An archive of arts writing by Neil Cooper.
Effete No Obstacle.
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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
In a monumental shipping container down
by Leith Docks, a Sex Pistols tribute band is playing Anarchy in
the U.K.. on a stage set up in the middle of the room. Either
side, various constructions have been built in such a way so viewers
can window shop as they promenade from one end of the room to the
next, with the holy grail of a bar at either end.
Inbetween, there’s a confession booth
and a mock-up of a private detective’s office with assorted
documentation of real-life surveillance pinned to the walls. Two
people seem to be having a conversation in public as if they're on a
chat show. An assault course of smashed windows are perched on the
floor like collateral damage of post-chucking out time target
practice. A display of distinctively lettered signs originally
created by a homeless man in search of a bed for the night are
clumped together on placards that seem to be marking out territory or
else finding comfort in being together. Opp…
A sense of place is everything in
Scot:Lands. Half the experience of Edinburgh's Hogmanay's now annual
tour of the country's diverse array of cultures seen over nine
bespoke stages in one global village is the physical journey itself.
Scot:Lands too is about how that sense of place interacts with the
people who are inspired inspired by that place.
So it was in
Nether:Land, where you could see the day in at the Scottish
Storytelling Centre with a mixed bag of traditional storytellers and
contemporary performance poets such as Jenny Lindsay. The queues
beside the Centre's cafe were further enlivened by the gentlest of
ceilidhs was ushered in by Mairi Campbell and her band.
Wig:Land, the grandiloquence of the little seen Signet Library in
Parliament Square was transformed into a mini version of the Wigtown
Book Festival. While upstairs provided a pop-up performance space
where writers including Jessica Fox and Debi Gliori read eithe…
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 …