Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Traverse Theatre Fringe Reviews 2013

The Events – Traverse Theatre – four stars
There's something surprisingly light about The Events, David Greig's 
new play set in the aftermath of a mass shooting of a community choir 
by a boy who appears to believe he holds the moral highground to commit 
such an act. This isn't necessarily a bad thing in a piece which more 
specifically, the play focuses on Claire the liberal priest and leader 
of the choir who survives, possibly because she is white.

As traumatised as she is by the experience, she remains desperate to 
understand the rationale behind the Boy's actions. She sees his face in 
everybody she meets, from her increasingly estranged female lover, to 
members of the extreme right wing party the Boy was a member of, and, 
in a final attempt at closure, she visits the Boy in his cell. This is 
achieved by having Rudi Dharmalingam play all key parts other than 
Claire, while, as the Boy himself, he relates his story not as some 
unhinged monster, but with an intelligence and a levity that humanises 
him. Greig isn't letting anyone off the hook here.

Rather, like Claire, he's questioning the troubling back story behind 
why such atrocities happen.
In some ways, the Boy seems to have more faith than Claire played by 
Neve McIntosh with a nervy intensity that lays bare just how fragile 
faith can be.

Ramin Gray's co-production between Actors Touring Company, the Young 
Vic and two Norwegian theatres puts a real choir onstage, who punctuate 
the action with some real community spirit that helps the play to truly 
soar. As with so much of the serious end of popular culture at the 
moment, The Events is about loss, grieving and letting go. It is also a 
complexly realised and deeply serious inquiry into its subject that 
says that, no matter what happens, healing is possible, through song, 
through dance, and, most of all, through living.


I'm With The Band – Traverse Theatre – four stars
A Scotsman, an Englishman, a Welshman and a Northern Irishman are in a 
band on their last legs called The Union in I'm With The Band, Tim 
Price's audacious and irreverent take on the perennially ongoing 
Scottish independence debate. The VAT-man hasn't been paid for twelve 
years, a crisis that prompts Andy Clark's Scots guitarist Barry to go 
solo, leaving James Hillier's  increasingly control freakish singer 
Damo to boss Matthew Bulgo's Welsh bassist Gruff and Declan Rodgers' 
Northern Irish drummer Aaron about. While Damo struggles with 
unreconstructed indie-pop, Barry gets himself a laptop and looks to the 
future with some forward-thinking electronica designed to get people 
together, even though he too isn't sure what he's doing. While Gruff is 
all too willing to acquiesce, without any kind of anchor, Aaron's 
self-destructive streak returns.

It's unlikely the metaphors for the current state of the nations could 
be spelt out more obviously in Hamish Pirie's co-production between the 
Traverse and Wales Millennium Centre, but then, the rise and fall 
mythologies of the music business are as predictably familiar as the 
political hubris that brings down governments. With songs and musical 
direction by Ballboy's Gordon McIntyre, all four actors play their 
instruments for real in a cartoon-strip style musical that reinvents 
1970s alternative theatre for the twenty-first century here and now of 
things.

As Damo attempts to find a new direction via a conceptual cacophony 
that sounds like torture, it's clear from the toy instruments at the 
end that a back to basics approach is required. Rip it up and start 
again? Only time will tell.


Ciara – Traverse Theatre – 5 stars
David Harrower might just have written his finest work yet with Ciara, 
a heart-dropping solo play written for actress Blythe Duff. Duff plays 
a nouveau riche gallery owner whose father was a major figure in 
Glasgow's underworld. As Ciara holds court in the sort of dilapidated 
warehouse space that looks like the sort of place where young men got 
their knee-caps broken, a picture gradually unravels of a protected 
little girl who managed to create a world of beauty for herself. 
Whether she can truly get away from her father's legacy, however, 
remains to be seen.

Here, then, is a tale of two cities brought vividly to life by 
Harrower's richly nuanced text, which mesmerises even as it peppers 
each scenario with deadly one-liners. While this is achievement enough 
in itself, without Duff's riveting performance in Orla O'Loughlin's 
co-production between the Traverse and Datum Point which makes it truly 
exquisite. Daniel Padden's sound design and Philip Gladwell's lighting 
both add mood to a beautiful piece of work in which a woman attempts to 
fill the void with a flash of something that might just resemble love, 
but instead makes her brittle, even as she tries to protect a child the 
way she was once protected in this homage to a cityscape in all its 
contrary glory.


Cadre – Traverse Theatre – 4 stars
South Africa's apartheid era may be over, but the scars linger on, as 
Cadre, Omphile Molusi's play for the Market Theatre, Johannesburg, 
testifies to. In it we see how a young boy is radicalised after his 
activist brother is killed, while he also loses his teenage sweetheart, 
who the law forces to move away. By the 1970s he's informing on the 
establishment from the inside, though a brief reunion rips his life 
asunder a second time, and the end of apartheid seems to make things 
even more complicated.

Molussi himself appears in his own production of a very telling play 
which, as with some other plays in the Traverse programme, suggests 
that a nation forcing out its old masters in order to foster 
self-determination can create a brand new set of problems. All this is 
told in a gloriously roughshod style, with the action played out on a 
messy network of hung-out washing behind which assorted shadowplays 
take place. With Molussi appearing alongside Sello Motloung and Lillian 
Tshabalala, who also provides the music, this is a timely reminder that 
political upheavals when they come are complex, messy affairs which can 
damage individuals just as much as they may wreck the system.

All shows run until August 25th

The Herald, August 6th 2013

ends

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