Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from April, 2012

Further Than The Furthest Thing

Dundee Rep4 starsThere are explosions in Zinnie Harris's extraordinary play of communal displacement even before its strange, dreamily poetic exchanges between island folk forced from their isolated way of life take hold. In James Brining's lovingly nuanced revival, these come in the form of a stunning clash of sound and vision on stage filled with water that designer Neil Warmington, under the influence of visual artist and 'water consultant' Elizabeth Ogilvie, has reflected via a live video feed onto a huge screen behind. As a man slips into the water under the beatific glow of Philip Gladwell's lighting design, John Harris' monumental choral score is a shattering cry from the deep.If all this threatens to overwhelm the slow-burning quietude that follows, it also accentuates the physical and emotional dams waiting to burst open in an expansively symbolic production of a play loaded with significant portents of the tragedy that follows.As Mill and Bill await t…

Lady M – His Fiend-Like Queen?

Tron Theatre, Glasgow
4 stars


Don’t be fooled by the brevity of Theatre Jezebel’s new version of
Shakespeare’s bloodiest tragedy. Mary McCluskey’s adaptation may be an
hour long, but by putting the play’s most fascinating character at its
centre on Kenny Miller’s expansively handsome set of upended gold leaf
chairs topped by weather-beaten parasols in the mirrored gloom of a
leaf-strewn courtyard, it’s as panoramic as it’s ever been. With the
Weird Sisters top and tailing the play in black veils masking a
blood-red satanic pallor as they become both chorus and every other
character save the two leads, by the end it becomes clear too exactly
who is pulling the strings.

Before all that, Lesley Hart’s Lady M grows increasingly neurotic as
power seems to first fall into her lap before the rough and tumble of
fulfilling imagined prophecies becomes increasingly addictive. With
Michael Moreland’s Macbeth tugged every which way, both by his wife’s
newly discovered aspirations and the Sisters, Mc…

Enquirer

The Hub, Pacific Quay, Glasgow4 starsThere has probably never been a more relevant week to premiere a dramatic dissection of whatever’s left of the newspaper industry, and the National Theatre of Scotland’s eloquently realised cut-up of interviews with some forty-three main-stage players goes way beyond any fears of self-reflexive brow-beating. While it will never top last week’s events at the Leveson inquiry when both Rupert and James Murdoch were forced to account for both their own actions and the culture of newspapers they were in charge of, Enquirer nevertheless paints a thought-provoking and oddly poignant portrait of a bruised industry being dragged through its own mud.As the audience enter the tellingly unused top-floor open-plan office of a real life media hub, the piles of unsold newspapers used as seats as we’re promenaded from desk to desk are even more telling about the state we’re in. From morning conference to putting the paper to bed, the story, as related by a fantast…

Demos - Playing David Cameron

I'm standing at a lectern on the stage of the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh, declaiming in what I hear as an increasingly pompous voice the sort of right wing platitudes I usually abhor. With the entire audience braying so I have to speak over them, the man opposite is firing back retorts of equally schoolboyish one-upmanship. Sporting a suit I'd like to think gave me the air of a European arts mandarin but is probably more Jeremy Kyle, I find myself becoming the ultimate Tory boy. My God, I wonder, hearing my decidedly non-Etonian voice rise and fall, how did I get here? I'm appearing in Demos, a new verbatim play by Tim Price and John Bywater, which takes as-it-happened accounts from two very different manifestations of democracy and turns them into mass participatory spectacle. The first, Sort Your S*** Out People, is taken from the minutes of the daily General Assembly of the Occupy Movement while camped outside St Paul's Cathedral in December 2011. T…

King Lear

Citizens Theatre 4 stars There’s a glorious circularity to David Hayman’s return to the Citz after a twenty year absence in Dominic Hill’s mighty production of Lear. Where Hayman began his career on the same stage four decades ago with a unique take on Shakespeare’s mad Danish prince, here he appears equally unhinged as the elder statesman whose estrangement from his favourite daughter lurches him into a mid-life crisis that leaves him with nothing. It begins with a Hogarthian chorus resembling Occupy protesters breaking into the palace where the party is in full decadent swing. In this sense, the economic and class divide of the story is laid-out from the start, with the chorus punctuating every psychological body-blow with Paddy Cunneen’s live score played on splintered piano strings and other bomb-site detritus. Edmund is a initially a hoodied-up student in search of a cause to legitimise him while his swotty brother Edgar sprawls himself across the sofa. If that is …

Jeremy Deller – Sacrilege

Glasgow GreenGlasgow International Festival of Visual ArtApril 20th-May 7th5 starsIf you’re feeling down in the dumps, there are few things more rejuvenating than jumping up and down like an idiot for a few minutes. If you can do so without bursting out laughing like an even bigger loon, chances are you’re dead.As a child of the Rave age, Jeremy Deller is in a perfect position to tap into such variations on a natural high, repetitive beats and all. By reimagining Stonehenge as a bouncy castle type structure that will later be inflated in London during the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, Deller is also making an explicitly political point, both about the right to assemble and how religious and artistic totems have become untouchable.With the real Stonehenge once a Mecca of the free festival movement and now cordoned off to all but the hardiest of revellers, to witness big daft kids of all ages hurling themselves around and about the structures with touchy-feely abandon on a sunny Su…

Folkert De Jong – The Immortals

Mackintosh Museum, Glasgow School of ArtGlasgow International Festival of Visual ArtApril 12th-May 12th4 starsA gaudily attired couple sit astride some scaffolding watching the debris-ridden legacy the best minds of their generation inspired. Or at least that’s the sense you get of Dutch artist Folkert De Jong’s site-specific sculptural intervention, which looks to the gallery’s namesake and designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his wife, Margaret MacDonald Mackintosh, for inspiration.Looking for all the world like paint-spattered dayglo-punk charity-shop dandies, it’s as if the pair are occupying some building-site royal box while a cheap seat variety show plays out below. The effect is heightened by the figure of a woman sporting a hat which from a distance looks straight out of Cabaret holding on tight to two male figures, while beside the scaffolding a male figure holds on to a battered approximation of a wooden acoustic guitar. A solitary female figure stands astride a trestle t…

Teresa Margolles

Glasgow Sculpture StudiosGlasgow International Festival of Visual ArtApril 20th-June 12th 20124 starsLife’s a riot in Teresa Margolles’ new work for Glasgow Sculpture Studios’ new space in Glasgow’s old Whiskey Bond building, which sources a photographic archive in the now decaying Mexican border town of Ciudad Juarez alongside a new piece mined from frontline Croydon during the 2011 London riots.In the small Project Gallery, three projectors quick-fire off more than 6000 images by Luis Alvarado that charts a historical landscape from the 1960s to the 1980s peopled by heroic masked wrestlers, politicians, wedding parties and street corner night owls, all captured in the throes of a thousand social rituals.In the main room, the phrase ‘A DIAMOND FOR THE CROWN’ is carved across the back wall like an epitaph. On another wall in a glass box sits the tiniest and loveliest of diamonds sourced from burnt wood and carbon from the riots and painstakingly buffed into beautiful life by Margolles…

James Brining - From Dundee to Leeds

Home is on James Brining's mind a lot just now. As Dundee Rep's artistic director for the last nine years prepares to up sticks back to his Leeds birthplace to take up the equivalent post at West Yorkshire Playhouse, he's also in the thick of rehearsals for his swansong production at Dundee of a play that itself sounds closer to home than even he perhaps realised. “What an amazing play,” Brining says of Further Than The Furthest Thing, Zinnie Harris' breakthrough work about an island community forced out by the eruption of a volcano. “It's extraordinary, but it isn't that well known. It's got such richness and scope in its themes. It's about religion, capitalism, displacement, refugees, deceit, truth, lies. It's about epic themes and domestic themes. The more you mine it, the more you find in it. “My wife's from Orkney, and being Leeds born and bred, I'm not really a country person. But when I got to know Orkney, I started to, …

The Lieutenant of Inishmore

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh4 starsThe dead, decapitated cat that is the big reveal at the opening of Martin McDonagh's scabrous black comedy sets the tone on one of the bloodiest and most outrageous plays to make it to the main stage for years. Set in one of McDonagh's trademark rural Irish backwaters, the seemingly accidental cat killing opens the door to an increasingly absurd world of rubbish terrorists whose scatter-gun approach to things looks ever more futile, and all the more hilarious for it.When Irish National Liberation Army loose cannon Padraic is interrupted from his self-appointed duties torturing drug dealers and bombing chip shops with the news that his pet pussy is at best unwell, we see the full sentimental face behind the fanaticism he espouses. With his former comrades laying in wait, as well as a girl with an air rifle who still believes in heroes back at home, the dramatic explosion that follows is a deranged mix of Beckettian mundanity and Sam Shepard…

The Making of Us

Tramway, Glasgow
3 starsWhen film and theatre director Lindsay Anderson allowed his owncameras to be seen filming the action of Alan Bennett’s 1979 TV play,The Old Crowd, it caused a tabloid outcry. Anderson had used a similardevice in his film, O! Lucky Man, which ended with actor MalcolmMcDowell seemingly auditioning for Anderson’s previous feature, If…One is reminded of this stepping into the latest collaboration betweenSuspect Culture director Graham Eatough and visual artist Graham Fagen, with a major contribution here from film director Michael McDonough.Commissioned by Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art andco-presented by the National Theatre of Scotland, The Making of Usopens by having the audience sign a disclaimer that allows them to befilmed, before we’re ushered into a room that is part film set, partinstallation akin to Eatough and Fagen’s Killing Time project at DundeeContemporary Arts.With the cameras rolling, bar-maid Helen encourages punter Jonathan,played b…

Kidnapped

Eastgate Theatre, Peebles 3 stars Robert Louis Stevenson probably wasn’t the first to rewrite Scottish history as a Boy’s Own style adventure, and he certainly wasn’t the last. On the one hand, Kidnapped’s eighteenth century orphan Davie Balfour’s on the run rites of passage over land and sea en route to reclaiming his stolen birthright is a heroic yarn of discovery and derring-do. On the other, it’s a state of the nation dot-to-dot through history that throws Davie together with real-life figures in the ferment of some of the most crucial moments that followed the Jacobite Rising. Cumbernauld Theatre’s Ed Robson takes advantage of this in his pocket-sized three-person touring production which utilises live and recorded back-projections, puppets and story-telling techniques in a quick-fire romp through the landscape. If the TV news report is an idea pioneered in Peter Watkins’ seminal film, Culloden, the projections of puppet gladiators on the battlefield looks straight o…

Oh Lord! Please Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood - Minding My Language in 12 Snapshots In and Out of Time

1

Picture this. A lazy, sunny Sunday afternoon in the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh a couple of decades back. I'm looking at a painting I can only remember as something busy with a multi-coloured, all-angles splurge, zinging off every which way so it grabs the attention, pop-eyed, and so wonkily off-kilter and sketch-book play-pen alive I can almost hear a prat-falling absurdist soundtrack to go with it.

“It's like the opening credits to a Mr Magoo cartoon,” I say to the person I'm with. “But that's not the sort of thing you can say about abstract art.”

“Why not?” she says back. “If the opening credits of a Mr Magoo cartoon are what a painting reminds you of, and if that's what you feel about it, then it's as valid as anything else. And besides, whoever the artists were drawing Mr Magoo, they would have known what was going on elsewhere in art movements, so of course they'd be bringing that to the table. They were artists too, after a…