Monday, 10 August 2015

Stewart Laing - Paul Bright's Confessions of A Justified Sinner

When Stewart Laing remounts his 'reconstruction' of Paul Bright's Confessions of A Justified Sinner in the Queen's Hall for the Edinburgh International Festival run of what at first glance looks like a piece of solo theatre performed by George Anton, it may look as though the lunatics have taken over the asylum in which the Queens Hall itself plays a significant part.

Presented by Laing's Untitled Projects in co-production with the National Theatre of Scotland, Glasgow's Tramway venue and the Edinburgh-based Summerhall, Laing's collaboration with Anton and writer Pamela Carter charts the rise and fall of a radical young theatre director attempting to mount a stage version of James Hogg's iconic 1824 novel, The Private Memoirs and Confessions of A Justified Sinner.

According to Laing and co, Bright's seminal piece of hidden history took place in the unreconstructed landscape of 1980s post-industrial Glasgow. Fusing Carter's text with meticulously created archive work by artists Robbie Thompson and Jack Wrigley and scratchy film footage created by Christopher Doyle, when it opened at Tramway in 2013, Paul Bright's Confessions itself seemed like an enfant terrible of a show, mourning the marginalisation of maverick outsider artists even as it flirted with the mainstream.

In a key moment of Laing's production, Bright's production of Confessions of A Justified Sinner is picked up by the Edinburgh International Festival and performed at the Queen's Hall. As life imitates art in this way, Laing's production becomes the ultimate piece of meta-theatre, and is the perfect way to introduce Edinburgh International Festival's new strand, which sees already existing wave-making Scottish work programmed alongside new commissions.

Laing has trodden his own wilfully individualistic path as a director and designer over the last twenty years that has seen him work extensively with the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow and on twentieth century European classics. He has also won a Tony award for his design of the 1997 musical, Titanic. With Untitled forming the heart of his work over the last few years, Laing has already successfully taken Paul Bright to Sweden, and the show later played the 2014 Dublin Theatre Festival at the Abbey Theatre.

“In the end,” says Laing, “Paul Bright is a show about how you make art, and I think anybody interested in theatre-making or the arts will find something of interest in it.”

Paul Bright's Confessions of A Justified Sinner, Queens Hall, August 19th-22nd, 8pm; August 22nd, 4pm.
www.eif.co.uk

Commissioned by Edinburgh International Festival, this appeared in their Theatre Insights magazine, August 2015

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