About Me

My Photo
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.
View my complete profile


Blog Archive

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Betrayal, theatre review

Published in the Guardian
Four stars

THE greatest challenge in staging Betrayal - written by Harold Pinter in response to his seven-year affair with Joan Bakewell - is to make it seem more than a study of narrow bourgeois concerns. Had it been written in the age of Twitter, this portrait of a relationship between a woman and her husband's best friend would come with the hashtag #firstworldproblems.

But a distinguishing quality of Dominic Hill's revival of this back-to-front love story is his mastery of every beat of the script and, yes, every Pinter pause. What he brings, in his inaugural production as artistic director at the Citz, is such steely precision that each moment really counts.

It comes across as an unflinching vision of the emotional inarticulacy of the British upper-middle class, as Neve McIntosh (wife Emma), Hywel Simons (lover Jerry) and Cal Macaninch (husband Robert) give a masterclass in staring each other out. At moments of intimacy just as much as moments of tension, they hold their expressions as rigid as masks, letting us project on to them a barrage of subtextual angst and ecstasy.

All three are terrific. McIntosh is the sensuous woman whose passions are constantly reined in by the duplicity of her affair and the restraint of her partners. Relatively speaking, Simons is her most forthcoming mate, but he is ever likely to withdraw when matters get intense. You would call him the epitome of the buttoned-up male if you hadn't seen Macaninch's militaristic reserve. When the men say they are friends, we have to take them at their word, because they display the wariness of strangers and only the faintest glimmer of icy, dry humour.

Particularly effective is the set by Colin Richmond, which uses screens and a revolve to create a fluid journey back through time. Performed without interval, this Betrayal is tough, intense and rings true.

© Mark Fisher, 2012 (Pic: Richard Campbell)
More coverage at
Sign up for theatreSCOTLAND updates
Sign up for theatreSCOTLAND discussion

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Ana, theatre review

Published in the Guardian
Three stars
BINARY thinking is at the heart of this fascinating, if ultimately frustrating new play. It is the result of a two-way collaboration between Scotland's Stellar Quines and Canada's Imago Theatre; it has two playwrights in Clare Duffy and Pierre Yves Lemieux; and it is written in two languages, English and French.

This duality extends into the play itself. At every moment of crisis, the eponymous Ana finds herself splitting. In the theatrical equivalent of quantum mechanics, she can be two people at the same time. Born to the goddess of the house of stars, she becomes queen of the underworld, while her sister, the first of many opposites, takes charge of fertility. After that, she can be found at any point in history, whether in the form of a prostitute in revolutionary France, the daughter of Charles Darwin or a hippy poet at a Vancouver rock festival.

In its imaginative leaps, it has the flavour of Ibsen's Peer Gynt; in its straddling of time and space, it reminds you of the epic plays of Robert Lepage. For the most part, it's dizzily entertaining, performed by a six-strong team of Anas emerging in scarlet costumes from a set of movable kiosks, with the genial Alain Goulem bringing things down to earth as a bilingual ring master.

Fluidly directed by Serge Denoncourt, it is full of vivid scenes on the theme of mother-daughter bonds, birth and rebirth, mirror images, compromise and survival. Up until two-thirds of the way through, it is as gripping as it is intriguing. The longer it goes on, however, the less meaningful it gets; what starts off as an extraordinary piece of work ends up unsatisfyingly vague about its purpose. 
© Mark Fisher, 2012 (Pic: Tristan Brand)
More coverage at
Sign up for theatreSCOTLAND updates
Sign up for theatreSCOTLAND discussion