An archive of arts writing by Neil Cooper.
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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.
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…