Friday, 30 May 2014

Simon Usher - Chorale – A Sam Shepard Roadshow

When Sam Shepard came to Glasgow last year to watch the last night of the
Citizens Theatre's production of his 1980 play, True West, the presence of
someone who was both Hollywood acting royalty and counter-cultural legend packed
out the house. With roots in rock and roll, Beat poetry and America's Wild West
mythology, here was an underground icon and self-styled literary outlaw who
could be nominated for an Oscar for his appearance in The Right Stuff even as he
scripted Paris, Texas for fellow traveller, Wim Wenders.


 Yet despite such a pedigree which has embraced the hip while flirting with the
commercial, Shepard's stage works are rarely seen in these parts. Prior to True
West, the last time one of Shepard's plays was seen on a main stage in Scotland
was back in 2009, when the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh produced his 1978
piece, Curse of the Starving Class.


The arrival of Chorale – A Sam Shepard Roadshow in Edinburgh,
then, provides an all too rare opportunity to see some of Shepard's early works
s in the sort of studio spaces where his writing career began.


A two-night compendium of plays, films, workshops and a new stage adaptation
of Shepard's prose fragments, Chorale aims to be more of a road trip than an
orthodox tour, as the initiative's director, Simon Usher, explains.


“We try to give people an experience,” he says, “rather than just a
performance. We try to give audiences a flavour of what Sam Shepard is about and
where he came from. I became more interested in Shepard's counter-cultural plays
of the 1960s, and Jack Tarlton, who I developed the show with, and who appears
in it, was interested in Shepard's book of stories, Motel Chronicles. We also
looked at his more recent book, Day Out of Days, which is full of reflections
that seem to look back to the counter-culture from a real distance, in a really
mythic kind of way.


”Shepard is a mythic writer, and the great thing I love about his work is
their multitude of different voices, all struggling to have their say, so you
get all these different styles all messed up in the same play. The plays from
the period we're looking at are very personal, and quite rough. These days I
think people prefer things that are cooler and smarter, but which don't reveal
too much, whereas in Shepard's work, you're right in the emotional engine room.”


 Produced by the Usher-led Presence Theatre and Actors Touring Company in
association with Belgrade Theatre Coventry, Chorale will feature Shirley
Clarke's  film of Savage/Love,Shepard's 1981 collaboration with seminal
director, performer and founder of experimental theatre company, The Open
Theatre, Joseph Chaikin. This will be seen in a double bill with The Animal
(You), a new piece adapted from Shepard's short stories.


On the Saturday at the Traverse, a workshop will focus on the collaborative
nature of Shepard's, and will centre around Clarke's 1982
film of Shepard and Chaikin's earlier collaboration, Tongues. The evening
programme goes right back to Shepard's 1970 play, The Holy Ghostly, which is
paired with The War in Heaven, a third collaboration with Chaikin, written after
Chaikin suffered a stroke that left him aphasic. Usher himself directed
Chaikin's performance in the play's
1987 UK premiere, as well as revisiting it for a large-cast version with the
Royal Shakespeare Company in 2007.


The War in Heaven was last seen in Edinburgh back in 1996, when 7:84
Scotland's outreach director, John Heraghty, directed a production at the Royal
Lyceum Workshops during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe This was duly given a
Herald Angel award. Heraghty directed a production of Tongues, also for 7:84
Scotland, the following year.


 Chorale, then, is as much about Chaikin, who died in 2003 aged sixty-seven, as
it is about Shepard.


“Chaikin is right at the heart of Shepard's work,” Usher says. “The Open
Theatre was all about doing things that were anti-naturalism, and had an
aesthetic and a philosophy that allowed characters to change. Shepard learnt everything from Chaikin, and Chaikin was obsessed with Shepard.
It was something almost unrequited, so with Chorale it's great to put them both
back together in this way.”


 Chorale will end in the bar, where the show's house band, Herons, will perform
a set totally in keeping with Shepard's early days playing with psych-folk
group, The Holy Modal Rounders. Music would feature later in Shepard's work when
he toured as a chronicler of Bob Dylan's 1975 Rolling Thunder Revue. Shepard
also co-scripted Renaldo and Clara, the sprawling film that came out of the
tour, with Dylan.


“There's so much music in Shepard's work,” Usher points out, “that you have to
make Chorale a musical odyssey as well. Shepard comes from Jerry Lee Lewis,
Little Richard and Creedence Clearwater Revival just as much as he comes from
Dylan, Steinbeck, Bukowski and Beckett. You can see that in Shepard's early
work, especially. It's very rock and roll.”


 Chorale – A Sam Shepard Roadshow, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, May 30-31.
www.presencetheatre.com
www.traverse.co.uk

The Herald, May 30th 2014


 ends

Entertaining Mr Sloane

Perth Concert Hall
Three stars
On the surface, barely anything is made explicit in Joe Orton's dark
1960s comedy of psycho-sexual menace. Every panting innuendo between
Sloane's amoral cuckoo in the nest and the middle-aged brother and
sister he flits coldly between, however, promises to spill over from
Sunday tabloid mundanity into something bigger with every utterance.

Now half a century old, Orton's first full-length play teased the Lord
Chamberlain, then in charge of what could and couldn't be said onstage,
with a taboo-busting mix of contemporary pop buzzwords and stylised
baroque. This ages well in London Classic Theatre's touring revival,
which arrived at Perth Festival for a one-night stand on Monday night,
setting out its store on a jumble of upside-down brass bed-posts and
awkwardly angled wardrobes hiding a multitude of sins.

Into this mess steps Paul Dandys' sexually ambivalent Sloane, a
psycho-pathic piece of rough trade who manages to wrap both his
landlady Kath and her gangster brother Ed around his undoubtedly smooth
little finger. As Sloane becomes both play-thing and parasite, only Ed
and Kath's father, Kemp, can see the manipulative malevolence behind
the good looks.

Michael Cabot's production captures the full sense of of post-war
repression and shabbily absurd aspirationalism that courses through the
play. Every grotesque nuance is wrung from the script by Sandys, with
Jonathan Ashley's Ed, Pauline Whitaker's Kath and Nicholas Gasson's
Kemp all larger than life enough to have stepped out of the sort of
post-modern sit-com which Orton's small canon in part set the template
for. Audiences can see for themselves when the production stops off in
Kirkcaldy tonight and tomorrow before finishing with a dirty weekend in
Musselburgh.

The Herald, May 28th 2014


ends


My Name Is... - Tamasha Theatre Company

When Molly Campbell and her mum Louise Fairlie went to see Tamasha
Theatre Company's production of Sudha Buchar's play, My Name Is..., it
was an emotional experience. My Name Is..., which tours to the Tron
Theatre in Glasgow this weekend as part of the theatre's Mayfesto
season, gets behind the sensationalist headlines that  told how, in
2006, the then twelve year old Campbell was apparently snatched from
her home on the Isle of Lewis by her father, Sajad, and taken to his
native Pakistan. A few days later, Campbell spoke to the world in a
press conference to say that, far from being kidnapped, she had gone to
Pakistan of her own accord, and would now rather be known as Misbah.

Buchar's play, developed over six years after interviewing all three
members of the estranged family, aims to set the record straight about
a story that wasn't about race or religion, but was more about the
painfully familiar fall-out when two people stop being in love, and
what happens when a confused child gets caught in the crossfire. What
moved Campbell the most, however, was seeing her parents portrayed so
vividly through their own words, which Bhuchar knitted together into
the play.

“It was so beautiful seeing my Mum and Dad,” says a now nineteen year
old Campbell, “just seeing how they met and fell in love with each
other. It was really emotional looking back at myself when I was a
little girl, and I wanted to live with both of my parents. Everything
that was said was our words, word for word, so I was literally watching
and hearing my Mum and Dad. If it had been the wrong words, it might
not have been so emotional. After the play, I went up to the man who
played my Dad, and I gave him such a tight hug, because it felt like it
was my Dad.”

Buchar started developing My Name Is... in 2007, when she visited
Campbell and her father in Pakistan.

“I became fascinated by the story behind the story,” says Buchar today,
“and wanted to look at how two people who had wanted to be together
ended up in this tug of love that made headlines.”

Fairlie only became involved in the initiative after receiving an email
from her daughter.

“I didn't respond to Sudha at first,” says Fairlie, “because I didn't
want to get involved with anything that might upset Molly, and like
her, I never thought I'd be somebody who would ever be interviewed for
something like this. Then when I met Sudha, I said she'd better bring
two dictaphones with her, because I talk a lot.”

Joking aside, Fairlie admits that the process “wasn't easy, because I
had to open up old wounds. Molly went to Pakistan in 2006, and Sudha
came to see me in 2008, and I'd spent all that time inbetween trying to
forget, and now I had to remember it all again, so it was emotionally
draining having to do that. I wanted to scream from the rooftops that
it wasn't just Molly this happened to. We're the lucky ones, because
we're back together, but how many children get taken away from their
parents like that? It's more widespread than people know, and is quite
heartbreaking, so if what comes out of it is people understanding
something about that, then I'm glad that I've done it.”

Despite the play's relatively lengthy development period, Buchar has
opted not to bring Campbell and Fairlie's story bang up to date with
their ongoing reconciliation.

“The play ends with emotions still raw,” says Fairlie, not wanting to
give too much away. “It shows the breakdown of an entire family, so
it's not a happy ending.”

Campbell for one would like to see things taken further.

“I think it would be good to make a movie of it and bring it up to date
to where we are now,” she says.

If that ever happens, what any director should make clear more than
anything is how, despite the trauma of everything they have been
through, just how devoted Campbell and Fairlie are to each other.

“I'm so in love with her,” says Fairlie of Campbell. “At night we leave
our bedroom doors open and the hall light on so we can chat. We're just
inseparable. It's wonderful. We're so alike, like two peas in a pod.”

Campbell is equally gushing in her praise for her mum.

“It's not like a normal mother and daughter relationship,” she says,
“because to me it feels like I've never really lived with my mum, so it
feels really special.”

Despite the high profile of My Name Is... and the significance of their
experience over the last eight years, neither Campbell or Fairlie want
their lives to be defined by it.

“Even now,” says Campbell, “a lot of people come up and say that
they're glad that I'm back, but I don't bring it up much, because it's
in the past. I was a little girl then. Me and my Mum spend our lives
trying to forget the past, looking forward and trying to learn from it.”

Campbell expresses a desire to go to college.

“I've got diplomas in finance,” she says, “so fingers crossed I can run
my own business one day. I'm still young, and I've got my whole future
ahead of me.”

“Onwards and upwards,” says Fairlie, sounding the proudest a mum can be.

My Name Is..., Tron Theatre, Glasgow, May 29-31.
www.tron.co.uk

ends


My Name Is...  A timeline of real life events.

Molly Campbell was born in 1994, the youngest of four children to Sajad
Rana and Louise Fairlie, who had married in a Muslin ceremony in 1984
after Fairlie converted to Islam.

After the couple's divorce in 2001, all four children initially lived
with their father in Pakistan before moving back to Scotland to stay
with their mother.

In 2005, two of Campbell's siblings moved to Pakistan, while Fairlie
and Campbell moved from Glasgow to Stranraer, then Stornoway.

In august 2006, Campbell's sister met her outside her school, and, with
their father, flew first to Glasgow, then to Lahore, Pakistan.

After an international search following claims that Campbell had been
kidnapped, Campbell and her father took part in a press conference in
Lahore in which she stated that she had gone willingly to Pakistan, and
that she would now be known as Misbah Rana.

After a lengthy custody battle, an out of court settlement was reached,
whereby Campbell/Rana would stay in Pakistan of her own free will,
while her mother was granted access to her in Pakistan.

In 2011, Rana/Campbell moved to England to live with her sister, and
now lives in Scotland with her mother, with whom she is fully
reconciled. Rana/Campbell is still in touch with her father.

The Herald, May 27th 2014


ends









Monday, 26 May 2014

Pests

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Five stars
When a woman steps silently into the sculpted tip which two damaged
sisters call home and pulls out a baby rat from the swollen
track-suited belly of one of them, it's clear just how feral the
twenty-something siblings have become in Vivienne Franzmann's
remarkable new play. This is one of few silent moments in a ninety-five
minute tug of love between Pink and Rolly that explodes with the pains
of every-day survival in the messed-up bubble the women have created
for themselves.

Rolly has arrived on Pink's doorstep straight out of prison. Barely
literate but furiously articulate, with a street-smart patois lifted on
the cheap from pop songs and trash TV, Pink and Rolly take on the world
outside their door with a snarl. Inside, they find comfort from each
other, and while Rolly never sees the projected mayhem going on in
Pink's head, a pair of magic red shoes might just make things better.

While there are obvious linguistic and thematic similarities between
Franzmann's co-dependents and the equally high-octane teenage lovers of
Enda Walsh's now iconic play, Disco Pigs, Franzmann's demotic crackles
with a unique sense of fire and heartbreak. Lucy Morrison's production
for Clean Break, the Royal Court and Royal Exchange, Manchester grabs
Franzmann's already breathlessly brilliant script by the scruff of its
neck and lets loose a pair of stunning performances from Sinead
Matthews and Ellie Kendrick. In a series of break-neck exchanges, they
make it clear just how much Pink and Rollo have been swamped by the
detritus of the real world and damaged by the institutions that failed
them in this sad, angry and devastatingly beautiful piece of work.

The Herald, May 26th 2014


ends

Woman in Mind

Dundee Rep
Four stars
If Alan Ayckbourn had written his 1985 study of one woman's
psychological unravelling today, chances are that his heroine, Susan,
would be so numbed by Prozac that her descent into fantasy would have
been blotted out by the end of the first act. As it is, Marilyn Imrie's
lush-looking revival for Dundee Rep's Ensemble company and Birmingham
Rep reveals Ayckbourn as a far darker chronicler of the very English
garden he occupies than he is often given credit for.

Opening with composer Pippa Murphy's anxious-voiced chorale, we're
ushered into Susan's idyll, a world occupied by a white-suited husband,
a beautiful and talented daughter and a brother who would defend her to
the death. Such endlessly sun-drenched perfection is upended, alas, by
the reined-in torpor of something both more mundane and a whole lot
more complicated.  When it becomes increasingly hard for Susan to tell
which world she belongs in, she takes a mental leap too far.

Flanked by trees and with a giant cube hanging down onto the garden,
Imrie's production heightens Ayckbourn's deadly exchanges to breaking
point, provoking at least two gasps of recognition from the audience on
Friday's opening night. At the show's centre is a vigorously no holds
barred performance from Meg Fraser as Susan, with some strong support
from an impressive cast.

In its melding of fantasy and reality, Ayckbourn's play is on a par
with Dennis Potter's TV drama, The Singing Detective, which appeared in
1986, while it also pre-dates Anthony Neilson's The Wonderful World of
Dissocia. In Susan, however, Ayckbourn has personified an entire
generation of women, screaming inside, destined never to be heard.

The Herald, May 26th 2014


ends








Whisky Kisses

Pitlochry Festival Theatre
Four stars
When American wheeler-dealer Ben Munro attempts to buy up the final
dregs of the rarest whisky in the world, things don't quite go
according to plan. So it goes in Euan Martin, Dave Smith and composer
James Bryce's rollicking musical play, in which the Glenigma malt
becomes a symbol both of the absurdities of global capitalism and of
the life-force of a rural community struggling for economic survival.
Of course, John Durnin's big, showbiz-styled production is a whole lot
more fun than that, but such underlying political motifs are what
drives this revival of a show first seen in 2010 following its
development from the Highland Quest competition to find a new Scottish
musical.

With distillery heiress Mary forced to sell off the last bottle of
Glenigma to the highest bidder, the auction also attracts a Japanese
collector, setting up an east-west conflict that captures the attention
of the Scottish government. With an export ban imposed on proceedings,
the theme-parking of the village's heritage seems to be the only way
out.

The metaphors aren't difficult to spot in this rousingly optimistic
affair, which also features a gay love story sub-plot and a valuable
lesson on the real roots of country music. Durnin's fabulously
well-drilled ensemble led by Dougal Lee as Ben and Mairi Morrison as
Mary are in fine voice as the action zips between town and country on
Ken Harrrison's fluid set. With all the actors contributing to Jon
Beales' big-band arrangements of Bryce's score, Morrison's Gaelic solo
in particular is thrilling to hear in a gloriously idealistic toast to
the power of community in an increasingly cut-throat world.

The Herald, May 26th 2014


ends

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Charles Marowitz

Theatre director, playwright, critic
Born January 26 1934; died May 2 2014

Charles Marowitz, who has died aged 80 after struggling with
Parkinson's Disease, was a theatrical iconoclast of the 1960s
counter-cultural avant-garde, whose uncompromising attitude left its
mark bluntly and without sentiment. This was the case whether causing
trouble in Edinburgh and Glasgow at the Traverse and Citizens Theatres,
working closely with Peter Brook at the Royal Shakespeare Company prior
to an Antonin Artaud-inspired Theatre of Cruelty season, deconstructing
Shakespeare in London at the radical but glamorous Open Space theatre
he co-founded with producer Thelma Holt, or advocating his same
wilfully singular artistic vision in Los Angeles during his later
years. New York born Marowitz alienated many, and not for nothing was
his score-settling autobiography, published in 1990, called Burnt
Bridges.

The youngest of three children born to Polish Jewish immigrants who
worked in the clothing industry, Marowitz staged his first production,
of Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus, aged fourteen, and by
seventeen had founded his own theatre company and was writing reviews
for the Village Voice. After doing army service in Korea in France,
Marowitz moved to London, where he enrolled at the London Academy of
Music, Art and Drama. By 1958, Marowitz had staged a London production
of Gogol's play, Marriage, and in 1962 worked on the RSC's revival of
King Lear by Peter Brook, who he became assistant director to for the
next three years, working with him on Peter Weiss's Marat/Sade and Jean
Genet's The Screens.

It was in Edinburgh in 1962 where his reputation as an enfant terrible
was cemented, however, when he took part in publisher John Calder's
International Drama Conference in 1963 at the McEwan Hall. In what is
regarded by many to have been the first Happening on UK soil, Marowitz,
in cahoots with fellow travellers that included artist Mark Boyle, Ken
Dewey, Allan Kaprow and Hollywood actress Carroll Baker, cut through a
week of dry pontification with a pseudo-speech that gave
way to a cacophonous melee involving a taped collage of preceding
events,  bagpipe music and a brief appearance of nude model Anna
Kesselaar whose tabloid-friendly presence gave the event its notoriety,
even as it woke it up from its torpor.

Marowitz went on to become a key figure in the early days of the
Traverse Theatre alongside another American, Jim Haynes. Marowitz would
go on to direct at the Jeannetta Cochrane Theatre, set up by Haynes and
others with the intention of being a London version of the Traverse.
While Marowitz directed commercially successful productions of Joe
Orton's Loot, Sam Shepard's The Tooth of Crime and other plays here, it
was his own Open Space, started in a basement off Tottenham Court Road,
that captured its underground spirit.

Marowitz returned to controversy in 1965, when the first night of his
scheduled production of Doctor Faustus at Glasgow's Citizens Theatre's
experimental studio base, the Close Theatre, was cancelled at the last
minute. Marowitz had his Mephistopheles sport masks for each of the
seven deadly sins, with a mask of the Queen used for Sloth being deemed
in bad taste by the Citizens board, whose chair, Michael Goldberg,
pulled the plug seven minutes before curtain was due to rise. A full-on argument in front of a packed audience of press and local dignitaries became a piece of theatre in itself, with
Marowitz claiming he was being censored, while Goldberg and fellow board
member Duncan Macrae angrily defended their decision until Marowitz
stormed out of the theatre.

'Producer Offensive To The Queen' ran the headline in the Glasgow
Herald the next day, before the production went ahead with actor Peter
Halliday sporting Britannia's helmet rather than the Queen's tiara in a
not entirely convincing sleight-of-hand.

Marowitz adopted a cavalier attitude towards both classic and modern
plays, with Shakespeare in particular falling prey to a cut and paste
irreverence that pre-dated many post-modern directors, with his A
Hamlet, A Macbeth and others outraging purists even as a younger and
more open-minded audience lapped them up.

In 1981, having alienated pretty much anyone in British theatre he'd
worked with, and with the Open Space having closed its doors a year
earlier, Marowitz returned to the United States, where he opened a new
Open Space in Los Angeles. He also became assistant director of the Los
Angeles Theatre Centre, which he left suddenly in 1989 after a series
of rows. It was a similar story with the Malibu stage Company, which he
founded in 1990, before his twelve year tenure as artistic director
ended after he was fired following a unanimous decision by the
company's board.

In 1987, Marowitz's play, Sherlock's Last Case, appeared on Broadway,
with Frank Langella in the title role, and in 2002, Murdering Marlowe,
which imagined a meeting between Marlowe and Shakespeare, was selected
as a finalist for the GLAAD Media Awards.

Marowitz is survived by his second wife, Jane Windsor-Marowitz, who he
married in 1982, and their son, Kostya.

The Herald, May 23rd 2014

ends


Thursday, 22 May 2014

Nathan Coley – The Lamp of Sacrifice, 286 Places of Worship, Edinburgh - GoMa, Glasgow, until February 1st 2015

Faith and the lack of it is everywhere in Nathan Coley's work. For his
contribution to Generation, GoMA have chosen to restage 'The Lamp of
Sacrifice, 286 Places of Worship, Edinburgh', in which Coley built
miniature cardboard models of every church, synagogue, mosque and
temple in Scotland's capital, then placed side by side in what became a
kind of deconsecrated village.

“It's always nice meeting an old friend you haven't spoken to for many
years,” Coley says of revisiting 'The Lamp of Sacrifice', which has
lain in storage for the last decade after being first seen in 2004 at
Edinburgh's Fruitmarket Gallery. “I'm feeling excited about it being in
Glasgow, and I'm interested in how it transfers to the west coast, even
though the metaphor will remain the same.”

'The Lamp of Sacrifice' takes its title from Victorian artist John
Ruskin's 'The Seven Lamps of Architecture', in which he stated that 'It
is not the church we want, but the sacrifice.'

“Ruskin looked at what he saw as the differences between buildings and
architecture,” Coley explains, “in that buildings are purely
functional, but architecture has meaning in some way. So the pyramids
are architecture for how they were made rather than what they look
like. The fact that four generations of slaves built them gives them
their meaning. By sacrificing my time and my labour to build these
things out of cardboard, which is a material with no value, these
places of worship become mine.”

The thread that runs through Coley's work is plain to see.

“All the works are exactly the same thing,” he says. “Is that
discussion about faith and religion because I was born and bred in
Glasgow? I can't deny that, but as a child I was aware of the divide. I
don't have faith in any religion. They're all as bad as each other.”


The List, May 2014


ends

Louise Hopkins & Carol Rhodes: Drawings, Paintings and Prints - Edinburgh Printmakers, June 7th-July 19th 2014

When Robert Louis Stevenson declared in his poem, 'Travel' exactly how
much he would 'like to rise and go/Where the golden apples grow,-' his
artistic antenna was most definitely heightened in a work first
published in 1865, and without access to either cheap flights or Google
Earth. It is the fourth line of the poem, however, that has lent itself
in part to an international residency programme initiated by the five
Scotland-wide bases that make up the Scottish Print Network.

By enabling ten artists from Scotland and ten from Commonwealth
countries to undergo research residencies, 'Below another sky' arguably
gave them a taste of the imagined idylls captured by Stevenson. This is
expressed most eloquently by two complimentary shows by Louise Hopkins
and Carol Rhodes which run in tandem at Edinburgh Printmakers over the
next month, and which capture two very different sets of experiences.
Where Rhodes revisited India, a place which has heavily influenced her
work, Rhodes, unable to travel in 2013, chose to imagine a set of
landscapes, even as she invited other 'Below another sky' artists to
send her souvenirs from their own expeditions.

“Ideas about geography and topography are important to both Carol and
Louise's work,” according to curator Alexia Holt, “so it seemed
appropriate to show them together. It also seems to fit with
Stevenson's interest in their being two ways to travel, physically and
through the imagination.”

This is the first public presentation of  'Below another sky' prior to
a showing of all twenty artists during the forthcoming Commonwealth
Games in Glasgow this summer.

“There have been lots of surprises,” says Holt. “People really liked
the idea of having a blank canvas, and for it not to be a directed
residency, but to see what comes out of it more in the long-term.”

The List, May 2014


ends

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Dominic Hill Presents - The Citizens Theatre's Autumn 2014 Season

It's initially an odd sensation seeing Dominic Hill in Edinburgh. So
immersed has the artistic director of the Citizen's Theatre been in his
own ambitious programme since he took over the Gorbals-based
institution that it's rare to even see him out of the building. Yet
here he is, in a windowless meeting room in the Royal Lyceum Theatre on
Grindlay Street to give the Herald an exclusive look at the Citz's
forthcoming autumn season, tickets for which go on sale today.

Perhaps Hill's appearance shouldn't be regarded as too off-piste. Prior
to his appointment at the Citizens in 2011, he spent three years as
artistic director of the Traverse Theatre, a stone's throw away from
the Royal Lyceum. More recently, Hill scored one of his biggest hits of
the last year with his production of Crime and Punishment, with Chris
Hannan's stage version of Dostoyevsky's novel being co-produced by the
Citizens and Royal Lyceum Theatres in association with Liverpool's
Everyman and Playhouse.

With Crime and Punishment nominated for several CATS awards next month
as the highlight of a season that also included Sherlock actress Louise
Brealey taking the title role in Miss Julie, the relationship between
the Citz and the Royal Lyceum continues with the world premiere of a
new play by DC Jackson. Kill Johnny Glendenning finds Jackson moving
into more grown-up terrain than his earlier work in a comic look at the
Glasgow underworld that opens at the Royal Lyceum in a production
directed by the theatre's artistic director, Mark Thomson, before
transferring to the Citizens in October.

“It's a very funny play,” says Hill, fresh from his production of
Stephen Jeffreys' play about the self-destructive ways of the second
Earl of Rochester, The Libertine. “It's set in Hyndland and Ayrshire,
and draws on certain mythologies of the Glasgow persona in terms of
gangsterism and machismo. As a play it follows in the tradition of
things that we've done here like Glasgow Girls and Takin' Over The
Asylum, and should be a riotous night out.”

Prior to Jackson's play, the Citizens opens its autumn season with the
only Scottish dates of Headlong's acclaimed stage version of George
Orwell's iconic novel, 1984.This will be followed by the season's
centre-piece, a new production of Hamlet directed by Hill, who will be
tackling his first Shakespeare since casting David Hayman as King Lear
in his inaugural season at the Citz.

“We haven't done a Shakespeare for a while,” says Hill, “and the Citz
has a tradition of doing Shakespeares and big classic plays, so it
seemed appropriate.”

Hamlet will feature Brian Ferguson, who first came to prominence in
Davey Anderson's play Snuff, before working with Hill at the Traverse,
in the title role.

“I've wanted to do it with Brian playing Hamlet ever since I worked
with him at the Traverse,” Hill says. “For me, I think Brian is a
thoughtful and intelligent actor, and he has great sensitivity, which
are all qualities you need to bring to that character.”

Also appearing in Hamlet will be real life couple, Roberta Taylor and
Peter Guinness, who play Gertrude and Claudius, respectively. With
Taylor a former alumni of the Citz's 1970s acting company, this
provides an umbilical link the theatre's colourful past, which has
included several significant Hamlets.

“There's a nice connection with the past there,” says Hill, “and I
think that continuum is really important. It's a big part of what the
Citz was and is, and I think it's right that we celebrate it.”

Hamlet will be followed by a visit from the National Theatre of
Scotland, who are touring Graham McLaren's reinvention of Joe Corrie's
play, In Time O'Strife. As with Kill Johnny Glendenning which it
precedes, In Time O'Strife continues the strand of Scottish-based work
that Hill talks of, and which runs  in tandem with the Citizens'
expansive and internationalist approach.

This continues with a visit by Mull Theatre with their stage version of
Whisky Galore, while Gaelic theatre company, White Stag, bring a double
bill of plays, Tomas and Fantom, to the theatre's Circle Studio space.
While Tomas is a Gaelic version of Robert Burns' epic narrative poem,
Tam O'Shanter, Fantom is inspired by a nineteenth century serial killer
on Harris and Lewis.

After The Libertine, more decadent poets will be seen onstage when
Citizens resident company, Untitled Projects revive Pamela Carter's
dramatic study of the love affair between poets Verlaine and Rimbaud,
Slope. Originally produced by Untitled at Tramway in 2006, Slope sees
director Stewart Laing revisit the play for the Glasgay! festival in a
production reconfigured for a studio setting.

“I think Stewart wanted the play to be seen again,” says Hill, “because
Pamela's had quite a lot of success since it was first done, and
sometimes I don't think she gets as much attention as a writer as she
deserves.”

Hill will end 2014 with Charles Dickens' classic tale, A Christmas
Carol, seen here in Neil Bartlett's dramatisation of the book.

“Neil Bartlett has always been a great supporter of the Citz,” says
Hill, “and when we applied for the rights he sent me a lovely note. His
version was first done at the Lyric Hammersmith, which he used to run,
and which is a very similar space to the Citizens, so it feels like a
good fit.

With the Citizens Theatre's seventieth anniversary due in 2015 and
fund-raising for a massive redevelopment of the building ongoing, the
artistic and commercial success of Hill's programming is an asset that
continues to respect the theatre's past while looking continually
forward.

“The Citz is a building that's very aware of its cultural heritage,”
Hill points out, “and while I want to make it new, I think it's only
right that we use the resources and the assets that we have. We're
about to be going into a period of huge change with the Capital Project
to redevelop the building, so we talk a lot about its heritage, and it
feels good to keep that alive.”

Tickets for the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow's Autumn 2014 season go on
sale today.
www.citz.co.uk


The Citz's autumn 2014 season in miniature.

1984 - August 29- September 6
Headlong’s co-production with Nottingham Playhouse and Almeida Theatre
of George Orwell’s dystopian fantasy comes direct from its West End run
to the Citizens for its only Scottish dates.

Hamlet - September 19-October 11
Dominic Hill directs Shakespeare’s most-performed play with Brian
Ferguson in the title role, and featuring Roberta Taylor and Peter
Guinness in the cast. Previous Citz Hamlets have included 1970's
all-male version of the play starring David Hayman, a 1981 production
set in a psychiatric hospital, a 1993 studio version starring Henry Ian
Cusick and Helen Baxendale, and a 1996 production with Cal MacAninch
and Sophie Ward.

In Time O’ Strife - October 14-18
National Theatre of Scotland bring Graham McLaren's reinvention of Joe
Corrie’s 1926 play about striking Fife miners to Glasgow in a vividly
modern production. The last production of Corrie’s play was by 7:84 at
the Citizens Theatre in 1982.

Tomas & Fantom - October 22-25
White Stag Theatre company bring two new Gaelic plays to the Circle
Studio. Tomas is a new Gaelic version of the epic Burns poem, Tam
O'Shanter, while Fantom is based on the legend of the serial-killer Mac
an t-Sronaich who terrorised the population of Harris and Lewis in the
1830s. Liz Carruthers directs.

Kill Johnny Glendenning -  October 23-November 8
DC Jackson's latest comic play looks to the Glasgow underworld, tabloid
celebrities and the macho glamour of the gangster life in this
co-production with the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, Jackson's
previous plays have included his adolescent trilogy, The Wall, The
Ducky and The Chooky Brae, and episodes of Channel 4's student-set
comedy drama, Fresh Meat.

Slope – November 12-22
First seen at Tramway in 2006, Stewart Laing's Untitled Projects revive
Pamela Carter’s play, Slope, about the love affair between
nineteenth-century poets Verlaine and Rimbaud and its impact on
Verlaine’s young wife Mathilde.

Whisky Galore - November 12-15
Mull Theatre tour their ingenious radio play pastiche of this much
loved tale to Glasgow.

A Christmas Carol – November 29-January 3
Neil Bartlett's version of Charles Dickens' much loved novel is this
year's Christmas show at the Citz.

The Herald, May 20th 2014
ends

Nine Lives

Oran Mor, Glasgow
Four stars
As soon as Zimbabwean refugee Ishmael screws in an over-head bulb in
the inner-city high-rise he must now call home at the start of Zodwa
Nyoni's painfully pertinent monologue, it casts the harshest of lights
on one of the most criminally marginalised sectors of society, both at
home and abroad. As a young gay man forced to flee his home-land,
Ishmael faces a frying pan/fire situation as he's thrown onto the mean
streets of Leeds.

When not holed-up in his room or trying to get his former lover to pick
up the phone, Ishmael must run the gauntlet of a concrete jungle where
pit bulls and young single mums run wild. Ishmael strikes up a
friendship with Bex and her toddler son, Bailey, only to run scared
from their brief encounter lest he continue living a lie. Even as he
finds some kind of salvation via the bright lights down-town, however,
Ishmael's future looks far from certain.

Arriving in a climate in which some far right political parties would
rather doors were closed to people like Ishmael, Nyoni's play couldn't
be more timely. Rather than fall back on easy polemic, however, Nyoni
instead offers up a complex and multi-faceted saga about one man forced
to live between personal borders not of his own making.

Director Alex Chisholm draws a vibrant performance from Llandel Bryant
in this co-production between A Play, A Pie and A Pint and West
Yorkshire Playhouse. As Bryant flits between Ishmael's monologue and
exchanges with Bex and others, the wit of the writing and lightness of
the playing style gives the play its depth, even as Ishmael's story
remains unresolved.

The Herald, May 20th 2014


ends

Friday, 16 May 2014

Banksy: The Room in the Elephant - Emma Callander at the Traverse

Things got strange for Emma Callander after she first directed Tom
Wainwright's play, Banksy: The Room in the Elephant. Originally seen at
Oran Mor in Glasgow in a co-production with Bristol's Tobacco Factory,
Wainwright's play looks at what happened when iconic street artist
Banksy sprayed the words 'This looks like an elephant' on the side of a
water tank in Los Angeles.

For the previous seven years, the tank had been the makeshift home of
Tachowa Covington, who had furnished it to become something of bespoke
miniature des-res. Now Banksy had given it the tag of celebrity,
however, the tank was designated as a work of art, removed, and sold
off to the highest bidder. 'Banksy Brings Misery To Homeless Man' one
newspaper headline announced when Wainwright's look at art, commerce
and real life first appeared.

Things got even stranger during the production's Edinburgh Festival
Fringe run, when film-maker Hal Samples, who was making a film about
Covington, flew his subject over from America to see the play. This
experience became integral to Something From Nothing, the resultant
film which is being screened at the Traverse following each performance
of the play.

“I'd just approached Hal to get a photograph of the tank for the show,”
says Callander, who this week brings her production to Edinburgh's
Traverse Theatre, where she was recently appointed Associate Director,
“and we've ended up becoming the conclusion of his documentary, and the
play now feels like a piece that's about the morality of something.”

Callander's production of Banksy: The Room in the Elephant is her
highest profile outing at the theatre she now calls home since she
first co-directed the now regular Theatre Uncut seasons of work. These
hot off the press short plays reacted to events going on in the world
shaped by the austerity culture that sired them, and a new season will
appear in Edinburgh in August.

Such socially aware leanings are a far cry from Callander's original
training as an actor after spending her youth doing shows with a light
opera club in Bristol so she could hang out with her best mate

“I wonder if she'd have been in a football club or something whether
I'd done that,” Callander muses.

“I had a really good time as an actor,” she says, “but I always felt
something wasn't quite right. I felt I wanted to explore theatre more,
and was always thinking of the bigger picture, so was probably one of
those really annoying actors, always chipping in. My dad's a
philosopher, and I was brought up on big ideas and questioning things,
and it took a while to realise as an actor that I wasn't quite in the
right place.”

Callander ended up working in Poland with experimental theatre company,
Gardzienice, on a production of Iphigenia at Aulis.

“We were working in the forest,” says Callander, “and doing that, away
from my usual surroundings, I felt that it might have been directing
that I wanted to do.”

Callander ended up assisting American wunderkind Daniel Kramer at the
TR Warszawa company in Warsaw. Callander then assisted Vicky
Featherstone and John Tiffany at the National Theatre of Scotland prior
to their departure to the Royal Court. For A Play, A Pie and A Pint, as
well as Banksy:The Room in the Elephant, Callander directed Dalgety by
David Greig and Supply by Cathy Forde, while this season she worked on
Queen of Lucky People, by Iain Heggie.

“I feel like a kid in a sweet shop,” Callander says of her new role,
“but coming into a theatre that has produced some of the best plays in
the English language, I also feel a sense of responsibility. I'm
completely devoted to new writing, and writing that says something
about the world we live in.”

While Banksy: The Room in the Elephant is clearly an example of this,
Tachowa Covington, things haven't changed much.

“Our production hasn't particularly helped him,” says Callander. “He
now lives in a tent in a forest, and no-one in his community believes
any of this happened. They don't believe there's a play, and they don't
believe Tachowa came to Edinburgh, so that's our next mission, to do
the play on a beach close to where Tachowa lives.”

All of which begs the question of what does the reclusive Banksy makes
of all this.

“We contacted him a long time ago,” says Callander, “but never heard
anything back. We didn't want to cash in on his name, but after all
this happened, I know that Banksy gave quite a lot of money to Tachowa
to make sure he can survive. Banksy's done good. He's done his duty.
Maybe he's even been to see the show, who knows?”

Banksy: The Room in the Elephant, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh,
Friday-Saturday. Each performance will be followed by a screening of
Hal Semple's short film, Something From Nothing.
www.traverse.co.uk

The Herald, May 16th 2014


ends

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Unmastered, Remastered

CCA, Glasgow
Four stars
A multi-dimensional playground of TV monitors, projector screens and
lap-tops is the back-drop for this dramatic rendering of Katherine
Angel's remarkable book, Unmastered. First published in 2012, Angel's
first-person narrative is part love story, part confessional, part
feminist theory made flesh and part getting of wisdom that takes in
sex, desire, pornography, loss, grief and the life-giving thrills of
all in a series of poetic fragments. In Nick Blackburn's wildly
impressionistic work-in-progress staging for his Wooster Group inspired
Blackburn Company, which features Angel herself performing the entire
book, Unmastered also makes for a beguiling dramatic monologue.

A stiletto-heeled Blackburn is one of two men onstage who make up the
troupe of six that accompanies Angel, who sits to one side of the
playing area, speaking her own words heard through headphones on her
mobile phone. While films flicker on the TV monitors, the four women
dance or draw, on their bodies or on paper projected by a live camera
feed. The men drink Carling Black Label and scribble macho moustaches
and chest hair onto themselves. All try out a variety of wigs, shoes
and hats, playing with a different sex over the next two hours.

While it's unsurprising to find Virginia Woolf and Susan Sontag's names
cropping up, bursts of Madonna, Beyonce other machine music icons
punctuate each section. For all this activity, it's the stillness of
Angel's darkest outpourings that are most effective, made all the more
devastating for the calm clarity of her delivery. As a one-night stand
to accompany art magazine MAP's feminist reading group project, Sick,
Sick, Sick: The Books of Ornery Women, here is a talking book that
requires a much bigger life.

The Herald, May 15th 2014
ends

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Braw Gigs Food Bank Benefit - Muscletusk, Fordell Research Unit, FUA, WIDT

Bongo Club, Edinburgh

Saturday May 3rd

Four stars

It may not have been Live Aid, but by gathering (some of) the clans from Edinburgh's off-piste but ever-fecund experimental/noise diaspora to play for Edinburgh Central Food Bank, promoters Braw Gigs and the Bongo Club have taken a principled stance against one of the most sadly necessary by-products of the Con-Dem alliance and their criminal banker friends' ongoing advocacy of austerity culture.

The shadowy presence of Warsaw emigre, WIDT (Antonina Nowacka), opens proceedings with a low-key display of synthesised looped chorales put through a spectral dub blender and set to a projected backdrop of impressionistic images. The quartet of FUA follow this with a sax and drum propelled assault that drives the guitar, electronic and vocal extrapolations beneath, while the increasing volume of Fordell Research Unit's solo samples of criss-crossing slabs of sound is pure Techno for airports.

Headliners Muscletusk go full throttle from the off with splashes and crashes of distorted twin guitars, relentlessly hardcore drums and electronic pokes that cast up underlying bass-throbs from the ether that churns, curdles and batters all challengers into submission in a night which, for all its thunder, made the most humane of gestures.
 
The List, May 2014


ends

Alan Ayckbourn - Woman in Mind

When Alan Ayckbourn's play, Woman in Mind, first appeared at the
writer's spiritual home of the Stephen Joseph Theatre in the Round,
Scarborough, in 1985, this first-person tale of Susan, a woman in the
throes of a breakdown living duel lives initially confounded critical
expectations. Here was a virtual theatrical institution, after all, who
had long been regarded, however unjustifiably, as a doyen of
middle-class mores, who now seemed to be changing tack, in terms of
both form and content.

As Dundee Rep prepare to revive Woman in Mind almost thirty years after
the play's initial outing in a new co-production with Birmingham Rep
directed by Marilyn Imrie, Ayckbourn's thirty-second original stage
work can now be regarded as a modern classic.

“I was initially interested in writing a play told entirely in the
first person,” Ayckbourn recalls of the play's origins. “That is to
say, one in which all the action is seen through the eyes of its
central character. It’s an idea used in films quite frequently, in, for
instance, the classic Dead On Arrival, but then movies are where I get
most of my playwriting inspiration, anyway. Of course, the play’s theme
itself lends itself to that convention, being the story of a woman who,
throughout the evening, gradually loses touch with reality.  I felt it
would be interesting and informative for an audience to share her sense
of disorientation.

“In the normal run of things, when you introduce an audience to your
central character, it is usually the one you say to them, this is the
person you can trust, stick with them through the evening and you won’t
go far wrong.  But in the case of Susan, she is less than reliable. As
she loses touch with
her reality, so do we. When she finally completely confuses her dream
world with her real world, so do we.”

While Woman in Mind was regarded as a turning point in his work,
Ayckbourn sees it more as part of a continuum in his enormous body of
work.

“I think over the seventy-eight plays or so that I’ve written, if I see
any sort of pattern it’s a gradual one,” he says, “a journey that
starts in light and takes the occasional turn into quite dark areas,
but then returns again into sunshine.  It’s a journey with no sudden or
abrupt changes of direction.  Yes, Woman In Mind belongs certainly in
that darker area of my work, and the fate of its central character is
extremely sad and touching, but Susan’s final fate is no sadder than,
say, Diana’s in Absent Friends or Vera’s in Just Between Ourselves. The
shadows have always been there if you know where to look.”

Ayckbourn's biographer, Paul Allen, suggested that Woman in Mind was
partly autobiographical. Part of this stems from the fact that
Ayckbourn changed the sex of what was initially a male lead character
to a woman, who he believed audiences would respond to more
sympathetically. Allen also suggested that a breakdown suffered by
Ayckbourn's mother in the 1950s might have influenced the play.

“In a sense, all my plays are autobiographical,” Ayckbourn says. “They
must be because I usually only write about things that I’ve experienced
either first-hand or second-hand through hearsay.  By the same token,
none of the characters can truly be said to be entirely me, but only
fragments of me. So, just as there’s a bit of Susan in me, there’s also
a bit of other characters. I’m not really bothered by such
autobiographical misinterpretations, really.  Critics and commentators
are always anxious to give you labels. They’re convenient, and that way
they can file you away somehow.”

Since Woman in Mind, while Ayckbourn's work has retained its hugely
populist appeal, he has also continued to diversify. Any influence
Woman in Mind might have had on what followed, however, is something
Ayckbourn regards, on the surface, at least, as minimal.

“The next play I wrote was A Small Family Business for The National,”
he points out, “and, really, you couldn’t have a more different play to
Woman In Mind than that. But then, around the same time, came
Henceforward…, which was sort of sci-fi, and different again. I think
my instinct is always, as soon as I’ve written something, I feel the
urge to sit down and write something completely different to confound
expectations and purely for sheer fear of repeating myself.”

While there have been numerous productions of Woman in Mind since it
first appeared, Ayckbourn himself re-visited the play to direct a
production in 2008. The twenty-three year gap between productions don't
seem to have dampened his enthusiasm for the play.

“I enjoyed revisiting it,” he says. “I think it still holds up.  All
these years later and there are still certain taboos which surround
mental illness of any description.  I mean, most of us will gather
around a friend if they have experienced some clear physical damage,
say a broken leg, but generally we remain reluctant and apprehensive if
the damage is to their mind.”

Since the 2008 production, Ayckbourn has remained as tireless as ever.
He is about to direct a new musical version of The Boy Fell Into A
Book, a family show he first wrote several years ago, and which is now 
being produced in Scarborough in a new version with songs by Cathy
Shostak, Eric Angus and Paul James. Ayckbourn will then travel to New
York to present a three-play rep season of his work off-Broadway. After
that, Ayckbourn will direct a brand new work, Roundelay.

In the meantime, Woman in Mind keeps on coming back.

“I would urge them to allow, in both the production and playing, light
and dark to coexist equally,” Ayckbourn advises the Dundee company.
“You can’t, after all, create shadows without light.”

Woman in Mind, Dundee Rep, May 21-June 7
www.dundeerep.co.uk

Alan Ayckbourn – A life in the theatre

Alan Ayckbourn was born in 1939, and in 1956 worked as an acting
assistant stage manager with legendary actor manager Donald Wolfit's
company for three weeks at the Edinburgh Festival.

In 1956, Ayckbourn worked as an actor at Worthing, Leatherhead, Oxford
and Scarborough, where he worked at the Library Theatre.

Ayckbourn's first full length play, The Square Cat, appeared in 1959.
Throughout the 1960s, Ayckbourn worked as an associate director at the
Victoria Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent, and as a drama producer at BBC Radio
Leeds. In 1966, Standing Room Only, originally seen in Scarborough in
1961, opened in the West End.

Between 1972 and 2009, Ayckbourn was artistic director of the Stephen
Joseph Theatre in the Round, Scarborough, where many of his defining
works, including Relatively Speaking, Absurd Person Singular and the
Norman Conquests trilogy, were premiered. Woman in Mind opened there in
1985.

Between 1986 and 1988, Ayckbourn was an associate director at the
National Theatre in London, and between 1991 and 1992 was the Cameron
Mackintosh Professor of contemporary theatre at Oxford University.

Ayckbourn has now written some seventy-eight plays, with one play a
year continues to open in Scarborough, usually with Ayckbourn directing.

The Herald, May 13th 2014


end

Our Country's Good

Tron Theatre, Glasgow
Three stars
There are few directors in Scotland who have more fun with large-scale
acting ensembles than Gerry Mulgrew, whose mixing up of theatrical
forms has defined his Communicado company for more than thirty yeas
now. Seeing Mulgrew apply this approach to such a multi-faceted text as

Timberlake Wertenbaker's 1990 look at how transported convicts in an
eighteenth century Australian penal colony find emancipation through
theatre is a treat, then, in the Tron's second collaboration with Royal
Conservatoire Scotland for the theatre's Mayfesto season.

In a world where a hanging is the only entertainment going, liberal
Second Lieutenant Clark convinces his superiors to allow him to produce
a play with the convicts put in his care. After facing initial
resistance on all sides, Clark decides on George Farquhar's restoration
comedy, The Recruiting Officer, as his directorial debut for a company
of thieves, prostitutes and hangmen, all of whom eventually find a
purpose through play-acting that takes them beyond their misdemeanours.
This, of course, terrifies the authorities, and only a liberal approach
from on high allows it to continue. An aboriginal woman, meanwhile,
watches from the sidelines as hers and her homeland's dreaming looks
set to be sullied forever.

Wertenbaker's remarkable treatise on the power of art to change lives
is dexterously played by RCS's post-graduate acting students on Hazel
Blue's twin-platformed set. Seen in an era where the current government
would rather prisoners weren't allowed books, the play becomes an even
more vital text. Beyond the words, Mulgrew provides a set of lovely
theatrical flourishes, not least of which comes in a final junk-yard
musical cacophony that shows the true power of unity, onstage and off.

The Herald, May 12th 2014


end

The Tempest

Tron Theatre, Glasgow
Three stars
If there is one important thing highlighted in Andy Arnold's new
production of Shakespeare's tale of shipwreck, magic and exile, it is
who the real monsters are in Prospero's self-appointed kingdom. In a
production presented in association with Royal Conservatoire Scotland
for the Tron's Mayfesto season that focuses on colonisation and the
spoken word, Caliban's enslavement is put to the fore, however kindly
her master may look on her, while Aerial is treated more like a pet.

In a punky-looking  production in which both Prospero and Miranda sport
elaborately bouffanted blonde barnets, Prospero is an over-protective
father and slave-master, while Gonzalo is an old-school toff mourning
the death of a dog eat dog empire which even abroad rears its predatory
nature. Trinculo and Stephano are akin to a pair of Ealing Comedy spivs
who would sell off London Bridge to American tourists, and are quite
prepared to exploit Caliban for their own ends, even as they ply her
with illicit hooch.

Set on the wooden platforms of Hazel Blue's set against a vivid blue
backdrop, this is a fascinating approach, and one which Arnold's
ten-strong post-graduate ensemble relish. While there may be no denying
the presence of colonial concerns in the text, as with many conceptual
approaches to Shakespeare, it is invariably over-ridden by the story
itself Arnold's solution is to top and tail the show with the opening
and closing speeches of Caribbean writer Aime Cesaire's own,
politically driven version of The Tempest.

While the prologue provides a framing device that heightens the play's
theatricality, Caliban's closing speech about the meaning of freedom
puts Prospero's own final gestures in the shade in a vibrant and
thought-provoking provocation.

The Herald, May 12th 2014


ends

Pressure

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars
Talking about the weather may be the great British talking point, but
storm and sunshine become matters of life and death in David Haig's new
World War Two set play. Based on real events leading up to the 1944 D
Day landings, the play focuses on Dalkeith-born military meteorologist
James Stagg and his sleepless quest to convince General Eisenhower to
postpone the assault until a favourable climate prevails.

Stagg's main obstacle to being taken seriously is his flamboyant
American counterpart, Irving Krick, whose glamour-chasing allure is in
stark contrast to Stagg's oddball demeanour. Throw in the fact that
Stagg's wife has just gone into labour, and the stage is set for an
increasingly urgent culture clash, where victory is celebrated with
doughnuts and whisky.

Set in a solitary room awash with charts, ringing telephones and a
coterie of generals, Haig has constructed a grippingly pacey adventure
yarn on the one hand, with Haig himself as Stagg leading a rock solid
set of performances into battle. More importantly in John Dove's
co-production between the Royal Lyceum and Chichester Festival Theatre,
Haig attempts to get to the human frailty of those in the thick of it.
At the heart of this is Kay Summersby, Eisenhower's war-time lover and
confidante, who keeps Stagg calm by visiting his wife in hospital, and
effectively keeps the mission together.

Beautifully played by Laura Rogers, it is Kay's fate that is most
telling in a tale of men at war and their responses to the women
they're closest to. While Stagg gets to be by his wife and new son's
side, Kay becomes the collateral damage of a historical moment she
helped shape.

The Herald, May 12th 2014


ends

Friday, 9 May 2014

The Libertine

Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
Four stars
When a troupe of actors wander the stage in civvies and modern-day
attitudes before the lights dim and they switch into character, it's a
commonplace enough theatrical device these days. When the cast of
Stephen Jeffreys' period romp concerning the Second Earl of Rochester's
stubborn flight into self-destruction top and tail Dominic Hill's
production with such an approach, however, it becomes a device that
matters.

Jeffreys' version of Rochester, after all, is a man who courted infamy
like the most indulgent of rock stars, whose entire crash-and-burn
lifestyle was a performance to die for. Unlike the coterie of preening
fops, literary groupies and even Elizabeth Barry, the actress he fell
for, however, he refused to play to type. Rochester's excesses were no
act, but something that fuelled his soul, even as they killed him.

Hill's revival of Jeffreys' twenty year old play casts Martin Hutson as
an initially charming but increasingly crazed Rochester, whose opening
speech to the audience sets a tone that flits between Blackadderish
camp and something darker. When Gillian Saker's Barry first takes the
stage, the ensemble roar their way through the Citz's auditorium. By
the time she's the talk of the town and Rochester is confined to a
wheelchair, their vicious sparring may be in full view, but her
crowd-pleasing antics can only be heard.

This is the only thing hidden in Tom Piper's open-plan design for a
play that has a multitude of contradictions rubbing up against each
other. Life and art, artifice and truth, attention-seeking and
self-loathing and the addictive allure of all of these are at the heart
of a work that gives its subject the immortality he craved at last.

The Herald, May 9th 2014


ends

Mercury Fur

Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh
Three stars
Like Brit Pop, the resurgence of interest in the 1990s wave of
'in-yer-face' theatre among a new generation perhaps points up a lack
of anything else to grab hold of, however much some of the originals
might have faked it. If playwright Philip Ridley was at the vanguard of
that Thatcher-sired storming of the barricades, this revival of his
most controversial work from 2005 by the St Andrew's University sired
Riot Productions in association with Edinburgh's Black Dingo company
makes clear that its brutal mix of gangster movie iconography and
dystopian future-shock has lost none of its edge.

Twenty-something Elliot bursts into an abandoned flat at the play's
start like he's seeking sanctuary from a war zone. In fact, Elliot is
pushing a rare and transformative drug that comes in the form of
butterflies, and he and his brother Darren are alternative party
planners for adrenaline-junky city boys who want to live out Vietnam
fantasies. In this case, that includes raping and killing young boys
dressed as Las Vegas era Elvis. Throw into the mix the baroque
sentimentalism of gangster Spinks, who tends to a blind grande dame who
believes she's in The Sound of Music, and an entire society seems to be
living a bad dream.

Director Jocelyn Cox draws a nuanced set of performances from her cast
of eight. From the way Elliot and Darren play wild west games to the
way they put their hands on each other's chests to hear them pound with
life, this is a heartbreaking dispatch from broken Britain, where a
collective yearning for something better is as desperate as they come.

The Herald, May 8th 2014
ends

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Mayfesto 2014 - Colonisation and the Spoken Word

There's a joke doing the rounds of the internet as jokes do, but which
originated in America. It's about a man waiting in line in a grocery
store behind a woman, who's speaking on her mobile phone in a foreign
language. Once the woman has finished her call, the man approaches her,
and points out that, as she's in America, she would need to speak
English.

“Excuse me?” says the woman, before the man very slowly, as if talking
to a child, suggests to her that if she wants to speak Mexican, then
she should go back to Mexico. To stress his point, the man points out
that the woman was in America, where they speak English.

“Sir,” says the woman. “I was speaking Navajo. If you want to speak
English, go back to England.”

Despite its locale, this joke seems to be the perfect illustration of
the themes behind this year's Mayfesto, the Tron Theatre's annual look
at politically tinged drama, which this year themes its programme
around the all too timely notions of Colonisation and The Spoken Word.
Nowhere is this theme found more readily than in Mayfesto's two
flagship productions, which find Tron artistic director Andy Arnold
directing Shakespeare's The Tempest, while Communicado's Gerry Mulgrew
oversees Timberlake Wertenbaker's Our Country's Good.

Produced in association with the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and
featuring international casts, themes of colonisation are apparent in
both plays.  In The Tempest, Prospero's enslavement of Caliban is to
the fore, while Our Country's Good focuses on prisoners in an
eighteenth century Australian penal colony where inmates create and
perform a play.

Elsewhere in the programme, the Imaginate festival tours Saltbush, an
Australian/Italian co-production which looks at a journey made by two
Aborigine friends. Also featured are Tamasha theatre company, present
My Name Is..., which dramatises the real life plight of the twelve year
old girl who fled Glasgow with her Pakistani father. Heart is a
production by the ZENDEH company, who dramatise a love story set
between Durham and Tehran in 1953. As well as these full productions,
Mayfesto will also feature debate, as well as a series of rehearsed
readings. Many of these will feature the work of Aime Cesaire, the
Caribbean-born author whose own version of The Tempest looked at the
story through the African-American experience of colonialism.

“Mayfesto is a season work that questions and challenges things, both
in terms of artistic work and ideas beyond them,” Arnold points out,
“and what motivated me for Mayfesto this year was that we're building
up to this huge great celebration of the commonwealth through the
Commonwealth Games. With that, it seemed the right moment to question
the whole basis on which the  commonwealth was established in relation
to slavery and so on.

“Coincidentally I'd been talking top the RCS about doing a classic
piece, and that's why I thought of doing The Tempest, but taking a
different slant on it, heightening the colonial elements that are in
it. It has always been a colonial play, but in this production, Caliban
is very much played as someone with great dignity, and who has a
certain moral authority in the piece, and that makes it a very
appropriate piece.”

Arnold has also opted to open and close the play with words by Cesaire,
who, as well as a life's work as a writer, thinker and activist, taught
radical thinker Frantz Fanon, who, like Cesaire, was born on the island
of Martinique.

“Cesaire has become an important part of the festival,” says Arnold.
“When I thought about looking at colonialism in Mayfesto. I knew I
wanted some kind of staging of Cesaire's epic poem, Return To My Native
Land, which I've had on my bedside table, as it were, since my student
days. It's a really powerful, visceral and beautiful poem to stage, so
I knew I wanted that to be part of Mayfesto.

“I wasn't familiar with Cesaire's other work, although I'd heard of A
Season in the Congo from a production at the Young Vic. Then I found
out he'd done his own version of The Tempest, called A Tempete, in
which Caliban is more of a freedom fighter and Prospero's a white slave
trader, and there's a beautiful prologue and epilogue, in which Caliban
has the last word, so I've topped and tailed this production with
Cesaire's words, as well as programming readings of these other pieces
as part of Mayfesto as a homage to this great unsung writer.”

Like Shakespeare and Wertenbaker, Cesaire was an artist whose work had
politics bursting through every line without the issue ever having to
be forced.

“I've always steered away from didactic theatre,” Arnold says, “but
there is nevertheless a need for issue-based theatre. For many years
people shied away from it, but I think it's possible to marry good
artistic writing to something that's inspired by political issues.
Sometimes people have got away with it because it's been about a worthy
cause and has just been speaking to the people who want to hear these
things, but looking back over the decades, the best political play I've
ever seen was Brian Friel's Translations, and that doesn't have a line
of politics in it.”

While The Tempest and Our Country's Good certainly sit alongside
Friel's play in that respect, the rest of the Mayfesto programme is
invested with equal weight.

“Mayfesto's changed,” Arnold admits. “When we started, it was pretty
much all full productions. Now it's become more of a focus for
workshops and debate. It's a great platform for artists to interact, so
there might only be sixty people watching something, but they'll be in
the bar afterwards talking about it. It's interesting, because if you
see a full production, you leave the building straight afterwards,
whereas if you watch a work in progress piece, because it's not
finished, there's this assumption that it's up for discussion, and that
you as an audience member might be able to influence how it develops.
That's happening a lot. Rather than scratch around for a company from
down south, we can put on something from scratch and see how it
develops.”

Mayfesto 2014 runs at the Tron Theatre, Glasgow, May 6-31.
www.tron.co.uk

Mayfesto 2014 – The Highlights

The Tempest / Our Country's Good – May 7-17 – Two co-productions
between the Tron and Royal Conservatoire Scotland find Arnold directing
Shakespeare's classic tale of magic on a far-flung island, while Gerry
Mulgrew looks at Timberlake Wertenbaker's modern classic set in an
Australian penal colony. The two productions lay in the Tron's main
auditorium on alternate nights.

Rehearsed Readings – May 8-31 – Six separate programmes feature work by
Caribbean writer Aime Cesaire, a new look at Peter Arnott's play,
Thomas Muir – The Hidden Spirit Of Our Times, first seen at the Tron in
1986, and new work, including Sara Shaarawi's Day One, which looks at
life as a woman in Cairo.

Art v Politics – Who's Lying and Who's Telling The Truth? - May 23 –
Herald Arts Editor Keith Bruce chairs a discussion on political art and
the art of politics in Scotland, 2014, with panellists including NVA's
Creative Director, Angus Farquhar, Pete Wishart MP, and Nazli
Tabatabai-Khatambakhsh, artist director of ZENDEH, whose production of
Steven Gaythorpe's play, Heart, appears at Mayfesto. appears

My Name Is... - May 29-31 – The Tamasha company present a new play by
Sudha Bhuchar taken from the real life story of a twelve year old girl
who was presumed to have been kidnapped from Glasgow by her Pakistani
father, only for it to emerge that she went of her own accord.

The Herald, May 6th 2014
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Monday, 5 May 2014

Wonder

Bongo Club, Edinburgh
Three stars
When one of the carpet-load of balloons that line the club space where
the young Creative Electric company's latest show is being performed
accidentally pops, it's as if the bang is calling time on a particular
moment in the four performers lives before they move on to the next
one. In each corner of what looks like a subterranean playroom, each of
the cast – two male, two female, germ-free adolescents all - stand
before a full-length mirror, recounting what they see in soliloquies of
self-image that reveal more than their masked personae intend.

Over the course of the next forty minutes or so, those masks are put to
one side as each opens up to reveal what it's like to live in a world
where image is everything, and social media status creates a kind of
playground pecking order. The candour with which the quartet lay bare
their growing pains go beyond confessional in Hannah Marshall's
touchy-feely immersive production to become a choreographed ritual of
collective purging before each goes on to the next thing.

With sound designer Joshua Payne's twinkly ambient soundscape
underscoring a whirlwind of text, movement and physical and emotional
tics, performers Hannah Gipp, Mark Hannah, Christie Russell-Brown and
Will Stringer give their all as they explore their identities that
eventually find a release. As they end leaving themselves willingly
vulnerable before reaching out to each other for a group hug, they are
in the throes of discovering who they are, who they want to be and,
perhaps more importantly, who they might eventually grow into.
Audiences can find out for themselves when Wonder visits North Berwick
on Tuesday and Glasgow on Friday.

The Herald, May 5th 2014

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Sunday, 4 May 2014

Uncle Varick

Village Theatre, East Kilbride
Neil Cooper
Three stars
A smashed-up gold-coloured picture frame surrounds the front of the
stage for Rapture Theatre's revival of John Byrne's 1960s update of
Chekhov's Uncle Vanya. It's as if the action that follows behind it in
Michael Emans' production is that of a dust-laden and damaged old
master that's been left at the back of a junk shop, out of time and
past its best. This is exactly the state that  Jimmy Chisholm's Varick,
his niece Shona and a community wrapped up in their collective torpor
find themselves in at the start of Michael Emans' production, trapped
as they are in their rural idyll in north-eastern Scotland.

The times, however, are a changing, as the arrival of Shona's boorish
art critic father Sandy and his swingingly young bride Elaine searching
for the shock of the new makes clear. Even local whipping boy Willie
John has worked up a few incongruous-sounding Beatles numbers into his
act. It's these tensions between old and new and town and country that
have always formed the backbone of Chekhov. Things are heightened even
more here by references to a book Varick calls 'The Female Enoch' as
all onstage flirt, make clumsy passes at each other, fall for someone
they shouldn't or else remain oblivious to the affections of others.

Nowhere is this seen better than in George Anton's dissatisfied
doctor's almost liaison with Selina Boyack's equally bored Elaine in a
production that exposes all the shallow pretensions of a London set in
search of cheap thrills. It's those left behind to pick up the pieces,
however, who capture the full tragi-comic pathos of the lifetime of
disappointment that fuels the play.

The Herald, May 2nd 2014

ends

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Brassed Off,

Brassed Off,
King's Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars
When an unemployed miner dressed in a clown suit attempts to hang
himself from the machinery he once worked among to the strains of a
brass band arrangement of Jerusalem, it's a damning indictment of how
one of Britain's greatest industries was treated with contempt. It's
also an image which takes Paul Allen's stage version of Mark Herman's
1996 film beyond being purely feel-good to something bigger and braver
in Damian Cruden's production, an alliance between the Touring
Consortium, York Theatre Royal and the Octagon Theatre Bolton.

Like the film, Allen's play is set in the fictional Yorkshire town of
Grimley, where, a decade after the 1984-85 miners strike collapsed, the
pits are about to finally close. One of the few lifelines for the town
is its brass band, run with messianic fervour by ex miner Danny, played
by an impassioned and understated John McArdle. While families become
increasingly divided, James Robinson's local lothario Andy falls for
Clara Darcy's prodigal girl made good Gloria, who may be a fine flugel
horn player, but is also in the pay of the bosses.

All this is told through the eyes of Danny's grandson Shane, who, as
played by Luke Adamson, looks back at his eight year old self before
the baton is passed on. Such a heart-felt and vital reminder of recent
history shows how the fragile social glue of a community can be ripped
apart, but still survive. This is proven by the heroic presence onstage
of the Dalkeith and Monktonhall Brass Band, who lend even more
authenticity to a fine-tuned piece of intelligent populism that should
be seen at all costs.

The Herald, May 1st 2014


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