Skip to main content

The Pool of Bethesda


Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
Four stars

Matters of life and death are an everyday experience for Daniel Pearce, the doctor at the centre of Allan Cubitt’s little-seen 1991 play, in which the good doctor must face up to his own mortality. As all the women in his life – his lover, Jane, sister, Ruth and nurse, Kate – flock to his bedside, Pearce falls down a Hogarthian rabbit hole inspired by the painting that hangs on the stairwell of St Bart’s Hospital, and which gives the play its title. The delirium that ensues throws up a vivid scenario in which Pearce poses as Christ for Hogarth’s painting, while his real-life loved ones are reinvented as a parade of eighteenth century good-time girls and fops. It takes more earthbound associations with a bottle of Polish vodka provided by Callum Douglas’ hospital porter Simon and a meeting with a former patient, however, to put Pearce’s priorities into harsh perspective.

The play marked the first sighting of Cubitt, who rapidly moved into television, penning Prime Suspect 2. He is best known these days for creating the Gillian Anderson-led psychological cop drama, The Fall. Perhaps tellingly, The Pool of Bethesda bears a superficial, if non-musical resemblance to Dennis Potter’s hospital-set TV fantasia, The Singing Detective, which appeared five years before Cubitt’s play.

Mark Thomson’s production is performed by final year BA acting students from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, who get to grips with a heap of first-world grown-up stuff, which they play with a steely intelligence. Both Edward Soper as Pearce and Paula Nugent as Jane are unafraid to heighten their characters flaws as much as their virtues in a work where all of the women seem biblically devoted to Pearce in a dramatic think-piece on faith, healing, love and loss.

The Herald, May 21st 2018

ends

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

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…

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…

Bdy_Prts

Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh
Saturday December 2nd


It should probably come as no surprise that professional dancers are in the audience for the Edinburgh leg of this mini tour by spectral performance art/pop auteurs Bdy_Prts on the back of the release of their sublime debut album, The Invisible Hero. Beyond the music, the raison d’etre of Bdy_Prts’ dynamic duo of Jill O'Sullivan and Jenny Reeve, after all, is a flamboyantly costumed display of kinetic physical jerks and modernist shape-throwing to illustrate a set of fizzing machine-age chorales.

In this sense, the Bdy_Prts live experience is several works of art for the price of one that's a long way from the pair's formative work fronting Sparrow and the Workshop (O'Sullivan) and Strike the Colours (Reeve). Part living sculptures, part Bloomsbury Group super-heroines, part widescreen pop fabulists, O'Sullivan and Reeve paint their faces with ancient symbols and sport customised shoulder pads that look both seasonally …