An archive of arts writing by Neil Cooper.
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The Barony Bar, Edinburgh 4 stars
Site-specific maestros Grid Iron scored a major hit when they knitted
together three booze and sex soaked short stories by Charles Bukowski
in the company's local in 2009. Ben Harrison's equally pie-eyed
revival returns to the show's original venue before embarking on a
nationwide pub crawl of one-night stands. With Keith Fleming returning
as narrator and Bukowski's alter-ego Henry Chinaski and composer David
Paul Jones bashing out some woozy piano numbers in a customised Barony,
this remains a vivid and a sad-eyed evocation of life lived through the
bottom of a glass that's frequently smashed, spilt or both.
While Fleming replays his stumblebum routine from last time round with
aplomb, as with all of the Bukowski canon, it's the women who matter
most. Stepping into Gail Watson's tottery heels, Charlene Boyd adds a
more youthful frisson to proceedings, be it as self-destructive
loose-cannon Cass, the snarlingly ferocious Vicki, or Vivienne, the
posh girl epitome of literary groupiedom who gets a piece of one of the
old myth-maker's more magical-realist, if gynaecologically-inclined
Meat is everywhere in Harrison's production, be it the ripped-out liver
Henry lays down before his true love, the discarded bag of chickens
from his off-the-rails tryst with Margy and her fox fur, or the flesh
on flesh as Hank and Cass hold onto each other with increasing
desperation for life itself. Harrison's Scots-accented adaptation works
better with the pair's sparring than in the monologues, when the
original street-smart American rhythms can't help but take over. If
there are moments bordering on knockabout parody, they veer just the
right side of Bukowskian largesse in a rip-roaring study of wisdom
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
Slabs of sound slice the air to
punctuate each scene of Mart…
In the dead of night, the audience are
split in two and led under-cover into lamp-lit tented structures.
Inside, what look like peasant women on the run lead us down a ramp
and into a large circular pod. It feels part cathedral, part
space-ship, and to come blinking into the light of such a fantastical
structure after stumbling in the dark disorientates and overwhelms.
Sat around the pod as if awaiting prayers to begin, we watch as
performers Nerea Bello and Judith Williams incant mournfully on
either side of the room. Their keening chorales embark on a voyage of
their own, twisting around each other by way of the international
language of singing. As if in sympathy, the walls wail and whisper,
before starting to move as those on either side of the pod are left
stranded, a gulf between them.
This international co-commission
between Glasgow Life and the Merchant City Festival, Sydney Harbour
Foreshaw Authority in Australia and Urbane Kienste …
The stage looks gift-wrapped with a
sparklingly expensive bow at the opening of John Durnin's revival of
Arthur Kopit's Cole Porter based musical that reinvigorates the
starry 1956 film where it originated. With the film itself drawing
from Philip Barry's play, The Philadelphia Story, Kopit and Porter's
depiction of the Long Island jet set says much about over-privileged
party people, but retains a fizz that keeps it going till all passion
is seemingly spent.
The action is based around the
forthcoming nuptials of drop-dead gorgeous society gal and serial
bride, Tracy Lord. With her daddy having run off with a show-girl,
and ex beau next door CK Dexter Haven set sail for other shores,
Tracy settles for George, a stinking rich would-be president for whom
stupidity, as someone observes, sits on his shoulders like a crown.
Enter Tracy's match-making kid sister Dinah and a pair of reporters
for a trashy scandal sheet looking to stit…