Tag Archives: Glasgow

REVIEW: Sleeping Beauty – Platform, Easterhouse

Playwright Lewis Hetherington presents a refreshing new take on the traditional tale of Sleeping Beauty at Platform this Christmas. Addressing the fact that in the regular re-telling poor beauty is either off stage or in her bed sleeping throughout most of the production. This time our “B” (Yolanda Mitchell) is a feisty teenager with an independent spirit, confined by her loving dad Jimmy (Irene Allan) (who loves to dress up and impersonate Elvis) to the family mattress shop, but B longs for bigger things and a world outside the four walls. She sneaks out every night to the local woods with her trusty dog Rocket (Itxaso Moreno) looking for adventure. There is, of course, a curse, but there’s a twist in the tale that you’ll have to go along and find out.

This is an atmospheric, engaging fairy tale where gripping storytelling is at the front and centre of the production. There are moments of real darkness and light throughout. There are also plenty of the usual panto tropes to satisfy the traditionalists: an evil queen (Jo Freer) and her sidekick (Julia Nsimba); a spooky forest; magical creatures; puns a-plenty.  It’s chock-full of familiar hits with cleverly re-written lyrics all sung by the hugely talented, fine-voiced cast. The cast are strong and cohesive and drive the action along. The fantastic set by Claire Halleran is relatively simplistic but fills the stage perfectly and looks gorgeously creepy. The set is also complemented by creative lighting by Michaella Fee. Lewis Heatherington’s Sleeping Beauty delivers throughout and serves us up the much-wanted happy ending.

The economical running time (just over an hour) is perfect to keep the tiniest audience members fully engaged and the ticket prices are affordably priced for many. This is (slightly non-) traditional storytelling at its best. Platform in Easterhouse is a true gem in the East End and the constant, consistently highly quality of their productions deserve to be seen by as wide an audience as possible, Sleeping Beauty is no exception.

Runs until 23rd December – tickets here: Sleeping Beauty : Platform (platform-online.co.uk)

REVIEW: The Wizard of Oz – Eastwood Park Theatre, Giffnock

Despite it being the first day in December, pantomime season is well and truly in its groove. Eastwood Park Theatre in Giffnock have hit the ground running with the well-oiled machine that is The Wizard of Oz.

Largely a re-telling of the L. Frank Baum tale, it does take a few diversions off of the yellow brick road, (there’s a magic microphone involved) but it is very much a traditional family panto with wide appeal. The double-entendres are at a minimum and there’s enough slapstick for the little ones, TikTok dances and familiar chart hits for the teens and political jokes for the grown-ups.

It all starts with a bang, when we are treated to a rip-roaring version of Proud Mary in the first five minutes: the fine-voiced cast have their first of many chances to shine. With the interest levels up, the audience is carried along on a wave of energy.

To their absolute credit, there isn’t a weak link anywhere in the compact cast and there’s a palpable chemistry between Dorothy’s three chums: Jamie Lemetti (Scarecrow), Alan Mirren (Tin Man) and Liam Webster (Lion) who have an ease and fine timing with each other that ensures each joke lands its punchline. Stand out among the cast is the engaging Garry King who manages to deliver an eye-watering number of roles with a glint in his eye and a spring in his step, getting the audience firmly onside from the get-go. The dancers are well-drilled, and the choreography is sufficiently diverse to keep the interest up. For those wondering, yes, there are Munchkins, many, many, Munchkins, played by members of local dance and drama organisations. The Wicked Witch is sufficiently over-the-top camp and Stephen McLaughlin who plays her, has a powerful but soulful voice which he utilises to great effect here as does Kate Richards as the Good Witch (and Aunt Em).

If it’s bang for your buck you are looking for then you need look no further than Eastwood Park. At almost two and a half hours long, the show is packed with content, delivered by an enormously talented cast, everyone giving their all no matter what their role.

Eastwood Park is an exemplary theatre: great programming; a theatre with excellent sight lines; accessible; friendly, helpful staff and family affordable tickets – what more could you want?

Runs until 30 December 2022 – Tickets here

REVIEW: The Book of Mormon – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s musical satire on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, The Book of Mormon, is finally in Glasgow after a postponement due to a little thing called COVID.

Premiering on Broadway in 2011, winning nine Tony Awards and after running in the West End for nearly a decade, its reputation precedes it, but you’d be wrong to judge without seeing for yourself. On the surface crude, cruel and pushing the envelope, it is certainly not for the easily offended, but dig a little deeper and it is so much more than that.

Two hapless, polar opposite LDS missionaries, the wide-eyed, idealistic Elder Price and the pathological liar Elder Cunningham, are sent on their two-year Mormon mission to a remote Ugandan village. Suffice it to say, the locals aren’t exactly welcoming them with open arms. Added to that there’s the AIDS crisis, famine, poverty and a despotic warlord for good measure. Of course, there are the inevitable ‘journeys’ everyone embarks on to find one’s true self, all done with a tongue planted firmly in the cheek.

It is a musical that heavily relies on shock and surprise, and it would be churlish to give away the funniest scenes. There are laughs on laughs and foot tapping tune after tune, all delivered by a knockout cast. Principal among them are Conner Peirson as Elder Cunningham, who steals every scene he’s in; the beautiful-voiced Aviva Tulley as Nabulungi and Jordan Lee Davies wrestling gloriously with his homosexual urges as Elder McKinley.

It’s clear that the whole thing has been written with affection by Parker and Stone and of course, musical theatre royalty Robert Lopez (Avenue Q, Frozen, Coco) there is no way that it could get away with what it does, if it were purely cruel rather than impressively clever.

It is a giant juggernaut of a show and serves up a slice of unashamed satire that’s much needed in our easily offended world. If you needed any other reason to see it, ask yourself where else will you see Genghis Khan playing guitar with the Devil onstage in Glasgow on a weekday night?

Runs until 26 November 2022 | Originally published at The Reviews Hub

REVIEW: Enough of Him – Platform, Glasgow

Glasgow-based, writer May Sumbwanyambe’s Enough of Him is the first in a series of planned works based on the historical experiences of Black people in Scotland.

This first work is based on the life of Joseph Knight, a young Guinean man brought to Jamaica and enslaved to Sir John Wedderburn on the Ballendean Estate near Inchture in Perthshire. A young man who was, to a degree, successful in arguing that Scot’s Law could not support the status of slavery. After being inspired by the Somerset v Stewart case in 1772, Knight seeks his own freedom, culminating in his own legal battles in the 1770s.

Sumbwanyambe’s work deals less with the historically significant legal case and the cause of Abolitionism, rather the personal relationship between Knight and Wedderburn.

Played out in front of a backdrop of Alexander Nasmyth’s Landscape, Loch Katrine, atmospherically lit by Emma Jones (it breathes Jamaican fire and dreich Scottish skies in equal measure) and to an unsettling soundtrack from composer John Pfumojena, there is a discomfort that pervades the whole work, a claustrophobia and unease.

Regardless of how often Wedderburn proclaims, “my boy”, “my Joseph”, or invites Knight to dine at his table much to the chagrin of the lady of the manor, plays chess with him or discusses Plato, it is abundantly clear who is master and who is most definitely servant.

Matthew Pidgeon is flesh-crawlingly abhorrent as Wedderburn, both in his dealings with Knight and in his intimacy issues with his desperate wife (Rachael-Rose McLaren). Catriona Faint delivers a tower of strength performance as servant Annie, the object of Knight’s affection and his future wife. Crucial to the play’s success is Omar Austin’s central performance as Knight. He exudes a quiet power and dignity throughout despite walking the tightrope of his mercurial master’s emotions on a daily basis.

By no means a comfortable watch. It thrusts a mirror in our faces: on the surface there may seem to be plenty to pat ourselves on the back about Scotland’s seemingly enlightened attitude towards slavery in the 18th Century (and this triumph in the law courts) but the reality was far, far murkier.

An enlightening, unsettling, uncomfortable but masterfully written play from Sumbwanyambe. There is much to look forward to if promised works on Robert Wedderburn, James McCune Smith, Frederick Douglass, Ira Aldridge and Tom Johnson are produced.

Continues on tour to Cumbernauld, Musselburgh, and Perth.

Images: Sally Jubb

REVIEW: The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat – Sir Alexander Gibson Opera Studio, Glasgow

The Master of Music Opera students of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland present a bold and brave, rarely seen contemporary opera double bill at the Sir Alexander Gibson Opera Studio this autumn.

First is The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Michael Nyman’s opera based on one of the case studies in the 1985 book of the same name by neurologist Oliver Sacks.

Dr. P a renowned singer and music teacher, has visual agnosia. He sees line, colour, simple shapes, patterns and movement but cannot recognise or make sense of what he sees. In Nyman’s opera, Dr. P’s condition is revealed through a series of scenes of gradual diagnosis.

Oliver Sacks himself declared the idea of turning this subject matter into an opera as simply ‘mad’, and one can’t help but agree as it proves to be a somewhat challenging work. That each scene comprises almost identical content and indeed the music, largely comprising extracts of Schumann (most especially Ich grolle nicht from Dichterliebe) lacks contrast which in turn lends itself to tedium despite its short running time. That the opera is based on such a well-regarded text doesn’t do it any favours in comparison.

 

The production team are of the finest quality, director Caroline Clegg, conductor William Cole and designer Finlay McLay have enviable CVs and indeed, any failings are not at their hands.

As Dr. P’s wife Marie Cayeux is vocally sound but her diction leaves a lot to be desired. To have to read the surtitles of an opera that is sung entirely in English is distracting to say the least. In a cast of three the balance is thrown out and any shortcomings thrown very much to the fore. Ross Cummings’ (above, centre) Dr. P is fine sounding throughout, however his exaggerated facial expressions are somewhat distracting in such a small auditorium. Standout among the trio is William Searle as Dr. S who delivers a finely measured acting performance to compliment a beautiful singing one.

 

The bravery of programming challenging works is to be lauded. However, the subject matter is tediously repetitive and provides little to sustain interest. The piece ends with the eminent doctor declaring that his only prescription is more music, but maybe not this music.

Continues its run at the RCS next week.

Images © Royal Conservatoire of Scotland/Robbie McFadzean

REVIEW: Rocket Post – Platform, Easterhouse

The story of the Rocket Post (the subject of two films and this stage production) is a long-told but largely forgotten Scottish legend.

It’s July 1934 in the Western Isles and there’s a crowd gathered on a sandy beach to watch German scientist Gerhard Zucker. Zucker wants to connect the world and believes the future of communication is rockets, more specifically, rocket post. He chooses a 1600 metre flight path between the Isles of Harris and the (now) unpopulated Scarp to deliver his cargo. Zucker loads the letters, lights the fuse and… well, what could possibly go wrong? Plenty as it happens. The gunpowder fuelled rocket disintegrates into a hailstorm of singed paper confetti and he only has three days to fix it.

Revived from the original 2017 National Theatre of Scotland production, this utterly charming musical play aimed at children aged six plus, combines, to great effect: storytelling; puppetry; clever and captivating props, and a mix of songs old and new in German, Gaelic and English.

It is a story of hope and optimism, of faith in the future, traditional versus new, the status quo versus change, life at home or venturing into the big wide world as well as a subtle musing on the effect of technology that resonates down the years. Amid great scepticism and a little anti-German sentiment from the local population, Gerhard pursues his dream and along the way inspires local woman Bellag to see beyond her horizons.

The mark of success for this production is its ability to appeal to its wide-ranging audience. The smallest members are awe-struck at the storytelling and stage craft, and the writing is highly amusing and has a cleverness that has much to be appreciated by the adults. The cast (David Rankine, MJ Deans and Ailie Cohen) have a magnetism that draws you in and keeps you enthralled. Utterly, utterly charming, it leaves you with a feeling of warmth as you step out into the cold Autumn night.

Reviewed on 24 October 2022 and continues touring | Image: Contributed

REVIEW: Sister Radio – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Silence. Silence is what sisters Fatemeh and Shirin live in every day in their Edinburgh tenement flat. The reason for the imposed silence is slowly, elegantly and heartbreakingingly, revealed in Sara Shaarawi’s Sister Radio.

Spanning over 40 years, from the 1970s, when Shirin moves into her older sister Fatimeh’s flat after their father has sent them ostensibly to Scotland to study (but in reality, to escape the impending Islamic Revolution in their homeland Iran), to the COVID pandemic in 2020.

Through monotonous repetition of their present-day domestic routines and flashbacks coloured by the ever-present radio, to their younger lives together, the story unfolds, adding a little more, and a little more with every scene.

The thoughts of the idealistic Shirin in the 1970s, who desperately wants to return to fight for her homeland, actually gives chills, given the benefit of hindsight and the horrifying case of Mahsa Amini at the hand of the country’s ‘morality police’ last month. Sister Fatimeh is much more accepting of her new life created in Scotland. However, it is a personal betrayal that is at the heart of the piece.

Both Lanna Joffrey (Fatemeh) and Nalân Burgess (Shirin) handle the piece with commendable restraint and deliver a believable chemistry between older and younger sister, indeed theirs is a five-star acting performance in a not-quite-perfect play. The domestic monotony does become too monotonous unfortunately, and the ending is a little stretched out, a little too sentimentally drawn together, which deprives the piece of the impact it could have had. That said, the post-curtain call speeches from both actors delivers a dose of the present-day reality in Iran that brings the audience to tears.

Runs until 22 October 2022 then continues touring | Image: Fraser Band

NEWS: SCOTTISH OPERA PRESENTS THE VERDI COLLECTION IN GLASGOW

As part of the Opera in Concert series, Scottish Opera presents The Verdi Collection, a selection of the Italian composer’s greatest hits at His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen on 19 November and Eden Court, Inverness on 26 November, with the concert then touring to City Halls, Glasgow and Usher Hall, Edinburgh in February 2023.

A cast of internationally acclaimed singers bring numerous roles to life, capturing the breadth and drama of Verdi’s incredible array of popular operas that earned him the title of the “king” of all Italian opera composers. In Aberdeen and Inverness, Scottish Opera’s Music Director Stuart Stratford conducts The Orchestra of Scottish Opera along with the cast including Hye-Youn Lee (Don Giovanni 2022), Christopher Turner (La traviata 2017), Roland Wood (Don Giovanni 2022) and Jihoon Kim. In 2023, the concert travels to Glasgow and Edinburgh with Eri Nakamura, Peter Auty (Eugene Onegin 2018), Lester Lynch (Silvano 2019) and Brindley Sherratt (Inês de Castro 2015).

Capturing the romance, passion and tragedy of Verdi’s works, the concert features a playlist from operas including La traviataUn ballo in mascheraLa forza del destinoDon CarloOtello and Macbeth. In an evening of dramatic storytelling this is a chance to hear some the composer’s more iconic music, recognisable from numerous TV adverts and films.

Known for his beautiful melodies and powerful plots, complicated relationships sit at the heart of his operas, as the concert’s singers become families, lovers, friends and enemies who often find themselves at dramatic odds, with understandable motives on all sides.

Scottish Opera Music Director Stuart Stratford said: ‘The Verdi Collection comprises some of the highlights of the composer’s middle and late period from La traviata, one of the most popular operas, to Don Carlo and Otello.

‘The orchestra increasingly becomes more of an independent dramatic voice in his later works, with the sinister bassoon counterpoint in Otello and the golden aura of the cornets in Don Carlo striking examples of colour and character.

‘We hope there is something in The Verdi Collection for everyone and that the great Italian master still surprises us today as he undoubtedly did when these works were first performed.’

Verdi’s prolific output was marked by many styles, themes, and stories in a career that spanned over 50 years. At the heart of all his operas are instantly recognisable characters (noble heroes and dastardly villains alike), nuanced relationships between lovers and families, and melodies that transcend time.

Cast for Glasgow performances:

Soprano                 Eri Nakamura

Tenor                     Peter Auty

Baritone                 Lester Lynch

Bass                      Brindley Sherratt

City Halls, Glasgow
10 February 2023, 7.30pm

NEWS: GIOVANNA FLETCHER, CLIVE MANTLE AND GEORGE RAINSFORD TO STAR IN WISH YOU WERE DEAD

Producer Josh Andrews has announced the lead cast for the UK tour of Peter James’ Wish You Were Dead: George Rainsford, will star as James’ famous detective DSI Roy Grace, alongside Giovanna Fletcher who will star as Cleo Morey and Clive Mantle, who will star as Curtis. Leon Stewart will return to the role of DS Glenn Branson.

The show visits Glasgow 28 March – 1 April 2023 at the Theatre Royal

The world stage premiere of Wish You Were Dead follows five successful stage plays and the critically acclaimed smash-hit primetime ITV series ‘Grace’, which are all based on the best-selling novels by the UK’s number one crime author Peter James. This will be the sixth stage adaptation of James’ novels -making it the most successful crime thriller stage franchise since Agatha Christie.

Adapted exclusively for the stage, Wish You Were Dead kicks off a major nationwide UK tour in February 2023 at the Churchill Theatre, Bromley. The production will then travel to a selection of top theatres across the country until late July. Tickets are on sale now from PeterJames.com.

Giovanna Fletcher is a hugely successful author, podcast host and Queen of The Castle after winning I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here in 2020, Giovanna’s theatrical credits include 2:22 A Ghost Story and Ivanov in the West End and she also appears in the feature film The Boat That Rocked.

Clive Mantle’s extensive range of credits across theatre, film and television, include an Olivier Award nominated performance in Of Mice and Men. He is perhaps best known for his TV work in shows such as Casualty, Holby City, Game of Thrones and The Vicar of Dibley and is also an award-winning children’s author.

George Rainsford has for the last nine years, been playing series regular Ethan Hardy in Casualty on BBC One, for which he won the Inside Soap Award Best Drama Star 2017. Other Television credits include Holby City and Call the Midwife and his numerous theatre credits include productions at the National Theatre, RSC and the Old Vic.

George Rainsford said: “I can’t wait to be part of a theatre ensemble again and delve into Peter James’ thrilling criminal underworld. Getting to play Roy Grace, his most renowned detective creation, will be a huge honour. I am excited to meet audiences from all over the UK, and share with them some enthralling, edge-of-your-seat entertainment!”

Clive Mantle said: “I’m looking forward to terrifying… I mean entertaining… audiences up and down the length and breadth of Britain with ‘Wish You Were Dead’. Full of suspense and drama, there will be  many funny moments too during the course of a captivating evening. There’s a clue there for starters. Roll up, roll up, all you amateur sleuths. Can’t wait to see you all.”

Giovanna Fletcher said: “I’m really looking forward to appearing on stage as Cleo in this brand new play, and excited to work with George and Clive – two wonderful actors I’ve heard great things about. As a novelist, I know how important the characters I create are to me, so I’m thrilled Peter James has entrusted me with this wonderful role, in what is another brilliant and gripping story from one of the greatest masters of crime thrillers!”

Writer Peter James said: “I am beyond thrilled with the wonderful star cast that we have assembled for the world stage premiere of Wish You Were Dead. I love the fact that so many people create their own image of my characters but for me, George, Giovanna and Clive are all inspired interpretations of how I see Roy Grace, Cleo and Curtis and I am equally thrilled that Leon is returning to play Branson again. It is going to be very exciting to work with this great group of actors and I can’t wait for them to give audiences around the country, a thrilling, fun and hugely entertaining night at the theatre.”

The stage play of Wish You Were Dead follows DSI Roy Grace and Cleo Morey as they take a much-needed holiday together. They are hoping for a few days away from their dark worlds of murder and the mortuary. But their dream escape turns out to be the holiday from hell, as the past comes back to haunt them.

REVIEW: Unbecoming – Platform, Easterhouse

Unbecoming is an unravelling happening before our eyes. A solo tour-de-force from Anna Porubcansky, it is billed as a work about “loss and rage told by a woman and mother.”

Sucked into a vortex of fears, fears that bombard a woman, a wife and a mother and how those fears prevent you from becoming what you long and want to be, instead leading to your unbecoming.

There is much to relate to here, Porubansky cleverly weaves the narrative in an hypnotic way, using beautiful, crystal-clear vocals in a traditional song, mesmeric movement, jarring interludes and looping and layering of sounds to ultimately create an original and entrancing performance that highlights difficult subject matter. Sensitively tackled, I look forward to what comes next from Porubcansky.

 

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