Skip to main content

The Dark Carnival

Tramway, Glasgow
Five stars 

Something is stirring beneath the cold, dark earth in Vanishing Point’s rollicking graveyard opera, brought to life by director Matthew Lenton in an epic co-production with the Citizens Theatre in association with Dundee Rep. There are bodies asleep in coffins piled on top of each other as Elicia Daly’s narrator wanders into the light, before Biff Smith and his pasty-faced street corner cabaret band strike up the first of a string of chansons that soundtrack a night of the undead. Above them, mourners pay assorted respects to their loved ones. Higher still, drunken angels keep their own council, enjoying the fruits of their out of touch immortality.

What emerges out of designer Kenneth MacLeod’s magnificent funereal set is a series of noisy visual tableaux to accompany the live music inbetween rhymed exchanges between the eccentric members of an accidentally thrown together underground community. With the sixteen-strong ensemble swathed in celestial light and shade conjured up by Simon Wilkinson, this makes for a slow-burning meditation on life, death and the messy bits inbetween, where any chance of resting in peace is unlikely.

As with much of Vanishing Point’s previous work, there is plenty to reflect on here about loss and grieving. This lends a poignancy to things, especially as related in Daly’s magnificently quasi-Dickensian delivery. This time out, however, there is a kind of bittersweet acceptance and a playful levity pulsing things. So while there are ghosts haunting them all, from Malcolm Cumming’s Young John and Peter Kelly’s Old Peter who mourns him, the peace they crave is enlivened by a song and dance routine to brighten up their sorry state of affairs.

It takes the young, embodied here in the spirit of Olivia Barrowclough’s Little Annie, to fight the collective inertia which binds them. From here, they rise up against those on high and storm Heaven’s gates, as each and everyone sings out for the great refusal, and for the joy of life itself.

The Herald, February 27th 2019


ends

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

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…

Kieran Hurley – Mouthpiece

Things have changed since Kieran Hurley first began writing the play that would become Mouthpiece, which opens at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh this weekend. At the time, Hurley was, in his own words, “quite new on the scene.” As a writer and performer, he had already scored hits with Beats and Chalk Farm, two pieces that put him on the map with a new generation of theatre-makers steeped in an equally new wave of grassroots opposition that drew from the iconography of revolutions past. Where Beats looked at the politicisation of 1990s club culture, Chalk Farm, co-written with AJ Taudevin, focused on a teenage boy caught up in the 2011 London riots.
More plays followed. Some, like Heads Up used the same solo story-telling aesthetic to look at an everyday apocalypse. More recently, Square Go, written with Gary McNair, dissected toxic masculinity through a school playground fight.
All the while as Hurley developed as a writer, from new kid on the block to established provocateur, this…

Rob Drummond – The Mack

Rob Drummond was at home in England when he looked at the news feed on his phone, and saw a post about the fire at Glasgow School of Art. It was June 2018, and the writer and performer behind such hits as Grain in the Blood, Bullet Catch and Our Fathers initially presumed the post was to mark the fourth anniversary of the 2014 blaze in GSA’s Mackintosh Building, which was undergoing a major restoration after much of it was destroyed.
As it turned out, the news was far worse, as reports of a second fire were beamed across the world. As someone who had taken Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s iconic construction for granted while living in Glasgow, Drummond was as stunned as anyone else with even a passing relationship with the Mack.
While emotions continue to run high in response to the disaster, Drummond channelled his thoughts on all this into what he does best. The result is The Mack, a new play that forms part of Oran Mor’s A Play, A Pie and a Pint lunchtime theatre season in Glasgow prior …