Skip to main content

Confessionals

Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh
Four stars

The simple but necessary message of Victoria McNulty’s quietly intense piece of stand-up spoken-word drama is beamed at the back of the stage at the end of the show. For the previous hour, McNulty has taken us from Glasgow high-rise to east-end boozer to what happens after closing time. As told in rough-hewn rhymes, what began as a piece for the Visible Women festival at Kinning Park becomes a painfully familiar litany of everyday abuse hiding in plain sight within a bubble of breadline poverty and hand-me-down sectarianism.

Told through the experiences of a central figure of a barmaid who bears witness to drunken excesses, it opens with a recording of independent Irish republican MP Bernadette Devlin speaking to journalists in 1972 after she slapped the then Conservative Home Secretary Reginald Maudling. This happened after Maudling claimed the soldiers who shot dead fourteen civil rights marchers in Derry on what became known as Bloody Sunday had acted in self-defence. One of the journalists questioning Devlin suggested she had acted in an un-lady-like manner.

This introduction is a small but knowing nod, both to institutionalised misogyny and the state violence that normalises it. McNulty brings things up to date, and shows how little has changed. Each umbilically linked monologue is punctuated by songs from Abi Normal, who perches on one side of the stage, guitar in hand like an open mic night turn, but whose words and music lean more to old-school political cabaret.

Directed and produced by Kevin P. Gilday and Cat Hepburn, hosts of Sonnet Youth, the Glasgow-based self-styled ‘spoken word house party’ and ‘literary rave’ where McNulty became a slam poetry champion, McNulty’s debut full-length work speaks plainly without tub-thumping, and is all the more powerful for it. On one level, Confessionals is a near neighbour of Two, Jim Cartwright’s pub-set odyssey, in which two actors played both mine hosts and a roll-call of their establishment’s regulars. By focusing on her barmaid, McNulty’s world is both more intimate and more brutal in a devastating solo turn.

The Herald, July 23rd 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 …