2017 Glasgow Theatre Throwbacks

In 2017 I consumed the most theatre, of any 12-month period of my life. Three ballets, three dramas, two pantos and one musical. This is less impressive considering I joined the marketing team of Motherwell Theatre, where assessing the competition is all part of the job. So here’s a look at my rated and slated productions, starting with the best…

Faithful Ruslan

Michael Glenny and Helena Kaut-Howson’s adaptation of Georgi Vladimov’s novel
The Citizen’s Theatre Glasgow

  • Rating: 10/10
  • Story: A Soviet guard dog’s life takes a strange turn when his prison camp is liberated and he is made redundant; a haunting tale of unhealthy love.
  • Best bit: Movement director Marcello Magni’s work with star Hunter Bishop to mimic perfectly a guard dog’s inclinations.
  • Worst bit: The second act, which was slow and left nothing to the imagination.

Blood Brothers

Bill Kenwright Production
The Kings Theatre

  • Rating: 9/10
  • Story: In depression-hit Liverpool, twin brothers are separated at birth, before being tragically reunited in a bittersweet tale of social injustice.
  • Best bit: Willy Russell’s comic writing teamed with Kelvin Towse’s musical direction makes light work a heavy topic.
  • Worst bit: The cast’s accents – particularly when playing children – were grating.

Hansel and Gretel

Scottish Ballet Production
The Theatre Royal Glasgow

  • Rating: 8/10
  • Story: It’s WWII in the UK and two ration restricted kids seek sweet treats in town, unaware of the dangers; a refreshing retelling of a classic.
  • Best bit: Christopher Hampson’s dapper 1940s costumes and Caroline Palmer’s ballroom inspired choreography.
  • Worst bit: The second act when the WWII theme was abandoned and the set/ costumes reverted to 17C fairy tale.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf

Rapture Theatre Production
Motherwell Theatre

  • Rating: 8/10
  • Story: In 1960s America, couple Martha and George verbally spar during after-party drinks with their new colleagues; in this tale of everyday lies.
  • Best bit: Robin Kingsland’s comic timing (as George) enlivens Albee’s deadpan humour.
  • Worst bit: The plot is 90% dialogue, which does make it drag a bit.

Jack and the Beanstalk

Spillers Pantomimes Production
Motherwell Theatre

  • Rating: 8/10
  • Story: Merryville (17C Scottish pantoland) is plagued by an evil giant so it’s up to Jack and the gang to slay him, in this all singing all dancing panto.
  • Best bit: The vocals and moves from all the cast, particularly Jack (Craig Anthony Ralston) far surpassed other regional pantos.
  • Worst bit: The plot was, at times, over-narrated.

Ghost Dances

Rambert Production
The Theatre Royal Glasgow

  • Rating: 7/10
  • Story: A group of dances on love, life, and death, which climaxes in Ghost Dances – the tale of violence and political oppression in Central America.
  • Best bit: Miguel Altunaga’s dancing was a joy to watch.
  • Worst bit: The random combination of stories, such as a modern retelling of Macbeth, which clashed with the central theme of Ghost Dances.

The Red Shoes

Matthew Bourne Production
The Kings Theatre

  • Rating: 7/10
  • Story: A ballet about a film about a fairy tale; in which a prima ballerina chooses her lover over the musical director who dislikes him; meaning she loses out on great parts, before her redemption is offered to her in the lead part of the Red Shoes film.
  • Best bit: Lez Brotherston’s costume and set design is ingenious, working with stage borders, which spin around to indicate if the theatre audience are seeing the cast acting ‘off stage’, in studio or on the film set.
  • Worst bit: The lack of online synopsis left the audience guessing whether they were booking a ballet based around the film or the fairy tale.

A Christmas Carol

Cumbernauld Theatre Production
Cumbernauld Theatre

  • Rating: 6/10
  • Story: The Dickensian time travel tale is adapted to reflect 21C world crisis, in this touching panto.
  • Best bit: Paper puppetry used to show Scrooge the 21C problems like climate change that lay in the world’s future.
  • Worst bit: The marketing of the panto for children was inconsistent with its adult format (with few songs and jokes).

Love and Death in Govan and Hyndland

Play Pie and a Pint Production
Oran Mor Theatre

  • Rating: 5/10
  • Story: Ivan is a Scottish author suffering from writers’ block; unable to think of anything else he retells the story of his mother’s death from cancer, in this one-man play.
  • Best bit: Stephen Clyde provided a heart-warming portrayal of Ivan’s elderly mother, the typical wee Glasgow woman.
  • Worst bit: Ian Pattison’s writing lacked the dark humour that usually lifts such grim topics.

So that’s my year as a theatre goer! How was yours?

Have you seen these productions and heartily agree or think I’ve got it all wrong? Comment below and let me know…

Traditions and Tales of a Victorian Christmas


Victorian Christmas


Christmas brings nostalgia, often with chocolate box images of Victorian Britain; an association immortalised in Charles Dickens’ novella A Christmas Carol. Now Edinburgh Castle is exploring the period’s festivities with celebrations running from December 19 – 23.

Launching this festive cheer is Assistant Events Manager at Historic Environment Scotland, Fran Caine.

He said: “Our Traditions and Tales of a Victorian Christmas was developed to provide visitors with a festive event that would explore history in an engaging way. It’s always a popular fixture in our events programme.”

Caine explained that the UK Victorian era, through its German royal family members, brought the tradition of decorating yew bows and eventually trees to the country. In keeping with this tradition, Edinburgh castle’s Victorian Christmas will be adorned with evergreen.

He described: “The centerpiece of the castle’s decoration is a Noble Fir tree, which usually stands at around 17-feet tall. Situated in the Great Hall, it proves to be an additional draw for our visitors over the festive season.”

Festivities will also include historically dressed performers, with tales and verses from the Victorian era.

Caine said: “Our performers source their own authentic costumes. Inspired by Charles Dickens, the event centers around a re-enactor portraying one of this period’s most iconic writers.”

Dickens’ depiction of festivities in A Christmas Carol showcases many Victorian conventions that have prevailed.

Caine recalled: “This particular period in time can be seen by many as the origin of the Christmas that we know and celebrate today. It was the start of a number of festive traditions that continued over a century and a half later.”

Among these traditions are annual leave from work and gift exchanging, both made possible by Victorian industrialisation.

Industrial boom in the 19th Century brought newfound wealth that allowed middle class families to take time off work, over December 25 and 26. December 26 then became known as Boxing Day, when lower class people would open the parcels of money gifted to them by employers or benefactors.

Other gifts made popular by the 19th Century were those of toys that, with the introduction of factory production, were made more affordable to the middle classes.

Just as toys became associated with Christmas in the Victorian era, so did games.

Caine said: “We might have swapped festive parlour games for more contemporary versions, but the traditions of Christmases past can still be recognised today.”

Today’s Christmas dinner also has its roots in Victorian custom.

Caine explained: “During Victorian times turkey became the popular meat dish on the Christmas table. Previously goose or beef were the preferred choices. The Victorians were also responsible for the development of the mincemeat filled mince pies that are still enjoyed at this time of year.”

He added: “Many of the festive traditions such as decorating the home, pulling crackers, sending Christmas cards and even the popularisation of the Christmas tree can be traced back to the Victorians.”

To trace these traditions in person, revellers can visit Edinburgh castle from December 19- 23, at 11.15, 12.15, 14.00 and 15.00; during this time Traditions and Tales of a Victorian Christmas is included in the cost of admission to the castle.

Caine concluded: The event will offer a real insight into the festive traditions and customs and how Christmas might once have been celebrated over 160 years ago. It is definitely one for all the family to enjoy.”