Reviews & features: Theatre

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War and peace announced as themes for Edinburgh International Festival 2014

18 Mar 2014

Programme highlights includes works involving The Kronos Quartet and Handspring Puppet Company

War and peace, conflict and conciliation are the grand themes being tackled in Jonathan Mills’ final year as director of the Edinburgh International Festival. The 2014 programme, announced today, explores music, dance, theatre and other arts not just…

Eh Joe

5 Sep 20134 stars

Atom Egoyan is a master at work as he brings Beckett from the screen to the stage

Atom Egoyan’s masterful staging of Beckett’s brief 1965 TV play Eh Joe, the first in a trio of the dramatist’s works from Dublin’s Gate Theatre at this year’s International Festival, is a thing of simple, ruthless beauty. Michael Gambon is the sole…


30 Aug 20134 stars

Spellbinding dark drama

This intense and emotionally charged two-hander really packs a dramatic punch. Set on a remote Scottish island, it turns on an encounter between a bewildered young man named Daniel (who has made the long journey from the mainland looking for answers to…


29 Aug 20133 stars

ImmerCity's effective site-specific seance

The audience is led to a darkened room by the three Wyrd sisters: Isabelle, a doctor, Lilith, who claims she's clairvoyant and Amanda, occupation unknown. The creepy, childlike Amanda plays psychological games with the audience by handing them insulting…

A Killer Story

29 Aug 20132 stars

Great noir script let down by poor acting

Here’s the scoop: a private eye is on the case of a missing scientist; he’s presumed murdered, with his dame and his former business partner both in the frame for pulling the trigger. A saxophone purrs like a prostitute in the night as all three step up…

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God versus The Mind Reader  

27 Aug 20133 stars

Performer Mark Cairns questions the human need to rely on misplaced theories for life's answers

We'll start with this: God versus The Mind Reader isn’t what we’d call cabaret, so its categorisation in the Fringe programme might throw you. That’s not to say it’s not an entertaining fifty minutes, just that’s its more a theological monologue with…

Forest Boy

23 Aug 20133 stars

A slightly overplayed take on a Dutch boy's story of survival in the wild

Suitably set in the quaint Bosco tent, Forest Boy is a new musical based on the events that gripped Europe in 2011 when Robin ‘Ray’ van Helsum, a young Dutch boy, claimed he had been living in a forest in Germany for five years. Dubbed as a story of…


23 Aug 20133 stars

Two solos that recast God in a more negative light

Genesis/Golgotha is a pair of monologues that attempt to reimagine two crucial Biblical characters: Eve, the mother of us all, and Jesus, The Messiah. Eve is given a relatively traditional make-over, bemoaning her fate and alternating between anger and…

Last One Out

23 Aug 20134 stars

A non-traditional opera featuring text from Johnny McKnight and music from Gareth Williams

Last One Out is hardly an opera in the traditional sense – it’s more of a poignant, highly evocative mystery tale that happens to be sung. In any case, much of its music comes from an onstage radio – in the form of composer Gareth Williams’ masterful…


23 Aug 20132 stars

An uninspired, unsubtle and flat attempted thriller, set in the Scottish Highlands

There are shades of Sightseers (Ben Wheatley's Bonnie and Clyde-style serial murder comedy which was, surely, the worst film of 2012) in Solstice, an attempted thriller by Angela Ness and Glen Davies. In a croft in the north of Scotland, we find a…

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Another New World

23 Aug 20133 stars

A dramatic retelling of Franklin’s Arctic tragedy

In this low-key but entertaining take on Franklin’s doomed Arctic expedition, the four-strong cast consider the stories of both the men aboard ship and the women left at home. Franklin’s goal is to find the Northwest Passage, which would open up new…

The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning

22 Aug 20134 stars

Gripping portrayal of events leading to the US army leaks

Bradley Manning is Welsh. That was the spark that led Tim Price to write this pulsating play about the WikiLeaks whistleblower’s life for National Theatre Wales. That the infamous 25-year-old was, not long ago, a teenager in Haverfordwest, shapes the…

The Tobacco Merchant’s Lawyer

22 Aug 20134 stars

Return of a classic solo comedy

It’s five years since Enoch Dalmellington first took to the stage at his home city venue, the Òran Mór. What a joy it is to see Iain Heggie’s 18th-century Glasgow solicitor on the Fringe, and played once more by John Bett – the actor who made the role…


22 Aug 20134 stars

Enthralling reinterpretation of the classic text from the Wooster Group

In 1964 Richard Burton performed Hamlet on Broadway in a production directed by John Gielgud. It was recorded from 17 different camera angles and then broadcast to more than 2000 cinemas across the US, one of the first ‘cinecasts’ of its kind. New…


22 Aug 20133 stars

An intimate setting for plays about sex

This isn’t a review of a show. It’s a review of a venue and an idea. That’s the only way to talk about PEEP, a series of performances in a dirty black box in the middle of George Square. The space is a white room with a panel of two-way mirrors around…

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22 Aug 20134 stars

Being Stanley Kubrick, the story of Alan Conway

During the early 1990s, a failed North London travel agent named Alan Conway successfully passed himself off as the famous filmmaker Stanley Kubrick. Despite looking nothing like the legendary director, Conway ‘conned’ several dozen people and…

Piff The Magic Dragon

22 Aug 20133 stars

Faux-grumpy yet fun magic show

His glamorous assistant rolls her eyes whenever his back’s turned; his sidekick is a vacant chihuahua, stealing his limelight with a sleepy thousand-yard-stare; and the guest star is a mindreading goldfish who forgets his lines. In short, Piff the Magic…

The Secret Agent

22 Aug 20132 stars

Disappointing adaptation of Joseph Conrad classic

There’s a large emphasis on presentation in theatre O’s adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s 1907 novel. The tale of anarchy, terrorism, disability, exploitation and betrayal – set in the waning years of Queen Victoria’s reign – is introduced via a showman’s…

Pigmalion Zoo

22 Aug 20132 stars

Disappointing absurdist piece exploring family, advertising and religion

Set in a surreal world, where an unnamed God of unknown denomination has been found dead in a Sainsbury’s car park, OLTA’s Pigmalion Zoo delves into a world where advertising and reality TV hold the power, and where gods can be made and destroyed simply…

There has Possibly Been an Incident

22 Aug 20133 stars

Politically engaged play from Chris Thorpe

In this politically engaged, minimalist play from Chris Thorpe, several characters’ stories are expertly woven together to create a thought-provoking meditation on personal responsibility against a backdrop of civil unrest. Thorpe is particularly deft…

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The Edinburgh International Festival 2013 celebrates Samuel Beckett

21 Aug 2013

The strand's highlight is Eh Joe starring Michael Gambon and directed by Atom Egoyan

Beckett at the Festival is a major programme of the Irish author’s TV, radio and fiction works adapted for the stage. Inevitably, given the scale of the project and the affection Beckett commands in theatre, there are impressive names in the lineup…

Stuart: A Life Backwards

21 Aug 20134 stars

A touching meeting of minds in adaptation of Alexander Masters’ acclaimed story

The tale of an unlikely friendship, which blossoms in the most unlikely of situations, Stuart: A Life Backwards has leapt from book to TV film to stage, making a smooth transition at every turn. Partly, this is because of the quality of writing and…

The Three Lions

21 Aug 20134 stars

A satirical stab at the power of politics, celebrity and notoriety

Set in a hotel in Zurich in December 2010, William Gaminara’s The Three Lions presents an imagined account of what happened during England’s failed bid for the 2018 World Cup. However, the focus of this piece isn’t on the politics of the bid but on the…

Tourniquet 2013

21 Aug 20134 stars

Belgian company Abattoir Fermé offer some unsettling, nightmarish sessions

Tourniquet contains all the ingredients of dark European visual theatre: nudity, ritualistic behaviour, a preoccupation with the startling image over precise meaning and a fascination with taboo subjects. Here DIY exorcism forms the basis for a lengthy…


20 Aug 20132 stars

Narcissistic interpretation of Kafka’s seminal text

The tantalising mixture of traditional Peking style opera, beautiful set design, and multimedia projections by Ethan Wang sounds like a play befitting the International Festivals Art and Technology theme, a special treat for the open-minded enthusiast.