Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh
Imagine a gallery after dark, when all the silent subjects immortalised
on canvas break free from the frame like some live art happening and
give vent to their spleen having watched the world for centuries.
That's pretty much what the twenty writers who have penned a series of
miniature monologues inspired by a particular exhibit have done for
this first of the National Theatre of Scotland's two dramatic guided
tours through the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, which give voice
to some iconic old masters and mistresses as well as some peripheral
figures usually left on the sidelines,
AL Kennedy's opening take on Robert Louis Stevenson suggests what might
be, before David Greig's The Cromartie Fool raspberries his own brand
of wisdom. Dancer/choreographer Michael Clark's own recorded voice
delivers Ali Smith's piece written from the point of view of Clark's
knee, which peers from a photograph through fearlessly ripped jeans.
Following the justified anger of Zinnie Harris' women, miners leader
Mick McGahey, by way of Jackie Kay's rhyming couplets, reels off a
litany of revolutionary heroes and heroines.
From Peter Arnott's vainglorious Sir Walter Scott and Iain Finlay
Macleod's James Boswell to Louise Welsh's Mary Queen of Scots and James
Robertson's Robert Bontine Cunningham Graham, a company of fine actors
under the guidance of directors Joe Douglas and Catrin Evans perform
these tiny masterpieces with a committed vigour. Nowhere is this more
evident than in Jo Clifford's devastating view from an un-named woman
in Alexander Moffat's painting, Poet's Pub. As performed by Sally Reid,
Clifford's piece dares to question the machismo that fuels much of
Scotland's literati with an elegant and essential rage.
The Herald, April 28th 2014