Saturday, 24 September 2011

1000 Airplanes On The Roof

National Museum of Flight, East Fortune
4 stars
It may have been a coup bringing the then new Philip Glass scored
musical melodrama to Glasgow back in 1990, but it can't have played a
venue since that's as perfect as the National Museum of Flight's
Concorde hangar, where James Brining's new production opened on Sunday
night as part of the Lammermuir Festival prior to dates in Glasgow and
Aberdeen. Even so, in a work that's essentially about one man's
alienation, extra-terrestrial or otherwise, one can understand why
actor David McKay's troubled copy-shop clerk 'M' might feel overwhelmed
as he ducks around and about the under-carriage of flight's most
spectacular jet-age folly.

David Henry Hwang's text is a dense monologue concerning 'M's voyage
into his very own twilight zone, which McKay delivers heroically
throughout the piece's eighty-five minute duration. Constantly in
motion as the audience promenade after him, McKay's amplified speech
vies for attention with Glass' equally urgent score, played by a
nine-strong version of The Red Note Ensemble under the conductorship of
Jessica Cottis. With Judith Howarth's wordless soprano a sci-fi geek's
dream, the noises in 'M''s head are replicated in part on authentic
vintage keyboards to create a relentlessly insistent swirl.

Brining makes full use of the venue's expanse, from the opening tableau
of McKay standing in front of the hangar's open doors to reveal the
East Fortune landscape at dusk onwards. While much of the live video
feed that follows 'M' 's travails is barely noticeable, the torrent of
words and music are more than enough to jar the senses before coming in
to land as safe and sound as 'M''s own bumpy ride home.

The Herald, September 20th 2011

ends

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