Skip to main content

Winter Solstice

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars

For some reason, both The Sound of Music and Mike Leigh spring to mind watching this touring revival of German writer Roland Schimmelpfennig’s play, told via David Tushingham’s deft English translation in co-production between Actors Touring Company and the Orange Tree, Richmond.

If the Christmas Eve dinner party round at Bettina and Albert’s arty liberal des-res recalls the latter, the slow-burning malevolence of a pound-shop fascist called Rudolph quietly cuckooing his way into the nest very much evokes the former. Rudolph was invited by Bettina’s infuriating mother Corrina, and is both unerringly polite and charmingly eccentric. By the end of the night, however, the world has been quietly turned upside down.

This is how the rise of the new right happens, according to Schimmelpfennig; not with a bang, but with an after-dinner Chopin recitation and some carefully loaded references to a new world order, degenerate art and sticking to one’s own kind. As Bettina, Albert, Corina and their insecure painter friend Konrad flail about, they’re either intent on preserving now fractured certainties or else desperate to cling onto the coat-tails of some brand new guru who might give them something to believe in. See Brexit, Trump and anyone who ever took a personality test on Facebook.

Things become even more mind-bending in Alice Malin’s exposed and expansive production. The cast of five walk on in unassuming rehearsal room civvies and sit round a table loaded with disposable coffee cups and packets of sweets that are used as props as the actors play things out with stage directions to the fore. This makes for a fascinating melee of domestic detritus, as Kirsty Besterman’s Bettina and Felix Hayes’ Albert spar their way to becoming willing accomplices to their own destruction while the music marches mournfully on.

The Herald, March 23rd 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…