Every One by The Royal Lyceum Theatre Company


So much that excites in theatre and cinema is ultimately down to the writing and Mark Thomson has mounted (and brilliantly directed) a show that is, in parts, written with such skill and sophistication, and humour, that it takes the breath away.  However, at others it seems to go AWOL.

The first act of this new play, written by Jo Clifford, is very convincing, moving and utterly absorbing.  It is staged imaginatively and it’s all going in the right direction.  In act 2, however, the show seems to hit choppy creative waters as it steps up its ambition.  But it left me, and my wife, confused.

It’s about death.  Full frontal, no holds barred death.  The great universal.  If we all die let’s not pussyfoot about the issue, let’s just play it straight and that’s exactly how Clifford tackles the subject.

A 50 year old wife and mother suffers a massive stroke and dies soon thereafter.  How it affects her nearest and dearest is one aspect of the show but the greater one (and a less often visited side of the equation) is how it affects the cadaver.  And that makes for great theatre in act one as we build the back story (often hilariously) and reach the momento mori.

The cast is led by the peerless and stunning Kath Howden and ably supported by her “late” husband Jonathon Hackett and death himself in the guise of Liam Brennan.  But they get most of the great lines and all of the power plays.  Less satisfactory for me were the parts for the son and daughter and trickiest of all is the role in the play of the family matriarch, Howden’s mother, who is suffering from senility.  Her part takes us down the most confusing plot alleyways and do not, in my view, always help the narrative.  What I expected was to see Act 2 focus more on grief, instead it becomes more and more obtuse, before coming together in a satisfying climax.

The staging is magnificent.  Philip Pinsky, yet again, pops in with musical magic. ( The point of death being captured in a single electrifying piano chord; once in each act.) And the whole is, overall, very satisfying.  I just wish act 2 had a bit more narrative conviction and storytelling.

Should you go?  You bet.

The Price at The Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh


After The Lyceum’s seasonal break from straight theatre we are back with an emphatic bang.  Decsribed in Wikipedia as one of Miller’s lesser plays I have to say both I, and pretty much everyone I spoke to at the interval and afterwards, took a very different view on this superb four-hander.

Of course, it helps that the set is stunning and intriguing and seduces the eye from start to finish.  And it helps that the cast is collectively the strongest and most compelling I’ve seen on the Lyceum’s stage in the last two years.  These really are excellent, mature, gripping performances from the cast which includes Greg Powrie, Aden Gillett, Sally Edwards and James Hayes.  In particular, Greg Powrie as Vincent, the younger son is absolutely on top of his game.

The story is a simple one.  Two estranged brothers inadvertantly meet in the condemned home of their long dead father to dispose of the father’s furniture before the wrecking balls arrive.

They are joined by the younger son’s near alcoholic (and hideously social climbing and money obsessed) wife and an assett estimator (an 89 year old, world weary, Jewish dealer).  The negotiation of the price for the furniture is an allegory for their collective lives where each has paid a different price for care, love or success.

Whilst it is a heavy piece morally, there is considerable humour; mainly centred around the hilarious performance by the antique dealer, Solomon.

There could easily be a tendency to take this into shouty, screaming pitch territory as tension rises during the show but the Director (the excellent John Dove) resists and keeps everything JUST in control as emotions spill over.

At the interval someone described the script as poetry and like a painting by Rolf Harris in that you can just about make out where it’s going but you don’t know where it is going to end.

Time and again through the second act I reflected on that analogy as it’s true you really can see Miller effortlessly unravelling a mystery of the past as the back story is revealed with great dexterity.

This is theatre at its best.  Go see.

Mary Rose by The Royal Lyceum Theatre Company


OK, I have to start by declaring an interest here. I have recently been appointed as a Director of The Lyceum, which is a huge honour for me and something that I suspect would have found favour with the old man. With this comes the privelege of attending all of the press nights which means a couple of tickets, a glass or three of wine and the best seats in the house. Row A of the Grand Circle to be precise.

It does also, of course, run the risk of watching shows that I don’t actually enjoy.

However, that was certainly not the case tonight; or at either Macbeth or Something Wicked This way Comes, as all three have been outstanding in different ways.

Mary Rose is a ghost story, set over a twenty five year period between the wars and written by Peter Pan creator, JM Barrie. It’s rumoured to be Alfred Hitchcock’s favourite play and one can certainly see why in that it plays with suspense in much the way Hitch did. Hitch claimed that his secret was in winding an audience up through suspense for 15 minutes at a time reasoning that this was more effective than short sharp shocks and this production unquestionably achieves that. For a ghost story there are precious few shocks in it but it’s psychologically chilling (in the same way as The Others – one of my favourite ever horror movies.)

It’s very rarely performed, but did hit London in 1972 with Mia Farrow in the lead and eponymous role. Kim Gerard had the job to do tonight, heading up a very strong cast with stand out performances by Michael Mackenzie, Perri Snowdon and John Ramage.

It’s very much a period piece with the language very evocative of a bygone, highly mannered, era, but it cracks along with no shortage of humour which certainly had the audience tittering.

At its heart it’s a really spooky tale, not unlike Peter Pan in that it deals with the process of ageing in a quite unique way. (Funnily enough, so did Something Wicked…). It deals principally with loss, love and change.

The production is superbly eerie with great use of sound design, set flying and lighting and Tony Cownie’s brilliant direction succeeds in creating a mood of unearthliness. As several of the audience commented to me at the interval, the good thing about this play is that nobody knows it and you simply do not know what’s going to happen next, or how the tale will unravel, so I’ll not say too much for fear of spoiling it for you.

Overall, this is what theatre is all about; involving, engrossing, funny and, unusually, spooky. I’d strongly recommend it.

My biggest surprise of the night was Una McLean’s delightful cameo role as the Caretaker. Una won’t remember me but I worked with her at The MacRobert Centre in 1983 (or so) on Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. She was great fun and one of my fondest memories of the theatre was the night we mooned each other in the wings.

Lordy, lordy. Good old Una.