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Showing posts from October, 2014

Dangerous Corner

Theatre Royal, Glasgow
Three stars
A shot in the dark and the shrill scream that begin J.B. Priestley's
philosophical thriller don't tell the full story of something possessed
with the airs and graces of a hokey drawing-room whodunnit, but which
ends up as a tortured treatise on human nature's power to deceive.
These attention-grabbing noises off are themselves a theatrical double
bluff, as they open out onto a post dinner party scene where the ladies
of the extended Caplan clan are making small talk. A cigarette box
seems to carry more weight than anyone is letting on, and only when the
gentlemen enter does revelation upon revelation pile up alongside the
much missed figure of the late Martin Caplan.

Martin was the social glue and a whole lot more besides of a publishing
set steeped in the well turned out veneer of its own fiction. Sex,
drugs, love and money are all in the mix, be it straight, gay, between
husbands, wives and other part-time lovers. If only they'd manage…

Dominic Hill - The Citizens Theatre's Spring 2015 70th Anniversary Season

When the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow announced earlier this year that
the centrepiece of the theatre's  seventieth anniversary Spring season
in 2015 would be a new production of John Byrne's play, The Slab Boys,
it confirmed excited whispers which had been circulating for some time.
The Slab Boys, after all, has become a bona fide modern classic since
it premiered at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh in 1978.

The fact that it will be directed by David Hayman, who had directed the
original production of the play that redefined Scottish theatre
thirty-six years ago gave the news an extra frisson. After blazing a
trail as part of the legendary 1970s Citz ensemble, The Slab Boys will
be Hayman's second return to his theatrical alma mater under its
current artistic director Dominic Hill's tenure, following his
barn-storming turn in the title role of Hill's production of King Lear.

Today's exclusive announcement in the Herald confirms that the
remainder of the Citz'…

The Drawer Boy

Paisley Arts Centre
Four stars
When self-absorbed actor Miles turns up at an isolated farmhouse in
search of a story, he gets more than he bargained for when he's taken
in by Morgan and Angus who live there.  Both Second World War veterans,
these life-long friends play out their lives in early 1970s Ontario,
working the land as they keep old and uncomfortable memories at bay.
Miles' arrival awakens something in a damaged Angus that can't be
placated anymore by baking bread, counting stars and listening to
Morgan's possibly unreliable tales of how they got to where they are.

Inspired by real-life events that led to The Farm Show, a defining
moment in Canadian theatre,  Michael Healey's 1999 play taps into a
rich seam of dramatic and social history even as it pokes fun at the
try-too-hard earnestness that springs from Miles and his big city ways.
Out of this comes a tender meditation on how stories can enlighten even
the most shattered minds.

Alasdair McCrone's touri…

The Gamblers

Dundee Rep
Four stars
Ever feel like you've been cheated? John Lydon's famous phrase springs
to mind in Selma Dimitrijevic's production of her new version of
Gogol's nineteenth century comedy, penned here with Mikhail Durnenkov.
This isn't just because of the Sex Pistols t-shirt sported by one of
the key players in the elaborate sting that follows from an unholy
alliance between con-men. It is the way too that Dimitrijevic and her
all-female ensemble play with artifice and gender in a way that itself
is a stylistic gamble. Yet, as each character enters the locker-room to
play macho games, it pays dividends even as the gang hustle their
victim into suspending their own disbelief.

Initially nothing is hidden in this co-production between Greyscale and
Dundee Rep Ensemble in association with Northern Stage and Stellar
Quines. Once the sextet of players have put on charity shop suits and
waistcoats, they pick up instruments to become a junkyard dance-band
before a playgro…

Bondagers

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars
Five women emerge from the blackness of Jamie Vartan's panoramic
staging at the start of Lu Kemp's revival of Sue Glover's 1991 play,
each dragging a wooden crate attached to a rope behind them. Resembling
a quintet of Mother Courages, this is just one of many powerful images
in Glover's brutal and unsentimental study of life across the seasons
for six women working the land  in nineteenth century rural Scotland.

Hired by the gentry and paid a pittance, youngsters Liza and Jenny line
up alongside Sara and her teenage daughter Tottie. Maggie works
alongside them inbetween tending to her bairns, while ex Bondager Ellen
occasionally loosens her corset and comes down from the big house she
married into. All have yearnings, be it for Canada or a local
farm-hand, and when work turns to play, Tottie's tragedy is inevitable.

After more than a decade without a production on home soil, one of the
most striking things about Bondagers is …

The King's Peace: Realism and War

Stills, Edinburgh until Sunday.

Four stars
While the welter of artistic contributions to the one hundred year anniversary of the First World War's opening salvo have been resolutely non-triumphalist, recent events in Palestine and what looks set to be Iraq Part Three suggest little has been learnt in the intervening century. As Remembrance Day looms, this is where this dense and at times overwhelming compendium of war in pieces curated by artist Owen Logan and Kirsten Lloyd of Stills comes in.
A sequel of sorts to Logan and Lloyd's previous collaboration on the epic ECONOMY project, which looked at global capitalism in a similarly polemical fashion, the starting point of The King's Peace is selections from Masquerade: Michael Jackson Alive in Nigeria (2001-2005). Logan's satirical photo-essay sees him pick up the mantle – and the white mask – of the late pop icon and travels to Africa, where his mysterious collaborators the Maverick Ejiogbe Twins subsequently play-act …

Talk To Me Like the Rain and Let Me Listen...

Little Theatre, Dundee
Four stars
A quartet of rarely-seen short plays by Tennessee Williams isn't the
obvious choice for Dundee Rep Ensemble's fifth annual tour of the
city's community venues. In director Irene Macdougall's hands, however,
Williams' sad little studies of little lives in everyday crisis are
revealed to be as rich in poetry and poignancy as his tempestuous
full-length works.

Opening with the compendium's title piece, the self-destructive urges
of the play's damaged young couple played by Thomas Cotran and Millie
Turner are captured in a series of desperate exchanges that sees them
finally cling to each other for comfort. Like them, all of Williams'
characters create elaborate fictions for themselves in order to survive
the madness of the world beyond the bare floorboards and shabby rooms
of Leila Kalbassi's set. Punctuated by a melancholy piano score, the
plays contain a contemporary currency too that speaks variously about
art, addicti…

Sue Glover - Bondagers

Before Sue Glover wrote Bondagers, books on the subject of female farm
workers in the nineteenth century seemed to be pretty thin on the
ground. Once Glover's play charting six women's travails through the
seasons became a hit in Ian Brown's original production for the
Traverse Theatre in 1991, however, everything changed. The play's
emotional landscape and lyrical largesse tapped into something that
audiences lapped up, and Brown's production was revived for bigger
theatres and toured to Canada. Suddenly there seemed to be a welter of
literature on the subject, while the play itself was recently named as
one of the twelve key Scottish plays written between 1970 and 2010.

Twenty-three years on since its premiere, and more than a decade since
it was last produced on home soil, Bondagers comes home to roost in Lu
Kemp's new production at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh. Even
with such an extended absence, Glover remains close to the play.

“It's difficult …

Damir Todorovic

Actor, choreographer, theatre-maker

Born June 20 1973; died  October 15 2014



Damir Todorovic, who has died aged 41 following a short struggle with
cancer, was an actor prepared to go places others feared to tread. This
may not have been immediately obvious in a stream of film and TV roles
in which the Serbian-born performer's shaved head and sharp East
European features saw him frequently play the bad guy. With the
Glasgow-based Vanishing Point theatre company in shows such as the
award-winning Interiors, The Beggars Opera and Wonderland, however, he
created parts that were quietly intense and which, by way of Vanishing
Point's devising methods, were born from a place deep within him.

It was made even clearer just how far Todorovic was prepared to go in
As It Is, a show created by himself in which he strapped himself to a
lie detector while being interrogated about his time as a young soldier
in the Serbian army during the Balkan conflicts in 1993.  Originally
commissioned by the…

The Night Before The Trial and The Sneeze

Tron Theatre, Glasgow
Three stars
While John Byrne's 1960s reinvention of Anton Chekhov's Three Sisters
plays to packed houses in the Tron's main house, Marcus Roche's
bite-size staging of two of the Russian master's miniatures is an all
too fitting curtain-raiser. Roche himself opens proceedings as Chekhov,
manning the decks with some particularly riotous Russian dance numbers
on the stereo before reading brief excerpts from his diaries.

These take place shortly after the original production of The Three
Sisters has been a massive flop, and Chekhov considers penning funnier
fare once more. This leads neatly into Roche's adaptation of the
unfinished The Night Before The Trial, in which a man awaits his fate
on the eve of being hauled before the court for attempted bigamy and
attempted murder. He is subsequently usurped by a young woman in need
of medical assistance he'd be happy to administer if only her pesky
husband wasn't also on the scene.

Played script…

Famous Five – Young Marble Giants, The Pop Group, Vic Godard & Subway Sect, The Sexual Objects, Pere Ubu

Young Marble Giants

The minimal palette of Cardiff trio Young Marble Giants' first and only album, Colossal Youth, remains as spooky and as fragile today as it was when it crept quietly into the post-punk landscape in 1980.

The Pop Group
Bristol's incendiary troupe of avant-punk insurrectionists return after this year's Celtic Connections show to perform their just repressed We Are Time album in full. Manic dub-funk sloganeering dangerous enough to bring down governments.

Vic Godard & Subway Sect
Subway Sect's support slot on the Edinburgh Playhouse date of The Clash's May 1977 White Riot tour at Edinburgh Playhouse inspired what would become The Sound of Young Scotland. Godard's re-recordings of his vintage northern soul period can be heard on 1979 Now.

The Sexual Objects
One of those attending the Edinburgh White Riot date was Davy Henderson, who formed Fire Engines, Win and The Nectarine No 9 before morphing into The SOBs, who have frequently backed Godar…

Young Marble Giants - Return of the Colossal Youth

Young Marble Giants never meant to reform. In truth, the Cardiff-sired
trio, who play their first ever Glasgow show on Monday night, had been
barely there in the first place. The band's sole long-playing release,
Colossal Youth, named, like their own, after images of ancient Greek
statues, seemed to have come fully formed from nowhere when it was
released by Rough Trade records in 1980.

The record's collection of fifteen austere vignettes sounded like
nothing else around, with brothers Stuart and Philip Moxham weaving
clipped, scratchy guitar and bass patterns around singer Alison
Statton's fragile, untutored voice as she sang Stuart Moxham's lyrical
fragments with a distance that made them sound like the darkest of
nursery rhymes. A drum machine and occasional organ added to the
eeriness, as did the shadowy image of the trio on the album's suitably
stark cover. Lo-fi doesn't come close.

“We didn't think it was going to get anywhere,” says Stuart Moxham
tod…

United We Stand

Oran Mor, Glasgow
Three stars
When a convicted prisoner talks about how the real conspiracies in the
country are not between trade unionists and workers, but with
politicians and corporations protecting the wealthy few, and how trade
unions may soon be illegal, you could be forgiven for thinking the
words are spoken by some contemporary dissident. As it is, they are the
parting shots from striking builders Des Warren and future comedy actor
Ricky Tomlinson, who, along with twenty-two other men in 1972 following
a volatile period of industrial unrest in the UK, were convicted on the
nineteenth century law of 'conspiracy to intimidate and affray.'

It is the plight of the men who became known as the Shrewsbury 24 that
is the subject of Neil Gore's loose-knit musical play for Townsend
Productions which is currently on a whistle-stop tour of the country
that takes in North Edinburgh Arts Centre tonight and Blantyre Miners
Welfare club on Sunday. With the help of just an overhead …

Linda Griffiths

Playwright, Actress.

Born October 7 1953; died September 21 2014



Linda Griffiths, who has died aged sixty following a battle with breast
cancer, was as wildly inspiring as she was wildly inspired, both as an
actress and a playwright in her native Canada and beyond. Nowhere was
this more evident in the latter than in Age of Arousal, Griffiths' 2007
play set in a nineteenth century secretarial college where five women
search for emancipation in very different ways.

In her programme notes for Muriel Romanes' 2011 production of the play
for the Stellar Quines theatre company at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in
Edinburgh, Griffiths herself described her work as being ”wildly
inspired” by George Gissing's novel, The Odd Women, which she
discovered in the dollar bin of a second-hand book-store.

“I turned it over, and it on the back it said ‘Five Victorian
Spinsters’,” Griffiths said in an interview with the Herald at the time
of the production, “and I thought, oh, that’s jui…

Peter Grimes

Actor, Writer, Adventurer.

Born July 16 1966; died October 4 2014.

Peter Grimes, who has died aged forty-eight following a long illness,
was more than just an actor. He was an adventurer and a seeker, whose
empathy, both with the characters he played and with the audiences he
played to, reflected his sense of melancholy clowning with a deep-set
truth at its heart. This was the case whether appearing as Bottom in
Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, as Shere Khan the tiger in The
Jungle Book, as Barrabas, the thief pardoned as Jesus Christ was
crucified beside him, or in the title role in an  expansive production
of Peer Gynt, Ibsen's classic fantastical romp of self-knowledge.

These characters reflected Grimes' own imagination, which was almost
certainly too wild to fit into a theatrical mainstream, and it was
telling that most of the theatre companies he worked for were similarly
maverick operations which embraced the creative freedoms and techniques
of…

Dublin Theatre Festival 2014 - Brigit, Bailegangaire, Our Few And Evil Days, Vardo, The Mariner

It's half-past three on a Sunday afternoon outside the Olympia Theatre
in Dublin's Dame Street, and a scrum of bodies is masquerading as an
orderly queue. Despite all appearances to the contrary, the rammy isn't
a result of some reality TV teen sensation about to appear in concert
on the Olympia stage. It is instead down to the Galway-based Druid
theatre company's brand new productions of two very different plays by
veteran Irish playwright and another kind of legend, Tom Murphy.

Druid's revival of Bailegangaire, which they first presented in 1985,
was a mighty enough proposition by itself for this year's Dublin
Theatre Festival, which ended this weekend. A tale of a senile old
woman telling a story she refuses to finish as her two-grand-daughters
navigate their lives around her has become a modern classic. Paired
with a new play, Brigit, a prequel of sorts featuring the characters
from Bailegangaire thirty years earlier was an even more tantalising
prospect.

T…

Tony Cownie - New Man In Cumbernauld

There's something of a homecoming feel to Tony Cownie's appointment as
associate director of Cumbernauld Theatre while artistic director Ed
Robson goes on sabbatical for a year sourcing theatre abroad. It was in
the former farm cottages situated in the local park, after all, where
the director and actor made his professional debut in the late Tom
McGrath's play, The Flitting. That was back in 1990, since when Cownie
has carved out a successful career as a comic actor with edge, with
roles varying from the Porter in Macbeth to an award-winning turn as
the troubled Kenny in Mark Thomson's play, A Madman Sings To The Moon.

In the mid 1990s, Cownie moved into directing with Liz Lochhead's play,
Shanghaied, which was later presented with a second act as Britannia
Rules. This led to a fruitful relationship with the Royal Lyceum
Theatre in Edinburgh, where he was encouraged by the late Kenny
Ireland, and latterly under Thomson, Ireland's successor as artistic
director…

Auld Alliance Contemporary Exhibition

Institut Francais, Edinburgh / E.D.S. Gallery, Edinburgh, both until
November 1st.
Three stars

French fancies abound in this group show of work from nine artists –
five French, four from Scotland - mixed and matched across two
galleries that bridge the gaps between Edinburgh's New Town and the
city's West End. This is made explicit in Samantha Boyes' florid
constructions, which at first glance look like afternoon tea is being
served until you notice the assorted stuffed bird's heads and other
wild-life nesting within.

This sets an anthropological tone that sees much monkeying around
throughout. Where Jacob Kerray's chimps in military drag come on like
dressing-up box tinpot dictators, Dix10's pistol-packing infant taking
aim at a kids entertainer's dog-shaped balloons in fatal repose gives
similarly subversive edge to such  otherwise cutie-pie subjects.
Elsewhere, few do this better than Rachel Maclean, whose explorations
of national identity by way of day-gl…

Linwood No More

Tron Theatre, Glasgow
Three stars
 From beneath a pile of cardboard surrounding a park bench, a
middle-aged man comes crawling from the wreckage he calls home. A
casualty of the rise and fall of the Linwood dream, when the
manufacture of the Hillman Imp put the small Renfewshire town  on the
map before the plug was pulled as bigger, shinier cars dazzled the
paying public even more, the Man sees in the new millennium with a dram
and tells his story.

It's a sorry and sadly familiar tale he tells, of how he started on the
production line straight from school as a wet-behind-the-ears youth,
met his wife and built a life on the back of it, only to be
unceremoniously thrown onto the scrap heap as capitalism failed and the
dream faded. But it gets worse, as he loses his life-long love and hits
the bottle, only to appear at least, to have survived, seriously
bruised, but unbowed.

At first glance, Paul Coulter's monologue, performed with steely
commitment by Vincent Friell in a productio…

Embrace

Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh
Three stars
If you go down to the woods any night this week, you're in for a
big-ish surprise with this new show from Vision Mechanics, which
promenades its way after dark en route to some ecologically inclined
Shangei-la. With the audience gathered in groups of twenty or so, the
show's director and creator Kim Bergsagel and her trusty sidekick lead
the throng to an Occupy style camp-site where they introduce us to the
wisdom of an enlightened fellow traveller before we're encouraged to
eavesdrop on the conversations going on inside the tents. Depending on
where you're coming from, these sound either like heated debate or out
and out bickering in what looks and sounds like a pastiche of
grass-roots activism.

With a police bust imminent, we're led down assorted paths, where a
film by Robbie Thomson uses shadow puppetry and Ewan Macintyre's
eastern-tinged backwoods soundtrack to tell the story of the show's
inspiration, Amrita D…

Stewart Laing - Paul Bright's Confessions of A Justified Sinner at Dublin Theatre Festival

When Paul Bright's Confessions of A Justified Sinner was first
presented by Untitled Projects and the National Theatre of Scotland in
2013, the performance and accompanying exhibition were far from
straightforward interpretations of James Hogg's novel, which was
presented as a possibly unreliable memoir on the alleged crimes of its
narrator, Robert Wringham. Rather, in the hands of director Stewart
Laing, playwright Pamela Carter and a network of visual artists and
researchers from the 85A collective, Paul Bright's Confessions found
actor George Anton relate memories of a legendary stage version of
Hogg's book presented in the late 1980s by the maverick figure of
radical theatre director  Bright.

Anton's monologue was accompanied by scrappy film footage of incidents
and rehearsals surrounding Bright's production alongside interviews
with Bright's fellow travellers. What emerged from the play alongside
the exhibition's meticulously observed archive was a …

Tomorrow

Tramway, Glasgow
Four stars
The lights are down on the entire auditorium from the start  of
Vanishing Point's magical-realist meditation on how age withers us.
With only a triangle of light cast between two grey door-frames, it
could be a wake. The vague figures handing out what at first appears to
be a production line of new-borns suggest something else again culled
from the darkest of science-fiction graphic novels.

When a young man on the way to the hospital where his wife has just
given birth bumps into an old man in the park, a seemingly chance
meeting lurches into a troubling dreamscape that sees the young man
become a mere memory of the elder. As a possible escapee from an old
people's home, he is by turns pettted and patronised by staff too
wrapped up in their own lives to do anything other than care by rote.

Devised by director Matthew Lenton with dramaturg Pamela Carter and a
cast of eight, Tomorrow is as far away from the spate of plays about
ageing that have sprung up …