Skip to main content

2011 Round-Up - The Best Theatre of The Year in Scorland

Many theatre companies are currently in an extended limbo until chief
funders Creative Scotland finally decide their fate after what must
seem like an eternal wait. As 2011 has proven again and again, however,
great art – a word not used much these days – will out despite such an
on-going silence. In a year which has seen a merry-go-round of artistic
directorships at Perth, the Citizens and Traverse theatres,
cross-company collaboration has seemingly been one solution to being
able to put on big work in cash-strapped times.

If one show illustrated all of the above, it was Age of Arousal,
Stellar Quines’s magical-realist whirlwind co-produced by the Royal
Lyceum, Edinburgh right at the start of the year. Muriel Romanes’
reimagining of Quebecois writer Linda Griffiths’ play was a wildly
skew-whiff Victorian costume romp that was by turns sexy, radical,
witty and wise in a magnificent fusion of word and deed that seemed to
posit a brand new theatrical language.

Adventurousness in terms of mixing form and content has been in
abundance this year. Matthew Lenton’s Vanishing Point company proved
themselves a major international force once again with Saturday Night.
A wordless follow-up of sorts to Interiors and co-produced with Tramway
and a slew of international partners, Saturday Night was similarly seen
through a glass screen. Where Interiors was a melancholy peep-show of
everyday tragedies, however, Saturday Night lurched into more
impressionistically metaphysical waters in a magnificently languid look
at how dreams sometimes turn out.

There were elements of this too in the National Theatre of Scotland’s
breathlessly audacious revival of David Harrower’s contemporary
classic, Knives In Hens. Where before Harrower’s flint-sharp study of
how a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing for a woman discovering
herself in a backwoods rural community was seen as dryly brutal
realism, Belgian director Lies Pauwels ripped into it to create a
knicker-flashing, prat-falling cavalcade that more resembled a messy
night out with Bonnie and Clyde than anything, yet still retained the
unfettered erotic essence at the play’s heart.

If Knives in Hens wasn’t for the purists, then neither was Andrew
O’Hagan’s collaboration with director John Tiffany in a dramatisation
of O’Hagan’s still astonishing social memoir, The Missing. Flitting
between Glasgow, Ayrshire, a London where runaways disappear between
the cracks and a Gloucester haunted by the spectre of serial killers
Fred and Rose West, The Missing became a remarkable meditation on the
loss of self as much as others. Such a beauteous and fragile reading
didn’t fit in with the agendas of some sentimental nationalists,
however, which was their loss.

Ideas were in abundance throughout 2011, especially at the Traverse,
which outgoing artistic director Dominic Hill left towards the end of
the year to run the Citizens. In his wake, Stewart Laing’s Untitled
Projects presented The Salon Project, in which audiences all dressed up
in period finery entered a deliciously rarefied environment to
effectively become the show, learning a thing or two as they went.

There were ideas too in Pass The Spoon, artist David Shrigley’s
collaboration with composer David Fennessy and Magnetic North director
Nicholas Bone. Granted the ideas in this cartoon-like opera involving
giant bananas and suchlike were pricelessly daft, but they still made
for a grand night of toilet humour in excelcis.

Beyond such silliness, some more traditionally-minded and well-built
work was seen on the nation’s bigger stages. These included NTS
revivals of Ena Lamont Stewart’s Men Should Weep and David Greig’s more
recent sequel to Macbeth, Dunsinane. There was also a long overdue
showing of Peter Nichols’ A Day in the Death of Joe Egg at the Citz, a
tour of Tom McGrath’s The Hardman, and a fine Twelfth Night at Perth
from incoming artistic director Rachel O’Riordan. Her production
managed to give Shakespeare a melancholic Chekhovian air in her
captivating debut show for the theatre.

Yet somehow, it was the smaller shows that really mattered in2011, with
the the two most significant presented by the NTS. Molly Taylor’s Love
Letters To The Public Transport System was advertised as a
work-in-progress, but this heart-warming paean to the accidental
arbiters of life’s most important day-trips was anything but. The
absolute show of the year, though, was David Greig’s The Strange
Undoing of Prudencia Hart, a bawdily post-modern reinvention of border
balladeering via karaoke nights and Kylie. Written in rhyme complete
with a raucous musical score that lends itself to the pub venues it
played in, Prudencia’s plight is a force of nature worth selling your
soul for.

The Herald, December 26th 2011

ends

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Peter Brook – The Prisoner

Peter Brook is no stranger to Scotland, ever since the guru of European and world theatre first brought his nine-hour epic, The Mahabharata, to Glasgow in 1988. That was at the city’s old transport museum, which by 1990 had become Tramway, the still-functioning permanent venue that opened up Glasgow and Scotland as a major channel for international theatre in a way that had previously only been on offer at Edinburgh International Festival.
Brook and his Paris-based Theatre des Bouffes du Nord company’s relationship with Tramway saw him bring his productions of La Tragedie de Carmen, La Tempete, Pellease et Mellisande, The Man Who…, and Oh Les Beaux Jours – the French version of Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days – to Glasgow.
Thirty years on from The Mahabharata, Brook comes to EIF with another piece of pan-global theatre as part of a residency by Theatre des Bouffes du Nord, which Brook has led since he decamped to Paris from London in the early 1970s. The current Edinburgh residency has alr…

Suzy Glass – Message from the Skies

Freedom of movement matters to Suzy Glass, the arts and events producer currently overseeing the second edition of Message from the Skies.This animated literary derive around the city forms part of this year’s Edinburgh’s Hogmanay programme, and runs right through till Burns’ Night. Glass’ concerns are inherent in the event itself, which has commissioned six writers from different disciplines and experiences to each pen a love letter to Europe. Each writer has then paired up with a composer and visual artist or film-maker, with the results of each collaboration projected in monumental fashion on the walls of one of half a dozen of the capital’s most iconic buildings.
With venues stretching from the south side of Edinburgh to Leith, and with one city centre stop requiring a walk up Calton Hill, there is considerable legwork required to complete the circuit. It shouldn’t be considered a race, however, and audiences are free to move between venues at their leisure, visiting each site on d…

Romeo And Juliet - Shakespeare's Globe Comes to Glasgow

Open-air Shakepeares are a summer-time perennial of the theatre calendar, attracting picnicking audiences as much as midges. More often than not, such romps through the grass are frothy, heritage industry affairs designed to be accompanied by strawberries and cream and not to be taken too seriously. Shakespeare’s Globe theatre company look set to change such perceptions when they open their outdoor tour of Romeo And Juliet in Glasgow next week as part of the West End festival.

For the two young actors taking the title roles of the doomed lovers, it will also be something of a homecoming. Richard Madden and Ellie Piercy both studied in Glasgow prior to turning professional. Indeed, Madden has yet to graduate from the acting course at RSAMD, and, as well as facing the pressures of playing such a meaty role in close proximity to the audience, will have the added anxiety of being assessed and graded by his tutors.

“This is the end of my third year,” says Madden following a Saturday mornin…