Tag Archives: Ed Robson

REVIEW: Look Back in Anger – Cumbernauld Theatre

Astonishingly written in 17 days in a deckchair on Morecambe Pier, John Osbourne’s autobiographical, 61-year-old play occupies a place at the vanguard of modern British theatre, one of the first times that a working-class voice was heard in all its sound and fury on a UK stage. It is the inspiration for the phrase “angry young man” coined by the Royal Court Theatre’s press officer to promote the work. However, the world in which Osborne’s work was born, to quote another work published in the 1950s, L.P. Hartley’s The Go-Between: “is a foreign country: they do things differently there”, is very different to the one we live in now.

It is easy to comprehend the shock value that young, working-class but highly educated, anti-hero, Jimmy Porter inspired venting his spleen from a dingy, down at heel, one-room flat in the Midlands (famously leaving its first audiences gasping at the sight of an ironing board on a stage). However, in Ed Robson’s production, these tirades of class rage and his particularly vicious attacks on his passive upper-middle-class wife Alison, appear to be disproportionate to the situation he’s in (running a sweet stall despite clearly having a searing intellect). The source of the anger doesn’t measure up to the level of rage on display here (ultimately he has a job, he has a roof over his head). While many believe the themes of the work have transcended the years and continue to have resonance, I beg to differ. Jimmy Porter’s world, a decade on from the second world war, with the British class system at its most acute, is incomprehensible to those living in 2017. Yes, economic and social constraints limit our opportunities today, but 1956 was a very different time.

I last saw the play 12 years ago with a pre-fame David Tennant and felt fully sympathetic to Jimmy’s railing at the world, The passage of time seems to have eroded my empathy. That’s not to say Andrew Rothney’s portrayal of Jimmy is at fault, quite the contrary, it is a tour de force and therein lies one of the problems with this production: so utterly detestable is the level of his discontent, his vitriol so bitter, the less than convincing supporting performances are thrown into sharp focus. Save for Esme Bayley as Alison’s friend and Jimmy’s mistress, they are a tad wishy-washy.

The staging too has its faults. It needs a better set to evoke a sense of time and place. Jimmy and Alison’s flat is minimally dressed, had it actually looked of the period it may have grounded the words in context. I suspect it may have been designed thus to demonstrate the themes are universal and could be played out in any era (no they can’t), either that or they have spent all their money on the rain effects that they had to cobble together the rest of the set from the back of a shed. A success though, is the multi-dimensional aspect of the set (some scenes are played at background distance) which allow welcome changes of atmosphere.

Too much time has passed and the world has changed so much, that unfortunately, Look Back in Anger is less than the working class rallying cry it once was.



REVIEW: Sleeping Beauty – Cumbernauld Theatre

Masters of the art of traditional storytelling with a modern twist, Cumbernauld Theatre don’t disappoint in their staging of Sleeping Beauty.

This is not an all guns blazing, special effect driven, pop hit laden extravaganza, instead it is a beautifully told, traditional tale – a real pearl in a sea of crass commercialism.

Largely following the fairy tale as we know it; the wicked witch fails to secure an invite to Princess Aurora’s christening, she damns the princess to a life of isolation as the curse of sleep will come to the young lass if she ever receives a scratch. Despite the best efforts of her doting parents, the adventurous young tike inevitable falls foul of the curse and it takes true love and a pure heart to set her free.

This gentle production is the perfect introduction to “real” theatre for tinies, and shows that you don’t need pyrotechnics or pop hits to keep them enraptured. A heart-warming, sweet and wonderfully told tale.

Runs until 24 December 2015

REVIEW: The Snow Queen – Cumbernauld Theatre, Cumbernauld

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This piece was originally written for and published by The Public Reviews at;


Writer: Hans Christian Andersen

Dramaturge: Roderick Stewart

Director: Ed Robson

Associate Director: Tony Cownie

Designer: Ed Robson

Composer: Philip Curran

Video Artist: Craig Kirk

The Public Reviews Rating: ★★★★★

The wish for any festive show is that you leave the theatre feeling thoroughly entertained, filled to the brim with Christmas spirit and if you’re really lucky, a little bit heart-warmed; Cumbernauld Theatre’s glorious production of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen delivers all of this and a whole lot more.

The eternally popular tale of friendship and the triumph of love over evil, The Snow Queen follows the story of a young girl Gerda who is forced to battle the wicked Snow Queen in order to save the heart of her best friend Kai. She journeys through the four seasons, facing a series of obstacles in the shape of a series of whacky and sometimes alarming characters, until she finally confronts the evil Queen in a battle for her friend’s heart.

Despite being a traditional fairy tale, this production is inventive and thoroughly modern, and unlike the usual pantomime fodder it has real heart and soul: for all the laughs and moments of physical comedy the piece never shies away from the darker aspects of the tale, and as with all great fairytales there are moments when there is a tangible sense of peril. It is testament to the fantastic writing skills of dramaturge Roderick Stewart and the impeccable eye of director/designer Ed Robson that those cynical at the start were quickly entranced and completely and utterly won over after the first scene; thoroughly gripped, they hung onto every word until the end. The interactions from the audience were elicited, not from cheap humour or the goading and haranguing that most Christmas shows resort to, but instead relied on enchanting storytelling, fine acting and an excellent script to prompt genuine emotion from the onlookers; the children and adults alike feeling actual concern for the characters. There’s plenty to laugh at too, the simple but clever humour elicits laughs from the children as do the subtle but equally clever asides designed for the adults.

Highly atmospheric, the excellent script and acting are wonderfully complimented by clever lighting design and video projections by Craig Kirk, the visuals are used judiciously and to great effect throughout. There’s magic in the tiny details: ice cracking underfoot as Gerda makes a perilous crossing of the frozen lake to reach the Snow Queen’s palace; the crow’s wings made from flapping socks, the teeny, tiny Welsh Guards and a fabulous frog in a rowing boat all delight the eyes.

The huge array of colourful characters are ably handled by the small ensemble cast, as well as Gerda (Samantha Foley) and Kai (Colin McGowan) and the titular Snow Queen (Julie Brown) there’s also Dougie the dug, a Glaswegian Labradoodle (and the highlight of the night, hysterically played by Nicky Elliot) the Flower Lady and a crow that sounds suspiciously like Sean Connery. The multiple and lightning-quick changes are seamlessly achieved by the actors and each different character is unique and distinct.

This is an utterly absorbing tale eloquently and magically told. It is genuinely uplifting and will leave even the coldest of hearts warmed. Captivating, intelligent, gripping, entertaining, and absolutely joyous. Miss it at your peril.

Image courtesy: http://www.cumbernauldtheatre.co.uk/