Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
A very English cup of tea begins and ends James Graham’s rapid-fire study of the incendiary fall-out of 1960s idealism, when the dangerous ideas learnt by the young generation raised in the ashes of what poet Jeff Nuttall dubbed bomb culture blew up in everybody’s faces.
Graham’s forensic deciphering of real life events when a group of Stoke Newington anarchists vented their spleen by bombing such establishment totems as the Miss World contest at the Royal Albert Hall and swinging fashion emporium Biba is a masterful Yin and Yang-like construction. While the first half focuses on Special Branch’s attempts to get inside the minds of the terrorists, the second shows the same time-line of events from within the pressure-cooker existence of the Brigade’s alternative lifestyle.
Debbie Hannan’s production, performed with energetic zeal by final year BA acting students from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, initially resembles an episode of Life on Mars scripted by Joe Orton. With Malcolm Cumming’s Harry Palmer-like copper Smith leading the chase, he and his team turn on and tune in to a crash course of situationism, psycho-geography and other counter-cultural concepts. The freeform freakout that follows is the flipside of their privileged prey, who move from child-like nihilism to strung-out indulgence before a set of psycho-sexual neuroses straight out of R.D. Laing kick in.
Hannan has a riot with the chaos that ensues from both sets of would-be freedom fighters, with trippy projections, Hawkwind on the stereo, communal dance moves and a police station love-in all thrown into the mix. As Megan Valentine’s Anna attempts to restore some order into her life, this particular period of anarchy in the UK is revealed as one more rites of passage for a generation en route to transforming anger into energy.
The Herald, May 31st 2018