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Theatre reviews: Scrooge/The Princess and the Pie

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Mamma Mia!

Joyce McMillan: Behind the scenes at the Edinburgh Playhouse

One o’clock on Saturday afternoon, and I’m standing centre stage at the Edinburgh Playhouse, looking out at the red and gold auditorium, and the 3,400 seats that make this by far Scotland’s largest theatre. Behind me, crew members are beginning to sweep and wash the stage for the Saturday matinee, in a routine as old as theatre itself; but the theatre’s resident stage manager Paul Skeggs – in the job since 2002, and universally known as Skeggsie – is also keen that I shouldn’t forget the building’s remarkable history. “Stand there,” he says, nudging me a step to the right. “Laurel and Hardy stood on that spot! And Joe Strummer! I love The Clash…”

Theatre
Cast members of Aladdin being performed at the Panoptican theatre. Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Glasgow Panopticon prepares for first panto in 78 years

GLASGOW’S historic Panopticon music hall is gearing up for a new production of Aladdin - the first panto since the building closed almost 80 years ago.

Theatre
Andy Cannon, left, and Andy Manley in Black Beauty at the Traverse

Theatre reviews: Black Beauty | Mamma Mia! | The Snaw Queen

The Christmas theatre scene, these days, is as vast and varied as any pantomime forest; and the joyful thing about this latest burst of Christmas shows in Glasgow and Edinburgh is that it contains every possible element, from blockbuster musical to small-scale children’s show – with, in each, a little touch of magic drawn from all the others.

Theatre
Still Game creators to limit live shows to avoid becoming ‘panto’

Still Game creators to limit live shows to avoid becoming ‘panto’

Still Game fans have been promised a bigger and better stage spectacular when Jack and Victor return to the Hydro - but have been warned it will not become an annual fixture to avoid being seen as a pantomime.

News
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Theatre reviews: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland | Five Guys Named Moe | Jack and the Beanstalk

When I was a child, I never could make head nor tail of Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland. It seemed strange and frightening and not really a story; it wasn’t until I was 12, and saw Jonathan Miller’s wonderful TV version, that I suddenly understood the magnificent, surreal quality of Carroll’s perfect English absurdism. And the problem with Anthony Neilson’s memorable new version of Alice for the Lyceum is that it captures this strange, ambiguous quality to perfection; so perfectly that grown-ups will probably adore it, older children may well be fascinated, and younger children are quite likely to be bored, puzzled or frightened. The Lyceum auditorium has been turned into a gorgeous Victorian box of delights, with little antique hot-air balloons floating everywhere. And in Francis O’Connor’s lush design, everything looks ravishing and just as it should, as Jess Peet’s calm, logical little Alice twirls down the rabbit hole into a richly-coloured hallucinatory underworld peopled by rushing rabbits and weeping mock turtles.

Theatre
Puppet show Ramona by at the Tbilisi Puppet Theatre

Joyce McMillan: The GIFT Festival in Tbilisi is a triumph of the creative spirit

The first time I ever caught a glimpse of Georgian theatre, the year was 1979, and I was in the upper circle of Edinburgh’s Lyceum Theatre, squeezed in with a capacity audience to watch Robert Sturua’s legendary Rustaveli Theatre production of Shakespeare’s Richard III. The show was the runaway success of that year’s Edinburgh Festival, and went on to take London by storm, with its unforgettable map-like design, and thrilling central performance from the legendary Georgian actor Ramaz Chkhikvadze.

Theatre
Dundee's new waterfront V&A museum is expected to be at the heart of any bid to become European City of Culture in 2023.

SNP warns Dundee's European culture capital bid is threatened by Brexit

The Scottish Government has demanded clarity over whether Dundee will be able to press ahead with a bid to be crowned European Capital of Culture.

Politics 32
Weans in the Wood

Theatre Reviews: Weans in the Wood | George’s Marvellous Medicine

It’s panto time, and into the woods we go, although with cutting-edge Scottish panto-writer Johnny McKnight in charge of the map and breadcrumbs, it soon becomes clear that this latest MacRobert panto, Weans In The Wood, directed by the theatre’s new boss Julie Ellen, is more of an extended riff on all the big woodland stories, from Hansel & Gretel to Robin Hood and Little Red, than a version of Babes In The Wood as we know it.

Theatre
Griff Rhys Jones

Comedy review: Griff Rhys Jones: Jones & Smith

When Griff Rhys Jones first met his comedy double-act partner, Mel Smith, in a pub in Edinburgh’s Grassmarket in 1972, he was distinctly underwhelmed. Smith was “legendary” at Oxford University for his dramatic work and late-night carousing, a mythology that the Welshman found rather incongruous with the pudgy figure before him. Yet as he reveals in this fond tribute to his late, invariably late friend, Smith was a Falstaffian force of nature who swept you up in his whirlwind, to the extent that Jones couldn’t keep pace and effectively retired from alcoholism, swearing off drink for more than three decades.

Theatre
Ramberts current tour demonstrates respect and admiration of the past alongside new works

Dance review: Rambert Dance Company

Journey down into the basement of Rambert’s London headquarters, and you’ll find one of the most impressive archives any dance company has at its disposal. Photographs adorn the walls, video footage plays on a screen and a large temperature-controlled room is home to shoes, costumes, set models and even a lock of Marie Rambert’s hair.

Theatre
Matt Costello and Billy McBain in Moving Pictures

Theatre review: Moving Pictures

THERE’S always been a fine strand of nostalgia in the Play, Pie And Pint lunchtime programme; the season’s late founder David MacLennan was born in 1948, and Scottish writers from the 1945-1965 generation have had plenty to mourn, as they’ve watched the post-war world that nurtured them dismantled and destroyed.

Theatre
Gerhard Zucker aimed to create an inter-island postal service. Picture: Contributed

Play to tell story of Western Isles Rocket Post bid

The bizarre true-life story of a German scientist and his ill-fated attempts to launch a rocket-based postal service in the Western Isles in 1934 is to be brought to the stage by the National Theatre of Scotland.

Theatre
The story of the failed "Rocket Post" air-mail service is one of the most bizarre stories to emerge from the Western Isles.

Rocket Post scientist whose dreams fell apart above the Western Isles to inspire new stage play

The bizarre true-life story of a German scientist and his ill-fated attempts to launch a rocket-based postal service in the Western Isles in 1934 is to be brought to the stage by the National Theatre of Scotland.
News
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland in rehersal, with Jess Peet as Alice. PIC: Aly Wight

Preview: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland at the Royal Lyceum

Anthony Neilson is engaged in an earnest discussion about the appropriate accent for a pigeon. “Scots?” says actress (and currently, pigeon) Gabrielle Quigley. “Edinburgh? Kirkcaldy?” Neilson says he sees her in “big Su Pollard-style glasses”, whereupon Quigley does a pretty convincing Pollard-pigeon. After some laughter, they decide the pigeon is a local. It could only happen in rehearsals for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the Christmas show Neilson is currently creating at the Lyceum. A giant mushroom on castors rests in one corner, a giant birdcage in another, and in a third, Tam Dean Burn – the Mad Hatter – is learning his lines.

Theatre
Detail of a poster for The Snaw Queen

Interview: Panto star Johnny McKnight

Pantomime is one of those art forms that is always thought to be on the point of death, or at least not what it used to be. Whatever happens on the contemporary panto stage – and plenty does, with well over 30 professional Christmas shows about to burst on the Scottish scene over the next month – the current generation of adults always feels that it’s “not the same” as in the golden days of their childhood, when giants like Stanley Baxter, Ricky Fulton, Johnny Beattie and Una McLean walked the panto stage.

Theatre
Jason Byrne

Comedy Reviews: Jason Byrne | Gary Little

Two comics taking their stand-up in different directions, neither Jason Byrne and Gary Little can be accused of resting on their laurels. True, Byrne long ago found an effective formula of knockabout tomfoolery and audience participation. But the Irishman’s renewed zest for the prop comedy of his early career has reinvigorated the impression that any of his performances can feel like a unique event.

Theatre
A view of the Scottish National Gallery at The Mound in Edinburgh.

Brian Ferguson: Heart-warming times for Scottish arts world

Heart-warming times for the Scottish arts world as keyprojects get the go-ahead, writes Brian Ferguson

Opinion 2
Iain Robertson gives a superb solo performance as a father whose marriage has ended in failure. Picture: contributed

Theatre review: On The Sidelines

IT’S late on a Saturday afternoon, and John arrives home frozen to the marrow. He’s been out watching his 11-year-old son play football; but the home he returns to is not the family house, but a shabby city bedsit, with other single men living similar lives just beyond the paper-thin walls.

Theatre
Jenny Lindsay

Joyce McMillan: A trial run for variety at the Royal Lyceum

Anyone who knows Edinburgh’s Lyceum Theatre well will understand that it she is not called the old lady of Grindlay Street for nothing; beautiful, temperamental and strangely unpredictable, the theatre’s gorgeous Victorian auditorium – first opened in 1883 – has at least two contrasting personalities, often both on view during the same evening. At one level, the theatre is the classic 19th century chocolate box, with its glittering chandelier, its gilded deep blue plasterwork, its glowing red plush seats and its beautiful proscenium arch, which can and does provide a perfect picture-frame for conventional fourth-wall drama.

Yet the theatre also has a second aspect, which emerges whenever a performer leaves the stage picture behind, and comes to the front of the stage to talk – or sing – to the audience. Then, the space suddenly becomes warm and intimate, almost cabaret-like; as if the performer on stage could reach out and touch every one of the theatre’s 658 seats.

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