Category Archives: reviews

Reviews for Rantin

rantinsquareUnique and enticing – The Scotsman ★★★★

An encapsulation of a Scotland that stretches from the Stornoway ferry to a private dining room in Edinburgh, via Donald Trump’s Menie Estate and a supermarket in Port Glasgow.  The Guardian ★★★★

Hurley’s writing is exquisite.- The Stage

The stories are by turns funny, poignant and gloriously internationalist in tone. – The Herald ★★★★

There’s an air of something magical about the whole event, absorbing, atmospheric, lyrical and beguiling, it will send you back into the cold evening air with a fuzzy feeling inside and a few new thoughts about what it means to be Scottish – TV Bomb ★★★★

Seen the show? Add your review by tweeting #Rantin.

Touring across Scotland from January 2014. Information and tickets on

Reviews of Paul Bright’s Confessions of a Justified Sinner

Paul Bright's Confessions prod 2 credit Tommy Ga-Ken Wan“The leading mischief-making genius of current Scottish theatre”

[Stewart] Laing and [Pamela] Carter’s work achieves a thrllling poetic intensity; and touches on something wild and self-destructive in Scotland, and in the human spirit. – The Scotsman ★★★★



Lovingly-told if possibly unreliable memoir  – The Herald ★★★★

Head-spinning production – The Guardian ★★★★

Part documentary (both of Bright and his Confessions), part autobiography (of Anton) and part acting masterclass  … often witty, occasionally hilarious, and always excellently acted. –  The Telegraph ★★★★

Watching the reconstruction, which reinvigorates the book’s ideas of duality, Calvinist guilt and the unreliable nature of “truth”, you can’t help but feel that Hogg would have been proud. The Times ★★★★

Deeply impressive in its detail and diversity- Sunday Herald

Vivid and thought-provoking – The Observer

Questions constantly bubble out of this tightly structured work – Exeunt ★★★★

A production that is genuinely unique and utterly unmissable. – The Public Reviews ★★★★

Paul Bright’s Confessions of a Justified Sinner reconstructed by Untitled Projects is at Tramway, Glasgow Friday 14 – Saturday 29 June. Information and tickets on

Reviews of The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish

Production image of The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish“This is children’s theatre of a very high quality. Swap your Dad for a ticket.”

Travelling along corridors, up stairs, and, even, in an elevator, we follow Neil and his sister from one of designer Laura Hopkins’s imaginatively designed rooms (wonderfully inspired by [Neil] Gaiman’s illustrator Dave McKean) to another. Live music and song, which often entails audience participation, helps us charmingly and comically on our way. – The Telegraph ★★★★

Lu Kemp’s richly inventive NTS company have a huge amount of fun with sets and music, jokes and arguments, and the evolving relationship between Neil and his little sister. – The Scotsman ★★★★

Moving from one bizarre encounter to the next, a feeling takes hold that we are playing a part in a real adventure. – The Times ★★★★

“It’s a deliciously daft concept, a quality Oliver Emanuel’s script and Laura Hopkins’s designs make the most of; but in execution, it is also gripping.”
The Guardian ★★★★

This wonderfully imaginative production certainly deserves a long life in the NTS repertoire. – The Stage

Seen the show? Add your review by tweeting #2Goldfish.

The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish continues its tour to Livingston (2 – 5 May), Edinburgh (8 – 11 May), Stirling (15 – 18 May), Glasgow (22 – 25 May), Inverness ( 29 May – 1 June). Information and tickets on

Reviews for Glasgow Girls

Not, perhaps, since 1973 –when John McGrath and his 7:84 theatre company staged their legendary play The Cheviot, The Stag And The Black Black Oil – has Scottish musical theatre packed a political punch as hard as Glasgow Girls.

Like the Cheviot, Cora Bissett and David Greig’s musical about seven Drumchapel schoolgirls’ successful campaign against the deportation of a refugee family seems destined to be remembered as a landmark show in Scottish theatre.

Boasting a talented, all-singing, all-dancing cast of young women as the titular girls, and fine performances from more experienced actors Callum Cuthbertson and Myra McFadyen in the crucial supporting roles, the piece is as smartly crafted and hard-hitting a work of popular theatre as I have seen in a very long time.

Sunday Herald

Cora Bissett’s production for the Citizens, National Theatre of Scotland and a host of other partners may sucker-punch the audience with a knowingly schmaltzy feel-good opening, but the emotional impact of the show, as conceived by director Bissett with writer David Greig and composers Soom T, Patricia Panther and the Kielty Brothers, is undeniable.

The Herald ★★★★

Throughout, numbers such as At It, by Patricia Panther (who plays most of the nasty characters), emphasise the reality of the story. The letter writing campaign, the trip to Edinburgh to lobby the then first minister Jack McConnell – together with verbatim reports of some of the speeches made at Holyrood – are brilliantly told. It’s related with enough panache to induce tears.

The Stage

The music is by five composers, led by the amazing Sumati Bhardwaj (Soom T). The script is by the magnificent David Greig. And Cora Bissett directs a show that plays up to many of Glasgow’s favourite dreams about itself; but is nonetheless the kind of explosion of great popular theatre that every city and every nation needs, from time to time – to remind it of what it is and what it might become.

The Scotsman ★★★★

Whatever one’s views on the vexed issue of UK asylum policy, by the time this show comes to its close – a fine musical montage built around Robert Burns’s famous poem “To a Mouse” – there can be little doubt that Bissett and co have created a significant milestone in Scottish musical theatre.

The Telegraph ★★★★

See more reviews for Glasgow Girls at Across the Arts or share your thoughts by tweeting #GlasgowGirls.



Reviews of A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol | National Theatre of Scotland

Scrooge meets the Ghost of Christmas Past (photo by Peter Dibdin)

Performed in a small room in the former Govan Town Hall, the walls stacked high with ledgers and scrolls, the show brings us distressingly close to the story’s terrors. Benny Young makes an austere Presbyterian Scrooge, gaunt, grubby and humourless; the last man you’d ever feel sympathy for. Yet when Gavin Glover’s superlative puppets magically appear through the apparently solid walls of the set, they have such a fearsome, otherworldly demeanour, you can only feel for the guy. . .

It is rare to see horror so intensively evoked in the theatre, but it’s not only for effect. Rather than being a sentimental portrait of a man who doesn’t like Christmas, this is an evocation of an unjust society – the true horror of Dickens’s tale – and a powerful broadside against anyone who thinks there’s no such thing as society.
The Guardian * * * * *

[Graham] McLaren (who directed the NTS’s recent and deservedly acclaimed production of the Ena Lamont Stewart classic Men Should Weep) directs and designs this Christmas Carol with a wonderfully complete vision . . .  every aspect of the piece contributes perfectly to its irresistibly magical atmosphere.

A talented cast shift deftly from playing the supporting characters to operating the puppets; giving great physical and vocal expression to, for instance, the ethereal, girl-like Spirit of Christmas Past, the avuncular Spirit of Christmas Present (who hails, somehow appropriately, from Yorkshire) and the deathly Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come.

Deserves to be remembered as one of the classiest pieces of theatre to have been staged in Scotland, not only in the winter season, but at any time of year.
Daily Telegraph * * * * *

This pared-back, inventively staged version of A Christmas Carol uses puppetry to bring the ghosts and their visions into play within the specially constructed intimacy of Scrooge’s workplace. Every inch of this room is crammed with dingy details. . .

What follows is closer to the cartoon horrors of Tim Burton or Neil Gaiman. Puppets, some grotesquely fanciful and even larger-than-life, some persuasively human, even when on a much smaller scale, slip out of the woodwork with alarming ease. . .

There’s no doubting the power and intention of their visitations. Scrooge learns to pity the poor – and Christmas-time theatre is much enriched in the process.
The Herald * * * *

Every inch is put to good use in the National Theatre of Scotland’s first ever festive show. Benny Young is a wonderfully gruff Scottish-accented Scrooge, tartly dispensing the carol singers and charity tin rattlers before supping his gruel and curling up on his bleak counting house floor. The spirits that invade his sleep are puppets, masterfully rendered by Gavin Glover, emerging from the wall, descending from the lampshade, staggering out of the cupboard.
The List * * * *


Benny Young’s Scrooge (think George Osborne crossed with Jeremy Clarkson and given a Newton Mearns accent) sets about humbugging Christmas and everyone who would spread seasonal cheer.

No sooner has the wretched miser cast the well-wishers and charitable fundraisers from his door than he is visited, courtesy of brilliant puppet-theatre maker Gavin Glover, by the most extraordinary series of spirits. . .

Glover’s puppets (which are given great body and fabulous voice by an excellent cast) combine with fabulous live music (by Jon Beales) and sound (by Matt Padden) and flawless costume and lighting design (by Graham McLaren and Paul Claydon respectively) to generate an absolutely compelling atmosphere of Victorian gothic.
Sunday Herald

Reviews of Truant

Fiona Wood in Truant (photo by Eoin Carey)

Fiona Wood in Truant (photo by Eoin Carey)

[Truant] opens up a powerful debate about the importance of public space and debate in creating a sense of community, and supporting families in difficulties.

The show . . . consists of a series of scenes featuring young people in rebellion and not attending school, linked by well researched real-life comments from people around Glasgow.

All of this is performed with terrific flair by [the] cast . . . and it’s woven into a one-hour show which features fine music and sound by Michael John McCarthy, and some beautiful movement sequences by Janice Parker, bringing to life the ambivalent mix of aggression and love in the relationship between parents and troubled teenagers.
The Scotsman * * * *

[Director John] Retallack has the advantage of a terrific cast who bring an array of familiar characters to persuasive life. They young people at the local community centre on the southwest outskirts of Glasgow were rapt.

You need to take a broad view of what “truant” means; this is not just about bunking off school. The suggestion is that all of us, parents and children alike, play truant from our responsibilities.

Kicks any thoughts you may have had about “bloody kids” firmly into touch.
The Times * * * *

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Reviews for 27

Colette O'Neil and Maureen Beattie in 27

Colette O'Neil and Maureen Beattie in 27 (Photo by Richard Campbell)

Faith, hope and not so much charity as big business sponsorship are at the heart of Abi Morgan’s heartfelt new play.

Inspired by Dr David Snowdon’s book, Aging With Grace, based on his scientific study of nuns and the effects of Alzheimer’s disease, Morgan sets up a text-book culture clash between two very different orthodoxies trying to find meaning and enlightenment in a fast-food, hi-tech, wonder-drug world which cares for neither.
The Herald * * * *


A play that invites reflection, and certainly deserves rewatching.
Edinburgh Evening News * * * *

A touching lament for the absolute in a volatile world.
The Guardian * * * *

The scientist and the nun meet in the middle, drawn together by their doubts and their willingness to find sanctuary in their own uncertainties. Along the way 27 touches on such givens as the compromises of marriage and the dubious morality of drug companies, but to its credit never loses sight of its core interest in the fundamentally human struggle for meaning. Directed with clarity by Vicky Featherstone, Morgan’s script … is witty, emotive, multilayered and grounded in reality.
The Arts Desk

While the science and the theology is interesting, the real drama comes, as it should, from the individual people.  While it is not the first time we see a scientist who has to either compromise the research or give up the funding, the fascinating juxtaposition here is with a nun who wrestles her own great dilemma: doubt.

27 is a good option for anyone who enjoys human drama with big ideas and authentic emotion.
Edinburgh Theatre Review

Reviews of Calum’s Road

Calum's RoadIain Macrae gives a fine performance as Calum, a difficult man of unpredictable opinions, who – when not crofting, minding the lighthouse, working as the local postman, or building his road – spent most of his time writing stroppy letters to council officials. John McGeoch’s backdrop video designs are breathtakingly beautiful.

Alasdair Macrae drives the whole 95-minute show forward on a tide of music, often traditional, but sometimes inflected with the hard, electronic rhythms of the world in which we all now live; and which may at last be turning back towards places like Arnish, towards their beauty, their natural richness, and their stories, which tell us so much, and cost so little to pass on.
The Scotsman * * * *

Seen from the perspective of MacLeod’s daughter and her childhood sweetheart, now living far away, the construction of the road is the dying gasp of a condemned culture. Like the Gaelic they no longer speak, it symbolises a way of life that eludes them. It is not just a road but, like this spirited production itself, a poignant reminder of our collective loss.
The Guardian * * * *

It is a performance built around the ensemble even though it tells the story of such a solitary and single-minded endeavour . . . On one hand, the construction of the road is a monumental solo feat; on the other, it is a symbol of romantic futility that affects us all. To build a road single-handedly might seem impossible, but what is really impossible is keeping people living on the island.

The road is the grand gesture of a man who loves the landscape, culture and language he has grown up with. His adult daughter, played by Ceit Kearney, and her childhood sweetheart, played by Finlay Welsh, also feel that love but, having moved to the central belt, they can no longer be properly part of the place. Like the Gaelic language, the island is easier to love than commit to. It means the road is both awe-inspiring and tragic, a mighty accomplishment that failed in its primary aim to regenerate the island.

These contradictions, along with the evocation of island life in David Harrower’s excellent adaptation, help make the production rich, vivid, humane and sad.

Reviews of Men Should Weep

Men Should Weep

Michael Nardone as John and Louise McCarthy as Jenny (photo by Manuel Harlan)

Playing the stoic matriarch Maggie, Lorraine McIntosh brilliantly conveys the sense of being a product of her economic circumstances. She is merciless in criticising her neighbours, ferocious in disciplining her children, and vocal in her complaint that there is “nae work for the men, but aye plenty for the women”. Yet, behind her fury, she shows us a good-hearted woman making the most of the little she’s got. As our own government demonises the poor, hers is an example as pertinent as ever.
The Guardian * * * *

Veteran folk singer Arthur Johnstone punctuates each scene with a presence that accentuates the blistering lyricism of Stewart’s own words. So when John breaks down and says that “All I’ve done wrong is to be born into poverty,” it’s as if he’s mourning his entire generation’s emasculation.
The Herald * * * *

[Playwright Ena] Lamont Stewart has an unparallelled ability to understand and stage true dramatic conflict; the final cataclysmic row … is only the last in a tremendous series of confrontations, each one illustrating more powerfully than the last the sheer impossibility of living a decent, joyful, and morally uncompromised life when there isn’t enough money in the house to feed the kids.
The Scotsman * * * *

Close to perfect in its combination of unerring and entirely appropriate naturalism with the powerfully engaged (and engaging) performances of a universally brilliant cast.
Sunday Herald

This is a generation of men whose only crime, as John cries out, was to be born into poverty. And as such, it cries out a chilling warning to us now, in far more comfortable times.
The Stage

A classic slice of Scottish theatrical life.
BBC Scotland

Reviews of The Missing

The Missing

A scene from The Missing (photograph by Manuel Harlan)

John Tiffany’s production, played against the digital transformations of a giant electronic curtain, has an austere, disquieting beauty, and Imogen Knight’s slow, deliberate choreography establishes the sense of lost souls locked in limbo. But The Missing has the same, elusive quality as a drama that it did as a book – an elegiac, emotional tug that is hard to put your finger on…
The Guardian * * * *

A damningly pertinent portrait emerges of a society so calculatedly splintered that swathes of “killable” men and women can slip through the cracks. The spine-tingling massed chorale that ends an already elegiac masterpiece honours every one of them.
The Herald * * * *

This intensely personal perspective reminds us that we each respond to and make sense of tragedy as individuals, for the world is full of disappearing things and mortality is as dependent on remembering the missing as actually finding them.
The Independent * * * *

The production accumulates a kind of emotional poetry where simple images – glimpses of women hanging out the washing, and those red shoes – have the power to convey a whole barrage of thought. In the end, by making us think about those who have gone, the evening becomes its own tribute to them, a profound act of mourning and memory.
Daily Telegraph * * * *

At times heart wrenching and always visually engaging, with screens and lights used to complement the poignant observations in the dialogue. . .

Whether viewing just one part of the package, or looking at the topic through the multiple artforms on display, The Missing makes an emotional impact across the board.
The List * * * *