Monday, 31 December 2012

2012 - The Best Theatre of The Year

Internationalism and collaboration on scales both great and small were 
very much on the agenda for  a year in Scotland's theatre scene that 
rode the recessionary wave with some consistently ambitious programming 
that wasn't afraid to mix up classical and popular forms. The tone was 
set right at the start of the year when Vox Motus presented their 
biggest show to date, The Infamous Brothers Davenport. As scripted by 
Peter Arnott and conceived by Candice Edmunds and Jamie Harrison, the 
play dissected the alleged supernatural powers of a pair of 
vaudevillian siblings with a box of tricks all of their own.

Vox Motus' look at artifice and belief was oddly book-ended at the end 
of the year with a set of similar themes from Peepolykus' The Arthur 
Conan Doyle Appreciation Society at the Traverse. Both were bested, 
however, by Rob Drummond's Bullet Catch, a close-up solo dissection of 
the same terrain that created real magic out of similarly styled hokum.

Also at the Traverse was BEATS, another solo show written and performed 
by Kieran Hurley. As with Drummond's show, BEATS was produced by The 
Arches in Glasgow, and was a searingly insightful portrait of the early 
1990s rave era, when hedonists were first outlawed then politicised by 
the Criminal Justice Bill that effectively attempted to make electronic 
dance music illegal. Aided by DJ Johnny Whoop, Hurley delivered his 
trilogy of stories with the evocative engagement of a rave generation 
Spalding Gray.

Other solo shows featured the pleasure of seeing Samuel Beckett on a 
big stage in Dominic Hill's production of Krapp's Last Tape and the 
rarely seen Footfalls. These two miniatures closed Hill's inaugural 
season as artistic director of the Citizens Theatre, which had peaked 
so spectacularly with David Hayman's return to the Gorbals to play the 
title role in Shakespeare's King Lear.

Also making a prodigal's return was Alan Cumming, who played a solo 
Macbeth in John Tiffany and Andrew Goldberg's National Theatre of 
Scotland production. With the action re-imagined in an asylum, Cumming 
gave his all in an unmissable performance. Another unmissable NTS show 
was Enquirer, an all too timely verbatim look at the state of print 
journalism today.

Of the independent companies, Stellar Quines premiered ANA, a 
remarkable bi-lingual Scots-Quebecois collaboration developed over 
several years that chartered one woman's voyage through history. This 
imaginatively staged production was overseen by Quebecois director 
Serge Denencourt, who returned to Scotland later in the year to direct 
the NTS' revival of The Guid Sisters, Martin Bowman and Bill Findlay's 
vivid Scots translation of Quebecois writer Michel Tremblay's equally 
female-focused play, The Guid Sisters.

Vanishing Point, meanwhile, upped the ante by being included in the 
Edinburgh International Festival's exemplary theatre programme with 
Wonderland. This was a taboo-busting and discomforting  peek into an 
online rabbit-hole where porn stars and porn users live a troublingly 
symbiotic existence.

In a year of arrivals and departures in terms of artistic directors, 
Rachel O'Riordan came good with a revival of Frank McGuinness' Someone 
Who'll Watch Over Me, while James Brining's parting shot as artistic 
director of Dundee Rep was a revival of Zinnie Harris' Further 
Than The Furthest Thing, notable for a stunning water-based set.

While Andy Arnold directed a magnificent stage version of James Joyce's 
Ulysses at the Tron, at the Traverse, incoming director Orla O'Loughlin 
set out her store during August with
Dream Plays (Scenes From A Play I'll Never Write), a series of early 
morning performed readings put together quickly, but which served up 
some of the most imaginative work on the Fringe.

If O'Loughlin ushered in her tenure with such glorious scratch-works, 
she nailed it by directing what was, alongside BEATS, the best new play 
of the year by a country mile. Morna Pearson's The Artist Man and the 
Mother Woman was a jaw-droppingly dark comedy about a molly-coddled 
teacher's belated coming of age. Written in Pearson's scatological 
Doric, it tapped into the insular brutalities of a small-town 
underclass in a way that announced a major writing force to the world.

The Herald, December 31st 2012

ends

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