Skip to main content

Observe The Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme

Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
Four stars

When the eight squaddies fighting for king and country swap Protestant sashes before going into battle towards the end of Frank McGuinness' 1985 play, revived here by Jeremy Herrin, it resemblance a victorious football team swapping shirts with their noble opponents. Such an image speaks volumes about McGuinness' mighty meditation on maleness in all its troubled forms. By this stage the World War One volunteers have moved from act one's peacockish barrack room sparring to become a unit who would die for each other, with everything that really matters between them left painfully unsaid.

These men too are the ghosts conjured up by old Kenneth Pyper, the regiment's sole survivor of its final battle, who wakes as if from a nightmare at the start of the play and ushers his former comrades to would-be triumph at its end. Inbetween, Pyper's effete aesthete holds court to a role-call of Belfast tough guys, failed preachers and others caught in the crossfire and desperate for something to believe in, if only each other. For young Pyper, played with a mix of foppish charm and vulnerability by Donal Gallery, that belief comes in the form of Ryan Donaldson's David Craig.

Their fellow cannon fodder too cling to each other for comfort in this slow-burning collaboration between the Citizens, Dublin's Abbey Theatre, Headlong and Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse.

Peppered with drum-beats throughout and set against the stunning scarlet skies of lighting designer Paul Keogan, Herrin's production has taken a genuinely brave piece of writing and made something that is both elegiac and heroic in every way.

The Herald, May 27th 2016

ends

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Maids

Dundee Rep

Two sisters sit in glass cases either side of the stage at the start of Eve Jamieson's production of Jean Genet's nasty little study of warped aspiration and abuse of power. Bathed in red light, the women look like artefacts in some cheap thrill waxworks horror-show, or else exhibits in a human zoo. Either way, they are both trapped, immortalised in a freak-show possibly of their own making.

Once the sisters come to life and drape themselves in the sumptuous bedroom of their absent mistress, they raid her bulging wardrobe to try on otherwise untouchable glad-rags and jewellery. As they do, the grotesque parody of the high-life they aspire to turns uglier by the second. When the Mistress returns, as played with daring abandon by Emily Winter as a glamour-chasing narcissist who gets her kicks from drooling over the criminal classes, you can't really blame the sisters for their fantasy of killing her.

Slabs of sound slice the air to punctuate each scene of Mart…

Phoebe Waller-Bridge - Fleabag

Phoebe Waller-Bridge is a busy woman. The thirty-two year old actress who burst onto our TV screens as writer and star of Fleabag, the tragi-comic sort of sit-com about a supposedly independent woman on the verge is currently overseeing Killing Eve, her new TV drama which she's written for BBC America. As an actress, Waller-Bridge is also filming a big screen project which we can't talk about, but which has already been outed as being part of the ongoing Star Wars franchise.

These are both pretty good reasons why Waller-Bridge won't be appearing in the brief Edinburgh Festival Fringe revival of the original stage play of Fleabag, when it opens next week at the Underbelly, where it was first unleashed to the world in 2013. In her place, Maddie Rice will take on the role of the potty-mouthed anti-heroine after touring Vickie Jones' production for Waller-Bridge and Jones' DryWrite company in association with Soho Theatre. This doesn't mean Waller-Bridge has turned…

The Divide

King's Theatre
Four stars

Everything is black and white in Alan Ayckbourn's new play, a six hour two part epic set in a dystopian future where men and women are segregated from each other following the aftermath of an unspecified plague. Into this landscape, the secret diaries of brother and sister Elihu and Soween are brought to life by Jake Davies and Erin Doherty with a wide-eyed lightness of touch as their hormones get the better of them when they both hit puberty.
Annabel Bolton's production for the Old Vic, EIF and Karl Sydow begins with a TED Talk type lecture that reveals the back story to how things turned out this way. It ends with a sentimental love story designed to tug the heart-strings. Inbetween, there is teenage rebellion aplenty against the regime's institutionalised repression. Liberation comes through art and sex, which, in such extreme circumstances become even greater life forces.

With both plays told through the siblings' diaries alongside ass…