Skip to main content

The 306: Dawn

Dalcrue Farm, Perth
Five stars

In a barn outside Perth, three young men are being forced to face up to their unplanned, unwanted and heartlessly unnecessary destiny in Oliver Emanuel's meditation on the 306 men executed for cowardice in World War One. As brought exquisitely to life in Laurie Sansom's impressionistic music theatre staging, this epic co-production between the National Theatre of Scotland, World War One centenary art commissioning project, 14-18 NOW, and Perth Theatre in association with Red Note Ensemble belatedly honours the dead.

Emanuel's play focuses on three of the men; Harry Farr, Joseph Byers and Joseph 'Willie' Stones, and shows the human frailties behind their eventual fate. From a shellshocked Farr's final moments with his young wife Gertrude, to Byers' enthusiasm to join up, all three men are brutalised by the institution they so loyally served.

Seen between the hours of 2.30 and 4am, the action moves across five stages which are raised above designer Becky Minto's complex network of catwalks and framed by a platform fenced by trees carved into the shape of rifles. Sansom's swansong as artistic director of the NTS shows off his ability to navigate a cast around such a vast expanse in a way that makes every moment matter.

As well-drilled ensembles go, the nine actors are more than a match for the highly choreographed chutzpah of Black Watch, that other war-based dramatic collage that first put the NTS on the map. Here, however, the imagery drawn from Emanuel's writing is gentler and more vulnerable as it betrays . the fear and horror of cannon fodder packed off to a foreign land, with some of those fighting for a cause they could barely comprehend not long out of short trousers.

It is driven too by the sweep of Gareth Williams' score, in which the actors part sing their lines accompanied by Red Note Ensemble members, pianist Jonathan Gill, cellist Robert Irvine and violin player Jackie Shave. Josef Davies, Scott Gilmour and Joshua Miles play Harry, Joe and Willie with an unerring grace in this most brilliantly moving of elegies.

The Herald, May 30th 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…

Futureproof 2017

Street Level Photoworks, Glasgow until February 4th 2018
Four stars

Now in its ninth year, Futureproof's showcase of recent graduate photographers from seven Scottish art schools and universities returns to its spiritual home at Street Level, with nineteen artists embracing photo essays, abstraction and constructed narratives. It is Karlyn Marshall's Willies, Beuys and Me that grabs you first. Tucked in a corner, this depiction of a woman impersonating iconic artist Joseph Beuys says much about gender stereotyping, and recalls Manfred Karge's play, Man to Man, in which a German woman took on her dead husband's identity.

The personal and the political converge throughout. Ben Soedera's Foreign Sands contrasts natural resources and the constructed world. Gareth and Gavin Bragdon's The Bragdon Brothers moves onto the carnivalesque streets of Edinburgh. Kieran Delaney's Moments also looks at the apparently ordinary. Matthew Buick goes further afield, as tourists…

James Ley - Love Song to Lavender Menace

James Ley had never heard of Lavender Menace when he won an LGBT History Month Scotland Cultural Commission award to write a new play. While Edinburgh's pioneering gay book shop that existed between 1982 and 1987 before reinventing itself in new premises as West and Wilde wasn't on Ley's radar, he had vaguely heard of the Gentlemen's Head Quarters, the nickname for the public toilet that existed at the east end of Princes Street outside Register House. He was also half aware of Fire Island, the legendary gay nightclub that existed at the west end of Princes Street in a space that now forms the top floor of Waterstone's book shop.

As he discovered, Fire Island was a central focal point for what was then a still largely underground gay scene in Edinburgh's capital. Alongside the likes of the Laughing Duck pub on Howe Street, Fire Island was one of the few places where HI-NRG music could be heard in what would these days be dubbed a safe space for gay men and wo…