Tag Archives: sunday herald

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 Our Teacher’s a Troll

The troll himself is a huge, magnificent and genuinely scary figure; and the story of how twins Sean and Holly reach an understanding with him is both subtle and salutary, particularly when delivered with the help of a fiercely bashed miniature drumkit, and the kind of junior rock’n’roll sensibility that has primary-school audiences roaring approval.
The Scotsman * * * *

A celebration of naughtiness and questionning, it’s a raucous, skin-crawling treat.
The Guardian

A hilarious dark fable . . . the seven actors perform with vigour and great comic timing.
The Herald

Dennis Kelly’s script bristles with humour and combines neatly a journey of moral discovery with the intrepid efforts of the prankster kids to stop the carnage in their school.

John Kielty is on top comic form as hapless teacher Mr McCreedy (among others) while Lewis Howden provides wonderfully trollish gestures from inside the most remarkable of costumes.
Sunday Herald

Writer Dennis Kelly’s inverted moral code plays exceptionally well in director Joe Douglas’s high energy ensemble production. . . pure adrenaline fun all the way.
The Stage

Thoroughly entertaining . . . deliciously enjoyable .  . . The balance between the comic and the terrifying is brilliantly judged.

Reviews of Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off

There’s something truly exhilarating about the sight of a top-flight national ensemble, in full voice, confronting a great text that wrestles with the character and history of the nation itself.

. . . takes the breath away with the fearless theatricality of its cabaret style, and the sheer force of the glittering poetic links it forges between the fraught and unresolved politics of Scotland in the 16th century, and tensions over gender and religion that still haunt our society today.

. . . so brilliantly vivid, intense and intelligent that it becomes irresistible.

Kenny Miller’s design is a triumph, sandwiching the action between giant transparent crosses of St George and St Andrew in floor and ceiling, and dressing the two queens and the chorus, La Corbie, in fabulous postmodern reinterpretations of glamorous period dress, with perhaps the most breathtakingly stylish shoes ever seen on a Scottish stage.
The Scotsman * * * * *

In Alison Peebles’s glamorous in-the-round production for the National Theatre of Scotland, this is a story governed not only by the demands of realpolitik, but by the passions of two women whose libidos have the power to shape history.

In England, we have Angela Darcy’s Elizabeth, all high bosom and explosive red hair; a woman as gifted in the art of strategy as she is prone to jealousy. . .

In Scotland, Jo Freer’s tall and elegant Mary carries herself with an Audrey Hepburn-like grace, choosing her husband for expediency and her companions for pleasure.
The Guardian * * * *

Lochhead’s [play] is unambiguously and resonatingly Scottish. As the torrid sectarian wound of our national history is reopened by the conclusion to another green-and-blue football season, the play speaks to Scotland’s past and present with a welcome creative wit.

John Knox (played with granite determination and hideous swagger by Lewis Howden) walks the tightrope between religious idealist and misogynistic fundamentalist. Jo Freer’s Franco-Scottish Queen Mary [is] a smart combination of misplaced aristocratic arrogance, human frailty and powerful eroticism.

. . . a taut, sparky production.
Sunday Herald

A strong cast featuring Lewis Howden as a fearsomely self-righteous John Knox and the gravel-voiced Joyce Falconer in the crucial role of La Corbie . . . John Kielty, in his long leather coat, makes for a roaring boy of a Bothwell, feckless but fiercely loyal.

There are some extraordinarily effective images, such as the black paper darts that suddenly start to rain down on poor Davey Riccio moments before his murder.
The Times * * *

This is a glamorous show, with Joyce Falconer a Gothic, black-frocked presence . . . and Angela Darcy’s Elizabeth and Jo Freer’s Mary both overtly sexy queens.

a radical re-imagining of a classic . . . worth travelling to see.
The Herald

A bright, sensuous and flamboyant staging of a play that has achieved the status of a classic within the author’s own lifetime.

Makes the Thrilla in Manila look like a playground hair-pulling episode.
Big Issue Scotland