Skip to main content

Birdsong


King's Theatre, Glasgow
4 stars
There's little in the way of sentimentality in much of the Original 
Theatre Company's new take on Sebastian Faulks' First World War novel 
by writer Rachel Wagstaff. Given that it looks at a doomed love affair 
between English officer Stephen Raysford and Isabelle Azaire, the 
French woman trapped in a loveless and abusive marriage who captivates 
him, this is somewhat surprising. But as the frontline troops let off 
steam with an increasingly desperate-looking sing-song that opens the 
play before marching to their deaths in the Somme, any ideas of a 
conventional war-time romance are instantly blasted into the trenches 
with the emotionally complex grit of what follows.

Where Faulks' story was originally told via a linear narrative, 
Wagstaff's script, revised since Trevor Nunn's original 2010 West End 
production, weaves her characters through time-frames to create an 
ambitiously realised memory play which moves seamlessly between each 
period. Alastair Whatley's fluid production, played out on Victoria 
Spearing's versatile bomb-site of set, focuses as much on Stephen's 
political awakening as much as his emotional one, as he finds empathy 
with squaddies just as Isabelle did with the striking factory workers 
she gave food to.

As Stephen, Jonathan Smith captures just the right balance of lovesick 
obsession and upper-crust bravura. Sarah Jayne Dunn's Isabelle is a 
quietly aloof presence, and a stirring symbol of the purity and passion 
he yearns for. As Stephen clings on to the impossible memory of 
Isabelle, the fragile peace of his own battle-scarred psyche comes into 
question. Ultimately, he survives the tug of love and war, but what's 
clear is how much war messes up the lives of even those it doesn't 
kill.

The Herald, April 10th 2013

ends

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Honourable K.W. Harman: Ltd Ink Corporation

31 Bath Road, Leith Docks, March 17th-20th

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…

Scot:Lands 2017

Edinburgh's Hogmanay
Four stars

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.

For 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…

Nomanslanding

Tramway, Glasgow until July 2nd
Four stars

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 …