Tag Archives: Tron Theatre

FEATURE: Tron Ambassadors guest reviews

This month, I again had the chance to work with the Tron Theatre on their Ambassadors programme, delivering their theatre reviewing workshop.

The Tron Ambassadors scheme gives pupils the chance to be behind-the-scenes at a working theatre. It enables young people to make a deeper connection with the Tron Theatre and gain a better understanding of the industry. As well as providing participants with opportunities to take part in workshops, tasks, and interviewing and observing industry professionals, the Ambassadors are given opportunities to understand the transferable skills they are learning and how they can be applied to any career path they choose to take when leaving school.

Below are the reviews submitted by this year’s Ambassadors, I am sure you’ll agree the quality in many instances is equal to that of any published critic. Biographies of the writers are available at: https://www.tron.co.uk/education/work-for-schools/tron_ambassadors/

Stand By – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Reviewer: Daniel Cawley

Stand By is an exceptionally well written and powerful piece of theatre from the pen of former police officer Adam McNamara, who reverently conveys to the audience the warts and all portrayal of the all too often hidden aspect of on the ground police work.

By looking at the strength of character of four very different personalities and how their work impacts on their personal lives, this helps humanise the people behind the uniform who, as authority figures are often perceived as indifferent and emotionless to these qualities.

With much of the action taking place within a simulated, dimly lit police van, the play, on this occasion expertly directed by Joe Douglas, draws the audience in even further through the unique and innovative use of amplified earpieces. These allow the audience to hear radio broadcasts in sync with the actors and immerses them in the tension felt by police officers on call.

With some hilarious comedic moments and strong physical theatre elements this is a show not to be missed and thoroughly deserves the rave reviews received to date.

So, don’t stand by and let this one escape, catch it while you can.

Team Viking – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Reviewer: Daniel Cawley

Following on from its successful run at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, James Rowland brings his captivating one man show Team Viking to audiences across the country.

Using every inch of the almost bare stage and delivering his soliloquy in a black funeral suit, Rowland paints a picture of childhood memories and friendships forged, interspersed with music and rhyme, with verses becoming longer and more descriptive with each passing scene.  The main focus of the show is the personal homage Rowland pays to his friend who has asked for something special when he dies.  And special it is.

Coming quicker than any of them expected (his friend being diagnosed with an aggressive form of heart cancer at the tender age of 25), Rowland and other friend Sarah decide to re-enact a scene from all three’s favourite childhood film The Vikings and proceed to give their friend a Viking send off, casting him adrift in a boat set alight which proceeds to blow up with a ‘BOOM.’

From his hilarious rendition of body snatching from the chapel of rest before his friend becomes one with the earth, through to the genuine anguish he feels in the loss of his friend, Rowland’s expert storytelling can flip the mood from laugh out loud hilarity to sombre and reflective in a split second – leading the audience to experience a genuine emotional rollercoaster during the hour long set.

With simple and effective staging by director Daniel Goldman, this production is beautifully done and the true connotations of the story, albeit alluded to as the end not being the end, strike a chord with much of the audience.

If Team Viking is anything to go by, Rowland’s newest venture 100 Different Words For Love is a must see, even if just to see a storytelling master at his craft.

Team Viking – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Reviewer: Harry Reid

Team Viking is the true story of narrator, James Rowland, giving one of his best friends a proper Viking burial after contracting a very rare type of heart cancer.

From the very start of the performance there’s a strong connection to the characters through Rowland’s way of telling a story. He does a brilliant job of bringing you into his life and making you feel like you are also his friend, you are talking to him and no one else. There are no other actors, which makes the whole story that much more human, it’s like a friend telling you a crazy story that happened to them.

The connection to the characters strengthens as the story progresses, with us following James into his spiral of depression. We can really see and understand the emotions that he was feeling at that time, and by the end of the production, it has you holding back tears, you really see how much James cared for his friend.

The incorporation of the song that Rowland wrote into the play is also very clever. Each time a section of the song was added, it reflects the emotions that James is feeling at that point in the story: with the happy melody at the start, giving off an innocent vibe, then with the vocal inclusion, the use of different tones of voice showed James’ emotions, and then the beat of the song being included when James was at his lowest point. At first, these musical transitions are a bit jarring and confusing, but by the end of the play the puzzle pieces connect and it makes sense.

The delivery is spot on. Rowland manages to nail every joke and strike a reaction from the audience whenever he wants, he speaks to the audience like real people, a trait that’s very admirable. Overall, Team Viking is a wonderful dive into this sentimental story in the life of James Rowland with great acting and delivery. Highly recommended – see it if it ever comes back.

Stand By – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Personal response by Morven Little

On the days leading up to Stand By I was, admittedly, a little sceptical. The premise didn’t particularly spark any interest in me, and the topic isn’t something I tend to gravitate towards, but I tried to remain open-minded. It may not have been a show that I would have necessarily chosen to see, but nevertheless, I wasn’t entirely disinterested; the inclusion of the ear pieces was intriguing, and I was very excited to discover how the stage would be set up. And, ultimately, I was pleasantly surprised.

At first, I struggled a little to get into it, but soon, I actually found myself quite enjoying it. The earpieces, which I had anticipated as being slightly distracting, were an extremely clever addition and enhanced the overall performance. The technology worked wonders in making me feel that I was part of the narrative, and allowed me to connect with the police officers very easily. I especially enjoyed the use of the earpieces at the beginning of the show: as the lights dimmed, a drum beat began playing through the earpieces, and was soon joined by additional instruments playing through the theatre sound system. This, in my opinion, was an excellent touch, and made the audience pay attention to their earpieces from the very beginning.

I also adored the minimalistic way in which the show was presented. By having only four characters and little interaction with the world outside the van (besides transmissions over the earpieces and few sound effects), writer Adam McNamara created a very insular environment. At points in the show, some of the officers would leave the van, but the audience never left with them – we were restricted to the confines of the van. This was effective for a multitude of reasons: it gave those watching an impression of the lack of information about the situation the officers were receiving, allowed the show to be much more character-driven, and gave the audience ample time to connect and get to know the characters – a necessary part of any drama piece. It was like a dramatic monologue with more than one narrator; a simple set up, but with small details throughout in order to give an insight to the absent world outside. My favourite example of this was the sound of raindrops hitting the roof of the van, so silent that I barely even registered it. And the writing itself was just as subtle. Details of each character’s personal lives were weaved into witty banter and smart, sharp dialogue. As the show progressed, you discovered more about their lives out of uniform and developed sympathy for them. I felt as though I knew the characters and found that I genuinely cared about what happened to them – testament to both brilliant performances from the actors and fabulous writing and direction.

Overall, I was very surprised by how much I enjoyed Stand By. It was genuinely funny, believable, sharp and extremely clever, and has encouraged me to be more open to shows that I wouldn’t have necessarily chosen to see.

Team Viking – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Reviewer: Josh Brown

James Rowland stars in this joyous one-man performance reflecting his enjoyment, devastation, struggle with life and the biggest hurdle he has encountered as his best friend Tom is diagnosed with heart cancer and Tom has been given only 3 months to live. But Tom has one wish and that is to have a Viking Burial.

You will cry with laughter then the next minute sadness, as the astonishing acting from Rowland makes you feel so much in the space of so little time. He takes you from one end of the emotional spectrum to the other. Rowland connects to his audience on a different level, as through his story you feel as if you’ve known him for years and he’s a close friend, in the theatre he creates a warm atmosphere and you just love him and support him through his struggles.

The comedy is sharp and witty and very natural and to the point. You feel as if you are great pals just having a laugh about something you really know you shouldn’t be laughing about. James’s balance of laughter and the depressing reality of life is phenomenal. This show is an absolute must see.


Stand By – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Reviewer: Lillian Harle

Adam McNamara’s honest telling of policing in Scotland is witty and an honest representation of a life in blue. The audience are emerged in the performance from start to finish, wearing police earpieces with assorted situation reports being sounded. This only adds to the authenticity of the story. He portrays a somewhat mundane operation of four officers in a riot van waiting to be called into action to deal with a machete wielding maniac. The key word here is mundane. McNamara’s use of mundane topics lulls the audience into a false sense of security then smacks them with the brutal honesties of the simple dangers of being a police officer.

With Joe Douglas’ direction and Adam McNamara’s writing as well as performance, Stand By brings an authentic and fresh perspective on the Scottish police force. The audience are faced with four of Scotland’s finest: Chris (Adam McNamara), the sergeant in charge who is riddled with domestic problems; Rachel (Jamie Marie Leary), the straight talking and quick witted female officer; Davey (Andy Clark), the Dundee born and bred officer and Marty (Laurie Scott), an English transfer from London. The actors created a great chemistry between them, all by portraying realistic characters that the audience can relate to.

Natasha Jenkins uses a minimalistic set design in order not to take away from the witty and well written script. McNamara establishes the character’s personalities through the workaday conversation of the officers bored and waiting for orders. The writer creates a tense atmosphere through the use of the earpieces where orders are relayed in real-time to the audience.

Team Viking – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Reviewer: Lewis Cox

Team Viking by James Rowland is a beautiful, simplistic but oddly mesmerising production.

On first entering and realising this is a one man show, there’s a slight trepidation: how on earth would one man be able to entertain an audience for a full hour and 20 minutes? Where on earth was his set? Will we get bored? As soon as the show begins all these questions disappear as quickly as they appear.

Through the simplicity of the lights and staging there are no barriers between the audience and the story. With nothing to guide us except Rowland’s words and movements everything comes naturally with a warming, but also at times moving performance. This is especially refreshing to see as constant set changes or cluttered and busy sets often lead the audience to dart their eyes around to gain understanding as to where they are.

There’s laughter, hysterical at times, but there is an underlining sadness throughout which makes it truly special, something we can all relate too. Directly addressing the audience is a wonderful feature as we feel like an integral part of the story, clinging onto every word anticipating what is going to happen next in this bizarre tale.

The breaking up of the story into what could be almost called ‘chapters’ was effective. Rowland always leaving the audience hanging, anticipating what was to come, mainly thanks to the terrific acting which one minute could have you howling with laughter, or almost in tears.

The Viking hat in the background is a nice simple prop, sitting there constantly reminding us of the meaning and reason for this performance, it helps set the scene more than any fancy backdrop could.

On a negative note, at certain times things need to be explained, or introduced and then the story then rambles off at a tangent, leaving you wishing for the story to kick back into life again.

Overall Team Viking is a heart-warming and hilarious play with some fine acting, and though simplistic, it has the ability to conjure up many emotions. It is a performance that will stick with you well into the journey home.

Team Viking – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Reviewer: Ross Anderson

Team Viking is a one man show where James Rowland tells us a story about his best friend dying and Rowland his friends fulfilling his dying wish, to get a Viking send off. It was a great show with both comedy and sadness. The audience were in tears with laughter one moment then the next full of emotion.

REVIEW: All The Things I Lied About – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

If lying was a paying job, then Katie Bonna and her family would be billionaires. At the heart of All The Things I Lied About, is the monumental web of lies that tore Bonna’s own family apart.

In this post-truth, fake news world, and working from the principle that lying is as basic as breathing, Bonna frames her work as a TED talk (on the familiar red dot carpet) and begins as a discussion on the science of lying, aiming to answer the question: Why do people lie?

Few stones are left unturned as Bonna divulges her own proclivity to lie and the quite frankly astonishing deceit, and use of ‘gaslighting’ (a term from the 1938 Patrick Hamilton play and subsequent 1944 George Cukor movie, a practise where a person is psychologically manipulated into doubting their sanity) by her own father on her mother.

While the real TED talks are limited to 18 minutes, Bonna’s work runs at an hour, and the device does wear thin. The ‘raw emotion’ she also displays isn’t convincing in a show that Bonna has performed so many times (a run at the Edinburgh Fringe, and a UK tour) and at her own admission, Bonna is a seasoned liar, when you profess to lie as much as Bonna says she has, then you can’t really expect people to trust what you say.

There’s an uncomfortable silence in the half-lit auditorium that despite Bonna’s best efforts, remains throughout, and her efforts to turn us into “warriors of truth” fizzle out like a damp squib.

A deeply personal and revealing evening at the theatre, instead of leaving us examining the impact that everyday lies have on ourselves and those around us, it leaves one cold.

Review previously published at: http://www.thereviewshub.com/all-the-things-i-lied-about-tron-theatre-glasgow/


REVIEW: The Snaw Queen – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub.

The news that Johnny McKnight was back at the helm of the Tron panto for 2016 was met with almost universal relief. After a slight misstep last year, Scotland’s king of modern panto is back in Glasgow and The Snaw Queen marks a return to the top-class festive form that audiences have come to expect from the acclaimed Glasgow theatre.

While it may appear from the title that there’s some connection with the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, the reality is an eye-wateringly colourful, glitter-strewn, often incoherent romp – and it’s none the worse for that. Kristine Cagney Kringle and her toy workshop are flat-out preparing for the festive season. However, there’s a magic mirror, that if broken will plunge Weegietown into a Christmas-less eternal winter. Poor sweet Rudolph succumbs to the evil magic of the mirror and transforms into the Snaw Queen (a Marilyn Monroe look-alike in an eye-popping, diamante-strewn, flesh coloured body suit). Kristine, Elvira the Elf and Olive (the other reindeer) embark on an, at times, psychedelic journey to obtain the magic ingredients needed to reverse the spell. Throw into the mix Elvis the Elf, a giant pink bunny, a monochrome My Fair Lady-inspired number set on Glasgow’s infamous underground, an hilarious ‘disco dolly smack down’ and theatrical in-jokes about the National Theatre of Scotland’s James Plays and Broadway blockbuster Hamilton, and you may well get the impression that this isn’t your average panto – you’d be correct.

McKnight is a master of treading the fine line between zany fun for the babes and naughty humour for the grown ups and while it’s mind-bendingly confusing at times, it’s also hysterically funny. The humour never lets up and the sheer energy of the cast drives the action along at a fair lick. Traditionalists will be happy to know that the obligatory sing-along, sweetie throwing and audience harassment are all here.

It may not be the biggest pantomime in town, either in terms of size or budget, but the Tron always punches far above its weight in terms of entertainment. If its kaleidoscopic colour and surreal storytelling you’re after, all with a social conscience thrown in and belly laughs from start to end – then this will be your bag. A riot for the senses and a welcome relief from this grey old world we live in.

Runs until 7 January 2017 | Image: John Johnston

FEATURE: Tron Ambassadors Guest Reviews – Grain in the Blood

Last month I had the privilege of working with the Tron Theatre on their Ambassadors programme, delivering the theatre reviewing workshop.

The Tron Ambassadors scheme gives pupils 16-18 the chance to be behind-the-scenes at a working theatre, enabling young people to make a deeper connection with the Tron Theatre itself and gain a better understanding of the performing arts industry. As well as providing participants with opportunities to take part in workshops, tasks, and interviewing and observing industry professionals, the Tron Ambassadors also learn that these new skills are transferable to any career path they choose to take when leaving school.

As part of the reviewing workshop, the Ambassadors were asked to submit a review of Rob Drummond’s Grain in the Blood. The standard of the submissions was so high that, instead of choosing a single review to be published, Glasgow Theatre Blog is publishing them all. So it’s going to be a long post, but no apologies as these young women’s critical voices represent the future of theatre reviewing.

*Please note that some reviews may contain spoilers.

Sarah Miele - Grain in the Blood. Credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

Sarah Miele as Autumn  Credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

Grain in the Blood – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Writer: Rob Drummond

Director: Orla O’Loughlin

Reviewer: Eve Miller

Grain In The Blood, inspired by the moral dilemma of ‘The Trolley Problem’ is an unsettling take on the often asked question – how do we decide what is right or wrong? Framed against the backdrop of a rural, pagan community approaching the harvest moon, this spine-tingling performance keeps the audience on the edge of their seats throughout.

Blythe Duff gives a steady performance as the no-nonsense Sophia, a grandmother desperate to save her little girl, and John Michie is credible as the reasonable, down- to-earth Burt, however, it is Andrew Rothney’s eerie portrayal of Issac that really carries this production. Rothney’s performance, delicately conveying the nuances of emotion felt by a prisoner on a visit home faced with a weighty decision is all too convincing, and he deftly contrasts Issac’s unpredictable nature and capacity for violence with the vulnerability of a young man consumed with guilt.

Also impressive was Sarah Miele in her role as the sickly Autumn. The blunt acceptance of a young girl who has been ill for her whole life is elegantly woven into her portrayal, as is the fun and lively attributes of a child who just wants to enjoy her life. Likewise, Frances Thorburn’s performance as the bereaved aunt who hides her grief behind a facade of aggression was faultless.

The often repeated “Verses” help to create the mysterious tone which is maintained throughout, as piece by piece the unnerving pagan rituals of the harvest moon festival are revealed. Contrastingly, this darkness was balanced with just the right amount of comedy, which prevented the production from sinking into a black hole of despair.

The innovative staging includes a sliding portion which reveals a hidden section of the acting space and provides effortless scene transition, however, one too many long silences causes the performance to drag. Up until the end of the production, the plot was a bit predictable, and ever so slightly clichéd, so this may not be the show for you if you are wanting a surprise. Although predictable, the script and characters were well written and developed convincingly.

Despite these flaws, this production was haunting, and the well-crafted script was gracefully brought to life on stage by a fully capable cast, who gave a performance that was thrilling and chilling in equal measure.

3.5 stars

Blythe Duff as Sophia Credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

Blythe Duff as Sophia Credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

Grain in the Blood – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Reviewer: Zara Grew

Holding my ticket in one hand and the play in the other, I sat unaware of the raw emotions and intensity I was about to witness. The lights sat above me and projected a dim wash of yellow across the stage. The play ran for one hour and thirty minutes, without a break. I believe the lack of an interval was almost symbolic, as to portray that real life cannot be paused.

The play blended a perfect recipe of surrealism and a naturalistic performance style to convey its haunting message, through acting as well as theatre arts. The set was extremely interesting as at first glance it was a realistic cabin living room. However, the back wall of the room came apart revealing young Autumn’s bedroom. Autumn, aged 12 made her first appearance under the dining room table, shocking the audience and continuing to do so throughout the play due to her comical and constant use of curse words. Her gran Sophia was also a shocking character as she was a very hard to read individual, who would do anything to keep her granddaughter alive. The supporting characters Violet and Burt added both comedy and depth to the play, Burt provided comic relief in the performance yet also had a very human dilemma about the morality of the situations he faced. Violet created a humorous reaction from the audience at many points in the play, yet also made us feel deep sadness due to the loss of her sister and her isolation from the family she lives with. However the character I believe created the most tension and audience reaction was Isaac. The father of Autumn and son of Sophia had been let out of prison for a short period of time in order to help Autumn. Although he was a man of few words, I believe he held the play together as his actions forced the other characters to react in extreme measures.

The play was strung together by emotionally packed melodramatic stares between the characters, Autumn’s truthful, heartfelt narration and the frightening rituals of pagan culture. A final monologue by Autumn left the audience in tears and as the lights dimmed on the lives of the broken family and the small dolls house lit up on the stage, we were left affected deeply by that one hour and a half performance.

Andrew Rothney Credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

Andrew Rothney as Isaac Credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

Grain in the Blood – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Reviewer: Ellie Jack

A thrilling tale built on morbid humour and questionable circumstances. Rob Drummond’s new play Grain in the Blood is jam packed with murder, illness, brooding criminals and the occasional dose of horse manure. Set on a remote Scottish farm the play depicts the lengths to which love will take us, which by the looks of it can be bloody far…

Tense from the outset, we are introduced to Sophia (Blythe Duff) a grandmother and tough talker who is desperate for her convict son Isaac (Andrew Rothney) to return home, all in the hope he can save Amber (Sarah Miele) his dying daughter. But as is life, nothing goes smoothly. With the added drama  and dry humour from Aunt Violet (Frances Thorburn) and prison minder (John Michie) the eye never leaves the stage.

From the outset, the audience is given a family and specific relationships to truly invest in and characters they can root for. Though the play centres on the dying child, Burt (John Michie) could be the character who seeks the most redemption, his character progression was one thing to keep the audience engaged, as was the foul mouth of more than one strong minded female character. Violet’s strength and determination, not to mention her sharp wit was entreating throughout.

However, the authenticity was lacking from Andrew Rothney’s performance, not quite convincing the audience of a character in continuous turmoil, more reciting lines they have learned.  Whilst Blythe Duff, Frances Thorburn and John Michie gave powerful, humorous and emotional performances that produced many a laugh and a gasp from the audience.

Orla O’Loughlin’s directing created a frosty environment both on and off stage, with quick movement and little one to one character contact, which helped set the mood. The basic set and sudden bright lighting contributed to the contrast of simple living with extremely complex situations. The sudden rise to hysteria was almost unbelievable and though entertaining, somewhat hard to truly believe.

Rob Drummond’s ending to a manic play was somewhat unsatisfying. Whilst it is completely acceptable to allow the audience to imagine or presume what follows after the curtain draws,  these specific circumstances left one shocked but thirsty for a more concise and clear conclusion.

Grain in the Blood – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Reviewer: Claire Lamarra

Grain in the Blood, Rob Drummond’s new play at the Tron Theatre is a moving crowd-pleaser. Bleak, with the occasional laugh thrown in to provide light relief from the intense family drama taking place on stage.

The story unfolds in the harsh Scottish countryside. A prisoner is brought to the farm of a dying girl. For the outset, it is clear that the prisoner has been brought to the farm by his mother and sister-in-law to save his daughter from kidney cancer. The play centres around ‘the verses’ (harvest folk tales) which seem a comfort to some and a source of great distress to others.

The story twists and turns throughout with a pleasing one at the end. It is not entirely unpredictable, if you have seen the movie My Sister’s Keeper (2009), but a good twist no less.

The dialogue is tight and effective. The excessive use of swearing by the 12-year-old Autumn is at first shocking and entertaining. However, by the end seems like a writing device to get cheap laughs. The intenseness and volatility of the character Isaac is clearly portrayed by Andrew Rothney. Sarah Miele’s performance settles as the play progresses. As as an audience member, a mental adjustment had to be made as the age gap between actress and character was slightly too big for it to be utterly believable. Autumn’s grandmother Sophia (Blythe Duff) is a clear cut character with strong morals and a clear view of what is right and wrong compared to Isaac’s chaperone Burt (John Michie). Burt takes persuading to come to a decision on morality or the ‘right thing to do’. Finally, Vicky played convincingly by Frances Thorburn is a wild card. She has a clear view of what she wants and is willing to do anything for the people she loves.

The countdown to Autumn’s birthday throughout the play brings a neat end to the performance despite the turmoil that is taking place outside her bedroom door. It is a moving conclusion that satisfies the audience.

Overall, ‘Grain in the blood’ is a good evening out that keeps you guessing. It is visually stimulating and a story that is tense and entertaining even if slightly melodramatic at points.

Grain in the Blood – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Reviewer: Taylor Goodwin

Rob Drummond’s Grain In The Blood is a gripping play with mystery and humour weaved throughout. The play focuses on a troubled, secretive family facing a moral dilemma.

Little is known about the family situation in the beginning and it is all slowly revealed as the story progresses. This gives an air of mystery and makes the play worth watching. The plot (although dark as it centres around an ill, young girl) has enough humour incorporated in it to provide enough comic relief to prevent the play becoming too dark all the way through.

The most powerful part of the acting is the varied volume. In particular a scene near the end with Isaac, Burt, Sophia and Violet (played by Andrew Rothney, John Michie, Blythe Duff and Frances Thorburn) where in the middle of an argument the characters go between talking calm and quietly to shouting. The changes in volume keep the scene gripping and make the acting stand out. The acting is also very consistent and the characters come to life due to this. Autumn (played by Sarah Miele) in specific has a certain calmness all through the play making it captivating as she also deals with a serious illness. This adds layers to the character, making her interesting to watch.

The design of the play also adds to the atmosphere with few, quick set changes. All of the changes are done by the cast while music plays, which adds to the atmosphere. A scene near the end is really effective when the mist and wind surround Autumn and adds more to the dark feel of the play.

The production is thought-provoking and attention-grabbing with a mixture of comedic and serious moments. Entertaining from the beginning to the end, this play contains wonderful acting and an interesting plot making it a production that could definitely be watched again.

John Michie and Frances Thorburn Credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

John Michie and Frances Thorburn Credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

Grain in the Blood – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Reviewer: Eilidh Sweenie

Following an isolated family in a rural community, Grain in the Blood by Rob Drummond is captivating, unnerving and hilarious from the get go. The play itself is well written, giving the audience little snippets of information to build up a mysterious past event while maintaining a sense of intrigue and keeping you guessing throughout. With tense scenes peppered by genuinely funny moments and a small but strong cast Grain in the Blood is very enjoyable and interesting to watch.

All the Actors gave strong performances but Sarah Miele playing Autumn stole the show. The play’s central conflict revolves around Autumn – a little girl who is inquisitive, funny but secretly wise beyond her years. There was the possibility that Autumn could have come across as annoying or even boring without Miele, who played the character with honesty and depth resulting in a captivating performance that made you feel a lot of empathy for the little girl.

Andrew Rothney playing Issac also has to be mentioned. You find yourself liking Issac even though the reason he is in jail is slowly revealed to you and your opinion on him changes. The way Rothney portrays Issac lets you see things from his point of view, and therefore come to realise that he may not be completely evil but not completely good either, which is one of the main themes of the play.

Designed by Fred Meller, the set consists of one wooden room and various pieces of furniture that have a rustic feeling which reflects the rural community in which the play is set. The use of sliding doors adds a new dynamic to a relatively small performance space and allows a change of locations in a stylistic inventive way without the stage ever feeling cramped. However, the way the set was structured meant that the audience could see the actors entering and exiting the stage which was not very good as it distracted from the other actor’s performances.

While the scene transitions were seamless and very cool, sometimes they finished very abruptly as the scenes ended as soon as the characters had finished speaking and therefore the play felt rushed at some points. The lighting was used very effectively, with the lights changing to mimic the characters emotions and adding an extra layer to the whole performance.

On the whole Grain in the Blood at the Tron Theatre is an excellent show, which I would highly recommend if you enjoy stories with family drama, moral dilemmas and an air of mystery brought to you by some seriously talented actors.

Grain in the Blood – Tron Theatre, Glasgow.

Reviewer: Shona Russell

On the evening of the 25th of October, I had the pleasure to view Ross Drummond’s gripping thriller Grain in the Blood.

He lays the scene in a rural Scots village, where the pagan religion and old wives’ tales are widely believed by its inhabitants, creating an eerie and unsettling atmosphere within this backwards-thinking village. The dusky mellow lighting and spotlights, courtesy of Simon Wilkinson, aid the interchangeable farmhouse background created by Fred Meller, in creating a perplexing sense of uncertainty for what is to follow.

The story follows a released prisoner Isaac (Andrew Rothney) returning to his home village in an attempt to reconcile with his family after his treacherous actions sent him behind bars. Sophia (Blythe Duff) tries desperately to reconnect the family in order to save her granddaughter Autumn’s (Sarah Miele) life, which faces great danger without the help of Issac. Closely watched by appointed guardian Bert (John Mitchie), Issac is faced with his past and now the present, which forces him to make a life-altering decision for the greater good of the family, but not without the burden of his actions placed upon him by Violet (Frances Thorburn), who was greatly affected by Issac’s past criminal behavior.

Although the atmosphere is heavy with tension and an unsettling supernatural vibe, the script is bursting with wit, hilarity, and profanities, releasing a good deal of stress from the dark, noirish façade. It’s ill-mannered language and jokes provides lots of laughs amidst the confusion of the twisting, hard hitting plotline.

Autumn, a girl with an impressively colourful vocabulary despite her tender age, adopts a nonchalant attitude to the knowledge of her fast approaching death. She instead focuses on the countdown to her birthday, which seems oddly juxtaposed with the countdown to her inevitable death, evoking even more confusion and confliction. Her recurring plea for the pain to stop reminds us of her youth and how near her death she is, despite the jokes and profanities she often cracks. The audience is captivated by her story.

In 90 minutes, Drummond successfully creates an alternate community of isolated country folk, completely behind today’s idea of society. The audience is encapsulated by this tiny world and all its rituals and beliefs, however strange they may be. Bonds are formed between those who are essentially strangers, creating a sense of unity between five individuals who were once incredibly awkward and silent with each other.

In conclusion, Grain in the Blood requires attentive listening or else one would find themselves relatively clueless. That being said, the rewarding experience of witnessing the twist and turns of the story outweighs any negatives one could have. Although hard to get into at first, the big reveals, exquisite lighting and sets, and encapsulating performances make it a treat for the eyes, and I would highly recommend to anyone up for a thrilling experience and who are impartial to strong profanities, even from 12-year-old girls.

Grain in the Blood – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Reviewer: Ciara O’Brien

I cannot begin to describe my sheer admiration for Rob Drummond’s Grain in the Blood.

From the first moment of stepping into the theatre I was drawn to the unusual set, very dim and monotone I was keen to find out what was going to happen and the show did not disappoint. The strong accents the characters portrayed their heritage and Scottish highland roots well. Although the character of Autumn, a 12-year-old girl was played by a much older actress, she conveyed the character well with a nonchalant attitude as she knew she was dying, not caring about the opinions of others. She walked with a hunched posture to show she was ill and talked in a slow breathy pace showing how young she is. Sophia and Violet were both similar in stylisation and mindset, showing that the both would give everything up for Autumn to survive, they demonstrated a good balance of pathos and humour which kept the audience entertained. Isaac I felt, was a hard character to believably pull off as his constant changes in mood and emotion would be challenging, however, the actor demonstrated this absolutely outstandingly, delivering a chilling performance bringing me to goosebumps. The comic relief style character, Burt, also delivered an exceedingly good performance and pulled off the “be funny without knowing your funny” with an unbelievable level of talent.

The set was carried on by the cast which I felt linked well with the theme of the family living off their own land and doing everything for themselves. The placement of Autumn under the table in scene one really added to the play as it was unexpected and really drew the attention and immersed the audience in her story. Her constant countdown to her birthday until her death really unnerved the audience. The show had a great balance of light-hearted satire and dark humour. The lights were very aesthetically pleasing, focusing in on centre stage and being naturalistic for the complete play. The sound effects played a key role in bringing the show together, the loud screeching of the violin music rising to a crescendo in the darkest moments of the play really kept the audience on their toes. The noises of the horse growing significantly sicker were quite disturbing and really played on the line “we are all animals” as the horse and Autumn we’re both dying simultaneously showing no matter what you are, we are all dust to dust. The verses were also quite unsettling due to how very dark and urban

The verses were also quite unsettling due to how very dark and urban legend-like they were. The relationships between the characters such as the love Sophia has for Isaac and Isaac has for Autumn, which is shown when he shuns himself to pursue her final wish. The strong language used could be deemed unnecessary by many however I feel that it was necessary to show how nonchalant Autumn was and also to convey anger in Isaac, Violet, and Sophia.

Finally, the most moving part of the play, in my opinion, was Autumn’s final monologue in which she reveals that she wanted the pain to end and her father to live on, and she was ready to sleep and never wake up brought me to tears. The subtle light shining on in the toy house after the stage faded to blackout was very effective in finishing the play and was a good way to convey a happy ending even though the storyline was dark. The hardest part for me was figuring out a negative comment as I could not spot any for the play was thought-provoking and entertaining from start to finish. It could be argued that the character of Violet blocked other characters on stage at a few points however, I felt as though this was a theatrical staging choice and not accidental and this comment is me really struggling to find any negatives in the play whatsoever. Overall the play was moving bringing many audience members to tears, and I recommend the show to everyone as it is universally acceptable with comedy,

Overall the play was moving bringing many audience members to tears, and I recommend the show to everyone as it is universally relatable with comedy, thrills, and drama. Although the strong themes and language would be unsuitable for younger children, the play really spoke to me, and I would happily go and see it again.

Grain in the Blood will be at The Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh from 1st to 12th November 2016

Tickets: https://www.traverse.co.uk/whats-on/event-detail/926/grain-in-the-blood.aspx

REVIEW: A Steady Rain – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Despite the predictability of the script, Robert Jack and Andy Clark’s powerhouse performances elevate Keith Huff’s A Steady Rain above and beyond the average police drama.

Inspired by a real-life event in the story of US serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, Denny (Clark) and Joey (Jack), two Chicago cops and life-long friends, have to deal with the fall-out, both personally and professionally from a catastrophic misjudgement while on duty.

There’s a danger that the well-worn subject matter could easily descend into cliche, and its portrayal of a certain type of masculinity, now largely unpalatable, is often predictable, but you can’t help admire the sheer volume and denseness of dialogue and the believability with which Clark and Jack deliver it. Gripping and satisfying thanks largely to the skill of two highly talented actors.

REVIEW: Miracle on 34 Parnie Street – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

This review was originally written for and published by http://www.thepublicreviews.com at http://www.thepublicreviews.com/miracle-on-34-parnie-street-tron-theatre-glasgow/

There’s no denying Johnny McKnight’s theatrical credentials: writer of hits such as The Incredible Adventures of See Thru Sam and Wendy Hoose; director of Blithe Spirit for Perth Theatre and Carmen Redux for Scottish Opera; undisputed ‘King of Panto’ with hit after hit here at Glasgow’s Tron Theatre, The Lyceum in Edinburgh and Stirling’s macrobert, to name a (very) few. This year McKnight asks us simply to believe, taking the much-loved 1947 movie Miracle on 34th Street and reworking it for a Glasgow audience in Miracle on 34 Parnie Street.

Things are not quite going as smoothly as planned at Glasgow’s favourite department store T.J. Confuse: Santa has turned up to work in the grotto but to everyone’s surprise Santa isn’t a he, but a she (with a platinum beehive to rival the late Amy Winehouse). To add to the mayhem, Kristine Cagney Kringle, gloriously played by McKnight himself, is claiming to be the real deal, but the sceptics just won’t believe and Kristine finds herself in court and on a mission to restore to the masses, the real meaning of Christmas.

It’s camp, it’s kitsch and punctuated throughout by original songs from Ross Brown which range from traditional panto sing a-long to pop and R&B and it’s all dressed up in eye-popping designs from Kenny Miller.

The cast of six work their socks off, actor/choreographer Darren Brownlie particularly impresses as the up-tight, commercially focussed store manager Mr. Bellhammer as does the ever reliable Julie Wilson Nimmo in multiple roles, Michelle Chantelle Hopewell as Chantelle possesses a stunning R&B powerhouse singing voice but does less well when delivering her lines, her accent obscuring much of her dialogue. But there was never going to be any doubt who was going to be the star here: McKnight (clad in what can only be described as a Kim Kardashian/Maria Carey mash-up) has the most finely tuned comic timing and razor-sharp wit you will find on any stage anywhere. That he genuinely seems to love what he’s doing is a delight to watch.

Writer/director/star McKnight has his finger firmly on the pulse of panto, perfectly pitching each show to its target audience and this is no exception, you would be hard pressed to find a greater number of local references than this, even the title references the theatres address. The storyline is cleverly multilayered and speaks volumes about crass commercialism and of sexism – hell, this is a more stirring, rallying cry for feminism than any you could wish for. It is peppered with witty one-liners (and more than the average share of ad-libs as McKnight picks on the audience and his fellow actors foibles to hysterical effect), however, as much as this theatre is known for its more cerebral Christmas content, the line: “that’s too meta, even for The Tron” gives you some idea of the usual audience, it’s hard to shake the feeling that it maybe goes a little too over the heads of the typical tiny panto-goer, save for the fart jokes of course. That said, they were a-whooping and a-hollering at the musical numbers and booing and hissing in all the right places.

If it’s something different than the usual run of the mill fairytale with chart hits shoe-horned in that you’re looking for, then look no further than Parnie Street – head on down to the Tron and just…believe!

Runs until 4 January 2015

REVIEW: Janis Joplin Full Tilt – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

This post was originally written for and published by www.thepublicreviews.com

Starting life as part of Oran Mor’s lunchtime theatre programme and travelling via this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Janis Joplin: Full Tilt returns to the city after almost universal acclaim from both audience and critics alike.

Peter Arnott’s trimmed back biography of Joplin (an hour in length) gets right to the heart and soul of the artist and whilst concise, still provides the requisite fine detail to deliver an utterly gripping insight into the demons that plagued the singer from childhood and stayed with her even at the height of her fame. Never quite fitting in, Joplin the self-proclaimed: ‘flaky, ugly chick’ teetered uncomfortably between uncompromisingly standing up for what she believed in and trying to mould herself into someone that people would want to be with (consumed by hang ups about her looks and her inability to find love, she never quite managed to become what she wanted to be: ‘just Janice’).

Central to the success of the piece is Angela Darcy’s emotive performance as Joplin, convincingly portraying the singer’s physical mannerisms as well as her unique vocals; she manages to perfectly capture this woman who lived a thousand lifetimes in her 27 years.

The story and the staging are firmly focussed on Joplin and those looking for behind the scenes revelations about Joplin’s infamous friends may be disappointed, but this musical play enhanced by a knock-out live band is everything an audience could want from an evening in the theatre: raw, rousing and always real, just like Joplin herself.

REVIEW: Under Milk Wood – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

This article was originally written for The Public Reviews at: http://www.thepublicreviews.com/under-milk-wood-tron-theatre-glasgow/

Writer: Dylan Thomas

Director: Gareth Nicholls

Composer: Michael John McCarthy

Choreographer: Kelly Lloyd Jones

As Welsh as rarebit, leeks and daffodils, Dylan Thomas’ 1954 radio drama Under Milk Wood is still 24 hours in the life of the sleepy village of Llareggub (read that backwards) but in this production from the Tron Community Theatre Company staged for the Home Nations Festival 2014, it’s given a more universal treatment.

Some of the copious, colourful characters in Thomas’ original text have been cut to trim this version to a neat one hour performance. That said, there is still a large and vibrant ensemble to bring the story to life. The cast grapples well with the wordy text but it must be said that from the top of the auditorium, a large proportion of the dialogue was lost which rendered the narrative difficult to follow and hard to engage with fully.

The language is rich as befitting a piece written for radio, but for all the talk there is little action, a fact director Gareth Nicholls has addressed by including choreographed sequences and songs by Michael John McCarthy which prove to be the highlight of the piece. The set and lighting design by Charlotte Lane and Dave Shea, score high on atmosphere and the rustic bar, wooden chairs and tables, earthy-coloured costumes and onstage three piece band are very reminiscent of the West End musical Once with its simplistic setting and integrated sequences of movement. The whole production evokes a ceilidh-like feeling, those traditional Scottish, impromptu, intimate, traditional, storytelling, song and dance sessions.

As entertaining as it is in parts, in choosing to stage the production in the native accents of the performers (for the most part Scots, with a smattering of English regional and North American), the identity of the piece is lost and so is some of its charm. This piece has never truly succeeded in the transition from radio to stage; there is just something more satisfying in letting your imagination fill in the detail of the eccentric village residents. However, this is a perfectly entertaining production well executed by this community company and an interesting start to the Home Nations Festival.

Image: John Johnston

REVIEW: The Tempest – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

This review was originaly written for and published by The Public Reviews at:


Writer: William Shakespeare

Director: Andy Arnold

Design: Hazel Blue

Lighting Design: Sergey Jakovsky

Sound Design: Barry McCall

Tron Artistic Director Andy Arnold directs a predominantly female cast from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s MA Classical and Contemporary Text programme, in this his Mayfesto production of The Tempest: Shakespeare’s tale of magic, morality, love and betrayal.

While the programme notes state ‘the text has been slightly edited’, it manages to stick largely to Shakespeare’s original whilst giving greater focus to the themes of colonisation which exist in the text: indeed in this production the play’s first and last words are given over to Martinican poet, politician and denouncer of colonial racism, Aimé Césaire. These judicious cuts result in a lively and engaging production which whips along at a cracking pace.

The production scores highly on atmosphere: Hazel Blue’s inventive staging, an earthy hued island with a skeleton of a high-masted sailing ship, provides enough interest for the eye without detracting from the action and is complemented well by Sergey Jakovsky’s effective lighting design. However it must be said that Barry McCall’s sound design whilst evocative, often drowns out whole patches of dialogue, whether this is down to poor enunciation on the part of the actors or a heavy-hand on the volume button one cannot tell.

Arnold’s nimble direction showcases the skill of his actors and keeps the interest levels high throughout; indeed he manages to elicit some beautifully measured performances and a United Nations of accents from this youthful cast. Standout among them Rebecca Murphy as Prospero, who delivers a perfectly controlled central performance, though her extremely strident Australian accent sometimes consigns some of Prospero’s most notable lines to the winds. Kenny Boyle’s Ariel is a less sulky characterisation than the usual and his mastery of the ethereal other-worldliness of the sprightly spirit is captivating. The two are ably supported by the rest of the company, most noteworthy among them Flora Sowerby’s Cockney wide-boy Stephano and Amy Drummond’s Welsh Valley Trinculo, who provide the high comedy of the piece. There is also a more thoughtful and dignified portrayal  of the native, enslaved Caliban from Renee Williams.

This is a refreshing departure from the more traditional stagings of the play and the perfect showcase for these young actors at the start of their careers. A vibrant re-telling of the tale, visually pleasing, bristling with life and with some new food for thought thrown in. Well worth catching if you can.

Runs until 16th May 2014

« Older Entries Recent Entries »