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The Duchess (of Malfi)

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh Five stars
“Men will come with open faces and say anything to get inside your knickers,” says a jealous Ferdinand to the lady in red who just found her voice at the microphone in Zinnie Harris’ reimagining of John Webster’s seventeenth century revenge tragedy. The fact that the woman is the angry little man-let’s sister gives his voice an edge that lays bare a desperate attempt to stamp out her autonomy and a terror of the lust for life she’s embraced.
All of Webster’s original plot is pretty much present and correct here, with Kirsty Stuart’s Duchess caught up in a man’s world, where, beyond her damaged siblings, her new beau Antonio has imposter syndrome, while Adam Best’s killer Bosola has serious guilt issues.
Harris’ own production for the Lyceum and Citizens theatres gives the play’s tale of a liberated woman being brutalised out of existence an extra contemporary kick. This is done in part through a use of language which undercuts its classicist ste…
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The Dark Carnival: Unplugged

Eastgate Theatre, Peebles Four stars
It’s very much a case of better the devil you know in the Vanishing Point company’s stripped-down touring version of their hit piece of theatrical gothic. While there might just be storytelling MC Robert Jack and crooning composer Biff Smith onstage compared to the coffin-load of sixteen actor/musicians who graced the original, the beyond the grave stories and songs remain the same.
As the audience enter the twilight zone for the restless dead as if on a guided tour of what lies beneath the earth, Jack and Smith lead us through a series of chronicles of deaths foretold. Each are laid bare in Nikki Kalkman and Matthew Lenton’s infinitely portable production with the knowing foreboding of master storytellers. Think Edgar Allan Poe hosting Jackanory. Each yarn is illustrated with a series of sepia-tinted photographs that sit astride the coffin of Kenneth MacLeod’s funeral parlour set as they might do in similar memoriam on a living room mantlepiece. From…

Blue Stockings

Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Glasgow Four stars
The Cambridge ladies of Girton College do much better than their male contemporaries in Jessica Swale's 2013 dramatisation of the struggle to have students graduate from the UK's first women-only seat of learning. Their academic achievements don’t do them much good, alas, in Swale's timely lesson in how, more than a century after the play is set, equality on campus and everywhere else besides should never be taken for granted.
The ensemble of fourteen final year BA Acting students who add fire and passion to Becky Hope-Palmer's production seem understandably galvanised by such a fiercely intelligent work. The play focuses on four young science students at Girton, whose enquiring minds are only occasionally distracted by the over-privileged boys who they must keep a respectful distance from. In the main, however, Tess, Carolyn, Celia and Maeve keep their eyes on the stars that could lead them to infinite possibilities if…