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Elysian Fields

Glasgay!@The Arches, Glasgow
3 stars
As double acts go, Tennessee Williams and Vivien Leigh, who played the soused-up playwright’s definitive Blanche DuBois, were a match made in heaven. Or somewhere very much like it in Derek McLuckie’s audacious biographical homage, which opens Glasgay! 2008’s theatrical programme. Set ostensibly in a hotel suite during the great man’s final years, but more likely inside Williams’ head, the result is a crazed stylistic cocktail which, as with its subject matter, makes some seriously wacked-out diversions before running out of steam with gleeful abandon.

As Grant Smeaton’s Tenn free-forms his way through his own back pages on his beloved typewriter in some belated and desperate drive towards a definition of himself, the white-coated demons wait to pounce. Both he and Pauline Goldsmith’s magnificently demented Viv are looking for a comeback gig, but as long as the ghosts of Tenn’s mother and lobotomised sister Rose haunt him, all that comes out is doggerel. Here, Tenn’s mother is embodied as a man inhabiting the skeleton of a ball-gown, while Rose is a pretty-boy angel with his celestial hand permanently between his legs. The accompanying chorus, meanwhile, come on like Jean Genet sailor boys reinventing show tunes for some old-time vaudeville show.

Which, in effect, is what McLuckie has cooked up from this loosely-knitted compendium of versified set-pieces and pop-video visuals. In spirit, it resembles the sort of multi-layered work produced by Neil Bartlett with his Gloria company in the 1980s. Which, for all its relentless verve, makes for an old-fashioned show, which, by the time it wheels Tenn off to chat show hell and has him referencing Vietnam, makes for an exhausting ride.

The Herald, October 16th 2008

ends

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