Tag Archives: Review

REVIEW: Nativity! The Musical – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

The clocks have gone back, Hallowe’en and Bonfire Night are over, so, of course, Christmas is here. Seven weeks early, but who’s complaining when it’s the stage version of Bafta Award-winning Debbie Isitt’s hugely loveable 2009 movie, Nativity?

For those familiar with the big-screen trilogy, the stage plot is lifted entirely from the first film. Mr. Maddens (Scott Garnham) is a less than effective primary school teacher, having previously been an even less than successful actor. With the festive season approaching, the school Nativity show looming and a broken heart courtesy of his ex-girlfriend Jennifer (Ashleigh Gray) who dumped him to pursue her career dreams in Hollywood, things can’t possibly get worse. Unfortunately they do. Competition arrives in the form of his former best friend, Gordon Shakespeare (Andy Brady), who is now receiving plaudits for his festive extravaganzas at a rival primary school. Maddens declares that a Hollywood producer is coming to film his Christmas show, needless to say they’re not, and mayhem ensues, aided and abetted by hyperactive classroom assistant Mr. Poppy (Simon Lipkin).

With such well-loved source material, the cast need to step up and fortunately they more than match, and in some cases exceed that of the film. For West End theatre buffs, this is dream casting. Scott Garnham is entirely believable as the lovelorn Mr. Maddens with a gorgeous voice to boot, Ashleigh Gray makes her mark in the relatively small role of Jennifer and manages to showcase her phenomenal vocal skills, Andy Brady is a suitably manic Mr. Shakespeare (his Herod is a gem) but it is the utterly irresistible Simon Lipkin as Mr. Poppy who thoroughly steals the show. Lipkin is a star in everything he’s in and here he gets to showcase his formidable talents while still bringing out the best in everyone around him.

But what about the kids?, after all, this really is a children’s show. The local children cast as the pupils of Oakwood Primary School are drilled to perfection, but the pupils of St. Bernadette’s are truly phenomenal. Added to an already spectacular cast, there’s also an irresistible pooch called Cracker to crank up the cute factor.

The production values are high and the set looks as good as anything your likely to see on a West End stage, and the choreography from the always reliable Andrew Wright is perfectly reflective of that of children in 2018. The roster of musical numbers has been significantly upped from the half a dozen songs in the movie and each is a catchy delight.

Nativity! starts on a high and the entertainment factor never diminishes for the entire running time. It knows how to tug at the heart strings without becoming over schmaltzy, you’d need to be hard-hearted indeed not to be touched by this. This is a show of infinite quality from start to finish and stands head and shoulders above most festive offerings.

It preaches a laudable message of the power of a positive mindset and that sometimes the good guys can win in the end. Ultimately it’s a festive, feel-good, feast for the eyes that fills you with the warm and fuzzies.

Beg, borrow or steal to get a ticket, this really is an unmissable show.

Runs until November 2018 | Image: Richard Davenport

This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub. The UK’s leading and most prolific digital portal for the performing arts. With 150 reviewers spread across the UK, managed by 10 editors, The Reviews Hub publishes reviews, previews, features and interviews on entertainment throughout the whole country.

 

REVIEW: The Comedy About a Bank Robbery – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

The mighty Mischief Theatre return. Hoorah! On the heels of their world-wide success with The Play That Goes Wrong (Olivier Award-winning, a run on Broadway and around the globe and several UK tours) and Peter Pan Goes Wrong (West End, UK tour and a screening on the BBC), it’s now the turn of The Comedy About a Bank Robbery. Needless to say, this isn’t the Hatton Garden Robbery or Brink’s-MAT.

It’s summer 1958, Minneapolis, USA. A clutch of utterly clueless Canadian crooks attempt a diamond heist on Prince Ludwig of Hungary’s priceless jewel, cue the astonishing physical feats, witty wordplay and visual puns a-plenty with which this indefatigable theatre company are now synonymous.

The whole production plays out like a glorious 1950s, screwball B-Movie with harks back to the Golden Age of British comedy, there are nods to Morecambe and Wise and Two Ronnies sketches, and the wonderful stage adaptation of The 39 Steps (the show Mischief Theatre followed into the Criterion Theatre in the West End). The visual and physical gags are as jaw-dropping and inventive as ever (to state here what they are would ruin the effect).

The cast are universally top-notch, but it’s great to see Mischief founding member Dave Hearn (seemingly replacing Sean Carey) as con artist Sam, his pin-sharp timing is a joy, Julia Frith as bank manager’s daughter Caprice, is a glorious mix of Lucille Ball and Gloria Grahame, Jon Trenchard is hugely entertaining as the put-upon Warren and Ashley Tucker’s Mrs. Monaghan has more than a touch of Karen Walker from TV’s Will and Grace. The cast also do a brilliant job in their sung scene changes, fabulous 50s Doo-Wop hits cover all the transitions.

There’s a ‘turn up your nose’ snobbery about slapstick and farce, but there’s no denying that Mischief Theatre’s trademark comedy is universally appealing. It also has to be acknowledged how much intellect and acting skill is required to pull this off so successfully.

It does take a while for the first half to get into its stride and there are a few too many filler moments but, though it feels hackneyed to use the phrase ‘a laugh a minute’, it really ramps up to being just this, the visual and verbal comedy is relentless.

Mischief Theatre still have the power to please an audience. It leaves you wanting more and wondering what’s next from this powerhouse production team.

Runs until November 2018 | Image: Contributed

This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub

REVIEW: Summer Holiday – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

Taking as its source the classic 1963 Cliff Richard movie, Summer Holiday is a feather light piece of escapism for all the family with a hard-working, talented cast and more than a few much-loved, familiar tunes.

It’s yet another miserable British summer, when Don and his fellow London bus mechanics persuade their bosses to let them borrow a double-decker bus to escape the grey skies. They set off for the south of France. On they way, they encounter a trio of female singers (the Do Re Mi’s) who have broken down on the way to a gig in Athens. Thrown into the mix is an American singing sensation (Barbara) disguised as a boy, on the run from her over-bearing mother and her agent. Cue some old-fashioned frolics and farce.

First turned into a stage musical in 1996, it has become a favourite of amateur dramatic societies up and down the UK, and as a work that’s fondly regarded by the great British public, it is ripe for a revamped professional tour. In order to ensure mass appeal, some of Cliff’s earliest releases have been shoe-horned into the song list along with those culled from the soundtrack of the movie. It must be said that there are more than a few that are pure filler, and unnecessarily extend the running time without adding much entertainment value, but for the most part the hit songs are a winner: Do You Wanna Dance, The Young Ones, Move It, Living Doll, Bachelor Boy and the famous title song get the audience on-side the moment the first bars ring out.

The energy level of the cast is critical in a work as lightweight as this, and thankfully they are giving their all. Their commitment to their roles is universally deserving of praise. In the ‘Cliff Richard’ role of Don, Ray Quinn is a hugely reliable, likeable and sure-footed leading man, he’s more than proved his chops in the singing department, but he’s also a gifted dancer. His trio of mates: Rory Maguire (Cyril), Billy Roberts (Steve) and especially the hugely talented Joe Goldie (Edwin) provide solid support, each singing, dancing, acting and breathing life into their roles with energy.

The Do Re Mi’s prove a likeable trio and Alice Baker (Alma) Laura Marie Benson (Angie) and especially Gabby Antrobus (Mimsie) do their best with the slim material they are given. Sophie Matthew is pleasant enough but unremarkable as Barbara and Becky Bassett as her mother Stella, is at least two decades too young to play the part.

Racky Plews choreography is as reliable and inventive as ever and is executed with precision and energy throughout. The scene to Move It in particular, is cleverly realised with ski poles and pairs of Heelys.

The minimal (read for that cheap looking) set doesn’t do much for the production, it is played out to a stark black background throughout which lends no sense of place, it is clear all the money has been spent on the realisation of the double decker bus, which is thankfully effective.

The script is weak and the characters are utterly two-dimensional, however, the fact that the cast are clearly giving their all makes up for the short-comings in the writing. The humour gets to the levels of mildly ‘seaside saucy’ and there are some lazy stereotypical ‘Johnny Foreigners’ replete with dodgy accents, if you’re being kind you could say it’s a hark back to a more innocent and simplistic time, less kindly you could call into question the taste/judgement levels of the production team. Criticism could also be made of an all-white cast in a musical in the UK in 2018.

It’s simplistic, it’s undemanding but it’s ultimately good old-fashioned, feel-good fun.

Runs until 3 November 2018 | Image: Contributed

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

REVIEW: Saturday Night Fever – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

It’s astonishing to think that Saturday Night Fever is over 40 years old. Bee Gee’s manager and producer Robert Stigwood’s gritty, 1977 movie, based on British journalist Nik Cohn’s 1976 New York magazine article ‘Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night’ (later revealed to be pure fiction) has stayed in the public consciousness since then. It has even been declared “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the US National Film Registry.

First appearing as a stage musical in the West End in 1998, it has undergone a myriad of incarnations since then, some less successful than others. This time it’s the turn of Bill Kenwright to tackle this seminal tale of the disco subculture.

 

Living at home with his parents and little sister, 19 year-old Bay Ridge boy Tony Manero (Robert Winsor), spends his days working in the local paint store and his nights escaping to the 2001 Odyssey disco. Eager to dig himself out of his dull life, he sets his sights on the $1000 prize in the local dance competition. Conflict arises with his friends and his potential dance partners: local girl Annette and the comparatively sophisticated Stephanie. Thrown into the plot are rape, abortion and suicide.

Unlike other productions, The Bee Gees (played by Ed Handoll, Alastair Hill & Matt Faull) appear onstage to provide musical accompaniment to the action, and do so phenomenally well, their vocals almost indistinguishable from the real thing. They are accompanied by a fine-sounding band, who are musically on-point throughout. Only a few of the characters in this ‘musical’ sing the songs that drive their character’s narrative: Tragedy by Bobby C (Raphael Pace) and If I Can’t Have You by the spurned Annette (Anna Campkin), and when they do it seems utterly incongruous. It feels as if it should be an ‘either/or’ choice, either a play with an accompanying soundtrack or a full blown musical. The soundtrack as it is delivered by the onstage band and vocalists is strong enough to eschew any need for the characters to burst into song.

The multi-level set is cleverly conceived and smoothly transitions from family home to paint store to local diner, to dance studio to the cacophony of colour at 2001 Odyssey, it is evocative and suitably evocative of the era. It beats the catastrophic 2014 actor/musician version that played out on an awful multicoloured cube strewn set, hands-down.

 

The cast work hard with the material they have, each is clearly giving their all. Richard Winsor as Tony has the most fully-formed character, with a beginning, development and end. Winsor’s acting is undoubtedly solid, as is his dancing. I can testify to Winsor’s dancing credentials, having seen him performing as part of Matthew Bourne’s company, and he is clearly a gifted ballet dancer, however, he looks uncomfortable with this loose disco style. He looks as if he is fighting between his classical training and the freedom of these moves. Less well rounded are those without fully developed and resolved stories: the spurned and sexually assaulted Annette and the tragic Bobby C, to name two, their story lines are introduced, then left to hang in the air with no satisfactory conclusion.

Bill Deamer’s choreography is lively, but as someone who has seen the original West End production, he has borrowed liberally from Arlene Phillips very memorable original choreography.

The writing is the production’s weakest link, with better material, this hard-working cast could have done so much more. Entertaining escapism, but there’s a lot of unfulfilled potential here.

Runs until Saturday 20 October 2018 at Glasgow King’s Theatre.

Images: Pamela Raith

W-hat About? – Platform, Glasgow

An ageing Scottish hat maker is preparing for a visit from his teenaged Italian granddaughters who he hasn’t seen since they were toddlers, in Fuora Dance Project’s beautifully crafted dance drama, W-hat About?

An international, intergenerational tale of misunderstanding, memory and remembrance, it moves from awkward introductions, communication mishaps, teenage strops, ultimately to acceptance and celebration where the family members’ mutual creativity brings them together to remember the person they have loved and lost.

Played out on a simplistic but extremely imaginative set, the choreography is exquisite, expressive and eye-catching, it is also perfectly crafted to capture the imagination of the tiny audience members for whom it was created. That said, it is equally vibrant for the grown ups too. The way in which the language barrier is represented, the contrast between granddad’s lilting Scots and the rapid-fire Italian of the teenage girls is cleverly done. The use of shadow play is also hauntingly beautiful as the story reaches its conclusion.

At just 45 minutes long, W-hat About? is an exemplary piece of children’s theatre: filled with clever visuals, arresting choreography and a story that captures the hearts and minds of both young and old.

Continues on tour around Scotland.

This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub

REVIEW: Caro Emerald – The Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow

Dutch jazz/pop sensation Caro Emerald is in Glasgow, bringing old-school Hollywood glamour along with some bossa nova beats, latin vibes and a fabulously retro stage set.

Emerald is indeed a gem, and her reputation as one of the finest live performers in the world remains firmly intact on the basis of this glorious sell-out set at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. Backed by her exceptional seven-piece band, she storms through hit after hit after hit from Deleted Scenes from the Cutting Room FloorThe Shocking Miss Emerald and Emerald Island. It’s rare that there’s not a weak song in an entire set, but there truly isn’t. Despite what your pre-conceptions are about her music, there’s something inherently infectious about each and every one of these tunes. The mixture of 40s and 50s jazz, swing, Latin beats, some VERY James Bond themed numbers and good old pop, is irresistible. There’s also the inclusion of Camila Cabello’s chart-topping Havana, a song that couldn’t be more perfect for Emerald to cover.

There’s little interaction with the audience, little show of personality, save for her quirky, modern/retro fashion choices (two outfits for the evening if you’re interested) not that there’s any sign of ego or arrogance, Emerald really does let the music do the talking, there’s no need to waste time with chat when people just want to hear these tunes.

Of note are the gorgeous, retro projections that accompany the set, be it chilling by the pool or a hot Cuban night, they perfectly enhance the mood of each song. 

It takes the normally exuberant Glasgow audience a while to get on their feet tonight, but when they do there’s no way they’re going to sit back down. The evening ends on a high with Emerald’s most familiar song, On a Night Like This. The perfect antidote to the on-coming winter blues.

REVIEW: Blair Dunlop – The Hug and Pint, Glasgow

From folksy beginnings, Blair Dunlop has been moving in recent years (and over the course of three albums) to a more commercial sound.

The son of singer Judy Dunlop and Fairport Convention’s Ashley Hutchings, Dunlop has a varied performance CV, as well as his musical outings, he also appeared as the young Willy Wonka in Tim Burton’s 2005 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Prizes have also not eluded him, winning the 2013 Horizon Award at the BBC Folk Awards and the Special Jury Prize Premio Ciampi in Italy in 2014.

His Ed Harcourt produced latest album, Notes From an Island features large in this live set. The folk elements are still evident, and are the very heart and soul of his sound, but it’s clear Dunlop has matured greatly. While there’s now a broader appeal to the sound, and a big Americana influence, there’s still real depth to the material and a clear political and social commentary running throughout. 

Dunlop and his sound are well suited to intimate venues. That said, it could be argued that Dunlop’s material is so intimate that even this small room sometimes engulfs it. Thoughtful and low-key, the sound could easily be lost in a large venue and that doesn’t necessarily bode well for career expansion. This is music to reflect and relax too, to muse about, not necessarily for a live setting, the audience, while clearly enjoying the gig, are relatively passive for this city. That said, Dunlop is hugely talented and his music is a joy to the ears, he’s a gifted technical vocalist and musician, hopefully his sound will continue to mature and expand to larger venues and audiences. This is music of the highest quality that deserves to be heard by the widest audience possible.

 

 

 

REVIEW: Christina Bianco Life of the Party – Wild Cabaret, Glasgow

Let’s state some facts first: Christina Bianco is phenomenally talented. There are few in this vocal impression game who can deliver such spot-on, pin-point accurate impersonations. There are also few shows where you can hear Streisand, Garland and Minelli, Britney, Christina, and Celine, Menzel, Chenoweth, Peters and Lupone.

What sets Life of the Party from Bianco’s previous efforts is the inclusion of another diva – Bianco herself, finally singing in her own power-house voice and sharing more of her back story and influences. Though, it is her sensitive rendition of the show-stopping Santa Fe from Newsies that really leaves an impression (forgive the pun).

There’s still the unlikely interpretations – Judy Garland does Ed Sheeran to name one, a diva demands quiz, pal Jai McDowall doing a guest turn with Evermore from the recent Disney live-action Beauty and the Beast and Scottish actress Kelly MacDonald makes some bizarre appearances re-interpreting some unlikely movies: Gladiator, Dirty Harry to name a few. Bianco also throws in some highlights from her Broadway and West End turn in the long-running Forbidden Broadway and a flashback to the past with an old Betty Hutton comedy number.

The show runs at over two hours not including the interval and there’s so much bang for your buck. There’s also the fact that there’s such a warmth to Bianco, that the audience feel fully embraced throughout. If she’s playing at a venue anywhere near you, do yourself a favour and see her – the true doyenne of vocal impersonations.

REVIEW: Milton Jones and Chums – The Town House, Hamilton

The king of the one-liner Milton Jones and star of Mock the Week, Live at the Apollo and Comedy Roadshow, is touring the country with a slew of local comedians in tow. Luckily for Lanarkshire, Jones and chums are stopping off in Hamilton for one night only.

Compered brilliantly by stand up and star of Scot Squad, Chris Forbes, this is a well-curated showcase that delivers a satisfying night of comedy to the packed crowd.

Chris Forbes

Unenviably, it’s down to Edinburgh-based Gareth Waugh to open the show. Waugh is a personable and polished comedian and his self-deprecating stories have enough relatable material to get the crowd nodding and laughing along. It must be said though that for anyone who has seen him in the last few years, much of the material has been culled from his past two Edinburgh Fringe show: granny’s mad childhood games, the teenage gang asking him to buy them a carry-out and his jogging exploits to name a few. There’s also a fair amount of awkwardly familiar stories to make you cringe in recognition. It’s funny enough, and it serves its purpose as a warm up for the acts to come, but there’s nothing new or particularly ground-breaking here.

Gareth Waugh

Next up is the Santa Claus bearded and board shorts and t-shirt wearing veteran Graham Mackie. Mackie’s look may be benign and affable but his material is deceptively subversive, a combination that goes down well with the Hamilton crowd.

Graham Mackie

Second-to-top-billing falls to recent social media viral sensation Gary Meikle, whose rant on his daughter’s obsession with her eyebrows has struck a chord in these self-absorbed times. Meikle a single dad and youthful granddad at 40, delivers a knock-out selection of hugely relatable anecdotes that really do have the audience almost rolling in the aisles. What shines through is his love for his daughter and granddaughter, who provide rich material for the deft story-teller.

Gary Meikle

The wild-haired Jones is well worth the wait and the intellect behind the drolly delivered one-liners is sharp, sharp, sharp. Jones is well aware that some are so clever that they need a moment to land and his deft-touch with an audience allows this to happen.

This is really is a bumper evening of comedy, without a weak link on the bill. Each comedian is well worth seeing on their own and an even bigger treat altogether.

Milton Jones

TRON AMBASSADORS’ REVIEWS: Scotties – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Featured below is a selection of the reviews from this year’s Tron Ambassadors. I’m sure you’ll agree, the quality and insight is worthy of writers way beyond the years of these young people. Doubtless, ones to watch for the future.

The reviews that appear here are the unedited submissions by the writers. The writers range in age from 14 to 18 years of age.

Reviewer: Caitlin Scollin

Drawing from the real potato-picking Irish immigrants of 1936, Theatre Gu Leòr’s new play Scotties is innovative, shocking, and important to today’s audiences.

The lights go down as the play begins, and we see teenager Michael arguing with his Gaelic-speaking parents over a history project. He is tired, weighed down with homework, and embarrassed by his Gaelic heritage. After a visit from his grandmother, he falls asleep, drifting off just as figures in the distance begin to rise and sway. He is thrust into a field, and finds himself in 1930s Kirkintilloch. The audience are left just as clueless as him, as he wakes up in a completely different landscape, one that will mean more to him and his family than he could have ever expected.

Though I was initially thrown by the three different languages the play presented us with, by the end I forgot that I had once been worried by that. I could only understand the English properly, but I managed to understand the lines in different languages through the actors’ expressions. I found it captivating to watch, with so much to take in (through dialogue, movement, lighting, set, and music).

The play continues as Michael talks to Molly (the only character from the past that can see him, eventually revealed to be his own grandmother) and she explains their journey from Achill and introduces him to her “herd”. Michael stays with her for the rest of his time in the field, even when her friend professes his love for her and when their bothy is set on fire. I was enchanted by the magic in the story, and the melodic Gaelic chanting. The audience feel as if they are intruding, as the names of those who died in the fire are read out (named just once in the play as a mark of respect) and Molly weeps over the coffin. We watch her descend into isolation, refusing to even talk to her own daughter- Michael’s grandmother- as she raises her in Scotland too.

Scotties is a play about our relationship with the past, but it is also relevant to modern times. For example, the plaque placed to remember the Scotties in Kirkintilloch was immediately defaced in 2013, confirming tensions between Irish and Scottish communities even nowadays. It also tackles the issue of immigration all over the world. We begin to realise that it isn’t strictly an idea of the past, for people to flee one place to make better lives for themselves, and then be treated with hostility wherever they land. History does tend to repeat itself. The play makes a good point of talking about this in the very last scene.

Accompanied by a clever use of lighting and an interesting and efficient set, the cast dance and sing their way through a whirlwind hour and a half. One of the most memorable scenes is a dance where half the characters pick up instruments and half fall into a traditional dance that it was impossible not to smile at. The play is good at this, incorporating funny and lighthearted scenes in a heartbreaking and raw performance. I found myself crying towards the end, from where the pivotal fire was set to the very last scene.

Reviewer: Jennifer Wright

Recently I had the pleasure of seeing “Scotties” at the Tron Theatre. I had no idea that it was possible to not comprehend the language throughout the majority of a play, yet still be able to understand the raw emotion presented.

Muireann Kelly and Frances Poet’s jointly written play centres around the Glasgow teenager, Micheal (Ryan Hunter) and thoroughly explores and celebrates Scottish culture.  A school history project leads Micheal to slip into a dream where he can see clearly the lives of the boys who died in the Kirkintilloch tragedy just prior to the fire. He witnesses the final days of the boys who died as well as their experiences as Irish workers living in poverty during the early 1900s. However, Michael is only able to communicate with Molly (Faoileann Cunningham) who guides him through the past and shows what it means to be a migrant worker in Scotland in the 1930s.

While the challenge of working in multiple languages may seem daunting to some, the cast of ‘Scotties’ not only executed the play with utter passion and clarity but were also to convey to the audience the plot and dialogue through powerful acting where other actors would severely struggle to evoke anything other than complete confusion.  Every actor had their own unique and dynamic presence and complemented each other’s performance well. There was no weak link in ‘Scotties’ making for an incredibly enjoyable and emotional evening.

Although, it is not only the acting that should be applauded here; choreographer Jessica Kennedy must be recognised for her hauntingly beautiful movement that complimented the plot, dialogue, and music (by Laoise Kelly) perfectly. Moments that could easily have been glossed over became pivotal scenes due to the immaculate choreography.  Overall the creative team’s choices made a play that could have come off as confusing and predictable, an utter success. They managed to find the delicate balance between overdone and completely sporadic, resulting in a fascinatingly surreal play that truly mesmerised the audience.

“Scotties” is a truly spectacular play which explores a part of Scottish history that is not nearly talked about enough, presenting themes that are still prevalent in today’s society. This incredible show will not be soon forgotten, nor, hopefully, will the messages conveyed throughout.

Reviewer: Lucy Robinson

Scotties, by Muireann Kelly and Frances Poet, follows the story of a young boy, Michael, living in modern-day Glasgow, and his journey to rediscovering his Irish roots through his investigation of a historic fire that killed ten boys in a Scottish bothy.

Spoken in an at first confusing, but generally effective combination of Gaelic and English, it explores the background of both Irish and Scottish languages to produce a very thought-provoking piece. It cleverly drew parallels between past and present immigration, and the tension it creates within communities, which helped to make the themes much more accessible to any audience.

The set’s drab browns and greys, echoing the dreary landscape of agricultural Scotland between the wars, was offset by lighting, designed by Simon Wilkinson, that managed to transform each scene to fit the atmosphere.

Accompanied by traditional folk music that although will tug at the heartstrings of any patriotic Scot, is often haunting and eerie. Each cast member is both an actor and musician, with a particularly good piping performance from Alana MacInnes, and Ryan Hunter’s promising debut as Michael.

Reviewer: Molly Knox

Theatre Guleòr’s latest production ‘Scotties’ is a beautiful triumph that balances a tender and flowing physicality and dialogue with witty, refreshing and funny characters. The piece was inspired by a telegram, sent from Ireland following the death of ten young men from Achill in a Bothy fire in Kirkintilloch and explores not only this untold tragedy but so many valuable issues that relate heavily to today’s world.

When you first take a seat before the show begins, you are sat face to face with a stunning set (that is used throughout the show as a means of delicate and elaborate story-telling) covered in soil, a number of theatre gauzes and a simplistic set of wood furniture; these features being a bleak yet humble reminder of life’s cycle, that we all return to the earth we abide on. I particularly appreciated the use of contrast in the lighting used as it conjured up not only feelings of joy and nostalgia, but of hauntingly elegant grief. The use of live music was also very charming; the traditional Scottish and Irish instruments like fiddles, pipes and accordions made my experience all the more raw in both the light-hearted and solemn moments of the play.

Ryan Hunter’s charismatic, tongue-in-cheek portrayal of Michael, a teenage boy from modern day Glasgow, added a sense of down-to-earth comedic relief that balanced very well with the gritty, fragile aspects of the stirring plot and emotive characters. Every single actor clearly gave their all to the performance and created many moments of powerful, hard-hitting theatre. In particular, one scene between Faoileann Cunningham (playing Molly) and Colin Campbell, where both actors gave breath-taking and heart-breaking performances.

Whilst watching ‘Scotties’ I couldn’t help but notice the important issues and themes woven into the roots of the play itself- be they political or a lesson in human kindness, ‘Scotties’ had me questioning things. From the way we treat and view immigrants, to intergenerational and family relationships, to grief and loss and even the role of identity in one’s life.

Additionally, I found the use of both Scottish and Irish dialect and language alongside English to be especially effective in adding realism to the piece, and as somebody who doesn’t speak a word of Gaelic, ‘Scotties’ was completely accessible and understandable! The incorporation of more than one language into the dialogue is something uniquely brilliant to ‘Scotties’ and Theatre Guleòr’s work as a whole. The writers, Muireann Kelly and Frances Poet had clearly put an immense amount of thought into everything; from combining English and Gaelic into the production in a coherent way for both Gaelic and non-Gaelic speakers, to having a good balance of light and shade all through the piece.

Overall, after leaving the theatre from seeing ‘Scotties’ I felt refreshed by every detail of the production.  So, if you’re looking for an inspiring piece of theatre full to burst with witty perspectives and commentary on the new and old, met with a moving story that brings to light a tragedy that had been long forgotten- then I suggest you book tickets to see Theatre Guleòr’s ‘Scotties’!

For more information on the Tron Ambassadors programme visit: https://www.tron.co.uk/education/tron_ambassadors/

 

 

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