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Showing posts from October, 2014

Dangerous Corner

Theatre Royal, Glasgow Three stars A shot in the dark and the shrill scream that begin J.B. Priestley's philosophical thriller don't tell the full story of something possessed with the airs and graces of a hokey drawing-room whodunnit, but which ends up as a tortured treatise on human nature's power to deceive. These attention-grabbing noises off are themselves a theatrical double bluff, as they open out onto a post dinner party scene where the ladies of the extended Caplan clan are making small talk. A cigarette box seems to carry more weight than anyone is letting on, and only when the gentlemen enter does revelation upon revelation pile up alongside the much missed figure of the late Martin Caplan. Martin was the social glue and a whole lot more besides of a publishing set steeped in the well turned out veneer of its own fiction. Sex, drugs, love and money are all in the mix, be it straight, gay, between husbands, wives and other part-time lovers. If only they'd mana

Dominic Hill - The Citizens Theatre's Spring 2015 70th Anniversary Season

When the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow announced earlier this year that the centrepiece of the theatre's  seventieth anniversary Spring season in 2015 would be a new production of John Byrne's play, The Slab Boys, it confirmed excited whispers which had been circulating for some time. The Slab Boys, after all, has become a bona fide modern classic since it premiered at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh in 1978. The fact that it will be directed by David Hayman, who had directed the original production of the play that redefined Scottish theatre thirty-six years ago gave the news an extra frisson. After blazing a trail as part of the legendary 1970s Citz ensemble, The Slab Boys will be Hayman's second return to his theatrical alma mater under its current artistic director Dominic Hill's tenure, following his barn-storming turn in the title role of Hill's production of King Lear. Today's exclusive announcement in the Herald confirms that the remainder of the Citz

The Drawer Boy

Paisley Arts Centre Four stars When self-absorbed actor Miles turns up at an isolated farmhouse in search of a story, he gets more than he bargained for when he's taken in by Morgan and Angus who live there.  Both Second World War veterans, these life-long friends play out their lives in early 1970s Ontario, working the land as they keep old and uncomfortable memories at bay. Miles' arrival awakens something in a damaged Angus that can't be placated anymore by baking bread, counting stars and listening to Morgan's possibly unreliable tales of how they got to where they are. Inspired by real-life events that led to The Farm Show, a defining moment in Canadian theatre,  Michael Healey's 1999 play taps into a rich seam of dramatic and social history even as it pokes fun at the try-too-hard earnestness that springs from Miles and his big city ways. Out of this comes a tender meditation on how stories can enlighten even the most shattered minds. Alasdair McCrone's to

The Gamblers

Dundee Rep Four stars Ever feel like you've been cheated? John Lydon's famous phrase springs to mind in Selma Dimitrijevic's production of her new version of Gogol's nineteenth century comedy, penned here with Mikhail Durnenkov. This isn't just because of the Sex Pistols t-shirt sported by one of the key players in the elaborate sting that follows from an unholy alliance between con-men. It is the way too that Dimitrijevic and her all-female ensemble play with artifice and gender in a way that itself is a stylistic gamble. Yet, as each character enters the locker-room to play macho games, it pays dividends even as the gang hustle their victim into suspending their own disbelief. Initially nothing is hidden in this co-production between Greyscale and Dundee Rep Ensemble in association with Northern Stage and Stellar Quines. Once the sextet of players have put on charity shop suits and waistcoats, they pick up instruments to become a junkyard dance-band before a playg


Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh Four stars Five women emerge from the blackness of Jamie Vartan's panoramic staging at the start of Lu Kemp's revival of Sue Glover's 1991 play, each dragging a wooden crate attached to a rope behind them. Resembling a quintet of Mother Courages, this is just one of many powerful images in Glover's brutal and unsentimental study of life across the seasons for six women working the land  in nineteenth century rural Scotland. Hired by the gentry and paid a pittance, youngsters Liza and Jenny line up alongside Sara and her teenage daughter Tottie. Maggie works alongside them inbetween tending to her bairns, while ex Bondager Ellen occasionally loosens her corset and comes down from the big house she married into. All have yearnings, be it for Canada or a local farm-hand, and when work turns to play, Tottie's tragedy is inevitable. After more than a decade without a production on home soil, one of the most striking things about Bondagers

The King's Peace: Realism and War

Stills, Edinburgh until Sunday. Four stars While the welter of artistic contributions to the one hundred year anniversary of the First World War's opening salvo have been resolutely non-triumphalist, recent events in Palestine and what looks set to be Iraq Part Three suggest little has been learnt in the intervening century. As Remembrance Day looms, this is where this dense and at times overwhelming compendium of war in pieces curated by artist Owen Logan and Kirsten Lloyd of Stills comes in. A sequel of sorts to Logan and Lloyd's previous collaboration on the epic ECONOMY project, which looked at global capitalism in a similarly polemical fashion, the starting point of The King's Peace is selections from Masquerade: Michael Jackson Alive in Nigeria (2001-2005). Logan's satirical photo-essay sees him pick up the mantle – and the white mask – of the late pop icon and travels to Africa, where his mysterious collaborators the Maverick Ejiogbe Twins subsequently p

Talk To Me Like the Rain and Let Me Listen...

Little Theatre, Dundee Four stars A quartet of rarely-seen short plays by Tennessee Williams isn't the obvious choice for Dundee Rep Ensemble's fifth annual tour of the city's community venues. In director Irene Macdougall's hands, however, Williams' sad little studies of little lives in everyday crisis are revealed to be as rich in poetry and poignancy as his tempestuous full-length works. Opening with the compendium's title piece, the self-destructive urges of the play's damaged young couple played by Thomas Cotran and Millie Turner are captured in a series of desperate exchanges that sees them finally cling to each other for comfort. Like them, all of Williams' characters create elaborate fictions for themselves in order to survive the madness of the world beyond the bare floorboards and shabby rooms of Leila Kalbassi's set. Punctuated by a melancholy piano score, the plays contain a contemporary currency too that speaks variously about art, addic

Sue Glover - Bondagers

Before Sue Glover wrote Bondagers, books on the subject of female farm workers in the nineteenth century seemed to be pretty thin on the ground. Once Glover's play charting six women's travails through the seasons became a hit in Ian Brown's original production for the Traverse Theatre in 1991, however, everything changed. The play's emotional landscape and lyrical largesse tapped into something that audiences lapped up, and Brown's production was revived for bigger theatres and toured to Canada. Suddenly there seemed to be a welter of literature on the subject, while the play itself was recently named as one of the twelve key Scottish plays written between 1970 and 2010. Twenty-three years on since its premiere, and more than a decade since it was last produced on home soil, Bondagers comes home to roost in Lu Kemp's new production at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh. Even with such an extended absence, Glover remains close to the play. “It's difficult

Damir Todorovic

Actor, choreographer, theatre-maker Born June 20 1973; died  October 15 2014 Damir Todorovic, who has died aged 41 following a short struggle with cancer, was an actor prepared to go places others feared to tread. This may not have been immediately obvious in a stream of film and TV roles in which the Serbian-born performer's shaved head and sharp East European features saw him frequently play the bad guy. With the Glasgow-based Vanishing Point theatre company in shows such as the award-winning Interiors, The Beggars Opera and Wonderland, however, he created parts that were quietly intense and which, by way of Vanishing Point's devising methods, were born from a place deep within him. It was made even clearer just how far Todorovic was prepared to go in As It Is, a show created by himself in which he strapped himself to a lie detector while being interrogated about his time as a young soldier in the Serbian army during the Balkan conflicts in 1993.  Originally commissioned by

The Night Before The Trial and The Sneeze

Tron Theatre, Glasgow Three stars While John Byrne's 1960s reinvention of Anton Chekhov's Three Sisters plays to packed houses in the Tron's main house, Marcus Roche's bite-size staging of two of the Russian master's miniatures is an all too fitting curtain-raiser. Roche himself opens proceedings as Chekhov, manning the decks with some particularly riotous Russian dance numbers on the stereo before reading brief excerpts from his diaries. These take place shortly after the original production of The Three Sisters has been a massive flop, and Chekhov considers penning funnier fare once more. This leads neatly into Roche's adaptation of the unfinished The Night Before The Trial, in which a man awaits his fate on the eve of being hauled before the court for attempted bigamy and attempted murder. He is subsequently usurped by a young woman in need of medical assistance he'd be happy to administer if only her pesky husband wasn't also on the scene. Played scr

Famous Five – Young Marble Giants, The Pop Group, Vic Godard & Subway Sect, The Sexual Objects, Pere Ubu

Young Marble Giants The minimal palette of Cardiff trio Young Marble Giants' first and only album, Colossal Youth, remains as spooky and as fragile today as it was when it crept quietly into the post-punk landscape in 1980. The Pop Group Bristol's incendiary troupe of avant-punk insurrectionists return after this year's Celtic Connections show to perform their just repressed We Are Time album in full. Manic dub-funk sloganeering dangerous enough to bring down governments. Vic Godard & Subway Sect Subway Sect's support slot on the Edinburgh Playhouse date of The Clash's May 1977 White Riot tour at Edinburgh Playhouse inspired what would become The Sound of Young Scotland. Godard's re-recordings of his vintage northern soul period can be heard on 1979 Now. The Sexual Objects One of those attending the Edinburgh White Riot date was Davy Henderson, who formed Fire Engines, Win and The Nectarine No 9 before morphing into The SOBs, who ha

Young Marble Giants - Return of the Colossal Youth

Young Marble Giants never meant to reform. In truth, the Cardiff-sired trio, who play their first ever Glasgow show on Monday night, had been barely there in the first place. The band's sole long-playing release, Colossal Youth, named, like their own, after images of ancient Greek statues, seemed to have come fully formed from nowhere when it was released by Rough Trade records in 1980. The record's collection of fifteen austere vignettes sounded like nothing else around, with brothers Stuart and Philip Moxham weaving clipped, scratchy guitar and bass patterns around singer Alison Statton's fragile, untutored voice as she sang Stuart Moxham's lyrical fragments with a distance that made them sound like the darkest of nursery rhymes. A drum machine and occasional organ added to the eeriness, as did the shadowy image of the trio on the album's suitably stark cover. Lo-fi doesn't come close. “We didn't think it was going to get anywhere,” says Stuart Moxham

United We Stand

Oran Mor, Glasgow Three stars When a convicted prisoner talks about how the real conspiracies in the country are not between trade unionists and workers, but with politicians and corporations protecting the wealthy few, and how trade unions may soon be illegal, you could be forgiven for thinking the words are spoken by some contemporary dissident. As it is, they are the parting shots from striking builders Des Warren and future comedy actor Ricky Tomlinson, who, along with twenty-two other men in 1972 following a volatile period of industrial unrest in the UK, were convicted on the nineteenth century law of 'conspiracy to intimidate and affray.' It is the plight of the men who became known as the Shrewsbury 24 that is the subject of Neil Gore's loose-knit musical play for Townsend Productions which is currently on a whistle-stop tour of the country that takes in North Edinburgh Arts Centre tonight and Blantyre Miners Welfare club on Sunday. With the help of just an overhe

Linda Griffiths - An Obituary

Linda Griffiths - Playwright, Actress. Born October 7 1953; died September 21 2014 Linda Griffiths, who has died aged sixty following a battle with breast cancer, was as wildly inspiring as she was wildly inspired, both as an actress and a playwright in her native Canada and beyond. Nowhere was this more evident in the latter than in Age of Arousal, Griffiths' 2007 play set in a nineteenth century secretarial college where five women search for emancipation in very different ways. In her programme notes for Muriel Romanes' 2011 production of the play for the Stellar Quines theatre company at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh, Griffiths herself described her work as being ”wildly inspired” by George Gissing's novel, The Odd Women, which she discovered in the dollar bin of a second-hand book-store. “I turned it over, and it on the back it said ‘Five Victorian Spinsters’,” Griffiths said in an interview with the Herald at the time of the production, “and I

Peter Grimes - An Obituary

Peter Grimes - Actor, Writer, Adventurer. Born July 16 1966; died October 4 2014. Peter Grimes, who has died aged forty-eight following a long illness, was more than just an actor. He was an adventurer and a seeker, whose empathy, both with the characters he played and with the audiences he played to, reflected his sense of melancholy clowning with a deep-set truth at its heart. This was the case whether appearing as Bottom in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, as Shere Khan the tiger in The Jungle Book, as Barrabas, the thief pardoned as Jesus Christ was crucified beside him, or in the title role in an  expansive production of Peer Gynt, Ibsen's classic fantastical romp of self-knowledge. These characters reflected Grimes' own imagination, which was almost certainly too wild to fit into a theatrical mainstream, and it was telling that most of the theatre companies he worked for were similarly maverick operations which embraced the creative freedo

Dublin Theatre Festival 2014 - Brigit, Bailegangaire, Our Few And Evil Days, Vardo, The Mariner

It's half-past three on a Sunday afternoon outside the Olympia Theatre in Dublin's Dame Street, and a scrum of bodies is masquerading as an orderly queue. Despite all appearances to the contrary, the rammy isn't a result of some reality TV teen sensation about to appear in concert on the Olympia stage. It is instead down to the Galway-based Druid theatre company's brand new productions of two very different plays by veteran Irish playwright and another kind of legend, Tom Murphy. Druid's revival of Bailegangaire, which they first presented in 1985, was a mighty enough proposition by itself for this year's Dublin Theatre Festival, which ended this weekend. A tale of a senile old woman telling a story she refuses to finish as her two-grand-daughters navigate their lives around her has become a modern classic. Paired with a new play, Brigit, a prequel of sorts featuring the characters from Bailegangaire thirty years earlier was an even more tantalising prospect.

Tony Cownie - New Man In Cumbernauld

There's something of a homecoming feel to Tony Cownie's appointment as associate director of Cumbernauld Theatre while artistic director Ed Robson goes on sabbatical for a year sourcing theatre abroad. It was in the former farm cottages situated in the local park, after all, where the director and actor made his professional debut in the late Tom McGrath's play, The Flitting. That was back in 1990, since when Cownie has carved out a successful career as a comic actor with edge, with roles varying from the Porter in Macbeth to an award-winning turn as the troubled Kenny in Mark Thomson's play, A Madman Sings To The Moon. In the mid 1990s, Cownie moved into directing with Liz Lochhead's play, Shanghaied, which was later presented with a second act as Britannia Rules. This led to a fruitful relationship with the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh, where he was encouraged by the late Kenny Ireland, and latterly under Thomson, Ireland's successor as artistic directo

Auld Alliance Contemporary Exhibition

Institut Francais, Edinburgh / E.D.S. Gallery, Edinburgh, both until November 1st. Three stars French fancies abound in this group show of work from nine artists – five French, four from Scotland - mixed and matched across two galleries that bridge the gaps between Edinburgh's New Town and the city's West End. This is made explicit in Samantha Boyes' florid constructions, which at first glance look like afternoon tea is being served until you notice the assorted stuffed bird's heads and other wild-life nesting within. This sets an anthropological tone that sees much monkeying around throughout. Where Jacob Kerray's chimps in military drag come on like dressing-up box tinpot dictators, Dix10's pistol-packing infant taking aim at a kids entertainer's dog-shaped balloons in fatal repose gives similarly subversive edge to such  otherwise cutie-pie subjects. Elsewhere, few do this better than Rachel Maclean, whose explorations of national identity by way of da

Linwood No More

Tron Theatre, Glasgow Three stars  From beneath a pile of cardboard surrounding a park bench, a middle-aged man comes crawling from the wreckage he calls home. A casualty of the rise and fall of the Linwood dream, when the manufacture of the Hillman Imp put the small Renfewshire town  on the map before the plug was pulled as bigger, shinier cars dazzled the paying public even more, the Man sees in the new millennium with a dram and tells his story. It's a sorry and sadly familiar tale he tells, of how he started on the production line straight from school as a wet-behind-the-ears youth, met his wife and built a life on the back of it, only to be unceremoniously thrown onto the scrap heap as capitalism failed and the dream faded. But it gets worse, as he loses his life-long love and hits the bottle, only to appear at least, to have survived, seriously bruised, but unbowed. At first glance, Paul Coulter's monologue, performed with steely commitment by Vincent Friell in a prod


Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh Three stars If you go down to the woods any night this week, you're in for a big-ish surprise with this new show from Vision Mechanics, which promenades its way after dark en route to some ecologically inclined Shangei-la. With the audience gathered in groups of twenty or so, the show's director and creator Kim Bergsagel and her trusty sidekick lead the throng to an Occupy style camp-site where they introduce us to the wisdom of an enlightened fellow traveller before we're encouraged to eavesdrop on the conversations going on inside the tents. Depending on where you're coming from, these sound either like heated debate or out and out bickering in what looks and sounds like a pastiche of grass-roots activism. With a police bust imminent, we're led down assorted paths, where a film by Robbie Thomson uses shadow puppetry and Ewan Macintyre's eastern-tinged backwoods soundtrack to tell the story of the show's inspiration, Amrit

Stewart Laing - Paul Bright's Confessions of A Justified Sinner at Dublin Theatre Festival

When Paul Bright's Confessions of A Justified Sinner was first presented by Untitled Projects and the National Theatre of Scotland in 2013, the performance and accompanying exhibition were far from straightforward interpretations of James Hogg's novel, which was presented as a possibly unreliable memoir on the alleged crimes of its narrator, Robert Wringham. Rather, in the hands of director Stewart Laing, playwright Pamela Carter and a network of visual artists and researchers from the 85A collective, Paul Bright's Confessions found actor George Anton relate memories of a legendary stage version of Hogg's book presented in the late 1980s by the maverick figure of radical theatre director  Bright. Anton's monologue was accompanied by scrappy film footage of incidents and rehearsals surrounding Bright's production alongside interviews with Bright's fellow travellers. What emerged from the play alongside the exhibition's meticulously observed archive was a


Tramway, Glasgow Four stars The lights are down on the entire auditorium from the start  of Vanishing Point's magical-realist meditation on how age withers us. With only a triangle of light cast between two grey door-frames, it could be a wake. The vague figures handing out what at first appears to be a production line of new-borns suggest something else again culled from the darkest of science-fiction graphic novels. When a young man on the way to the hospital where his wife has just given birth bumps into an old man in the park, a seemingly chance meeting lurches into a troubling dreamscape that sees the young man become a mere memory of the elder. As a possible escapee from an old people's home, he is by turns pettted and patronised by staff too wrapped up in their own lives to do anything other than care by rote. Devised by director Matthew Lenton with dramaturg Pamela Carter and a cast of eight, Tomorrow is as far away from the spate of plays about ageing that have sprung