Tag Archives: Iain Robertson

REVIEW: The Great Train Race – Oran Mor, Glasgow

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

Writer: Robert Dawson Scott

Director: Rob Jones

The Public Reviews Rating: ★★★★★

Robert Dawson Scott has spent the last 25 years as a stalwart of the Scottish arts scene: as  journalist; TV producer; founder of the Critics Awards for Theatre in Scotland (CATS); critic and now playwright. The Great Train Race, his first play, produced here for Òran Mór’s Autumn/Winter season, is an ebullient caper based upon the real-life rivalry between the two great north-south rail companies, Caledonian and North British.

It’s 1895 and the battle is on to be the fastest thing on rails between London and Aberdeen. On one side North British, travelling the east coast; with a shorter route, flatter terrain and bigger trains, and on the other Caledonian, travelling the west; with a longer route, undulating hills, but the fastest engines and an even faster attitude on how to win the race.

Dawson Scott’s fact-filled romp manages to be both highly informative as well as hugely entertaining; large on facts but even larger on laughs. It plays well to this west of Scotland audience’s rivalry with its east coast neighbours, so well in fact, that it took no prompting to elicit pantomime boos at the mere mention of the word Edinburgh. The success of the piece though, isn’t solely due the playwright’s fine ear for comedy and knowledge of his audience, but the skill of this hugely accomplished cast.

Joyce Falconer bears the weight of conveying the historical detail of the play, playing as she does the Kinnaber signal box (yes, you read that correctly) and does so with great charm. The script also allows Falconer to showcase her fine skill at storytelling in the Scots tongue. As mild-mannered, North British company man and Cammie’s son, Grant O’Rourke is utterly charming and as west coast engineer Cammie and also Norrie’s wife, Iain Robertson, one of Scotland’s finest dramatic actors, gets to demonstrate his sharply-honed comedy skills. The chemistry and camaraderie between the two actors is a real treat to watch.

The whole piece from writing to performance is shot through with an energy and exuberance that makes for an utterly joyous, escapist afternoon at the theatre. There are genuine belly laughs throughout and a history lesson there too for those who like to learn something new. Thoroughly recommended, catch it if you can.

Touring to the Lemon Tree, Aberdeen from 24th to 28th September

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