An archive of arts writing by Neil Cooper.
Effete No Obstacle.
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Citizens Theatre, Glasgow 4 stars
A week before Valentine’s, and anyone who’s lost faith in the power of
everlasting true love should be sent on a blind date to playwright Abi
Morgan’s new play. A collaboration with director/choreographers Scott
Graham and Steven Hoggett’s Frantic Assembly company, as it charts four
decades of marriage between Maggie and Billy via two sets of actors, it
cuts through the hearts and flowers to get to the real-politik of a
relationship that is a mirror for some, an education for others.
Mid-life crises, affairs and seven-year itches are all intact.
Morgan’s ongoing fascination with the ageing process follows both her
recent National Theatre of Scotland play, 27, and her script about
another Maggie for the film, The Iron Lady. Yet in Frantic Assembly’s
head, hands and feet, the company’s trademark physical tics elevate her
words to somewhere else again. As back-dropped here by Merle Hensel’s
stately design, Ian William Galloway and Adam Young’s broody video
projections and especially Carolyn Downing’s sound design, here the
play’s execution feels softer and less pumped up than Frantic’s usual
fare. At times it’s almost too quiet. If the younger members of the
cast need to project more effectively, the gymnastic interplay between
the generations is exquisitely realised.
One gorgeously wordless moment captures the play’s heart, when Edward
Bennett and a magnificent Sian Phillips as the older Billy and Maggie
reach out for their younger selves, played by Sam Cox and Leanne Rowe.
Even then, it seems, there’s recognition that a time will come when
they’ll both have to let go. As the title suggests, Lovesong is a
beautifully fragile elegy that’s to die for.
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…
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 …