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Showing posts from May, 2014

Simon Usher - Chorale – A Sam Shepard Roadshow

When Sam Shepard came to Glasgow last year to watch the last night of the Citizens Theatre's production of his 1980 play, True West, the presence of someone who was both Hollywood acting royalty and counter-cultural legend packed out the house. With roots in rock and roll, Beat poetry and America's Wild West mythology, here was an underground icon and self-styled literary outlaw who could be nominated for an Oscar for his appearance in The Right Stuff even as he scripted Paris, Texas for fellow traveller, Wim Wenders.  Yet despite such a pedigree which has embraced the hip while flirting with the commercial, Shepard's stage works are rarely seen in these parts. Prior to True West, the last time one of Shepard's plays was seen on a main stage in Scotland was back in 2009, when the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh produced his 1978 piece, Curse of the Starving Class. The arrival of Chorale – A Sam Shepard Roadshow in Edinburgh, then, provides an all too

Entertaining Mr Sloane

Perth Concert Hall Three stars On the surface, barely anything is made explicit in Joe Orton's dark 1960s comedy of psycho-sexual menace. Every panting innuendo between Sloane's amoral cuckoo in the nest and the middle-aged brother and sister he flits coldly between, however, promises to spill over from Sunday tabloid mundanity into something bigger with every utterance. Now half a century old, Orton's first full-length play teased the Lord Chamberlain, then in charge of what could and couldn't be said onstage, with a taboo-busting mix of contemporary pop buzzwords and stylised baroque. This ages well in London Classic Theatre's touring revival, which arrived at Perth Festival for a one-night stand on Monday night, setting out its store on a jumble of upside-down brass bed-posts and awkwardly angled wardrobes hiding a multitude of sins. Into this mess steps Paul Dandys' sexually ambivalent Sloane, a psycho-pathic piece of rough trade who manages to wrap both his

My Name Is... - Tamasha Theatre Company

When Molly Campbell and her mum Louise Fairlie went to see Tamasha Theatre Company's production of Sudha Buchar's play, My Name Is..., it was an emotional experience. My Name Is..., which tours to the Tron Theatre in Glasgow this weekend as part of the theatre's Mayfesto season, gets behind the sensationalist headlines that  told how, in 2006, the then twelve year old Campbell was apparently snatched from her home on the Isle of Lewis by her father, Sajad, and taken to his native Pakistan. A few days later, Campbell spoke to the world in a press conference to say that, far from being kidnapped, she had gone to Pakistan of her own accord, and would now rather be known as Misbah. Buchar's play, developed over six years after interviewing all three members of the estranged family, aims to set the record straight about a story that wasn't about race or religion, but was more about the painfully familiar fall-out when two people stop being in love, and what happens when


Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh Five stars When a woman steps silently into the sculpted tip which two damaged sisters call home and pulls out a baby rat from the swollen track-suited belly of one of them, it's clear just how feral the twenty-something siblings have become in Vivienne Franzmann's remarkable new play. This is one of few silent moments in a ninety-five minute tug of love between Pink and Rolly that explodes with the pains of every-day survival in the messed-up bubble the women have created for themselves. Rolly has arrived on Pink's doorstep straight out of prison. Barely literate but furiously articulate, with a street-smart patois lifted on the cheap from pop songs and trash TV, Pink and Rolly take on the world outside their door with a snarl. Inside, they find comfort from each other, and while Rolly never sees the projected mayhem going on in Pink's head, a pair of magic red shoes might just make things better. While there are obvious linguistic and thema

Woman in Mind

Dundee Rep Four stars If Alan Ayckbourn had written his 1985 study of one woman's psychological unravelling today, chances are that his heroine, Susan, would be so numbed by Prozac that her descent into fantasy would have been blotted out by the end of the first act. As it is, Marilyn Imrie's lush-looking revival for Dundee Rep's Ensemble company and Birmingham Rep reveals Ayckbourn as a far darker chronicler of the very English garden he occupies than he is often given credit for. Opening with composer Pippa Murphy's anxious-voiced chorale, we're ushered into Susan's idyll, a world occupied by a white-suited husband, a beautiful and talented daughter and a brother who would defend her to the death. Such endlessly sun-drenched perfection is upended, alas, by the reined-in torpor of something both more mundane and a whole lot more complicated.  When it becomes increasingly hard for Susan to tell which world she belongs in, she takes a mental leap too far. Flanked

Whisky Kisses

Pitlochry Festival Theatre Four stars When American wheeler-dealer Ben Munro attempts to buy up the final dregs of the rarest whisky in the world, things don't quite go according to plan. So it goes in Euan Martin, Dave Smith and composer James Bryce's rollicking musical play, in which the Glenigma malt becomes a symbol both of the absurdities of global capitalism and of the life-force of a rural community struggling for economic survival. Of course, John Durnin's big, showbiz-styled production is a whole lot more fun than that, but such underlying political motifs are what drives this revival of a show first seen in 2010 following its development from the Highland Quest competition to find a new Scottish musical. With distillery heiress Mary forced to sell off the last bottle of Glenigma to the highest bidder, the auction also attracts a Japanese collector, setting up an east-west conflict that captures the attention of the Scottish government. With an export ban imposed o

Charles Marowitz - An Obituary

Charles Marowitz - Theatre director, playwright, critic Born January 26 1934; died May 2 2014 Charles Marowitz, who has died aged 80 after struggling with Parkinson's Disease, was a theatrical iconoclast of the 1960s counter-cultural avant-garde, whose uncompromising attitude left its mark bluntly and without sentiment. This was the case whether causing trouble in Edinburgh and Glasgow at the Traverse and Citizens Theatres, working closely with Peter Brook at the Royal Shakespeare Company prior to an Antonin Artaud-inspired Theatre of Cruelty season, deconstructing Shakespeare in London at the radical but glamorous Open Space theatre he co-founded with producer Thelma Holt, or advocating his same wilfully singular artistic vision in Los Angeles during his later years. New York born Marowitz alienated many, and not for nothing was his score-settling autobiography, published in 1990, called Burnt Bridges. The youngest of three children born to Polish Jewish immigrant

Nathan Coley – The Lamp of Sacrifice, 286 Places of Worship, Edinburgh - GoMa, Glasgow, until February 1st 2015

Faith and the lack of it is everywhere in Nathan Coley's work. For his contribution to Generation, GoMA have chosen to restage 'The Lamp of Sacrifice, 286 Places of Worship, Edinburgh', in which Coley built miniature cardboard models of every church, synagogue, mosque and temple in Scotland's capital, then placed side by side in what became a kind of deconsecrated village. “It's always nice meeting an old friend you haven't spoken to for many years,” Coley says of revisiting 'The Lamp of Sacrifice', which has lain in storage for the last decade after being first seen in 2004 at Edinburgh's Fruitmarket Gallery. “I'm feeling excited about it being in Glasgow, and I'm interested in how it transfers to the west coast, even though the metaphor will remain the same.” 'The Lamp of Sacrifice' takes its title from Victorian artist John Ruskin's 'The Seven Lamps of Architecture', in which he stated that 'It is not the church we

Louise Hopkins & Carol Rhodes: Drawings, Paintings and Prints - Edinburgh Printmakers, June 7th-July 19th 2014

When Robert Louis Stevenson declared in his poem, 'Travel' exactly how much he would 'like to rise and go/Where the golden apples grow,-' his artistic antenna was most definitely heightened in a work first published in 1865, and without access to either cheap flights or Google Earth. It is the fourth line of the poem, however, that has lent itself in part to an international residency programme initiated by the five Scotland-wide bases that make up the Scottish Print Network. By enabling ten artists from Scotland and ten from Commonwealth countries to undergo research residencies, 'Below another sky' arguably gave them a taste of the imagined idylls captured by Stevenson. This is expressed most eloquently by two complimentary shows by Louise Hopkins and Carol Rhodes which run in tandem at Edinburgh Printmakers over the next month, and which capture two very different sets of experiences. Where Rhodes revisited India, a place which has heavily influenced her work

Dominic Hill Presents - The Citizens Theatre's Autumn 2014 Season

It's initially an odd sensation seeing Dominic Hill in Edinburgh. So immersed has the artistic director of the Citizen's Theatre been in his own ambitious programme since he took over the Gorbals-based institution that it's rare to even see him out of the building. Yet here he is, in a windowless meeting room in the Royal Lyceum Theatre on Grindlay Street to give the Herald an exclusive look at the Citz's forthcoming autumn season, tickets for which go on sale today. Perhaps Hill's appearance shouldn't be regarded as too off-piste. Prior to his appointment at the Citizens in 2011, he spent three years as artistic director of the Traverse Theatre, a stone's throw away from the Royal Lyceum. More recently, Hill scored one of his biggest hits of the last year with his production of Crime and Punishment, with Chris Hannan's stage version of Dostoyevsky's novel being co-produced by the Citizens and Royal Lyceum Theatres in association with Liverpool's

Nine Lives

Oran Mor, Glasgow Four stars As soon as Zimbabwean refugee Ishmael screws in an over-head bulb in the inner-city high-rise he must now call home at the start of Zodwa Nyoni's painfully pertinent monologue, it casts the harshest of lights on one of the most criminally marginalised sectors of society, both at home and abroad. As a young gay man forced to flee his home-land, Ishmael faces a frying pan/fire situation as he's thrown onto the mean streets of Leeds. When not holed-up in his room or trying to get his former lover to pick up the phone, Ishmael must run the gauntlet of a concrete jungle where pit bulls and young single mums run wild. Ishmael strikes up a friendship with Bex and her toddler son, Bailey, only to run scared from their brief encounter lest he continue living a lie. Even as he finds some kind of salvation via the bright lights down-town, however, Ishmael's future looks far from certain. Arriving in a climate in which some far right political parties woul

Banksy: The Room in the Elephant - Emma Callander at the Traverse

Things got strange for Emma Callander after she first directed Tom Wainwright's play, Banksy: The Room in the Elephant. Originally seen at Oran Mor in Glasgow in a co-production with Bristol's Tobacco Factory, Wainwright's play looks at what happened when iconic street artist Banksy sprayed the words 'This looks like an elephant' on the side of a water tank in Los Angeles. For the previous seven years, the tank had been the makeshift home of Tachowa Covington, who had furnished it to become something of bespoke miniature des-res. Now Banksy had given it the tag of celebrity, however, the tank was designated as a work of art, removed, and sold off to the highest bidder. 'Banksy Brings Misery To Homeless Man' one newspaper headline announced when Wainwright's look at art, commerce and real life first appeared. Things got even stranger during the production's Edinburgh Festival Fringe run, when film-maker Hal Samples, who was making a film about Covingt

Unmastered, Remastered

CCA, Glasgow Four stars A multi-dimensional playground of TV monitors, projector screens and lap-tops is the back-drop for this dramatic rendering of Katherine Angel's remarkable book, Unmastered. First published in 2012, Angel's first-person narrative is part love story, part confessional, part feminist theory made flesh and part getting of wisdom that takes in sex, desire, pornography, loss, grief and the life-giving thrills of all in a series of poetic fragments. In Nick Blackburn's wildly impressionistic work-in-progress staging for his Wooster Group inspired Blackburn Company, which features Angel herself performing the entire book, Unmastered also makes for a beguiling dramatic monologue. A stiletto-heeled Blackburn is one of two men onstage who make up the troupe of six that accompanies Angel, who sits to one side of the playing area, speaking her own words heard through headphones on her mobile phone. While films flicker on the TV monitors, the four women dance or

Braw Gigs Food Bank Benefit - Muscletusk, Fordell Research Unit, FUA, WIDT

Bongo Club, Edinburgh Saturday May 3 rd Four stars It may not have been Live Aid, but by gathering (some of) the clans from Edinburgh's off-piste but ever-fecund experimental/noise diaspora to play for Edinburgh Central Food Bank, promoters Braw Gigs and the Bongo Club have taken a principled stance against one of the most sadly necessary by-products of the Con-Dem alliance and their criminal banker friends' ongoing advocacy of austerity culture. The shadowy presence of Warsaw emigre, WIDT (Antonina Nowacka), opens proceedings with a low-key display of synthesised looped chorales put through a spectral dub blender and set to a projected backdrop of impressionistic images. The quartet of FUA follow this with a sax and drum propelled assault that drives the guitar, electronic and vocal extrapolations beneath, while the increasing volume of Fordell Research Unit's solo samples of criss-crossing slabs of sound is pure Techno for airports. Headliners Muscle

Alan Ayckbourn - Woman in Mind

When Alan Ayckbourn's play, Woman in Mind, first appeared at the writer's spiritual home of the Stephen Joseph Theatre in the Round, Scarborough, in 1985, this first-person tale of Susan, a woman in the throes of a breakdown living duel lives initially confounded critical expectations. Here was a virtual theatrical institution, after all, who had long been regarded, however unjustifiably, as a doyen of middle-class mores, who now seemed to be changing tack, in terms of both form and content. As Dundee Rep prepare to revive Woman in Mind almost thirty years after the play's initial outing in a new co-production with Birmingham Rep directed by Marilyn Imrie, Ayckbourn's thirty-second original stage work can now be regarded as a modern classic. “I was initially interested in writing a play told entirely in the first person,” Ayckbourn recalls of the play's origins. “That is to say, one in which all the action is seen through the eyes of its central character. It’s an i

Our Country's Good

Tron Theatre, Glasgow Three stars There are few directors in Scotland who have more fun with large-scale acting ensembles than Gerry Mulgrew, whose mixing up of theatrical forms has defined his Communicado company for more than thirty yeas now. Seeing Mulgrew apply this approach to such a multi-faceted text as Timberlake Wertenbaker's 1990 look at how transported convicts in an eighteenth century Australian penal colony find emancipation through theatre is a treat, then, in the Tron's second collaboration with Royal Conservatoire Scotland for the theatre's Mayfesto season. In a world where a hanging is the only entertainment going, liberal Second Lieutenant Clark convinces his superiors to allow him to produce a play with the convicts put in his care. After facing initial resistance on all sides, Clark decides on George Farquhar's restoration comedy, The Recruiting Officer, as his directorial debut for a company of thieves, prostitutes and hangmen, all of whom eventuall

The Tempest

Tron Theatre, Glasgow Three stars If there is one important thing highlighted in Andy Arnold's new production of Shakespeare's tale of shipwreck, magic and exile, it is who the real monsters are in Prospero's self-appointed kingdom. In a production presented in association with Royal Conservatoire Scotland for the Tron's Mayfesto season that focuses on colonisation and the spoken word, Caliban's enslavement is put to the fore, however kindly her master may look on her, while Aerial is treated more like a pet. In a punky-looking  production in which both Prospero and Miranda sport elaborately bouffanted blonde barnets, Prospero is an over-protective father and slave-master, while Gonzalo is an old-school toff mourning the death of a dog eat dog empire which even abroad rears its predatory nature. Trinculo and Stephano are akin to a pair of Ealing Comedy spivs who would sell off London Bridge to American tourists, and are quite prepared to exploit Caliban for their ow


Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh Four stars Talking about the weather may be the great British talking point, but storm and sunshine become matters of life and death in David Haig's new World War Two set play. Based on real events leading up to the 1944 D Day landings, the play focuses on Dalkeith-born military meteorologist James Stagg and his sleepless quest to convince General Eisenhower to postpone the assault until a favourable climate prevails. Stagg's main obstacle to being taken seriously is his flamboyant American counterpart, Irving Krick, whose glamour-chasing allure is in stark contrast to Stagg's oddball demeanour. Throw in the fact that Stagg's wife has just gone into labour, and the stage is set for an increasingly urgent culture clash, where victory is celebrated with doughnuts and whisky. Set in a solitary room awash with charts, ringing telephones and a coterie of generals, Haig has constructed a grippingly pacey adventure yarn on the one hand, with Hai

The Libertine

Citizens Theatre, Glasgow Four stars When a troupe of actors wander the stage in civvies and modern-day attitudes before the lights dim and they switch into character, it's a commonplace enough theatrical device these days. When the cast of Stephen Jeffreys' period romp concerning the Second Earl of Rochester's stubborn flight into self-destruction top and tail Dominic Hill's production with such an approach, however, it becomes a device that matters. Jeffreys' version of Rochester, after all, is a man who courted infamy like the most indulgent of rock stars, whose entire crash-and-burn lifestyle was a performance to die for. Unlike the coterie of preening fops, literary groupies and even Elizabeth Barry, the actress he fell for, however, he refused to play to type. Rochester's excesses were no act, but something that fuelled his soul, even as they killed him. Hill's revival of Jeffreys' twenty year old play casts Martin Hutson as an initially charming b

Mercury Fur

Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh Three stars Like Brit Pop, the resurgence of interest in the 1990s wave of 'in-yer-face' theatre among a new generation perhaps points up a lack of anything else to grab hold of, however much some of the originals might have faked it. If playwright Philip Ridley was at the vanguard of that Thatcher-sired storming of the barricades, this revival of his most controversial work from 2005 by the St Andrew's University sired Riot Productions in association with Edinburgh's Black Dingo company makes clear that its brutal mix of gangster movie iconography and dystopian future-shock has lost none of its edge. Twenty-something Elliot bursts into an abandoned flat at the play's start like he's seeking sanctuary from a war zone. In fact, Elliot is pushing a rare and transformative drug that comes in the form of butterflies, and he and his brother Darren are alternative party planners for adrenaline-junky city boys who want to live out Vietnam fanta

Mayfesto 2014 - Colonisation and the Spoken Word

There's a joke doing the rounds of the internet as jokes do, but which originated in America. It's about a man waiting in line in a grocery store behind a woman, who's speaking on her mobile phone in a foreign language. Once the woman has finished her call, the man approaches her, and points out that, as she's in America, she would need to speak English. “Excuse me?” says the woman, before the man very slowly, as if talking to a child, suggests to her that if she wants to speak Mexican, then she should go back to Mexico. To stress his point, the man points out that the woman was in America, where they speak English. “Sir,” says the woman. “I was speaking Navajo. If you want to speak English, go back to England.” Despite its locale, this joke seems to be the perfect illustration of the themes behind this year's Mayfesto, the Tron Theatre's annual look at politically tinged drama, which this year themes its programme around the all too timely notions of Colonisati


Bongo Club, Edinburgh Three stars When one of the carpet-load of balloons that line the club space where the young Creative Electric company's latest show is being performed accidentally pops, it's as if the bang is calling time on a particular moment in the four performers lives before they move on to the next one. In each corner of what looks like a subterranean playroom, each of the cast – two male, two female, germ-free adolescents all - stand before a full-length mirror, recounting what they see in soliloquies of self-image that reveal more than their masked personae intend. Over the course of the next forty minutes or so, those masks are put to one side as each opens up to reveal what it's like to live in a world where image is everything, and social media status creates a kind of playground pecking order. The candour with which the quartet lay bare their growing pains go beyond confessional in Hannah Marshall's touchy-feely immersive production to become a choreo

Uncle Varick

Village Theatre, East Kilbride Neil Cooper Three stars A smashed-up gold-coloured picture frame surrounds the front of the stage for Rapture Theatre's revival of John Byrne's 1960s update of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya. It's as if the action that follows behind it in Michael Emans' production is that of a dust-laden and damaged old master that's been left at the back of a junk shop, out of time and past its best. This is exactly the state that  Jimmy Chisholm's Varick, his niece Shona and a community wrapped up in their collective torpor find themselves in at the start of Michael Emans' production, trapped as they are in their rural idyll in north-eastern Scotland. The times, however, are a changing, as the arrival of Shona's boorish art critic father Sandy and his swingingly young bride Elaine searching for the shock of the new makes clear. Even local whipping boy Willie John has worked up a few incongruous-sounding Beatles numbers into hi

Brassed Off,

Brassed Off, King's Theatre, Edinburgh Four stars When an unemployed miner dressed in a clown suit attempts to hang himself from the machinery he once worked among to the strains of a brass band arrangement of Jerusalem, it's a damning indictment of how one of Britain's greatest industries was treated with contempt. It's also an image which takes Paul Allen's stage version of Mark Herman's 1996 film beyond being purely feel-good to something bigger and braver in Damian Cruden's production, an alliance between the Touring Consortium, York Theatre Royal and the Octagon Theatre Bolton. Like the film, Allen's play is set in the fictional Yorkshire town of Grimley, where, a decade after the 1984-85 miners strike collapsed, the pits are about to finally close. One of the few lifelines for the town is its brass band, run with messianic fervour by ex miner Danny, played by an impassioned and understated John McArdle. While families become increasingly divided, J