Review: Rhinoceros, EIF 2017

They say that in times of conservative or regressive politics, the arts flourish because they have something to kick back against. For one thing, if that’s true, we’re in for a wild ride. And for another, given the current climate, it’s almost disconcerting how well early-1960s French absurdism just slots into the present day. In Zinnie Harris’s adaptation of Eugène Ionesco’s play, the appearance of a rhinoceros – or maybe two of them – sets a town off-balance. It soon becomes clear that it’s the town’s inhabitants that are changing into the animals.

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Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

If there’s one thing that warms the cockles of my English tutor heart, it’s teenagers doing Shakespeare. This inaugural production of ShakeDown is a smorgasbord of just that: students from five high schools across Edinburgh, with each school taking an act of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I’m a bit biased here; Dream is one of my favourites. And not to sound like someone’s overenthusiastic Drama Auntie, but I love seeing kids get their teeth into it.

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Review: Death of a Salesman

It is easy these days to forget how ground-breaking Arthur Miller was in his heyday. Hell, it’s easy to forget that Death of a Salesman was written in 1949. It seems to have some timeless quality to it, quite apart from being about as influential as it gets in twentieth century theatre. His points seem like old news to a 2017 audience, but in 1949 – four years post-war, and two decades post-Wall Street Crash – it must have been a phenomenon. In 1949, stories like Willy Loman’s weren’t often told.

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Review: Shirley Valentine

Shirley Valentine is a one-woman show about a housewife with grown-up children, who is bought a ticket for a two-week holiday to Greece. Written in 1986 and very definitely set in the mid-80s, it was made into a (fantastic) film in 1989. I’m delighted that it’s still around, and that this new tour is happening, not least because Jodie Prenger is so very likeable as Shirley. She channels the spirit of your best friend’s mum, sitting at the kitchen table with a glass of wine, peeling potatoes and telling you stories about what she was like at school. Look, I love these kinds of occasion. They’re underrepresented and sorely underrated – funny, and interesting, and insightful. During the interval, I sneak out to text my mum, “Wish you were here.”

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