Skip to main content

The 39 Steps


Ardler Community Centre, Dundee
Four stars

The BBC Scotland clock is ticking, the announcer is primed and the old-school microphones are switched very much on for the opening of Dundee Rep’s annual community tour. This year, in a spirit of familiarity as well as a neat twist on nostalgia, the ensemble company under the guidance of director Irene Macdougall renders Alfred Hitchcock’s cinematic reimagining of John Buchan’s classic ripping yarn as a 1930s live radio play. So, while Joe Landry’s ingeniously annotated version of the story focuses on the potentially world-changing fallout of upper-crust hero Richard Hannay’s flight from his London des-res after a female spy is murdered in his bedroom, such a novelty opens out a multitude of narrative layers.

The result in Macdougall’s meticulously observed production is what Hannay’s accidental nemesis turned love interest and saviour Pamela Stewart calls a “penny dreadful spy story” is a pukka romp that whisks the audience along a heady trail of international conspiracy in high places. Five actors led by Ewan Donald as Hannay and Emily Winter as Pamela move from high-speed trains to highland intrigue, with a big reveal coming courtesy of a music hall memory man on Leila Kalbassi’s pocket-sized set. With every line chiselled into shape to lead a listening audience with a visual reference, being able to witness the magic behind every door-slam, key-turn and simulated snog is a deconstructive delight.  

While by and large all this is played straight, with period mannerisms and actorly affectations to the fore, some knowing Mr Cholmondley-Warner style hamminess proves irresistible at points. Donald, Winter, Barrie Hunter, Ann Louise Ross and Billy Mack are clearly having a hoot. Crucially, they never undermine the fast-moving and deceptively complex plot that makes every moment an adventure.

The Herald, June 14th 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 …