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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me on Twitter at MarkFFisher, WriteAboutTheat and LimelightXTC I am a freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers. I am also editor of The XTC Bumper Book of Fun for Boys and Girls: A Limelight Anthology. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide.
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Blog Archive

Monday, October 30, 2006

Sweetness and shadows

My latest articles include a review of Sweet Bird of Youth at Dundee Rep and an interview with Cara Kelly about Shadow of a Gunman at the Citz. Despite her winning the Best Female Performer gong in the Critics Award for Theatre in Scotland this summer, this is only her third ever interview.

Sweet Bird of Youth is very good. If you're making the trip to Dundee this week, get there a couple of hours early so you can see the excellent Killing Time exhibition at the neighbouring DCA.

Read more at Mark Fisher's Scottish Theatre Links

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Latest theatre reviews

Just spent rather too long updating my website. Check out Mark Fisher's Scottish Theatre Links for reviews of the Tron's production of The Tempest, Random Accomplice's Something Wicked, Visible Fictions' Jason and the Argonauts, Dudendance's Droopy Met Hal, as well as features about Dundee Rep's Sweet Bird of Youth and Douglas Henshall in London.

Monday, October 09, 2006

MSPs miss the NTS

A revealing claim in the the Observer yesterday that no leading MSP has attended a performance by the National Theatre of Scotland. I agree with Ruaridh Nicoll that it's a shocking state of affairs. Theatre is part of our civic life and for parliamentarians to avoid it is a derelection of duty. I don't imagine they were too busy catching up with other performances to find time for the NTS.

Meanwhile at the Traverse, artistic director Philip Howard is following the Tony Blair school of resignation. A story in the Scotsman at the weekend revealed he will leave the Edinburgh theatre at the end of 2007.

Among articles of mine published yesterday were interviews with Alasdair Gray, Nicholas Hytner and Zofia Kalinska. Links at Mark Fisher's Scottish Theatre Links

Monday, September 25, 2006

Autumn almanac

Seems it's been a while since I've posted anything here. Sorry to let down all my billions of readers. There's just been too much darned theatre to see.

Usually there's a bit of a lull in September while the theatre world has a lie down after the Edinburgh festival and takes a deep breath before the autumn season. Not so this year. Thanks in large part to the National Theatre of Scotland, there's been loads to see already - and we've not even reached the end of September.

There are the three shows by the new NTS Ensemble – all of which are worth seeing if you can make it along to the community centres where they're performing – the first tentative steps of the NTS Young Company, which has performed one lunchtime show and is about to open another as part of Arches Live, and there's the high profile Tutti Frutti (I expect my review to be in tomorrow's Guardian).

This is in addition to the Play, Pie, Pint lunchtime series, now operating in Glasgow and Edinburgh, the busy Arches Live programme and new productions from the Royal Lyceum, Boilerhouse, Wee Stories (Is this a Dagger? is a great mini-Macbeth), Catherine Wheels, TAG, Borderline, Dogstar and others.

All this and more on Mark Fisher's Scottish Theatre Links.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Edinburgh Festival Fringe reviews

As always the Edinburgh Fringe is all-consuming, so no time to waste. There are links to some of my most recent theatre reviews and previews at Mark Fisher's Scottish Theatre Links.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Kylie in Edinburgh

My exploits with Kylie Minogue are published on the Guardian's Culture Vulture blog today. That version's been cut down to size. The full text is below.

On Mark Fisher's Scottish Theatre Links today, there's a load of new links to Edinburgh Festival and Fringe articles I've recently been churning out.

Here's my Kylie piece:

This is what it's like at the Edinburgh festival. One minute you're getting all intense over My Name is Rachel Corrie, the true-life tale of a woman killed by an Israeli bulldozer, the next minute, you're out on the town with Kylie Minogue, fending off autograph hunters and getting nasty looks from neighbouring tables for making too much noise in an Italian restaurant.

On Saturday night, little Kylie – who is made of porcelain and takes up less space than a mobile phone – flew up from London with her two-strong management team to see Finding Marina at the Royal Botanic Garden. The show, performed by young victims of Sri Lanka's civil war, is directed by Toby Gough, who famously cast – or should that be miscast? – sister Dannii as Lady Macbeth in the Botanics in 1999.

Kylie has lent her support to the Sri Lankan project, sponsoring one of the performers in last year's tsunami-themed Children of the Sea, and visiting the country earlier this year when her course of treatment for breast cancer came to an end in Melbourne. Staying in true pop-star style on Taprobane, a tropical island hideaway (listen out for her forthcoming song about it), the 37-year-old hung out with the young performers, rode on the back of an elephant and joined in a sing-along on the company bus.

So in Edinburgh, after enjoying Finding Marina and walking straight past the paparazzi photographer who somehow failed to notice her getting into the black limo behind him, she made a bee-line to Gough's other show, a Cuban dance spectacular called Havana Rumba! which is playing to sell-out audiences at Assembly's St George's West.

Tipped off that the princess of pop was in town, I arrived at the theatre to the sound of the final applause only to discover that Kylie had taken to the stage for the final number. She'd alarmed her management by dancing on Gough's shoulders, wobbling precariously in front of the audience, many of whom had no idea who this diminutive unannounced guest was.

Dressed in a peaked blue John Lennon-style cap over tight-curled blonde hair, Kylie was every bit as pleasant and polite as they say. When she was interrupted later in the evening by a fan who spotted her in Giuliano's, the Leith Walk Italian family restaurant, she gamely agreed to have her photo taken, but quietly said no to an autograph.

By this time, Gough, fuelled by copious quantities of Cuban rum, was holding forth at a volume more suitable to addressing 27 Sri Lankans in the open air. "You're the loudest bullshitter I've ever heard," said one disgruntled diner as he left, not realising he was shouting over the shoulder of the most famous woman on the planet.

Kylie, meanwhile, was unperturbed, picking at her vegetarian anti-pasti and deep-fried calamari, and trying out an Indian dance routine as Gough told her she should be trying to break into the Bollywood market. She left at 1.30am, promising to hook up with the Sri Lankans the next morning, before vanishing again into the mysterious land of pop.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Slope theatre review and further huffing and puffing

I'm still going on about the Scottish smoking ban, this time on the Guardian's Culture Vulture blog. Two people have joined in the discussion there so far, but the Scotland on Sunday page is up to 114 responses.

Meanwhile on Mark Fisher's Scottish Theatre Links there's a link to my theatre review of Slope by Pamela Carter, directed by Stewart Laing.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Smoking, promoting and theatre reviewing

Been away for a few days, so haven't drawn attention to two articles from last weekend. One is about Culture Ireland giving Scottish theatre a run for its money on the Edinburgh Fringe. The other, which I didn't write, but I did do most of the interviews, is about the smoking ban on stage.

Why has one attracted 107 responses and the other none?

Meanwhile, my colleague Shona Craven has started a new theatre review website called On Stage Scotland. I'll be adding details to Mark Fisher's Scottish Theatre Links soon.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Glasgow/Russia/the world

New on Mark Fisher's Scottish Theatre Links today: a touching story of teenagers from Glasgow and Russia joining forces and a profile of Edinburgh company Highway Diner as it prepares a work-in-progress presentation of Building Skyscrapers for the Arches.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Stewart Laing's Slope

Interview with Stewart Laing and Pamela Carter about Slope in yesterday's Scotland on Sunday. Follow the link on Mark Fisher's Scottish Theatre Links.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Wired for sound

If you wanna get ahead you've gotta get some headphones. Edinburgh Puppet Lab's Ghost (returning to the Edinburgh Fringe) required the audience to put on a set and head off onto the streets of Leith to listen to a pre-recorded play. A couple of months ago, Visible Fictions' Prince Unleashed gave young audiences headphones to let them hear the inner thoughts of the characters. Now David Leddy is giving audiences at Glasgow's Botanic Gardens an MP3 player and headphones for Sussurus, a pre-recorded play inspired by A Midsummer Night's Dream. Leddy's back with another one on the Edinburgh Fringe, as is Irish company the Performance Corporation.

My Sussurus review is on Mark Fisher's Scottish Theatre Links as is a piece about Mull Theatre.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Moor Moors controversy

Vicky Featherstone, artistic director of the National Theatre of Scotland, is in The Scotsman today after a BBC programme to which she contributed was pulled from the schedule. It seems she said she'd have been interested to have dinner with Myra Hindley, one of the Moors Murderers. Having met Hindley in prison, Featherstone is convinced she was a reformed person and had a fascinating experience to share.

Despite all the terrible crimes that have happened over the past 40 years, the Moors Murders have not lost their capacity to provoke outrage in the UK. So sensitive the subject, so raw the wound of the victims' families, that it's impossible to say anything about the crime without causing upset.

There's a show called Wasted coming to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe based on transcripts of appeals by Myra Hindley against her life sentence. According to reports, it was banned by the Lakeside Arts Centre in Nottingham on grounds of taste. It's interesting that a verbatim transcript of something that was said in public can be considered bad taste when put in a theatrical setting.

You don't have to believe it's OK to kill five children to question the degree of thought control that's going on here.

Back to more frivolous concerns, new additions to Mark Fisher's Scottish Theatre Links include reviews of Summer Lightning and Chimneys at Pitlochry and a news report on the Edinburgh Fringe for Variety.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Agatha Christie premiere

Not every day you get a European premiere by a long dead thriller writer, but that's what Pitlochry Festival Theatre has come up with this season. Agatha Christie's Chimneys vanished from view after the orginal production was unexpectedly cancelled before the first night, only to resurface in Canada a few years ago. The Pitlochry production is the first time it's been seen in Europe. My review is in The Guardian today.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Edinburgh Festival Fringe programme launched

The programme for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe was launched on Thursday which means there's no let up between now and August when the biggest arts jamboree in the world hits town. The programme is so vast it's a bit like the Bible - you can prove anything from its contents. But my initial hunch is that there's an uncommon about of verbatim theatre and, perhaps, less frivolity than usual. Follow the link in the Latest Articles column in Mark Fisher's Scottish Theatre Links to see what I've said about it in today's Scotland on Sunday.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Critics Awards for Theatre in Scotland: the winners

A lively afternoon at Dundee's Discovery Point yesterday celebrating the best theatre of the past 12 months. See CATS winners for the results.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Critics Awards for Theatre in Scotland

Writing this before heading up to Dundee for the ceremony for the Critics Awards for Theatre in Scotland. By a neat coincidence, in Scotland on Sunday today is an article I've written about Nothing, which had two nominations in CATS in 2004. The Henry Green adaptation, first seen at the Citizens' Theatre, Glasgow, has been revived for a run in New York under the direction of Philip Prowse. Follow the link at Mark Fisher's Scottish Theatre Links.

Talking of critics, playwright Catherine Czerkawska has taken up a theme from this blog on her Wordarts blog.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Collection, Gorgeous Avatar and Children's Festival

Been a bit slow adding to my website a couple of theatre reviews I did recently. Follow the links for an impressive revival of Mike Cullen's The Collection by Rapture Theatre and a second review of Jules Horne's Gorgeous Avatar at Edinburgh's Traverse.

Talking of which, Horne's Gorgeous Avatar blog includes information about all aspects of the production process, but no comment on the critical reaction. For a first-time writer, having your work reviewed, favourably or otherwise, must be a novel experience and it would have been interesting to read Horne's reactions on the blog.

But, unlike Catherine Czerkawska whose Wordarts blog talked about the critical response to a play she wrote for A Play, a Pie and a Pint a few months ago, the Gorgeous Avatar blog is silent. That's because it's as much the work of the Traverse Theatre's marketing department as it is of Horne herself and, for perfectly good reasons, the company doesn't want to get into a tit-for-tat spat between critics and writer.

There is a problem about artists responding to critical comments because they're always going to have a vested interest in defending their work. It's too easy for them to sound biased, deranged, defensive, hurt, blinkered, etc - whether or not they are any of those things. This is frustrating because reviews should be the start of a discussion not the end of one. And the blogosphere is the perfect arena for such a discussion to take place.

Czerkawka's most recent post is about her reactions to the TAG/National Theatre of Scotland production of The Crucible (links to my reviews on my National Theatre of Scotland page). I happen to agree with her assessment, but that's not the point. What would be healthy is if more people - critics, artists, audience - joined in the discussion.

But before you do that, do check out the Bank of Scotland Children's International Theatre Festival this week. So far I've seen The Giraffe's Journey, a bonkers Italian show performed in a home-made hut, Them with Tails, hilarious improvisational storytelling by Tall Stories, and Shopping for Shoes, an excellent if too short story about the pressures of global capitalism by Visible Fictions.

Monday, May 22, 2006

National Theatre of Scotland Transform & Royal Lyceum season

The National Theatre of Scotland is operating at all levels of the theatre ecology, which means community projects as well as glamorous nights in posh theatres. Transform is one such community project, taking place in four locations, responding to the ideas of local people and resourcing them on a level much higher than your average amateur show. My interview with Simon Sharkey was squashed into a smaller than expected space in Scotland on Sunday yesteday, so I've put the original article here at NTS Transform

Elsewhere in Scottish theatre, Edinburgh's Royal Lyceum has announced its autumn/spring programme.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Children's Festival and Don Quixote review

Two articles published yesterday about the Bank of Scotland Children's International Theatre Festival, plus a review of Don Quixote by Theatre Modo. Find them all at Mark Fisher's Scottish Theatre Links.

Friday, May 12, 2006

So-so sofas: review of Gorgeous Avatar

Recently a director told me she had it on good authority that we critics were agreeing on our opinions before we'd written our reviews. The allegation was that now we were presenting the Critics Awards for Theatre in Scotland we wanted to show a united front.

The idea is ridiculous. Apart from the impracticality of getting everyone to agree when most of us have deadlines less than 12 hours after the end of the performance, the truth is we are meticulous in not sharing our opinions with anyone before we write. None of us likes the idea of being influenced by our colleagues.

All the same, I wouldn't blame Edinburgh's Traverse if it accused me and Neil Cooper of collusion this morning. My review of Gorgeous Avatar in The Guardian opens with: "There was a time when the Traverse's script-reading panel would throw away any play requiring a sofa. Today, living room dramas are the official house style."

Neil's in The Herald begins: "Confronted with yet another living room sofa in a rural domestic interior, one's heart sinks on entering the premiere of Jules Horne's debut full-length play."

Needless to say, there was no plagiarism involved, but equally our train of thought is more than coincidental. Consider this sequence of Traverse productions since 2004: The Nest, set in a bothy up a mountain; Shimmer, set in a guest house in the country; In the Bag, set in a Chinese yuppie flat; I was a Beautiful Day, set in the living quarters of a long-term care home; East Coast Chicken Supper, set in a Fife living room; and Melody, set in an Ayrshire living room. The only play that bucks the trend of small-scale domesticity is The Found Man which is set in a number of locations around a costal village.

Of course, it's not Jules Horne's fault that Gorgeous Avatar adds another play to this sequence, but the production is symptomatic of two things. One is the reluctance of writers to think on a big scale (though plays have to be set somewhere and living rooms were good enough for Sean O'Casey, Noel Coward, Oscar Wilde, Arthur Miller et al). More significant is the Traverse's default position of naturalism, always providing a real sofa where an imagined one might be more liberating and theatrical. Are playwrights well served by such literal interpretation of their work?

You can follow the progress of Gorgeous Avatar on Jules Horne's blog.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

CATS Awards and reaction to SAC move

The shortlist for the Critics Awards for Theatre in Scotland has been released. My colleagues and I spent a long day in a Glasgow hotel at the weekend, deliberating over the ten categories. Putting a dozen of the most opinionated people in Scotland in a room for six hours is always a high-risk strategy - and the day did have its outbursts - but we survived it in remarkably good humour. We even hit the pub that evening for a few more pints than was sensible on an empty stomach. A pariticularly strong shortlist this year, I think.

Meanwhile, The Stage reports on the fallout from the Scottish Arts Council publishing its internal reports online. It isn't too specific about where the "backlash" is coming from, though. Borderline, of course, is disgruntled, being one of the companies facing the axe, but it was disgruntled before the reports were made public, so its reaction is hardly a backlash. It'd be interesting to know who "many of the country’s leading theatre organisations" are - especially when, by the article's own admission, Lizzi Nicoll, director of the Federation of Scottish Theatre, has welcomed the move.

New on Mark Fisher's Scottish Theatre Links today, a review of Ali Smith's The Seer.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Scottish Arts Council goes public with its theatrical opinions

The Scottish Arts Council has always kept quiet about its internal discussions of artistic standards. In fact, for many years, you could believe it didn't consider art to be of much importance at all, so obsessed was it with the tick-box mentality of audience targets, etc.

But two things have happened to change all that. Firstly, the organisation has made a policy shift away from the audience and towards the artist - although it still sounds confused about what that means. Secondly, it has responded to pressure from aggrieved theatre companies by making public its internal assessments of their work. You can download pdf files of the SAC's reviews here.

Having scrolled through a few of them, I'm stuck by how poorly written many are. It doesn't inspire confidence in the writer when an assessment is riddled with mistakes. I know these were never intended for public consumption, but internal communications need to be literate too.

As for the assessments themeselves, there is the odd quirky opinion, but on the whole they're reasonably close to the mark. And better that the companies know how their work is being treated than the former clandestine approach.

New on Mark Fisher's Scottish Theatre Links: a review of Elizabeth Gordon Quinn, an interview with up-and-coming tenor Nicky Spence and a behind-the-scenes look at Pitlochry Festival Theatre.

Coming soon: a review of Ali Smith's The Seer and the shortlist for the Critics' Awards for Theatre in Scotland.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Ali Curran leaves Tron/Male and female audiences

After a year as artistic director of the Tron Theatre in Glasgow, Ali Curran is heading home to Ireland. The surprise departure comes just as she was about to launch the company's 25th birthday celebrations. Reasons are unclear, but she is said to have "burgeoning commitments" in Ireland and an advisory role in Romania for Sibiu's European Year of Culture 2007.

On Mark Fisher's Scottish Theatre Links today is another review of Good Reason by Reeling and Writhing. Someone observed that the women in the audience are leaving in tears and the men are leaving wondering what all the fuss was about. I was in the last camp. Could it be that there are different aesthetics for men and women? Am I just conditioned to respond to the "masculine" action of a tightly plotted play? Could I be reconditioned to accept the rules of something concerned more with exploring emotion than with narrative drive? Or is it universally true that the best way to explore emotion is through the forward thrust of a dynamic plot?

Monday, April 24, 2006

Chris Hannan, Denise Mina and Good Reason theatre review

My interview with playwright Chris Hannan was squeezed into a tight space in Scotland on Sunday yesterday, so I've included the article as I first wrote it here (and even then, there was a lot more I'd have liked to get in). Also on Mark Fisher's Scottish Theatre Links today is an interview with crime novelist Denise Mina who is stepping out into the world of theatre with a play at Oran Mor in Glasgow. And there's a review of Reeling and Writhing's Good Reason.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Sarah Kane meets Graeae

Two articles published in today's Scotland on Sunday - an interview with director Jenny Sealey about staging Sarah Kane's Blasted with her Graeae company, touring to Scotland this week; and an interview with Francis McKee about Glasgow's new art festival, Glagow International, and the plans for the city's financially troubled CCA which he is running for the next few months. Links to both are on Mark Fisher's Scottish Theatre Links

Saturday, April 15, 2006

All the "ars": Artemis Fowl, Arthur Miller and the Arches Theatre Festival

Just brought Mark Fisher's Scottish Theatre Links up to date with a few recent articles.

They include a conversation with Richard Reed Parry of the Arcade Fire, who's contributed music for an installation at the Arches Theatre Festival in Glasgow - and, in the same article, a chat with Adriano Shaplin of the Riot Group. The latter could easily have made a feature in its own right - Shaplin's a bright guy with a lot to say.

There are also a couple of reviews of Arthur Miller's The Crucible performed by a mixed cast of professionals and amateurs for TAG and the National Theatre of Scotland - with mixed results.

My interview with Eoin Colfer was published in much reduced form by the Sunday Times: get in touch if you're an Artemis Fowl fan and I'll send you the full version.

There's also an interview with playwright David Harrower about the success of Blackbird.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Death of Ian Hamilton Finlay & Roam takes to the skies

Today on Mark Fisher's Scottish Theatre Links find links to a visual arts piece reflecting on the legacy of Ian Hamilton Finlay and an interview with director Ben Harrison about Grid Iron's site specfic theatre show Roam, performed at Edinburgh International Airport.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Ethical eating and a damp squib of a show

Today on Mark Fisher's Scottish Theatre Links I'm out and about at Edinburgh's Iglu restaurant eating an organic meal. And there's a review in The Guardian of Benchtours' Crowhurst which left me feeling all washed up.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Theatre review of Poorboy's Falling

There's a strange rash of shows on the theme of heaven and hell around in Scotland at the moment. You can choose between the Royal Lyceum's Faust, the Arches' Inferno and - new on my site today - Poorboy's Falling.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Four new Scottish theatre reviews

It's been a busy couple of weeks in Scottish theatre, with many of the key companies launching new shows. With the help of a couple of matinees, I clocked up eight in six days last week. New today on Mark Fisher's Scottish Theatre Links are four reviews: Phedre at Perth Theatre; Crowhurst by Benchtours; Molly Whuppie by Licketyspit; and Prince Unleashed by Visible Fictions.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Review of Dante's Inferno

Hell is big this month on Scotland's stages. New today on Mark Fisher's Scottish Theatre Links a review of Inferno at the Arches, Glasgow.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

More Home, more Faust

New on Mark Fisher's Scottish Theatre Links today, a couple of articles recently published by Variety: a round up of the National Theatre of Scotland's Home shows and a review of the Royal Lyceum's Faust.

Monday, March 13, 2006

The Talented Mr Ripley

Not the film but the play. A theatre review of The Talented Mr Ripley at Dundee Rep on my site today.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Lynn Ferguson and Una McLean

Published today is an interview I did with Una Mclean and Lynn Ferguson - follow the link on Mark Fisher's Scottish Theatre Links. Both of them are starring in the new Douglas Maxwell play, Melody, which opens at the Traverse Theatre on Tuesday. Also on the site today is a theatre review of EH6 by Edinburgh's Puppet Lab - a beguiling puppet show for adults.

Friday, March 10, 2006

I've got a site map and I'm going to use it

Hang out the bunting! Crack open the champagne! Mark Fisher's Scottish Theatre Links now has its very own site map.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Soul-selling with Faust

Yesterday I mentioned it was tough to give a one-star review (though not nearly as tough as receiving one, I'm sure). Writing about something you like can be difficult in a different way. Today's review of Faust seemed to take me all weekend to write. It felt like the ambition of the production, the fact that it was in two instalments and my enjoyment of it were all conspiring to make it impossible to say anything sensible. In the end, I had to sell my soul to the devil just to get it written.

Monday, March 06, 2006

The cruelty of a one-star review

Should I have been kinder in my one-star review of 7:84's Free-Fall today in The Guardian? In normal circumstances, it'd be just another show, but the company is under threat of closure because of funding cuts from the Scottish Arts Council and it's cruel to kick a man when he is down. I wondered about giving it two stars, but the only reason I could think of for a second star was I felt sorry for the company. That didn't seem to be a very good reason. Still, the show has received three-star reviews elsewhere (even a four-star in one case), so it's only my opinion.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Website updates

New today on Mark Fisher's Scottish Theatre Links: a review of 7:84's Free-Fall and news of the appointment of Jonathan Mills at the Edinburgh International Festival. On the homepage there's an update of Scottish theatre productions in April and links to articles about Jerry Springer the Opera and Visible Fictions' Prince Unleashed.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

SAC shake-up

The Scottish Arts Council has changed its way of funding theatre companies and other arts organisations. It is putting its money into two pots: one for long-term "foundation" funding; the other for one-off "flexible" grants. The changes will be good news for those granted more stability and, theoretically, for a generation of younger artists. Bad news, though, for Borderline, 7:84 and others, whose regular funding has been withdrawn.
On Mark Fisher's Scottish Theatre Links today: more articles about the National Theatre of Scotland

Monday, February 27, 2006

New director for the Edinburgh International Festival

The next director of the Edinburgh International Festival is Jonathan Mills, who takes over from Brian McMaster in October 2006.

His background is in music but he's had experience programming theatre as the artistic director of the Melbourne International Arts Festival.

Also on Mark Fisher's Scottish Theatre Links today: a link to my first report on the National Theatre of Scotland's Home project published in The Guardian.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

National Theatre of Scotland gets under way

Spent the past few days racing up and down the country seeing five of the ten plays in the National Theatre of Scotland's inaugural Home project. In honour of the occasion I've set up a new page on Mark Fisher's Scottish Theatre Links dedicated to the National Theatre of Scotland. Over the next couple of days I'll be adding my reviews of the first week.

Also on Mark Fisher's Scottish Theatre Links today is a link to an interview with Linda Marlowe (insider insight: I did this interview in the summer and have patiently waited until now to use it) and the news that the new director of the Edinburgh International Festival will be announced tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

7:84 under threat/Lorca reviewed

Latest writing on Mark Fisher's Scottish Theatre Links. Thoughts about the future of 7:84, which has its funding threatened by the Scottish Arts Council. And, in my role as theatre critic, a review of Blood Wedding joins my Citizens' Theatre reviews

Friday, February 17, 2006

Lost in translation

Today you can find me saying something or other in Slovak in the Bratislava-based SME newspaper. English speakers should stick with me at Mark Fisher's Scottish Theatre Links.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

A Valentine's Romeo and Juliet

Published coincidentally on Valentine's Day, my review of Romeo and Juliet at the Citizens' Theatre, Glasgow, is published in today's edition of The Guardian. See Citizens' Theatre Reviews

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Polish performance art, a transgendered playwright and Edward Scissorhands

All life is there in the three articles by me published today. In Scotland on Sunday, you can read about playwright John Clifford as he translates Goethe's Faust with reference to his own experience of being transgendered. In the same paper, there's a short review of the National Review of Live Art - follow the link in the Latest Articles column on Mark Fisher's Scottish Theatre Links. And still with my theatre critic hat on, there's a review of Edward Scissorhands in the Sunday Times - also in the Latest Articles column.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

National Theatre of Scotland draws near

All praise to the wit of Paul Iles at the Blackpool Grand who's launching a National Theatre of Variety a matter of days before the launch of the National Theatre of Scotland. Whether his variety artistes will be able to upstage Scottish theatre's ambitious Home project remains to be seen. He's got stiff competition in the form of ten shows performed up and down Scotland in unconventional theatre spaces. I've written about four of them for the Hi-Arts journal. Follow the link on Mark Fisher's Scottish Theatre Links in the Latest Articles column.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Review of Communciado's The Memorandum

Gerda Stevenson's production of Vaclav Havel's The Memorandum for Communicado began a Scottish tour at the weekend. I caught it at a matinee at Perth Theatre and my review is published in The Guardian today. I interviewed Gerda Stevenson last week about the production - follow the link on the latest articles column on Mark Fisher's Scottish Theatre Links

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Sounds of Progress sounds like progress

The new show by Sounds of Progress is written by RSC actor Forbes Masson, stars four performers from Tanzania and a lead actor in a wheelchair. Read my article in today's Scotland on Sunday by following the link in my list of latest articles at Mark Fisher's Scottish Theatre Links

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Performance art, live art, avant garde . . . you name it

Today you'll find me huffing, but mainly puffing about performance art, which is suddently everywhere in Scotland: three festivals taking place this month. Are people intimidated by it and if so should they be? The article is published in The Scotsman and you'll find it here: performance art

Friday, February 03, 2006

How to get a credit card with the Royal Bank of Scotland

After nearly a year of trying, I finally got a credit card for my Royal Bank of Scotland business account today. Here is the story, one you won't find on my website, in all of its ridiculous detail.

♦March 2005: You set up your business account, request a credit card and sign various documents.

♦A few weeks later: you haven't heard anything about the credit card, so you call the business advisor. It seems you hadn't filled in the form, so he'll send you one in the post.

♦A few weeks later: you haven't heard anything about your application, so you call the business advisor. He tells you that head office had returned the form, but he could see nothing wrong with it, so he has resubmitted it.

♦A few weeks later: you haven't heard anything, so you call again. The business advisor is on holiday but his boss tells you that you've been given the wrong form and that for a business credit card you need to prove you have equity. She'll send you the right form.

♦Some time later: You're told there's a new type of credit card which doesn't need equity and you receive what you believe are the right forms.

♦A few weeks later: you haven't heard anything, so you call again. You are told the business advisor no longer works at the branch and his boss is away. Someone else calls you back to tell you that you are no longer the responsibility of anyone in your local branch but someone at a branch further away. This is news to you. They will refer your case to him.

♦Two weeks later: the business relationship manager in the second branch sends you a letter. He thanks you for your "recent" application for a business credit card. He probably doesn't get the joke. He gives you yet another form to fill in. Clearly the Royal Bank doesn't have enough information about you. You suspect the bank doesn't have business credit cards and is too embarrassed to admit it.

♦Around the same time: you see an advert for the Royal Bank telling you what a wonderful personal service it offers. It mentions nothing about waiting nine months to get the right forms or being moved without notification from one branch to the other. Your realise the new business relationship manager probably thinks it's a bit rubbish too, but he didn't commission the adverts.

♦Through all this time: you wonder why you've been paying bank charges every month on your Royal Bank personal account caused by not having a company credit card.

♦End of November: you fill in the latest form and send it to the man at the second branch in the vain hope that this will be the one that clinches it.

♦December: The business relationship manager calls you up, apologises for the delays so far, but promises that the card has been approved and it'll be on its way.

♦Some time later in December. Another call from the business relationship manager. It seems the whole process has gone on for so long that the application forms have been redesigned. So although your credit card has been approved, you can't get it until you've filled in yet another form. He'll send it in the post.

♦January: You fill in the new form, get it countersigned and returned to you, then return it to the bank.

♦February: Just before the year is out, the credit card arrives. Easy really, isn't it?

Thursday, February 02, 2006

More on the National Theatre of Scotland

The new-look website of the all-new National Theatre of Scotland (NTS) is up and running. Follow the link here: National Theatre of Scotland And it's looking pretty good. Inevitably there are some areas still to be developed, but for now there's extensive details of the organisation's first few shows (including dates for Grid Iron's Roam, previously not announced) and some insight into the behind-the-scenes workings of the organisation. I've just finished an article for Hi-Arts, the Highlands and islands web journal, about the NTS opening production, Home, which takes place in ten locations around Scotland. In the Highlands and islands, you can see performances on a Shetland ferry and in a doll's house in a shop in Stornoway. The only frustration will be not getting to see all ten shows - it's physically impossible to see more than a handful. Keep track of new articles on my website

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Scottish theatre links update

New on the Scottish theatre links today is a rather nice picture from Glasgow's Arches Theatre to promote Inferno, the company's first in-house production of 2006, its 15th anniversary year. You can see it here Arches Theatre company

Yesterday's blog claiming the NTS detailed programme would be online proved to have been premature. The site says it'll be there today. National Theatre of Scotland

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

National Theatre of Scotland online

The new National Theatre of Scotland is due to upgrade its website today. It will carry more detail about its inaugural programme, which starts on February 21 with a series of ten performances called Home that take place up and down the country. Follow the links on my Scottish theatre links website:

  • Scottish theatre companies N
  • Monday, January 30, 2006

    Pitlochry, Elaine C Smith and Brian Rix

    It's always remarkable that Pitlochry, a small and picturesque town, can support a large and popular theatre that packs them in through the summer months.


    So it seems more remarkable still that the same town is now supporting Winter Words, a weekend literary festival in the same location in the midst of January. I was there on Saturday to chair a session with well known lord, Brian Rix, and well known dame, Elaine C Smith, and the theatre was buzzing with life.

    Rix and Smith were in fine anecdotal form both on and off stage. Rix in particualar has changed career so many times in his 82 years - actor, miner, farceur, theatre manager, Mencap president, writer, arts council drama panel chair, house of lords, etc etc - that it was like interviewing several people at once. Smith with her acting, directing, writing and campaigning isn't far behind.

    Some chairing sessions are about trying to get the speakers to talk - this one was about trying to get them to stop. I only just wrapped up the event in time.

    Best conversation over dinner was about actors they'd worked with who'd been pissed on stage.

    New on the website today is a link to an article in Scotland on Sunday about a new gallery in Leith called the Corn Exchange.


    Saturday, January 28, 2006

    First things first

    The bulk of my journalistic work as well as comprehensive links to Scottish theatre websites is archived at my website: Mark Fisher's Scottish Theatre Links:

    I'll be using this blog to write about the writing - if that doesn't turn out to be too self-referential for its own good.