Theatre review: The Glasgow Girls, King’s Theatre, Glasgow

IT’S seven years since The Glasgow Girls first appeared at the Citizens’s Theatre in Glasgow; but in that long half-decade, the political landscape into which it tries to shine some light has only darkened further, and strengthened the poignancy of its cry for love and openness towards those seeking safety in an increasingly hostile world.

Jenny Lindsay PIC: Perry Johnson

All by themselves: poet Jenny Lindsay and theatre-maker Gary McNair on the pros and cons of solo performance

Rhymes at the ready. Stanzas on standby. The Scottish Slam Championships take place on Sunday when the nation’s finest versifiers will be going head-to-head at Glasgow’s Tron. They’ll be vying to win a cash prize and a place in the world series in Paris, a prestigious reward that points to the artform’s growing status. Over the past 20 years, spoken word has gone from poor relation to something bordering on the mainstream.

Message from the Skies takes place in locations all over Edinburgh, including Calton Hill, pictured

Review: Message From The Skies – Love Letters To Europe, various venues, Edinburgh

One is high on a hilltop, two are in intimate corners that fit their intensely personal themes, one overlooks the Water of Leith, and another the Meadows; but if there’s one Love Letter to Europe in this year’s New Year Message From The Skies installation – co-commissioned and presented by Edinburgh’s Hogmanay and the Edinburgh International Book Festival – that thrusts itself straight into the busy tourist heart of Edinburgh, it’s William Dalrymple’s fierce and erudite cry of protest against Brexit, projected onto the south wall of the old Tron Kirk, as it looks down over Hunter Square.

Picture: Enigma

Theatre interview: David Greig on adapting Local Hero for the Royal Lyceum

The red phone box. Old Ben on his beach. Burt Lancaster in a flat cap. Marina’s webbed toes. Peter Capaldi looking like he’s fresh out of school. And the ravishing, almost mystical coastal landscape. Anyone who has seen Local Hero – and if you have not, why not? – will have their own favourite images of this most ardently cherished of Scottish films, a gentle but whipsmart comedy about an oil executive who is dispatched to Ferness, a coastal village in the Highlands, to negotiate the purchase of land for a refinery project, only to be seduced by the scenery and community.

Nicole Cooper is magnificent as Queen Nessie McTeuchter, Bonnie's mum, with Stephanie McGregor as Minnie McMinxster in Sleeping Beauty

Theatre reviews: Sleeping Beauty, Byre Theatre, St Andrews | Rapunzel, Cumbernauld Theatre

THIS year’s Scottish panto season is full of original takes on traditional fairytales, from Snow White threatened by fracking-induced earthquakes at Perth, to Johnny McKnight’s gay-romance Mammy Goose at the Tron. Yet even in such a strong field, the latest Bard In The Botanics pantomime at the Byre in St Andrews, written and directed by the inimitable Gordon Barr, gives the familiar story of Sleeping Beauty a workout so vigorous that it leaves the audience with barely a clue what’s going to happen next, from the Sleeping Beauty (aka Princess Bonnie McTeuchter, played with true pluck and a great singing voice by Kirsty Findlay) not being the one who falls asleep for 100 years, to her flatly refusing to marry her Prince, the dim but big-hearted Hamish McGuffin.

NTS artistic director Jackie Wylie, third from left, alongside key creatives for the 2019 season, from left: Claire Cunningham, Cora Bissett, Stewart Laing, Nic Green and Robert Softley-Gale

Interview: NTS artistic director Jackie Wylie looks forward to “a year of new work from major Scottish artists”

A couple of weeks ago, at its still-new Rockvilla headquarters in Glasgow, the National Theatre of Scotland announced its programme for 2019 – its 14th since the company began operations in 2006. Launching the programme, artistic director Jackie Wylie said that the company’s 2019 focus would be on “major Scottish artists creating major new works that explore the vital questions facing all of us, both as Scots and as global citizens;” and the list of events – which features ten substantial new shows, two Scottish tours of significant revivals, three international appearances in the US and Canada, and two major community projects – seems as good as her word. Headline productions include adaptations of Jenni Fagan’s acclaimed novel The Panopticon and of Scottish Makar Jackie Kay’s memoir Red Dust Road; and the whole package moved super-cool Edinburgh cultural curators and event-makers Neu Reekie! to declare that with this programme, the NTS had “come of age as a truly national theatre.”

Cinderellaat the SEC Armadillo

Theatre reviews: Cinderella, SEC, Glasgow | Jack and the Beanstalk, Eden Court Theatre, Inverness

It’s a strange old Christmas dish, pantomime. Sometimes all the best ingredients can be assembled and given a good stir. Yet still the mixture never quite reaches the temperature that would transform it into a festive treat; and something like that happens to this year’s Qdos Cinderella at the SEC Armadillo, which has possibly the most star-studded cast in the whole Scottish pantosphere but somehow delivers a slightly muted and chilly evening of fun.

Paula Lane plays Lauren

Theatre reviews: Kinky Boots, Playhouse, Edinburgh | Aladdin, King’s Theatre, Glasgow

AT FIRST glance, it’s not the most obvious choice for a Christmas show: the musical of the 2005 film, loosely based on a true story, about a failing Northampton shoe factory that’s saved from closure when its new owner Charlie – the fourth generation of his family to run the business – moves into the niche market of making glamorous high-heeled boots and shoes for drag queens, who often find female shoes too small and fragile.

Gavin Mitchell (back row, left) with the cast of Cinderella

“Panto is pure magic” - Still Game star Gavin Mitchell on playing an Ugly Sister in Cinderella at the Clyde Auditorium

It was one of the saddest and most dramatic moments in the whole history of Scottish pantomime; the day in October 2010 when it was announced that Gerard Kelly, the legendary “daft laddie” in more than a dozen pantos at the King’s Theatre, Glasgow since the 1990s, had died suddenly of a brain aneurysm aged only 51, just five weeks before the opening night of that year’s King’s panto. Kelly was scheduled to play one of his favourite roles, as the jester Muddles in Sleeping Beauty; and over the years, he had also become one of the main upholders and tradition-bearers of the Scottish panto scene, using his television fame to add clout to his passionate defence of the Scottish panto tradition.

Stewart Francis, preparing to ride into the punset

Comedy review: Stewart Francis: Into the Punset, Paisley Town Hall

If this is to be Stewart Francis’ last tour, as he maintains, the Canadian deserves great credit for freshening up the one-liner genre in the UK. Often seen as the preserve of the deadpan, he brings big, performative silliness and sly invention to the craft of gag-telling, playing all sorts of tricks with callbacks, visual punchlines, alternative endings and sound cues, achieving variety, originality and an impressive density of solid gold jokes with his playful tweaking of conventions.

Beauty and The Beast''at the King's, Edinburgh

Theatre reviews: Beauty and the Beast | Snow White and the Seven Dames

YOU can be as satirical and ironic as you like, around the Scottish panto scene; or venture far into the realms of Christmas children’s theatre, with varying results. When it comes to rollicking good night out for all the family, though, it’s difficult to beat a good old traditional pantomime, that strange festive mixture of fairytale magic, rude jokes, daft comedy routines and loud audience participation that can tolerate no end of variety and updating, without losing its essential sparkle; and here, this Christmas, are a couple of shows that perfectly demonstrate the sheer fun and flexibility of the genre.

Beauty and the Beast, King’s Theatre, Edinburgh ****

Snow White and the Seven Dames, Perth Theatre ****

At the King’s in Edinburgh things are inevitably not quite the same, this year, with the theatre’s much-loved pantomime daftie Andy Gray out of the show because of illness; but still, it’s hard not to admire the panto’s remaining two stars – Allan Stewart and Grant Stott–- for the flair and energy with which they make their Edinburgh-accented version of Beauty And The Beast work anyway, in his absence.

What they produce, in essence, is a #metoo (or #meanaw) version of the story, which foregrounds Grant Stott’s performance as nasty villain Flash Boaby – the wide-boy villager who takes a fancy to Belle, and is determined to do away with the Beast who has stolen her heart – alongside Stewart’s pretty and feisty Dame, castle cook May Potty, who has a feeling that Belle may be the right girl for the Beast.

With Flash Boaby not above a bit of sexual harassment and hate speech, the show sometimes takes on a strikingly contemporary tone, despite the lushly traditional sets in this production by UK-wide panto-makers Qdos. Yet it’s all delivered with lashings of good humour, plenty of music, a touch of romantic magic, and – courtesy of Stott – layer upon layer of Hearts and Hibs jokes, made to delight an Edinburgh audience, and send them happily out into the night.

Perth Theatre’s version of the Snow White story, written by the fine Glasgow playwright Frances Poet, also has a contemporary twist, as it dispenses with the seven dwarves, and replaces them with one single actor who somehow - opposite Barrie Hunter’s magnificent Dame Sassy - manages to play all six of her sisters. It’s a feat that’s not so much about suspension of disbelief, more about a happy acceptance of total absurdity; and even more boldly, Poet’s script has the Dames working not in a goldmine, but in a pit owned by the Dunfrackin Corporation, which has caused massive environmental damage to the kingdom of Perthfect, and is now being shaken by earthquakes.

For all that, though – or perhaps because of it – Snow White And The Seven Dames is mostly a traditional happy family show, with far fewer rude jokes than its Edinburgh cousin (although there are some), and plenty of classic panto wickedness from Helen Logan as the wicked queen who wants Snow White wiped off the Perthfect map.

The script is sometimes a little too verbally clever for its own theatrical good, but Emma Mullen’s Snow White is a fine 21st century heroine, in search of friendship rather than love; and with a rich playlist of current hits, and three teams of local youngsters providing terrific support as a chorus of friendly dancing moles, Barrie Hunter’s first show as director of the Perth panto emerges as a joyful Christmas treat, bright, witty, goodhearted, and full of fun.


Beauty And The Beast is at the King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, until 20 January; Snow White And The Seven Dames is at Perth Theatre until 5 January.

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