Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Sophie Ellis-Bextor

Queens Hall, Edinburgh
Five stars
Sophie Ellis-Bextor has come a long way since her first Edinburgh
appearance fronting short-lived indie band TheAudience at La Belle
Angele in 1998. While the intervening years have seen her epitomise
T4-friendly disco diva electro-pop, this year's Wanderlust album has
found her pretty much coming full circle in an eclectic collaboration
with Mercury nominated singer/song-writer Ed Harcourt.

Harcourt is at the keyboards as part of the black-clad sextet that
accompany Ellis-Bextor on the current leg of the tour to support the
album, as they were earlier in the year at Oran Mor in Glasgow. In what
is effectively a two-act show, the stage is bathed in red as
Ellis-Bextor enters in matching mini-dress to open with the
eastern-tinged movie theme melodrama of Birth of An Empire before
moving through a conceptual pot-pourri of off-kilter ballads, woozy Cold War
waltzes and epic chorales.

Some charming between-song banter covers tour bus Conga injuries and
what Ellis-Bextor considers to be her somewhat shaky dance skills.
There is a vote to decide which cover version she should do, with a
euphoric take on New Order's True Faith winning out over Pulp's Do You
Remember The First Time? Ellis-Bextor sings all this with such
cut-glass clarity that it's a wonder she hasn't been picked up for one
of Andrew Lloyd-Webber's better musicals by way of Eurovision and a
James Bond soundtrack.

A quick change into something sparklier and Ellis-Bextor returns for a
half-hour burl through her hits that transforms the venue into the
shiniest of nightclubs, before an unamplified duet with Harcourt in the
centre of the floor closes a show performed with panache, wit and some
considerable style.

The Herald, September 30th 2014


ends

Matthew Lenton - Into Tomorrow With Vanishing Point

Things change when you get older. Just look at Tomorrow, the latest
theatrical meditation from Vanishing Point, which plays its only
Scottish dates at Tramway from this weekend following its premiere in
Brighton and follow-up dates in Brazil. In the company's Glasgow
rehearsal room, a largely youngish cast from Scotland, England, Russia
and Brazil convene under director Matthew Lenton's guidance to go
through a scene in what, despite only makeshift scenery, conjures up
the slightly derelict feel of an old people's home.

As the cast assemble, their natural ebullience seems to slow as they
ease into character. When they cover their faces with tight-fitting
latex rubber masks, the transformation is complete. Only when one or
other of them breaks into their natural stride do things jar.
Otherwise, it's as if time itself has caught up with them in an instant.

“I was interested in doing something about care,” says Lenton. “I had
this image of having a cast in their eighties or nineties, but to have
one young actor hidden among them wearing this realistic age make-up
like Kate Winslet had in Titanic when she became the old lady. I wanted
to have this really slow piece of theatre where almost nothing happens,
but then in the last ten minutes one of them begins to do things that
should be physically impossible for them to do.

“Then I had this idea of using a mask somehow, so we bought one to try
it out in a development week, and it became apparent really quickly
that, as good as masks are, as soon as you put them next to an old
person on a stage, they're not convincing. Once we realised that wasn't
going to work, I thought, well, let's reverse it, and see what happens
if you have a young person in a mask, so the mask then takes on a much
more metaphorical quality, because the audience can see what's
happening, and you're asking them to buy into the metaphor, as they
watch someone becoming old in an instant.”

As Lenton explains himself, what he says becomes as close an
approximation as you'll get to the instinctive nature of Vanishing
Point's methodology, which occupies a dreamier, more magical-realist
landscape than more straight-ahead theatre companies. Despite Lenton's
observations too of Tomorrow as “a chamber piece, much more intimate
than a lot of other stuff we've done lately, which has been big and
visual,” as the play lurches into other worlds, there are recognisable
Vanishing Point tics that come through in a typically expansive
co-production with Brighton Festival, Tramway and Cena Contemporanea in
Brasilia in association with partners in Sao Paulo and Moscow as well
as Platform in Easterhouse and the National Theatre Studio in London.

While several plays have looked at ageing over the last few years by
way of the effects of alzheimer's disease and euthanasia, the subject
has crept into Vanishing Point's other work almost subliminally. Both
Interiors and Saturday Night have featured characters in need of care,
while the second half of the company's last show, The Beautiful Cosmos
of Ivor Cutler, focused more explicitly on the late poet and singer's
fading health in his later years.

But beyond the aesthetics of Tomorrow, there there are some pretty
serious questions being asked in what sounds like a very personal work
for Lenton.

“It's about who cares for people and how you care for them,” he says,
“and whether vocational care is better than care by nurses who do it
for the money, and whether at the point of delivery whether one is any
better than the other. That all comes from the simple idea that we'll
all need care one day if we're lucky and we're not hit by a bus before
then. There's not much choice in being cared for, because we'll all
need it, but there's a much greater choice in deciding to care for
someone, how you do that, and what limits it pushes you to as a carer.

“All of these ideas are  rich to me in the piece, but I wanted them to
be embedded, and I wanted the piece to be like a poem. I'm very
interested in stuff these days which invites an audience to make their
meaning for themselves, so we create something that has all these
things in it, but an audience has to look for what they take out of it.”

Tomorrow, Tramway, Glasgow, Oct 3-11.
www.tramway.org
www.vanishing-point.org

The Herald, September 30th 2014


ends

Tragic (when my mother married my uncle)

Cumbernauld Theatre
Four stars
A sulky teenager dressed in black sprawls aloft the raised platform of
his bunk-bed, going through his photo album on his ipad, which projects
enlargements onto a big screen on the other side of the room.
Everyone's in there; his mum, his best mates, one of his kind-of
girlfriend's selfies. Most significantly are the portraits of the boy's
dad, who died the week before, and his uncle, who his mum just married.
As the boy lays bare his plans to stab his uncle in revenge for the
killing of his dad, it becomes clear that he is a contemporary version
of Hamlet, and that the pictures projected in his room are of his mum
Gertrude, his best pal Horatio and his squeeze Ophelia. Then there's
his uncle, Claudius, who he calls Uncle C.

This is a neat trick in Iain Heggie's fresh look at the bard, performed
with youthful confidence by Sean Purden Brown in Heggie's own
production for Subway Theatre Company in association with Sico
Productions. Developed through improvisations with drama students at
Royal Conservatoire Scotland, Tragic takes Shakespeare's complex verse
and renders it in a demotic that, while still poetically vivid, is easy
enough for young actors to deliver and for audiences to get to grips
with without ambiguity.

If overdone this could be patronising for all concerned, but over
seventy-five minutes it becomes as current as the version of
Shakespeare's original currently running at the Citizens Theatre. In
his determined but ultimately self-destructive confessional, the figure
presented by Heggie and Purden Brown is as much Holden Caulfield as
Hamlet, and the play both his diary and his last words and testament.

The Herald, September 30th 2014




ends

Monday, 29 September 2014

Choir

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Three stars
When a middle-aged man walks onstage in his underwear, puts on a pair
of bright scarlet shoes and declares himself the reincarnation of Judy
Garland, evidence may suggest otherwise, but it's a provocative opening
nevertheless to Lee Mattinson's solo outing about one man's belated
coming to terms with who he is. The man in his underwear is Francis, a
spoon-playing romantic in search of true love as he moves through the
back-street club scene that becomes his own yellow brick road en route
to salvation fronting a local community choir. Just as Francis finds a
sense of belonging, alas, a one-night encounter with a building-site
worker he obsesses over before being hit with a restraining order
leaves him diagnosed with Aids.

Such a life and death litany is related in florid terms in Mattinson's
script, which references the mundane everyday minutiae of Francis'
existence in a way which resembles an Alan Bennett monologue. Jennifer
Malarkey's production prefers busyness over stillness, however, as a
mercurial Donald McBride puts his clothes on then takes them off again,
as assorted celluloid images of Garland are beamed behind him. While
this is never dull, there are times when Mattinson's words can more
than stand on their own without such dressing up.

Presented by the Stockton-based Encounter Productions in association
with Alnwick Playhouse, ARC Stockton, Arts Centre Washington and
Northern Stage, the play and production were developed by the north
east of England's Bridging the Gap scheme designed to create and tour
new theatre across the region. The result is an intermittently
fascinating portrait of a man whose entire life is a musical, from
cradle to grave.

The Herald, September 29th 2014


ends




The Man Jesus

Dundee Rep
Four stars
When a Morningside-accented Judas gives a two-part definition of the
word 'politics' in Matthew Hurt's ecclesiastical solo vehicle for Simon
Callow, the applause provoked by its second half suggests more than a
hint of recognition in its description  of politicians as annoying
insects in need of swatting. When Judas, seated at the centre of an
otherwise empty row of chairs awaiting the Last Supper, goes on to
describe the faithful rump of his former messiah's followers as
“masochists with a fetish for disappointment,” the silence that follows
is equally telling.

By this time Callow has already introduced us to many of the people who
shaped Jesus or where shaped by him in a version of the gospel seen
from a dozen points of view. Using a variety of largely northern
accents beside a pile of chairs, we first of all meet Jesus' mother,
Mary, and his brother, James. In Callow's hands these become
plain-talking Yorkshire folk, the apostles are hard-drinking Scousers
and Scots caught up in the moment, while John The Baptist educates his
cousin with the zeal of a Red Clydesider trade union leader.

As Callow darts ferociously between characters in Joseph Alford's
production, first seen at the Lyric Theatre Belfast, a portrait emerges
of the play's unseen figurehead as a charismatic radical and leader of
a revolution thwarted by a privileged establishment. If Callow's
versions of Herod and Pontius Pilate sound like Bullingdon boys at
play, it's surely more than mere coincidence. As the defeated dust
themselves down following Jesus' apparent demise, what's left is a play
about faith, hope and a very down to earth desire for change.

The Herald, September 29th 2014


ends

Friday, 26 September 2014

Hamlet

Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
Four stars
It is the ghosts who are left standing at the end of Dominic Hill's
brooding new production of Shakespeare's tragedy, which puts a
bespectacled Brian Ferguson centre-stage as the Danish Prince in angry
search for closure following his father's murder. With the back of the
battleship grey stage lined with reel to reel tape recorders in what
appears to be an abandoned and possibly haunted house where the party
never stops, Hamlet and his pals attempt to capture the voice of his
father's spirit by way of a BBC Radiophonic Workshop style soundtrack
worthy of 1970s horror thriller, The Legend of Hell House.

Leading the charge in all this is Ferguson, who plays Hamlet as a
dour-faced pistol-packing wind-up merchant trying out different
versions of himself. One minute he has an old-school cassette deck
slung across his shoulder, interviewing Peter Guinness' Claudius and
Roberta Taylor's Gertrude like an on-the-spot reporter, the next he's
in the stalls directing the visiting theatrical troupe with a silent
movie megaphone. When he tries to play the hard-man, however, it goes
badly wrong, for Meghan Tyler's increasingly booze-soaked Ophelia as
much as himself. Where Hamlet's response to the death of a father is to
look inwards, she lets rip on a more primal path to self-destruction.

With a cast of nine playing Nikola Kodjabashia's discordant score on an
array of broken-down pianos, strings and electronic noises off, Hill's
production uses many of the stylistic accoutrements of his similarly
open-plan take on Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment. Here things are
even darker in a version that simmers with an edgy intensity that
brings all of Hamlet's demons home to roost.

The Herald, September 26th 2014


ends

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Rachel Maclean – The Weepers

An Tober, Tobermory, Isle of Mull
Until September 27th
Four stars
The Scotch mist that wafts around Duart Castle at the opening of Rachel
Maclean's new film speaks volumes about where she's coming from in what
looks like a major leap towards something even more ambitious than her
previous work in this major commission for the Mull-based Comar
organisation. Films such as LolCats and Over The Rainbow became pop
cultural cut-ups featuring green-screen footage resembling Lady Gaga
and Katy Perry video stylings in which Maclean played a multitude of
day-glo Cos-playing creatures lip-synching dialogue sampled and
rearranged from a similarly eclectic array of film and TV sources to
create her own fantastical narratives.

Following her three-screen epic dissection of broken Britain in the
Oliver-sampling Happy and Glorious, however, The Weepers sees Maclean
put flesh and blood on her dressing-up box multi-tracking as she
directs real live actors in a bricks-and-mortar setting. Not that there
is anything remotely resembling kitchen-sink naturalism about this
twenty-five minute short that looks to tartan kitsch, Beast in the
Cellar era Hammer horror and the sort of dungeon-dwelling history-based
Scots gothic that used to clog up Halloween tea-time TV schedules.

Scripted by Andrew Cattanach and with an original soundtrack by Sorren
Maclean and Hannah Fisher, Maclean's film sets out its store from the
off, as the grim-faced Dr Boswell turns up at the labyrinthine
ancestral home of Lady Maclean to take stock of the bright-eyed tat
that forms the detritus of the Maclean clan's crumbling pile. Given the
film-maker's name and the fact that her reimagining of the legend of
the Bean Nighe or Washer Woman – a grotesque spirit who wrings out the
blood from the grave-clothes of those close to death – was filmed in
the actual seat of the Maclean clan, such an in-joke is a way in for
Maclean that provides dramatic riches for what follows.

As played by well-known comic actor, Steven McNicoll, who is currently
appearing at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, in DC Jackson's play,
Kill Johnny Glendenning, Boswell's hang-dog dourness is off-set by the
fruity faux politesse of his hostess, who sounds like a well-primed
Jean Brodie if Muriel Spark had rewritten her for the Sunday Post
funnies page, fed her short-bread and given her a Vivienne
Westwood/See-You-Jimmie make-over. It is after-hours, however, when
things really come to life, as a wailing oversize woolly mutation duly
fleeces Boswell, allowing the Maclean dynasty to lurch on in the
shadows unmolested.

In McNicoll's hands, Boswell becomes a pen-pusher of Knoxian demeanour,
while  Lady Maclean is played with relish by Kirsty Strain, who
previously worked with Maclean in 2013 on Germs, providing all the
voices for the artist's three-minute dissection of advertising culture
seen as part of Channel 4's Random Acts series of short films. While
divvying out the roles this time, like Hitchcock and all the great
movie auteurs, Maclean can't resist saving a part for herself as the
hairy beastie looking for a way out of its prison.

Beyond the pantomimic wit and close-up melodrama of The Weepers, there
is an inherent seriousness in a film that seems to stem from a time
when artists films could still flirt with a mainstream which accepted
them in part even as it kept its distance. This is a trope that has
been picked up by the likes of The League of Gentlemen and their
assorted off-shoots, whose high-camp pastiches of clunky grand guignol
are nevertheless meticulously observed. In Maclean's hands, the sort of
Scottish heritage industry totems that VisitScotland would make
compulsory go beyond Celtic twilight cliches to become something
altogether more dangerous in this darkly comic miniature masterpiece.

The List, September 2014


ends  

Exhibit B - Should The Barbican Have Cancelled Brett Bailey's Edinburgh Hit?

When Brett Bailey's Third World Bunfight company presented Exhibit B as
part of the 2014 Edinburgh International Festival, the show's
twenty-first century reimagining of colonial era human zoos, when black
Africans were shown in front of their white thrill-seeking masters as
novelty artefacts to gaze on, garnered a slew of five-star reviews.

As someone who gave Exhibit B a five star review in this magazine, I
was aware before I saw the show's series of tableau vivant of the
accusations of racism that had been levelled against Bailey, a white
South African artist. These accusations came from protesters in various
countries where Exhibit B had been seen, as well as in Britain, where
it was set to transfer from Edinburgh to the Barbican's Vaults space in
London this week.

Today's announcement by the Barbican that their week-long showing of
Exhibit B has been cancelled following protests on the first night that
saw the road outside the venue blocked comes following an online
petition organised by journalist Sara Myers, whose call to the
Barbican's Sir Nicholas Kenyon to withdraw Exhibit B attracted some
22,989 signatories.

While I respect the right of every one of those signatories who has
seen Exhibit B to protest against the show and to highlight the racism
they saw in it, I wonder how those who signed it but haven't seen the
show are feeling. Here, after all, was what looked to me like a serious
meditation on racism  performed by a cast of black actors who
presumably became involved in Exhibit B of their own volition, and who
presumably believe that what they are doing isn't racist in any way.

I may be wrong, and if any of the performers in Exhibit B feel that
they have been cajoled into taking part in it in any way, or feel that
they are somehow being manipulated, exploited or misrepresented in any
way, I hope they will speak out. As too I hope Brett Bailey will speak
out about any charges of colonialism or racism that have been lodged
against him.

My personal experience of Exhibit B, as I attempted to look the
performers in the eye while they silently depicted real-life people
from past and present, including the bound and gagged immigrant who
died on an aeroplane while in the care of a private security firm in
2010, was uncomfortable to say the least.

For a white wet liberal male like myself who comes from Liverpool, a
city that built its fortune on the back of slavery, it provoked
feelings of guilt concerning how one sector of society could exploit
another with such cruelty. I witnessed something that was complex and
deeply troubling, but in my mind, at least, I did not see something
that was racist. Indeed, in my mind, Exhibit B was opposed to racism at
every level in one of the most powerful theatrical spectacles I have
ever seen in the last twenty years of writing about theatre and art.
But then, as a white, wet liberal male, I would say that, wouldn't I?

There was a time when protests against art were left to the self-styled
moral majority of Mary Whitehouse and her fundamentalist associates,
who would cheerily call on plays and TV shows which they considered to
be depraved or immoral to be banned outright, despite the fact that
they'd never actually seen them. While the protesters against Exhibit B
aren't acting on such eccentric religious grounds, but on serious
accusations of racism, the same sense of absolutism is there.

But at least I had the opportunity to see Exhibit B and was able make
my own mind up about it and see what all the fuss was about. Friends
who saw Exhibit B have hated it, and have posited some very solid
arguments why. The show's cancellation, however, means that no-one else
in London and probably anywhere else in the UK will have the choice to
praise or condemn something they've seen for themselves. Whichever way
you dress that up, it's called censorship.

The List, September 2014


ends

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

John Byrne - Three Sisters

John Byrne hates exposition. In his own writing in now classic works
such as The Slab Boys and Tutti Frutti, his characters talk in baroque
flourishes of pop cultural patois that ricochet between them. In his
new version of Chekhov play, Three Sisters, however, which opens next
week at the Tron Theatre in Glasgow before embarking on a national
tour, tackling such rich but exposition-laden source material hasn't
been easy.

“I love Chekhov,” Byrne says over a Cappuccino in Edinburgh's Filmhouse
cafe, “but you can only capture about a third of it, because it's
Russian. I thought The Seagull particularly was all exposition, all
that 'I dress in black because of my father's death' sort of thing,
which we're so unused to, characters describing themselves and saying
what's happening to them. So I wouldn't normally like that, but all
life is in Chekhov's plays.

“I chose an old literal translation of Three Sisters by some woman I
didnae know at all. It wasnae a version. It was just a straightforward
translation into English, so it was very dull, with all the characters
talking about themselves and describing their feelings and whatever
else right at the start. We cannae sit through that, because we're not
Russian.

“You hope to capture something of the atmosphere of Chekhov when you do
a version of it, but you cannae really hope to get it all. You'd be
better watching a Russian company, even though you couldnae understand
every word, or any word, but you'd get the whole tone of the thing.
It's not just a play. The whole of Russia from that period is there,
which he captured so wonderfully well.

“Chekhov's characters expose the facts that they're in love with
people. Life, love and death, and relationships with their vast
country, that's what his plays are about. It's geographical in that way
as well, because normally if you're away from the centre, you're away
from everything, and we don't have those vast spaces at all. We're a
tiny country. Although we've got space in Scotland, it's no' vast
tracks of land that you'd have to trek across for years to get
somewhere else. So there had to be a lot of cutting, otherwise people
would just fall asleep. People have to be entertained as well.”

In Byrne's Three Sisters, rather than yearning for Moscow in turn of
the century rural Russia, the siblings are living beside Dunoon naval
base in the 1960s just as their much longed for London has started to
swing.

“They're desperate to get back there and get back to all the things
they're missing,” says Byrne. “I set it in Dunoon because I recently
went back to there for the first time in forty years, and U.S. troops
had been there at the submarine base, which was very helpful. In the
play the father is a London guy who's been posted there as a Commodore
of a whole fleet of sub-marines.”

Three Sisters is Byrne's third Chekhov adaptation to be produced
following his versions of The Cherry Orchard and Uncle Vanya, with the
latter rewritten as Uncle Varick. Byrne has also penned a new take on
The Seagull which has yet to find a home. Despite staying faithful to
the originals,each one is pulsed with Byrne's unique linguistic stamp.

“They're written in my version of English,” Byrne says, “which is very
artificial, very invented,  lyrical and ornamental. If you see a
Chekhov just translated into ordinary English it can be pretty dull,
but I love the artifice of all these invented phrases that hide things.”

Beyond Three Sisters, in October the Tron and the Glasgay! festival
will present a revival of  Colquhoun & MacBryde, Byrne's 1992 play
about Scottish artists, Robert Colquhoun and Robert MacBryde. Looking
further ahead, in February 2015 the Citizens Theatre will be mounting a
major revival of The Slab Boys. This production will see Byrne reunited
with David Hayman, the Citz stalwart who directed the very first
production of the play at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh in 1978.
There is also an un-named fourth project on the go, which, in a rare
moment of discretion, Byrne can't talk about yet.

In the meantime, Three Sisters will feature a trio of red-haired
actresses playing the title roles. With the elder sisters played by
Muireann Kelly and Sally Reid, the youngest will see Jessica Hardwick,
step up for her first major stage role since appearing in the Citizens
productions of Crime and Punishment and Miss Julie. It was Hardwick's
appearance in those shows that led to her winning the inaugural Billy
award. The award was founded by Byrne to highlight the achievements of
young performers, and named in honour of the late Billy McColl, who
blazed a trail playing Phil McCann in Hayman's original production of
The Slab Boys.

“Billy was a wonderful actor,” says Byrne, “and Jessica's wonderful as
well. All the cast are.”

For all his reimaginings of Chekhov, Byrne has discovered a common
thread running through them all.

“That we're all the same,” he says. “We're all human beings, and we all
have the same emotions. We don't have any smaller emotions in Scotland
than people do in Russia. It's been tricky transposing the play to a
smaller place, because it becomes a different creature, but the
emotions that people have are still the same wherever you set it.”

Three Sisters, Tron Theatre, Glasgow, October 1-18; Colquhoun &
MacBryde, Tron Theatre, Glasgow, October 29-November 8; The Slab Boys,
Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, February 12-March 7 2015.

www.tron.co.uk
www.citz.co.uk

ends


The Three Sisters

Anton Chekhov wrote The Three Sisters in 1900, inspired in part by the
three Bronte sisters, and the play was first produced in 1901 at the
Moscow Art Theatre. It was directed by Constantin Stanislavsky, who
also played Vershinin.

In 1936, John Gielgud directed an English translation of the play in a
production that featured Peggy Ashcroft and Michael Redgrave in the
cast.

In 1970, a film version of the play featured Alan Bates, Joan
Plowright, Ronald Pickup and Laurence Olivier, who co-directed.

In 1990, a production at the Gate Theatre in Dublin featured real-life
sisters, Sinead, Sorcha and Niamh Cusack in the title roles, with their
father Cyril Cusack also in the cast.

A year later, a London production saw Vanessa and Lynn Redgrave appear
onstage together for the first and only time, while their niece Jemma
Redgrave played the youngest sister, Irina.

In 2011, Blake Morrison wrote a version of the play for the Northern
Broadsides company which brought out the parallels with the Brontes.

The Herald, September 23rd 2014




ends

Monday, 22 September 2014

Kill Johnny Glendenning

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars
Wannabe gangsters take note. It's unlikely that anyone will ever be
able to take you seriously again after DC Jackson's scurrilous comedy
set in the mankiest of Ayrshire pig-farms. Here, would-be good fellas
Dominic and Skootch are holed up with tabloid hack Bruce as the mother
of all shoot-outs accidentally ensues. When smooth-talking MacPherson
turns up, his patter is just a curtain-raiser to what happens when
emigre Ulster Loyalist Johnny Glendenning finally shows face.

If this sounds like standard sub-Hollywood tough guy fare, Jackson's
play is delivered with such potty-mouthed filter-free glee as it piles
up the bodycount that it becomes both shocking and hilarious. While it
is a study too of West Coast of Scotland machismo and the perceived
glamour of being part of a gang, Jackson’s dialogue is peppered
throughout with the geekiest of pop cultural detritus. Computer games,
mobile phone apps, the restorative powers of Aswad, British reggae and
Transcendental Meditation and at least two references to Dad's Army are
all in the mix.

Director Mark Thomson kickstarts the Royal Lyceum's new season with a
bang in this co-producton with the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow that takes
no prisoners with a piece of work that makes Martin McDonagh's output
look well-behaved. With electrifying turns from David Ireland as
Johnny, Paul Samson as MacPherson and a scene-stealing cameo from Kern
Falconer as Auld Jim, a farmer straight out of Viz comic, the first
act's display of baroque grotesquerie  could stand alone as a one-act
piece.

Just when you're wondering who's still alive to take the action any
further, however, things take a structural lurch backwards a la
Reservoir Dogs in a second act that takes place in Bruce's flat. Here
we see the back-story to events in the first act, plus a happy ending
of sorts as Dominic's heavily pregnant moll Kimberly takes
centre-stage. Joanne Thomson comes into her own here as Kimberly,
sparring manically with Steven McNicoll's hangdog Bruce while Philip
Cairns' Dominic and Josh Whitelaw's Skootch look on in a fast and
furious piece of comic myth-making to die for.

The Herald, September 22nd 2014


ends

Saturday, 20 September 2014

The Greatest Little Republic (In The World!)

Mull Theatre
Three stars
On the vague off-chance that anyone has woken up in Utopia this
morning, it might be worth visiting the fictional town in Chris Lee's
new play for Mull Theatre to find out the extent to which such
Shangri-las can be spoilt. Loosely based on Andorra, by German writer
and contemporary of Bertolt Brecht, Max Frisch, Lee gives this epic
yarn a contemporary spin that goes way beyond his source's analogies to
his own era's cultural prejudices to capture something utterly current.

Ushered in with the sort of triumphalist fervour 
that would make a VisitScotland ad look understated,
Alasdair McCrone's production sets Lee's play in a walled city which,
while looking like an ancient Greek ruin, also oddly resembles McCaig's
Tower in Oban. Here a former war journalist drowns his sorrows while
his adopted daughter Anissah, seemingly an interloper from a land
regarded with suspicion, works the local bar. Forever close to her
brother Johan, played byJames McKenzie, Anissah is lusted on by a
mutual friend, though only when they leave school and go out into the
world do their opposing ideologies become clear.

With suicide bombings and wars on terror both in the mix following a
deceptively chipper opening, immigrants are demonised and scapegoats
abused in Lee's increasingly dark scenario that could easily be set in
apartheid era South Africa or in the Middle East ght now. Helen
McAlpine as Anissah leads a big ensemble cast in this bold outing
produced by Mull's increasingly ambitious umbrella arts organisation,
Comar, which remains a grown-up and thoroughly serious look at how
popular movements can cause empires to crumble.

The Herald, September 19th 2014

ends

Still Game

SSE Hydro, Glasgow
Four stars
Given that it was the over 60s demographic that swung the victory for
the No camp in this week's Scottish independence referendum, it's
something of a surprise that Scotland's most curmudgeonly OAP double
act, Jack and Victor, didn't lay their cards on the table last night in
the first of their twenty-one night stadium-sized stage version of Ford
Kiernan and Greg Hemphill's scurilous TV sit-com.

In the end politics didn't matter  much in a show that started off
simply enough as a series of routines were played out across Navid's
open all hours corner shop and the legendary Clansman bar where Gavin
Mitchell's bar-man Boabby held court to Winston, Tam, Isa and Navid.
Once we're ushered into Jack and Victor's front room, however, things
take a turn for the meta, as Kiernan and Hemphill take full advantage
of the live arena for a series of self-referential gags that resemble
something Pirandello might have written if he'd concentrated on
popular pantomime produced on the scale of a WWE Smackdown show.

That this involves a loosely strung-out plot involving Jack and
Victor's adventures with an ipad, a home-made bionic leg and a
hallcinogenic Bollywood finale involving Isa's very special mushroom
soup and a massed take on the Slosh, and Michael Hines' production
becomes even more surreal. While one may long to see the show in a more
intimate Fringe environment beyond the big screens the action is
beames on to, Kiernan and Hemphill's writing is as sharp as ever and the
ensemble comedy playing aided by Mitchell, Paul Riley, Sanjeev Kohi, Jane McCarry
plus a couple of guest stars superb in a night that gives the audience
the best of all worlds.

The Herald, September 20th 2014


ends




Thursday, 18 September 2014

Vote For Me

The Arches, Glasgow
Three stars
“By taking away my choice,” Marcus Roche soft-soaps his audience at one
point, “you've given me my freedom.” Such sentiments may sound like
they've been crafted by the snake-oil salesman this writer, director,
performer and self-starting multi-tasker extraordinaire resembles.
Given that Roche was actually preparing to flog off his vote for
today's Scottish independence referendum as he toadied up to us with
such gloriously contrary platitudes, however, he's pretty much on the
money whatever the result.

Of course, as with the real-life ebay shyster who attempted to sell his
vote online, no back-handers were actually pocketed in Roche's
one-night only extrapolation of just how much money talks when politics
is involved.  Darting from laptop to lectern beneath two opposing flags
of convenience in his contribution to the Arches' Early Days Referendum
Festival, Roche does his bit for internationalism by way of soundbites
from French and Russian rock-and-roll economists. As soundtracked by
cheesy 1980s pop, they might have stepped straight from a special
referendum edition of Eurotrash.

Flogging off a Cornetto to the highest bidder is just a warm-up to the
reverse auction of Roche's polling card that follows, however, in a
show that, like his previous work on Risk and The Agony and Ecstasy of
Steve Jobs, mines the conceits of the lecture circuit to become a piece
of live art stand-up. It has serious intentions too, as a largely young
audience tell all about how they'd like things to go after today's vote
with clarity and candour. As borderline illegal exercises go, it's a
whole lot more honest than anything any politician ever did, and much
more fun besides.

The Herald, September 18th 2014


ends

Arika - Episode 6 – Make A Way Out of No Way

Tramway, Glasgow, Sept 26th-28th

When the Arika organisation took a side-step from curating experimental
music festivals in a now booming scene they laid the groundwork for
with their Instal and Kill Your Timid Notion events, the more
holistically inclined series of themed Episodes they embarked on seemed
to chime with a renewed hunger for ideas and seditious thought. While
Episodes still featured performances and screenings, they were
consciously not made the centrepiece of events that involved
discussions and debates which questioned the relationship between
artist and audience, and indeed the structures of such events
themselves.

In Episodes 4 and 5, Arika concentrated on the musical and political
liberation expressed by the black community through jazz, and a similar
state of transcendence found for the Queer and Trans community through
the House Ballroom scene. Episode 6 in part fuses both experiences in
Make A Way Out of No Way, which over three days looks beyond the
nuclear family conformity of a prime time mainstream to the deliberate
political and artistic choices required to do something more
rebelliously wayward.

Artists taking part in Make A way Out of No Way include radical black
poet, Fred Moten, queen of black working class dance form, Krump, Miss
Prissy, and operatic diva M Lamar's performance of queer black requiem,
Speculum Orun: Shackled to the Dead.

“Race is an invention and a fiction,” says Barry Esson, who, alongside
Bryony McIntyre, have run Arika since the organisation's inception
thirteen years ago. “Sex is an invention and a fiction. All sorts of
these definitions are used to normalise us and control us. This Episode
is looking at that, and how different communities come out of that and
learn to express themselves within that landscape."

The List, September 2014


ends

Claude Closky – 10, 20, 30 and 40%

Summerhall, Edinburgh until September 26th
Three stars
They could be pages torn from an art-zine, an architect's portfolio or
a sketch-pad given to pre-schools on a rainy day, such is the playful
but matter-of-fact show-and-don't-tellness of French avant-savant
Claude Closky's new series of pen-and-ink miniatures. Spread across
four rooms in ascending or descending numerical order depending on
which way you go at it, a series of black ball-point pen lines mark out
assorted patterns on white paper sheets that fade into the background
of barely-there clip-frames or matching white wooden ones that form a
kind of camouflage in which even the bare floorboards seem to be in on
the act.

The lines themselves sit side-by-side by Closky, or form squares,
curves and triangles that could have been inked on using an old-school
Spirograph set or else Etch-a-Sketched into being to make up end-of
term games of Noughts and Crosses, Battleships and Hang the Man.  The
percentages themselves, scrawled at the bottom of each sheet like an
exam mark, hint at what's missing, with either 90, 80, 70 or 60%
presumably beyond the frame and occupying somewhere bigger. With brown
wrapping paper and green card cut-outs the only colours of the spectrum
beyond neutral on show, they're not the only things here that aren't
black and white.

The List, September 2014


ends

The Mousetrap

Theatre Royal, Glasgow
Three stars
Sixty-two years is a frightfully long time to keep a secret. Where
Agatha Christie's evergreen whodunnit is concerned, however, keeping
schtumm has transformed an inter-audience conspiracy into a global
institution which not even social media and the internet has betrayed.
With this in mind, there will be no spoiler alerts in what follows,
except to say that, in its depiction of how cruelly children can be
treated, this touring production that first flew its London coop two
years ago looks oddly current.

Set in a mansion turned guest house just opened by the increasingly
furtive Mollie and Giles Ralston, these refugees from the big city find
themselves fully booked with a house full of guests seeking shelter
from the storm, all of whom come clad in regulation dark overcoat,
muffler and face-concealing fedoras. A murder has been committed in
town, and, according to the game Sergeant Trotter, who skis into this
TripAdvisor nightmare in waiting, every one of this pot-pourri of
eccentrics, busybodies and mysterious men and women with pasts may be
involved.

It's far too flip to be the best of Christie's canon, and is somewhat
understandably all played rather archly in veteran Mousetrap director
Ian Watt-Smith's production (he also directed it in its thirty-eighth,
forty-first, fifty-eighth and fifty-ninth years). A set of energetic
performances expose the twisted nerves of each  character as it is made
explicit exactly how they came to be damaged in such a way. It is this
mix of pop psychology with a common touch which has kept generations of
Christie devotees complicit in the play's conceit for six decades. But
shh. It's far too late to give the game away now.

The Herald, September 17th 2014


ends

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Brian Ferguson - Playing Hamlet

One could be forgiven for thinking that Brian Ferguson has just seen a
ghost. As he takes a lunchtime break from rehearsals for Dominic Hill's
new production of Hamlet, the actor playing the title role looks
suitably haunted and not a little drained from the experience.

“It's so big to do,” a breathless Ferguson reflects. “I didn't really
know, as a part, what it actually meant. Obviously every actor knows
the name Hamlet and the character of Hamlet, but I wasn't very well
versed in the play. I haven't seen many productions of Hamlet, so that
kind of cracking it open has been mind-boggling, really, to get the
opportunity to crawl around inside it has been incredible.”

Ferguson won't be drawn on Hill's approach to the play, nor to what his
own interpretation of Hamlet may end up as. All he'll admit to at this
stage is that, as the publicity photograph of him backed into a corner
sporting a contemporary dark suit on the show's flyers suggest, “It's
not done in period, but we're starting from the text, always from the
text, and I think that's one of the things to discover about how
incredible it is as you start uncovering what the text is doing, the
pictures that it's painting, and what it wants of a scene in terms of
the relationships.

“We're playing with the form a fair bit, we're playing with sound quite
a lot, and we're being quite bold, I suppose, in how far out we're
going in terms of trying out ideas. So the world that we have created
isn't set in any particular time. There's no strict concept on it, and
we've kind of gone the other way, and are being quite imaginative in
how we are exploring it, and allowing it to suggest whatever it
suggests. I still don't know where it's going yet, but the flavours
that Dominic enjoys as a director are great for this, and are very much
the same places that I like to go as an actor.”

Ferguson thinks long and hard before he chooses his words. He doesn't
want to give the game away about the production, and, as he's already
indicated, he's probably not entirely sure what that game is yet. When
he does find the right words, they sound like poetry, and what comes
through them is just how much he is relishing exploring such a rich and
complex play as well as the equally intense character he's in the thick
of finding out about.

“The time Shakespeare wrote Hamlet, there were these big changes going
on in society,” Ferguson observes. “The chivalry of Elizabethan society
and the knights were giving way to trading companies. There was also
this big change in religion, going from Catholic to Protestant, and
going from God being almighty and powerful to thinking about reason.
The idea of Heaven and Hell was still very real. Heaven was up in the
sky and Hell was beneath your feet, and what that does to your
imagination, and how colourful and vivid that makes the world of the
play, is really exciting.

“One of the challenges of doing Shakespeare, and one of the things
that's most exciting things to someone like me, whose done a lot of new
writing, is coming into this alien world where there's no subtext. It's
all, all, all in the language and the pictures he paints with words,
and the journeys that make you want to go on. So it's a very different
process. It feels like a more physical process as an actor. Heaven and
hell are things that I don't have a connection with today. I was
brought up an atheist, and there are things in Shakespeare that, 415
years after it was written, don't mean as much, but sometimes you have
to make your peace with the fact that the words you're saying might not
be understood.”

This isn't the first time Ferguson has appeared in Hamlet. Aged
seventeen, he played Polonius in a Scottish Youth Theatre production.
It was while at SYT, which his mother had taken him to, that Ferguson
decided he wanted to be an actor. While at drama school, he made his
Citz debut playing bit parts in Stewart Laing's production of Mae
West's little-seen drama, Pleasure Man. His
first professional job was also at the Citizens, in the theatre's
former artistic director Giles Havergal's production of Frank
McGuinness' play, Observe The Sons of Ulster Marching Towards The
Somme.  After a year out of work, Ferguson came into his own in Davey
Anderson's  debut play, Snuff.

“I felt like I'd grown up a bit when I did Snuff,” he says. “I guess it
felt more immediate and important to me, which was important to me as
an experience and a compass. I suppose after a year out I had more of
an idea of what it was that I was excited about as an actor. The things
that I felt strongly and more passionate about had been put to the
test.”

Ferguson appeared in Poorboy's site-specific show, Bridgebuilders, in
Dundee, and shortly afterwards was cast in John Tiffany's production of
Black Watch for the National Theatre of Scotland. This high-profile
appearance in a show that became a phenomenon opened even more doors
for Ferguson, who went on to appear in Dunsinane, David Greig's sequel
of sorts to Macbeth. Produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company,
Dunsinane was one of several plays Ferguson worked on with director
Roxana Silbert.

Ferguson first worked with Hill at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh,
on Zinnie Harris' play, Fall, and The Dark Things, by Ursula Rani
Sarma. Ferguson has also worked on more left-field work, including
Clare Duffy's interactive piece, Money, and a recent stint at the Royal
Court with Tim Crouch on a piece about two conceptual artists, Adler &
Gibb.

Such diversity, he says, “It's my lifeblood,” and acting in general is
a serious business.

“It's about seeking a deeper connection,” he says. “It's a place where
I get to move at the pace that I enjoy moving at, and get to ponder
over things and play and discover things. It gives me that space, and
to do that with other people in that space, to explore and be in that
place together, that's the point.”

Hamlet, Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, September 19-October 11.
www.citz.co.uk

ends


Brian Ferguson – A life onstage

Brian Ferguson grew up in Glasgow, where he studied at RSAMD (now Royal
Conservatoire Scotland).

While still a student, Ferguson appeared at the Citizens Theatre in
Stewart Laing's production of Pleasure Man by Mae West, and made his
professional debut there in Observe The Sons of Ulster Marching Towards
The Somme.

Ferguson appeared in Davey Anderson's play, Snuff, at the Arches,
Glasgow, which was later seen at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh.
Ferguson also appeared in Poorboy's production of Bridgebuilders in
Dundee, and was one of the original cast of Gregory Burke's play, Black
Watch, with the National Theatre of Scotland, with whom he also
performed in another Davey Anderson play, Rupture.

Ferguson went on to act in The Drawer Boy at the Tron Theatre, Glasgow,
and, under Dominic Hill's direction, Fall and The Dark Things at the
Traverse

Ferguson appeared in Earthquakes in London at the National Theatre, and
in David Greig's play, Dunsinane, produced by the Royal Shakespeare
Company, with whom he also appeared in Shakespeare in A Suitcase,
Richard III and The Aztec Trilogy.

Ferguson has also appeared in Clare Duffy's Money, and, at the Royal
Court, Tim Crouch's play, Adler & Gibb.

The Herald, September 16th 2014


ends

Wallace

The Arches, Glasgow
Three stars
On the weekend before the Scottish independence referendum, it perhaps
wasn't unusual to witness someone all Bravehearted up in kilt and
Saltire face-paint going in to see a play called Wallace. Especially
when the play in question is the centrepiece of a mini referendum
festival thrown by the Arches called Early Days. As it turns out, the
audience member in question is one Wallace Williamson, a very special
guest of The Great Cause, a political chat show that forms the first
part of Rob Drummond's timely new play.

Also in attendance is an all too familiar parcel of rogues, including
Honourable Members from the SNP and Conservative Party, a newspaper
scandal-monger, a controversial comedian and the show's charming
hostess herself. As awkward questions are asked by a mix of plants and
the actual audience, some very dirty laundry is aired, revealing the
flawed human face behind the professional political classes.  A second
act lurch into historical territory is followed by Wallace's attempts
to make amends for being a small nation's accidental laughing stock.

With Drummond himself playing Wallace in David Overend's production
co-commissioned by the Arches and what for the time being at least we
must call the National Theatre of Great Britain, the result is a
typically Drummondesque mix of a pop culture facade that ushers in some
deceptively serious dramatic, philosophical and moral points about
politics and what passes for democracy. While there's a lot to grab
hold of, given that Wallace is still a work in development nurtured by
the National Theatre Studio, one wonders how it will contextualise
itself once the referendum is history. For the time being, at least,
freedom seems to reign.

The Herald, September 16th 2014


ends 

Monday, 15 September 2014

Heather Phillipson – sub-fusc love-feast

Dundee Contemporary Arts until November 9th
Four stars
Playing God appears to come natural to Heather Phillipson as the
London-born poet, performer, sculptor and video artist gets back to
nature by way of a jungle full of photographic cut-out dioramas and
big-screen video cut-ups that suggests hat the so-called natural world
is not so much being tamed as remixed and reimagined.

Shown as part of the DCA's Discovery Film Festival, Phillipson's series
of multi-dimensional configurations move from Eden to Heaven, Hell and
other promised lands on earth as assorted fruits of the original sin
are blown up to juicily epic proportions. Wildlife, on the other hand,
look shrunken and out of proportion, while upside-down human limbs
offer something else to chew on as giraffes and pink flamingoes graze.
On the flipside of what are in fact a set of artfully arranged wooden
flats, the same swirly day-glo writing that provides animated captions
to the films point up the film-set style fakery of such arrangements
beneath the surface.

On film, cows chew the cud, pants are pulled down and toes are
potentially trodden on as Phillipson's spoken-word accompaniment
attempts to get back to a guilt-free garden where touching displays are
actively and erotically encouraged beyond any jungle warnings once sent
out by the likes of Ray Bradbury's chillingly prophetic short story
about the potentially deadly downside of virtual culture, The Veldt.
Rather, Phillipson offers a playful and at times downright saucy
evocation of a world of creature comforts that looks like it took
considerably more than the ecclesiastical standard six days to set up,
seventh day rest for the wicked notwithstanding.

The List, September 2014


ends

David Ireland - Kill Johnny Glendenning

When DC Jackson asked David Ireland what might be the Belfast-born
actor and playwright's ideal part, for a man who had nominally quit the
stage to concentrate on writing, it was a no-brainer.

“I said I'd love to play a psychopathic loyalist gun-man,” Ireland
remembers, “because it seemed that I only ever got to play losers.”

Ireland's declaration clearly lodged inside Jackson's pop culture
infested brain just as a bullet might. The result is The Killing of
Johnny Glendenning, Jackson's scurrilous comedy which looks at the
celebrity status of an imaginary set of Glasgow hard-men who live the
high-life while make-believing they're in a gangster film. Ireland
plays the title character in a play, which opens the Royal Lyceum
Theatre, Edinburgh's Autumn season with what one suspects will be a
bang before transferring to the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow. An Ulster
gunman and self-publicist extraordinaire, Johnny is headed for the
mother of all showdowns with his nemesis in an Ayrshire farmhouse.

“It's about me,” Ireland laughs, before correcting himself. “It's about
Johnny Glendenning, who is very funny, very articulate, and has a very
clever turn of phrase, but he's also a psychopath who enjoys killing
people. He's also a celebrity, is revered by young hoods, and has had
seventeen books written about him. He misses the old days of the
Troubles and the Peace Process, and he doesn't really enjoy living in
Scotland and working with all these Glasgow gangsters. He romanticises
the past when he hung out with Tony Blair, Peter Mandelson and Mo
Mowlam. Although he's not really based on anyone, there's a bit of
Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver in there, and I think all the characters
in the play fancy themselves as being characters in a Tarantino movie.”

Extreme comedy becomes Ireland. This is something he recently proved
with his tellingly titled play for this year's Edinburgh Festival
Fringe, I Promise You Sex and Violence. As produced by the
Newcastle-based Northern Stage company, Ireland's predictably
potty-mouthed three-way split between a racist, a homophobe and a
misogynist received something of a mixed critical reaction. Yet, in its
wilful sense of provocation, the script resembled a comedic ruck
between Martin McDonagh and a young Sam Shepard.

“I'm really proud of the play,” Ireland says. “I called it I Promise
You Sex and Violence so people who don't like seeing sex, violence and
swearing onstage won't go and see it. I had a play on that was
originally done in Dublin called Half A Glass of Water, which also
played in Londonderry as part of European Capital of Culture. It didn't
shock people so much in Dublin, but then really shocked people in
Londonderry, and I think with it having such an innocuous title I was
probably asking for it. Then I realised that plays like mine have
really obvious titles, so maybe calling a play I Promise You Sex and
Violence worked.

“I suppose a lot of my plays are violent or extreme, but I don't intend
it that way. That's just the way they come out. I suppose a lot of the
time I'm writing about Belfast, which historically has been a violent
and extreme place. It's interesting, because when I was writing I
Promise You Sex and Violence, the characters talked like they were from
Belfast, and had the attitude of people from Belfast, but none of them
actually were. I expected people to find it extreme, but I also
expected them to find it funny, which I don't think was necessarily the
case.”

If I Promise You Sex and Violence is typical of Ireland's oeuvre as a
writer, it was as an actor he first came to prominence since he trained
at RSAMD – now the Royal Conservatoire Scotland - in Glasgow. Ireland
had attended youth theatre in Belfast, and had wanted to be an actor
from an early age having feasted on film culture.

“I grew up wanting to be Jack Nicholson,” he says, “but it never really
worked out.”

Straight out of drama school, Ireland found himself understudying David
Tennant in a production of King Lear at the Royal Exchange, Manchester,
featuring Tom Courtney in the title role. After two years in the
doldrums, Ireland was seen for Decky Does A Bronco, Douglas Maxwell's
swing-park set tragedy which was being produced by site-specific
auteurs, Grid Iron. Ireland played the lead role in what went on to
become a smash hit that toured extensively. For a while on the back of
Decky, Ireland didn't stop working, at the Royal Shakespeare Company,
the Traverse and the Citizens.

After appearing in another Douglas Maxwell play, If Destroyed True, at
Dundee Rep, however, acting work dried up, and Ireland turned to
writing. His first play to be performed was What The Animals Say, which
was produced at Oran Mor in Glasgow in 2009 as part of the venue's A
Play, A Pie and A Pint seasons of lunchtime theatre. Since then,
Ireland has written a multitude of plays for companies such as
Tinderbox and Ransom in Belfast, as well as Oran Mor in Glasgow. He was
Playwright-in-Residence at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast. and has won both
the Stewart Parker BBC Radio Drama Award and the Meyer-Whitworth Award
for playwriting.

“I got into a situation where the only things I had time to do
inbetweeen writing commissions were small parts on TV,” he says, “and
then people stopped asking me to audition for theatre. Then people in
theatre saw me getting these parts and started asking me again.”

While Kill Johnny Glendenning has finally put Ireland into a leading
role, with writing commissions for the National Theatre of Scotland and
others ongoing, it may be a while before audiences get to see him again.

“For a couple of years I said I'm a writer,” he said, “then acting work
started overtaking the writing.
I think temperamentally I'm a writer, but you get an adrenalin rush
from acting that you don't get from writing. I think I'm a better
writer than an actor, but with Kill Johnny Glendenning, I suspect
playing a funny psychopath might be well within my range.”

The Killing of Johnny Glendenning, Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh,
September 17-October 11 : Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, October
22-November 8.

www.lyceum.org.uk
www.citz.co.uk

ends


David Ireland – At a glance

David Ireland was born in Belfast, where he joined a youth theatre
before training as an actor at RSAMD in Glasgow.

His first professional role was understudying David Tennant in a
production of King Lear at the Royal Exchange, Manchester.

Ireland first came to prominence in Grid Iron's production of Decky
Does A Bronco. Ireland also worked with Grid Iron in Variety and Tryst.
With Ransom Productions, Ireland appeared in The Winners and The
Gentleman's Tea Drinking Society, and with Greyscale in Tonight David
Ireland Will Lecture Dance and Box.

At Dundee Rep, Ireland was seen in The Cherry Orchard and If Destroyed
True, a co-production with Paines Plough.

On TV Ireland has appeared in Taggart, River City, Shetland, The Dear
Green Place, and on radio in Translations and Jimmy Murphy Makes Amends.

As a writer, Ireland's first play, What The Animals Say, was produced
at Oran Mor in Glasgow, where his plays, Arguments For Terrorism, Most
Favoured and Trouble and Shame have also been seen. For Tinderbox,
Ireland wrote Everything Between Us and Summertime, and for Ransom,
Yes, So I Said Yes.

Ireland has also written The Hen Night for Royal Conservatoire
Scotland, Half A Glass of Water for Field Day at the Abbey, Dublin, and
Can't Forget About You for the Lyric Theatre, Belfast, where he was
Playwright-in-Residence.

Ireland has won both the Stewart Parker BBC Radio Drama Award and the
Meyer-Whitworth Award for playwriting.

The Herald, September 15th 2015



ends

New Works 2014

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Three stars
It is an inspired idea, having young drama students on the verge of
going out into the world work with seasoned professional playwrights to
develop brand new works that stretch the talents of all involved. So it
is with the three new short plays by Clare Duffy, Jo Clifford and
Isabel Wright performed and directed as a series of double bills by the
graduates of the Royal Conservatoire Scotland 's MA Classical and
Contemporary Text course with support from Playwrights' Studio Scotland.

Clare Duffy's 1914 Machine starts off looking like a girl's own
adventure yarn, as female spy La Marquise flies across the English
channel to deliver secret war plans to the government, and ends up
lurching into a science-fiction future in which everyone communicates
through screens. Inbetween, La Marquise flies high with a pre-war
bohemian set for whom she supplies cocaine and some stolen radium that
might just hold the key to the future.

  As the drugs loosen lips and minds, in director Paul Brotherston's
hands, the hyper-active rubbish spouted by all resembles a
sub-Chekhovian student party which his cast grab at with suitable
abandon. By leaping time-zones, Duffy creates a timely meditation on
the ever-encroaching pervasiveness of technology that looks to E.M.
Forster's short story, The Machine Stops, in a lively joining of the
dots between past, present and future.

Even more playful is Jo Clifford's White Ted and the Right To Die,
which looks at the whys and wherefores of euthanasia in a day to day
environment. That Clifford does this through a teddy-bear narrator and
a dog called Benji who returns as a ghost after being put down adds a
humorous heart to a very serious subject. There is too the conflicted
views of the same person represented here by two actors in Jessica
Aquila Cymerman's production, which starts off with the cast in
overalls as if checking a crime scene for forensic evidence before
revealing themselves. With some neat shadow-play, there is an appealing
warmth invested into a life and death situation that's much more than a
shaggy dog story.

Where Duffy and Clifford offered up fantastical world-views, Blind Eye
by Isabel Wright looks to an all too contemporary scenario of spin for
inspiration. As a politician and his wife turn to the ultimate PR firm
to give them a boost, an activist infiltrates the company as an intern
in league with a reporter who takes an even more gung-ho approach to
exposing scandals both political and sexual. Out of this comes a
political thriller that looks at how lies are dressed up by managerial
sleights-of-hand that can and do turn every misdemeanour into a
positive.

In Wendy Turner's production, Wright's series of short scenes flow into
each other with a full sense deal-making intrigue before chaos reigns
as all are exposed. The end result is a dramatically stark and
healthily cynical look at how the world is being run right now behind
doors which, for most of us, remain very firmly closed.

The Herald, September 15th 2014


ends





Mr Bolfry

Pitlochry Festival Theatre
Three stars
A giant crucifix flanked by The Ten Commandments is the opening gambit
of director Patrick Sandford's wryly observed and all too rare revival
of James Bridie's World War Two era philosophical inquiry into good and
evil in a Wee Free Highland Manse. If this sounds like a wilfully
portentious statement, once the two squaddies stationed there, Cohen
and Cully, hook up with the minister McCrimmon's flighty niece Jean and
embark on a game that conjures up the Devil himself, the play more
resembles a fantastical TV show peopled by sophisticated demons who
spout long-winded monologues in pursuit of the souls of the youthful
and equally articulate gang tasked to thwart them.

If Bridie unwittingly penned an admittedly hokey template for Buffy,
Charmed, et al, Sandford's production remains rooted in the era it was
written in. Dougal Lee's smooth-talking Mr Bolfry breezes into the
manse's Sunday night austerity and offers up a litany on the
transcendent powers and pleasures of art and life beyond old-time
religion. By the time Bolfry has taken flight, with Greg Powrie's
McCrimmon in hot pursuit, the doors of perception have opened up for
all.

For all the play's lofty moral aspirations, all aboard Sandford's
production are having great fun with it, adding levity to what could be
rendered as an overly verbose affair. Lee by turns spars and flirts
with his gathered congregation, with Karen Fishwick's Jean clearly a
free spirit in waiting, while Kirsty MacLaren's maid, Morag, is already
spellbound.  As all discover that the pleasures of the flesh maybe
aren't so sinful after all, the assorted clinches they get into
suggests happy ever afters have been corrupted forever more.

The Herald, September 15th 2014




ends

Friday, 12 September 2014

The Glass Menagerie

Dundee Rep
Four stars
When actor Robbie Jack takes the microphone as Tennessee Williams'
alter-ego Tom Wingfield at the start of Jemima Levick's post-modern
tinged revival of Williams' 1944 semi-autobiographical full-length
debut, he could be the compere of some latter day live art confessional
cabaret night channelling the spirits of Lenny Bruce and Eric Bogosian.
As Jack signals for the blank wall of Alex Lowde's clean-lined set to
raise, it's an unexpected opening to an openly sentimental affair more
regularly gift-wrapped in more traditional theatrical ribbons and bows.

Here, however, as type-written keywords from the script are projected
above to signal moments within moments, the play becomes Tom's work in
progress which he writes ever larger with every re-enactment he
conjures up in dreams haunted by  his mother Amanda and sister Laura.

The Wingfield apartment may be small, but it provides an escape route
for all. For Irene Macdougall's Amanda, forever the disappointed
d├ębutante, it's a catwalk that allows her to claim the spotlight, her
every reverie sounding like a dress rehearsal for an acceptance speech.
For Millie Turner's Laura it's a safe-house where, like any other
socially anxious young person, she can lose herself in records  and the
fantasy of her glass animal collection. While for Tom it's both
back-street prison and unexpected if somewhat guilt-wracked
inspiration, even Thomas Cotran's gentleman caller Jim seems to find
himself anew there.

All dressed up with Joan Cleville's little choreographic flourishes and
RJ McConnell's languid underscore for piano, clarinet and cello,
Levick's impressionistic and mould-breaking reimagining of Willliams'
poetic intentions is an exquisitely poignant construction that breathes
fresh heartbreak into one of the saddest plays ever written.

The Herald, September 12th 2014




ends

Sunset Song

Perth Concert Hall
Three stars
Like many women of her generation, there is something tragic about
Chris Guthrie, the heroine of Lewis Grassic Gibbons' A Scots Quair
trilogy of novels. Or at least that seems to be the case in this new
touring co-production between the enterprising Sell A Door Theatre
Company and Beacon Arts Centre, Greenock, of Alastair Cording's
evergreen stage adaptation of the trilogy's first and best known part.

Here, book-loving free-spirit Chris, living off the land with her
bullying father John, ferociously played by Alan McHugh, and eternally
pregnant mother Jean, is forced to put aside her windswept ideals and
grow up too soon as she finds herself shunted by circumstance from one
patriarchy to another. Even the emancipation her inheritance provides
can't save her from the brutalising effects of little boys games,
although by the end, she finally seems to have found salvation of sorts.

The corrugated iron skyline of Jan Bee Brown's set lends an
over-ridingly grim air to Julie Ellen's production, which looks to
future conflicts as much as the one it occupies as a cast of nine adopt
an out-front approach resembling an exercise in communal story-telling.
As local stud Ewan Tavendale, Craig Anthony-Ralston demonstrates a
wounded machismo, and there is strong musical direction from Morna
Young, who plays a live folk-based score with other members of the
cast. It is Rebecca Elise's vibrant Chris that shines through the mire
here, however. Yet, even as she finds some kind of emancipation, one
longs for a sharper contrast between the bright-eyed idyll she yearns
for at the start of the play and what happens when reality bites beyond
it.

The Herald, September 12th 2014


ends



Not About Heroes

Napier University, Edinburgh
Three stars
It is more than thirty years since Stephen McDonald's study of the
relationship between poets Sigfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen while both
residents in the Edinburgh-based Craiglockhart War Hospital appeared
during MacDonald's tenure as artistic director of Dundee Rep. Arriving
in Edinburgh in a new touring production by Feelgood Theatre
Productions as the latest in a flurry of plays produced to commemorate
the one hundredth anniversary of the beginning of the First World War,
the play's mix of poetry and condemnation looks more pertinent than
ever.

This is especially the case when performed inside the striking looking
building where Sassoon and Owen first met long before it became Napier
University's Craiglockhart campus. Here we see Owen as a young, nervy
and shell-shocked literary groupie who suddenly finds himself in the
same institution as one of his idols. While Owen is initially cowed,
under Sassoon's guidance his writing finds a voice, and Sassoon opens
him up to big league literary society in the first half of Caroline
Clegg's suitably intimate production. With the momentum of the play's
second act driven by Owen's poetry as well as letters home to his
mother, when the inevitable happens, the loss damages Sassoon forever.

There's a stiff-upper-lip poignancy to MacDonald's script, in which the
eloquence of the two men on the page and the social ease they feel
around each other only goes so far emotionally. This is made clear in a
pair of powerful and understated performances by Simon Jenkins as Owen
and Alasdair Craig as Sassoon. At the play's crucial heart is a
deep-set understanding of the futility of war and the heartbreak it can
cause.

The Herald, September 10th 2014


ends


Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Gabriel Quigley - Spoiling

Scottish independence referendum pollsters take note. Gabriel Quigley
is here to help. It's not that the actress's current stage role as
Fiona, the first ever Foreign Minister in an independent Scotland in
John McCann's play, Spoiling, has gone to her head or anything. Neither
is it the fact that the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh's Festival Fringe
production of McCann's play, which is currently playing at the Theatre
Royal Stratford East in London, will return to the Traverse during the
week of the vote.

Indeed, Quigley will seize the reins of power as Fiona in Spoiling on
referendum night itself. It's just that, being a familiar face off the
telly in prime time comedies like Chewin' The Fat and the Karen Dunbar
Show, Quigley gets to chat to taxi drivers a lot. In the current
climate, there is pretty much only one subject that comes up.

“I'm doing a secret survey,” deadpans Quigley, spilling the beans that
YouGov and co have unilaterally failed to take into account. “Black-cab
drivers in Edinburgh and Glasgow are Yes,” she reveals, “whereas mini
cab drivers in Edinburgh and Glasgow are No. What's that all about?”

The answer may not be found in Spoiling, but McCann's look at some of
the compromises that may have to be made once the champagne corks have
stopped popping for whoever wins the vote and the hangover kicks in
after September 18 is as up to the minute as it gets.

“It's just so topical,” says Quigley. “Doing Spoiling during the
Fringe, because of the things the play's looking at, there was a wee
frisson every time we did it. I think it was one of the best reactions
I've ever seen at the festival. People watching it seemed so excited
and happy that they were being addressed, even if they didn't agree
with it. People from both sides of the argument seemed to enjoy it.”

Much of this, one suspects, came from Quigley's performance as much as
McCann's script, and the way she deals with the Northern Irish civil
servant tasked to keep her on message.

“She's a brilliant character,” says Quigley. “She's pregnant, so that's
very freeing, because the guy who's been sent in to keep an eye on her
can't touch her, even though she's just been caught smoking. She's a
classic politician, because she's got so many characters within her.
She's a child and can be really irresponsible, but then she can say all
these important things.

“People like Fiona are absolutely ego-maniacs on a power trip, but
Fiona is a clever lady, and she does mean what she says. She's
passionate, and goom 0-60 in seconds, but can be quite hard as well.
There are obvious shades of Peter Capaldi as Malcolm Tucker when she
starts swearing, but Scottish people swear very well.”

If there are shades of the late independent MSP Margo MacDonald's fiery
independent spirit in Quigley's portrayal of Fiona, Quigley has also
been referring to the flamboyant late Conservative MP Alan Clark's
somewhat scurrilous diaries so see just how badly behaved politicians
can be. It is MacDonald's influence, however, which remains close to
home.

“Margo was in the swimming team with my mum,” she says. “They went to
different schools, but my mother was brought up in Hamilton, and they
were both very blonde and very glamorous. They weren't afraid to be
feminine, but they were very strong as well. My mother was a mid-wife,
and there was a campaign for mid-wives which Margo MacDonald supported,
and my mother always remembered that.”

In many ways, playing Fiona seems to encapsulate all the different
facets of Quigley's two-decade-long acting career, which has seen her
play broad comedy with an intelligence that imbues it with a
seriousness others might miss.

Much of this, one suspects, stems from Quigley's background in
Hamilton, growing up as the youngest of six in a highly politicised
household where her teacher father would lap up piles of daily
newspapers from all sides of the political spectrum.

Quigley originally planned to become a journalist when she studied
English at Glasgow University, but falling in with a crowd from the
Theatre Studies department that included playwright Nicola McCartney
and future Black Watch director John Tiffany soon put paid to that.
Quigley appeared in McCartney's student production of Arthur Miller's
Death of A Salesman, and in a double bill of plays presented by
McCartney and Tiffany's newly-formed Lookout company.

Quigley's second job was a tour of Trainspotting at the height of
Irvine Welsh mania alongside a cast that also featured Billy Boyd.

“I went to quite a rough school,” Quigley points out, “so I ended up
playing a lot of people like that.”

Quigley's career has seen her work mainly with new writing, including a
Herald Angel winning turn in Rona Munro's translation of French
rom-com, Strawberries in January. She later reunited with Tiffany for
Enquirer, the National Theatre of Scotland's timely verbatim study of
the newspaper industry's fluctuating fortunes. Quigley most recently
appeared in Tomorrow Is Always Too Long, a film by Turner nominated
artist Phil Collins, which was recently shown at Queens Park in Glasgow.

It is Spoiling, however, that is currently the most relevant play
around. During the play's London run, Quigley has noted marked
differences in the audience's response. At the start, she observes that
the referendum debate had “barely touched the surface. There was no
real sense of what was going on.”

A week and a half later, and Fiona's speech about how the referendum
would affect Northern Ireland was interrupted by an audience member
loudly disagreeing with it. The day after a post-show discussion, and
the change is even more marked. Quigley describes the audiences as
“stricken” in their need to understand exactly what is going on. In a
lively sounding debate, a group of young people in the Stratford East
audience asked about the National Collective, the pro-indy artist-led
collective they'd discovered online. Others too were hungry to hear
what was going on in Scotland,

“The difference in a week is remarkable,” says Quigley. “It's just
hitting home to people in London how much this matters. On one level
Spoiling is a popular comedy, but if it's having that effect in London,
it shows just how much something is happening.”

Spoiling, Theatre Royal Stratford East until September 13; Traverse
Theatre, Edinburgh, September 16-20.
www.stratfordeast.com
www.traverse.co.uk

ends

Gabriel Quigley -  A life on stage

Quigley studied English Literature and Theatre Studies at Glasgow
University.

It was here Quigley met playwright Nicola McCartney, director John
Tiffany and others who went on to form the Lookout Theatre Company.

Quigley went on to appear in Grimm Tales at Leicester Haymarket, which
was followed by a UK tour of Trainspotting.

Quigley appeared in Wildcat's last show, The Gun, Dissent with 7:84 and
Mainstream with Suspect Culture.

With the Traverse, Quigley featured in 15 Seconds, The Chic Nerds, and,
with Paines Plough, Strawberries in January, which won her a Herald
Angel.

On TV, Quigley has been seen in Chewin' The Fat, The Karen Dunbar Show
and Rab C Nesbitt.

On film she appeared in Festival, and has since gone on to appear in
other work written and directed by Annie Griffin, including New Town
and Rubenesque.

Quigley was recently seen in Tomorrow Is Always Too Long, a film made
by Turner Prize nominated artist Phil Collins which was shown at an
event in Queens Park, Glasgow.

Quigley works extensively in radio.

The Herald, September 9th 2014


ends

Monday, 8 September 2014

Kate Bush – Before The Dawn

Hammersmith Apollo, London
Five stars
  A flash of white lights up the blue, and Kate Bush leads her five
backing vocalists, who include her sixteen year old son, Bertie,
onstage in a jaunty conga as her seven-piece band kick into Lily, from
Bush's 1993 The Red Shoes album. Twelve nights into her twenty-two
night marathon, it's a playful opening to Bush's first live shows for
thirty-five years, which have rightly generated screeds of praise for
their inherent theatricality.

Over the course of three acts, a delighted Bush get back to her
pub-band roots in the first six numbers of sophisticated funk and a
couple of hits punctuated by showbizzy “I really hope you enjoy this,”
type cooings. This is followed by two suites, The Hounds of Love's The
Ninth Wave, and, following an interval, Aerial's A Sky of Honey,
performed in their entirety.

With dialogue by novelist David Mitchell and co-direction by former RSC
boss Adrian Noble,  these are revealed as a pair of magical-realist
prog-pastoral operettas. The first features sea creatures straight out
of 1970s Dr Who and a living-room scene that could have been scripted
by Caryl Churchill by way of Monty Python.

The pre-interval finale of The Morning Fog reinvents the song for the
sixteenth century as much as the twenty-first, with the band cast as
mediaeval minstrels while the sea monsters dance a slow jig of
reconciliation akin to one of Shakespeare's frothiest rom-coms. With
the entire band dressed as birds in a second half of puppet-led
narrative, this is as tastefully avant-garde as it gets in a show that
is a joy to watch as much to listen to.

The Herald, September 8th 2014




ends

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Delusion of the Fury

King's Theatre, Edinburgh

When Tom Waits hung his nightclub barfly shtick out to dry in favour of
something more primal with his 1983 Swordfishtrombones album, as
Tristram Bath made clear in a thirtieth anniversary study of the album
in The Quietus in September 2013, it was composer Harry Partch who in
part liberated Waits' muse. Partch, who died in 1974, built his own
instruments with extravagantly other-worldly sounding names such as the
Chromelodeon and the Quadrangularis Reversum. He also worked with
micro-tonal scales that ditched western systems for more
exotic-sounding sonic provocations gleaned from Africa and Japan.

Partch's interest in the East may have been voguishly in keeping with
the trappings of post World War Two modernist esoterica, but his
interests in ancient Greek drama and Japanese Noh theatre lent his
increasingly ambitious fusions of sound, song and spectacle a classical
formality that gave what was effectively the original junkyard
orchestra a gravitas whilst retaining a sense of fun.

Other artists have made their own instruments, from Max Eastley's
environmentally driven constructions on New and Rediscovered Musical
Instruments, an album shared with David Toop and released on Brian
Eno's Obscure label in 1975; to the Heath Robinsonesque contraptions
built today by Glasgow-based artist and performer, Sarah Kenchington.

But beyond Waits and co, Partch's influence, whether consciously
realised or not, is alive and kicking in a latter-day generation of
artists intent on reclaiming music from push-button facsimiles of sound
generated by the all-pervasive laptop and bringing it back to its raw,
more physically primal state. These influences trickled into
Edinburgh's festival season this August both at its outer edges and its
official face, counterpointing each other in a way that reflected
Partch's own contrary tendencies as a wilful outsider who nevertheless
subverted the mainstream.

This could be heard in the dervish-like Afri-delic dancefloor voodoo of
Glasgow band Golden Teacher, who let rip their percussion-heavy brand
of delirium at the city's Summerhall venue (which  is also currently
hosting an exhibition by another musical primitive, Genesis Breyer
P-Orridge, alongside s/her late partner in pandrogeny, Lady Jaye Breyer
P-Orridge). This was on a bill promoted by the adventurously inclined
Braw Gigs operation and shared with Awesome Tapes From Africa and
Optimo's JG Wilkes at the controls.

Partch's influence also manifested itself in an appearance by the
spectrally inclined Part Wild Horses Mane on Both Sides at the
artist-run Embassy Gallery, currently situated in a large basement
space beneath a Yoga studio. The location was all too appropriate for
PWHMOBS' Manchester-based duo of Kelly Jayne Jones and Pascal Nichols'
presentation of Conduit of the bottomless submundane, a two hour
conceptual piece played in the dark by an expanded quartet with the
audience in repose on yoga mats.

With speakers, drums and assorted tables full of electronic kit, found
objects and assorted detritus placed around the room, the four players
moved around the space, utilising percussion and flute patterns woven
around looped compositions. The result was a Zenned-out form of
immersive anti-theatre that left space enough for the audience to
create their own narratives, whilst retaining formal enough structures
to bolster the improvisations and allow them to breathe beyond any
notions of an old-time chill-out room sensation.

It was Partch's work itself that book-ended August in Edinburgh on the
grandest of scales in a major staging of his rarely performed music
theatre piece, Delusion of the Fury. Fusing two life-and-death myths
derived from Japan and Ethiopia into one seventy-two minute work
utilising some twenty-seven instruments, in presentation, scale and
delivery, Delusion of the Fury was the antithesis of Conduit of the
bottomless submundane. Where discretion and understated intensity was
at the heart of Conduit of the bottomless submundane, Delusion of the
Fury was as much visual spectacle as aural.

Or at least that was the case in the Edinburgh International Festival
production first seen at the Ruhrtriennale International Festival of
the Arts in north-west Germany during 2013 as performed by the
Cologne-based Ensemble MusikFabrik and overseen by German composer,
theatre director and maverick auteur, Heiner Goebbels.

Given that Goebbels spent much of the 1980s and early 1990s playing in
Cassiber, a quartet formed
with guitarist Christoph Anders, sax player Alfred Harth and Henry Cow
drummer and percussionist Chris Cutler in an attempt to fuse punk, free
jazz and classical music, he was a natural fit for Delusion of the
Fury's long overdue revival.

Composed by Partch in 1966 and subtitled A Ritual of Dream and
Delusion, Delusion of the Fury was performed for one night only at UCLA
in 1969 in a version conducted by percussionist Danlee Mitchell, who
would go on to become Partch's heir. The recording of the performance
was released on record in 1971, and later on CD in 1999, though both
are hard to come by. A film of the performance also exists, as one
hopes there is too of the Edinburgh dates, although the King's Theatre
ushers were as diligent in staving off mobile-phone wielding souvenir
hunters as stewards  keeping tabs on Kate Bush's current twenty-two
night adventure in musical theatre.

The comparison is not a facetious one. In the unlikely event that Bush
ever graces the stage again following her similarly portentously named
Before The Dawn shows, she could do worse than get Goebbels on board to
co-ordinate theatrics rather than an old-school RSC man.

Before a note was even heard in Edinburgh, the elaborate network of
hand-crafted musical jumble onstage looked to have been beamed down
from a space age that had reclaimed the ancient. Its symmetrically
arranged construction looked somewhere between Dada, Dali and Dahl in
the imaginative largesse of its glass domes, custom-built keyboards and
other oddities built around a small waterfall that trickled into a pool
at the front centre of the stage. As overblown as a Hammer horror flick
as it was, there was something child-like there too, as if Dr Phibes
had rewritten Dr Seuss's equally crazed Dr T, who built a piano so big
he required five hundred small boys to play it with their five thousand
fingers.

As it was, there were some twenty-two players who came on sporting an
assortment of dressing-up box vintage outfits. Hi-vis jackets and
lamp-lit hard-hats; street-corner trilbies and thrift-shop furs; Dead
End Kid caps and Sunday-best tweeds were all in the mix. They could
have been a gang of blue-collar factory trolls bashing out another
shift, or a down-at-heel busking troupe peddling for change. Once they
struck up the first notes of the instrumental Exordium: The Beginning
of a Web, however, things became even more playful in an eastern tinged
overture of bells, scrapes, pops, clangs, busy percussive flourishes
and fairground organ wheezes which at moments appeared to threaten to
break into Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds, at others into Loony Tunes
style cartoon cavalcades.

What followed was a Frankenstein's monster of two knitted-together
narratives fused at the hip by a mid-section Sanctus. The first, taken
from a Japanese Noh play, concerned a pilgrim in search of a shrine who
finds reconciliation through death. The second, On an African Theme,
told of a deaf hobo's quarrel with an old woman and the legal battle
that follows. It was the delivery that counted, however, as Ensemble
MusikFabrik proceeded to leap, not just from instrument to instrument,
but to acting out the scenarios with pantomimic glee by way of an
eye-popping display of quirky choreography, massed Yo-heave-ho/Follow
The Yellow Brick Road style chorales and dry ice.

Hooded figures knelt in a line facing away from the audience to pay
homage as part of some tribal ritual, while each scene was captioned a
la Brecht using a retro cinema style light box display. Not since Brix
Smith clambered aboard a giant hamburger on the stage in choreographer
Michael Clark's collaboration with The Fall in I Am Curious, Orange on
the same King's Theatre stage in 1988 has Edinburgh seen such a display
of serious fun on such a grand scale.

At times it sounded akin to the spirit, at least, of the 1970s
collaborations between playwright and actor Sam Shepard and theatre
director Joseph Chaikin. Originally performed by Chaikin, Tongues and
Savage/Love fused words, physicality and an (improvised) percussion and
flute score that one imagines Part wild horse mane on both sides might
also have had a hand in had they been around. There are shades too of
Ennio Morricone  and Bernard Herrmann at their most urgently martial.

Delusions of the Fury's second half was shot through with
prat-fallingly good-humoured physicality, both in the musical playing
and the Jungle Book joie de vivre of the performances. Cosmic-ancient
science-fiction warriors square up to each other on a slow revolve in
front of the fountain. Stuffed toy farm animals wrapped in bin bags and
tape line the stage. Lights on tripods sway and bend like giant
metronomes or dancing palm trees. Then, inbetween the flute-like
trills, jaw harp and some heavy marimba-style action, a giant cut-out
of a smiling Colonel Sanders takes centre stage, only for his eyes to
be blinded by way of a pot of day-glo pink paint. Of course.

In terms of concept, Delusion of the Fury was akin to spending a night
in both Partch's and Goebbels' heads. In its increasing euphoria, it
was also a gloriously audacious staging of a vital and era-defining
work that needs to be witnessed as much as heard.

The Quietus - September 2nd 2014


ends

Nick Thomas - Who Built The Access Road?

Telfer Gallery, Glasgow
September 13th-28th
The missile testing range on South Uist built by the RAF in 1957 may
have been privatised in 2001, but the fascination of what is regarded
as the largest air and sea range in the UK goes on. Nick Thomas' filmic
portrait of Uist that makes up his show at the Telfer looks at the
impact of the range on those who live, work and have grown up in its
shadow that dominates a landscape where the ancient and modern rub up
against each other.

“There's also a consideration of the Catholic iconography of the area
and its historical role,” the Glasgow-based artist explains, “as public
art, in the initial ideological conflict around the site.”

Thomas' fascination with the site has seen him make other Uist-based
work since graduating from Glasgow School of Art in 2012, though this
is the most substantial piece to date, with much of its research
techniques learnt while Thomas worked on the moving image archive of
pioneering Sauchiehall Street arts lab, the Third Eye Centre. Thomas'
Uist project moves his processes up a notch.

“It's an attempt,” he says to look at how technological change,
religion, landscape and politics might interact with each other in a
particular historical moment, or moments.”

The List, September 2014


ends