Monthly Archives: November 2015
November 28th – 3rd January
19:00 (14:00 mat… wed/sat)
In Edinburgh this Festive season, it seems odds-on that the Lyceum has put on the best family show in the central belt, Theresa Heskin’s stage adaption of CS Lewis’ perennial favorite; the Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe. The story commences with an introduction to our four heroes -Lucy, Peter, Susan and Edmund – as they are evacuated from town to country in Britain at the start of World War Two.Although initially the stage seemed crammed, director Andrew Paton uses clever props (in particular the revolving wooden doors),to create an intimate atmosphere that draws you into the the magical world of Narnia. The story is told through song and dialogue, with the latter delivered with infectious gusto. The songs, penned by Claire McKenzie and Scott Gilmour, were performed most passionately by the cast: in particular the White Witch, Pauline Knowles, gave a fantastic performance.
Lucy is the first to find the famous wardrobe and soon after the easily-led Edward is quickly put under a spell by the evil white witch – the promise of Turkish Delight all that is needed to turn siblings against one another. Of course no one believes Lucy and when Susan and Peter tell the professor the story of this magic land that Lucy claims to have visited, he does not seem surprised, which of course surprises them. Soon after in a game of hide and seek all the children enter the wardrobe which takes them to Lantern Waste and the scene of the iconic lamp-post. It is here they all meet Mr Tumnus and the humorous double act Mr and Mrs Beaver who are played brilliantly by John Kielty and Gail Watson.
The first half takes us up to the coming of spring and the “death of the age of winter”. The curtain goes down to a huge round of applause and leaves me excited about the second half and the arrival of Aslan. The story unfolds up to the moment Aslan is killed dramatically by the white witch and her followers. In time the evil spell is broken and good overcomes evil, while the cast superbly perform fight scenes to the backdrop of fantastically dramatic music. The finale sees calm restored to Narnia and magical theatre brought to the enchanting venue that is The Lyceum. I watched the show with my 10 year old daughter and we agreed it was a great night out for all ages.
Review: Dolina Gorman
Eden Court, Inverness
26th of November
Life on wheels is the dream child of Jessie Rose and Lisa Truscott and is performed by the company Bella Kinetica which they have formed to explore the use of aerial and circus performances. It uses the medium of roller booting and circus skills to tell a story of two friends who are growing up in the 1940’s and their joys and traumas as they follow their life’s journey. The story starts in war time Britain showing the full drama of air raids and then the delight as victory was declared. The pair work in a wash house the audience are shown an amazing set that is made up of yards and yards of washing lines. The performance touches on the changes to the washing industry over the time period with the advent of washing machines.
The story is told through interviews of the women as elderly ladies and through snippets of news reals and adverts from the time as well as a very fitting sound track of songs from the period.
During the play there are some amazing displays of acrobats and dancing all on roller boots and with brilliant use of props. While creating the illusion of the pairs suitors and later on husbands being on stage men’s jackets hung on hangers are used, visually very impressive and believable the two ladies danced effortlessly with their husbands.
The play explored both life’s joys the war ending, young love, birth but also explored the darker emotions such as the loss and hopelessness felt by one of the ladies who was unable to have children. A very heartfelt and emotionally challenging dance was performed portraying depression and despair. The play also explored other dark aspects of life at the times such as physical and mental abuse within marriage. The play ends with the pair now as widows still lifetime friends and still supporting each other as they have always done even though at times they drifted apart due to the pressures of family and life.
I would urge anyone to go and view this play it is very thought provoking and the beauty of the set use of props and the talent of the girls is a pleasure to watch.
Reviewer : Lucy Tonkin
A Play A Pie And A Pint
Nov 23rd– 28th 13.00
“The course of true love never did run smooth” would complete Shakespeare’s line and David Leddy’s play directed by Joe Douglas certainly showed how bumpy it can get. Aid charity boss Celia (Louise Ludgate) and co-worker Oliver (Mark Prendergast) have found themselves in a pretty tight corner. In the world’s most expensive hotel on the tab of an unnamed country’s murderous dictator they are being strong-armed into providing computers and software which will never find it’s way to the general population but only line the pockets of said dictator and his cronies.
The play takes place in room 103 where Celia and Oliver, both rather drunk, have taken a break from negotiations to contemplate just exactly how to extricate themselves from the situation they’re in. It soon becomes apparent that both are far from successful in love. Celia is divorced with a daughter who cares little for her and bi-sexual Oliver’s male partner has left him and returned to Brazil.
As their drunken conversation develops Oliver admits that the only reason he has stuck with the failing charity is his love for Celia and Celia admits to the same, but how to escape the dictator and disappear together without being detected by his bodyguards downstairs? You need to see the play for the answer.
For some reason this piece never really took off. Lots of potentially great dialogue was lost in a rush in the first 15 minutes and there were moments during the performance where everything went very flat- it’s never a good sign when you can hear the audience shifting in their seats. Perhaps the whole scenario was a bit unbelievable but there were some genuinely funny lines and with better pacing the play would have been more engaging.
Reviewer : Dave Ivens
A play, a pie and a pint.
Nov 16th – 21st
Second last in the season before the Christmas pantomime John Gabriel Barclay is a play set in 1914 with broad Scots throughout. Director John Carnegie has had three plays staged at Oran Mor : Pro-active (2006) , Target (2007) and Speak the Speak, all by veteran writer Alma Cullen better known for her work in Northern Lights, Inspector Morse and A Touch of Frost.
Ellen Raeburn (Maureen Beattie ) is the twin sister of Gertrude Barclay (Isabella Jarrett) and they set eyes on each other after eight years of hostility at the Barclay’s remote home on the outskirts of Edinburgh. Ellen is on a mission, to change the name of her adopted son to her own. Gertrude is out to stop her. The play starts with a ballad setting the scene,sung by the storyteller who also plays Edward Barclay and William Finlay (Ross Allan)
John Gabriel Barclay’s fall from grace was steep
…and all mankind should weep.’
As the plot unfolds revealing Barclay’s crime, the bitterness between the two sisters who both loved Barclay comes to the fore. Difficult to follow at times, this strong Scotts stramash is beautifully acted with the voices of our ancestors revived in such a lyrical fashion. The era is so long gone that the derogatory comment by John Gabriel Barclay(Peter Kelly) made about women jar, but these were pretty acceptable views back then. This dark tale has a few witty moments and is an interesting take on Henrik Ibsen’s “John Gabriel Borkman” which the play is adapted from.
Reviewer : Clare Crines
Last year at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe John Burns’ portrayed the famous George Mallory in Mallory: Beyond Everest. The show, written and performed by Burns, is based on the conceit that Mallory didn’t die on Everest but descended alone after Irvine’s death and then kept silent for the next 30 years, only reminiscing about the trip after Hillary and Tensing climbed the mountain.
Dressed in 1920s Tweed clothing and using a minimum of props – wooden ice axe, hemp rope, blackboard – Burns brings Mallory to life as he tells his story from boyhood escapades to Everest. Mallory’s doubts are expressed too – torn between his wife and children and his desire for Everest he has to be persuaded to join the fateful 1924 expedition. I enjoyed Burns’ creative use of his props; for example the blackboard used to show his expeditions 1921, 1922 and fateful 1924 expedition also becomes a railway track and a tent.
I found this a sombre act which lacked imagination in the story being told; there was not enough reminiscing describing the trip after his adventure of conquering Everest are 30 years gone. Instead, we were given a minor autobiography showing his quest for Everest torn between family life and promises he made to his wife.
There was not much description of the feeling of conquering Everest, I will admit that this was maybe due to somewhat playing with the audiences imagination but it did not leave me in awe of George Mallory, which I feel this act wanted too, and should have. I was full of anticipation for this show, but feel I only got a minor glimpse of this great man.
Reviewer : Richard Aitken
A Play, a Pie and a Pint
9th-14th November 2015
Despite weather conditions that would be considered inclement for the hardiest of ducks, a large audience at Oran Mor turned out to see The Happy Hour written by Anita Vettese and directed by Gethin Evans. This three-hander dealt with the problems thrown up when a family member dies and inheritance is in the offing. Feckless daughter Kay (Hannah Donaldson) and foreign aid worker son Tom (Stephen McCole) are meeting mother Anne (Anne Lacey) in the back room of the soon-to-be-sold pub that was owned by their recently deceased father. It soon transpires that mother Anne has no intention of paying out from the proceeds of the sale to either sibling. Kay has hit hard times due to several disastrous business ventures, a luxury chocolatier shop in a Fife village is mentioned to much audience hilarity, and is desperate for ready cash. Tom has temporarily come back from his job in an African country, where he has put down roots, to help with settling the estate but Anne wants him to stay. As things progress old jealousies and enmities come to the surface. In the end it is apparent that Anne may well be left leading a lonely existence after years of toil in the pub.
Although this tale of family dysfunction could have been somewhat tedious in the wrong hands, it was quite the opposite, due to a really excellent cast and a very witty and believable script. Anne Lacey, in particular, shone, with her impeccable comic timing raising the roof a good few times.The play certainly shone a new light on scattering ashes, never lagging over it’s 45 minutes and the lighting, sound and direction all added to this well-judged piece of work.
Reviewer : Dave Ivens
Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
Venue: New Athenaeum Theatre
Tues 3-Friday 6 Nov 2015
Tickets: £5 – £15.50
Double characters are the name of the game in this R.C.S. offering which is outstandingly performed with gusto and energy extraordinaire. David Balfour (Sarah Miele and Rebekah Lumsden) is the determined young man who has just lost his parents to the Redcoats. His uncle Ebeneezer Balfour (Nicholas Barton-Wines) is about to blow David’s head off when he arrives at his home with a letter of introduction. The letter from David’s late father reveals that Ebeneezer is family and so David moves in. A foiled murder attempt is followed by a shady deal with Hoseason (Robert Ginty and Shane Quigley Murphy) to kidnap and put David on a ship bound for the Carolinas and impending slavery. Duped by the evil uncle! David Balfour of Shaws will get his revenge. And so he does, befriending Jacobite Alan – Breck Stewart on the way (Jacob Vigeland and Laurie Scott) and the swashbuckling begins. So do the wondrously creative struggles – how do you show running for 200 miles effectively? The rain misting down on us, the celebratory dances and the immense costume and height not to mention drama of the elusive Red Fox. If this wasn’t enough David and Alan rest up and lose their money to card playing host Cluny McPherson ( Jamie Buchanan). Alan makes it home to Edinburgh with David but unfortunately doesn’t live to see David getting his rightful inheritance.
The Scottish country dancing mixed with thigh slapping tap moves and a wee bit of rave flung in is highly entertaining. The music throughout was superb. Be prepared to be moved six times by the stage hands and the cast – this adds to the drama and audience participation which finds its height when you’re burling around the room at the casts request. This is the first time I’ve watched a play in its entirety standing and didn’t once think of needing a seat. Director and astoundingly versatile set designer ( Graham McLaren ) and well choreographed action from Fight Director (Raymond Short) and amazing circus and ariel antics ensures this as an epic production from the current third year students. Fantastically engrossing – the buzz you get from the cast will energise you for days. FIVE STARS
Reviewer : Clare Crines
3 Nov 2015 to 7 Nov 2015
Chekhov’s masterpiece Uncle Vanya by playwright Sam Holcroft is a gripping insight into the highs and lows, twists and turns that evolve around unrequited love. Directed by Gareth Nicholls who will also direct Tis Pity She’s A Whore early next year at The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, this is sit on the edge of your seat theatre.
Holcroft was Writer-In-Residence at the National Theatre in 2013 and won the Windham Campbell prize in recognition of her emerging talent as a playwright. And rightly so. This complex weave of he loves, she doesn’t and she does but he doesn’t starts and ends quietly with Sonia and her Uncle Vanya sitting at the table, Sonia (Helen Mackay) working hard and Vanya ( Keith Fleming) distressed beyond belief due to his heavy drinking and irregular sleep patterns. Sonia’s father has returned home with his second and much younger wife Yelena and he is seriously ill.
The doctors’s called. The Doctor speaks of urban man and his lack of community and strong family bonds. His fascination with ants and their collective worker mentality that is only prevalent in tribes within the human community is his concern, ‘ urban man rests on his ability to make money….and self gratification ’ ultimately leading to the human race’s, ‘self destruction.’
Sonia drinks this in with wide-eyed idolatry. Her virgin naivety, played with such conviction that you will be locked onto her as she hangs on every word that’s uttered by Doctor Astrov ( Mark Wood ). This soulful production with scintillating acting throughout is sleek and minimal giving plenty of room for the actors to allow their polar opposite characters to breathe. A shudder went up my spine in the final scenes when Yelena (Scarlett Mack) caught members of the audiences’ eyes, mine included . Puissant and robust eye contact that pulls you into the turmoil whether you like it or not!
The Circle Studio is the perfect intimate place for Holcraft’s play where lust, incest and jealousy are picked apart with dialogue that is as much of this time as are the costumes. As for the pot noodle – modern cuisine at its urban un-tribal finest. Anton Chekov would be chuffed. FOUR STARS
Reviewer : Clare Crines
3 November 2015
Since 1984 the Lung Ha theatre company has been putting on original plays using actors that have learning disabilities. Their latest play is about Bob an older gentleman who lives in a care home .Bob wants to leave the care home to retrieve something from his old house only he can’t remember what it is. The play opens with Lesley (Karen Sutherland) Bob’s Niece writing a letter from Australia to him and this is used to introduce the rest of the cast; we have Bob who has Alzheimer’s and has lived in a care home for a number of years, Gemma a childhood friend of Lesley who checks in on Bob and will help him in his adventures and Cap (Mark Howie) and Nurse (Kenneth Ainslie) who take care of Bob at the home.
Jon Edgar playing the eponymous Bob gives a beautiful performance with touches of humour and sadness as he attempts to complete what would for most people be the most mundane of tasks turning it into an epic adventure. As Bob tries to get out of the home, he is thwarted by his carers and his own mind until he manages to concoct a clever plan that outwits all about. The story is not about what Bob (or the other characters) wants but more about the experience of getting there, it has both comedic moments and very moving parts that makes you feel part of the story. All the cast members play their parts well and I felt that the audience was impressed.
The music throughout the play added much to the play, keeping the pace going yet not overtaking the performances of the actors. The set was designed like a surreal vision of the care home maybe giving an insight into how Bob perceives the world around him. This play was performed with passion and care, it drew the whole audience in and had them both laughing and crying. The play next moves to Platform – The Bridge, Glasgow: 5 – 6 November, 2015 and is recommended for all ages. FOUR STARS
Reviewer : Stewart Tonkin
2nd – 7th Nov
This brilliant piece of theatre written by Moira Buffini looks at the relationship between Margaret Thatcher and Queen Elizabeth II, who met up regularly during the prime minister’s leadership. There is no record of their discussions so Buffini had free rein as to the content of the play. However, the script is both intelligent and insightful and it would appear that Buffini had done plenty of research with a little creative license. A good story will often blur fiction and truth, making them difficult to distinguish, leaving the listener with their own interpretations and questions and this play successfully achieves this.
With a young Margaret (Sanchia McCormack) an older Margaret (Kate Fahy) and an older Liz (Susie Blake) and a younger Liz (Emma Handy) the changing relationship between the two is cleverly depicted. As time progresses the queen’s commitment to the commonwealth and her desire for Zimbabwe to gain independence in addition to concerns about shutting mines and civil unrest depict Liz in a far kinder light than the egotistical Margaret. To what extent this is true we cannot really know but I am assuming something was known of their relationship. A number of male parts are played by Asif Khan and Richard Teverson including Dennis, Ronald Reagan, a Scottish press officer who leaks Liz’s dismay at Maggie’s harsh leadership and Michael Heseltine, and hiliariously Asif Khan also acts Nancy Reagan to great applause from the audience. There is plenty of humor throughout; references to Liz’s love of horses, dogs, cups of tea, Margaret’s dislike of Balmoral, bossing Dennis around and charming Ronald to Nancy’s annoyance, it all seems very plausible and the characters are brilliantly acted. At times the characters address the audience which also helps to draw the audience into the dialogue. I thoroughly enjoyed this insightful and humorous show. FIVE STARS
Reviewer : Sophie Younger