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Wounds To The Face

RSAMD, Glasgow
3 stars
It’s eleven years since Howard Barker’s poetic meditation on face values received its debut in Edinburgh as the most unlikely Fringe act ever. Then, Barker’s fierce series of interlocking variations on a theme was seen in a production by Stephen Wrentmore for Barker’s own Wrestling School company. Now, RSAMD may be in a mess about many things, but let’s hope the ten final year students in Hugh Hodgart and Liam Brennan’s production can take some of the play’s sacred and profane complexity out into the world with them.

With the audience seated informally on the New Athenaeum stage as the fire curtain falls, perceptions of who’s watching who are flipped on their head from the off. The woman putting on her make-up at the mirror as she prepares to face the world sets the tone for a highly-charged catwalk of bomb-blasted soldiers, hooded terrorists, pin-up boy freedom fighters who can’t decide between God and revolution, prisoners who’ve lost their youth and masked mystery men with irresistible allure. Image, public or otherwise, is everything.

Like the plastic surgeon who attempts to nip, tuck, remake and remodel their subject, Barker’s linguistic knife appears even closer to the bone than it was on the play’s first outing. Hodgart and Brennan’s actors relish the opportunity to bring such notions into life as they race about Kirsty McCabe’s morror-lined set. If there’s a tendency at times to treat each scene as set-piece audition speeches, it’s only because the language is such a delicious mix of anger, intellect and eroticism flipping over each other in an instant, colliding the next in a dramatic exercise of considerable sound and fury.

The Herald, May 22nd 2008

ends

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