Skip to main content

The Breathing House

Tron Theatre, Glasgow
4 stars
It’s a foolhardy theatre company that crams a full-length contemporary
epic with a cast of fifteen into the Tron’s Changing House studio space
with zero budget and expects not to come a cropper. Yet, by getting
creative and employing a refreshingly twenty-first century Poor Theatre
aesthetic to Peter Arnott’s 2003 tale of two cities set in nineteenth
century Edinburgh, Bill Wright’s boldy named shoestring outfit,
Rekindle Theatre, have achieved exactly that.

Dividing its time between New Town drawing rooms where cross-class
indiscretions are silently indulged, and old town flop-houses where
gentlemen go slumming for rough trade, Arnott’s play is a masterly
study of upstairs/downstairs hypocrisy. The old-fashioned tripod camera
that sits at the centre of a bare stage at its start will eventually
expose all of this, belonging as it does to the widowed Cloon, who
takes pictures of women at work even as he falls for his servant. His
friend Chanterelle, meanwhile, is a thrill-seeking dandy who’d rather
indulge his desires in secret. As ever, it’s the women you fear for
most.

Wright has taken what is essentially a moral tale and stripped it bare.
When not onstage, actors sit in the front row, their presence
suggesting they are silent witnesses to the litany of abuse and disease
playing out before them. Seeing the play in close-up, the prevailingly
still gloom that gives the production much of its snarling power also
lends things an intimacy beyond the politics. Accompanied by Rudi de
Groote’s live score played simply on piano and cello, Wright and co
display an impressively sharp use of stagecraft that here at least,
make an already big play even bigger.

The Herald, January 28th 2011

ends

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

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…

Phoebe Waller-Bridge - Fleabag

Phoebe Waller-Bridge is a busy woman. The thirty-two year old actress who burst onto our TV screens as writer and star of Fleabag, the tragi-comic sort of sit-com about a supposedly independent woman on the verge is currently overseeing Killing Eve, her new TV drama which she's written for BBC America. As an actress, Waller-Bridge is also filming a big screen project which we can't talk about, but which has already been outed as being part of the ongoing Star Wars franchise.

These are both pretty good reasons why Waller-Bridge won't be appearing in the brief Edinburgh Festival Fringe revival of the original stage play of Fleabag, when it opens next week at the Underbelly, where it was first unleashed to the world in 2013. In her place, Maddie Rice will take on the role of the potty-mouthed anti-heroine after touring Vickie Jones' production for Waller-Bridge and Jones' DryWrite company in association with Soho Theatre. This doesn't mean Waller-Bridge has turned…

The Divide

King's Theatre
Four stars

Everything is black and white in Alan Ayckbourn's new play, a six hour two part epic set in a dystopian future where men and women are segregated from each other following the aftermath of an unspecified plague. Into this landscape, the secret diaries of brother and sister Elihu and Soween are brought to life by Jake Davies and Erin Doherty with a wide-eyed lightness of touch as their hormones get the better of them when they both hit puberty.
Annabel Bolton's production for the Old Vic, EIF and Karl Sydow begins with a TED Talk type lecture that reveals the back story to how things turned out this way. It ends with a sentimental love story designed to tug the heart-strings. Inbetween, there is teenage rebellion aplenty against the regime's institutionalised repression. Liberation comes through art and sex, which, in such extreme circumstances become even greater life forces.

With both plays told through the siblings' diaries alongside ass…