Theatre review: Miss Saigon, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

This weekend, by chance, marked the showing on British television of the final episode of Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s mighty documentary on the Vietnam War. The story combines huge historic drama – the final panic at the fall of Saigon, the huge helicopters clattering in to lift the last few US troops from the roof of the American Embassy – with an immense sense of personal tragedy. And it’s because it so perfectly captures those qualities of the moment in which it is set that Cameron Mackintosh’s new 2014 production of Boublil and Schonberg’s smash-hit 1989 show emerges as such a brilliant musical for our time, full of resonances for a new age of war and displacement, and of questioning about the exploitative sexual relationships that come with male power, whether military, political or economic.

Verity Jones and the women give a performance hard to fault

Theatre review: Flashdance

IT’S a genre in itself, the 1980s movie-turned-musical about dance as a symbol of freedom and self-realisation; and Flashdance is perhaps the most powerful of them all, a story that pumps out the usual follow-your-dreams ideology of an individualistic age, but also shows a strong, self-aware scepticism about whether personal dreams are always the answer, when you live in a rustbelt city devastated by economic change.

The life and legacy of Muriel Spark will be celebrated at the Usher Hall in her home city of Edinburgh.

Nicola Sturgeon to appear at Muriel Spark centenary celebration

Nicola Sturgeon is to read from the work of Muriel Spark at a special 100th anniversary celebration of the Edinburgh-born author’s life and legacy.
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The Attic - Grandma (Gowan Calder), Lucy (Hazel Darwin-Clements) and David Paul Jones (Pianist) PIC: Greg Macvean

Theatre review: The Attic, Festival Theatre Studio, Edinburgh

THERE’S a tangled ball of wool lying near the studio door, with a fluffy red thread heading off down the corridor; and when we follow it – gently urged along by the show’s creator-performer Hazel Darwin-Clements, playing a little girl called Lucy – we enter the magic world of The Attic, the latest show from Starcatchers, Scotland’s specialists in shows for tiny tots. The wool belongs to Lucy’s grandma; and Lucy loves to potter in the attic with her, sorting through old stuff, trying on old clothes, acting out imaginary adventures and finding lost treasures.

Amy Hollinshead and Yosuke Kusano in rehearsals for The Lover, co-directed by Fleur Darkin and Jemima Levick.

Theatre preview: Fleur Darkin and Jemima Levick on blending theatre and dance in The Lover, their new production for the Royal Lyceum

It’s Fleur Darkin’s job as a choreographer to let her dancers’ bodies speak for themselves. That’s why one phrase leapt out when she re-read one of her favourite books, The Lover by Marguerite Duras: “When you let the body alone to seek and find and take what it likes… then everything is right.”

Cassius Clay (later Muhammad Ali) takes part in an exhibition bout at Paisley Ice Rink in August, 1965, with Jimmy Ellis.

Scot’s play about Muhammad Ali in Paisley punches above its weight

A controversial visit by boxing icon Muhammad Ali to Scotland at the height of his fame is to inspire a new comedy drama more than half a century later.

Theatre 2
Frances Poet

Ones to watch in 2018: playwright Frances Poet

Frances Poet has spent years working in the theatre, but her debut full-length play, which opens at the Traverse in April, marks her transition from editor and commissioner to fully-fledged playwright, writes Joyce McMillan

Derek Riddell is in BBC1's Hard Sun. Picture: Debra Hurford Brown

Interview: Derek Riddell

At last Derek Riddell has been in something he can watch with his children. We may know the Glaswegian actor best as the creepy army press officer turned driller killer in The Missing and James I in the torture-tastic Gunpowder, or even Rab, the bisexual footballer ned from The Book Group. Then there’s the corrupt cop in Undercover and Ashley Jensen’s ex-alcoholic husband in Ugly Betty, with medical traumas in Frankie and No Angels thrown in. But now, besides battling corruption and oh, the apocalypse, as a hard-bitten police chief in the BBC’s gritty new sci-fi crime series Hard Sun, he’s hitting the big screen as Torquil Travers in the kiddie-friendly Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, sequel to the Harry Potter spin-off.

Legendary photographer Terry O'Neill Picture: Neil Hanna

Interview: Terry O’Neill

Legendary photographer Terry O’Neill hates having his picture taken. Loathes it, but you’d never know. He doesn’t let on, but smiles and points, posing with props including a chair and a mirror as the camera shutter clicks away. The shoot over, he relaxes.

Titanic: The Musical is in Edinburgh the same week as Stings The Last Ship PIC: Scott Rylander

Arts preview of 2018: Joyce McMillan on the year ahead in theatre

The year turns, and once again Mystic McMillan unveils her crystal ball. What will happen on Scotland’s stages in 2018? Read on….

Greg McHugh  Gary Tank Commander  gives a storming and funny performance as Jacks naughty brother

Theatre review: Jack and the Beanstalk

IT’S touch and go, in the big annual panto at the SEC, whether Jack will ever make it up to the giant’s castle in the sky. The good fairy – Spirit of the Beans – has no idea how to make it happen, since her magic only works down on Earth; and everyone else, from the King to Jack’s daft brother Gary, is equally short of ideas.

Peter Hannah, Deka Walmsley and Kaja Pecnik in Cockpit at the Royal Lyceum in Edinburgh PIC: Mihaela Bodlovic

Arts review of 2017: Joyce McMillan on the year in theatre

For the Scottish theatre industry, 2017 has been a year overshadowed by events far beyond the control of the artists who work in it. Just as theatre tends to sense long-term political developments ten or 20 years ahead of the curve, so it often has to wait a few years to process sudden, unexpected events; so with one striking exception, there have been no major new plays dealing directly with Brexit or the Trump presidency, despite many productions of existing plays that seem to take on new shape, reflecting the new crises of our time.

A night at the Village Pub Theatre PIC: Jonathan Ley

Interview: Caitlin Skinner and James Ley on taking Leith’s Village Pub Theatre to the next level

Sunnyside, just off Easter Road, looks anything but sunny on a chill December night; it’s a short, sloping lane of dark cobbles, surrounded by high tenements. At the bottom of it, though, sits the big, shed-like building that houses Hibs Supporters’ Club, full of spacious, warm function-rooms and bars; and inside, something unusual is going on, as a group of young men and women wearing identical black woolly hats greet people arriving at the door, and escort them into the bar to await further instructions.

Beauty & The Beast at the Byre Theatre PIC: Viktoria Begg

Theatre review: Beauty and the Beast, Byre Theatre, St Andrews

The Last Petal has fallen, the Beast is dying, and Kirsty Findlay’s admirably outspoken Belle - having finally realised she loves the Beast - is weeping over what seems to be his lifeless body. “I got here too late,” she cries; but you know there’s something slightly wrong, in your panto world, when you feel an overwhelming urge to leap from your seat and remind her that she might have arrived on time, if she hadn’t spent five minutes singing a glitzy farewell version of Ain’t No Mountain High Enough with her mother, Dame Bunty, before she set off.

Snow White at Eden Court

Theatre reviews: Snow White, Eden Court, Inverness | Aladdin, His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen

It’s in the nature of panto to send itself up; it’s not exactly a naturalistic art-form, after all, and awareness that it’s all just a story is a vital part of the fun. The trick, though, is to get the balance right between send-up and storytelling; pantomimes are based on fairytales, and without the odd moment where the audience begins, however briefly, to believe in magic, we tip over into the territory where the whole thing becomes at best a vehicle for a bit of adult satire and at worst a self-indulgent joke.

Yolanda Kettle stars in The Crown Picture: Debra Hurford Brown, location, Clissold House,

Interview: The Crown actress Yolanda Kettle

The rising star steams in Season Two of The Crown

The cast of Shrek the Musical

Theatre review: Shrek the Musical

IF YOU’RE in search of a good family pantomime – one that offers a few hours of fairytale festive fun for both children and adults – then you have a choice of two in Edinburgh’s big professional theatres this Christmas.

The Sunnyside Centre is the safe place to be

Theatre review: The Sunnyside Centre

IN THE big function room at Hibs Supporters’ Club, four small audience groups are gathered, clutching plans of the space in four different colours.

The Tin Soldier is memorable if a little confusing for children

Theatre reviews: The Tin Soldier | Tinsel Toon | One More Sleep Till Christmas

IT’S rare to see a children’s show for Christmas that makes such a bold attempt to tackle difficult and painful themes, without even offering the solace of a happy ending; but that’s what we get, in a flawed yet powerful new version of Hans Chrisian Andersen’s Tin Soldier, produced by Scotland’s company led by disabled artists, Birds Of Paradise, in association with the Festival Theatre.

An artist's impression of what the new Citizens' Theatre will look like after its 24-month refurbishment

The Citizens’ Theatre company prepares to hit the road as its Gorbals home gets a major refit

Christmas is coming; and on a Saturday afternoon at the Citizens’, the glorious red-and-gold auditorium is packed with excited children and their families, revelling in artistic director Dominic Hill’s wonderful production of Cinderella, in the brilliant 1989 version by Scottish playwright Stuart Paterson. When it first opened in 1878, the Citizens’ – known in its earlier years as the Royal Princess’s Theatre – was built with panto in mind, with huge backstage scene-painting workshops and costume stores, as well as a fine sloping walk-down stage, and a warm, curving auditorium built for audience participation; and as the Cinderella team draw the panto audience straight into the action, it’s clear that that old magic is still working perfectly, 139 years on.

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