30 October 2007

Scottish theatre

IN the spring of 2006, Scotland's Grid Iron theatre company staged a site-specific show called Roam in Edinburgh International Airport. The audience arrived by bus, passports in hand, and were ushered towards the check-in desks. Instead of flight arrivals, they saw images of exotic destinations on the monitors. Instead of a tedious wait in departures, they watched a row of air hostesses, with matching blonde bobs and lurid turquoise outfits, performing a line-dance to a soundtrack of groovy 60s jazz.

9 October 2007 Hi-Arts

A Sheep Called Skye

By Nicola McCartney. NTS review.

WHEN children's theatre is at its best, it taps into its audience's imaginative power and defies the boring old rules of the adult world. It has no time for fourth-wall naturalism and will use any technique at its disposal – song, puppetry, direct address – if it means getting the story told.


9 October 2007 Hi-Arts

Molly Sweeney

NTS review.

THERE'S a funny play by JM Synge called ‘The Well of the Saints’ in which two blind beggars are miraculously given their sight back. The joke is that after the novelty wears off, the couple start deeply to resent their new sense. They don't care for the look of each other and they can't ply their old trade any more. Disenchanted, they refuse a cure when their eyes fail them a second time.

7 October 2007 The Sunday Times

Molly Sweeney/A Sheep Called Skye

NTS review.

WHEN Brian Friel's Molly Sweeney played at the Citizens' Theatre in Glasgow at the end of 2005, it arrived without fanfare or fuss. Tucked away in the studio theatre, it was a low-key alternative to the mainstage family-friendly production of Charlotte's Web and to the many pantomimes in town. At that point, director Gregory Thompson was yet to be appointed to run the city's Tron Theatre and it would be several months before he and his lead actor, Cara Kelly, would be lauded in the Critics Awards for Theatre in Scotland

2 October 2007 The Guardian

Molly Sweeney/A Sheep Called Skye

By Nicola McCartney. NTS review.

BRIAN Friel wrote his 1994 play as a series of monologues delivered in turn by the blind Molly Sweeney, her husband Frank and eye specialist Mr Rice. In a typical passage, Molly describes a party the night before an operation to restore her sight. On the page, it is a straight piece of storytelling, but in Gregory Thompson's mesmerising production, revived for a three-month tour by the National Theatre of Scotland after an award-winning run in 2005, it becomes a dynamic piece of theatre.


9 September 2007 The Guardian

Peer Gynt

Dundee Rep review.

"THE buffet starts in three minutes, so will you please turn off your fucking mobile phones," yells a wedding guest in the foyer, after tumbling out of a stretch limo in front of the theatre and joining in a punky round of Cry Me a River at the bar. She sets the tone for a rude and raucous retelling of Ibsen's existentialist quest that twins the vulgarity of director Dominic Hill's Ubu the King in 2005 with a boisterous theatrical imagination. The result is thrilling.

27 September 2007 The Guardian


By Davey Anderson. Traverse review.

THE best thing about this dark, urban tragedy by Davey Anderson comes a long way into the 80-minute running time, when, all of a sudden, the perspective changes. We have got used to designer Will Holt's line of three dreary office spaces, with their uniform filing cabinets and flickering surveillance monitors, the backdrop for six interweaving stories. There's no hint that writer-director Anderson is gearing up to step outside his naturalistic framework.

23 September 2007 Scotland on Sunday

Dynamite Davey takes it to the wire

By Davey Anderson. Traverse preview.

IF you've been to the theatre in the past two years, it's been hard to miss the name of Davey Anderson. The Glasgow University graduate first came to wide attention as a winner of the Arches Award for Stage Directors in 2005, writing and directing Snuff, an ambitious two-hander about war, racism and asylum seekers. That play was one of the first to be picked up by the National Theatre of Scotland for a tour in 2006, a year in which the multi-talented Anderson popped up all over the place.

9 September 2007 The Guardian

Half Life

NVA review.

ARICHONAN, a deserted village on the west coast of Scotland, is a collection of ruined hillside houses. It was abandoned in the mid-19th century when the landowner forced the population out. That is how it has been for years and will be again, but for two weeks in September it has become a work of art. Along with 15 other destinations in Mid Argyll, Arichonan has been co-opted by NVA (the arts charity that collaborates with artists to produce site-specific artworks) into Half Life, a characteristically ambitious project somewhere between art installation and field trip.

23 August 2007 Scotland on Sunday

A land that time will never forget

NVA preview.

ON the top of an outcrop in the centre of a flat plain near the Mid-Argyll coast, there's a rock carving in the shape of a footprint. It's a baking hot summer's day and Angus Farquhar has discarded his sandals to climb this hill to what was once the fort of Dunadd, capital of the kingdom of Dalraidia. When he gets to the rock, he places a bare foot in the indentation. As legend has it, this is what leaders of the Scotti tribe, Scotland's earliest kings, would do as part of their crowning ceremonies some time between the 5th and. 8th centuries AD.

9 September 2007 The Guardian

What do you think the Bacchae is about?

Translated by David Greig. NTS blog.

WHAT'S The Bacchae about? It seems it depends on what paper you read. If you take the Daily Telegraph, you will believe it is about "the horrors of religious fundamentalism still being unleashed on the world today". That's the assessment of Charles Spencer who sees in the National Theatre of Scotland production a metaphor for the global tensions of 2007.

13 August 2007 Variety

The Bacchae

Translated by David Greig. NTS review.

WHEN Euripides envisaged the part of Dionysus, the god of good times in "The Bacchae," he was probably thinking of an actor with the pansexual charisma of Alan Cumming. It's a moot point whether he was also thinking of Cadmus and Tiresias as tap-dancing old-timers in top hats and tails, or of his chorus as an all-black lineup of sassy gospel singers. But, by drawing on such modern-day imagery, helmer John Tiffany brings a bold sense of theatricality to the 2,400-year-old tragedy, giving vigorous new life to the archetypal battle between order and licentiousness.

12 August 2007 Scotland on Sunday

The Bacchae

Translated by David Greig. NTS review.

THE buttocks come first. After 16 years away from the Scottish stage, Alan Cumming enters head first from above, his backside exposed for all to see. It's a gesture that sets the cheeky tone of John Tiffany's thrilling production of Euripides' great tragedy, one that injects the 24000-year-old play with a vigorous dose of 21st century theatricality and gender-bending fun.


8 August 2007 Hi-Arts

Venus as a Boy

By Luke Sutherland and Tam Dean Burn. Burnt Goods review.

WE love to see transformation in the theatre. The power of "let's pretend" stays with us from our childhood. We never cease to delight in the magic of a storyteller who makes one thing become another before our eyes. For these reasons, Luke Sutherland's short novel, Venus as a Boy, published in 2004, offers fertile material for the stage.

July 2007 Edinburgh Festivals Magazine

Love's young dream

By Luke Sutherland and Tam Dean Burn. Burnt Goods preview.

SOME performances were just meant to be. It was Christmas 2003 and actor Tam Dean Burn found himself reading an article in Time Out about books to look out for in the year ahead. One of them was Venus as a Boy by Luke Sutherland, the Orkney writer and musician with whom Burn had performed at a launch event for Jelly Roll, his first novel.

19 July 2007 The List

Countdown to ecstacy

Interview with Alan Cumming about The Bacchae. NTS preview.

ALAN Cumming has just spent the morning pretending to be attacked by flying monkeys. ‘It’s so great,’ he says, walking into his Vancouver hotel. ‘There’s a camera on a crane above me in a studio entirely painted green, so the monkeys will be all around me. For me it’s perfect. After last year, doing The Threepenny Opera on Broadway and Bent in London, I wanted to do something easy, well-paid and involving running around being chased by something. Flying monkeys did the trick.’

17 June 2007 Scotland on Sunday

When shall we three meet again? In thunder, lightning, or Elgin?

Preview of the Elgin Macbeth. NTS preview.

THERE'S a theory that Shakespeare wrote Julius Caesar with the intention of opening it on a summer solstice. Certainly many an outdoor production of A Midsummer Night's Dream has been arranged for that date. Neither of those plays, however, is the choice of director Simon Sharkey to stage beneath the open skies at the ruined Elgin Cathedral on the weekend that the northern hemisphere tilts closest to the sun. What ghosts and other-worldly demons will he conjure up on that auspicious date when, with the Learn division of the National Theatre of Scotland, he mounts a pro-am production of Macbeth?

16 June 2007 The Scotsman

Aria Waves

Preview of The Elgin Macbeth, Venus as a Boy and Half Life

ST KILDA - A European Opera is a big cultural event by anyone's standards. A dizzyingly ambitious Gaelic-language opera, backed by a 2 million (£1.4m) budget, it's being performed simultaneously in five countries. Its principal performance is not in London, or central Scotland, but Stornoway, from where images will be relayed across Europe to audiences in Austria, Belgium, France and Germany, as well as being broadcast live on the BBC website. The logistics are mind-boggling.

22 April 2007 Scotland on Sunday

Futurology: A Global Revue

Suspect Culture review.

NOT for the first time, Suspect Culture has split the critics. Depending on what paper you read, Futurology: A Global Revue is either a four-star triumph or a one-star flop. On balance, I give it the thumbs-up - it's too original in form, too slick in execution and too well performed to dismiss out of hand - but not before acknowledging its shortcomings.

13 April 2007 The Guardian

Futurology: A Global Revue

Suspect Culture review.

IT is the 14th UN Conference of the Future, and the subject is climate change. The delegates have gathered at their Perspex desks to hammer out a Kyoto-style agreement, but they seem more interested in national rivalries, free-market enterprise and post-conference sex than saving the planet. Only the poor woman from a sinking Pacific island 465 miles south of Fiji has any sense of urgency, and she is as powerless as the rioting mob on the streets outside the meeting room.

12 April 2007 Variety

Futurology: A Global Revue

Suspect Culture review.

IN a remarkable fusion of conference etiquette and cabaret flamboyance, Scottish company Suspect Culture has taken the temperature of our globally warmed-up times and produced a theatrical hybrid that's as entertaining as it is politically ambivalent. Lying somewhere between satire and surrealism, "Futurology: A Global Revue" paints a wry and witty picture of a generation caught in the headlights of an apocalyptic juggernaut. But while its refusal to commit itself to any route out of our impending eco-nightmare is deliberate, it also feels like an evasion.

8 April 2007 Scotland on Sunday

The end of the world show

Suspect Culture Futurology preview.

SUSPECT Culture's Futurology - A Global Revue features a contortionist, a clown, a stand-up comedian and a tango dancer. There are song and dance numbers, ventriloquism and an emcee double-act. If that sounds as little like a Suspect Culture show as you could imagine, just look at where it's being performed. After opening at Glasgow's SECC, it tours to hangar-like halls and conference centres, with not a fashionable arts centre in sight.


26 March 2007 Variety


Review of the Victoria/NTS co-production

THE recent popularity of verbatim theater coincides with a desire to get behind the headlines, to get closer to the truth of real events, to understand the mechanics of the public world. Rarely, however, has the form gotten so thoroughly and disturbingly under the skin of a subject as in "Aalst," first staged in Flemish by the provocative Belgian company Victoria and now remounted by helmer Pol Heyvaert in an unsettling production for the National Theater of Scotland.

29 March 2007 The Guardian


Review of the Victoria/NTS co-production

IN 1999, a family of four checked into a hotel in the Belgian town of Aalst. When the parents emerged some days later, their two small children were dead. Drawing on documentary material from the time of the court case, Aalst is a riveting piece of verbatim theatre that dares to look into the open wound of this shocking story. You'd call it voyeuristic if it wasn't so excruciating.

27 March 2007 The List


Review of the Victoria/NTS co-production

IF you like your theatre cosy, comfortable and reassuring, don’t go within a mile of Aalst. A collaboration between Pol Heyvaert’s Belgian Victoria company and the National Theatre of Scotland, Aalst is the harrowing true-life tale of a couple who checked into a hotel in 1999 and, in the course of a few days, murdered their two young children. It is horrible and horribly compelling.


2 March 2007 Variety

The Wonderful World of Dissocia

By Anthony Neilson. Tron Theatre review.

IT features the funniest scene ever written about a woman being anally raped by a goat. It includes the most poignant song ever sung by a morose polar bear. And it riffs on some of the silliest gags ever told about insecurity guards and a lost lost property office. But behind the "Alice in Wonderland" surrealism and groan-worthy humor, Anthony Neilson's wildly imaginative play carries a serious purpose. As well as being delirious fun, "The Wonderful World of Dissocia" is an affecting drama about mental illness.

7 February 2007 The Guardian

Alas poor planet

Includes comments from Vicky Feathersotne and Graham Eatough

PITY John Moffat. As chief engineer at the National Theatre, in London, he's the one who has to open the electricity bill. Last year, it came to £600,000. When the National's two-year deal with its supplier ended in September, the theatre was stung with a rise of £200,000. That's the cost of an entire production on its Lyttelton stage.

25 January 2007 The Guardian

The homeless home of Scottish theatre

NTS blog

TUESDAY'S win for Black Watch at the South Bank Awards confirmed not only that Gregory Burke's verbatim drama is officially the Best Play In This Or Any Other Universe For All Time Ever, but also that the National Theatre of Scotland has had one blinder of a debut year.

This is a sample caption