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Showing posts from April, 2015

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars

Once upon a time there was a fifteen-year old boy called Christopher Boone, who loved prime numbers and his pet rat Toby, but hated being touched. When one night Christopher finds a dead dog run through with a garden fork, he turns detective and accidentally embarks on an adventure that will open up a world beyond the assorted codes he's constructed to protect himself and change his life forever.
The several million fans of Mark Haddon's novel that inspired this stage adaptation by Simon Stephens may already know the intricately obsessive ins and outs of all this in ways akin to Christopher's whip-smart but socially awkward demeanour. Seeing it brought to life in Marianne Elliot's hit production for the National Theatre, however, is something else again.

The above is framed by having Christopher's teacher Siobhan read out Christopher's story to the class, then having his classmates act it out. Siobhan herself, played her…

A View From The Bridge

Kings Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars

It's hard not to think of the all too recent tragedies of migrants seeking sanctuary while watching Stephen Unwin's mighty new production of Arthur Miller's 1956 play for the Touring Consortium Theatre Company. In Eddie Carbone's gradual betrayal of all the blue collar codes he's lived by with his wife Beatrice and orphaned niece Catherine, after all, is a global tragedy played out in one cramped living room in a poverty-stricken New York neighbourhood.
Not that such a thesis is pushed too far, as Eddie's insular life as king of his tenement castle is shaken up by the arrival of Beatrice's Italian cousins, Marco and Rodolpho, a couple of 'submarines' who travel to America illegally. Where Philip Cairns' Marco is a grafter, James Rastall's Rodolpho is a blonde and seemingly feckless aesthete whose ability to sing, dance, cook a meal and sew a skirt gives Daisy Boulton's initially guileless Catherine a…

Inside Outsiders - The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time Onstage

Everybody loves an outsider. In literature and film, it's the
oddball, the geek and the troublesome, the shyly intelligent but socially
awkward or emotionally damaged anti-hero who readers and audiences identify
with. If such protagonists are teenagers angrily coming to terms with a world
that seems to be against them, the appeal is even greater, whether it's James
Dean's sensitive tough guy in Rebel Without A Cause or an entire coterie of
misfits in John Hughes' ultimate teen angst flick, The Breakfast Club.

In
books, J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye has itself become a rites of
passage for young readers who can identify with the book's narrator, Holden
Caulfield, while Jay McInerny did something similar for teenage girls in his
1988 novel, Story of My Life. All of which goes some way to explaining the
phenomenal and enduring success of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the
Night-Time ever since Mark Haddon's novel was first published in 2003.

Now
r…

The Venetian Twins

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars

The accordion-led overture that ushers in Tony Cownie's new version of Carlo Goldoni's eighteenth century comic cut of mistaken identity speaks volumes about what follows. Sure enough, as soon as Angela Darcy's servant Columbina and her nice but dumb mistress Rosaura open their mouths, we're in old-school sit-com land.
Separated at birth, twins Zanetto and Tonino arrive separately in Verona for very different reasons. Where Zanetto is a bumbling half-wit who seems to have met his perfect match in Rosaura just as his servant Arlecchino does with Columbina, Tonino is a bum-slapping charmer who has been followed by Beatrice, a Freud-referencing suffragette who just can't help herself. Jessica Hardwick's Beatrice is pursued both by Tonino's man Florindo and by the flamboyant Lelio, played by James Anthony Pearson as a a ginger-wigged fop resembling a creature who looks somewhere between The Joker and Sideshow Bob.

Simon Stephens - The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

The last time Simon Stephens was in Edinburgh, seeing the billboards and advertising hoardings outside the city's Festival Theatre for his award-winning stage adaptation of Mark Haddon's novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time gave him a little swell of pride. For all the phenomonal success of both the book and the play, which has seen Marianne Elliot's National Theatre production of Stephens' version transferring to both the West End and Broadway prior to its current tour which arrives in Edinburgh tonight, it felt a little bit like coming home.

“Edinburgh is very special,” says the Stockport-born writer having just watched a new production of childrens' musical Bugsy Malone at the Lyric Hammersmith, where he is an associate artist. “It's the city where I met my wife. I formed my band there, and I lived there for two years, and started writing my first play in a flat above a shop on Broughton Street.”

Such attention to detail and forensic memo…

Fever Dream: Southside

Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
Four stars

'People Make Glasgow World Class' declaims the bus shelter hoarding just across the bridge that leads to the Gorbals-based Citizens Theatre. Beyond the spin, such a statement could easily form part of Douglas Maxwell's new play. Set beneath a neon-lit reconstruction of artist Stephen O'Neil's real life installation, it becomes a fantastical love letter, not just to the Govanhill neighbourhood it is set in, but to the city itself.
For Peter and Demi, the young couple at the play's centre, it is a city full of monsters, where family life is disrupted by a cacophony of police helicopters and howling dogs who add to the din of their crying baby. With sleeplessness at a premium, Peter's terminal adolescence rubs up uncomfortably against the likes of Dharmesh Patel's property developer Raj, who takes Umar Malik's disaffected schoolboy Kuldev under his wing and is the epitome of every big-talking wide-boy who ever tr…

MONO - Going off the rails in a place where nothing's ever black and white

Onstage there's a young woman in a white jump-suit having her head
shaved by a young man in a leopardskin dress. David Bowie's Rebel Rebel blares
out the speakers while a young audience looks on. Even by the standards of the
vegetarian cafe/bar/venue that is Mono, this Thursday teatime performance is an
eccentric spectacle. The haircut/performance marks the launch of the 2013
edition of live art festival, Buzzcut, which has moved into Mono's speak-easy
environs for the first time. If ever proof was needed, Buzzcut's plethora of
similarly off-the-wall events demonstrates that the venue's open-minded and
inclusive policy goes miles beyond its left-field musical
constituency.

Seated at a table over snacks, someone is opening up the
gatefold sleeve of the vinyl edition of Bowie's new surprise album, The Next
Day. The album has just been purchased from Monorail Music, the impeccably
stocked record shop housed next to the bar and lovingly co-owned and run by
Glasgow music legend S…

They Could've Been Bigger Than The Beatles - A Liverpool Top Ten

1. Billy Fury – Wondrous Place

When teenager Ronald Wycherly turned up to a Marty Wilde show in the late 1950s with the hope of showing the older singer some of his songs, little did he know that he'd end up not just onstage but on tour with Wilde as he was given an infinitely more mercurial name by showbiz svengali Larry Parnes.
Fury didn't really hit paydirt until 1961 with his yearning top ten hit, Halfway To Paradise, but a year earlier his first version of songwriters Jeff Lewis and Bill Giant's understated paean to the transcendent powers of intimate exchanges of the flesh was delivered with quietly knowing ineffable matinee idol cool.

Fury recorded the song several times during his fleetingly brief time at the top before the 1960s beat groups took over the world. Fury continued to release records, and played holiday camp rocker Stormy Tempest in David Essex film vehicle, That'll Be The Day before dying at the tragically young age of forty-three in 1983. Wondro…

Oklahoma!

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars

There may well be a bright golden meadow at the opening of Rodgers and Hammerstein's first, genre-busting Broadway hit from 1943, but Rachel Kavanaugh's touring revival for the Music & Lyrics company and the Royal & Derngate Northampton proves there's a dark heart there too.
While hardly Twin Peaks, the small town in what is still regarded here as 'Indian Territory' but which is about to become the state of Oklahoma in this turn of the twentieth century tale based on Lynn Riggs' 1931 play, Green Grow the Lilacs, is riven with conflict beyond the infectious optimism that infects most of its residents. While this is never overdone in Kavanaugh's starry, wide-open production, it's played appealingly straight, despite some of the most infectiously jaunty songs ever penned for musical theatre.

The first act beams into view with Ashley Day's twinkly-eyed Curly and Charlotte Wakefield's independent minde…

Douglas Maxwell - Fever Dream: Southside and Yer Granny

“Will half an hour be long enough for this?” an affable Douglas Maxwell asks the Herald's photographer following a mid-afternoon interview in the foyer of the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow, where one of his two new plays, Fever Dream: Southside, opens this week. “It's just that the schools are off and it's a nightmare for childcare just now.”

If this incident alone suggests that Maxwell's world has changed since his work last graced our stages, the subjects of these new pieces confirms it. Maxwell's early works such as Decky Does A Bronco, staged in a swing-park in 2000 by the Grid Iron company, and Our Bad Magnet, which appeared at the Tron Theatre in Glasgow the same year, looked at small town boys, outsiders and terminal adolescents undergoing some kind of rites of passage, usually brought on by tragedy.
These themes continued in the computer game based Helmet, Mancub and the epic If Destroyed True, but they were all more than a decade ago now, and more recent wo…

Mother of All the Peoples

Dundee Rep
Three stars

In a city built on its heroines, there are few more towering than Mary Slessor, the Dundee sired mill girl who in the nineteenth century followed in the footsteps of David Livingstone and spent almost four decades as a missionary in Africa. Mike Gibbs' play was inspired by Elizabeth Robertson's biography of the play's subject, The Barefoot Missionary, and faithfully dramatises Slessor's colourful life beyond it.
The play is introduced by the older Mary emerging from a large grass hut on one side of the stage to narrate her back pages, which are duly played out on the other half. Here we find Mary's younger self, a precocious auto-didact raised in the slums by a mother who every Saturday night faced the back of her husband's hand. Burying herself in books, Mary embarks on a real life adventure that will take her to the other side of the world, where things don't always go according to plan. Witch doctors, suspicious natives, visiting d…

Maripol, Clare Stephenson and Zoe Williams – Spring / Summer 2015

Dundee Contemporary Arts until June 21st.
Four stars

After a succession of impressively immersive shows that have felt at times like being in assorted night-club chill-out rooms, the DCA comes blinking into the (neon) light for this triple-headed glamour chase spear-headed by the French Polaroid auteur, designer, stylist to art's original stars and sometime chanteuse, Maripol. In a collection that looks part boutique, part 1980s in-crowd affair which has only just been in full swing before everyone rushed off to the latest joint, Maripol's verite images are the stuff of a thousand private views, and her work really shouldn't be witnessed unless set to a sound-track of uber-cool loft-friendly avant-disco.
As it is, Maripol's own musical contribution to the show, a song recorded with Leonard Lasry called 'Love Each Other', can only be heard on headphones pitched next to a glass case containing 'EACH x OTHER' (2015), a calendar box etched with a series of…

The Woman in Black

King's Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars

Have no fear. It may be only a week before the DVD and Blu-Ray release of what by many accounts is a below par sequel to Hammer's big-screen take on Susan Hill's 1983 gothic novel, but audiences may prefer instead to remain faithful to Robin Herford's production of Stephen Mallatratt's evergreen stage version. Touring for the umpteenth time in parallel with the show's ongoing West End run which began a quarter of a century ago, one of the spine-tingling joys of the piece is just how much Mallatratt and Herford strip things back to a form of poor theatre now being revisited by a multitude of DIY fringe troupes.
Only a dressing up box, a couple of chairs and a gauze draping the back of the stage are in evidence as the uptight Arthur Kipps attempts to bring to life the story which has haunted him for decades. Having hired a dashing young actor to play his younger self, Kipps plays all the other parts as his other half takes …

Peter Pal Pelbart - Ueinzz Theatre Company

When a patient in the A Casa psychiatric day clinic in Sao Paolo in Brazil suggested that residents form a theatre group, the proposal was to do 'real' theatre, and not theatre 'by loonies for loonies'. With A Casa's backing, the patients brought in professional theatre directors, who treated them, not like patients, but as they would any other actors with such singular ways of walking, talking and expressing themselves.

Nineteen years on, and Ueinzz Theatre Company are an internationally renowned group who operate in very different ways to more conventionally sired companies, as their arrival in Glasgow this week as part of the Arika organisation's latest episode of artistic inquiry, the tellingly named We Can't Live Without Our Lives.

“The group is very excited,” says Peter Pal Pelbart, the philosopher and essayist who has also been a member of Ueinzz since the group's inception, and will take part in a workshop, open rehearsal and performance of Uein…

Robin Herford - The Woman in Black

When Stephen Mallatratt's stage version of Susan Hill's gothic horror novel, The Woman in Black, arrives in Edinburgh this week en route to Glasgow as part of the show's latest tour, Robin Herford's production marks a twenty-five year West End run second only to Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap in terms of longevity.

“It's quite bizarre,” says Herford, who has been with the show from the start, ever since he commissioned Mallatratt to write it while running the Stephen Joseph Theatre in the Round in Scarborough. “Normally a show only goes out on tour once its finished its run in the West End, but because the Fortune where we are in London is such a tiny theatre with only four hundred seats, this is the sort of thing that we can continue to take on.”

The play itself opens with an old man called Arthur Kipps alone in a Victorian theatre, where he is joined by a young actor he has hired to help perform events that have haunted him for decades. Over the next two ho…

Suzanne Andrade - 1927, Golem, The Magic Flute and Beyond

When the 1927 company won a Herald Angel in 2007 for their debut show, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, its spooky mix of cut-glass spoken-word vignettes, pasty-faced vintage-styled cabaret and atmosphere-soaked animation was one of the major hits of that year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Eight years on, the company co-founded in 2005 by writer, director and performer Suzanne Andrade with animator and illustrator Paul Barritt look set to return to Edinburgh this August. Rather than appear on the Fringe, however, the company will form part of Fergus Linehan's inaugural programme as director of Edinburgh International Festival with their collaboration with Australian enfant terrible Barrie Kosky on a version of Mozart's The Magic Flute.

This week, however sees 1927 transfer their most recent show, Golem, to the West End following a successful outing at the Young Vic, who co-produced the show with the Salzburg Festival and Theatre de la Ville in Paris.

Based on th…

Titus Andronicus

Dundee Rep
Four stars

The knives and pretty much everything else are out in this radical reboot of what is probably Shakespeare's bloodiest tragedy, in which a Roman general returns home to a leaderless state, only to have his human trophy Tamora, Queen of the Goths, take control as she marries into royalty and ushers in an increasingly pointless series of tit for tat killings. In outgoing Dundee Rep director Philip Howard's version, brought stunningly to life by director and designer Stewart Laing, 'Rome' becomes the sort of voguish open-plan restaurant beloved of European cities and fans of urban regeneration.
Into this environment, built magnificently into Dundee Rep's rarely used Bonar Hall space, the audience become the hungry diners sat at long wooden tables witnessing a political system in meltdown as a portraits of former demagogues line the wall. As assorted kitchen staff from all factions neck shots and dance on tables to JD Twitch's pumping techno sou…

Jesus Christ Superstar

Edinburgh Playhouse
Three stars

When the giant halo cum crown that's been hanging above the stage since the start of this latest touring revival of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's 1971 musical starts to slowly descend midway through the second act, it looks less like symbolism and more like a spaceship beaming down to earth. Up until then Bob Tomson and Bill Kenwright's production has been a hit and miss compendium of once self-consciously groovy happy-clappy numbers such as What's The Buzz and the appealingly evergreen strains of Everything's Alright and I Don't Know How To Love Him, all good songs if here sounding somewhat strained in their delivery.
This soundtracks what here looks like a celestial bromance between Glenn Carter's Jesus Christ and Tim Rogers as Judas Iscariot. Both of the leads are in fine form, even if any revolutionary tendencies Jesus might have are muted by an angelic image offset by both Rogers and a surprisingly nasty Pontious Pil…

Philip Howard - Titus Andronicus

When a young William Shakespeare wrote his early play Titus Andronicus, he probably didn't envisage what was a blood-soaked revenge tragedy coming to the boil several centuries later with the whole of Rome a restaurant and his lead character its masterchef. This is exactly what Dundee Rep's outgoing co-artistic director Philip Howard and director and designer have done, however, in an audacious sounding version adapted by Howard which opens at the Rep this week.

One of Shakespeare's lesser-spotted works, Titus Andronicus' tale of a Roman general who returns home from war to sort out the country has often been dismissed by scholars as shock-seeking juvenalia which latched onto the then trend for such works by his older peers. Howard and Laing, however, beg to differ in a version that aims to get to the play's possibly skewered heart.

“What's regarded as the problem with the play is the violence,” Howard explains, “but that's a red herring, because, like Da…