The best theatre to see in Scotland this autumn
- Gareth K Vile
- 8 September 2015
From Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at the Playhouse to Britain's Got Bhangra at the King's Theatre
Alongside the Lyceum's anniversary year, the autumn seasons in both Glasgow and Edinburgh – not to mention Dundee – reveal the wide range of theatre that exists beyond the Fringe. From lavish musical adaptations to experimental live art – via the revival of a seminal Scottish script – September and October have something for most tastes.
For the spectacular, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels comes to Edinburgh Playhouse (15–19 Sep). Based on the film with Michael Caine, it stars Michael Praed, best remembered in Robin of Sherwood, and adds a swinging soundtrack to the story of two con-men at large on the French Riviera. Despite memories of his role as ITV's mystical medieval outlaw, Praed shows tremendous comic skills and the songs evoke the 1950s before rock'n'roll changed the world and Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr were still idols.
With the Whitney Houston film The Bodyguard arriving at Edinburgh Playhouse (29 Sep–10 Oct) in musical-theatre form and Shrek touring, film adaptations seems set to take over from the jukebox musical. Glasgow has a revival of Britain's Got Bhangra, first produced in 2011 and now given a new version by Sell a Door Theatre, a company which is restless in its enthusiasm for all sorts of scripts, and recently ran an entire venue during the Edinburgh Fringe.
David Hutchinson, Sell a Door Theatre's artistic director, is keen that the show will 'reach out to new and returning audiences'. Unlike many musicals, Britain's Got Bhangra reflects the UK’s cultural diversity. 'The writers have created a fantastic celebration of dance and culture within the modern narrative of a talented artist aspiring to fulfil their dreams,’ notes Hutchinson. ‘In the reality TV age, this story taps into the aspirations of so many, against the colourful backdrop of the British-Asian community.'
On a smaller scale, Peter Arnott is presenting his new script, Ensemble, in a series of readings across Scotland from late September. Looking at the effects on theatre-making in East Germany during the communist era, it asks pertinent questions about the relationships between creativity and control, and how a community can develop in adversity. Given the arts' obsession with 'community orientation' – which can often be an attempt to impress funders than develop a group of people who have a meaningful connection – Ensemble might be a challenge to simplistic thinking about theatre and politics.
It's a bold move by Dundee Rep to revive The Cheviot, The Stag and The Black, Black Oil (9–26 Sep) as 7:84's production is an iconic script and film that inspired a generation of writers. Harshly condemning the destruction of the Scottish countryside, and its communities, The Cheviot was the first 'ceilidh play' that went out into rural communities and a new production will have to confront its massive influence.
Aby Watson's There’s no point crying over spilt milk at Glasgow’s Tron Theatre (14–17 Oct) has graduated from earlier incarnations at The Arches, and is perhaps as far away from the grandeur of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels as you can get. A meditation on childhood, with live music and a subtle glance at how memories shift with time, this piece is a duet for performer and musician that leaves a melancholic feeling and a sense of how childhood delight and fear are tamed by maturity.