Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Annet Henneman - Finding Refuge in Glasgow

In an upstairs hall in Glasgow, the speakers are pumping out an infectious mix of African dance music that proves irresistible to everyone there. Even though no-one's met before this week, the multi-cultural mix of Sri Lankans, Africans, Kurds, Scots and English people are on their feet, shaking their booties for all they're worth. One young man, from Cameroon, only arrived less than half an hour ago, but, encouraged by a quietly enthusiastic Dutch woman, is now at the centre of things, showing everyone how to dance to the rhythms of his country of origin with a sassy mix of pride and elation.

What looks and sounds like a microcosm of a global village may have the atmosphere of an after-hours shebeen, but in actual fact, the scene described above took place on a Wednesday afternoon in Govan at the end of a day's rehearsal for a very special theatre project that took place last weekend. The English and Scots are a mix of community workers and performers. The Kurds, Sri Lankans and Africans are asylum seekers, who've found sanctuary in Glasgow. The Dutch woman is Annet Henneman, who, under her Teatro di Nascosto (Hidden Theatre) banner, has taken her unique notion of theatre as reportage around the world.

Henneman is in Scotland to perform Don’t Forget Us, an evening of songs and stories gleaned from her experiences as part of Spirit Refugee Week Scotland. She has also been in residence at the behest of Glasgow Theatre and Arts Collective to devise a new piece of theatre reportage which was performed at St Mungo Museum of Religious Life last weekend.

In the Govan rehearsals, this took the form of Henneman acting out the role of a teacher in a self-styled ‘Refugee School’, in which pupils learn skills such as how to barter for a passport, how to hide money inside their own body and how to sleep upright in an enclosed space crammed with other asylum seekers. All of these, it transpires, come from the real-life experiences of some of the workshop participants.

I want to tell the stories of people who have no voice,” Henneman says, “so all the stories come from the refugees. There is a very basic structure, which I have used before. I’ve always used a kind of social theatre working in prisons and other places, and this comes from when I was very young, and couldn’t decide whether to become a journalist or work in the theatre. Slowly I’ve learnt about what I mean by theatre reportage, so what I’ve ended up doing is fusing both. To do that I’ve had to change my own theatrical habits, and absorb and learn from people as much as possible.”

While her approach is political in terms of how it brings hidden stories out into the open, Henneman says that it is not a form of activism.

People make of it what they will, and I can’t predict what will happen,” she says, “and sometimes activists see it as activism. But I chose not be against something, but for something. I want everyone from all backgrounds to share in the experience that is created. When people are humanised, they will be open to change.”

Henneman’s tenure in Glasgow came about via a chance meeting with Glasgow Theatre Arts Collective’s Carrie Newman during the 2011 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. For Newman, Henneman’s experience working outwith the theatrical mainstream was akin to her own interests in a way that empowered rather than patronised her fellow travellers.

I think Annett’s work gives vulnerable people a really strong voice through theatre, and helps them realise that they’re not on their own. You can see that this week through these people who’ve come together for the first time. The changes in these people in terms of confidence between Monday and now is huge. Part of that comes as well from Annet being sensitive to when people are ready to do something. She won’t force or manipulate people into doing things they don’t want to. Her first priority is the people.”

This is certainly the case in Govan, which becomes a kind of creative safe-house where people from different backgrounds can feel comfortable enough to share their stories with strangers.

Later that night, Henneman dons exotic robes to perform Don’t Forget Us at the Tron Theatre. With all of her workshop participants in attendance and the floor strewn with blown up photographs of friends she’s met on her travels over the last fifteen years, she uses each to illustrate songs and stories from Iraq, Palestine, Iran and other global trouble-spots.

At the end, Henneman invites all her charges onstage. Instinctively, they all link arms, and they're dancing again the way they were earlier to the Kurdish music. As an example of unity in action, as with everything that happened in that hall in Govan, it's a wonder to behold.

The Herald, June 27th 2012

Dig The New Breed - Bank of Scotland Emerge Programme 2012 -

Today’s announcement by the National Theatre of Scotland of their Bank 
of Scotland Emerge Programme for developing theatre artists and 
directors follows on from two similar initiatives last year. Then, 
artists such as novelist and playwright Alan Bissett, performer and 
writer Molly Taylor and director Amanda Gaughan came through what were 
then known as the New Directors Placement Programme and the Emerging 
Artists Attachment Programme.

While the component parts of both schemes remain in place, the new 
catch-all umbrella title gives things a sense of unity as well as 
acknowledging the sort of crossovers between disciplines which, in the 
current economic and artistic climate, are more prevalent than ever. 
While the three emerging directors will or have already worked as 
assistant directors on major NTS productions, the four emerging 
directors will focus on developing pieces that will be presented as 
rough works in progress at  Scratch night this coming July.

For NTS Artistic Development producer Caroline Newall, who has overseen 
the scheme, it is vital that the seven artists chosen for each strand 
are given time and space to develop their work in an open environment.
It’s about giving the space to on their own journey, really,” she 
says, “and, rather than giving any specific commissions, to give them 
the time to work on their craft. We’ve also tried to open things out to 
different disciplines, while as far as the young directors go, whereas 
before they mainly came through the Regional Young Directors Scheme, 
which was great, now we’re able to develop relationships with them over 
a longer period.”

While Deborah Hannan has already assisted on the site-specific verbatim 
piece, Enquirer and Rob Jones on Alan Cumming’s tour de force as 
Macbeth, Sarah Macdonald will work alongside director Cora Bissett on 
her forthcoming Glasgow-based contemporary musical, Glasgow Girls.
The emerging artists, meanwhile, finds writer/performer Martin O’Connor 
developing a piece called A Govan of the Mind that looks at both 
religion and the Scots language, while Adura Onashile, best known as an 
actress in Roadkill, is planning her own site-specific piece, Ghosts of 

Of the two Gaelic artists, Catriona Lexy Campbell has an already 
established relationship with the NTS via her year-long tenure as 
Gaelic associate artist. During that time, Campbell was instrumental in 
discovering her fellow recipient of the Bank of Scotland Emerge 
Programme, Eilidh Daniels, via a solo bi-lingual piece she performed, 
Zona Morriate.

I want to explore what I can do with contemporary Gaelic theatre,” 
Daniels explains. “Some people who don’t know about Gaelic theatre 
think it’s all about the old stories, and while I don’t want to forget 
that, I also want to try and bring things forward.”

Campbell is a useful creative ally in this respect, especially given 
her to approach Gaelic dialogue “as a creative thing rather than a 
purely political thing. This scheme is a chance to develop my writing 
for a piece I’ll be performing myself, so I’ll have writing time, and I 
also want to work with a magician.”

Language is important too for O‘Connor, who has been devising and 
performing his own work, which includes Inner Circle, a piece performed 
on a Glasgow Underground train, for some years now.

I’ve been looking at Scottish ballads,” he explains, “and want to give 
more consideration to the fact that our language is quite cool. By the 
same token, a lot of religious language doesn’t really mean anything 

A similar juxtaposition can be found in Onashile’s proposed piece, 
which aims to explore “architecture and the dynamism of street-life in 
various buildings in Glasgow.”

On the directors side of things, Jones’ experience running his Flatrate 
company as well as organising a cabaret club at Summerhall during this 
year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe looks set to be galvanised by his 
experience on Macbeth.

There are a lot of people who want to work in this industry who think 
it’s all a bit mystical,” he says, “but after working with John Tiffany 
on Macbeth for two months, you realise it’s all about craft and hard 

This was the case too for Hannan, whose first task on Enquirer was to 
listen to all forty-three interviews that fed into the play’s 
collage-like script.

I’m really interested in spectacle,” she says, “and working in 
different spaces in a visual and politically motivated way, so Enquirer 
was perfect for me.”

As for Macdonald, Glasgow Girls, which looks at the real-life 
experience of a group of teenage asylum seekers, her placement too has 
been carefully thought out.

I work with a lot of youth and community groups,” she explains, “and 
young people get such a bad press, so to work on something that 
presents a positive picture is really important.”

While the NTS provide the artistic skill-set to develop these talents 
on a practical level, the Bank of Scotland’s ongoing support for the 
NTS schemes remain crucial, as Newall notes.

Of the many things the Bank of Scotland give the NTS support for, I 
think supporting emerging talent in this way is the one that floats 
their boat the most,” she says. 

Susan Rice, Managing Director of Lloyds Banking Group, confirms what Newall
"Through Bank of Scotland's Pioneering Partnership with the National Theatre of Scotland, we support the next generation of theatrical talent. We're always excited when we meet one of these new directors or aspiring artists. For some, our support is the only way they can manage to continue learning and gaining experience. It’s truly gratifying to be part of their journey with this focus on emerging talent, which sits in the core of our relationship with NTS.”

Newall expands on this.

The NTS should and does produce work by leading artists in their field,” 
she says, “but we also need to work out who the lead artists will be in five
or ten years’ time. So the Bank of Scotland Emerge scheme is an instructive 
thing about where the talent lies, then enabling that talent to develop their 
potential as well as developing an ongoing relationship with the NTS. We’ll always be here 
as mentors.”

A Bank of Scotland Emerge Programme Scratch Night will take place at 
the CCA, Glasgow on July 20th.

The Herald, June 26th 2012


Monday, 25 June 2012

Martin Creed – Love To You (Moshi Moshi)

4 stars
It’s de rigeur for Turner Prize winners to play in bands these days, 
and anyone familiar with Martin Creed’s oeuvre from his 2010 Edinburgh 
Art Festival show at the Fruitmarket Gallery and accompanying live 
song-and-dance routine at the Traverse will know what to expect from 
this most calculated of borderline autistic, OCD auteurs. To whit, in 
this pre-Olympic run-up to orchestrating all the bells in the country 
to ring out for three minutes, Creed thrashes out eighteen miniatures 
of love and hate that fuse the desperate yearning of playwright Sarah 
Kane and the No Wave minimalism of Glenn Branca with the DIY 
messthetics of Swell Maps and the brattish cartoon petulance of Jilted 

Bookended by ‘Ooh’ and ‘Aah’, which sound-tracked the Fruitmarket lift’s 
rise and fall, Love To You is a bumpy thirty-seven minute and nine 
second ride through the confessional ups and downs of fatal attraction, 
obsession, rejection, frustration and apparent acceptance. If ‘1234’ 
and ‘Fuck Off’ strip the concept of a love song to its bare bones and 
machine-gun it into Billy Childish-style garage-band submission, ‘I 
Can’t Move’ and the title track are prom-night paeans to Creed’s object 
of desire, girly harmonies and all on an insistently honest heart-to 
heart in which opposites attract in not-so-perfect symmetry.  

The List, June 2012


James Ferraro and The Bodyguard

The Berkeley Suite, Glasgow
Sunday June 17th
4 stars
Simple Minds as proto techno pioneers? Probably not, but there’s more
than a patina of future pomp stadiumistas early instrumental Theme for
Great Cities in the opening few minutes of American electronicist and
sometime half of the Skaters James Ferraro’s show. With Ferraro hunched
over an old Korg synth, the martial rhythms that pulse his first of two
extended pieces on this Braw/Cry Parrot/Shaddaz co-promoted show are a
long way from the sublime jauntification of last year’s ‘Far Side
Virtual’ album. This is a denser, harder sound, awash with glacial
keyboard squiggles and Morriconeish chorales conjuring up a wave of
analog nostalgia only for it to be pummelled into submission without

Accompanied by The Bodyguard, who appears to be a dreadlocked
technician enabling further sonic adventures, Ferraro goes quiet after
thirty minutes, almost losing his audience to incessant chit-chat
during the longeurs, before bouncing back with an abstract dub affair
more akin to to his recent 'Inhale C-4 $$$$$' mixtape delivered in his
Bebetune$ guise. The grandiose clatter it morphs into stretches every
 which way in a bouncing display of old school classicism.

The List, June 2012


Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Edinburgh Annuale 2012

4 stars
In terms of how art happens at a grassroots level, both Creative Scotland 
and the Scottish Government are as clueless as each other. The importance 
of Edinburgh Annuale to the city’s independent artistic infrastructure, on the 
other hand, cannot be overstated.

This year’s edition sees some thirty-odd events in co-operatively run 
spaces such as Embassy, Rhubaba, The Old Ambulance Station, Superclub 
and Whitespace, as well as an ever-burgeoning network of flats, shops, 
tunnels and lecture theatres, plus online exhibitions and publications, 
one of which glories in the name, ‘Jelly and ice cream when Thatcher 
dies?’ All of which, under the Scottish Government’s idiotic changes to 
Public Entertainment Licence laws, are technically illegal.

But no matter, at least there’s still music. Or is there? Because, 
while the twenty-four twelve-inch square LP record covers lined up in 
long-standing indie emporium Avalanche Records blend in perfectly with 
the racks around them, look closer and each is actually a meticulously 
observed depiction of crucial albums that lay unreleased by bands that 
never were.

While one can easily imagine the stack-heeled glam racket of Douglas 
Morland’s glitter-spattered Three Day Week, Ian Smith’s ‘A Spoonful of 
Sugar’ casts Situationist stooge Monty Cantsin as a spoon-playing 
showman covering Bohemian Rhapsody and I Kissed A Girl. Elsewhere, 
Optimo’s Jonnie Wilkes pastiches the uber-exclusivity of micro-label 
limited edition presses by way of a make-believe compilation of east 
European electronica.

With an accompanying biography for each bespoke artiste, all this 
resembles Bill Drummond and Mark Manning’s release of a set of 7” 
singles by non-existent Scandinavian acts all recorded by themselves. 
Wannabe soulster Mingering Mike, meanwhile, mapped out a whole 
make-believe career for himself via a series of hand-drawn album covers 
with accompanying cardboard discs that were discovered en masse in a 
car-boot sale. As a soundtrack to imaginary times, it’s silent but 

Edinburgh Annuale runs until June 24th

The List, June 2012


Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Putting on the Citz - Citizens Theatre's Autumn Season 2012

Dominic Hill is looking relaxed. Perched floppily on a chair on one 
side of his office, one might even suggest that the expression on the 
artistic director of the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow's face suggests he 
is positively pleased with himself. As well he might after his 
inaugural season of classic plays put Scotland's original international 
emporium back on the map.

Given that Hill cast Cal MacAninch in Harold Pinter's 1970s love 
triangle play Betrayal, oversaw David Hayman's first appearance at the 
Citz for more than two decades in an epic take on Shakespeare's King 
Lear and put a Samuel Beckett double bill of Krapp's Last Tape and 
Footfalls on the main stage, it's not hard to see why. While Hill is 
understandably in repose after directing these three shows back to 
back, the tricky bit comes in how to follow up such a striking calling 
card. The answer for Hill is to programme another season of expansively 
inclined work, mainly in co-productions with other companies, while 
Hill himself will concentrate on directing his first Citizens Christmas 

“I feel really good,” says Hill as he reflects on the season. “I think 
it's gone better than I could've expected. The press has been fabulous. 
The PR has been great. The thing that we needed to do was to put the 
Citz back on the map with lots of shows with a consistency of work, 
and, most importantly of all, to get people to come to see the work, I 
think that's all been achieved. The Beckett was the real sort of 
surprise to me. It was only on for a short time, and I didn't think people 
would come, but the response to it was amazing. With Footfalls, I 
thought people might wonder what the hell it was, but people have come 
out saying they'd no idea what it meant, but thought it was awesome. 
The important thing about the Beckett as well was that they were done 
on the main stage. So at the moment it's all a case of so far so good. 
The real test is what happens now, because people need to come back.”

With what's on offer, this shouldn't be too much of a problem. While 
first out of the traps will be a visit from Communicado with a revival 
of Gerry Mulgrew's take on Tam O'Shanter, the first Citizens 
co-production will be on a production of Euripides' Greek classic, 
Medea. This will be in partnership with Headlong, who last visited the 
Citz with their epic production of Angels in America. It will b e 
written and directed by rising star Mike Bartlett, who is currently in 
the midst of a stage version of Chariots of Fire to tie in with the 
Olympic Games, and whose most recent play, Love Love Love, toured to 
the Citz.

“I've always said we're doing two things,” says Hill, “which are 
classic plays done for a contemporary audience, and alongside that will 
be new Glasgow plays. So Medea very much fits the former, and it felt 
very right for us. I think Mike Bartlett's a terrific writer, and that 
Headlong is an exciting company. Medea's a very interesting subject 
matter for today, both in terms of parents who kill their children, 
which there seems to be a lot more about in the news, and in Medea 
being an outsider, an immigrant trying to fit into an alien society. I 
remember when I first read it how modern it felt.”

Following Medea will be Glasgow Girls, the much anticipated musical 
 from Cora Bissett, who scored a major hit with Roadkill. Anyone who saw 
the work in progress of Bissett's latest show as part of Edinburgh 
International Festival will already know just how moving her look at 
the true story about seven young women asylum seekers who took on both 
the Scottish Government and the Home Office already was. Since then, a 
multitude of partners, including the Citz, where Bissett is currently 
artist in residence, and the national Theatre of Scotland, have come on 
board for the show. Featuring original songs by Bissett and a host of 
singers, rappers and musicians, the show's title track, We are the 
Glasgow Girls, by MC Soom T, is about to be released by the NTS.

“This is something that is important in its subject matter,” Hill 
observes, “and is something which has a big popular appeal for 
audiences in Glasgow and beyond. David Greig's on board now writing it, 
and it's very important to me that it opens here. I think its going to 
have massive integrity, but I also think it's going to be fab.”

Next up, Hill himself will direct Rufus Norris' version of Sleeping 
Beauty. While not readily associated with Christmas shows, Hill's 
wide-screen approach has previously been applied to several  during his 
time at Dundee Rep, while he also directed Chris Hannan's take on The 
Three Musketeers at the Traverse.

“I like Christmas shows,” he says. “This one especially is funny, but 
it's also very dark. Sleeping Beauty can sometimes be quite an insipid 
story, but this one has real energy and oomph, and I think it's really 
classy and impactful.”

Moving into 2013, Hill aims to open the year with a yet to be scheduled 
classic. Already announced is a co-production with the Royal Lyceum in 
Edinburgh that will find writer Donna Franceschild adapting her much 
acclaimed TV drama, Takin' Over the Asylum, which first introduced Ken 
Stott and David Tennant to the world.

“That's a script that first came to me at the Traverse,” Hill explains, 
“and I loved the TV series. Again, it's a Glasgow story with a wide 
appeal, and I think that is right for here.”

While ostensibly taking a breather from the rehearsal room, the new 
season also allows Hill to take stock of where the Citz is at.

“I couldn't do the same again,” he says of directing three shows on the 
trot, “because it would kill me, and I think it would also bore the 
audience. I think it's important to bring in other directors, and I'm 
also testing what works and what doesn't.”

Hill might not be directing a Citz production until Sleeping Beauty, 
but he's far from idle. Inbetween programming the Citz, he is working 
on a production of Company by Stephen Sondheim with students at the 
Royal Conservatoire in Glasgow. This show will play at this year's 
Edinburgh Festival Fringe in an infinitely more lo-fi venue than Hill 
is used to.

“I'm quite looking forward to that whole Fringe experience,” he says,  
“because I've never really done it since I was a student.”

In the recent merry-go-round of directorships that have occurred since 
Hill took up his post at the Citz, the most tantalising is the vacancy 
at the National Theatre of Scotland following Vicky Featherstone's 
forthcoming departure to the Royal Court in London. Given Hill's 
expertise, both in running a company and in knowing how to navigate a 
big stage better than a lot of of his contemporaries, for many he is a 
natural for the job. Hill, however, begs to differ.

“We've got a lovely theatre here,” he says, “and I love having a 
building. That's what I've always wanted, and think this building suits 
me. I've got lists of plays I want to do here, and I want to work my 
way through them. It feels like I've only just started.”

Tickets for the Citizens Theatre's autumn season go on sale from today

The Herald, June 19th 2012


Sunday, 17 June 2012


Tramway, Glasgow
4 stars

While setting Shakespeare in a psychiatric ward isn’t a new idea,
neither is it uncommon for real life patients in such institutions to
construct such elaborate self-destructive fantasies with themselves at
their fragile world’s centre. Both concepts rub up against each other
in the National Theatre of Scotland’s boldly audacious reimagining of
the Scottish play, which sees Alan Cumming act out the entire play
alone onstage for an hour and three-quarters. Flying without a safety
net, Cumming opens himself up physically, mentally and emotionally in a
performance of fearless bravura.

It starts with Cumming’s character being sectioned and stripped of his
twenty-first century apparel by two nurses played almost wordlessly by
Myra McFadyen and Aly Craig. With fresh scars embedded into his chest,
as Cumming calls to what are both captors and protectors with the
Witches ‘When shall we three meet again?’ line, there are hints of a
domestic massacre and a possible failed suicide attempt to have caused
his incarceration.

Watched over from all angles by a trio of CCTV cameras, Cumming pads
about Merle Hensel’s towering brick-lined set in search of healing his
fragmented self, but finds only a succession of voices tearing him
apart. In the bath-tub he lays splayed and naked as he recounts Lady
M’s ‘unsex me’ speech. A wheelchair becomes a pukka King Duncan’s
mobile throne which Cumming’s own Macbeth-possessed psyche lays
troubled claim to. Most significant of all, a doll is battered into
submission and a child’s jumper pressed down heavily into the

John Tiffany and Andrew Goldberg’s production reimagines Shakespeare as
a cycle of self-laceration where often the silent moments are the most
significant. With Cumming at its centre, the heady tangle of strength
and vulnerability he presents us with makes for a brilliantly troubling
play for twisted times.

The Herald, June 16th 2012

Friday, 15 June 2012

Robert Paterson Obituary

Born October 1st 1956; died June 2012

It was tragically fitting that the final role played by Robert 
Paterson, who has died unexpectedly at home, was Gonzalo in 
Shakespeare's The Tempest at Dundee Rep. Gonzalo, after all, was an 
honest and trusted advisor to the king, with a good and noble heart, 
who provided the exiled Prospero with the basics to survive, as well as 
other things to make life more bearable. It was Gonzalo too who 
recognised Caliban as something beyond a mere monster, sees the beauty 
on the island he is shipwrecked on, and takes joy when all are 
reconciled at the end of the play. It isn't a huge role, but it is a 
crucial one with which, on the few nights he played it, Paterson shared 
many traits.

This could be said of so much of Paterson's career over the last thirty 
years, be it as an actor, writer or director with every major theatre 
company in Scotland, or in  film and television appearances that 
included  Braveheart and Charlie Gormley's Heavenly Pursuits. 
Paterson's body of work over the last ten years as a member of Dundee 
Rep's ensemble company alone reveals a man with a fierce intelligence 
and curiosity who possessed a mixture of stateliness and quirkiness 
which, as with his approach to Gonzalo, was vital to every one of more 
than fifty productions he took part in.

Paterson's career began at Glasgow University when during the autumn 
term of 1976 he turned up one day as an unknown quantity for an 
audition to play Thomas Beckett in a student production of T.S. Eliot's 
verse play, Murder in the Cathedral. The regular members of the 
company, who included at least two future TV directors, watched in 
astonishment as Paterson made the part his own. The production was 
subsequently entered for the National Student Drama Festival in St 
Andrews, where Paterson won the festival's best actor award as well as 
a rave review from Bernard Levin. After Glasgow, Paterson was awarded a 
scholarship to train at the London Drama Studio.

Early work with TAG led him to new writing company Annexe, whose 
commissioning board he joined. As a writer himself, early works for the 
Edinburgh Festival Fringe included a play about a couple of hitmen 
awaiting to meet their target, the baroque language of which is reputed 
to have predated Quentin Tarrantino by a couple of decades. More 
recently, Paterson penned a version of Jack and the Beanstalk for 

As well as Dundee, Paterson formed long-standing relationships with 
many theatres, including the Brunton under director Robin Peoples, the 
Tron with future Royal Shakespeare company head Michael Boyd, for whom 
he appeared alongside Forbes Masson in David Kane's farce, Dumbstruck, 
and with Winged Horse, run by Paterson's then wife Eve Jamieson.

Paterson was a major figure too at Mull Theatre, where he first worked 
in 1985, and was instrumental in introducing current artistic director 
Alasdair McCrone to the venue after casting McCrone in his first 
student play in his first week at Glasgow University in 1987 in much 
the same way he'd found his dramatic feet a decade before.

Paterson spent much of the 1990s working alongside McCrone as actor, 
director and dramaturg. Paterson adapted Iain Crichton Smith's novel, 
Consider the Lillies, for the stage, and, with McCrone, co-wrote Para 
Handy's Treasure and versions of Kidnapped and Jekyll and Hyde. He 
directed David Hare's play, Skylight, and appeared in Death and the 
Maiden, as well as one-man play, Old Herbaceous, which he's previously 
performed in the 1980s, and which closed Mull Theatre's old space in 

Paterson had been an admirer of Dundee Rep's unique ensemble before he 
joined it following stints at Edinburgh's Royal Lyceum Theatre in 
Glengarry Glen Ross and Forbes Masson's debut musical, Stiff! Once he 
joined, he proved himself an essential, constantly inquiring presence 
under successive directors.

Paterson's stand-out roles came in plays as diverse as Peer Gynt, 
Beckett's Happy Days, and most notably as crumpled academic George in a 
searing performance opposite Irene MacDougall in
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? In 2010, a performabnce of Equus was 
cancelled after Paterson suffered a heartscare, though he was back 
onstage at the earliest opportunity.

His last appearance prior to The Tempest was a sensitive and vulnerable 
performance in a revival of Zinnie Harris' Further Than The Furthest 
Thing, while in February he directed fellow ensemble member Kevin 
Lennon in Oliver Emanuel's play, Spirit of Adventure.

Beyond the stage, Paterson was known as a maverick eccentric with a 
very singular vision, and a total one-off one member of the ensemble 
described as a '”holy clown”. A love of science-fiction and computer 
games clearly contributed to a magical imagination, while a relish for 
language and history was carried by a wisdom and an unflinching 
honesty. A music fan, Paterson's  arrival at the theatre was frequently 
heralded by a Todd Rundgren or Steely Dan track blaring through his car 
windows as he parked. Unknown to many, Paterson was a fine singer, 
something he shared with his family, with whom he remained close.

Paterson wasn't without his eccentricities, which included sporting 
brightly-coloured and garishly mismatched jackets and training shows, 
and an obsessive collecting of soft drink cans from around the world. 
For all this, it was Paterson's warmth, generosity and his soft heart 
that captivated friends and colleagues. As one said, “It feels like the 
biggest heart in the building has gone.”

Paterson is survived by a sister Lynn, a brother, Steve, two nieces, 
and his parents, Bert and Sue.
The Herald, June 15th 2012


Thursday, 14 June 2012


Tron Theatre, Glasgow
3 stars
When Ella Hickson’s debut work appeared at the fag-end of the 
twenty-first century’s first decade, her octet of monologues tapped 
into a similar emotional and spiritual void that had fascinated a new 
wave of playwrights a decade before. Almost half a decade on, the 
student-based NewUpNorth-Scotland company’s revival now looks and 
sounds like a little time capsule of a fragmented society at rest and 
in motion, with each of Hickson’s characters taking pause for thought 
at what they’ve become.

Nowhere is this more evident than with Millie, the jolly-hockeysticks 
hooker who tends to poetry-loving toffs put out to grass by the rise of 
New Labour. With David Cameron’s Westminster government posher than 
ever, one suspects the Millie of today would either be serving her 
constituency with renewed gusto or else find herself side-lined as her 
boys pack some Bullingdon-sired lead in their pencils elsewhere.
While many of the pieces now look similarly of their time, others 
remain ageless. Council-estate skivvy Bobby is a sadly familiar 
portrait of a woman failed by the state, while Astrid’s salvation 
through illicit sexual liaisons and teenage boy abroad Jude’s getting 
of wisdom are both ageless.

While having all eight performers onstage gathered in a circle around a 
large table implies some kind of communal confessional, as the lights 
go up and down on each in Mark Stevenson’s production, it also lends 
things an air of quiz show contestants awaiting their chance to shine. 
Fortunately, there are several finely nuanced performances, 
particularly from Scarlett Mack as Bobby and Maria Teresa Creasey as 
Astrid in a still moving compendium culled from observations of very 
recent history.

The Herald, June 14thth 2012


Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Mark Stewart

Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh
4 stars
“Welcome to Liberty City!” bellows Mark Stewart early on in a set to 
tie in with the recent release of his all-star The Politics of Envy 
album. Stewart may not need a megaphone, but he makes his point loud, 
proud and without recourse to the album's guest list, which includes 
dub legend Lee 'Scratch' Perry, Raincoats bassist Gina Birch, 
subversive film-maker Kenneth Anger on theremin and all of Primal 

Live, such a Who's Who? may be impossible on this short tour, but it 
doesn't stop Stewart  and a dangerously well-drilled three-piece band 
augmented by fellow-traveller, reggae MC, Brother Culture, lambasting 
the audience with a thrillingly fearless set of punk-funk dub-reggae 
metal clatter. Stewart begins proceedings limbering up physically as 
much as vocally, looking every inch the contender sporting a shiny red 
tracky top with a towel wrapped round his neck.

Stewart's regular foil and production wizard Adrian Sherwood may not be 
in attendance, but this laptop and pedal-powered experience still 
manages to capture the album's  full-on pummelling assault. The 
'Keeping the dream alive' refrain of Autonomia becomes an anthem for 
a new generation of avant provocateurs, while Stereotype shimmers with 
a poppy pulse that would put U2 to shame. An unlikely dubbed-out cover 
of William Blake's poem, Jerusalem, invests Blake's words with a 
multi-cultural modernity while reclaiming the poem's revolutionary 

The place for all this really is a noisy late-night underground 
shebeen. Yet, closing with Hysteria, dating from his Mark and the 
Maffia era collaboration with Tackhead, Stewart and co manage to 
transform a Monday night in Edinburgh with a thrillingly relevant call 
to arms. Viva to that.

The Herald, June 13th 2012


Kate Quinnell - From Pitlochry With Love

“I've spent half the time running round in my underwear,” laughs Kate 
Quinnell as she swishes into the bar of Pitlochry Festival Theatre. “So 
it's like Noises Off all over again, basically.”

Quinnell is talking about her role as Jessica in Alan Ayckbourn's 
Communicating Doors, one of three plays she appears in during this 
year's PFT season. This marks the sparkly-eyed Welsh actor's return to 
the theatre after causing something of a stir during her last two 
stints here. As opening gambits go, Quinnell's remarks on her costume – 
or lack of it – for her latest appearance is refreshingly if somewhat 
disarmingly candid, albeit utterly without guile. It wasn't just 
running round in her underwear as ditzy wannabe starlet Brooke in 
Michael Frayn's ingenious back and front stage farce that caused such a 

Rather, it was Ms Quinnell's lively mix of a magnetic stage presence, 
instinctive comic timing and multi-tasking versatility in roles such as 
Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, Lois Lane in Kiss Me Kate and Mabel 
Chiltern in An Ideal Husband that have captivated Pitlochry audiences. 
Such a stir did Quinnell cause across her previous two seasons that she 
scooped the Leon Sinden Award, voted for by the audience, not once, but 
twice. In a two strikes and out approach that will allow her onstage 
colleagues a crack of the whip, Quinnell has been excluded from this 
season's voting.

“I think that's only fair,” she says. “I just hope that I can vote for 
other actors in the company.”

This season, as well as Jessica in Communicating Doors, Quinnell plays 
Mabel Chiltern in J.M. Barrie's Dear Brutus, and, in her third 
season-opening musical on the trot, appears as brutalised flower-shop 
assistant Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors.

“It's quite surreal being eaten by a man-eating plant,” Quinnell 
laughs, “but I get to play my clarinet and my sax, and it's a genre of 
music that I absolutely love, early rock and roll, Motown, doo-wop, you 
can't help but tap along. That's one of the great things about the 
musicals here. Because we're all playing instruments with each other 
onstage as well as acting, we're all relying on each other, and that 
gives things a real ensemble feel. Also, I get to do the four things 
that I love doing most in life – singing, acting, playing my 
instruments and dancing – so I'm happy.”

This isn't necessarily the case with the women Quinnell is playing in 
Pitlochry. All of them, at least at the start of each play, are far 
 from happy. Quinnell describes down-at-heel Audrey in Little Shop of 
Horrors as “The tart with a heart. Bless, she's stuck in a rut in Skid 
Row with the same job and an abusive relationship that she's too scared 
to get out of. It's quite sad, really. Beneath all the bright lights 
and colours it's really quite dark.”

In the time-travel based Communicating Doors, Quinnell plays Jessica, a 
woman who is warned by as visitor from the future that the man she's 
just married will later murder her, while in Dear Brutus, Quinnell 
plays a woman whose husband is cheating on her, but who has the tables 
turned on her when they go for a walk in the woods.

While such a variety of roles will no doubt keep Quinnell on her toes, 
it is musical theatre that is both her natural habitat and her first 

“I'd like to think I'm an all-rounder,” she says, “because I loved 
doing Noises Off and An Ideal Husband as much as doing Kiss Me Kate, 
but to be honest it is what I love doing. There's something about 
having a sing and a dance that just fills me with joy, really. I 
genuinely love it. I've only been playing the saxophone for six months, 
so it's making it's professional debut in Little Shop. What better way 
is there of doing that than in a show with lots of solos? It's a dream. 
I love playing it. I feel like Lisa Simpson. It's so cool.”

Quinnell was doing pantomime when she was supposed to have her first 
audition for Pitlochry, and was only offered the season after a recall.

“Up until my first season here I'd never been to Scotland, and now I 
find I've spent three years of my life here and can't keep away from 
the place. It's a long way from home, but I can honestly say that first 
year was the best year of my life.”

Aside from her work onstage, Quinnell met her actor boyfriend that 
first season. She's also taken advantage of the scenery.

“Just look at the view,” she says, motioning towards the bar's windowed 
facade. “It's not often you get to sit in your dressing room, look out 
the window and watch salmon jumping. I'm very very lucky.”

Born and raised in Cardiff, Quinnell started performing from an early 
age with her two sisters and one brother, all born a year apart. Ever 
since she can remember, the Quinnells have been making music. They each 
learnt to play several instruments apiece, and used to sing in 
four-part harmony purely for fun, visiting friends houses and forming 
ad hoc bands wherever and whenever they could.

While this may have been a puzzle for her dad, who'd never seven seen a 
musical until he met his wife, it was the matriarchal influence from 
Quinnell's song and dance loving English teacher mum that fed into her 

At school, in-between helping her mum with her own shows, Quinnell 
played lead roles in Grease and South Pacific, and started to wonder if 
she could turn her love of performing into a career. Undecided between 
acting and music, she opted to study both at Aberystwyth University. 
Here she played a very young Lady Macbeth, which led directly to her 
professional debut, again as Eliza in My Fair Lady.

While she and one of her sisters who's now head of music in a school in 
Monmouth are blessed with perfect pitch, Quinnell is the only member of 
the clan who's taken things further. While her doctor brother plays in 
a band for fun, Quinnell's third sister has forsaken music entirely in 
favour of the fashion industry.

Inbetween her first stab at Eliza and Pitlochry, Quinnell understudied 
the lead in a tour of The Thorn Birds, played “a tarty air stewardess” 
in Come Fly With Me, a big band musical at Cardiff's Millenium Centre, 
and has played Snow White in panto. For the future, beyond Pitlochry 
and a stint as Cinderella, Quinnell has her sights set on other 
stalwarts of the musical stage.

“I’d love to play Sally Bowles in Cabaret,” she gushes. “Any part in 
Chicago, Roxie or Velma, I don't mind. Oh, and Adelaide in Guys and 
Dolls. I love that part. She's such a character."

Whether she ends up doing these in Pitlochry or the west end, Quinnell 
retains a sense of wonder at how things have worked out. Especially as 
sometimes she even gets to keep her clothes on.

“Even now I'll  get a pay slip through, and I think, oh, God, I'm being 
paid to do something I love. That doesn't happen to a lot of people, so 
I feel like the luckiest person alive.”

Little Shop of Horrors, The 39 Steps and Rope will run in rep at 
Pitlochry Festival Theatre until October

The Herald, June 12th 2012


The Chairs

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
4 stars
Imagine throwing a party and nobody came. That's kind of what happens 
in Romanian absurdist Eugene Ionesco's absurdist classic, revived here 
in an Irish-accented pop-eyed take on proceedings by the wonderful 
Sligo-based Blue Raincoat company, who apply their trademark physical 
tics to the play's conscious sense of its own ridiculousness.

As the Old Man and Old Woman await their guests in a semi-circular room 
where the much admired Orator will hold court to their salon, the Old 
Man sits on his spouse's knee like some ancient ventriloquist act, as 
the couple discuss the apparent destruction of Paris, just who is 
pulling the strings is never quite clear. As a succession of invisible 
'guests' arrive to be seated in a makeshift auditorium, is this red 
letter day an elaborate construction to survive the last days on earth 
with dignity and marbles intact? Or, on a more theatrically practical 
level, is it merely good economics to not have an actual cast of 
thousands appearing in the flesh?

Either way, Niall Henry's production suggests that John Carty's Old Man 
and Sandra O'Malley's Old Woman's final hour holding court to the great 
and the good is also their finest. When Ciaran McCauley's Orator 
finally appears, his seemingly meaningless presentation becomes a form 
of sound poetry that goes beyond words.

The most telling part of the play comes at the end, when, the Orator 
finished and the couple dead, we hear the coughing, shuffling and 
fidgeting of an audience leaving. Such noises off mirrors the real-life 
audience's behaviour in a manner that speaks volumes about how much 
theatre-goers  are prepared to invest in apparently difficult works 
like this.

The Herald, June 11th 2012


The Tempest

Dundee Rep
4 stars
The mountain of overstuffed black bin bags, broken-down TVs and other detritus looks more post-apocalyptic junkyard than brave new world piled onto the set of Jemima Levick’s revisitation of Shakespeare’s island-bound epic. Levick turns Shakespeare’s world upside down even more by having the island populated solely by women. With Irene MacDougall’s Prospero a steely matriarch in exile, Emily Winter’s Ariel and Ann Louise Ross’ Caliban are jump-suited prisoners in their own country who end up as surrogate daughters alongside Kirsty Mackay’s initially tomboyish Miranda.

After the opening amplified bombast that shipwrecks the men from Milan onto Ti Green’s set, what emerges is a serious and stately minded Tempest. With Prospero a single mum bringing up her Miranda without any paternal influence, by magicking her usurping brother Antonio, King Alonso and his son Ferdinand to her crumbling queendom, Prospero is not only reclaiming what’s rightfully hers, but, like any mum, is making sure her little girl does alright.

Beyond Miranda, Levick’s Tempest says even more about motherhood, whereby a fiercely protective Prospero must learn to let her disparate brood grow up and go out into a world where they can run wild and free beyond maternal constraints. In Miranda’s case she does this by conjuring up archive video collages of other cultures beyond the island. While drunken sailors flail about like chat show era Olly Reed on a bender, Ariel and Caliban too have to be let off the leash. If such an ambitious reading threatens to topple into itself at times, MacDougall anchors things with such a nuanced mix of dynamism and pathos that it’s hard not to be moved by Prospero’s plight in a richly realised production.

The Herald, June 11th 2012


Friday, 8 June 2012

The Nightingales

Nice N’ Sleazy, Glasgow
4 stars
The Jubilee-tastic Punk Britannia celebrations may be reminding the 
world of the spirit of 77’s snotty year zero aesthetic, but it arguably 
misses a trick in terms of what happened next beyond assorted turn-coat 
rock stars and cause celebres. Take The Nightingales, Robert Lloyd’s 
reignited vehicle for his unique form of back-street Black Country beat 
poetry set to a wilfully Luddite garage-band racket.

Formed out of the ashes of Birmingham’s first ever punk band, The 
Prefects, Lloyd and co’s relentlessly literate yarns of urban absurdism 
soundtracked a fistful of John Peel sessions that were only second to 
fellow travellers The Fall in number. Back in the saddle since 2004, 
and featuring original Prefects guitarist Alan Apperley alongside a disparate 
trio of relative youngsters, The Nightingales have now released more 
records than their 1980s incarnation.

Much of tonight’s set is taken from the just-released No Love Lost 
album, with a bespectacled and besuited Lloyd launching into Ace of 
Hearts without fuss, or indeed any acknowledgement of the audience. As 
a succession of narrative vignettes segue into each other with no room 
for applause, Lloyd remains stoically deadpan, kneeling on his haunches 
during extended Anglo-German Prog thrashings that pound out behind him.
These are rattled out by the counterpointing guitars of Apperley and 
newbie Matt Wood, whose long hair and ‘tache gives him the air of 1972 
Dusseldorf that goes beyond his band’s associations with Faust via 
bassist and studio technician Andreas Schmid. Elsewhere, drummer Fliss 
Kitson’s backing vocals and percussive invention lend a jauntiness to a 
sound  that suggests a parallel universe working men’s club culture. 
England’s dreaming indeed.

The Herald, June 7th 2012


Thursday, 7 June 2012

Little Shop of Horrors

Pitlochry Festival Theatre
3 stars
 From Rocky Horror to Forbidden Planet, sci-fi B movies and rock and 
roll nostalgia have been all the rage for now. Howard Ashman and Alan 
Menken's 1982 stage musical even has the parallel universe luxury of 
being both inspired by one such feature film only to be adapted into 
another. Based on Roger Corman's 1960 yarn about a blood-sucking plant 
who eats up a Skid Row flower shop, Little Shop of Horrors isn't the 
obvious choice to open Pitlochry Festival Theatre's Summer Rep season. 
Nor, in John Durnin's production, does it fully spark into the sort of 
big campy life required to make it such a ridiculous pleasure, even as 
it tackles how greed and money corrupt in a dog eat dog – or rather, 
plant eats man – world.

It's not without its charms, however, from the moment the girl group 
turned Greek/Brechtian chorus shimmy out of Mushnik's recession-hit 
store, to the alien plant's devouring of everything in sight. Jo Freer 
as Ronnette (her partners in song are called Chiffon and Crystal) is 
especially sassy. The co-relation between poverty and shop-girl 
Audrey's abusive relationship with slicked-back dentist Orin suggests 
something beyond cartoon capers, even as Kate Quinnell skirts a thin 
line between pathos and comic timing as Audrey.

As has become a tradition in Pitlochry musicals, all of the cast double 
up as the house band, with assorted trombones, clarinets, flutes and 
guitars being wielded to soundtrack each number. While such an approach 
gives a rough and ready streetband feel to proceedings, it never fully 
captivates in an intermittently funny show that should have spawned a 

The Herald, June 7th 2012


Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Jemima Levick and Philip Howard - A Storm Over Dundee

You could be forgiven for thinking that women are taking over Dundee. 
Or Scottish theatre for that matter. As Dundee Rep’s former associate 
director Jemima Levick is appointed joint artistic director of the 
theatre with former Traverse head Philip Howard as Chief Executive, 
after Orla O’Loughlin taking charge of the Traverse and Rachel 
O’Riordan heading up Perth Theatre, Levick becomes the latest female in 
charge of one of the country’s main producing houses.

As if to stress the point, Levick’s long-scheduled production of The 
Tempest, which opens in Dundee this week, bends genders in 
Shakespeare’s magical island yarn to the extent of casting female 
actors in the traditionally male roles of Prospero, Caliban and Aerial. 
Of course, given Dundee's long-standing reputation as something of a 
matriarchy, such an approach seems the perfect fit, as Levick explains.

“I was keen to find a play where I felt I could do what I wanted,” she 
says. “You can't do that with all Shakespeare plays, but with The 
Tempest, because it's on an island, and because there's magic, you 
really can do what you want. With the casting, I'm really obsessed with 
casting Irene MacDougall in male roles ever since I cast her as Hook. I 
think there's a really muscular quality to her performance whilst still 
being her woman. With The Tempest, I think the relationship between 
Miranda and Prospero, which is between father and daughter, is not as 
interesting as it is for me if it's mother and daughter, in terms of 
the things she has to teach her. Then I thought about the other 
casting, and thought that if Prospero and Miranda are women, what if 
all the characters living on the island were women as well. They're the 
people who have been washed up or dumped on an island and taken away 
from society. These women have been cast out and left to rot, really.

Imposing a concept on Shakespeare cam be as risky business. While it's 
easy to graft something on the start of a play, sustaining it is a 
different matter. Levick seems aware of such pitfalls, even as she 
enters into uncharted territory.

“I was really keen to do a Shakespeare,” she says, “because I've never 
done one before. It was really interesting recently talking to Roxana 
Silbert, who's best known as a director of new writing with Paines 
Plough, but who before she got her current job at Birmingham Rep worked 
as an associate at the RSC. She said that, as a new writing director, 
directing Shakespeare was amazing, and I've kind of discovered the same 
thing. The Tempest is one of those plays that keeps on giving things 
back in the rehearsal room, which is amazing. The danger is that you 
could probably rehearse it forever and still find different things and 
end up not producing it.”

Given the nature of her new job, this is a luxury neither Levick or 
Howard can afford. With Howard not joining her until February Levick 
will be directing four shows back to back. While this leaves her little 
time to think about a programme beyond the autumn, the reality of her 
new job is slowly starting to sink in.

“I'm excited, and a little bit anxious,” Levick admits.

While Levick already has her feet under the table in Dundee via her 
tenure as associate director for the last couple of years,  with 
productions including Equus, The Elephant Man and Steel Magnolias, 
Howard is an unknown quantity. This was one of the reasons why the pair 
applied separately for the job, so Howard could be judged solely on his 
own merits. Only once they'd both passed the first round of interviews 
did they formally suggest to the board a two-tiered approach might be 

While a similar partnership between James Brining and Dominic Hill had 
existed prior to Hill's departure, there was no guarantee such a 
proposal would be accepted.

“The more Philip and I spoke about the job and what we wanted to do,” 
says Levick, “the more synchronised and joined-up it became.”

The roots of Levick and Howard teaming up date back to a rumour, when 
Levick heard that Howard wasn't going to apply for the Dundee job 
because he felt that, as an associate, the job should be Levick's. 
Levick then called Howard to encourage him to apply. The dialogue 
between them that followed made them both realise how much they were on 
the same page regarding the Dundee job.

“We've long been admirers and supporters of each other's work,” says 
Levick, “and, while I knew I really wanted the job of artistic 
director, I wasn't so sure about the Chief Executive bit of it. I've 
still got such a lot to learn about running a building, so when Philip 
suggested we go for it together, it all seemed to fit. I knew I would 
only want to run a building if I could still be an artist, and yet I 
also wanted to work in an organisation that had a supportive 
infrastructure to be able to make work. So doing it this way, both 
Philip and I get to share the responsibilities of both, and to look 
after one another as well as the organisation.”

Howard's new role as Chief Executive marks his first real return to 
high-profile work since his departure from the Traverse Theatre in 
Edinburgh after a decade there as artistic director, and fourteen years 
in total at Scotland's new writing theatre. During that time, Howard 
oversaw the main-stage debuts of David Greig, David Harrower, Henry 
Adam and many others during a period when directors including John 
Tiffany and Vicky Featherstone worked at the Traverse.

“Timing-wise it suits me really well, “ Howard says of his new post. 
“I've had an indecently enjoyable time as a freelance director for the 
last four years since I left the Traverse. That's also been a 
ridiculously stress-free time not having the responsibility of a 
building, but now I think I need a bit more stress in my life. I made a 
new year's resolution eighteen months ago that I was going to do all 
the stuff I'd never done before, including old plays and music theatre, 
and I've done both now. I've also yearned for the challenge to run 
another company, and to be pulled right out of my comfort zone, and 
that's certainly the case here. I'm not sure I would've wanted to do 
the job without Jemima, because I'm a real family man in terms of 
running a company, and working with her it becomes more of a playpen.”

Levick and Howard are keen to stress that Dundee Rep's ensemble company 
will continue, and that , while they've yet to programme beyond the end 
of the year, despite both of their new writing backgrounds, a mix of 
classical and contemporary work should be expected. Both too are aware 
of Dundee Rep's sense of place.

“I feel like I've started to connect with the community since I've been 
here,” Levick says, “and I want that to develop and continue. The 
important thing is to build on the audience we already have, so we can 
do things like Steel Magnolias and The Tempest. We're not going to rip 
things up and start again.”

The Tempest, Dundee Rep, June 6-23

The Herald, June 5th 2012


Monday, 4 June 2012

A Play, A Pie and A Pint - The CATS Whiskers

When David MacLennan founded A Play, A Pie and A Pint at Oran Mor in 
2004, his first season of lunchtime plays with refreshments included in 
the ticket price was a modest affair. Eight years on, and having 
presented some 250 new works, as MacLennan gets set to receive the 
Critics Awards for Theatre in Scotland's inaugural CATS Whiskers award 
for Outstanding Achievement, A Play, A Pie and A Pint now looks like a 
genuine theatrical phenomenon that was seriously ahead of the game.

With initial seasons seemingly pulled together with the help of 
MacLennan's extensive address book of Scottish theatre movers and 
shakers, it was as if those seemingly left in the theatrical wilderness 
after grants for companies such as the MacLennan-led Wildcat company 
had been cut had suddenly rediscovered their mojo. With no tradition of 
lunchtime theatre in Scotland, A Play, A Pie and A Pint served up works 
 from veteran writers such as Peter MacDougall that were more serious 
than the sort of froth one might expect from such a forum. Actors such 
as David Hayman and Robbie Coltrane took to the stage for the first  
time in years. Pretty soon, writers such as David Greig, David 
Harrower, Jo Clifford, Morna Pearson and many others grew ever bolder 
in form and content in what had become a low-risk showcase for writers 
to explore short-form playwriting with often startling results.

Connections were forged, first with Bewley's Lunchtime Theatre in 
Dublin, then with the Traverse, the National Theatre of Scotland and 
others. Many plays at Oran Mor have found second or third lives, and 
the Play, Pie and A Pint web is now far-reaching, with the current One 
Day in Spring mini-season of middle eastern writers the perfect example 
of how ambitious the work has become. All this without a penny of 
direct public funding.

When A Play, A Pie and A Pint began, the recession had yet to hit arts 
funding. Now, with theatre companies forced to be creative with limited 
budgets, MacLennan and co look like pioneers.
With Creative Scotland's review of how it funds major arts companies 
currently causing justifiable anger among the artists Creative Scotland 
serves, A Play, A Pie and A Pint is a glaring example of how artist-led 
initiatives can thrive in difficult times. Watch and learn, Creative 
Scotland, because A Play, A Pie and A Pint really is the CATS Whiskers.

Critics Awards For Theatre in Scotland, Tron Theatre, Glasgow, Sunday 
June 10th, 3pm

The Herald, June 4th 2012


Alan Cumming - Playing Macbeth

There are surprisingly few signs of starriness attached to Alan 
Cumming. On the one hand, the Aberfeldy-born actor has recently become 
a living room regular by way of a recurring role in the Ridley and Tony 
Scott produced legal drama, The Good Wife. Yet, as he returns to 
Scotland to play the title role in a very singular version of Macbeth 
with the National Theatre of Scotland, he prefers to station himself in 
the darkest, most faraway corner of the city centre bar/ restaurant 
he's conducting post-rehearsal interviews in.

This is a little bit different from when he last appeared onstage on 
home turf. That was in a flashy version of Euripides' The Bacchae, 
which, as with Macbeth, was directed by NTS associate John Tiffany. 
Then, during a day of interviews at the Groucho Club in London, Cumming 
seemed more ebullient in a way that matched his turn as original party animal, 

Almost four years on and playing one of the most intense roles ever 
written, Cumming is as focused and as open as he ever was. Where 
Dionysus put a spring in his step, however, there's an added 
thoughtfulness at play to the Cumming playing Macbeth. Of course, 
coming at the end of a long day  in the rehearsal room with Tiffany and 
New York-based co-director Andrew Goldberg, Cumming is
probably shattered, and you can forgive anyone entering Macbeth's 
ambition-laden psyche for feeling a little, well, troubled. Especially 
given that Cumming, Tiffany and Goldberg have opted to approach 
Shakespeare's play, not as some windswept classic, but have set it in 
the locked ward of a psychiatric unit. So Cumming isn't actually 
playing Macbeth per se, but becomes instead a patient channelling the 
story of the Scottish would-be king, all under the insistent gaze of 
CCTV cameras that capture his every move.

It's hard work,” Cumming says, “and very daunting, especially with the 
two narratives, which we're making up and trying to make intertwine. So 
it's super-intense, and it's hard physically to focus sometimes, 
because you're making something up, and up until this week it was just 
me and two directors. So you not only have to hold the energy of it, 
but because it's just you, you have to tell them what you want. It's 
been fascinating on all levels. I've just been living in this hermetic 
bubble. Apart from a few nights when I've gone out, I've just wanted to 
go home and learn lines, or go swimming, and I feel really good. By the 
end of the day I'm not really in the mood to speak to people, but I'm 
going to have lots of fun after the performance. That's the way you 
have to do it.”

While such intensity sounds the opposite extreme of Dionysus, there are 
similarities. Both plays put Cumming's very personal interpretations of 
classic characters at their centre, and, as Cumming tells it, Dionysus 
and Macbeth sound like two sides of the same coin.

I suppose in a way Dionysus was the puppet master in that play,” 
Cumming observes, “so there's a similar issue there. They're both men 
who are having issues with the gods, I suppose. They're both very 
primal. These are deep deep things you're dealing with. It's hardcore.”

Cumming is quite often at the centre of his work, be it in acting or in 
the myriad of projects he has on the go. One of these is Alan Cumming 
Snaps!, an exhibition of photographs currently on show in New York. 
With the images portrayed capturing a fleeting moment, often by way of 
a self-portrait, each comes with a story explaining each one. 'My life 
is a colourful blur,' Cumming's artist's statement ends, 'and so I only 
think it appropriate that the pictures I take embody that too.'

People have really responded to how honest I am about the pictures,” 
he says. “They're of things that have happened to me, moments I've had 
in my life, which were good or bad or nice or weird, and I've just 
wanted to take a picture of them and keep them and share them with 
people. In one way it's another way to communicate with people, and 
that's what  I really like about them. I realise that in my life I've 
done more and more different things that are all about connecting with 
people, and now it's through photos. And people really like the fact 
that they're getting a bit of you as well, a bit of your spirit.”

In The Good Wife, Cumming plays Eli Gold, the bullish campaign manager 
of a corrupt politician. He was approached to appear in one episode, 
and almost turned it down until his manager persuaded him otherwise.

I always say that's presumably why you pay these people all that 
money,” Cumming says, “because they make good decisions for you 
sometimes, when I would've passed on that. There was no way of knowing 
it would become what it is now, but I'd have been horrified if I'd not 
had it. I feel I've got this double life. By day, middle-aged Jewish 
political man in a suit. By night, downtown crazy person. It's 
hilarious, the situations I find myself in, and I think, what would Eli 
do? Probably run screaming from the building.

Another thing I've thought about, as I get older as an artist, as you 
get more well-known, people know more about you as a person, for good 
or bad, so they connect with you as a person as much as an actor. I 
think that's a really great thing if you can do that. I mean, a lot of  
why I think Eli has gone so well is because people are like, that's 
Alan Cumming, and I like that. They're fascinated that I'm playing that 
kind of character, but being able to bring a frisson it, I think that's 
really great.”

The Good Wife may well allow Cumming to play with cross-type casting, 
but it also lends him the practical benefits of being able to live at 
home and indulge himself with less commercial projects. At the moment, 
beyond Macbeth and The Good Wife, there are forthcoming films to 
promote, a memoir to finish and a record to complete.

Since he's been back in Scotland, Cumming has performed at the Citizens 
Theatre in Glasgow as part of a star-studded gala in honour of comic 
legend Johnny Beattie. Two days after our conversation, Cumming is 
wheeled out as one of the celebrity supporters of the Yes campaign for 
Scottish independence. Given that he's playing Macbeth – or a 
pathological version thereof – there's a delicious irony seeing Cumming 
sat next to First Minister Alex Salmond – another man who would be king 
but there's  a sincerity to Cumming's gesture. He's already gone on 
record that he intends buying a home here in order to be able to vote.

I've always got a thousand things on,” he says. “It's fun. I get 
inspired, and I have a really good system to be able to make them all 
happen. Sometimes I wish I didn't have so many ideas, and people come 
to me with really exciting things as well. I do lots of little weird 
things, and I make a lot of my own work, then every few years something 
comes along that I think is really challenging. It really freaks me out 
and I become obsessed with it, and then think, what am I doing. I do 
that. I can look back at things I've taken on which seem really 
reckless and stupid at the time, but I love doing them. This is one of 
them,” he says of Macbeth.

Ultimately I want the audience to be moved and scared and thrilled. 
You would want that from any production of Macbeth, but this one's 
quite different. It's got some horrifying bits in it. I'm upset and 
horrified on a regular basis every day.”

Macbeth, Tramway, Glasgow, June 13th-30th; Rose Theatre, Lincoln Centre 
Festival, New York, July 5th-14th

The Herald, June 1st 2012