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Jun 20th

Summer Holiday the Musical at the Edinburgh Playhouse

By Clare Brotherwood

To be honest, I wasn’t that excited about going to see Summer Holiday the Musical.

I was barely into my teens when I saw Cliff Richard’s original film and, for me, there is no-one to beat him.

So, I thought, I’ll just wallow in nostalgia. After all, I still know all the words to all the songs: timeless classics like Bachelor Boy, Do You Wanna Dance? The Young Ones, The Next Time, Living Doll and, of course, Summer Holiday!

What I didn’t expect was to ‘put on my dancing shoes’ during the encore, clapping, cheering and waving along with the rest of the audience, including my young friend for whom the sixties belong to the history books. This production raised the Playhouse’s roof!

This really is a feel good show which brought sunshine into Edinburgh on one of its driecht days. Like Cliff’s other early film The Young Ones, it’s wholesome and fun, and gives today’s young audiences a taste of how uncomplicated life could be in ‘the good old days’!

Peter Yates’ original film script, adapted for the stage by Michael Gyngell and Mark Madigan, is about Don and his fellow mechanics who take an old London Transport bus to Europe for a summer holiday. On the way they rescue three girl singers and an American pop star who is running away from her Cruella de Ville-like mother and her agent - the only dark characters in what is a happy-go-lucky whirlwind of love and laughter. But then, maybe without them it would be too sweet?

Once I looked at the programme I knew it couldn’t fail, musically at least. Any show with Keith Strachan behind the orchestration is bound to be a winner and musical director Rob Wicks and his men do him proud.

On opening night the production was a bit slow to start, the sound echoing, but the company was energetic and enthusiastic and when Ray Quinn, in the Cliff Richard role, joined in he took the show to a different level. He may have big shoes to fill but he does a good job; throughout the show there are some lovely harmonies but Quinn’s voice is a cut above the rest and he also more than matches the dancers with his acrobatics.

Don’s mates each have their own characters. Edwin is the more sensitive member of the group but in Move It Joe Goldie really comes into his own as an Elvis sound-alike; Rory Maguire is lovable as the cheeky Cyril, while Billy Roberts is very much the cocky Jack the Lad as Steve.

Gabby Antrobus, Alice Baker and Laura Marie Benson play perfectly the dippy, giggly singers while Sophie Matthews’ American singer Barbara has extra depth, innocence and then passion.

Taryn Sudding as Barbara’s mother is a wonderfully screeching harridan; only Bobby Crush cuts a sad figure as Barbara’s camp agent with an ill-fitting wig. Famous all his life as a pianist, in the encore it was heart-breaking to see him playing a keyboard attached to the back of the bus (yes, the bus has a starring role too) that no-one could hear.

Summer Holiday the Musical is at the Edinburgh Playhouse until June 23. It then continues touring:

June 26-30: Plymouth Theatre Royal

July 17-21: Brighton Theatre Royal

July 24-28: Blackpool Winter Gardens

July 30-Aug 4: Leeds Grand

Aug 14-18: Wales Millennium Centre

Aug 23-27: Southend. Cliffs Pavilion

Sept 4-8: Dartford, Orchard Theatre

Sept 11-15: Chester StoryHouse

Sept 18-22: Wimbledon New Theatre

Oct 2-6: Stoke, Regent Theatre

Oct 23-27: Aylesbury Theatre

Oct 30-Nov 3: Glasgow Kings Theatre

Jun 20th

“Sunshine on Leith”, King’s Theatre Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe


Eleven years on from the first awe-inspiring tour by Dundee Rep. and with a movie release in the space between, Sunshine on Leith takes to the stage once again with a brand new production from West Yorkshire Playhouse.


With side-splitting Scottish humour married with true to life family drama and down to earth realism, “Sunshine on Leith” ticks every possible box for me.  I found myself bouncing from uncontrollable laughter to sadness and back again in a heartbeat!  From the familiar upbeat strains of “I’m on My Way” I was hooked again, finding myself grinning from ear to ear as I enjoyed this triumphant intelligent musical comedy drama.


The story follows Ally and Davy as they return from an army tour of duty and they set about picking up the pieces of their lives.  Ally is the long term boyfriend of Davy’s sister, Liz.  Liz introduces her brother to her nursing colleague, Yvonne, who is funny, bright, beautiful … but English!  Both couples are welcomed under the roof of mum and dad (Jean and Rab) who celebrate 30 years of marriage.


Part of the genius of this show is the way that the 3 separate love stories are interwoven with a huge back catalogue of hit songs from The Proclaimers.  The songs are not a simple headline grabbing add-on.  They each earn their place and advance the story so seamlessly that it is difficult to comprehend that they were not written for this purpose.  Throw the ‘R’ Away” celebrates the Scottish accent as the boys take a job in a call centre, “What Do You Do?” asks how Nurses should cope with the decline of the NHS, “Let’s Get Married” is an hilarious marriage proposal spoof situated in a Hibs supporters’ bar, “Sunshine on Leith” is a tear jerking lament as a family member lies in a hospital bed … the list goes on and on.  The drama is woven through with side splitting Scottish patter and down to earth characters that will speak any audience’s language.  Playwright and TV writer, Stephen Greenhorn, turned alchemist with this theatre gold.


This new production brings several updates to this much beloved show.  Some work well    and some, not so much.  I was delighted to see that time no longer stood still for the Henshaw family as the show was brought up to date with references to Brexit, The Kardashians and Nicola Sturgeon among others.  These bring fresh laughs and introduce the show to a new generation of fans.  The story took some tweaks from the 2013 movie; bringing in Rab’s estranged daughter (Nikki Patel) and adding extra pressure on his 30 year marriage; which unravels in a great crescendo at the end of Act 1.  Sadly, this production also handed over more of the second act’s tear-jerker songs to the chorus.  While well delivered vocally with beautiful new harmonies, this only served to detract from the hard hitting drama which was previously in very stark contrast to the uplifting first act.


The cast consisted of incredibly talented performers who acted, sang, danced and played instruments giving each scene a family vibe – like an old new year party singalong. Accents tended to be around 50 miles west of where they should be but that was quickly forgiven by the Glaswegian audience.  Performances were superb throughout with outstanding contributions from principals Phil McKee as Rab, Hilary Maclean as Jean, Neshla Caplan as Liz, Jocasta Almgill as Yvonne and Paul-James Corrigan and Steven Miller as Ally and Davy.


This is a great musical.  Get along to see it as soon as you can - Saturday night is sold out in Glasgow.  The tour makes its final stop in Inverness.


King’s Theatre, Glasgow

Tues 19 – Sat 23 June

Evenings at 7.30 p.m. (Saturday evening sold out)

Wed and Sat matinees at 2.30 p.m.

Box Office: 0844 871 7648 (bkg. fee)

Tickets: £23 - £60


Jun 11th

The Darkness or Else the Light at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

By Clare Brotherwood

Now that I am living in Scotland I am finding lots of theatrical gems in Edinburgh.

Not least of these is Strange Town, a registered charity, co-founded in 2008 by creative directors Steve Small (who created the Royal Lyceum’s education department and the award-winning Lyceum Youth Theatre) and Ruth Hollyman, who established the Festival Theatre’s education programme (and has lived in Tokyo where she set up a children’s theatre).

Because of them, each week 350 youngsters, from the ages of eight to 18, are engaged in learning theatre skills through their Youth Theatre groups, their Young Company, and their after-school drama clubs, and showcasing the work of emerging writers. And, as if that wasn’t enough, since 2011 their Young Actors’ Agency has been representing young actors from the ages of five to 25.

In their latest production, around 20 young performers have got together with writer Corinne Salisbury to create a piece about how social media makes us feel.

Who better to take us through the pitfalls than a teenage cast; no-one knows social media and its dark and light sides better than they do. On the bus home I heard someone say the production was like a school play – which is excusable. After all, it was a group of kids, only on this occasion it was a group of kids who, under the direction of professional director Catherine Exposito, were appearing on the stage of the Traverse Theatre and, later this month, the Leith Theatre and the Scottish Storytelling Centre.

Set against a black backcloth with circuit board markings on the floor, the production opens with the entrance of an aggressive group of hoodies in masks – the ‘voices’ of social media.

A mixed bunch of seven teenagers then find themselves invited to a meeting room in the middle of nowhere where a computer tells them that if they each tell their secrets everyone will be equal and there will be rewards.

What follows is how the situation affects different members of the group, especially when it ends with everyone having to take The Test which, because of their early activity on social media, predicts the lives they will leave.

It’s strong stuff, an important piece of theatre with, at the heart of it, the very generation who are part of it, telling the story with credibility and feeling.

Now I think I’ll just ditch my phone!

The Darkness or Else the Light can also be seen:

June 16-17: Leith Theatre

June 23-24: Scottish Storytelling Centre

Jun 7th

Love From a Stranger at the King's Theatre Edinburgh

By Clare Brotherwood

Although it has been a West End hit (albeit in 1936), with numerous radio and film versions to follow, I have never before seen Love From a Stranger.

Apparently, it rather fell into obscurity, which is unusual for an Agatha Christie thriller. Maybe it was because it was co-written by actor Frank Vosper (who fell out of a porthole on an ocean liner and drowned on his way home from the New York run in 1937!).

It is also unusual in that there isn’t a murder in the first act. In fact, it isn’t even a whodunit!

This version, produced by Fiery Angel and Royal & Derngate Northampton, is set in 1958, not the most colourful of times, and designer Mike Britton’s set perfectly reflects the austerity of the era with its earthy colours and women dressed in tweed suits. And the splitting of the set sideways to focus on different areas of the flat is novel, though it leaves the coffee table off centre!

The play is set in a London flat but it is not until well into the scene that we discover who the players are: Cecily Harrington has come into some money, is getting married and is renting out her flat. The annoying pseudo Mrs Bouquet, played by Nicola Sanderson, is her Aunt Lulu, and Mavis is her friend and sharer in the £50,000 win.

The first scene has a 50s feel - restrained and colourless, despite a lively performance from Alice Haig as Mavis - and seems overlong as Cecily (spinster material if ever I saw it) agonises over her doubts about her forthcoming wedding.

But, of course, all is not what it seems, and what starts out seemingly as a rather turgid play blossoms into one of the most psychologically frightening productions I have ever seen, thanks to director Lucy Bailey and gripping performances from Sam Frenchum as Bruce Lovell and Helen Bradbury as Cecily. The build-up may be slow but it’s worth the wait, even though I wasn’t sure, in the end, who did what!

Love From a Stranger is at the King’s Theatre Edinburgh until June 9. It then tours:

June 12-16: Theatre Royal Newcastle-upon-Tyne

June 19-23: Everyman Theatre Cheltenham

June 26-30: Theatre Royal Glasgow

July 3-7: Milton Keynes Theatre

July 1014: The Lowry, Salford

July 17-21: Theatre Royal Norwich

Jun 6th

Derren Brown - Underground at Theatre Royal, Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe


Review by David McCourt


Knowing something of how Derren’s show might go I found myself walking to the venue in Glasgow checking every sign post or advertising board for subliminal messages or suggestions of options people may be persuaded to choose during the show. In the theatre, again I couldn’t find anything that I thought would persuade me to make any unintentional choices. Or so I thought…


Derren appears on stage and instantly has you in the palm of his hand. His confidence on stage and presence immediately puts you at ease as he talks about the show all being about 5 secrets. The secrets (which shall remain as such) are the core of the show ... and boy what a show!


There are many words to describe Derren’s show. Spellbinding, Amazing, Unbelievable. It makes you question what is reality and what is fantasy. When the man is on stage, some 20 feet in front of you - totally live - there is no way there are any camera tricks or setups. It’s just not possible, he has nowhere to hide. The show is a combination of all Derren’s abilities. He is an accomplished magician and his love of magic stems from his ‘Papa’ who was, himself, a talented magician. During the show you also find out that Derren learned how to be a hypnotist so he would be more popular. After he’d become a master of both of these, he studied Psychology and has gone on to further master the art of persuasion which, in truth, he demonstrates with great affect. The show is full of good humour the odd mild profanity all of which is in context.


Some of the elements are simply awe inspiring; even showcasing Mr Brown's artistic skills upon occasion!  The original presentation style is a huge winner for the audience.  And all the while, Derren Brown adds seemingly random and unpredictable elements into the tricks ... and yet, the outcome is ALWAYS as he has predicted!!  Incredible.  Derren's quick wit and instant rapport with the audience keeps us enthralled even while we scratch our heads wondering how he did THAT one!!


Throughout the show your concentration is heightened as there are things that if you blink you will literally miss.  The banana, for example (all will make sense when you go see the show). The second half continues with more mind blowing skill. However, telling you about the main event would just spoil it for you.  So, I’m afraid, that will need to remain a SECRET!!!

If you are in two minds about whether to go to see this show ... keep one mind as a spare, as the mind you take with you will be blown!


Derren Brown - Underground

Theatre Royal, Glasgow

05/06/18 - 09/06/18

Tickets £22.90 - £46.90

0844 871 7648* calls cost up to 7 p per minute plus your phone company’s access charge



Jun 3rd

The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other at the Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh

By Clare Brotherwood

If you like people watching then you've just missed the ultimate experience of your life - apart from being on the streets of Edinburgh during the Fringe Festival!

For in what was the Royal Lyceum's biggest ever production, The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other consisted simply of 450 characters talking a walk - and without a word being spoken.

It was staged over three nights, which is little time for something which has been in the making since January. But then it did involve nearly 100 volunteers from the Edinburgh community, so three nights was probably quite long enough for such an undertaking.

The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other was written in 1992 by award-winning Austrian playwright, novelist and political activist Peter Handke, who is regarded as one of the most original contemporary German-language writers, and is celebrated for creating performances uninhibited by conventional plot, dialogue and characters.

Translated by Meredith Oakes with abstract music by Michael John McCarthy, it certainly fitted the bill.

For just over an-hour-and-a-half all we saw were people walking across an empty stage. But it was so much more than that. The characters were from all walks of life and from all ages - from Moses holding up the tablet of the Ten Commandments, and Charlie Chaplin, to tradesmen, hikers, tourists, joggers, nuns and firemen. And through them we got to glimpse the lives of hundreds of people, some real, some surreal, some moving, some laugh-out-loud funny. A few were also able to flesh out their characters, such as the barman, and the super supple jogger who turned up often and must surely have a future in the theatre with his gift for mime.

We couldn't wait for the next character to appear. It was totally engrossing.

It must have been a logistical nightmare for director Wils Wilson and movement director Janice Parker, especially as the entire cast were amateurs. And sourcing the costumes would also have been a mammoth task. It looked like all the theatrical costumiers in the country had been raided!

But this prioduction will go down in history as one of the biggest shows the Lyceum has ever presented - in so many ways.

May 29th

Sherlock Holmes: The Final Curtain

By Clare Brotherwood

When it comes to casting for the part of Sherlock Holmes, Robert Powell wouldn’t have been my first choice.

Perhaps I live too much in the past. I still remember interviewing him in the Scottish Borders in the Seventies when he was making The 39 Steps. He had just become an overnight sensation for his award-winning role as Jesus of Nazareth and, even though he was standing at the head of a loch dressed as a tramp, I swear he was surrounded by an aura!

As for Arthur Conan Doyle’s celebrated sleuth, Jeremy Brett takes some beating.

But things aren’t always what they used to be in this new play by acclaimed playwright Simon Reade.

It’s now 30 years to the day since Moriarty - and, supposedly Holmes - fell to their deaths over the Reichenbach Falls; only Holmes is very much alive and living incognito on the South Coast when, coincidentally, a body is found on his private beach and he receives a visit from Mary Watson, the estranged wife of his right-hand man and biographer Dr John Watson.

What develops only the theatregoer will discover but, apart from a good helping of mystery, jealousy and revenge, Reade, the former literary manager for the Royal Shakespeare Company, has injected a wagon-load of humour into this quirky tale which also involves another of Conan Doyle’s interests… spiritualism. And with that come ghosts and special effects, courtesy of magic consultant John Bulleid. Even the curtain which sweeps slowly across the stage between scenes looks like a… haunting of ghosts?

The play is set in 1922 and Reade, together with director David Grindley, make the most of those revolutionary times, not as Conan Doyle would have presented it but a light-hearted entertainment nonetheless, and despite an almost bare stage except for when the action moves the familiar surroundings of 221b Baker Street.

The thread running through the production is Dr Watson’s account of the case in hand which he is transmitting to listeners on a new invention called the wireless. Timothy Kightley is the archetypal doctor: kindly, gentlemanly and somewhat bumbling, and not always au fait with modern gadgets, which adds to the fun of the evening.

As always, Liza Goddard is very much in command of her role: forthright and dominating; which leaves us with Robert Powell. I could never imagine him as the drug-raddled Holmes of Jeremy Brett, nor the animated Cumberbatch version, but then, in this production, Holmes is supposedly in his dotage – which leads us to another problem for although Powell is now in his 70s he doesn’t look or act old enough to be retired!

Only Roy Sampson, as Holmes’ older brother Mycroft, lives up to our expectations of a Conan Doyle character.

Sherlock Holmes: The Final Curtain is at the King’s Theatre, Edinburgh until June 2, and then continues touring.

May 22nd

Thriller Live - King's Theatre, Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe


Review by Suzanne Lowe


Thriller Live makes a welcome return to Glasgow this week, once again entertaining audiences with iconic songs from the King of Pop.


More of a tribute show than a jukebox musical we are taken through the various eras of Michael Jackson’s back catalogue.  With incredible vocals, dance moves, staging and lighting this show does not disappoint.  Focusing only on his vast range of hits it does not explore the more turbulent times that Jackson had to endure.


Personally I preferred the original staging of the Jackson Five section at the start of the show.  While the lead vocalists were incredible I missed the crowd pleasing performance normally associated with the casting of a ‘young’ Michael.  The projection of a child singing ‘Rockin’ Robin’ with only the female dancers on stage just didn’t cut it for me and the applause from the audience would suggest this number was slightly underwhelming.


Led by the dynamically talented vocalist/resident director Britt Quentin - Shaquille Hemmans, Rory Taylor, Ina Seidou and Eddy Lima all gave outstanding performances bringing a unique element to each of the numbers.  I would find it difficult to single any of them out.  Truly talented people.


The cast of dancers performed each routine with an energy that has to be applauded.  Iconic MJ dance moves executed to perfection.  Hats off indeed to the stamina required to sustain these numbers at each performance.  Definitely one of the hardest working casts I have seen in a long time.


With the performance featuring a selection of Michael Jackson’s hit songs including Beat It, Dirty Diana, Bad (too many to mention really) the stand out number for me would have to be ‘Smooth Criminal’.  With perfect vocals, staging, dance and atmosphere, this number truly came together to be nothing short of spectacular.  A spine tingling moment came in the form of ‘Earth Song’.  The audience fell eerily silent as the first few lines of vocals were delivered.  A remarkable thought provoking song.  We all waited in anticipation for the title number ‘Thriller’ which was performed towards the end of the evening.  Classic moves and costumes ensured that this was worth the wait. 


The audience were definitely up for participating at every opportunity.  Encouraged by cast members at various intervals to get onto their feet they did not need much persuading.  Singing along and dancing this was an audience who left feeling happy and thoroughly entertained.  I would encourage you to go along and grab some of that happiness this week.


Thriller Live – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

21 – 26 May 2018

Evenings 7.30pm (Mon – Fri)

Saturday 4pm and 8pm 

0844 871 7648* calls cost up to 7 per minute plus your phone company’s access charge 


May 4th

Eddie and the Slumber Sisters at Haddington Corn Exchange

By Clare Brotherwood

I may not have been living in Scotland for very long but even before I came north of the border I knew of The National Theatre of Scotland’s adventurous spirit.

And what an adventure reviewing its latest production turned out to be.

Flagged up as the theatre without walls, NTS go out to rural communities, and it doesn’t seem to matter how far.

Its latest production, in partnership with Catherine Wheels Theatre Company, visited Haddington Corn Exchange this week, and the NTS arranged to pick up the press from the nearest railway station and deposit us back after the show (this is not included in a normal ticket!).

Not only were we transported into the countryside but also to… another planet - Planet Slumber to be precise.

At first I thought the show was going to be set during World War Two, for the Slumber Sisters, wearing US-style uniforms, began by singing, in three-part harmony, songs such as Accentuate the Positive. But although the music sounded as if it was from the 1940s it still went down a treat with the younger members of the audience.

Eddie and the Slumber Sisters is suitable for eight-year-olds upwards and is an endearing mix of music, song, magic and imagination which deals with how we treat young people when it comes to bereavement.

As the Slumber Sisters, Natalie Arle-Toyne, Colette Dalal Tchantcho and India Shaw-Smith

are not only top notch singers, they also bring empathy and comedy into the mix as they help 10-year-old Eddie (Chiara Sparkes) come to terms with her grandmother’s death.

Since losing her gran, Eddie has been having nightmares, which begin at precisely 2.17 each morning. Enter the Slumber Sisters who, in a series of bizarre but entertaining experiments, get her to face her loss and sleep soundly again.

With space-age like control towers, a disembodied hand emerging from the wardrobe, a ‘ding ding harness’ made of socks and old tights which India Shaw-Smith uses to get to Earth where she gives a hilarious impersonation of Elvis, there is plenty to entertain audiences of all ages in this 70-minute show while putting across an important message.

Eddie and the Slumber Sisters continues touring:

May 5: Galashiels Volunteer Hall

May 9: Dunoon Burgh Hall

May 12: Raasay Community Hall

May 14: MacPhail Theatre, Ullapool

May 18: Mareel, Shetland

May 23: Clarkston Hall, East Renfrewshire

May 27: Dalbeattie Town Hall, as part of the Dumfries and Galloway Arts Festival

May 30-June 3: Southside Community Centre, Edinburgh as part of the Edinburgh International Children’s Festival

May 2nd

Creditors at The Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh

By Clare Brotherwood

We all know from today’s Scandi-TV series that, when it comes to drama, our Nordic cousins have a dark side.

But this is nothing new. Ibsen, regarded as one of Europe’s greatest writers, is hardly a barrel of laughs, and Strindberg is no different.

Although Creditors, written in 1888, is classed as a tragi-comedy, its laugh-out-loud moments are far outweighed by the melancholic characters in David Greig’s adaptation, which was commissioned by and first presented at London’s Donmar Warehouse in 2008.

Greig, artistic director of The Royal Lyceum Theatre Company, takes it seriously, and rightly so as there is nothing funny about the personalities entwined in this tale of male dominance and revenge.

Set in a Swedish seaside holiday resort, Stewart Laing’s set is as stylised as his direction. His narrow, raked wooden pontoons hardly make for easy walking, and the four girl guides (featuring Lyceum Creative Learning participants) who appear between scenes are like automatons, maybe mirroring the moving sculpture artist Adolph is making? I don’t know. They are very weird but do add colour and substance to the production.

The play begins with Adolph hauling himself out of a pool and lying half-dead on a pontoon. Nearby an older man sits reading a book, but it’s not long before he engages in conversation with the dripping wet Adolph, and things then begin to take a sinister turn.

Acting as his ‘doctor’, the older man, Gustav, questions Adolph about his marriage and his masculinity and eventually turns him against his wife. The dialogue is vicious and malicious and Adolph, a weak young man given to maladies, is given to believe that he will become epileptic if he sleeps with his wife (this is one of the laugh-out-loud moments)!

As the manipulative Gustav, Stuart McQuarrie is very much the devil on Adolph’s shoulder. His venom leaks from every pore and when we learn of his intentions all becomes plain. On the other hand, Edward Franklin as Adolph is a quivering mess of emotion. At times I wanted to cradle him as I would a child; at others I just wanted to give him a good slap!

The object of both men’s interest, Adolph’s wife Tekla, is the strongest of all three characters (though obviously not 100 per cent!) and Adura Onashile rises to the occasion with a compelling performance (though at one point she walked across a pontoon onto the stage – didn’t she get her feet wet?!).

Pippa Murphy’s sound is a bit spasmodic – one minute we hear the sound of lapping waves, the next all is silent - I don’t think the sea suddenly stops moving! And at one time it is a bit distracting. I didn’t much like the repetitive songs, either, though they did add to the atmosphere of growing insanity.

I very much like the presentation in the second act, however, involving an onstage camera-operator and a black and white screen.

Creditors may not be to everyone’s taste but it is certainly an interesting and thought-provoking study of human relationships and in this context stretches the boundaries of entertainment.

Creditors is at the Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh until May 12.

Box office: 0131 248 4848