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Archive for March 30th, 2008

Seen in preview, this was the first venue of what will be an extensive tour for Jim Cartwright’s show about a dysfunctional mother with a shy but vocally talented daughter.

Famous, and much loved for their panto performances, Elaine C Smith and Andy Gray starred as the mother and boyfriend/agent.    They played this in a knockabout Glasgow style, which although well done, and certainly crowd pleasing had me wondering about the piece.     By the end, I am sure that the audience should be feeling sorry for the situation mother Mari finds herself in, and I am afraid I really wasn’t.     Elaine C. Smith was rather playing (panto) Elaine C. Smith playing Mari as a grotesque Glasgow drunk.

This rather altered the balance of the piece, and took away from the rest of the story, and the other characters.    Debbie Saloman did a pretty good job of being LV, and getting round all the songs.    Andy Gray grew into his role as he realised LV’s talent, and brought out his serious side.     But it is the shocking sight (and it really was) and sound of Elaine C. Smith stumbling about the stage in her lurid tights and dangerously short tops which is the image one takes away.    I am just not sure it should be.

And, for goodness sake –  Perth Theatre is small and seats 500.   So, LV aside,  why on earth was everyone miked up?   It may need it in big houses like The Kings in Edinburgh, but in Perth it was total overkill.

To be fair, the crowd enjoyed this hugely, and it should do well on tour.    

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What is it about Dundee Rep that makes its Shakespeare productions really come alive?     Romeo and Juliet directed by James Brining was a magical tale, thrillingly told by a strong and enthusiastic cast.  

We have had strong casts before at other theatres in Scotland who seem to so often miss the mark with Shakespeare.     But here, the pacing of the language was perfect, and delivered by the actors as if they really cared about what they were about.    

The strength of Dundee Rep is the ensemble of players, many of whom have worked together  for years now.    And encouragingly, there are always some new faces thrown into the mix, and not with bit parts.    Hannah Donaldson, in one of her first major roles, played Juliet, and Kevin Lennon was a tousle-haired Romeo, and a great pair they made – building up their relationship to great heights, so that when it ended, it was all the more awesome.

But it is perhaps unfair to single out two performances when there simply was no weak link in the rest.     But I have to mention Ann Louise Ross being a terrific nurse, and Cliff Burnett a haunting Friar.    It is so good to have Cliff Burnett back at the Rep again.

Neil Warmington’s astonishing wonky street set was stunningly lit by Chris Davey, and Brian Docherty’s soundscape created a magical atmosphere.    Flying beds, a grand piano and standard lamp at crazy angles, and a little snow drew us in immediately.

We took a few 17/16 year olds with us, and they were very impressed indeed.     It was a three hour show, but it really did not feel like it, so it must have been good.  

And, I have to say, great value.     Adults were £16 at the weekend, and under 26s were £4.    That’s cheaper than the cinema for the youngsters.    Other theatres in Scotland should take note.

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