Skip to main content


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 
through excess.

The Herald, February 10th 2012



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…


Tramway, Glasgow until July 2nd
Four stars

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 …

High Society

Pitlochry Festival Theatre
Four stars

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…