SCROOGE! – The Musical Pitlochry Festival Theatre

SCROOGE! the musical – Book, Music and Lyrics by Leslie Bricusse  running at Pitlochry Festival Theatre until Friday 23rd is a dramatic delight.

A large cast is headed by Philip Rham and supported by an onstage live band. The band are almost hidden by the set’s chimney pot skyline, but the music is great.

Three sets of youngsters take the juvenile roles and we saw The Red Team who were excellent. But I’m confident the two other teams are good, too. If I might be permitted a minor quibble I found the casts’s voices a little over-miked. Really minor though.

Scrooge is of course based on Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, 1843. The programme notes tell us the original was a commentary on Britain’s infamous Poor Laws with their introduction of Treadmills in the Poor Houses. The piece is as much needed today as it ever was.

PITLOCHRY FESTIVAL THEATRE

GAME PLAN by ALAN AYCKBOURN

Theatre Al Fresco

Theatre Al Fresco

 

Game Plan by Alan Ayckbourn at Pitlochry Festival Theatre was an absolute delight. Directed by Richard Baron and starring three female actors, the play explores that most volatile of human relationships between a mother and her teenage daughter.

Lynette and Sorrel Saxon – Amanda Osborne and Kirsty Mackay – find themselves abandoned (for another woman) and penniless ( internet business is like that). Lynette works as an office cleaner and Sorrel is faced with having to commute into her prestigious London school. While Lynette is securing interviews and calling in favours with various degrees of success, Sorrel goes off to talk to the ‘BAD Girl’ who was expelled from her school for soliciting. She also leans on her dotty friend, Kelly – Gemma McElhinney – to help.

Let the farce begin.

Delicious one liners, slow burning jokes (what is that sink plunger doing there?), excellent costume choices and a superb ending ensure the whole play captures and enthrals from the get-go.

Run continues. Tickets here

Starter’s Orders Pitlochry Festival Theatre

Pitlochry theatre in the hills

Pitlochry theatre in the hills

Pitlochry Festival Theatre’s 2016 season opened for us with the towering production of CAROUSEL. Musicals often have a dark underbelly camouflaged by sparkling songs, energetic dances and a sharp book. CAROUSEL scores on all levels.

Ferenc Molnar was Hungarian and he wrote the original play, Liliom. According to the programme notes he had already turned down approaches from Puccini and Kurt Weill before agreeing to let Rodgers and Hammerstein have the right to adapt and set it in America.

The Pitlochry production opens with a dance routine and the setting up of the carousel where Billy Bigelow is the barker. Apparently having a young and attractive male barker was the key to running a successful carousel as it drew in the girls. Of course being young and attractive can go to a guy’s head and it’s not long before the conflicted Billy is breaking hearts and breaking his own ties with a job and his self-esteem.

George Arvidson delivers a memorable performance as Billy shining as both actor and singer. He’s from Denver and has already been heard as Count Almaviva in the Marriage of Figaro. He’s well supported by the ensemble cast.

The techies and stage designers have had a great time with this production and bring some wonderfully humorous touches to it just when the audience might be feeling the emotional strain of the domestic violence theme. I won’t spoil that because you’ll want to be surprised in your turn.

Our performance was a sell-out.

Run in repertory with matinées at 2pm and evening performances at 8pm until Saturday 15th October 2016.

tickets here Pitlochry Festival Theatre

Anne Stenhouse’s historical romance is here

Home and Beauty Somerset Maugham

Home and Beauty by Somerset Maugham is one of this year’s line-up at Pitlochry Festival Theatre.

Directed by Richard Baron the play takes on accepted social norms of 1919 and trashes them conclusively.

Victoria, played with wonderful energy and total self-belief, by Isla Carter is a monster. She manages to equate marrying two DSOs with war-work and Maugham spares us nothing in her hedonistic outlook on life which sees her hogging the coal to have a fire in her bedroom while the rest of the house freezes.

Mayhem ensues from the moment her dead first husband, Major Cardew returns and in a scene of unalloyed farce, takes a wee while to learn that his wife has married his best friend in his absence. Major Lowndes then makes sterling, but ultimately futile, efforts to leave his wife to her first husband.

The play is a delight of exploding social norms, human frailties and that age-old maxim – Be careful what you ask for, lest you achieve it.

The audience need only remember what’s predictable in today’s climate of hapless males being taken to the cleaners by the women in their lives, was by no means expected in 1919. Mark Elstob gave a joyful performance of the divorce lawyer, AB Raham, trashing any regard for the law a lawyer might be expected to hold. In this character, Maugham shows remarkable prescience. Indeed taken as a whole, the celebrity culture of today is laid out by him.

 

Pitlochry Summer Season in the hills

The brochure for the Pitlochry Festival Theatre’s 2015 summer season has been tantalisingly present in the in-tray for several weeks.

Lots of favourites like an Ayckbourne, a Wilde, A Maugham, a Bennett, A Greig and opening with the truly wonderful A little Night Music by Sondheim.

Here’s a link: Pitlochry 2015 See whether you can make a choice. If not see you at them all.

Don’t forget to build in time to walk round the Plant Explorer’s Garden. Accessed from the theatre car park, it’s a fascinating haven just off the A9.

PASSING PLACES by STEPHEN GREENHORN

Passing Places by Stephen Greenhorn, has always been on at the wrong time or in the wrong place for me so I was really glad to be able to catch it last Saturday evening at Pitlochry.

It did not disappoint. Richard Baron’s fast moving direction made excellent use of the unusual set by Adrian Rees.

The programme note by Baron refers to the different aspects of Scotland the play tackles such as “geography, its industry, history, and ethnicity,” One thing, however, I found in the play was an underlying hymn to the break-up of family and the reconstituting of ‘family’ for those abandoned or ejected.

Alex seems to have no Dad. Brian had a mum, who destroyed his life-changing project, but she dies, Mirren has a dad and no mum either. Mirren’s dad has no wife and now his daughter can’t bear to live with him. The villain, Binks, has a mum he clearly adores in the sentimental way that gangsters are often portrayed as doing. How did they get so far off the rails, then?

There’s no sense that Greenhorn is advocating the ubiquitous ‘family values’ beloved of desperate politicians, but there is a strong sense of how people fit in. It’s a poignant moment when Diesel tells Mirren she’s not right for his commune.

Coming of age was never more beautifully depicted – oh, and that’s an important word in this script.

Dates until Friday 17th October 2014. Treat yourself, and the family, whoever they are.

Mr. Bolfry by James Bridie: Pitlochry Festival Theatre

Mr. Bolfry by James Bridie is in the 2014 season at the Pitlochry Festival Theatre. It’s directed by Patrick Sandford.

It’s really hard in this age of anything goes behaviour to remember what it was like to be discreet on a Sunday, to avoid offending the ‘man of the house’ or of ‘the cloth’ and to listen while an elder told you his philosophy of life. Plays that use exposition are definitely in the minority.

And yet…

In Mr. Bolfry, Bridie captures so much of what shapes our humanity and our relations with other humans. The Meenister is on his pedestal, but he’s had an inner demon to overcome and is all too ready to see Mr. Bolfry as a dream spectre and manifestation of his own disordered mind. Bridie was a doctor, remember.

Mrs. McCrimmon, beautifully rendered by Isabella Jarrett, is a character who has a position to uphold, but that position depends on the man she married. As sometimes happens, it becomes more important to her to keep the rhythms of her household unchanged and unchanging lest the Meenister be in any way unsettled.

The catalysts for bringing all the seething to the surface are two-fold. Jean. a wayward niece, is recuperating with her aunt and uncle after a bomb scare in London and the two engineers billeted on the manse are bored nearly to death by the Highland Sunday.

Summoning up devils seems like a really good lark until Bolfry, in the commanding presence of Dougal Lee, appears among them.

I loved the open stage set with its views of the endless mountains and the encapsulated closeness of the manse. I thought the second world war was brought to the stage with a light hand. I enjoyed the niece’s pointing up of the immeasurable gap between her and her relatives. I’m glad the theatre re-visited this piece.

 

Perfect Days: Pitlochry Festival Theatre

Perfect Days by Liz Lochead and directed by Liz Carruthers is a play of its time: the biological clock as a topic of conversation was once very hot. In the Director’s cut for Perfect Days in the programme, Liz Carruthers confesses she was aware of it throughout her own thirties and had her first child aged forty-one. So one is not surprised by the wonderfully sympathetic tone of the production.

Perfect Days is also about obsession. What is it like to be obsessed by something to the extent that all pride and dignity are set aside by the compulsion to satisfy that obsession? And it’s about a lot of the other small things of life that make a complete personality. Mothers and daughters have their ups and downs, but there’s always time to resolve matters, isn’t there? When we are THE ONE helping with something, we deeply resent anyone else muscling in, don’t we?

And Perfect Days is about language. Sharp Glasgow patter updated to encompass the passage of time since the play made its first appearance.

Everyone adores Barbs, the celebrity hairdresser, and wants a share of her – their share. Her perfect cleaner (Mum), her perfect ex, Davie, her perfect friend, Alice, employee, Brendan and lover, Grant. Barbs wants a baby. She doesn’t want to go on living her perfect life as it’s seen by these others, without that tiny person.

One of the most powerful scenes in the play is Barbs’ attempt to make her mother understand the depth of her longing for the unknown baby. Why won’t her mother agree that single mums can do a good job – didn’t she?

It’s a gleeful celebration of modern urban life and the new family realities. A strong cast, wonderful set and sympathetic direction made the whole production an entertaining and thought-provoking afternoon. Truly worth catching, if you can.

Run, in rep, at  Pitlochry Festival Theatre till Thursday 16th October 2014 at 8pm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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International Stages

Water Puppeteers – Vietnam

I’ve been on holiday.

 

 

 

 

 

This blog has been shamefully neglected for several months and I’m really sorry about that. However, there is a reason. If you occasionally wander over to Novels Now where I write about my prose work, you will know there have been two historical romances published by MuseItUp this year under my name.

MARIAH’S MARRIAGE and BELLA’S BETROTHAL are available from many online retailers including amazon:

http://goo.gl/NxYxj5 Mariah’s Marriage

http://goo.gl/5RBzIm Bella’s Betrothal

http://goo.gl/f0zFKa MuseItUp’s Bookstore.

They are dialogue rich (would you expect anything else?) books with a lot of between the sexes humour and a frisson of the dark and dangerous underworld of nineteenth century London and Edinburgh.

The drama you ask. What about the drama?

From the picture at the top of this post you can see I was in Vietnam and while there visited Water Puppet shows. The first in Han Noi was in a dedicated tourist theatre. There was a host of lovely folk tales and excellent work with the dragons, fishermen, snakes et al. It was, however, spoiled for me by the constant photography of other audience members. Doesn’t it occur to these selfish peple that if they hold their dinky little camera above their heads for a minute, nobody sitting behind them can see the stage?

Do they care?

The second puppet show was out in the country and a much warmer experience. That’s the one photographed above. More dragons and excellent workmanship and nobody getting between the audience and the performers.

Home again and I’ve seen Crime and Punishment, adapted from the Fyodor Dostoyevsky novel by Chris Hannan, at the Royal Lyceum theatre.

Sadly the run is now finished, and the Edinburgh performances came after the Citizens and Liverpool. It was so good and brought the huge canvas of Russia and its slum people to an audience who might not know much about them. I didn’t and left feeling entertained and enriched.

An ensemble cast gave excellent support to Adam Best playing Raskolnikov. The stage was cluttered with their props and odd chairs, but everything came into its own and the movement from back to front to back was like a mirror of what it’s like to live in such massing, seething crowds.

I was abroad during Dark Road’s run.

I also enjoyed two Matinée + evening days at Pitlochry this summer. Enjoyed it all and made a first tour of the Plant Hunters’ Garden which I really recommend. Talk about hidden gems. It’s really worth getting there a little early for.