Tag Archives: Lisa Sangster

REVIEW: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari – Woodside Hall, Glasgow

In the atmospheric surroundings of Glasgow’s Woodside Hall, Psycho-like screeching strings from the barefoot orchestra clad in Edwardian garb and flashing strings of fairground lights, transport the audience back to turn of the century and the world of Dr. Caligari.

Taking as its inspiration the 1920 silent movie classic of the same name, Scottish Opera’s Connect company’s The Cabinet of Dr Caligari moves back in time to 1901 and resets the action to Glasgow instead of Germany.

Francis takes his girlfriend Jane and her best friend Ellen to the fair at Glasgow Green, among the fortune tellers and snake oil salesmen, in his Cabinet of Fate, Dr Gallagher presents a somnambulist, Cesare who can predict the future while in his sleeping state. When Cesare’s prophecy that Ellen will die that very night comes true, and Francis comes under suspicion for the murder, he and Jane begin to investigate with devastating consequences.

Under Julie Brown’s sure-footed direction, and enhanced by Lisa Sangster’s set and Kate Bonney’s lighting design, a comprehensive cast of characters colour the stage in Karen MacIver and Allan Dunn’s atmospheric and melodic work. The music and libretto are compelling throughout and its short running time (around 75 minutes) ensures that the audience is gripped from start to finish.

Despite the small size of the performance venue there are issues with projection from the young company who are often overwhelmed by the fine-sounding orchestra and dialogue is lost in several places, however, in the cast of 32 there are some stand-out performances which bode well for the future of opera in Scotland. Previous Scottish Opera Emerging Artists Andrew McTaggart and Sarah Power’s experience clearly shows, both delivering strong vocal performances as Caligari/Gallagher and Jane, the female chorus too are beautifully harmonious. Young tenor Glen Cunningham shows promise but needs to work on projecting his melodious voice and as Cesare, Daniel Keating Roberts provides novelty with his countertenor voice, but is somewhat lacking in his delivery.

Scottish Opera’s Connect programme provides the only opportunity for young Scottish musicians aged 14-21 to explore the world of opera and The Cabinet of Dr Caligari is the third world premier in eight years for Connect. The company’s commitment to innovation and the creation of new work must be applauded and if future works are of as high quality and as engaging and entertaining as Caligari then the future of opera in Scotland looks bright.

 

REVIEW: The Incredible Adventures of See Thru Sam

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

Writer: Johnny McKnight

Director: Johnny McKnight

The Public Reviews Rating: ★★★★½

Fifteen year old Sam McTannan has a superpower, the ability to make himself invisible: invisible to the cool kids at school, invisible to his teachers and invisible to the girl of his dreams. It’s a superpower he’s really rather happy with, ensuring as it does a pretty quiet life. But one tragic day all that changes when Sam’s beloved parents Chip the Grip and Sheila the Feeler, are killed in a car crash. Sam’s superpowers desert him, placing him firmly centre stage, where he has to deflect the attention of well-meaning teachers, his nemesis Uncle Herbie and the horrific school bully Chunk, boyfriend of his teenage crush Violet.

The Incredible Adventures of See Thru Sam, this heart-breaking, thought-provoking and ultimately life-affirming play comes to us from the assured pen of Johnny McKnight and manages the difficult feat of being genuinely laugh out loud funny and deeply moving in equal measure. It has emotional pull from the very first scene, grabbing you and tugging at your heart strings, pulling you this way and that, throughout the whole 80 minute roller-coaster ride.

To his great credit McKnight never shies away from confronting difficult themes and his fine ear for comic dialogue and finger on the heartbeat of the shunned in society strikes a chord, not only with the high school students in the audience, but all of those who have survived their teenage years.

The actors are universally deserving of praise, Julie Brown and James Mackenzie take on multiple and diverse roles with ease, and manage the lightning quick changes with a slickness that defies belief. Particularly successful are Brown’s perfectly judged portrayal of Mrs. Timmins, the eccentric but well-meaning Home Economics teacher and Mackenzie’s hysterical turn as Sam’s best buddy Walrus. As Sam, James Young carries the weight of the dialogue on his shoulders and manages to switch between direct audience address and dramatic interaction with admirable skill. He is utterly and heartbreakingly convincing as the ill at ease teen negotiating his way through the minefield of growing up, grief and love.

The set design by Lisa Sangster deserves special mention. Through the stunning use of Jamie Macdonald’s ingenious animations and Kim Beveridge’s video design we are not only fully immersed in Sam’s world but also party to his innermost thoughts.

Innovative, emotive and unmissable, I defy you to leave the theatre without a lump in your throat. See it if you can.

Reviewed on 24 September then touring Scotland.