Skip to main content

Rachel Maclean – The Weepers

An Tober, Tobermory, Isle of Mull
Until September 27th
Four stars
The Scotch mist that wafts around Duart Castle at the opening of Rachel
Maclean's new film speaks volumes about where she's coming from in what
looks like a major leap towards something even more ambitious than her
previous work in this major commission for the Mull-based Comar
organisation. Films such as LolCats and Over The Rainbow became pop
cultural cut-ups featuring green-screen footage resembling Lady Gaga
and Katy Perry video stylings in which Maclean played a multitude of
day-glo Cos-playing creatures lip-synching dialogue sampled and
rearranged from a similarly eclectic array of film and TV sources to
create her own fantastical narratives.

Following her three-screen epic dissection of broken Britain in the
Oliver-sampling Happy and Glorious, however, The Weepers sees Maclean
put flesh and blood on her dressing-up box multi-tracking as she
directs real live actors in a bricks-and-mortar setting. Not that there
is anything remotely resembling kitchen-sink naturalism about this
twenty-five minute short that looks to tartan kitsch, Beast in the
Cellar era Hammer horror and the sort of dungeon-dwelling history-based
Scots gothic that used to clog up Halloween tea-time TV schedules.

Scripted by Andrew Cattanach and with an original soundtrack by Sorren
Maclean and Hannah Fisher, Maclean's film sets out its store from the
off, as the grim-faced Dr Boswell turns up at the labyrinthine
ancestral home of Lady Maclean to take stock of the bright-eyed tat
that forms the detritus of the Maclean clan's crumbling pile. Given the
film-maker's name and the fact that her reimagining of the legend of
the Bean Nighe or Washer Woman – a grotesque spirit who wrings out the
blood from the grave-clothes of those close to death – was filmed in
the actual seat of the Maclean clan, such an in-joke is a way in for
Maclean that provides dramatic riches for what follows.

As played by well-known comic actor, Steven McNicoll, who is currently
appearing at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, in DC Jackson's play,
Kill Johnny Glendenning, Boswell's hang-dog dourness is off-set by the
fruity faux politesse of his hostess, who sounds like a well-primed
Jean Brodie if Muriel Spark had rewritten her for the Sunday Post
funnies page, fed her short-bread and given her a Vivienne
Westwood/See-You-Jimmie make-over. It is after-hours, however, when
things really come to life, as a wailing oversize woolly mutation duly
fleeces Boswell, allowing the Maclean dynasty to lurch on in the
shadows unmolested.

In McNicoll's hands, Boswell becomes a pen-pusher of Knoxian demeanour,
while  Lady Maclean is played with relish by Kirsty Strain, who
previously worked with Maclean in 2013 on Germs, providing all the
voices for the artist's three-minute dissection of advertising culture
seen as part of Channel 4's Random Acts series of short films. While
divvying out the roles this time, like Hitchcock and all the great
movie auteurs, Maclean can't resist saving a part for herself as the
hairy beastie looking for a way out of its prison.

Beyond the pantomimic wit and close-up melodrama of The Weepers, there
is an inherent seriousness in a film that seems to stem from a time
when artists films could still flirt with a mainstream which accepted
them in part even as it kept its distance. This is a trope that has
been picked up by the likes of The League of Gentlemen and their
assorted off-shoots, whose high-camp pastiches of clunky grand guignol
are nevertheless meticulously observed. In Maclean's hands, the sort of
Scottish heritage industry totems that VisitScotland would make
compulsory go beyond Celtic twilight cliches to become something
altogether more dangerous in this darkly comic miniature masterpiece.

The List, September 2014


ends  

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Peter Brook – The Prisoner

Peter Brook is no stranger to Scotland, ever since the guru of European and world theatre first brought his nine-hour epic, The Mahabharata, to Glasgow in 1988. That was at the city’s old transport museum, which by 1990 had become Tramway, the still-functioning permanent venue that opened up Glasgow and Scotland as a major channel for international theatre in a way that had previously only been on offer at Edinburgh International Festival.
Brook and his Paris-based Theatre des Bouffes du Nord company’s relationship with Tramway saw him bring his productions of La Tragedie de Carmen, La Tempete, Pellease et Mellisande, The Man Who…, and Oh Les Beaux Jours – the French version of Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days – to Glasgow.
Thirty years on from The Mahabharata, Brook comes to EIF with another piece of pan-global theatre as part of a residency by Theatre des Bouffes du Nord, which Brook has led since he decamped to Paris from London in the early 1970s. The current Edinburgh residency has alr…

Romeo And Juliet - Shakespeare's Globe Comes to Glasgow

Open-air Shakepeares are a summer-time perennial of the theatre calendar, attracting picnicking audiences as much as midges. More often than not, such romps through the grass are frothy, heritage industry affairs designed to be accompanied by strawberries and cream and not to be taken too seriously. Shakespeare’s Globe theatre company look set to change such perceptions when they open their outdoor tour of Romeo And Juliet in Glasgow next week as part of the West End festival.

For the two young actors taking the title roles of the doomed lovers, it will also be something of a homecoming. Richard Madden and Ellie Piercy both studied in Glasgow prior to turning professional. Indeed, Madden has yet to graduate from the acting course at RSAMD, and, as well as facing the pressures of playing such a meaty role in close proximity to the audience, will have the added anxiety of being assessed and graded by his tutors.

“This is the end of my third year,” says Madden following a Saturday mornin…

Suzy Glass – Message from the Skies

Freedom of movement matters to Suzy Glass, the arts and events producer currently overseeing the second edition of Message from the Skies.This animated literary derive around the city forms part of this year’s Edinburgh’s Hogmanay programme, and runs right through till Burns’ Night. Glass’ concerns are inherent in the event itself, which has commissioned six writers from different disciplines and experiences to each pen a love letter to Europe. Each writer has then paired up with a composer and visual artist or film-maker, with the results of each collaboration projected in monumental fashion on the walls of one of half a dozen of the capital’s most iconic buildings.
With venues stretching from the south side of Edinburgh to Leith, and with one city centre stop requiring a walk up Calton Hill, there is considerable legwork required to complete the circuit. It shouldn’t be considered a race, however, and audiences are free to move between venues at their leisure, visiting each site on d…