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Showing posts from May, 2014

Simon Usher - Chorale – A Sam Shepard Roadshow

When Sam Shepard came to Glasgow last year to watch the last night of the
Citizens Theatre's production of his 1980 play, True West, the presence of
someone who was both Hollywood acting royalty and counter-cultural legend packed
out the house. With roots in rock and roll, Beat poetry and America's Wild West
mythology, here was an underground icon and self-styled literary outlaw who
could be nominated for an Oscar for his appearance in The Right Stuff even as he
scripted Paris, Texas for fellow traveller, Wim Wenders.


 Yet despite such a pedigree which has embraced the hip while flirting with the
commercial, Shepard's stage works are rarely seen in these parts. Prior to True
West, the last time one of Shepard's plays was seen on a main stage in Scotland
was back in 2009, when the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh produced his 1978
piece, Curse of the Starving Class.


The arrival of Chorale – A Sam Shepard Roadshow in Edinburgh,
then, provides an all too rare …

Entertaining Mr Sloane

Perth Concert Hall
Three stars
On the surface, barely anything is made explicit in Joe Orton's dark
1960s comedy of psycho-sexual menace. Every panting innuendo between
Sloane's amoral cuckoo in the nest and the middle-aged brother and
sister he flits coldly between, however, promises to spill over from
Sunday tabloid mundanity into something bigger with every utterance.

Now half a century old, Orton's first full-length play teased the Lord
Chamberlain, then in charge of what could and couldn't be said onstage,
with a taboo-busting mix of contemporary pop buzzwords and stylised
baroque. This ages well in London Classic Theatre's touring revival,
which arrived at Perth Festival for a one-night stand on Monday night,
setting out its store on a jumble of upside-down brass bed-posts and
awkwardly angled wardrobes hiding a multitude of sins.

Into this mess steps Paul Dandys' sexually ambivalent Sloane, a
psycho-pathic piece of rough trade who manages to wrap both his
la…

My Name Is... - Tamasha Theatre Company

When Molly Campbell and her mum Louise Fairlie went to see Tamasha
Theatre Company's production of Sudha Buchar's play, My Name Is..., it
was an emotional experience. My Name Is..., which tours to the Tron
Theatre in Glasgow this weekend as part of the theatre's Mayfesto
season, gets behind the sensationalist headlines that  told how, in
2006, the then twelve year old Campbell was apparently snatched from
her home on the Isle of Lewis by her father, Sajad, and taken to his
native Pakistan. A few days later, Campbell spoke to the world in a
press conference to say that, far from being kidnapped, she had gone to
Pakistan of her own accord, and would now rather be known as Misbah.

Buchar's play, developed over six years after interviewing all three
members of the estranged family, aims to set the record straight about
a story that wasn't about race or religion, but was more about the
painfully familiar fall-out when two people stop being in love, and
what happens when …

Pests

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Five stars
When a woman steps silently into the sculpted tip which two damaged
sisters call home and pulls out a baby rat from the swollen
track-suited belly of one of them, it's clear just how feral the
twenty-something siblings have become in Vivienne Franzmann's
remarkable new play. This is one of few silent moments in a ninety-five
minute tug of love between Pink and Rolly that explodes with the pains
of every-day survival in the messed-up bubble the women have created
for themselves.

Rolly has arrived on Pink's doorstep straight out of prison. Barely
literate but furiously articulate, with a street-smart patois lifted on
the cheap from pop songs and trash TV, Pink and Rolly take on the world
outside their door with a snarl. Inside, they find comfort from each
other, and while Rolly never sees the projected mayhem going on in
Pink's head, a pair of magic red shoes might just make things better.

While there are obvious linguistic and thematic…

Woman in Mind

Dundee Rep
Four stars
If Alan Ayckbourn had written his 1985 study of one woman's
psychological unravelling today, chances are that his heroine, Susan,
would be so numbed by Prozac that her descent into fantasy would have
been blotted out by the end of the first act. As it is, Marilyn Imrie's
lush-looking revival for Dundee Rep's Ensemble company and Birmingham
Rep reveals Ayckbourn as a far darker chronicler of the very English
garden he occupies than he is often given credit for.

Opening with composer Pippa Murphy's anxious-voiced chorale, we're
ushered into Susan's idyll, a world occupied by a white-suited husband,
a beautiful and talented daughter and a brother who would defend her to
the death. Such endlessly sun-drenched perfection is upended, alas, by
the reined-in torpor of something both more mundane and a whole lot
more complicated.  When it becomes increasingly hard for Susan to tell
which world she belongs in, she takes a mental leap too far.

Flanked by…

Whisky Kisses

Pitlochry Festival Theatre
Four stars
When American wheeler-dealer Ben Munro attempts to buy up the final
dregs of the rarest whisky in the world, things don't quite go
according to plan. So it goes in Euan Martin, Dave Smith and composer
James Bryce's rollicking musical play, in which the Glenigma malt
becomes a symbol both of the absurdities of global capitalism and of
the life-force of a rural community struggling for economic survival.
Of course, John Durnin's big, showbiz-styled production is a whole lot
more fun than that, but such underlying political motifs are what
drives this revival of a show first seen in 2010 following its
development from the Highland Quest competition to find a new Scottish
musical.

With distillery heiress Mary forced to sell off the last bottle of
Glenigma to the highest bidder, the auction also attracts a Japanese
collector, setting up an east-west conflict that captures the attention
of the Scottish government. With an export ban imposed on …

Charles Marowitz

Theatre director, playwright, critic
Born January 26 1934; died May 2 2014

Charles Marowitz, who has died aged 80 after struggling with
Parkinson's Disease, was a theatrical iconoclast of the 1960s
counter-cultural avant-garde, whose uncompromising attitude left its
mark bluntly and without sentiment. This was the case whether causing
trouble in Edinburgh and Glasgow at the Traverse and Citizens Theatres,
working closely with Peter Brook at the Royal Shakespeare Company prior
to an Antonin Artaud-inspired Theatre of Cruelty season, deconstructing
Shakespeare in London at the radical but glamorous Open Space theatre
he co-founded with producer Thelma Holt, or advocating his same
wilfully singular artistic vision in Los Angeles during his later
years. New York born Marowitz alienated many, and not for nothing was
his score-settling autobiography, published in 1990, called Burnt
Bridges.

The youngest of three children born to Polish Jewish immigrants who
worked in the cl…

Nathan Coley – The Lamp of Sacrifice, 286 Places of Worship, Edinburgh - GoMa, Glasgow, until February 1st 2015

Faith and the lack of it is everywhere in Nathan Coley's work. For his
contribution to Generation, GoMA have chosen to restage 'The Lamp of
Sacrifice, 286 Places of Worship, Edinburgh', in which Coley built
miniature cardboard models of every church, synagogue, mosque and
temple in Scotland's capital, then placed side by side in what became a
kind of deconsecrated village.

“It's always nice meeting an old friend you haven't spoken to for many
years,” Coley says of revisiting 'The Lamp of Sacrifice', which has
lain in storage for the last decade after being first seen in 2004 at
Edinburgh's Fruitmarket Gallery. “I'm feeling excited about it being in
Glasgow, and I'm interested in how it transfers to the west coast, even
though the metaphor will remain the same.”

'The Lamp of Sacrifice' takes its title from Victorian artist John
Ruskin's 'The Seven Lamps of Architecture', in which he stated that 'It
is not the church we w…

Louise Hopkins & Carol Rhodes: Drawings, Paintings and Prints - Edinburgh Printmakers, June 7th-July 19th 2014

When Robert Louis Stevenson declared in his poem, 'Travel' exactly how
much he would 'like to rise and go/Where the golden apples grow,-' his
artistic antenna was most definitely heightened in a work first
published in 1865, and without access to either cheap flights or Google
Earth. It is the fourth line of the poem, however, that has lent itself
in part to an international residency programme initiated by the five
Scotland-wide bases that make up the Scottish Print Network.

By enabling ten artists from Scotland and ten from Commonwealth
countries to undergo research residencies, 'Below another sky' arguably
gave them a taste of the imagined idylls captured by Stevenson. This is
expressed most eloquently by two complimentary shows by Louise Hopkins
and Carol Rhodes which run in tandem at Edinburgh Printmakers over the
next month, and which capture two very different sets of experiences.
Where Rhodes revisited India, a place which has heavily influenced her
work…

Dominic Hill Presents - The Citizens Theatre's Autumn 2014 Season

It's initially an odd sensation seeing Dominic Hill in Edinburgh. So
immersed has the artistic director of the Citizen's Theatre been in his
own ambitious programme since he took over the Gorbals-based
institution that it's rare to even see him out of the building. Yet
here he is, in a windowless meeting room in the Royal Lyceum Theatre on
Grindlay Street to give the Herald an exclusive look at the Citz's
forthcoming autumn season, tickets for which go on sale today.

Perhaps Hill's appearance shouldn't be regarded as too off-piste. Prior
to his appointment at the Citizens in 2011, he spent three years as
artistic director of the Traverse Theatre, a stone's throw away from
the Royal Lyceum. More recently, Hill scored one of his biggest hits of
the last year with his production of Crime and Punishment, with Chris
Hannan's stage version of Dostoyevsky's novel being co-produced by the
Citizens and Royal Lyceum Theatres in association with Liverpool's…

Nine Lives

Oran Mor, Glasgow
Four stars
As soon as Zimbabwean refugee Ishmael screws in an over-head bulb in
the inner-city high-rise he must now call home at the start of Zodwa
Nyoni's painfully pertinent monologue, it casts the harshest of lights
on one of the most criminally marginalised sectors of society, both at
home and abroad. As a young gay man forced to flee his home-land,
Ishmael faces a frying pan/fire situation as he's thrown onto the mean
streets of Leeds.

When not holed-up in his room or trying to get his former lover to pick
up the phone, Ishmael must run the gauntlet of a concrete jungle where
pit bulls and young single mums run wild. Ishmael strikes up a
friendship with Bex and her toddler son, Bailey, only to run scared
from their brief encounter lest he continue living a lie. Even as he
finds some kind of salvation via the bright lights down-town, however,
Ishmael's future looks far from certain.

Arriving in a climate in which some far right political parties would
r…

Banksy: The Room in the Elephant - Emma Callander at the Traverse

Things got strange for Emma Callander after she first directed Tom
Wainwright's play, Banksy: The Room in the Elephant. Originally seen at
Oran Mor in Glasgow in a co-production with Bristol's Tobacco Factory,
Wainwright's play looks at what happened when iconic street artist
Banksy sprayed the words 'This looks like an elephant' on the side of a
water tank in Los Angeles.

For the previous seven years, the tank had been the makeshift home of
Tachowa Covington, who had furnished it to become something of bespoke
miniature des-res. Now Banksy had given it the tag of celebrity,
however, the tank was designated as a work of art, removed, and sold
off to the highest bidder. 'Banksy Brings Misery To Homeless Man' one
newspaper headline announced when Wainwright's look at art, commerce
and real life first appeared.

Things got even stranger during the production's Edinburgh Festival
Fringe run, when film-maker Hal Samples, who was making a film about
Covingto…

Unmastered, Remastered

CCA, Glasgow
Four stars
A multi-dimensional playground of TV monitors, projector screens and
lap-tops is the back-drop for this dramatic rendering of Katherine
Angel's remarkable book, Unmastered. First published in 2012, Angel's
first-person narrative is part love story, part confessional, part
feminist theory made flesh and part getting of wisdom that takes in
sex, desire, pornography, loss, grief and the life-giving thrills of
all in a series of poetic fragments. In Nick Blackburn's wildly
impressionistic work-in-progress staging for his Wooster Group inspired
Blackburn Company, which features Angel herself performing the entire
book, Unmastered also makes for a beguiling dramatic monologue.

A stiletto-heeled Blackburn is one of two men onstage who make up the
troupe of six that accompanies Angel, who sits to one side of the
playing area, speaking her own words heard through headphones on her
mobile phone. While films flicker on the TV monitors, the four women
dance or dr…

Braw Gigs Food Bank Benefit - Muscletusk, Fordell Research Unit, FUA, WIDT

Bongo Club, Edinburgh

Saturday May 3rd
Four stars
It may not have been Live Aid, but by gathering (some of) the clans from Edinburgh's off-piste but ever-fecund experimental/noise diaspora to play for Edinburgh Central Food Bank, promoters Braw Gigs and the Bongo Club have taken a principled stance against one of the most sadly necessary by-products of the Con-Dem alliance and their criminal banker friends' ongoing advocacy of austerity culture.
The shadowy presence of Warsaw emigre, WIDT (Antonina Nowacka), opens proceedings with a low-key display of synthesised looped chorales put through a spectral dub blender and set to a projected backdrop of impressionistic images. The quartet of FUA follow this with a sax and drum propelled assault that drives the guitar, electronic and vocal extrapolations beneath, while the increasing volume of Fordell Research Unit's solo samples of criss-crossing slabs of sound is pure Techno for airports.
Headliners Muscletusk go full thrott…

Alan Ayckbourn - Woman in Mind

When Alan Ayckbourn's play, Woman in Mind, first appeared at the
writer's spiritual home of the Stephen Joseph Theatre in the Round,
Scarborough, in 1985, this first-person tale of Susan, a woman in the
throes of a breakdown living duel lives initially confounded critical
expectations. Here was a virtual theatrical institution, after all, who
had long been regarded, however unjustifiably, as a doyen of
middle-class mores, who now seemed to be changing tack, in terms of
both form and content.

As Dundee Rep prepare to revive Woman in Mind almost thirty years after
the play's initial outing in a new co-production with Birmingham Rep
directed by Marilyn Imrie, Ayckbourn's thirty-second original stage
work can now be regarded as a modern classic.

“I was initially interested in writing a play told entirely in the
first person,” Ayckbourn recalls of the play's origins. “That is to
say, one in which all the action is seen through the eyes of its
central character. It’s an id…

Our Country's Good

Tron Theatre, Glasgow
Three stars
There are few directors in Scotland who have more fun with large-scale
acting ensembles than Gerry Mulgrew, whose mixing up of theatrical
forms has defined his Communicado company for more than thirty yeas
now. Seeing Mulgrew apply this approach to such a multi-faceted text as

Timberlake Wertenbaker's 1990 look at how transported convicts in an
eighteenth century Australian penal colony find emancipation through
theatre is a treat, then, in the Tron's second collaboration with Royal
Conservatoire Scotland for the theatre's Mayfesto season.

In a world where a hanging is the only entertainment going, liberal
Second Lieutenant Clark convinces his superiors to allow him to produce
a play with the convicts put in his care. After facing initial
resistance on all sides, Clark decides on George Farquhar's restoration
comedy, The Recruiting Officer, as his directorial debut for a company
of thieves, prostitutes and hangmen, all of whom eventually …

The Tempest

Tron Theatre, Glasgow
Three stars
If there is one important thing highlighted in Andy Arnold's new
production of Shakespeare's tale of shipwreck, magic and exile, it is
who the real monsters are in Prospero's self-appointed kingdom. In a
production presented in association with Royal Conservatoire Scotland
for the Tron's Mayfesto season that focuses on colonisation and the
spoken word, Caliban's enslavement is put to the fore, however kindly
her master may look on her, while Aerial is treated more like a pet.

In a punky-looking  production in which both Prospero and Miranda sport
elaborately bouffanted blonde barnets, Prospero is an over-protective
father and slave-master, while Gonzalo is an old-school toff mourning
the death of a dog eat dog empire which even abroad rears its predatory
nature. Trinculo and Stephano are akin to a pair of Ealing Comedy spivs
who would sell off London Bridge to American tourists, and are quite
prepared to exploit Caliban for their own …

Pressure

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars
Talking about the weather may be the great British talking point, but
storm and sunshine become matters of life and death in David Haig's new
World War Two set play. Based on real events leading up to the 1944 D
Day landings, the play focuses on Dalkeith-born military meteorologist
James Stagg and his sleepless quest to convince General Eisenhower to
postpone the assault until a favourable climate prevails.

Stagg's main obstacle to being taken seriously is his flamboyant
American counterpart, Irving Krick, whose glamour-chasing allure is in
stark contrast to Stagg's oddball demeanour. Throw in the fact that
Stagg's wife has just gone into labour, and the stage is set for an
increasingly urgent culture clash, where victory is celebrated with
doughnuts and whisky.

Set in a solitary room awash with charts, ringing telephones and a
coterie of generals, Haig has constructed a grippingly pacey adventure
yarn on the one hand, with Haig h…

The Libertine

Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
Four stars
When a troupe of actors wander the stage in civvies and modern-day
attitudes before the lights dim and they switch into character, it's a
commonplace enough theatrical device these days. When the cast of
Stephen Jeffreys' period romp concerning the Second Earl of Rochester's
stubborn flight into self-destruction top and tail Dominic Hill's
production with such an approach, however, it becomes a device that
matters.

Jeffreys' version of Rochester, after all, is a man who courted infamy
like the most indulgent of rock stars, whose entire crash-and-burn
lifestyle was a performance to die for. Unlike the coterie of preening
fops, literary groupies and even Elizabeth Barry, the actress he fell
for, however, he refused to play to type. Rochester's excesses were no
act, but something that fuelled his soul, even as they killed him.

Hill's revival of Jeffreys' twenty year old play casts Martin Hutson as
an initially charming but …

Mercury Fur

Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh
Three stars
Like Brit Pop, the resurgence of interest in the 1990s wave of
'in-yer-face' theatre among a new generation perhaps points up a lack
of anything else to grab hold of, however much some of the originals
might have faked it. If playwright Philip Ridley was at the vanguard of
that Thatcher-sired storming of the barricades, this revival of his
most controversial work from 2005 by the St Andrew's University sired
Riot Productions in association with Edinburgh's Black Dingo company
makes clear that its brutal mix of gangster movie iconography and
dystopian future-shock has lost none of its edge.

Twenty-something Elliot bursts into an abandoned flat at the play's
start like he's seeking sanctuary from a war zone. In fact, Elliot is
pushing a rare and transformative drug that comes in the form of
butterflies, and he and his brother Darren are alternative party
planners for adrenaline-junky city boys who want to live out Vietnam
fantasi…

Mayfesto 2014 - Colonisation and the Spoken Word

There's a joke doing the rounds of the internet as jokes do, but which
originated in America. It's about a man waiting in line in a grocery
store behind a woman, who's speaking on her mobile phone in a foreign
language. Once the woman has finished her call, the man approaches her,
and points out that, as she's in America, she would need to speak
English.

“Excuse me?” says the woman, before the man very slowly, as if talking
to a child, suggests to her that if she wants to speak Mexican, then
she should go back to Mexico. To stress his point, the man points out
that the woman was in America, where they speak English.

“Sir,” says the woman. “I was speaking Navajo. If you want to speak
English, go back to England.”

Despite its locale, this joke seems to be the perfect illustration of
the themes behind this year's Mayfesto, the Tron Theatre's annual look
at politically tinged drama, which this year themes its programme
around the all too timely notions of Colonisation…

Wonder

Bongo Club, Edinburgh
Three stars
When one of the carpet-load of balloons that line the club space where
the young Creative Electric company's latest show is being performed
accidentally pops, it's as if the bang is calling time on a particular
moment in the four performers lives before they move on to the next
one. In each corner of what looks like a subterranean playroom, each of
the cast – two male, two female, germ-free adolescents all - stand
before a full-length mirror, recounting what they see in soliloquies of
self-image that reveal more than their masked personae intend.

Over the course of the next forty minutes or so, those masks are put to
one side as each opens up to reveal what it's like to live in a world
where image is everything, and social media status creates a kind of
playground pecking order. The candour with which the quartet lay bare
their growing pains go beyond confessional in Hannah Marshall's
touchy-feely immersive production to become a choreogr…

Uncle Varick

Village Theatre, East Kilbride
Neil Cooper
Three stars
A smashed-up gold-coloured picture frame surrounds the front of the
stage for Rapture Theatre's revival of John Byrne's 1960s update of
Chekhov's Uncle Vanya. It's as if the action that follows behind it in
Michael Emans' production is that of a dust-laden and damaged old
master that's been left at the back of a junk shop, out of time and
past its best. This is exactly the state that  Jimmy Chisholm's Varick,
his niece Shona and a community wrapped up in their collective torpor
find themselves in at the start of Michael Emans' production, trapped
as they are in their rural idyll in north-eastern Scotland.

The times, however, are a changing, as the arrival of Shona's boorish
art critic father Sandy and his swingingly young bride Elaine searching
for the shock of the new makes clear. Even local whipping boy Willie
John has worked up a few incongruous-sounding Beatles numbers into his
a…

Brassed Off,

Brassed Off,
King's Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars
When an unemployed miner dressed in a clown suit attempts to hang
himself from the machinery he once worked among to the strains of a
brass band arrangement of Jerusalem, it's a damning indictment of how
one of Britain's greatest industries was treated with contempt. It's
also an image which takes Paul Allen's stage version of Mark Herman's
1996 film beyond being purely feel-good to something bigger and braver
in Damian Cruden's production, an alliance between the Touring
Consortium, York Theatre Royal and the Octagon Theatre Bolton.

Like the film, Allen's play is set in the fictional Yorkshire town of
Grimley, where, a decade after the 1984-85 miners strike collapsed, the
pits are about to finally close. One of the few lifelines for the town
is its brass band, run with messianic fervour by ex miner Danny, played
by an impassioned and understated John McArdle. While families become
increasingly divided, Jame…