Skip to main content

Far Away/Seagulls

Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
4 stars
There's something astonishing about this rare double bill of short 
plays by Caryl Churchill, if only to get some kind of insight into how 
this most singular of writers mind works. In Far Away, first seen in 
2000, a young girl is exposed to the brutality of a war which becomes 
increasingly extreme. At first, Lucy Hollis' Joan appears to be an 
evacuee who witnesses her uncle doling out violence to a lorry-load of 
refugees, only to be co-opted into a conspiracy of silence by her aunt. 
By the end, she's in the thick of a conflict which has corrupted the 
planet so much that even nature and the animal kingdom are taking sides.

Seagulls, which dates from 1978, is less elliptical in its observation 
of how raw talent can be corrupted by celebrity.  Kathryn Howden's 
Valery is able to move objects with her mind, and, with her manager Di 
in tow, is about to launch a rocket for charity in front of a huge 
audience before being investigated by scientists at Harvard. Except, 
with the pressure on, she can't perform.

Director Dominic Hill has pulled out all the stops here, with Far Away 
in particular a technical marvel which has each scene punctuated by 
designer Neil Haynes' huge corrugated iron doors sliding open and shut 
as Scott Twynholm's dissonant industrial score plays. A mid-scene 
fashion parade proves even more jaw-dropping.

The plays themselves, featuring a set of wonderfully nuanced 
performances from Hollis, Howden, Alasdair Hankinson and Maureen Carr, 
are fiercely moral fables, even as they're shot through with a wry wit. 
It's Valery's moment of stillness at the end of Seagulls, however, 
that's most telling.

The Herald, May 27th 2013

ends

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Maids

Dundee Rep

Two sisters sit in glass cases either side of the stage at the start of Eve Jamieson's production of Jean Genet's nasty little study of warped aspiration and abuse of power. Bathed in red light, the women look like artefacts in some cheap thrill waxworks horror-show, or else exhibits in a human zoo. Either way, they are both trapped, immortalised in a freak-show possibly of their own making.

Once the sisters come to life and drape themselves in the sumptuous bedroom of their absent mistress, they raid her bulging wardrobe to try on otherwise untouchable glad-rags and jewellery. As they do, the grotesque parody of the high-life they aspire to turns uglier by the second. When the Mistress returns, as played with daring abandon by Emily Winter as a glamour-chasing narcissist who gets her kicks from drooling over the criminal classes, you can't really blame the sisters for their fantasy of killing her.

Slabs of sound slice the air to punctuate each scene of Mart…

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 …

High Society

Pitlochry Festival Theatre
Four stars

The stage looks gift-wrapped with a sparklingly expensive bow at the opening of John Durnin's revival of Arthur Kopit's Cole Porter based musical that reinvigorates the starry 1956 film where it originated. With the film itself drawing from Philip Barry's play, The Philadelphia Story, Kopit and Porter's depiction of the Long Island jet set says much about over-privileged party people, but retains a fizz that keeps it going till all passion is seemingly spent.
The action is based around the forthcoming nuptials of drop-dead gorgeous society gal and serial bride, Tracy Lord. With her daddy having run off with a show-girl, and ex beau next door CK Dexter Haven set sail for other shores, Tracy settles for George, a stinking rich would-be president for whom stupidity, as someone observes, sits on his shoulders like a crown. Enter Tracy's match-making kid sister Dinah and a pair of reporters for a trashy scandal sheet looking to stit…