes up the lives of even those it doesn't 

The Herald, April 10th 2013



Popular posts from this blog

The Maids

Dundee Rep

Two sisters sit in glass cases either side of the stage at the start of Eve Jamieson's production of Jean Genet's nasty little study of warped aspiration and abuse of power. Bathed in red light, the women look like artefacts in some cheap thrill waxworks horror-show, or else exhibits in a human zoo. Either way, they are both trapped, immortalised in a freak-show possibly of their own making.

Once the sisters come to life and drape themselves in the sumptuous bedroom of their absent mistress, they raid her bulging wardrobe to try on otherwise untouchable glad-rags and jewellery. As they do, the grotesque parody of the high-life they aspire to turns uglier by the second. When the Mistress returns, as played with daring abandon by Emily Winter as a glamour-chasing narcissist who gets her kicks from drooling over the criminal classes, you can't really blame the sisters for their fantasy of killing her.

Slabs of sound slice the air to punctuate each scene of Mart…


Tramway, Glasgow until July 2nd
Four stars

In the dead of night, the audience are split in two and led under-cover into lamp-lit tented structures. Inside, what look like peasant women on the run lead us down a ramp and into a large circular pod. It feels part cathedral, part space-ship, and to come blinking into the light of such a fantastical structure after stumbling in the dark disorientates and overwhelms. Sat around the pod as if awaiting prayers to begin, we watch as performers Nerea Bello and Judith Williams incant mournfully on either side of the room. Their keening chorales embark on a voyage of their own, twisting around each other by way of the international language of singing. As if in sympathy, the walls wail and whisper, before starting to move as those on either side of the pod are left stranded, a gulf between them.

This international co-commission between Glasgow Life and the Merchant City Festival, Sydney Harbour Foreshaw Authority in Australia and Urbane Kienste …

High Society

Pitlochry Festival Theatre
Four stars

The stage looks gift-wrapped with a sparklingly expensive bow at the opening of John Durnin's revival of Arthur Kopit's Cole Porter based musical that reinvigorates the starry 1956 film where it originated. With the film itself drawing from Philip Barry's play, The Philadelphia Story, Kopit and Porter's depiction of the Long Island jet set says much about over-privileged party people, but retains a fizz that keeps it going till all passion is seemingly spent.
The action is based around the forthcoming nuptials of drop-dead gorgeous society gal and serial bride, Tracy Lord. With her daddy having run off with a show-girl, and ex beau next door CK Dexter Haven set sail for other shores, Tracy settles for George, a stinking rich would-be president for whom stupidity, as someone observes, sits on his shoulders like a crown. Enter Tracy's match-making kid sister Dinah and a pair of reporters for a trashy scandal sheet looking to stit…