Skip to main content

Be Near Me

Palace Theatre, Kilmarnock
3 stars
A celestial grimness hangs over Ian McDiarmid’s adaptation of Andrew O’Hagan’s novel about an English priest’s getting of wisdom in the small Ayrshire town he’s seconded to. In John Tiffany’s National Theatre of Scotland production, such an aura perfectly matches the corrugated iron wall at the back of the stage juxtaposed symbolically with the priest’s ornate chandelier which connects him to history. In this image centuries of division are made manifest, be they of class, religion or nationhood. When these totems of two very different worlds come crashing down or else are vandalised in the aftermath of a torrent of sexual indiscretion and self-loathing, it isn’t clear which, if any, is the moral victor.

For all this morass of sentimental but still powerful platitudinising on Scottish identity, Be Near Me’s lengthy domestic dialogues are too static to be really dramatic. Only in the first act’s climax, where McDiarmid’s Father Anderton ends up stoned, drunk and rolling round his Persian rug with local tearaway Mark to a Beach Boys soundtrack, does the story reach out and grab its audience. Tiffany’s ensemble work, a hilarious sit-down version of wedding party dancefloor favourite The Slosh in particular, does its best in a work where the majority of characters are merely sketched in.

On stage throughout, McDiarmid is a towering presence as Anderton, generating a complex emotional portrait of vulnerability, self-denial and sympathy beyond the pompous stereotype he could so easily have been played as. Even with McDiarmid’s empathy, there are times when you wonder who O’Hagan loathes most, the English middle-class representatives of warped authority, or a predatory Scottish underclass. Either way, Be Near Me is as flawed and fragile as Anderton. One hopes both survive.

The Herald, January 20th 2009

ends

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Art School Dance Goes On Forever – Snapshots Of Masters Of The Multiverse

Intro – Snapshots – Deaf School

1

In 1980, the same year as the Manchester band, Magazine, released a 7
inch single called A Song From Under The Floorboards – a three verse
and chorus distillation of Dostoyevsky's novel, Notes From Underground
– an art school scandal occurred.

This scandal took place in Liverpool, and was based around a project
called the Furbelows, although it became better known in the Liverpool
Echo and other organs that reported it as the Woolly Nudes.

The Furbelows, or Woolly Nudes, were a group of artists who had come
out of Liverpool College of Art, who, dressed in grotesque woolly
costumes which featured knitted approximations of male and female
genitalia, made assorted public interventions around the city centre as
kind of living sculptures acting out assorted narratives.

The Furbelows project had been funded by what was then Merseyside Arts
Association, and, after the participants were arrested and taken to
court on obscenity charges after what…

Peter Brook – The Prisoner

Peter Brook is no stranger to Scotland, ever since the guru of European and world theatre first brought his nine-hour epic, The Mahabharata, to Glasgow in 1988. That was at the city’s old transport museum, which by 1990 had become Tramway, the still-functioning permanent venue that opened up Glasgow and Scotland as a major channel for international theatre in a way that had previously only been on offer at Edinburgh International Festival.
Brook and his Paris-based Theatre des Bouffes du Nord company’s relationship with Tramway saw him bring his productions of La Tragedie de Carmen, La Tempete, Pellease et Mellisande, The Man Who…, and Oh Les Beaux Jours – the French version of Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days – to Glasgow.
Thirty years on from The Mahabharata, Brook comes to EIF with another piece of pan-global theatre as part of a residency by Theatre des Bouffes du Nord, which Brook has led since he decamped to Paris from London in the early 1970s. The current Edinburgh residency has alr…

Martin McCormick – Ma, Pa and the Little Mouths

Family life is everything to Martin McCormick. The actor turned writer is having an increasingly high profile as a playwright, with his biggest play to date, Ma, Pa and the Little Mouths, opening this week at the Tron Theatre in Glasgow in a production in association with the National Theatre of Scotland as part of the Tron’s Mayfesto season. While his own domestic life with his wife, actress Kirsty Stuart, who is currently appearing in Frances Poet’s play, Gut, at the Traverse in Edinburgh, and their two children, sounds a hectic whirl of of juggling schedules, it is nothing like the world he has created for his play.
“I always knew it was going to be about two older people who’d experienced some kind of trauma and grief,” says McCormick, “but whatever it is that they’ve been through, it’s all in the background. They’re suppressing it, and there’s all this claustrophobia caused by all these suppressed emotions they’re going through while being stuck in this room. I guess all that came…