Friday, 31 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 managed to
tune in to some dance music on the wireless, all involved would have
remained blissfully suspicious of each other.

All this must have been pretty shocking when Priestley premiered his
first stage drama back in 1932. This is something that's hard to
recapture in Michael Attenborough's solid but hardly earth-shattering
production for the Bill Kenwright organisation. A handsome-looking cast
led by Michael Praed as dashing bachelor Charles Stanton nevertheless
play it as straight as they can in a show where archness must be hard
to resist. Only when the play lurches in on itself in its final moments
do we see the potential for something darker, sexier and more
self-destructive.

The Herald, October 30th 2014


ends





Tuesday, 28 October 2014

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's Spring 2015  season looks set to be equally
special.

“We wanted to do work that was close to home,” Hill explains. “John and
David have been talking to me about doing it here for some time. It
feels like the right theatre to do it, and a nice celebratory way to
start the year.”

The second major Citizens production will be a new play by Douglas
Maxwell. Fever Dream: Southside is a Glasgow-set study of life in
Govanhill during a heatwave. With a clear umbilical link between the
comedy of truth that fires both Byrne and Maxwell's work down the
generations, Fever Dream: Southside will also mark a production of
Maxwell's first big play since If Destroyed True several years back.

“It's a play about fatherhood,” says Hill, “and focuses on the fears of
new parents brining up a child in a city. The play has this almost
Johnsonian sense of larger than life characters in a community, and is
kind of a play about home and people's need for beliefs. There's this
entire community of characters written in these wonderful bright
colours that Douglas brings to his work. Douglas isn't afraid to be
funny, and there's a real vitality to his work, but there's real
integrity to it as well.”

There are even more links to the ghosts of Citizens past in the
company's third in-house production. Into That Darkness is Robert David
Macdonald's stage adaptation of a book by historian Gitta Sereny, in
which she interviewed Franz Stangl, the extermination camp commandant
who was finally convicted for the murder of more than one million
people in Nazi extermination camps in 1970.

“I read the book years ago,” says Hill, “and thought then that it would
make a great piece of theatre. Then when I came here I found out that
Robert David Macdonald had done it, so it seemed a real opportunity to
have another look at it.”

The new main-stage production will be directed by Gareth Nicholls,
currently the Citz's Main Stage Director in Residence, a post shared
between the Citizens and Stewart Laing's Untitled Projects, and
supported by Creative Scotland's Creative Futures Programme and the
Jerwood Charitable Foundation. Into That Darkness will be Nicholls's
first main-stage show after assisting Hill on Hamlet.

In terms of visiting companies, Hill's programme continues to forge
links with companies who have now become Citizens regulars as well as
fostering brand new alliances. The season will open with what looks set
to be a fascinating production of Macbeth by the ever adventurous
Filter Theatre, while in March, Headlong return with a brand new look
at David Hare's 1993 play, The Absence of War, which looks at a
charismatic Labour Party leader's attempts to be elected into power.

“I like the idea that we connect with companies,” Hill says, “and for
audiences to develop a relationship with them. I wanted to see Filter
doing something more serious, and the resonances of The Absence of War
in the run-up to the UK General Election and everything that's going on
in the Labour Party are huge.”

Absence of War will be followed by Lippy, Bush Moukarzel's play for
Ireland's Dead Centre company, which was a hit in this year's Edinburgh
Festival Fringe, where it was given a Herald Angel award. Lippy will
form part of the off-site programme of the Arches 2015 Behaviour
festival, and will be the first time the two very different venues have
collaborated.

“The response to that show in Edinburgh was so huge,” says Hill, “that
I thought it was important that it was seen on this side of the
country. The opportunity to work with the Arches as well is really
interesting, and may open up the Citizens to a different kind of
audience.”

Beyond Spring 2015, the Citizens team are also busy fund-raising for
the multimillion pound Capital Project, which will see a major
refurbishment of the theatre and its facilities. With a projected £16
million budget needing to be sourced, a healthy £11.4 million has
already been secured from a mix of Heritage Lottery Fund (£4.9
million), Glasgow City Council (£4 million), Creative Scotland (£1.5
million) and £500,000 apiece from Historic Scotland and the Robertson
Trust.

While the Capital Project might appear to be well on track to fruition,
Hill can't afford to become complacent, especially with tomorrow's
announcement by Creative Scotland which will outline which arts bodies
will receive subsidy from their Regular Funding scheme. Given a track
record which last weekend saw the Citizens win an Arts and Business
award for their Commonwealth programme this year, it seems unlikely
that the Gorbals-based institution will lose out in any major way, but
Hill isn't taking anything for granted.

“Like most organisations,” he says, “the Citizens is looking for an in
increase in what we normally get from Creative Scotland, but they've
already said that there has been more money applied for than there is
available. I can't second-guess what the decision might be, but while
we're very good at managing to make as much work as we can with what
we've got, like everyone else we're at the very edge of our finances.
One thing we've tried to do at the Citz is increase the amount of our
own work that goes on, and standstill funding or a cut especially would
make that very hard to sustain.”

Tickets for all shows in the Citizens Theatre's Spring 2015 season go
on sale from today.
www.citz.co.uk

ends

The Citz Spring 2015 – At A Glance
Macbeth – January 20-31
Shakespeare's Scottish play has been done in a myriad of way, with
several great productions seen on the Citz stage. Filter Theatre have
become masters of reinventing the classics, and follow up their
production of Twelfth Night with a version of Macbeth that fuses the
play with an innovative soundscape.

The Garden – January 22-24
The Citizens Circle studio opens up for this opera by the husband and
wife artistic team of composer John Harris and writer/director Zinnie
Harris based on Zinnie Harris' short play of the same name. Originally
commissioned by the Sound festival in Aberdeen, The Garden is a gentle
tale of love and hope in a high-rise flat during the last days of the
world.

The Slab Boys - February 12-March 7
When John Byrne's tale of a couple of work-shy Paisley teddy boys with
ambitions beyond the factory floor first appeared in 1978 at the
Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh, its mix of baroque banter and working
class experience redefined what was possible on the Scottish stage. At
the directorial helm was actor David Hayman, who revisits the play in
this new production in which he also appears.

Long Live The Little Knife – February 24-28
David Leddy's play about art, forgery and castration is revived by
Leddy's Fire Exit company for the Circle Studio, as a pair of
small-time con artists attempt to become the world's greatest
counterfeiters, despite their very obvious lack of skills with a
paintbrush.

The Absence of War  - March 31-April 3
David Hare's 1993 play was the final part of a trilogy that looked at
the powers behind the British state. Where Racing Demons examined the
church and Murmuring Judges law and order, The Absence of War inspired
by the defeat of the Labour Party in the UK General Election a year
earlier. Headlong's new production following visits to the Citz with
Medea, The Seagull and 1984 brings the play to Scotland for the first
time at what is a crucial time for the Labour Party on both sides of
the border.

Lippy - April 8-11
Bush Markouzal's Herald Angel winning Edinburgh hit may have drawn
inspiration from the deaths of three women who starved themselves to
death, but the Dead Centre theatre company's production is no social
document. Rather, the play's explosion of forms questions notions of
how you tell other people's stories. The show's Glasgow dates also mark
the Citz's first collaboration with the Arches Behaviour Festival

Fever Dream: Southside - April 23-May 9
Douglas Maxwell's first new play for some time is set in Glasgow's
Govanhill district, where bringing up children in a neighbourhood awash
with unique characters make for a surreal comic thriller that looks at
the vagaries of community spirit and city life. Dominic Hill directs.

Into That Darkness - May 18-30
Former Citz director Robert David Macdonald's adaptation of journalist
Gitta Sereny's book based on sixty hours of interviews with  Franz
Stangl, the commandant of the Treblinka and Sobibor extermination
camps, was first seen in the 1990s. The original production featured
Macdonald as Stangl, who acted opposite Roberta Taylor who recently
played Gertrude in Dominic Hill's production of Hamlet. This new
production is overseen by the theatre's Main Stage Director in
Residence, Gareth Nicholls.

The Herald, October 28th 2014


ends








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 touring revival for Mull Theatre captures the full
heart and soul of Healey's drama with an understated sense of the
play's intimacy. Much of this is down to how the interplay between each
character is realised, something which McCrone's cast rise to with
aplomb. Barrie Hunter's stoic Morgan is offset beautifully by James
Mackenzie's wide-eyed Miles, while McCrone himself plays Angus with a
wounded sensitivity that is loveable without ever falling prey to
cutesiness.

As the show's tour continues with dates in Dundee tonight, Greenock
tomorrow and beyond, McCrone and co have captured the full poignancy of
how sometimes the truth can come out in very mysterious ways.

The Herald, October 28th 2014


ends

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 playground whistle calls them to attention. Everything from
thereon in is an elaborate game, as each adopt the exaggerated
mannerisms of lads on a stag do, attempting to out-drink, out-swagger
and out-smart one another with increasingly ridiculous effect.

Having women put on the fragile mask of machismo in such a way not only
heightens the comedy of what might well be a template for every
big-screen depiction of hustlers ever made. With a cast of six
featuring Amanda Hadingue as newcomer Iharev, Hannah McPake as leader
of the crew Uteshitelny and the Rep Ensemble's Emily Winter as the wily
Shvohnev, it also makes for a piece of gender-bending subversion that
double-bluffs its way onto the stage with barely a trick missed.

The Herald, October 28th 2014


ends



Monday, 27 October 2014

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 just how ground-breaking the
play's fusion of rich poetic text, striking physicality and a rhythmic
musicality that pulses it remains. Yet so connected are its mixture of
forms and styles in Kemp's rendering of the play that it never draws
attention to them, even as Michael John McCarthy's score seems to
whisper from the land itself.

Among six dynamic performances, Cath Whitefield gives a heart-rending
turn as Tottie, here more a free spirit without any social buffers to
contain her than a one-dimensional daftie. Tottie is the play's heart,
in which something deeply and profoundly primal is going on. This
speaks volumes about how both women and the environment they tend to
can be violated by men's hands.

The Herald, October 27th 2014


ends



Friday, 24 October 2014

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 assorted personas that move from self-deified guru through the echelons of a volatile society in flux.

Set against walls painted perfectly regimented red or white which host pithy quotes from Emmeline Pankhurst and others, Masquerade becomes the mast for an umbilically and socio-politically connected network of images from the USA, South Africa, Argentina, Italy and much closer to where the home fires may have burnt to be pinned to. The roots of this come in archive spreads from 1920s radical newspaper, Workers' Illustrated News, and The Greatest Show on Earth, from the 1930s. The now vintage imagery of both make explicit the economic relationship between capitalism and war.

The collateral damage of conflict can be seen both in Philip Jones Griffiths' remarkable frontline images collected in his 1971 book, Vietnam Inc (1971), and in the post Second World War shots of Paul Strand, who, along with writer Cesare Zavattini, produced Un Paese: Portrait of an Italian Village (1955) out of time spent in the rural town of Luzzara. While American soldiers observe Vietnamese mothers holding their dead children in the former, the dusty family idyll of the latter is upended by the words beside it from the mother of a clan decimated by violence.

On a wooden assemblage that resembles a wind-up washing line, but which is actually a reconstruction of a design first built by Latvian artist Gustav Klucis to host a living newspaper type structure, an archive of the 1960s Argentinian collective, Grupo de Artistas de Vanguardia Group of Avant-Garde Artists) is plastered. Archivo Tucuman Arde (Tucuman Burns Archive) (1968) is a series of posters and other documentation of a doomed attempt at alternative media which was eventually shut down by the authorities it opposed in a climate of social crisis in a US-backed dictatorship.

War Primer 2 (2011) finds Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin applying similarly disruptive strategies to Realpolitik by putting contemporary images over clippings collected by Bertolt Brecht in 1955 and accompanied by poems which are as pertinent now as then. One, in which American troops film a dead body with a camouflage covered video phone is especially telling of how war is immortalised as spectacle.

This is evident too in the selections of photo-montages from Martha Rosler's House Beautiful: Bringing The War Home, New Series (2004-2008). Here male models who seem to have stepped out of a Reservoir Dogs theme party promenade through a battlefield. In another, a chicly-dressed female model gazes with mouth wide open into her mobile phone as if about to take a selfie.

Blithely self-absorbed and seemingly unaware of the two bloodied children slumped in the chairs behind her, the woman registers posed faux surprise at the image of the man possibly caught in the crossfire on the small screen in her hand as what may as well be a downloaded action movie. Sheltered from the blast of the carnage outside the windows of her sleekly sound-proofed des-res, the woman's response, in all it's glossy vacuity, is an all too perfect encapsulation of desensitised lives during wartime.

Nermine Hammam's Press, from her series, Unfolding (2012), is a brutal juxtaposition of police brutality in Egypt following the 2011 uprising and the Zen serenity of a Japanese medieval landscape that makes it look like a frame from a science-fiction comic strip.

If the two images from Fred Lonidier's N.A.F.T.A. (Not A Fair Trade for All) series (2005) highlights the relationship between art and activism among exploited workers in Mexico, it is made even clearer in Digging for Diamonds...a Journey Back to Fairy Hales (1994/2014). This film charts the interventions of the Snapcorps photography group, based in the Wester Hailes area of Edinburgh in the 1990s. Here the group dressed up as an unemployed Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs for Hi Ho Giro, a piece that was part performance, part protest.

Through a series of reminiscences of four of the original Snapcorps members, the film made with Stuart Platt captures a moment from Edinburgh's oppositional past that created a mini community who discovered their own brand of self-determination and power through a piece of serious fun.

With books and essays in a newspaper style publication to read and films, including Eugene Jarecki's ninety-eight minute Why We Fight to watch, there's a lot to take in throughout what becomes a quietly didactic meditation on war's ongoing futility.

That intensity of concentration required may be partly why The King's Peace perhaps hasn't attracted the same amount of attention as the more voguishly marketable sections of GENERATION, the showcase of twenty-five years of contemporary art in Scotland which it forms part of. It's almost as if the show has been declared a no-man's-land, too serious and too engaged to make the front pages alongside the assorted art stars featured elsewhere in GENERATION. While this is a shame, it is also everything that The King's Peace is about. All it is saying, after all, is give peace a chance, and who would want to read about that?
 
A shorter version of this article appeared on The List online, October 2014
 

ends

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, addiction and abuse.

In Mr Paradise, Turner's literary groupie comes calling on John Buick's
clapped-out poet who she wishes to reintroduce to the world. Auto-da-Fe
finds the sight of a dirty picture opening something up inside pious
Eloi he's unable to contain, even as his mother, played by Ann Louise
Ross, looks on with disapproval. Cotran and Turner fully come into
their own in This Property is Condemned as Tom and Willie, a pair of
teenagers playing on the rail-track. Dressed in a vivid purple dress
and spinning increasingly troubling yarns as she clutches on to her
doll, Turner gives a performance that is as truthful as it is grotesque
in an emotionally charged evening of miniature masterpieces.

The Herald, October 24th 2014


ends



Tuesday, 21 October 2014

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 to get away from it,” she says on a lunchtime sojourn
into Edinburgh from her Fife home. “It's always there. There have been
productions abroad, you get emails from students doing design, or
school-teachers doing it with their kids, so it becomes part of you.
All your plays are part of you.”

The roots of Bondagers date back to Glover being told about the history
of women who were exploited as cheap labour while trying to keep body,
soul and family together. Having never heard of them, she looked into
it, and originally planned to write the play as a two-hander before it
blossomed into something bigger.

“Ian Brown said to me that I'd given him a very difficult play to
direct,” Glover remembers. “Apparently it's written in a lot of
different styles, but they all seem to fit together to me, and I don't
want to analyse or think about that too much, but I think it was just
the landscape that started it, and it's very dangerous to begin with a
landscape. It's usually a character or something of the story or an
incident, but there wasn't anything except that I kept seeing these
misty fields. A forty or fifty acre field sounds enormous, and it was
enormous then, although it's nothing now. I was on a car and a train in
Poland recently, going past these vast swathes of fields that could
have been somewhere in America, but these fields were new at that time.

“I believe they tried growing trees around the edges of the fields, and
then realised that it wasn't a good idea, partly because it would keep
the sun off the fields. I loved all that stuff. I always have. Even as
a kid I'd see places being concreted over, and wonder how we'd be able
to grow our food.”

Before Bondagers, there seemed to be few contemporary plays being
written in Scotland with rural settings. Whether it was coincidence or
there was something in the air, Glover's play seemed to open the door
on other works that moved beyond the inner-city. Alastair Cording's
stage adaptation of Lewis Grassic Gibbons' novel, Sunset Song, appeared
the same year as Bondagers, while original works such as David
Harrower's still startling Knives In Hens was an even bigger breath of
fresh air. At one point, it seemed like the majority of new plays being
produced by the Traverse were rural-based, including Glover's own play,
Shetland Saga. This was something brought home by the new writing
theatre's once annual Highland tour.

“I got the impression that if I'd been writing about housing estates or
factories or drugs, some theatres might have been much more interested
in my work,” Glover says. “All of my theatre plays are set on beaches
or islands or the countryside, and audiences have always been very
happy about that. Theatre admin departments weren't, certainly not in
the way they are now.”

One of Glover's bĂȘte noirs is classical plays having some kind of
concept imposed on them.

“They keep on trying to see the relevance of everything,” she says,
“but audiences will get the relevance of it. I don't want to see
Shakespeare done in blazers with people carrying tennis rackets.
Audiences aren't so dim that they can't see what a play is about.”

Kemp's revival of Bondagers for the Royal Lyceum heralds a mini
renaissance of Glover's work. A new production by Borderline Theatre
Company of The Straw Chair, first seen at the Traverse in 1988, is
scheduled for 2015. Like Bondagers, The Straw Chair looks to history
for inspiration, and looks at what happens when an Edinburgh minister
and his wife arrive on eighteenth century St Kilda.

“It's set in the past,” says Glover of the play she calls her favourite
work, “but really it's a play about marriage. It's really exciting,
because they're going to open it in Orkney.”

Glover's most recent full-length stage play was Marilyn, which imagined
a meeting between Marilyn Monroe and Simone Signoret in a hotel room,
and which was seen at the Citizens Theatre in 2011. Beyond that, Glover
currently has two short plays on the go. The first is based around a
couple living with lions, while the second is about an older couple
facing up to their own mortality.
As with Bondagers, however, Glover is unwilling to impose a theme on
her new works lest it get in the way of writing it.

“I found out what Bondagers is about while I was writing it,” she says.
“It's about losing or spoiling the land. Young people are slightly
horrified by the sexual politics in the play, because they're seeing it
through modern eyes, but the energy of these women was amazing.”

Bondagers, Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, October 22-November 15.
www.lyceum.org.uk

ends

Sue Glover – A life in writing

Sue Glover was born in Edinburgh and lives in the East Neuk of Fife.

She has written for theatre television and radio.

The Seal Wife – Based on the legend of the selkies – seals who take
human form and live on the land – Glover reinvented the myth for a
fishing community in 1980 at the Little Lyceum in Edinburgh.

The Straw Chair – First presented at the Traverse Theatre in 1988, this
charts the travails of an Edinburgh minister and his wife when they
move to St Kilda. A hit at the time, The Straw Chair looks set to be
revived by Borderline Theatre Company in 2015.

Bondagers – Glover's best known play was first presented by the
Traverse in 1991, when it opened at Tramway in Glasgow. Ian Brown's
production was subsequently remounted three times, and toured to Canada.

Sacred Hearts – This tale of five prostitutes who occupy the local
church in protest at their working conditions was based on a real life
prostitutes strike in 1975, and was presented by Communicado Theatre
company in 1994.

Shetland Saga – Philip Howard directed Glover's tale of what happens to
a group of Bulgarian sailors who become stranded in Shetland at the
Traverse Theatre in 2000.

Marilyn – Howard again directed Glover's work in this reimagining of a
meeting between Marilyn Monroe and Simone Signoret, who find themselves
staying at the same hotel.

The Herald, October 21st 2014


ends





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 Belluard Bollwerk International Festival in
Switzerland and later produced in an English language version by
Vanishing Point in Glasgow, As It Is made for uncomfortable but
fascinating viewing. It tapped into a period in Todorovic's life that
had clearly left its mark, and which shaped his artistic choices
thereafter. As with everything Todorovic did, As It Is was also a
search for truth, even as it confronted his own past.

“Thinking about this, after twenty years, it feels like a dream,”
Todovoric said of his time on the frontline in an interview with the
Herald in 2013, “so thinking about what's happened since in terms of my
identity, I was a little confused. What happened was my own experience,
but some of that could be products of my imagination. So I wanted to
see what has happened to my memory, and to the memory of the people,
and to examine all these experiences.”

Todorovic was born in the small town of Vrsac in Serbia, and trained at
the National Academy of Drama Arts in Novi Sad. At the beginning of his
career, he was a member of CZKD (Centre for Cultural Decontamination)
and BITEF Theatre, both centres of artistic and political resistance
with whom he performed in socially provocative interpretations of
Kafka, Genet, and Shakespeare. In 2002, Todorovic performed at the
Venice Biennale with Italian theatre company Motus, and  went on to
work extensively in Italy, France and the former Yugoslavia.

It was while living in Italy that Todorovic auditioned for Vanishing
Point in 2008. This was for a new co-production with the Napoli
Festival that became Interiors. Once spotted by Vanishing Point
artistic director Matthew Lenton over the extensive auditioning
process, Todorovic developed the character of the mysterious stranger
in Interiors who is inexplicably invited to the meal on the darkest
night of the year that is the show's centrepiece.

“Damir was brilliant at improvising,” Lenton remembers of the man who
became one of his best friends and greatest collaborators, “thinking
laterally and creatively, with his eyes wide open. He was fearless,
sometimes eccentric, always experimental, never afraid to try
something.”

One of the starting points for Interiors had been a quote from the
Venerable Bede, about how the life of man on earth was like the 'swift
flight of a single sparrow through the banqueting hall', one minute
there, gone the next. It was perhaps significant too that the insignia
of Todorovic's website was the shadow of a black crow.

“Damir could relate to this,” says Lenton of the Venerable Bede's
words. “In Interiors and in life, Damir had charisma, charm, warmth and
was always compelling to watch. He was open and eccentric and,
importantly, had the ability to provoke others. I loved this quality.
If he sensed someone was inauthentic, he could have an acid tongue (I
was on the receiving end of it at times), though it mostly remained in
his cheek.”

Interiors was to mark the beginning of a major ongoing collaboration
with Vanishing Point, that saw him become a vital member of Vanishing
Point's international ensemble. He appeared in the company's
comic-strip style cyber-punk reimagining of John Gay's The Beggar's
Opera, at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, and in Wonderland, an
unflinching examination of pornography by way of Alice in Wonderland
presented as part of 2012's Edinburgh International Festival. Todorovic
played the brutal film director, his face looming frighteningly on the
big screen at the back of the stage as he clutched his young victim.

Todorovic toured with Interiors all over the world with a company that
Lenton describes as a family, and in which he was one of three original
members of the cast who stayed throughout each international excursion.

Outside of Vanishing Point, Todorovic continued to develop his own
work, and followed As It Is with Holiday On Stage, a collaboration with
Martin Schick that explored western capitalism's relationship with art.
The show was seen in Switzerland, across Europe and at the Brighton
Festival.

It was As It Is, however, that remained Todorovic's most personal work.

“Damir saw and suffered things during those years [of the Balkan
conflicts] that many of us in western Europe can only imagine,” Lenton
says. “His subsequent pursuit of the artistic life was authentic, real
and shaped by his experiences as a young man. That is also probably why
he didn't suffer fools gladly. He could live the high life because he
had suffered the hard life.”

Todorovic was mid-way through developing Vanishing Point's most recent
show, Tomorrow, when his cancer was diagnosed, and as his treatment
became more severe, he was forced to pull out of the show. His unique
signature nevertheless remains embedded in the finished piece, a
hauntingly beautiful meditation on caring for the elderly.  Last
weekend Todorovic was scheduled to begin re-rehearsing Interiors for
the show's forthcoming dates in Poland, but reluctantly emailed Lenton
to say he was too ill to take part.

Lenton remained in contact with Todororoc via a close friend, and
emailed a message of love while he was undergoing a blood transfusion,
and asked if he wanted anything in return. Todorovic responded with a
YouTube link to a rare recording of the Beatles singing Norwegian Wood
(This Bird Has Flown). It was, says Lenton, “a very Damir gesture”,
that brought to mind the black crow of Todorovic's website and the
Venerable Bede's sparrow.

“Was Damir that bird, leaving the banqueting hall?” Lenton ponders. “I
think he was, and he knew it.”

Having spent so much time in Scotland, Todorovic thought of Glasgow as
his second home, and often talked of moving to the city where he had
forged so many friendships and creative partnerships with like-minded
people.

“We don't need machines to discover what is deeply within ourselves,”
Todorovic said in 2013 when talking about As It Is. “Contact with human
beings is much more important. That's how we find the truth.”

Todorovic is survived by his mother, Branislava Todorovic, and his
brother, Borko Todorovic.

The Herald, October 20th 2014


Ends

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 in hand as if the words were still hot from Chekhov's
pen, the story's inconclusive ending segues into Michael Frayn's near
wordless The Sneeze like a Monty Python routine, with its author
stepping in, only to keel over so a reserve is forced to take his place.

Adapted from Chekhov's short story, Death of A Government Clerk, The
Sneeze sees a very sticky faux pas during a night at the opera upended
into a piece of silent movie slapstick as dexterous as Frayn's own
farces. Both of these fleeting moments of human behaviour are lifted
off the page by the production's casually-dressed quintet with an
irreverent brio that Chekhov needs much more of.

The Herald, October 21st 2014


ends


Sunday, 19 October 2014

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 Godard. Pop Group guitarist Gareth Sager collaborated with The Nectarine No 9, and when PG drummer Bruce Smith is on PiL duty, SOBs drummer Ian Holford has been known to step into the breach.


Pere Ubu

Crawling out of Cleveland, Ohio in 1975 and named after Alfred Jarry's proto-absurdist play, David Thomas' antsy sci-fi-fused garage-band have just released their latest album, Carnival of Souls. In 1981, YMG bassist Phil Moxham played on Thomas' solo record, The Sound of The Sand.


Young Marble Giants, Stereo, Glasgow, Oct 20th; The Pop Group, Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh, Oct 20th; Vic Godard & Subway Sect with The Sexual Objects, Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh, Nov 15th; Pere Ubu, Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh, Nov 18th.



ends

Saturday, 18 October 2014

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
today. “We were on the dole and living in what was practically a squat,
and were desperate to get out of Cardiff. It seemed everyone else was
making this loud thrashy noise, so we decided to turn things around and
go the other way.”

'Let's hear It For Quiet Music' went the headline of one rapturous
review of Colossal Youth as Young Marble Giants became critical
darlings in a still underground musical landscape. A follow-up EP was
led by the song Final Day, later covered by Belle and Sebastian, and
the band toured Europe and America. By the time they released Testcard,
a second EP featuring six brief instrumental sketches, Young Marble
Giants had vanished  into the ether they'd seemingly sprung from. In
truth, the band's implosion was much more mundane.

“We'd planned for the future,” says Moxham, “but there was no plan for
success. Nobody tells you that being in a band is like being in a
marriage, but with more people. We were very young, were people who
couldn't really talk about things that mattered, and never saw it
coming. On top of this, Phil and Alison were splitting up as a couple,
there was sibling rivalry, and then Alison got really ill.”

The three went their separate ways, with Statton fronting the equally
short-lived nouveau pastoral jazz trio, Weekend, and Moxham releasing
material under the name The Gist, while his brother Phil played with
Everything But The Girl and Pere Ubu's David Thomas. Only when Moxham
was approached with a view to YMG reforming to record new material was
any kind of reunion mooted. By that time, Kurt Cobain had declared them
one of his two favourite bands (The Vaselines were the other), Courtney
Love had covered their song, Credit In The Straight World and Colossal
Youth was about to be re-released on CD.

At that point, Statton and the Moxhams hadn't been in the same room
together for twenty-seven years. Despite Moxham having long given up on
any chance of a reunion, the meeting in a Welsh pub went surprisingly
well.

“Phil is the big decider in this band.” says his big brother. “He's the
draconian filter, and he and Alison both said yes really easily, which
was a surprise. We decided to get our other brother, Andrew, who's a
brilliant musician, to join as well.”

The success of what was initially a one-off appearance at the
Powys-based Hay Festival of Literature and Arts led to more shows which
grown-up commitments would allow for. YMG's most recent appearance was
at a festival in Laugharne, the Carmarthenshire town where poet Dylan
Thomas lived and was inspired to write Under Milk Wood. While in
Moxham's mind, at least, the show wasn't a musical success - “those
songs have to be played not just note perfect, but with feeling, and if
there's a mistake, it screams out because there's so little there,” -
he nevertheless had a minor epiphany.

“So now we've got three brothers and an ex-girlfriend who's really an
honorary member of the family in the band,” he says, “and I only
realised when we were in Laugharne that this really is a family affair.
We've been going to Laugharne since we were toddlers, and I realised
that being in a band, you have to give it as much love and care as you
would with any family. That was a great revelation to me. I've always
had frustrations with this band, but now that I've realised that, I
think it might be easier.”

Seven years on from the reunion, there is still no sign of that
difficult second album.

“That's another frustration,” Moxham reflects. “We reformed to do this
particular thing, and said we weren't going to be an eighties comeback
band, but here we are. I would love to make a new record,  but making
music with people is like having sex. You have to make yourself
vulnerable. We're all desperate to do it, and there's so much going on
under the surface. We're all artistically and spiritually richer people
since we last wrote together thirty-four years ago, so I hope it will
happen.”

Young Marble Giants, Stereo, Glasgow, October 20.
www.stereocafebar.com

The Herald, October 17th 2014


ends

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 projector,
some factory-grey stools and a couple of makeshift signs, Gore and
onstage sparring partner William Fox transform a grim battle between
workers and construction industry fat-cats into a working-man's club
style cabaret, flat-caps, bad suits and all.

Arriving in Scotland to promote the campaign to quash the guilty
verdicts that still stand for the twenty-four, the mix of songs and
sketches that breaks up the narrative in  Louise Townsend's rough-cast
production is unashamedly partisan. Coming at a time too when basic
workers rights are once again under fire by big business, it is not
just a good night out, but a vital piece of not so ancient history.

The Herald, October 17th 2014


ends

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

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 juicy. I’m so interested
in the idea of spinsters, and I wanted to feel I had the freedom to be
wildly  inspired by it, but not do any traditional adaptation. So it’s
a collaboration between me and George Gissing. Now, he’s dead, but if
anyone is still doing any of my plays in a hundred years time, I will
let them mess with them.

“But the tone of the play is completely different from Gissing’s. it’s
playful, dangerous and there’s that bomb inside it. In Gissing’s book
there’s the bomb, but there is no soufflĂ© around it and no sense of
humour. No-one goes to Berlin to smoke and wear trousers in the book as
they do in my play, which is meant to show the restriction of the age,
but in a way so we also see the freedom that was building. I’ve a
natural rebellious temperament, so I was never going to write a
conventional costume drama, and I was always more interested in what
was underneath than what was on top.”

In Age of Arousal, which in Romanes' production featured equally wild
costumes by students from Edinburgh College of Art, Griffiths used
something she called 'thoughtspeak'. This found each character
expressing their inner yearnings in a torrent of words that expressed
their internal emotions. When it happened to all the characters at
once, it resembled little symphonies of words. This was but one of the
flamboyant theatrical devices used by Griffiths to play with form in a
way that left her too weird for the mainstream, but not odd enough to
be avant-garde.

Regarded as one of the most vital voices to come out of contemporary
Canadian theatre, Griffiths was born in Montreal, where she studied at
St Thomas' High School, graduated from Dawson College, earned a
teaching certificate from McGill University, and spent a year at the
National Theatre School before being asked to leave.

Griffiths moved to Saskatoon, where she was a founding member of the
politically charged 25th Street Theatre and one of the creators of some
of the company's most seminal works, including If You’re So Good, Why
Are You in Saskatoon? in 1975, and 1978’s Paper Wheat, a history of
Saskatchewan’s co-operative movement.

At the Theatre Passe Muraille, Griffiths made her name with Maggie and
Pierre, a solo play about the Canadian prime minister, his wife and a
reporter, which she developed and wrote with director Paul Thompson and
performed in 1980. Maggie and Pierre won Griffiths awards both for
outstanding performance in a leading role and for outstanding new play.
She would win the latter three more times, for O.D. in Paradise in
1983, Jessica in 1986 and Alien Creature in 2000.

The production of Maggie and Pierre toured Canada, and played
off-Broadway in New York, where Griffiths was spotted by indie
film-maker John Sayles, who cast her as the lead in his 1983 film
Liana, about a married woman who has an affair with a female professor.
This won Griffiths the Alliance for Gay Artists Award in Los Angeles.
Had she stayed in America, greater stardom may have beckoned, but
Griffiths returned to Canada instead.

More than a dozen plays followed Maggie and Pierre, and in 1997
Griffiths founded her own Duchess Productions, which produced a tour of
Alien Creature, as well as developing and associate-producing The
Duchess aka Wallis Simpson (1997), Alien Creature: A Visitation from
Gwendolyn MacEwen (1999), Chronic (2003), and Age of Arousal (2007).

The latter was the second of Griffiths’ British Trilogy of plays,
inspired in part by her Rotherham-born father. The first, The Duchess
aka Wallis Simpson, looks at the American divorcee whose marriage to
King Edward caused him to abdicate. The third, The Last Dog of War
(2010), is a solo piece performed by Griffiths over the last few years
of her life, and which was inspired by a trip she took with her father
as he embarked on a reunion with his old RAF squadron.

“There’s always an element in my work of fantasy, or what I call
fabulism,” Griffiths said of the Trilogy, “so in Wallis Simpson, her
jewels are personified, and they become characters in the play. There
will be that uber level that the play goes to. There’ll be no
thoughtspeak, but there is this other thing that is reached for. So
while the three plays are different, I guess they’re about me wrestling
with my heritage, and bringing my own perspective to it.”

With Maria Campbell, Griffiths co-wrote The Book of Jessica and
published short stories, while in 1999, Sheer Nerve, a collection of
seven of her plays, was published. While Griffiths' final work, Games,
was presented in Calgary, last performance came in Heaven Above, Heaven
Below, a sequel to an earlier work, The Darling Family, which was seen
at Theatre Passe Muraille, where Maggie and Pierre premiered more than
three decades earlier.

Speaking about her Edinburgh production of Age of Arousal after being
introduced to the play in Toronto, Romanes recalls how “I was struck by
Linda’s fierce intelligence and energy, and her quite wonderful body of
work (I read all the plays). She also had very strong desires to write
in very different and innovative conventions, which I loved. She was a
director and actress herself and so understood all aspects of theatre, 
and her input was invaluable and she inspired us all to take the piece
as far as she imagined.”

The Herald, October 15th 2014


ends

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 European theatre forged in what used to be called alternative
theatre. This led to Grimes writing and directing his own work with
such fellow travellers, including Circus, which he directed for
Boilerhouse, and a version of Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under The
Sea which he wrote for the Walk The Plank company, who sailed around
Britain in a live-in 'theatre ship'.

Walk The Plank producer Liz Pugh remembers how “Peter loved the sea,
and loved the environment on board the theatre ship, when he joined us
on tour in ports and harbours around Scotland.” Given that Grimes
shared his name with the doomed fisherman who gave Benjamin Britten's
1945 opera its title, such an infinitely more buoyant voyage was all
too appropriate.

Peter Grimes was born and raised in Dundee as part of a musical family.
His older brother Ged was a founding member of Dundee band Danny
Wilson, and now plays with Simple Minds, and his sister Jane was a
member of the 1940s-influenced vocal harmony trio, The Penny Dainties.
Grimes' younger brother Mark is a former music teacher who now lives in
Australia.

Grimes attended St Matthew’s Primary School and Monifieth High School
in Dundee between 1971 and 1983, and on leaving school trained as a
psychiatric nurse. It was here he probably picked up the skills of
empathy and creativity that he applied to his own art with such
big-hearted open-ness and skill.

Grimes' first foray into acting came in the mid 1980s, with Dundee
group, The Cat's Oot The Bag Theatre Company. Their production of Senga
was a very local, Dundee take on the opera, Carmen. Grimes then went on
to be the narrator of Witch's Blood, a large-scale community play
produced by Dundee Rep in 1987. Performed in various locations
throughout the city, the play culminated in an atmospheric finale at
Dudhope Castle. With Grimes as the larger than life social glue keeping
the play's narrative threads together, Witch's Blood's epic staging is
still remembered as a seminal point in Dundee's cultural history.

This was followed by Keeping Right On to the End of the Road, a solo
play devised with playwright John Harvey, one of Scotland's key
exponents of community theatre at all levels. The first few weeks of
rehearsals were spent with Peter and John playing frantic grudge
matches of table tennis as they  shouted ideas across the net to each
other, each convinced they were winning. The show was premiered at the
now demolished but then thriving Dundee Arts Centre, with Harvey
declaring Grimes' performance as “extraordinary...so moving that rather
than applause, the show ended in a kind of stunned silence"

Grimes' acting career took off, with an appearance in Liz Lochhead and
Robert Robson's Them Through The Wall at Cumbernauld Theatre in 1988
ushering in a slew of creativity. At the Tron Theatre, he appeared in
Anne Downie's The Witches of Pollock and Chris Hannan's The Baby, both
directed by future RSC director, Michael Boyd. At the Traverse he took
the title role of John McKenzie's neglected fire-cracker of a play,
Bomber, and Peter Mackie Burns' The Pursuit of Accidents, and later in
David Harrower's Kill The old Torture Their Young. Grimes appeared in
Neville's Island at the Byre Theatre, St Andrews, and at Dundee Rep in
The Weavers, Equus and as Shere Khan in The Jungle Book.

Grimes established long-term relationships with other theatre
companies, including Gerry Mulgrew's Communicado company, with whom he
appeared in Jock Tamson's Bairns, The Suicide, Portrait of A Woman,
Tall Tales For Small People, Bicycle To The Moon and A Christmas Carol.
With the Royal Shakespeare Company, Grimes played Trinculo in Sam
Mendes' production of The Tempest, appeared in Love's Labours Lost,
Murder in the Cathedral and Gerry Mulgrew's production of Moby Dick,
and was directed by Mark Thomson in The Glowing Manikin. In a play
described by Thomson as “hellishly dark and severe”,  Grimes played a
tortured teenager “like a kind of Junior Hannibal Lecter who ate a bit
of his girlfriend.”

At the Brunton Theatre in Musselburgh, then under Thomson's tenure,
Grimes followed up an early appearance in Whuppitie Stourie with turns
as the Dame in Sleeping Beauty, Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream,
and in Iain Heggie's play, American Bagpipes. With Benchtours he was
directed by Pete Clerke in Brecht's The Caucasian Chalk Circle, How
Many Miles To Babylon, Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard and that late
appearance as Peer Gynt. There were appearances too in Frankenstein
with Catherine Wheels, and with Grace Barnes' Shetland-based Skeklers
Theatre Company.

With Boilerhouse Grimes played the title role in Barrabas, Lance
Flynn's biblical epic that was presented at Tramway as the company's
then biggest show to date. Grimes went on to appear in other
Boilerhouse shows, including No New Miracles, scripted by novelist Alan
Warner, Bleach, which was seen in two very different versions in New
Zealand and Edinburgh, and Circus, which he directed. It was Grimes'
work with Boilerhouse that led to him doing 20,000 Leagues Under The
Sea with Walk The Plank.

Walk The Plank's Liz Pugh described Grimes as “Playful, poetic and
melancholic in equal measure,  An amazing creative force, and a big man
who always noticed the small details in how we live and love.” Former
Boilerhouse director Paul Pinson called Grimes “a friend, a confidante,
a collaborator and an inspiration. He was fierce on quality and
fiercely loyal.”

Mark Thomson, who gave a eulogy at Grimes' funeral in Dundee last week,
called Grimes  “a vivid, big hearted, imaginative larger than life
character who loved his family and friends and who made life an
adventure for himself and anyone who was lucky enough to travel or work
with him,” and said that “he had more imagination in his little finger
than most of us in our entire bodies...He was a unique and vivid human
being and restless adventurer of experiences in life... in his work
found himself in places most of us would hide from, and owned the
biggest heart I’ve ever come across.”

While Grimes' health diminished over recent years, his creativity never
wavered, and he continued to write short stories, plays and poetry.

Thomson sums up Grimes with lines spoken by him when he played
Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream, and “that moved me every time he
spoke them because I felt that Peter was connecting so personally about
his intense relationship with the world.”

'The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not
seen, man's hand is not able to taste, his tongue
to conceive, nor his heart to report, what my dream
was.'


Grimes is survived his two sons, Joe and Liam Grimes and his stepson,
David Evans.

The Herald, October 14th 2014


ends

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.

The President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, thinks so too. A few
minutes before the curtain goes up on Brigit, the crowds part in the
foyer of the Olympia as Higgins arrives for a brief photo-call with
Murphy, DTF director Willie White and other dignitaries.

Such a buzz around Druid's presentations of Murphy's work is
symptomatic of just how much Dublin Theatre Festival has become the
epicentre of a year-round arts and culture programme that brings the
city to such vivid life. Founded in 1957 by impresario Brendan Smith,
DTF is now Europe's longest-running specialised theatre festival, and
has grown to become a major showcase for Ireland's burgeoning theatre
scene as well as featuring international work.

At the Little Museum over the road from St Stephen's Green, an
exhibition curated by White titled Encore! charts DTF's history through
displays of posters, programmes, set models, letters and other
ephemera. The programme for the Field Day company's 1980 debut
production of Brian Friel's Translations is there, as are programmes
for numerous works by Murphy, Druid and a role-call of great Irish
writers and companies.

This year saw more than twenty productions at DTF, including the
Schaubuhne Berlin's production of Hamlet and a mini Australian season,
as well as a family programme. Of the Irish work, one of the hottest
tickets was for The Corn Exchange's stage version of Eimear Mcbride's
novel, A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing.

Both of Murphy's plays, meanwhile, featured towering performances from
Irish acting legend Marie Mullen as Mommo. In Brigit, Mullen played
support to Bosco Hogan as Seamus, who, tasked to carve a statue of
Saint Brigit after the existing one is broken by a young nun, has
something woken in him that goes beyond mere craftsmanship. What
follows is a wry critique of how art can be interfered with by
bureaucrats who would prefer to make their masterpieces more
user-friendly. This in turn sheds some light on the internal
psychological workings of Bailegangaire, in which Mullen plays the now
bed-bound Mommo in a performance that carried Garry Hynes' production.

Over at the Abbey Theatre, Mark O'Rowe's Our Few and Evil Days looked
at even more extreme family tensions in O'Rowe's own production of his
new play. Our Few and Evil Days opens on the night Adele is bringing
her new boyfriend Dennis home to meet her mum and dad, played by Sinead
Cusack and Ciaran Hinds. Adele, alas, is on a rescue mission to provide
emotional support for her best friend. In her absence, initial
conversational niceties seem to reveal nothing. Only later do the
cracks start to show, as a set of revelations that affect the entire
family are laid bare.

O'Rowe's writing is a deadly mix of the ordinary and the frighteningly
strange as it delves deep into notions of truth, lies, love, healing
and what it takes to keep a family together, however damaged. The
text's overlapping rhythms are delivered exquisitely by the entire
cast, with Adele played by rising star Charlie Murphy, who features on
the cover of the current edition of Irish Tatler. Such a glossy  image
is a long way from the troublesome can of worms O'Rowe uncovers in a
work that shocks with the power of the darkest of psychological
thrillers.

Patrick Mason's production of Hugo Hamilton's new play, The Mariner,
over at the Gate Theatre did something similar. The mystery here comes
in the form of a wounded naval officer during World War One who may or
may not have stolen the identity of a dead man. With a welter of World
War One plays around just now, Mason invested Hamilton's script with a
stylistic elegance that took a leap beyond mere elegy to become a far
more intriguing prospect.

As with Brigit, a broken statue was the starting point for Vardo, the
latest site-specific dissection of Dublin's hidden underbelly by Anu
Productions.  Having charted a hundred years of life on the edge of the
city's Foley Street district in Worlds End Lane, Laundry and The Boys
of Foley Street, the company's fourth and final part of the Monto Cycle
looks at the brutal world of enforced prostitution among  east European
migrants.

Having been accosted outside the Oonagh Young Gallery by a young woman
with a chipped and stolen sacred heart statue in her shopping trolley,
an audience of four were led into a pub where the young woman's sister
was celebrating her release from prison. Already accessories to the
apparent crime, we were then taken to the nearby bus station, where a
woman was trying to escape from her pimp. Upstairs, a Nigerian refugee
similarly told his story, before we're bundled into the back of a car
and taken to a flat where young women look us in the eye from across
the kitchen table and tell us what men do to them.

It is this one-to-one intimacy that made the audience so uncomfortably
complicit in such matter-of-fact exchanges in a piece which hid in
plain sight of a passing public who chose not to notice what was
happening under their noses. Such a cutting-edge approach is just one
aspect of a carefully crafted festival that this year was firing on all
cylinders.

Over at Encore!, there's a quote on the wall from Fergus Linehan, who
ran DTF between 2000 and 2004, and has just taken over the artistic
leadership of Edinburgh International Festival. The quote seems to both
sum up the spirit of Dublin while boding well for the future of
Edinburgh.

“Growing a festival or deepening its relationship with the audience,”
it says, “is the result of hundreds of things done well rather than
flashes of bravado.”
www.dublintheatrefestival.com
ends

Dublin Theatre Festival – The Scots Connection

While this year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe saw Olwen Fouere's riverrun
play to acclaim following its Dublin run in 2013, the artistic traffic
goes both ways, with this year's Dublin Theatre Festival show-casing
several works from Scotland.

If These Spasms Could Speak – Robert Softley brought his solo
co-production with the Arches to the Project Arts Centre. A funny and
touching study of disabled people and their bodies, Softley's show
mixed autobiographical monologue with filmed interviews in a challenge
to society's perceptions of disabled people.

Ganesh Versus the Third Reich – Part of a mini Australian season, Back
To Back Theatre's multi-award winning show follows a theatre company's
attempts to stage a play about the elephant-headed god Ganesh's
attempts to reclaim the Swastika, and formed part of this year's
Edinburgh International Festival's theatre programme.

Paul Bright's Confessions of A Justified Sinner – Playing on the
Peacock stage of the Abbey Theatre, Untitled Projects and the National
Theatre of Scotland brought director Stewart Laing and writer Pamela
Carter's look at radicalism, art and unreliable memoirs as performed by
George Anton to Dublin following a run in Sweden.

The Curious Scrapbook of Josephine Bean – Shona Reppe last appeared at
DTF in 2012 with Potato Needs A Bath, and she returned to the
festival's family programme with her award-winning look at a secret
life for audiences aged seven and over.

Neil Cooper's visit to Dublin Theatre Festival was supported by Tourism
Ireland.

The Herald, October 14th 2014

ends

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. Cownie has had two stints as associate director at the Royal
Lyceum, first between 2000 and 2003, with his current tenure beginning
in 2007.

Taking over Cumbernauld Theatre's far more bijou confines looks like
quite a leap, especially as Cownie has recently returned to the stage
after the best part of a decade away, appearing in period dramas Union
at the Royal Lyceum and The Libertine at the Citizens Theatre in
Glasgow.

“I've always wanted to have a go at running my own building.” says
Cownie, “ I know Ed and I know the work that he's done in Cumbernauld
in turning it around when it had no money, so coming into the building
like this is the ideal grounding for what's required. Having worked
here, I know the space already, and working on a smaller scale is
something I've always wanted to do. You can experiment more, but in a
way that gives people a chance. The community work at Cumbernauld is
really important, and my own priority here is to develop more projects
and to push forward with everything else that's going on here.”

Cownie's arrival in Cumbernauld comes at a crucial stage in the
theatre's development. With resident company Stoirm Og developing a new
show for 2015, the Theatre has also just launched the Scotland Short
Play Award, designed for new scripts up to fifteen minutes long. As
Cownie arrives, two associate artists have been appointed, with
performer, director and musician Sita Pieraccini and director Claire
Prenton receiving bursaries to develop their work. Also ongoing are
plans for Cumbernauld Theatre to move into new purpose-built premises.
This is all a far cry from a few years ago, when Cumbernauld Theatre,
founded in 1960, was on the verge of closure before Robson turned
things around.

“It's all go,” says Cownie, “so there's lots to do. It's a brilliant
organisation I'm working with, and everybody here is really keen to
make things happen."

The first shows directed by Cownie for Cumbernauld Theatre are Intimate
Secrets, a series of three devised works-in-progress based around the
home. The first, The Street, was directed by Robson prior to his
departure, with Cownie picking up both its follow-up, The Bedroom, and
next week's premiere of The Garden, performed by Michael Mackenzie.
Beyond The Garden, Cownie will direct the theatre's annual Christmas
show, which this year looks set to be a version of Aladdin.

While Cownie is planning an unspecified production for autumn 2015, his
ideal play for Cumbernauld would be a Scots-accented take on Michael
Wynne's comedy, The Knocky, originally set on a Birkenhead council
estate.

“That's a great play,” he says, “and it's really funny, but its got
quite a big cast, so I think finding the resources to do it would be
quite hard.”

Given the commitment and determination already shown by Robson and
picked up by Cownie, such ambitions aren't impossible.

“Cumbernauld Theatre is the hidden gem of Scottish theatre,” Cownie
says. “Once my year here is up I'll obviously keep a very close
affiliation with the place, and I'll see where that takes me. While I'm
here, the crucial thing about my job is being able to have an idea
which I can pursue and make it happen.”

Intimate Secrets 3: The Garden, Cumbernauld Theatre, October 23-25;
Amazing Adventures of Aladdin and the Magic Lamp, Cumbernauld Theatre,
November 28-December 24.
www.cumbernauldtheatre.co.uk

The Herald, October 14th 2014


ends

Monday, 13 October 2014

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-glo heritage industry kitsch were
first seen at Edinburgh Printmakers in 2013.

While there are no concrete connections between artists other than
geographical borders crossed, diversity, conflict and the tensions
between the two seem to be the point. Roma Napoli's arm-wrestling
Action Men and Paella's duelling bagpipers in particular show just how
fragile alliances can be.

The List, October 2014


ends

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 production by Liz Carruthers for the
White Stag Theatre Company, could just be a period piece from Prime
Minister Margaret Thatcher's inglorious war on the working classes.
Look closer, however, and, fourteen years after the turn of the century
when the play is set, it is not simply an elegy for a community killed
by capitalism's false promises. It is also a warning that, with an even
crueller government in office in Westminster, and people falling
through the cracks just like Friell's character, this is as much about
now as then in a play where happy endings are something that happen
elsewhere.

The Herald, October 13th 2014


ends

Friday, 10 October 2014

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 Devi. In 1730 Devi was beheaded for preventing the
chopping down of trees by hugging them, influencing a similarly
inclined 1970s movement. Beyond this, assorted Indian dancers and
aerialists dressed as day-glo clad sprites run wild and free while neon
signs and voices in headphones preach the evils of technology.

As illuminating a call to arms as such back-packer philosophy is,
there's an irony in the  fact that without the headphones and hi-tech
rig, Vision Mechanics' team of son et lumiere magicians would not have
been able to reconstruct the Gardens' after-dark landscape in such an
atmospheric fashion. It is this multi-media approach that conversely
transports the performers and Bergsagel's brand of environmental
story-telling back to nature with a meditative flourish.

The Herald, October 10th 2014

ends

Thursday, 9 October 2014

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 reconstruction of
an era when such a singular and subversive artistic vision could still
find a platform in Scotland in a way that might not be the case today.

Laing's production is particularly evocative of a pre 1990 Glasgow,
with specific local and historical references that you think might not
translate well. It is a welcome surprise, then, to discover that the
show has not only had a successful run in Sweden since it first played
in Glasgow and Edinburgh, but that tonight it opens at Dublin Theatre
Festival on the Peacock stage of the Abbey Theatre, Ireland's national
theatre in everything but name.

“The show is so Glasgow-specific,” Laing explains, “and it was
something we were concerned about. It was something producers were
concerned about as well, I think, when we sat down with them. They
asked us how we thought it might translate, but that was a question we
had to ask them as well.

“It went really well in Sweden. We did it without surtitles, but gave
everyone a glossary, to explain what the Old Firm was, and who The
Krankies were, just to give people a little bit of help. But I think
the show is a lot more universal than that. I know Pamela thinks of it
as a love story, but for me it's about truth and reality. The letter at
the end of the show is a letter describing something that didn't
happen, but for me it's so much better than what did happen, so for me
it's about the power of art, and that's what excites me about the show
just now.”

At the heart of Paul Bright's attention to detail is a conceit which it
may be best that audiences remain unaware of until they go to see it.
What they do with it once they do become aware of the show's meticulous
array of reconstruction and theatrical insider knowledge, however, is
up to them.

“It's a bit like The Mousetrap,” says Laing, “and we come and go about
the central conceit of the show, but for me now, it's out in the public
domain, it's been reviewed, and people can describe it however they
want to. The concern we have now is to make things as clear as
possible, as before I think there were a lot of people who left the
theatre maybe not getting the conceit, so we've changed a few things at
the end of the show. For instanced we've changed the credits in the
film to highlight the fact that Owen Whitelaw plays Paul Bright.”

This may appease some members of the show's original audience who
perhaps took issue with the idea of suspension of disbelief that fuels
any theatre.

“Someone told me that they thought what we were doing was unethical,”
says Laing, “which I find extraordinary, that in a fictional form, 
because you pretend that something is true, that people then expect it
ton be true. Nobody questions whether Hamlet is real when you go to see
Shakespeare, and it's the same here.”

Untitled Projects are one of several Scottish companies whose work
features in this year's Dublin Theatre Festival. As well as Paul
Bright's Confessions of A Justified Sinner, The Arches will be bringing
over Robert Softley's solo piece, If These Spasms Could Speak, while
DTF's family programme will feature Shona Reppe's The Curious Scrapbook
of Josephine Bean.

Also featured in this year's DTF programme will be Back To Back
Theatre's production of Ganesh Versus the Third Reich, which was seen
in this year's Edinburgh International Festival theatre programme, and 
which forms part of a mini season of Australian work in Dublin.
Elsewhere, Edinburgh Festival Fringe regular Tim Crouch will present a
new piece with collaborator Andy Smith, what happens to the hope at the
end of the evening.

These will play alongside new plays by Irish writers Tom Murphy and
Mark O'Rowe, while Thomas Ostermeier's production of Hamlet for the
Berlin Schaubuhne has already opened DTF with a bang.

“They have a really good mix of Irish and international work at the
Dublin Theatre Festival,” Laing explains. “I just love the fact that I
get to do it again, and that there's a wider audience for it. I've
worked a lot in opera, and that happens a lot in opera, that something
can be revived two or three years after you've first done it, and since
the National Theatre of Scotland was started, that's started to happen
here as well.”

Given that Fergus Linehan, who was director of DTF between 2000-2004,
is now in charge of Edinburgh International Festival, perhaps a similar
ethos will be developed there as well.

With more festival dates pending in 2015, Paul Bright's Confessions of
A Justified Sinner looks set to subvert the mainstream in a way that
some of the show's real-life forbears couldn't. Laing cites American
theatre director Richard Foreman and, closer to home, the Glasgow-based
Ken Davidson as major influences on his work.

“I'm a huge fan of the work Ken Davidson did at Tramway in the early
nineties,” says Laing. “I think we all know a Paul Bright, whose
radical ideas make for an uncomfortable fit with the mainstream. In
Glasgow especially we like a rebel, someone who just gets on and does
what they want and doesn't care what people think.”

Paul Bright's Confessions of A Justified Sinner, Abbey Theatre, on the
Peacock Stage, Dublin, tonight-Oct 11. Dublin Theatre Festival runs
until Oct 12.
www.dublintheatrefestival.com

ends


Dublin Theatre Festival – The Highlights

Dublin Theatre Festival was founded in 1957 by impresario Brendan
Smith, and is now the longest running specialised theatre festival in
Europe.

Since Smith stood down in 1983, DTF has had six directors, including
new Edinburgh International Festival director Fergus Linehan from
2000-2004, and DTF's current director, Willie White, who has been in
post since 2011.

Highlights of its current programme have included -

Brigit & Bailegangaire – A double bill of plays by Tom Murphy by Druid
Theatre features Bailegangaire, first presented by Druid in 1985, and
Brigit, a new prequel to this tale of one woman's remembrance set
thirty years earlier.

Our Few and Evil Days – A new play by Mark O'Rowe, whose Howie The
Rookie was a sensation when seen in Edinburgh several years
ago,features Sinead Cusack in a play about devotion.

what happened to the hope at the end of the evening – Edinburgh regular
Tim Crouch teams up with collaborator Andy Smith for a look at what
happens when two middle-aged men meet up and start talking.

A Girl Is A Half Formed Thing – Annie Ryan's Corn Exchange company
adapt Eimear McBride's inner monologue about a girl's life from the
womb to age twenty for the stage in a production featuring a
performance by Aoife Duffin which has wowed audiences and critics alike.

Neil Cooper will give a full report from Dublin Theatre Festival in the
Herald next Tuesday October 14.


The Herald, October 7th 2014


ends

Monday, 6 October 2014

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 over the last few years as you can imagine.
Created in co-production with Brighton Festival, Tramway and 
international partners in Russia and Brazil, the play depicts its
elderly subjects by forcing them into rubber masks that symbolise the
physical and psychological imprisonment of vibrant inner lives
incapable of reaching out anymore beyond an inarticulate return to an
infant state. This is no more clearer than when a gaggle of children
burst across the stage in a beautifully stark and unsentimental
thumbnail abstraction of human behaviour turned inside out that's about
loss of the self as much as those departed.

The Herald, October 6th 2014


ends