Skip to main content

Pauline Goldsmith - Bright Colours Only

Death becomes Pauline Goldsmith. Or at least that's how it seems anyway, as the Belfast born actress and writer revives her funeral-based solo show which she first performed it at the turn of the millennium. In the years since she first did the show, which looks at the ritual of a wake in tragi-comic fashion, Glasgow based Goldsmith has proved herself to be one of the country's most adventurous performers.

With a track record which has seen her playing Samuel Beckett's solo piece, Not I, at the Arches to regular stints with Vanishing Point theatre company, with whom she is a creative associate, Goldsmith has developed a willingness to fly without a safety net. Bright Colours Only itself was somewhat ahead of the current wave of solo theatre performers. By returning to it, Goldsmith is part taking stock of her own mortality.

“If I wait much longer, it's going to be too near the knuckle,” she says. “Me being in a coffin when I'm at death's door myself might be a bit strange, whereas now I'm probably just the right side of middle age to be able to get away with it. It's quite weird coming back to it, because there's a whole thing in it about writing down your regrets. I was thirty-two when I first did the show, and looking at a list of regrets now, it would just get longer and longer, but we've only got an hour to play with.”

It is an hour where tea and biscuits are mandatory in a show that sees Goldsmith chatting with the audience on matters of life and death with an intimacy akin to being invited into her living room. This has been the intention all along, from the show's early days at the Arches and Theatre Workshop in Edinburgh, to a one-night revival last year for Summerhall's celebrations of the day of the dead.

“One of the first things that made me want to do the show was after I'd been at my grand-mother's funeral, waiting for the cortège,” Goldsmith remembers of the show's beginnings. “In Belfast, the cortège is where you have a laugh, walking behind the coffin. I clocked a relative from England, who looked appalled by this, and I thought, no, you're wrong, this is how we do it here. The cortège can sometimes be painful, and sometimes it's a celebration, and it's a fantastic tradition. Then, coming over to Scotland, it's different again, sitting in the cremation room, all lined up in total silence like you're waiting in a bus shelter.

“The other thing about wanting to do it was, I had a dream I was dead and I was saying goodbye, but I realised I wasn't ready. Then, in the dream, someone came over and said, Pauline, people have travelled for this, so let's get on with it.”

Goldsmith first observed the comic absurdities of death when she attended the funeral of her father.

“That was my first experience of a full-on Catholic wake,” she says. “I saw the whole ridiculousness of what I also recognised as being a really important ritual in Ireland. That's why my mother would never let me be an air hostess, because she said that if anything happened, people would never be able to find the body.”

Funerals, however, ain't what they used to be.

“When I first did Bright Colours Only, Six Feet Under was on the television,” she says of the very twenty-first century funeral directors depicted in the American TC drama, “and it started to become much more mainstream to have your own kind of funeral. Now people have started to rebel against that, so you don't even have to bother with a service if you don't want to. You can just get cremated.”

All of which has been more grist to the mill regarding Goldsmith's never morbid line of enquiry.

Bright Colours Only may be about death,” she says, “but it's also about the ridiculousness of what we do in life. The work I do, I'm always drawn to looking at darkness, but in a way that's about slapping yourself in the face and reminding yourself that you have to live. Bright Colours Only came from the idea of a dramatic death, but also from recognising that death is a part of life. As you get older, friends die, and it's still bizarre. That doesn't ever stop.”

Neither, it seems, will Bright Colours Only, which seems to have developed a life of its own. Beyond Goldsmith's own performance of the show, there has been a completely different London production of the play, with another actress picking up Goldsmith's mantle. Elsewhere, there have been two tours of Norway, while it has even been translated into Portuguese.

“It's the show that won't lie down,” Goldsmith says, as full of life as she ever was.

Bright Colours Only, Assembly Rooms, August 3-26, 2.25-3.35pm.
www.assemblyfestival.com

The Herald, August 9th 2017

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…