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The Guitar Man

Paisley Arts Centre
Three Stars

The glass is neither half empty nor half full for the lonesome troubadour and one-man band at the centre of Norwegian writer Jon Fosse's monologue, performed by Renee Williams with the sort of hangdog sense of under- achievement that could have stepped in from the after-hours sidewalk of a mid 1970s Tom Waits sob story.

With only a guitar case and a pocket full of loose change to call his own, Fosse's creation charts the loneliness of the long-distance busker, whose everyday form of street- smart musical panhandling never quite solicits the pot of gold his younger self probably aimed for at the end of the now faded rainbow he can no longer be bothered chasing.

What emerges in Fosse's tale of ordinary madness is the result of what happens when everything that once defined you lets you down. The Guitar Man's particular slide into self-negation begins in the clutter of Sarah Beaton's set with the snapping of a guitar string. The musical fragments that follow are provided by composer Hanna Tuulikki, as Williams attacks her guitar with the freeform zeal of an anti-folk auteur deconstructing wildly at some underground open-mic night.

The last time Fosse's work was seen in these parts was probably by way of David Harrower's translation of The Girl on the Sofa, a similarly intimate close-up of fractured lives. This was seen at the 2002 Edinburgh International Festival in a production by Thomas Ostermeier for Berlin's Schaubuhne Theatre. The Guitar Man preceded that play, although Nora Wardell's production for her new Surrogate company in association with Glasgow's Platform venue seems to have blown in from the same lonely street it occupied.

All the big existential questions are intact in Louis Muinzer's translation, as The Guitar Man comes in from the cold to tell his story of lost love, broken families and an increasingly discordant music that's slowly fading away. Like him, Surrogate’s production moves on to several towns until the end of the month.

The Herald, May 2nd 2019

ends




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