Skip to main content

Rita, Sue and Bob Too


Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
Four stars

As teenage baby-sitters Rita and Sue are presumed to be initiated into the ways of the world in twenty-something sleaze-bag Bob’s car, the opening of Andrea Dunbar’s still brutally funny fly on the wall study of life on the margins of Thatcher’s Britain looks like a Viz comic cartoon come to life. Played by Taj Atwal and Gemma Dobson with a fearless vivacity in Kate Wasserberg’s revival for Out of Joint, these already hard-bitten kid-ults know a lot more than they let on.

Three and a half decades since Dunbar’s play first shook up the London stage, this sense of street-smart sass is what drives it, with its reflections of more recent sightings of everyday sexual grooming now looking obvious where they once hid in plain sight. Set in front of a mural-sized photograph of Bradford by night, just a few chairs and the entrance to a tenement block are onstage to house Rita and Sue’s already spartan lives. The soap opera that unfolds is far grislier than anything on the episodes of Coronation Street the girls watch en route to the painful transition to becoming grown-ups.

Viewed today, the result is a time capsule that’s as much a document of social apartheid and the thrill-seeking extremes which underclass boredom on sink estates inspires as tragi-comic drama. Set to a score of 1980s hits slowed down to a narcotically woozy sludge, the dialogue’s noisy surface hilarity has a far bleaker under-current pulsing every line. In this way, Dunbar’s play is a template for everything from This is England through to Shameless. Like them, as Sue’s Mum and Bob’s ex-wife Michelle cling together for comfort at the play’s bittersweet end, some kind of damaged and dysfunctional community remains against all odds.

The Herald, February 16th 2018

ends

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Maids

Dundee Rep

Two sisters sit in glass cases either side of the stage at the start of Eve Jamieson's production of Jean Genet's nasty little study of warped aspiration and abuse of power. Bathed in red light, the women look like artefacts in some cheap thrill waxworks horror-show, or else exhibits in a human zoo. Either way, they are both trapped, immortalised in a freak-show possibly of their own making.

Once the sisters come to life and drape themselves in the sumptuous bedroom of their absent mistress, they raid her bulging wardrobe to try on otherwise untouchable glad-rags and jewellery. As they do, the grotesque parody of the high-life they aspire to turns uglier by the second. When the Mistress returns, as played with daring abandon by Emily Winter as a glamour-chasing narcissist who gets her kicks from drooling over the criminal classes, you can't really blame the sisters for their fantasy of killing her.

Slabs of sound slice the air to punctuate each scene of Mart…

Futureproof 2017

Street Level Photoworks, Glasgow until February 4th 2018
Four stars

Now in its ninth year, Futureproof's showcase of recent graduate photographers from seven Scottish art schools and universities returns to its spiritual home at Street Level, with nineteen artists embracing photo essays, abstraction and constructed narratives. It is Karlyn Marshall's Willies, Beuys and Me that grabs you first. Tucked in a corner, this depiction of a woman impersonating iconic artist Joseph Beuys says much about gender stereotyping, and recalls Manfred Karge's play, Man to Man, in which a German woman took on her dead husband's identity.

The personal and the political converge throughout. Ben Soedera's Foreign Sands contrasts natural resources and the constructed world. Gareth and Gavin Bragdon's The Bragdon Brothers moves onto the carnivalesque streets of Edinburgh. Kieran Delaney's Moments also looks at the apparently ordinary. Matthew Buick goes further afield, as tourists…

James Ley - Love Song to Lavender Menace

James Ley had never heard of Lavender Menace when he won an LGBT History Month Scotland Cultural Commission award to write a new play. While Edinburgh's pioneering gay book shop that existed between 1982 and 1987 before reinventing itself in new premises as West and Wilde wasn't on Ley's radar, he had vaguely heard of the Gentlemen's Head Quarters, the nickname for the public toilet that existed at the east end of Princes Street outside Register House. He was also half aware of Fire Island, the legendary gay nightclub that existed at the west end of Princes Street in a space that now forms the top floor of Waterstone's book shop.

As he discovered, Fire Island was a central focal point for what was then a still largely underground gay scene in Edinburgh's capital. Alongside the likes of the Laughing Duck pub on Howe Street, Fire Island was one of the few places where HI-NRG music could be heard in what would these days be dubbed a safe space for gay men and wo…