Skip to main content


Tramway, Glasgow
4 stars

While setting Shakespeare in a psychiatric ward isn’t a new idea,
neither is it uncommon for real life patients in such institutions to
construct such elaborate self-destructive fantasies with themselves at
their fragile world’s centre. Both concepts rub up against each other
in the National Theatre of Scotland’s boldly audacious reimagining of
the Scottish play, which sees Alan Cumming act out the entire play
alone onstage for an hour and three-quarters. Flying without a safety
net, Cumming opens himself up physically, mentally and emotionally in a
performance of fearless bravura.

It starts with Cumming’s character being sectioned and stripped of his
twenty-first century apparel by two nurses played almost wordlessly by
Myra McFadyen and Aly Craig. With fresh scars embedded into his chest,
as Cumming calls to what are both captors and protectors with the
Witches ‘When shall we three meet again?’ line, there are hints of a
domestic massacre and a possible failed suicide attempt to have caused
his incarceration.

Watched over from all angles by a trio of CCTV cameras, Cumming pads
about Merle Hensel’s towering brick-lined set in search of healing his
fragmented self, but finds only a succession of voices tearing him
apart. In the bath-tub he lays splayed and naked as he recounts Lady
M’s ‘unsex me’ speech. A wheelchair becomes a pukka King Duncan’s
mobile throne which Cumming’s own Macbeth-possessed psyche lays
troubled claim to. Most significant of all, a doll is battered into
submission and a child’s jumper pressed down heavily into the

John Tiffany and Andrew Goldberg’s production reimagines Shakespeare as
a cycle of self-laceration where often the silent moments are the most
significant. With Cumming at its centre, the heady tangle of strength
and vulnerability he presents us with makes for a brilliantly troubling
play for twisted times.

The Herald, June 16th 2012


Popular posts from this blog

The Art School Dance Goes On Forever – Snapshots Of Masters Of The Multiverse

Intro – Snapshots – Deaf School


In 1980, the same year as the Manchester band, Magazine, released a 7
inch single called A Song From Under The Floorboards – a three verse
and chorus distillation of Dostoyevsky's novel, Notes From Underground
– an art school scandal occurred.

This scandal took place in Liverpool, and was based around a project
called the Furbelows, although it became better known in the Liverpool
Echo and other organs that reported it as the Woolly Nudes.

The Furbelows, or Woolly Nudes, were a group of artists who had come
out of Liverpool College of Art, who, dressed in grotesque woolly
costumes which featured knitted approximations of male and female
genitalia, made assorted public interventions around the city centre as
kind of living sculptures acting out assorted narratives.

The Furbelows project had been funded by what was then Merseyside Arts
Association, and, after the participants were arrested and taken to
court on obscenity charges after what…

Peter Brook – The Prisoner

Peter Brook is no stranger to Scotland, ever since the guru of European and world theatre first brought his nine-hour epic, The Mahabharata, to Glasgow in 1988. That was at the city’s old transport museum, which by 1990 had become Tramway, the still-functioning permanent venue that opened up Glasgow and Scotland as a major channel for international theatre in a way that had previously only been on offer at Edinburgh International Festival.
Brook and his Paris-based Theatre des Bouffes du Nord company’s relationship with Tramway saw him bring his productions of La Tragedie de Carmen, La Tempete, Pellease et Mellisande, The Man Who…, and Oh Les Beaux Jours – the French version of Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days – to Glasgow.
Thirty years on from The Mahabharata, Brook comes to EIF with another piece of pan-global theatre as part of a residency by Theatre des Bouffes du Nord, which Brook has led since he decamped to Paris from London in the early 1970s. The current Edinburgh residency has alr…

Romeo And Juliet - Shakespeare's Globe Comes to Glasgow

Open-air Shakepeares are a summer-time perennial of the theatre calendar, attracting picnicking audiences as much as midges. More often than not, such romps through the grass are frothy, heritage industry affairs designed to be accompanied by strawberries and cream and not to be taken too seriously. Shakespeare’s Globe theatre company look set to change such perceptions when they open their outdoor tour of Romeo And Juliet in Glasgow next week as part of the West End festival.

For the two young actors taking the title roles of the doomed lovers, it will also be something of a homecoming. Richard Madden and Ellie Piercy both studied in Glasgow prior to turning professional. Indeed, Madden has yet to graduate from the acting course at RSAMD, and, as well as facing the pressures of playing such a meaty role in close proximity to the audience, will have the added anxiety of being assessed and graded by his tutors.

“This is the end of my third year,” says Madden following a Saturday mornin…