The Magic Flute

Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Four stars

Touring until June 22

The Red Lion

Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh

Four stars

Touring until June 22

Little Top

Johnstone Town Hall

Two stars

Touring until June 1


Scottish Opera continues its rich vein of form with this superb revival of Thomas Allen’s 2012 production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute. Allen’s production stands in the UK tradition of performing this famous opera in English.

It’s a tradition based, entirely reasonably, upon the desire of the original librettist, Emanuel Schikaneder (who wrote the libretto in German, rather than fashionably operatic Italian), to create an opera that was widely accessible. Allen’s staging enjoys a witty English translation by Kit Hesketh-Harvey (with English supertitles).

Thanks to Allen’s bold theatricality, we are taken to the very heart of this 1791 opera’s playful-yet-serious exploration of the clash of ideas in a Europe that was in the grip of both Enlightenment thinking and, increasingly, revolution. Matters begin straightforwardly enough as earnest and handsome Prince Tamino (excellent Dutch tenor Peter Gijsbertsen) begins his quest to rescue the daughter of the Queen of the Night, the beautiful Pamina (soprano Gemma Summerfield making a fine Scottish Opera debut) from the clutches of the mysterious and (allegedly) evil Sarastro.

However, it isn’t long before the moral ambiguities of the situation kick in. Mozart and Schikaneder (Enlightenment Freemasons both) soon take us into a world (albeit a male-dominated one) in which Sarastro’s Masonic cult is pursuing a path of wisdom and reason.

Designer Simon Higlett represents the splendid and fantastical elements of the piece with a marvellous, Terry Gilliam-esque visual aesthetic. For instance, the three angelic boys who guide Tamino and his hilarious sidekick Papageno (Anglo/Swiss baritone Richard Burkhard on delightful form) fly above the action, propellers spinning on their umbrellas.

The production abounds with memorable performances. American bass James Creswell performs Sarastro with the perfect combination of dignity and arrogance, while British soprano Julia Sitkovetsky sings the Queen of the Night’s famous aria with awe-inspiring vocal dexterity.

It’s a long way from the supernatural and intellectual conflicts of Mozart’s opera to the dirty dealings and personal crises of Patrick Marber’s non-league football drama The Red Lion. The play is a taut three-hander in which two older men, Jimmy Kidd (manager of rising non-league side The Red Lion) and John Yates (the kitman with a long association with the club), take very different views of the arrival of promising, young player Jordan.

Jordan (a Christian who is emerging from a troubled past) represents financial salvation for Kidd and a kind of moral redemption for Yates. Consequently, the drama unfolds like an English version of Glengarry Glen Ross, David Mamet’s drama of merciless, male competition (only here, the older men have already fallen from the precipice and are trying, desperately, to clamber back onto higher ground).

Director Michael Emans’s production for Rapture Theatre achieves a tremendously tense atmosphere as the conflict between Kidd and Yates degenerates into the emotional and psychological equivalent of a bare-knuckle fight. Brendan Charleson plays Kidd with an old school managerial swagger which is punctuated, powerfully, by moments of anguished self-awareness.

John McArdle is equally impressive as Yates, A broken, likably decent man who, when the moment comes, is absolutely excoriating. Young Harry McMullen also puts in a strong performance as Jordan, a truculent teenager who knows more than Kidd and Yates give him credit for, but less than the situation requires. Designer Frances Collier’s detailed and naturalistic dressing room set (which is replete with egregious, cutaway brick walls) is hampered by an ever-swinging cupboard door.

There’s nothing superfluous in Marber’s tight-yet-flexible script, however. The writing glows with poetic insights into the meaningless momentousness of football and its descent into venality.

From the circus that is the beautiful game to a real circus in Little Top. The latest work from Scottish pre-school theatre specialists Starcatchers (in co-production with SUPERFAN), the show is aimed at babies aged up to 18 months.

The piece is presented in designer Becky Minto’s charming, miniature circus tent and played by fine, young performers Gabrielle Cook, Kim Donohoe (who co-created the production with director Ellie Dubois), Arron Sparks and Nat Whittingham. It is a conventional, nicely executed circus show involving juggling and acrobatics of various kinds and a lovely musical score (which draws upon 1980s synth-pop) by Kim Moore.

For all its accomplishments, however, Little Top has a fatal flaw. The watchword in creating theatre for babies is “interactivity”.

However, here, the show begins with a request that parents and carers keep their babies with them, safely behind the line separating audience from performers. Needless to say, long before the 40-minute performance was over, a number of the little ones were visibly (and audibly) distressed at having to be restrained.

The 10-minute “play time” tagged onto the end of the show falls way short of the level of interactivity required of work for the very youngest audiences.

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For tour details for The Red Lion, visit:

For tour details for Little Top, visit: