Skip to main content

The Slab Boys

Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
Four stars

The black and white portrait daubed on the cupboard door of A.F. Stobbo's carpet factory slab room sums up everything in David Hayman's revival of John Byrne's play that changed so much in Scottish theatre when it was first seen in 1978. Here is the original rebel without a cause who already crashed and burned by the time the play opens in 1957, but who, looking down like a god and painted in a pop art style, points to the cultural revolutions to come for working class wannabes like Spanky and Phil, the fast-talking heroes of Byrne's play.

Dean's image is a bridge too between the drab greyness of the cramped slab room and the customised splashes of colour which Spanky and Phil have adorned their work-place with on a set designed by Byrne himself with a sculptor's eye for detail. It's as if his subjects' lives are bursting out of their post-war restraints with a rock and roll abandon born of frustration as much as ambition.

The play itself charts a day in the life of Byrne's hapless pair alongside fellow slab boy Hector and university educated new boy Alan as they dodge the wrath of designer Plooky Jack Hogg and tyrannical boss Willie Curry, the latter played by Hayman himself with stiff-backed thunder. The assorted shenanigans that follow involving the elaborate humiliation of Scott Fletcher's Hector may be the stuff of Ealing comedy, but this is no one-dimensional cartoon. There are a welter of everyday tragedies at play here, which both define and drive those caught in the crossfire of the ordinary madness around them.

As Phil and Spanky, Sammy Hayman and Jamie Quinn spark off each other like razors, their easy banter a baroque mix of back-street slang and acquired Americana. Each pines in vain for Lucille Bentley, played by Keira Lucchesi as a high-heeled Venus with op-art stylings, while there is a fine comic cameo from Kathryn Howden as tea lady Sadie, who masks her own pain behind a gallus front in this most deadly serious of comedies.
 
The Herald, February 16th 2015

ends

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Honourable K.W. Harman: Ltd Ink Corporation

31 Bath Road, Leith Docks, March 17th-20th

In a monumental shipping container down by Leith Docks, a Sex Pistols tribute band is playing Anarchy in the U.K.. on a stage set up in the middle of the room. Either side, various constructions have been built in such a way so viewers can window shop as they promenade from one end of the room to the next, with the holy grail of a bar at either end.

Inbetween, there’s a confession booth and a mock-up of a private detective’s office with assorted documentation of real-life surveillance pinned to the walls. Two people seem to be having a conversation in public as if they're on a chat show. An assault course of smashed windows are perched on the floor like collateral damage of post-chucking out time target practice. A display of distinctively lettered signs originally created by a homeless man in search of a bed for the night are clumped together on placards that seem to be marking out territory or else finding comfort in being together. Opp…

The Maids

Dundee Rep

Two sisters sit in glass cases either side of the stage at the start of Eve Jamieson's production of Jean Genet's nasty little study of warped aspiration and abuse of power. Bathed in red light, the women look like artefacts in some cheap thrill waxworks horror-show, or else exhibits in a human zoo. Either way, they are both trapped, immortalised in a freak-show possibly of their own making.

Once the sisters come to life and drape themselves in the sumptuous bedroom of their absent mistress, they raid her bulging wardrobe to try on otherwise untouchable glad-rags and jewellery. As they do, the grotesque parody of the high-life they aspire to turns uglier by the second. When the Mistress returns, as played with daring abandon by Emily Winter as a glamour-chasing narcissist who gets her kicks from drooling over the criminal classes, you can't really blame the sisters for their fantasy of killing her.

Slabs of sound slice the air to punctuate each scene of Mart…

Scot:Lands 2017

Edinburgh's Hogmanay
Four stars

A sense of place is everything in Scot:Lands. Half the experience of Edinburgh's Hogmanay's now annual tour of the country's diverse array of cultures seen over nine bespoke stages in one global village is the physical journey itself. Scot:Lands too is about how that sense of place interacts with the people who are inspired inspired by that place.

So it was in Nether:Land, where you could see the day in at the Scottish Storytelling Centre with a mixed bag of traditional storytellers and contemporary performance poets such as Jenny Lindsay. The queues beside the Centre's cafe were further enlivened by the gentlest of ceilidhs was ushered in by Mairi Campbell and her band.

For Wig:Land, the grandiloquence of the little seen Signet Library in Parliament Square was transformed into a mini version of the Wigtown Book Festival. While upstairs provided a pop-up performance space where writers including Jessica Fox and Debi Gliori read eithe…