Tag Archives: Citizens Theatre

REVIEW: Glasgow Girls – Citizens Theatre, Glasgow

Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 09.20.19First published at: http://www.thepublicreviews.com/glasgow-girls-citizens-theatre-glasgow/

Writer: David Greig

Composers: Cora Bissett, The Kielty Brothers, Patricia Panther & MC Soom T

Director: Cora Bissett

Glasgow 2005, and the city and its high rise blocks have become home to a diverse range of asylum seekers. Drumchapel High School has become the focus for the children of these asylum seekers, but it’s a world where night-time raids happen with alarming frequency and children arrive at school every day to find out whether another classmate has disappeared, never to be seen again.

Glasgow Girls explores the true story of seven teenage girls for whom the situation has become personal. Together with their neighbours and one inspiring teacher, the girls embark on a campaign to secure the return of their friend  Kosovan Roma Agnesa Murselaj, forcibly removed and detained after a nigh-time raid, and fight to change the UK Government’s policy on the detention of children of asylum seekers.

Returning triumphant to its spiritual home at the Citizens Theatre, two years after it’s debut, Glasgow Girlscouldn’t be more relevant in the year Glasgow hosts the Commonwealth Games and undertakes an historic vote in the Independence Referendum. It highlights the spirit of the Glaswegian people, their reaction to injustice and Glasgow’s protectiveness of those who choose to call the city home.

From dawn raids, deportation and detention, there is humour, hope and heart in this powerful, poignant, profound but utterly joyous and truly emotive piece of theatre. The subject matter is hard hitting for a musical and to its credit the book written by David Grieg, who’s last high profile work Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, continues to run in the West End, hasn’t shied away from portraying the less positive aspects of both the campaign and life in Glasgow, resisting both the urge to sugar coat the subject matter and descend into mawkish sentimentality. It also highlights the impotency of the Holyrood Government in the face of opposition from Westminster (it’s also the most eloquent advert for the YES campaign you’ll see or hear this year). Instead this is a bold, brave, blistering, beautiful joy to behold. The story is told with trademark Glaswegian humour which takes no prisoners and is consistently laugh out loud funny.

The music is as diverse as the girls it represents, there are modern musical theatre numbers with a Scottish twist by The Kielty Brothers and director/composer Cora Bissett, rap and urban tunes by Patricia Panther and MC Soom T. The spare but atmospheric set by Merle Hensel also compliments the story well: conjuring up the grey concrete of Glasgow’s high rise blocks perfectly.

The whole endeavour though, would not succeed as it does without the truly sensational cast. Each and every one is deserving of praise but special mention must go to the ‘grown ups’ Callum Cuthbertson as Mr. Girvan and Scottish theatrical legend Myra McFadyen as Noreen, both deliver perfectly judged performances: in turn, poignant, stirring, compelling and utterly hysterical.

Glasgow Girls has a sharp intelligent edge and is a perfect reflection of the big heart and community spirit of the city of its title, of female solidarity and of what we can all achieve if we put our hearts and minds together. Genuinely moving and inspiring. Utterly unmissable.

Runs until 8 March 2014

Photographic credit: Drew Farrell

REVIEW: Miss Julie – Citizens Theatre, Glasgow

Miss-Julie-Citizens-Glasgow-Tim-Morozzo-300x180Originally published at: http://www.thepublicreviews.com/miss-julie-citizens-theatre-glasgow/

Strindberg’s 1888 classic battle of the sexes is reset to 1920s Scotland and against a background of social unrest in Zinnie Harris’ new version of Miss Julie.

Harris and director Dominic Hill focus on the sexual politics of the play and tension builds apace in this upstairs/downstairs tale, as troubled mistress of the house Julie and her father’s ambitious steward John, play a tantalising game of sexual cat and mouse that ultimately leads to tragedy.

Atmospheric from the outset, Neil Haynes sparse, bleached out set pulls focus squarely on the actors and the trio of performers do not disappoint. As Julie, the bird-like Louise Brealey swings between petulant assertion of her position as mistress of the house to aching displays of vulnerability: her performance throughout is never anything but utterly compelling. As John, Keith Fleming turns on a knife edge from “sweet lies” to gut wrenchingly cruel “harsh truths” in the blink of an eye and Citizens Theatre actor intern, Jessica Hardwick turns in a strong performance as John’s fiancée Christine, the only person with a handle on the grim reality of the whole situation.

The production cracks along apace and as the balance of power swings between the two, the claustrophobic heat of midsummer pervades the piece and one is in no doubt that there will be no happy ending here. Though neither Julie nor John is ever truly in control, there really is only going to be one winner and it was never going to be the woman, the social as well as sexual politics of the time allow Julie no escape from the consequences of her disastrous actions. Despite nearly one hundred years between the setting of this play and today, the depressing thing is that in some ways nothing has really changed that much for women after all.

Claustrophobic, compelling and a class act throughout.

4****

REVIEW: True West – Citizens Theatre, Glasgow

TrueWest_IdilSukan_webThis article was originally written for and pubished by The Public Reviews at:

http://www.thepublicreviews.com/true-west-citizens-theatre-glasgow/

Writer: Sam Shepard

Director: Phillip Breen

The Public Reviews Rating: ★★★★★

In less capable hands this new production of Sam Shepard’s True West could easily have descended into cheap melodrama. It is testament to the quality of not only Shepard’s script but also the blistering abilities of the actors and artistic team at the Citizens Theatre that it proves to be a sure-fire smash. Using sibling rivalry as a metaphor to highlight the vicissitudes of the American Dream, it explores how, regardless of what we appear to have on the surface, there’s always something that someone else has that we crave more.

Younger brother Austin (Eugene O’Hare) is house-sitting in the sun-baked California home of his mother (Barbara Rafferty) whilst attempting to write a screenplay on which he believes the future of his career depends. Into this peaceful, creative idyll crashes older brother Lee (Alex Ferns), desert-dwelling drifter, drunk and petty thief. Whilst their relationship isn’t exactly Cain and Abel it certainly tests brotherly love to its limits. Each has something the other longs for: Lee craves the stability of home, family and a purpose, for Ivy League Austin it’s the freedom to escape the bounds of the daily grind and commitment to wife and kids and although never overtly stated, it is clear that each man is one half of the same whole. This duality, played out convincingly by the two leads, runs throughout the whole piece. When Lee manages to sell a movie pitch to the producer his brother has spent months courting, their already fragile relationship is tested to extremes.

This is an examination of a relationship at its uneasiest, it’s most combative, teetering on a knife-edge throughout. There’s a temptation to play this broad and the actors do push the boundaries due to the extremity of the emotions involved, but to their credit both Ferns and O’Hare manage to keep it well within the bounds of (an albeit heightened) reality. The superb central performances from both Ferns and O’Hare provide a glorious master-class in stage acting. As Lee, Alex Ferns has found a role that fits like a glove. In a bravura performance replete with crazed eyes, extreme drinking, a bit of fire-starting and general swaggering menace, he manages to imbue the role with enough subtle nuances to retain an utter believability in his characterisation and deftly exploits the black humour in Shepard’s writing. The most compelling thing about his portrayal though, is the feeling of unease he manages to maintain throughout, there’s a vagueness, a feeling of disquiet, that never quite allows us to get a firm handle on him. Eugene O’Hare as Austin provides the perfect foil to the mercurial Lee; his journey from tightly controlled, cowed, little brother to man on the brink is utterly convincing and the interaction between the pair utterly seamless. Mention too must be made of the power of the well-placed pause, of which there are many, and which each actor handles masterfully; heightening the vicious menace and sense of fear that underlies the whole piece. Mention must also be made of the laughter; belly-laugh-out-loud, laughter elicited throughout.

There are no tricks here, this is no radical re-invention of the work, instead a classic staging of this all-too relatable tale of family dynamics and the myth of the American Dream and it’s all the better for it. To its credit it resists the urge to wrap the whole thing up in a nice package for us and leaves the audience, as all good theatre should, wanting more. Explosive, exhilarating and electrifying, True West is true class.

Runs until 16th November 2013

REVIEW: Crime and Punishment – Citizens Theatre, Glasgow

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The sheer audacity to even attempt a stage adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s literary classic Crime and Punishment is utterly reflective of the theatre within which it is receiving its world premier. At the core of The Citizens is an artistic vision which has never shied away from the difficult, never patronised its audience and season after season delivers innovation and originality to its patrons along with a healthy dose of theatrical madness.

This new adaptation by Chris Hannan eschews Dostoyevsky’s complex narrative and numerous sub-plots in favour of a clear central storyline, whilst still managing to give full weight to the big existential issues of the novel. The drama is also complimented by an atmospheric score by Macedonian composer Nikola Kodjabashia and a pared back design by Colin Richmond.

The ensemble are of the utmost quality, ably led by Adam Best. Best perfectly encapsulates Raskolnikov’s emotional turmoil as he descends into darkness and re-emerges into the light.

As with much of the work at The Citz, the piece manages to do what all great art should – to provoke debate. The moral and philosophical argument of whether it is ever justifiable to take a life for an ideological purpose is as far from being agreed upon and as hotly debated as it ever was.

Go along to question, to be inspired and challenged as well as entertained – yet another hit for The Citz.

Crime and Punishment runs at the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow until September 28, after which it will transfer to Liverpool Playhouse, October 1-19; and then to the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh from October 22 to November 9.

For more information, visit – www.citz.co.uk

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Photo Credit – Tim Morozzo

REVIEW: The Drowsy Chaperone – Dance School of Scotland at Citizens Theatre, Glasgow

drowsy-chaperone A modern day musical theatre addict known simply as the ‘Man in Chair’ drops the needle on his favourite LP and from the crackle of his hi-fi, the uproariously funny 1928 musical magically bursts to life on stage. The “show within a show” tells the tale of a Broadway starlet’s wedding day and how it is complicated by a motley crew of zany guests, including a gin‑soaked chaperone assigned to keep a watchful eye over the bride.

It’s hard to believe that the cast of this highly accomplished show are aged 18 and under – any qualms about their ability to portray the vast array (and ages) of characters is dispelled the moment Ryan Hunter as Man in Chair takes to the stage, impeccable American accent in place and with a characterisation that would put more seasoned performers to shame, he takes us back to 1928 and into the tale of his favourite musical The Drowsy Chaperone. Hunter never leaves the stage for the entirety of the show (including the interval) and his focus never wavers throughout – the only pity is that it would have been nice to find out if his voice matched his considerable acting skills.

Stand out among the cast is Ronan Burns as Robert the starlet’s groom – with a pitch perfect golden age of Broadway voice and even sharper footwork, he is deserving of the title Young Scottish Musical Theatre Performer of the Year which he won against stiff competition (his leading lady being one of them). In true “”show must go on” style, principal Janet Van De Graff (Erin Hair) had lost her voice that morning and would act the part which would be sung from the pit by Morgan Harrison, a young woman whose voice on hearing is so stunning you would question the decision to have her hidden in the chorus in the first place. Credit must go to both actors who seamlessly accomplished this difficult feat.

The leads are ably supported by a cast of colourful characters chief among them Adolpho (Dylan Wood) milking all the laughs he could from the caricature comedy foreigner role.

If any criticism is to be levelled at all then it is with the musical itself – the plot starts off thin and only gets thinner and eventually ends up as a series of set pieces of uneven quality and style that are merely there to give everyone in the cast their moment in the spotlight – while this might be a great idea for a showcase it makes the storytelling rather uncohesive.

The Dance School of Scotland has an enviable reputation for producing the highest quality West End performers – indeed, many of the Scottish performers interviewed for this blog have passed through its doors. The show’s faults are minor in the scheme of things. This is a stunningly accomplished cast in a highly entertaining show and it’s a chance for the audience to say in years to come that you saw them here first.

The Citizens Theatre – Saturday 15th / Monday 17th – Wed 19th June

Tickets available from Citizens Theatre Box Office on 0141 429 0022

REVIEW: Far Away/Seagulls – Citizens Theatre, Glasgow

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Set in a dystopian society, Caryl Churchill’s Far Away is an unsettling and darkly comic play that changed the landscape of contemporary theatre. A decade after its London premiere, it continues to powerfully resonate with world events today. 

When a young girl wakes in the night at her aunt and uncle’s house, she hears and sees things no child could forget.

Driven by fear and teetering on the brink of self-destruction, society has lost all moral bearings and nature has turned on itself. The wasps have been killing horses, the cats have come in on the side of the French and it’s hard to know whom to trust.

Seagulls is a short play about a woman who has the unusual gift of being able to move objects by power of thought.

If theatre’s only purpose is to provoke discussion and leave you with a raft of unanswered questions then Far Away and Seagulls more than fulfills that.

As always at the Citizens, this is a showcase for innovation, originality and brave artist direction – a masterclass in cutting edge theatre practice.

REVIEW: The Seagull – Citizens Theatre, Glasgow

SEAGULL

This article was originally written for and published  by The Public Reviews

Writer: Anton Chekhov

Adaptation: John Donnelly

Director: Blanche McIntyre

The Public Reviews Rating: ★★★★½

They are tired questions, too often asked in modern theatre: “How do you make classic plays relevant to a modern audience?” and “Is it even worthwhile?” Theatre company Headlong answer the two emphatically in this subtle but powerful re-imagining of arguably one of literature’s greatest works, Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull.

Chekhov was a master of the character study, a writer who sought to probe behind the facade, and director Blanche McIntyre and John Donnelly, writer of this new version, understand that fully. With a clarity of vision for the piece, they have eschewed the temptation, yielded to by many, who merely seek to shock in their radical re-imaginings of the classics, to skilfully present this spider’s web of unrequited relationships and ambitions and all the desires and disappointments therein, with a resonance that can easily be felt by a modern audience. The whole production is imbued with an assured calm and deftness of touch that allows the audience to fully immerse themselves in the piece.

This production of the tale of fading actress Irina; her lover Boris, the middle-brow writer; her symbolist playwright son Konstantin, and star-struck, would-be actress Nina, also brings out the humour and bitterness in the melancholy, and exploits the all-too familiar and relatable conflicts that exist between men and women in love. John Donnelly’s sharply crafted, modern dialogue, elicits as many gasps of horror as recognition from the audience.

Played out on a simplistic set by Laura Hopkins, a plain plaster background and a thick plank of wood that transforms from jetty to see-saw to table, the pared-back production design concentrates the attention fully on the actors. To their credit, the cast in its entirety deliver compelling, well-judged performances with an emotional pull that, for much of the performance, had the audience utterly transfixed.

In particular, Alexander Kobb as Konstantin, delivers a performance of quiet power, perfectly illustrating the frustrations and misery of living in the shadow of his over-bearing, superficial and vain mother. As his mother Irina, Abigail Cruttenden, albeit rather young to be playing a fading diva, deftly turns on a knife-edge between spitting venom like a viper as she defends her fragile ego and oozing beguiling charm as she seeks to hang on to the affections of her adoring admirers.

This is an impeccably realised piece of theatre, due to the skill of writer Donnelly, director McIntyre and a stunningly accomplished cast and, of course, to the power of Chekhov’s original writing, this work still speaks to us with utter clarity down the centuries.

Runs until Sat 11th May

REVIEW: Takin’ Over the Asylum – Citizens Theatre, Glasgow

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Credit – Tim Morozzo

This review was originally written for and published by The Public Reviews

Writer: Donna Franceschild

Director: Mark Thomson

Reviewer: Lauren Humphreys

The Public Reviews Rating: ★★★★½

A play that has at its heart the issue of mental health wouldn’t seem like a likely choice for an evening’s entertainment, but Donna Franceschild’s stage adaptation of her acclaimed 1994 BBC TV series Takin’ Over the Asylum doesn’t just entertain; this tightly written and sharply crafted play is funny, heart-breaking and genuinely inspiring in equal measure.

Through the course of the narrative, the subtle cruelties of those charged with “caring” for the patients is shown and each character reveals the true nature of their illness and the heart-rending reasons for it. This roller-coaster ride of a play puts its audience through the emotional wringer: bringing laughter in one breath and tears the next, and all only possible through the combination of a taught script and some of the most affecting acting performances you are likely to see.

The sheer range and depth of emotion that Iain Robertson in the pivotal role of Eddie manages to convey is stunningly impressive: turning on a knife edge between despair, heart-break and happiness and doing it all with an utterly compellingly believability is testament to his phenomenal talent. That in the mercurial role of Campbell, (Brian Vernel) is an actor who doesn’t graduate from his training for another year almost beggars belief. They are ably supported by Helen Mallon as the vulnerable Francine, Caroline Paterson as germ-obsessed Rosalie and Grant O’Rourke as the tragic Fergus.

It could be argued that this is a less than convincing portrayal of mental health care in 2013, but the issues raised and attitudes highlighted have changed depressingly little since its source material was broadcast nearly twenty years ago. Ultimately though, this is a celebration of the truly good-hearted and an illustration of the fine line between sanity and so-called “madness”.

Often thought-provoking, occasionally tragic and always compelling, this production isn’t flawless but it’s as damn near close as you’ll get – unmissable.

Runs until: 9 March

REVIEW: The Maids – Citizens Theatre, Glasgow

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This review was originally written for and published by The Public Reviews

Writer: Jean Genet

Translation: Martin Crimp

Director: Stewart Laing

The Public Reviews Rating: ★★★★☆

The coupling of the Tony award-winning director and designer Stewart Laing, and master of the avant-garde, Jean Genet, appears to be a match made in heaven. Both are men of unique aesthetic style and vision, and in this production of Genet’s notorious 1947 play, The Maids, it seems the spirit of Genet lives strong in Laing.

Loosely based on the case of the Papin sisters, who scandalised French society in the 1930′s by brutally murdering their mistress and her daughter. Laing adheres to Genet’s original vision, casting the play as he originally intended; with men.

In dressing the three men largely masculinely, with only nods to our notions of how women should be portrayed, he plays with our pre-conceptions. The feminisation takes the form of a jewel here or a dress-like garment there, the actors physical actions retain their maleness. Genet’s play continues to subvert our conceptions: in having men ritualistically and obsessively recreate the maids degrading abuse at the hands of their capricious mistress, the physical threat seems heightened, but perversely loses some of its power. We, the audience, expect men to be violent; we even expect this of the men who are supposed to be playing women.

This is a play of rituals; ceremony and symbolism; of power and submission; obsession and exorcism. It’s stylised, dense and often overwrought dialogue and subject matter go beyond the bounds of realism. But in the hands of Laing and his actors, what it doesn’t do is descend into melodrama, which it so easily could have.

Scott Reid (Solange) and Ross Mann (Claire) compellingly portray the incestuous and lethal power play between the sisters. Mann is especially convincing as the submissive Claire. Samuel Keefe provides a welcome and much needed change of tone as the mercurial Mistress.

The staging is fiercely imaginative: curtains move in mysterious ways; there are projections and disconcerting and seemingly unconnected sound effects; the actors playing electric guitars provide punctuation to the piece with music from the likes of Metallica, David Bowie and The Velvet Underground; there’s even a BBC documentary, but to say any more would rob the piece of its impact.

The play remains as it was intended to be; thought-provoking, challenging, subversive, original, bewildering, vivid, innovative, unpredictable and memorable. Leave your pre-conceptions at the door and get a ticket for the roller-coaster ride.

Runs until: 2 February

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