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…
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 …