The Arches, Glasgow
AS the Spice Girls head to the West End with their jukebox musical, director Cora Bissett unveils a lo-fi compendium of after-hours confections which I would be prepared to bet reveals an altogether more fascinating and challenging understanding of contemporary musical theatre. By bringing together some of this country’s hippest avant-pop songwriters with a set of actors and writers fully at ease with mixing up artforms as well as moods for this Vital Spark commission, Bissett has taken the musical back to its fringe roots in a glorious mix of domestic sentimentalism and old school grit. All with the odd slice of fantastical ridiculousness thrown in for good measure.
It opens with a couple on a cosy sofa recalling the first time they met, which could have been last night or a lifetime ago. From first love to last rites, this launches us on an emotional travelogue that takes us from club-land largesse, wasted youth, missed buses and the company of strangers, to online dating, sleepless nights and the confessions of an East European Eliza Doolittle.
With filmed back-drops, aerial pas de deux and lovely central performances from Frances Thorburn and John Kielty dove-tailing messily across four stages, such a dramatic patchwork sometimes resembles a late 1990s ensemble rom-com. Written contributions from ten writers including David Greig, Annie Griffin and Kieran Hurley complement generation-hopping new songs played mainly live by a large house-band that includes Ricky Ross, Emma Pollock and Dan Willson (aka Withered Hand). There’s real heart to this poignant and touchingly funny series of musical snapshots of how we live now.
The Herald, June 29th 2012