Tag Archives: play

REVIEW: Love Me Tinder – The Town House, Hamilton

Much-loved journalist and broadcaster Cat Harvey, has her finger firmly on the pulse of West of Scotland woman (and man) in her new comedy play Love Me Tinder.

Exploring the minefield of dating in the 21st Century, it follows the story of a group of Glaswegian workmates who decide to embark on an online adventure in internet romance. There’s career girl Fiona (Cat Harvey) forever single and looking for Mr. Absolutely Utterly Perfectly Right; Nicola (Michelle McManus) the eternal good-time girl who is ready to swap parties for nappies; Cathy (May Miller), married for 40 years to Willie, who has apparently ran away with a 28-year-old Polish yoga teacher; Ryan (Liam Dolan) unaware of his sexual orientation, unlike everyone who knows him; Davie (Andrew Agnew) who is so commitment-averse he’ll date anyone and everyone “from legal to still breathing” and Davie (Johnny Mac) really Cupid in disguise, currently living in Cumbernauld and working his magic from the side-lines.

Harvey has an ear for Glaswegian patter and the naturalistic dialogue certainly strikes a chord with this largely female, sold-out audience. The laughs are sustained from start to end, and it’s no small thanks to a knock-out cast. From local cabaret star May Miller, the epitome of a ‘wee Glasgow wummin’ to TV stalwarts Andrew Agnew and Liam Dolan to panto royalty Johnny Mac and Pop Idol winner and Scottish national treasure Michelle McManus, a woman with the most enviable natural comic timing (and of course, a fabulous voice), each is an absolute gem.

Mac gets the chance to demonstrate his natural comedic talents and his exceptional audience wrangling skills, honed from years as a panto star. His fourth wall breaking turn as Cupid/Danny is warm, good-natured and laugh out-loud funny. As is McManus’ turn as the gobby Nicola. She manages to get the audience in tears with just a look, particularly hysterical is her disgust at Polish yoga teacher Klaudia stealing her big karaoke number, (which in an absolute belter of a theatrical trick) turns out to be McManus’ real-life Pop Idol winning tune ‘All This Time’.

The show is peppered throughout with party hits (you can’t not let Miller and McManus demonstrate what made them famous in the first place) and there’s even a chance for the audience to get in on the act with a rousing rendition of ‘Sweet Caroline’.

The path of true love never does run smooth, and so it is here. To its credit there’s also a large dose of reality in the mix to temper the laughs. This is a relatable, realistic portrait of love and friendship in the 21st Century and it’s delivered with real heart and soul. Hopefully there’s more to come from the pen of Cat Harvey.

REVIEW: The Twelve Pound Look – East Kilbride Arts Centre

Published in 1910, in the midst of the suffragette movement, J.M. Barrie’s The Twelve Pound Look, is an astonishingly relevant, early feminist drama, rightly regarded as one of the most perfect examples of a one-act play in contemporary drama.

Rapture Theatre are to be lauded for their decision to stage the play as part of their inaugural Rapture Bites lunchtime classics, theatre season, which is being presented here at East Kilbride Arts Centre and in slightly different forms at: The Byre Theatre, St. Andrews; Eastwood Park Theatre, Giffnock; Eastgate Theatre, Peebles; Adam Smith Theatre, Kirkaldy; Harbour Arts Centre, Irvine and CatStrand, New Galloway. The afternoon includes a light lunch, tea, coffee or soft drink as well as a top-quality play from Scotland’s premier touring theatre company.

Harry Sims is the classic example of a man of his time: a pompous, upper class, status-obsessed chauvinist. On the eve of his Knighthood, Harry has enlisted the help of his simpering, supportive, younger, second ‘trophy’ wife to help him practise for the ceremony. Such is his blind self-belief, that he hires a secretary from an agency to respond to the avalanche of correspondence that he expects on the announcement of his award. The secretary turns out to be Kate, the first Mrs. Sims who left him unceremoniously in the middle of the night years before, leaving behind only a note. Harry knows no reason why any sane woman would leave him. The first Mrs. Sims eloquently avails him of the precise reasons why and how she came to secure her freedom.

That such serious subject matter is doused in such humour, shows the adroitness of Barrie. The script is sharp and astute and exquisitely written. While on the surface it all seems like a perfectly palatable piece of fluff for an Edwardian audience, it carries a much deeper message. Who knew that Barrie was such a supporter of the equality of the sexes?

Much of the success of the production is the clarity of direction of Michael Emans and the attractive yet uncomplicated production design, but it is the central performance of Julia Watson as Kate that seals the deal as a polished jewel of a production. Watson is captivating, the elegant fluency and calm assurance with which she skilfully takes Harry down more than a peg or two, is an utter delight to witness.

Rapture Bites, is a welcome addition to the lunchtime theatre movement and with quality such as this, an entertaining time seems assured.

Next up in the series is Terrence Rattigan’s classic The Browning Version on 10th March and Harold Pinter’s A Kind of Alaska on 31 March.

*Please note that this writer has no affiliations with the venues, playwrights or theatre companies whose productions are reviewed on the blog. 

REVIEW: Rebus: Long Shadows – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

It is a retired John Rebus who appears in his first stage outing, Long Shadows. Currently trying to keep off the cigarettes and booze, Ian Rankin’s best-selling and much-loved detective is living a very different life in his Edinburgh flat. Not exactly in graceful retirement, he is haunted by thoughts of the one’s that got away – the criminals not the romantic kind.

Rebus is plunged straight back into investigation and firmly back off the wagon, when the daughter of the victim of a 17-year-old unsolved murder appears at his door. His once loyal colleague DI Siobhan Clarke has to tread carefully when it transpires that Rebus’ actions in the past may put the conviction of a rapist and murderer and her promotion to DCI, in jeopardy. As every reader of the best-selling novels knows, where Rebus’ past is concerned, it is inevitable that his arch nemesis Big Ger Cafferty will soon appear firmly centre stage.

Playwright Rona Munro has created the first Rebus play based on an original story by Rankin, and as has become her trademark, it is long on dialogue and drama. Tightly written and atmospheric throughout, fans of the novels will be pleased that it has just as many twists and turns.

Scots TV veteran Ron Donachie steps into Rebus’ well-worn shoes and curmudgeonly character. His deft touch and naturalistic portrayal of the often larger than life Rebus is a masterclass in exquisitely judged acting. What could so easily have been an excuse to ham it up, is instead a perfectly pitched portrayal. John Stahl is a suitably oily Cafferty, living the highlife in his 7th floor penthouse, clad in some eye-catching threads. Stahl, another much-loved Scottish acting veteran, has fabulous chemistry with Donachie, something essential to the success of the piece, due to Rankin’s 30-year development in print of the pair’s relationship. Less successful is Cathy Tyson’s portrayal of Rebus’ former police partner, DI Clarke, she is under-used and a little stiff in comparison to the easy chemistry between Donachie and Stahl.

The staging is darkly atmospheric, the only criticism would be the lack of one of its most essential elements – the city of Edinburgh. Rankin delivers such a sense of place in every novel, the atmosphere of the place oozes from every page, so much so that our capital city is almost a character in itself.

Expectations are high when any much-loved Scottish character makes their way to the stage, and thankfully Munro’s adaptation of Rankin’s beloved character delivers plenty of thrills and chills to entertain. Hopefully Rebus’ life continues to expand beyond the pages of Rankin’s novels. Well worth watching for crime fans.

Runs until 2 February 2019 | Image: Contributed

THIS REVIEW WAS ORIGINALLY WRITTEN FOR AND PUBLISHED BY THE REVIEWS HUB

REVIEW: Love From a Stranger – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Adapted from a 1934 short story Philomel Cottage, Agatha Christie wrote an unperformed stage version of the same name which itself was re-written as Love From a Stranger by actor and playwright Frank Vosper in 1936. Director Lucy Bailey, for Fiery Angel and Royal & Derngate Northampton, re-sets the action two decades later to the 1950s, all cut-glass accents and limited female opportunity.

This psychological thriller provides a great night’s entertainment, but be aware that this is a slow burn that smoulders along without ever fully bursting into flame.

Cecily Harrington (Helen Bradbury) comes up trumps in a sweepstake, and while Cecily wants to live large on her substantial winnings, her dull as ditch water fiancé Michae (Justin Avoth) arrives back from the Sudan to dash her plans and resign her to a life of domestic drudgery. When an attractive and adventurous American, Bruce Lovell (Sam Frencham) comes on the scene, Cecily’s world is turned on its head. Cecily marries Bruce, moving to an isolated cottage in the country.

The red herrings are positively scarlet. From the beginning it’s clear that Lovell isn’t what he seems. He lurks in the shadows, surreptitiously taking pictures of Cecily, sniffing her lingerie, constantly scribbling in a notebook. Moving her from friends and neighbours, the gaslighting continues until Cecily is an apparent puppet in Lovell’s hands, but all is never as it seems on the surface with Christie. As the tension builds and perspectives change, we are entertainingly led along the crooked path that Christie is so well known for.

This entire production is quite obviously influenced by Michael Powell’s 1960 British cinema classic, Peeping Tom. The sense of unease is cleverly created on Mike Britton’s sliding wall set with opaque panels where we can watch Lovell’s voyeuristic goings-on. Richard Hammarton’s sound design and Oliver Fenwick’s crimson-tinged lighting are characters in themselves, helping to ramp up the creeping tension.

The cast are uniformly solid given how affected the original dialogue sounds to an audience’s modern ear and the ‘heightened’ characterisations skirt (just) on the right side of caricature.

Christie rarely puts a foot wrong, and as a piece of ‘good, old-fashioned’ entertainment it is undoubtedly a winner.

Runs until 30 June 2018 | Image: Contributed, review originally written for The Reviews Hub

 

REVIEW: Birdsong – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Rachel Wagstaff has gamely adapted Sebastian Faulks’ sprawling, nearly 500 page novel Birdsong, into a two hour 20 minute stage play. First seen in the West End in 2010, it’s now, in its revised form, on its timely fourth and final UK tour, coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the end of the first world war.

This version, unlike the West End original has had a structural overhaul. The play flashes from past to present, love to war. To Wraysford’s life in 1910 in Amiens, where as a young man, he is in France to study the textile industry at the factory of René Azaire. Where he meets and falls in love with René’s much younger wife Isabelle and to 1914-16, the Somme and Wraysford’s life on the French frontline.

While the ill-fated love story between Isabelle and Stephen constitutes a major plotline, it is rendered somewhat wishy-washy in comparison to the war scenes, the chemistry between Wraysford (Tom Kay) and Isabelle (Madeleine Knight) lacking any spark. That this ice-cold pair could ever warm up to passion just doesn’t convince.

It is at its most gripping when it concentrates on the stories of the young men in the trenches. Enough time is given to develop a backstory for each and as a result the audience are emotionally invested in their fates: Sapper Jack Firebrace (Tim Treloar) catapulted from a life digging tunnels for the London Underground to a life digging trenches for the British Army, under-age Tipper (Alfie Browne-Sykes) traumatised by the day-today reality of warfare and ever-chipper Welsh farm boy Evans (Riley Carter) hiding secrets behind the smile.

The set, sound and lighting design add much to the viewing experience and bring the audience closer to the action and the action is enhanced by folk musician James Findlay’s plaintive punctuation of the action.

A play about the horrors of war is always a hard sell, and while this reviewer remains to be convinced of this newest production, in focussing on the human beings behind the gunfire, makes it a gripping, timely and ultimately moving story that deserves to be seen.

This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub

 

REVIEW: Damned Rebel Bitches – Platform, Easterhouse

From the Clydebank Blitz in WW2, where Ella and her older sister Irene are orphaned, through emigration to New York in the 50s, a return to Scotland after widow-hood, to the streets of New York in 2012, Sandy Thomson’s Damned Rebel Bitches, part of Luminate the creative ageing Festival, is a joyous celebration of the women of the war years and an inspiring rallying call that life can be lived to the full, no matter what your age.

It’s 2012, and Ella’s grandson Cameron has disappeared in New York, with Hurricane Sandy looming, 80-year-old Ella packs her backpack and her walking poles and heads to the Big Apple with her 86-year-old sister, to sort it out.

Using age-blind casting and with the eras intertwining using flashback/forward, this is a vastly ambitious work, full of big ideas, and all the more compelling for that. This truly is a rollicking tale that flies by in the blink of an eye, belying its two and a half hour running time.

Ella is a survivor, a risk-taker, there’s a spark that is present throughout her life, and a never diminishing fire inside, and veteran actress Tina Gray shines as this feisty and fabulous woman. This ain’t no ‘nice old lady’, this is a woman you know would have your back in the toughest of times. This is an 80 year-old who is Tinder, Facebook and life-savvy, who can hot-wire a car and wield a gun if need be. Gray is more than ably supported by her fellow (younger and multi-national) cast mates Eilidh McCormick as older sister Irene, Geoffrey Pounsett as Canadian husband Pete and Jeremiah Reynolds as American grandson Cameron. Each turns in a perfectly judged and utterly compelling performance.

As Bette Davis said, and as quoted in the play: “old age ain’t no place for sissies”, but what an adventure it can be. This is stand-out storytelling: life affirming and above all hugely entertaining.

Reviewed at Platform, Easterhouse, Glasgow.

You can still catch it at:

Irvine Harbour Arts on Fri 6 October 2017

Paisley Arts Centre on Sat 7 October 2017

WHAT’S ON MAY: Benny Lynch play at EK Arts Centre

The Lynching written and Directed by Paul Moore Original Music by Oliver Lodge

1935. The Florence Street Flyweight, Benny Lynch conquers the world…and its imagination.

100,000 people welcome home their Champion to Glasgow’s Central Station.

From Gorbals slum to grandiose glamour.

Fought and won. A knockout.

A world first, when pugilism meets performance… explore the mind set of this Gorbals boy in this poignant, pulls no punches drama.

The journey of a true sporting legend, as he battles his demons… in and out of the ring.

Available to book online or by calling East Kilbride Arts Centre on 01355 261000.

Date: 17-18 May 2017

Time: 8:00pm

Cost: £12.00 / £10.00 concession

Venue: East Kilbride Arts Centre

REVIEW: Rehearsal for Murder – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

From the pen of Richard Levinson and William Link, best-known for their work on Columbo and Murder She Wrote, Rehearsal for Murder, the first production from the recently formed Classic Thriller Theatre Company, originally saw life as a 1982, Edgar Award-winning, made for TV mystery movie.

When his fiancée, movie actress Monica Welles is found dead from an apparent suicide after the opening night of her West End debut, playwright Alex Dennison is left devastated. On the first anniversary of her death, he gathers the original cast and crew in the same theatre, ostensibly for a reading of his new play, however, it soon appears that each scene has a particular significance for the people involved.

There’s always a place for a good old-fashioned theatrical murder mystery (as evidenced by the packed auditorium) and something hugely satisfying for an audience in trying to work out whodunnit, and while a hoary old theatrical staple, Levinson and Link’s play is raised above its contemporaries by a clever structure. Told as a series of flashbacks, this thriller flits between the past and presence with an admirable elegance.

There’s a commendable clarity to the storytelling and credit must go to director Roy Marsden, himself no stranger to murder mysteries, serving for 14 years as Detective Inspector Dalgleish in the ITV adaptations of PD James’ renowned crime novels, for keeping it taut throughout.

The cast are universally solid, Alex Ferns convinces as the distraught playwright Dennison, Susie Amy’s turn as the late Monica is nicely handled, and entertainment veteran Anita Harris, looking decidedly glamorous for her 74 years, turns in a well-judged performance as producer Bella Lamb. While the acting veers towards the heightened side of reality, the subject matter allows any quibbles to be easily forgiven.

There are many moments of levity to balance out the chills, and while a slow burn, it’s absorbing enough, sophisticated enough and well-acted enough to keep the interest levels high throughout. A hugely entertaining mystery and a nice change from musical theatre overload.

Runs until Saturday, 27 August 2016

Tickets available from:  http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/rehearsal-for-murder/theatre-royal-glasgow/

REVIEW: Heartbeat – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Axed in 2010 and with 15 million viewers in its heyday, Heartbeat was a staple of Sunday night TV for 18 years. Cashing in on the current trend for nostalgia, this new theatrical version should have been given major cardiac surgery before it ever got to a stage.

Set in 1969, this broad comedy drama written by cast member David Lonsdale tries to recreate the atmosphere of the homely TV show, but it is quickly evident that what works on screen doesn’t necessarily translate to the theatre.

Staged as a series of brief scenes, the whole production is slow paced with little to grab and keep the audience’s attention. In short, mysterious incomers, including a young Irish backpacker, arrive in sleepy Aidensfield and spell trouble for the residents, throw into the mix some rabbit poaching, a proposed Bank Holiday knees up in the pub and a new jukebox and that’s about the long and the short of it.

The cast soldier on bravely with the material they are given and turn in solid enough performances. Steven Blakeley reprising his much-loved role of PC Younger and Matt Milburn as PC Joe Malton, the most successful among them. However, Carly Cook recreating the role of Gina Bellamy needs work on her diction and Callum O’Neill’s accent as young Irishman Aidan, sails over the Irish Sea to Scotland at times. Veteran cast member David Lonsdale playing village buffoon David Stockwell is warmly received.

It is a sorry state of affairs when a stuffed dog garners the biggest reaction of the evening. Loyal fans may be pleased to see these much-loved characters resurrected for the stage, but the script doesn’t do this TV classic any justice. Stay at home and watch the re-runs instead.

This review was originally written for and published by The Reviews Hub at: http://www.thereviewshub.com/heartbeat-theatre-royal-glasgow/

 

REVIEW: Frances and Ethel – Oran Mor, Glasgow

Performing from the age of two, popping pills supplied by her mother at ten, surviving the scandal of her father’s indiscretions by moving from Michigan to Hollywood where she was signed by MGM at just 13 years old, and a lifetime of criticism about her looks, the sad and sorry private life of screen legend Judy Garland has proven to be fertile theatrical fodder over the years.

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David Cosgrove’s Frances and Ethel takes place in a shabby rehearsal room in New York on the eve of Garland’s legendary 1961 Carnegie Hall concert. With her old pal, pianist Sal, she reminisces on the events that have steered her to this point, chiefly the dysfunctional relationship with the woman she dubbed “the real Wicked Witch of the West”, her steely, ultra-ambitious mother, Ethel.

While Cosgrove’s short, sweet play offers no new insight into Garland’s life, it does win big with the casting of Frances Thorburn as Judy, Thorburn’s voice is eerily evocative of the legendary singer. Dubbed a mini-musical, in Oran Mor’s summer season, the production is rather light on musical numbers, but those it does feature are glorious. An engaging addition to the legend of Judy Garland.

 

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