Thursday, 5 June 2014

Grit: The Martyn Bennett Story

Tramway, Glasgow
Four stars
Anyone who ever witnessed the full live experience of dread-locked
piper extraordinaire, Martyn Bennett, at the height of his 1990s pomp
will know only too well how powerful his fusion of ceilidh and club
cultures could be. Bennett's tragic death of cancer in 2005 aged just
thirty-three robbed the world of a composer and musician bursting with
talent and a lust for life which can't help but cause one to wonder how
his work might have developed.

Much of Bennett's passion is captured in this new dramatic homage,
conceived and directed by Cora Bissett, who also collaborates on Kieran
Hurley's script for a co-production between Bissett's Pachamama
Productions, Tramway and the Mull-based Comar organisation. As with the
show's inspiration, Bissett mixes and matches forms with abandon.
Opening speeches to the audience find actors Sandy Grierson, Hannah
Donaldson and Gerda Stevenson, respectively playing Bennett, Bennett's
wife, Kirsten, and his mother, folk singer Margaret Bennett. We're then
burled through the sketch-book naturalism of Bennett's early years
before things let rip with a series of impressionistic contemporary
dance moves and aerial displays choreographed by Dana Gingras, all set
to a back-drop of archive film footage and Gaelic language projections.

With the principal cast and dancers ably supported by a large youth
ensemble, this is undoubtedly impressive, even if early parts of the
script shoe-horn in a tad too much polemic. When we move into Bennett's
final years, however, it is heart-rending to watch Grierson replicate
Bennett's demise. The emotional power of Bennett's story can't be
over-stated, especially when illustrated by such high-octane set-pieces
accompanied by Bennett's own music. Like its creator, that music
remains a force of nature.

The Herald, June 5th 2014


ends

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