Skip to main content

Edward II,

Botanic Gardens, Glasgow
Five stars

Pride was beaming on the streets of Glasgow this weekend, and, whether by accident or design, for Bard in the Botanics to open its no-holds-barred revival of Christopher Marlowe’s brutal history play to coincide with the celebrations was a masterstroke. Here, after all, is a play several centuries ahead of its time in its depictions of a gay affair in high places, the openness of which is stamped out by a cowardly homophobic establishment.

Gordon Barr reimagines his stripped-down four-actor adaptation in the tight-lipped 1950s, when homosexuality was still illegal in the UK. This doesn’t stop Charlie Clee’s Gaveston swaggering on in denim and leather like Joe Orton’s swingingly amoral toy-boy from Orton’s breakout play, Entertaining Mr Sloane.

Reunited with Laurie Scott’s King Edward after Gaveston’s return from exile, the pair flaunt their physical affections with flamboyant and self-absorbed abandon. This is what gets to Andy Clark’s uptight Lord Mortimer, a man in uniform who wears his medals where his heart should be. But it is Edward’s embattled French queen Isabella who feels the cruel brunt of Edward and Gaveston’s public displays of affection the most.

In the first half at least, this renders Esme Bayley’s brilliantly brittle Isabella as a well-turned-out wifelet keeping up appearances, but who looks like she might shatter into a million pieces any second.

Edward and Gaveston themselves resemble a matinee idol double act. As they promenade the full length of the Kibble Palace hand in hand to a soundtrack of 78RPM slow-dance smoothers tailor-made for gentleman’s clubs of the most intimately private mind, it’s clear they believe themselves to be invincible.

There’s a sense of urgency to Barr’s production that brings out a set of fearless performances from all four actors. As Mortimer, Clark is the epitome of that soul-less breed of bunged-up little Englanders terrified of anything they don’t understand.

As Bayley’s Isabella slowly but surely morphs into a venus in furs, she is surrounded by ghosts that will never leave her, and is left holding a lot more than the baby.

The Herald, July 16th 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 …