Tag Archives: Gray O’Brien

NEWS: Gray O’Brien to star in Perth Theatre’s Educating Rita

Award-winning ex-Corrie favourite, Scottish film and television actor Gray O’Brien is taking on the iconic role of Frank in Perth Theatre’s production of Educating Rita.

Gray picked up the British Soap Awards Villain of the Year gong for his role as Tony Gordon on the cobbles from 2007 until 2010, and has also had regular roles in Peak PracticeCasualty and River City. In 2017, he starred in ITV mini drama series The Loch. He recently played Levine in Bill Kenwright’s touring stage show Catch Me if you Can.

Gray will be joined by Rachael-Rose McLaren in the role of Rita. Emerging talent Rachael-Rose was last seen in Perth Theatre in November 2022 in the sell-out National Theatre of Scotland production Enough of Him about the Perthshire slave Joseph Knight and his bid for freedom.

Running in Perth Theatre from Thursday 16 March until Saturday 1 April, Educating Rita is directed by Martin McCormick, who won the hearts of the people of Perth with celebrated community football show Oh When the Saints in June 2022.

Willy Russell’s hysterical, thought-provoking modern classic premiered in 1980 at the RSC and went on to win multiple awards as well as being adapted for a feature film starring Julie Walters and Michael Caine.

Still as relevant and powerful more than 40 years after it first hit the stage, Educating Rita centres around the relationship between Rita a working-class hairdresser with a thirst for knowledge and disillusioned university lecturer Frank.

Martin McCormick said:

“I’m thrilled to be directing Educating Rita as it’s very much what I’d consider to be a modern classic.  It’s the typical clash of cultures formula between teacher and pupil that can be traced back to Pygmalion and beyond. Rita seeks to enlighten herself with the help of university professor, Frank. There is loads going against her; family, class, her gender.  But the major stumbling block is Frank himself!

Educating Rita contains all the hallmarks of what audiences love in a play. It’s funny, entertaining, thought-provoking and- even after the 40 plus years since Willy Russell wrote it – very relevant.”

Educating Rita is the first play in the revitalised Perth Theatre Season Subscription which gives regular theatregoers significant discounts when booking a selection of shows including popular classics, timeless comedy, mind-boggling mysteries and uplifting musicals.

Other productions in the Perth Theatre Season Subscription are The Mousetrap, National Theatre of Scotland’s Kidnapped, London Classic Theatre’s Abigail’s Party and the Raw Material and Eden Court co-production The Stamping Ground.

Audiences receive a discount of 15% when booking at least three shows, or 25% when booking all five together.

For tickets and info about Educating Rita and the Perth Theatre Season Subscription visit perththeatreandconcerthall.com or call or visit the Perth Theatre Box Office on 01738 621031 (10am – 4pm Monday to Saturday).

REVIEW: Peter James’ Dead Simple – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

There’s something satisfying about a good old theatrical thriller that drags you to the edge of your seat and keeps you there until the curtain falls. And that’s what Shaun McKenna achieves in his second adaptation of a Peter James crime novel: following on the heels of last year’s audience pleaser A Perfect Murder this time it’s Dead Simple.

Beginning with a stag night prank gone horribly wrong, property developer Michael Harris finds himself buried six feet under in a remote forest, the only people who know his whereabouts, dead in a car crash. What follows are dodgy dealings, a trawler full of red herrings and a plot that leads you up more garden paths than the Chelsea Flower Show.

The cast of well-known TV faces on the whole serve up solid performances, stand out among them Josh Brown’s well-measured turn as Davey a young man with learning difficulties and an obsession for US TV cop shows, a young man whose tenuous link to reality could mean life or death for Harris, and Gray O’Brien as our slightly less than by-the-book hero Det. Supt. Roy Grace.


Michael Taylor’s multi-level set design, Mark Howett’s lighting and Martin Hodgson’s sound design give the production a televisual feel and serve to crank up the suspense.

Whilst it’s undeniably entertaining and thoroughly engaging, the plot tests the bounds of credibility: no sooner has one suspect been exposed than another looms centre-stage, it also doesn’t stand up to more than the briefest surface scrutiny. The characterisations too, are bordering on two-dimensional and the dialogue is simplistic and at times a tad clunky. However, for all its faults it still serves up a shed-load of surprises and manages to hugely entertain. A theatrical thrill ride that’s well worth watching.

Runs until Sat 23 May at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow

This article was originally written for and published by http://www.thepublicreviews.com at: http://www.thepublicreviews.com/peter-james-dead-simple-theatre-royal-glasgow/

REVIEW: A Perfect Murder – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

Originally published on 19/3/14 by The Public Reviews at: http://www.thepublicreviews.com/peter-james-the-perfect-murder-kings-theatre-glasgow/

Writer: Shaun McKenna from the novel by Peter James

Director: Ian Talbot

Designer: Michael Holt

Crime is the most popular genre of fiction in the UK and Peter James is one of its foremost proponents: frequently inhabiting the best-seller lists, selling 5 million copies of his novels in the UK alone and 13 million copies worldwide. His novella The Perfect Murder is the first of his works to be adapted for the stage by writer Shaun McKenna. The storyline remains largely the same as its source material but resets it to the beginning of detective Roy Grace’s career rather than as the established Detective Superintendent we meet in the popular series of novels.

Victor Smiley (Les Dennis) and his wife Joan (Claire Goose) have been married for twenty years, but their marriage has reached crisis point: Victor dreams of a new life and has decided there is only one way to get Joan out of his life forever but Victor is about to get a nasty surprise as Joan has her own plans, plans that are just as dark as his. Throw into this mix a psychic sex worker Kamila (Simona Armstrong), handsome jack of all trades and laid back ‘Mockney’ Don (Gray O’Brien), alibi’s as holy as Swiss cheese and crime novelist Peter James’ well-loved detective Roy Grace (Steven Miller) investigating his very first homicide case and what you’ve got is a recipe for an entertaining thriller.

Whilst the novels are somber in tone this stage translation plays the majority of the action for laughs. Awash with contemporary references from 50 Shades of Grey to Breaking Bad, Brookside, BBC’s Sherlock and some asides referencing Les Dennis and Gray O’Brien’s stints in Coronation Street the production aims for a contemporary relevance and resonance. That said there are genuine frights and clever plot twists throughout and a few blood-curdling screams from both the stage and audience and whilst this comedy thriller is an entertaining evening’s diversion it would have benefitted from reining in the comic tone and playing up the more malevolent aspects of both the characters and the action to heighten the tension.

The cast are universally effective in their roles, the only gripe being the slight whiff of panto about Les Dennis’ characterization of Victor, playing down the delivery would have had an altogether more sinister effect.

Both the evocative original soundtrack courtesy of up and coming young composer Laura Tisdall and the multi-level set by Michael Holt are deserving of praise and are particularly effective in setting the atmosphere and helping to drive the storyline.

This is an evening of thrilling escapist fun which will certainly ring true with many of the long-marrieds in the audience and the frightening message from the story of this all too ordinary couple and their highly familiar domestic life is how many of us are capable of committing murder? Well, given the right circumstances, all of us.

Runs until 22nd March 2014

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