26 November – 31st December
Whether frolicking with one’s family this season, or wanting to spoil yourself if the wee flutterlings are elsewhere, in absentia, the Lyceum’s Alice in Wonderland is a true jewel. This kafkaesque pantomime is a metaphorical glass of bubbly in the middle of the Christmas heave-a-thon, & Lewis Carroll would be like, ‘how the hell did they pull that off,‘ by which I mean the stagecraft conjured by director Anthony Neilson & designer, Francis O’Connor, was quite marvelous, an all-immersive, slightly surreal, costume-clever journey worth the ticket alone.
Performance-wise, all the cast are on top form – they all looked like they were having a ball. Jess Peet makes her debut with a stylish sincerity which belies her years, her commanding stances & mellifluous speeches carving an Alice to remember. Around her, in the multi-tasking ensemble, start-turns abound; Zoe Hunter’s Hookah-puffing Caterpillar & Tam Dean Burn’s Hatter among them. For me, Alan Francis’ Duchess was sublimely entertaining, & I found myself flashbacking to when I went to the pantomime as a child with my gran’s ‘works’ – pure unadulterated childhood joy in a man of 40 years. There was also music, the occasional short set-piece interlude interspersed through the action which worked perfectly.
I’d taken the wife, by the way, & the kids, & all four of us left the Lyceum in the finest of fine spirits. Our seven-year old had giggled through 30 percent of Alice & stared boggle-eyed in wonder at the rest. The wife, who likes the theatre but doesn’t adore it, told me in no uncertain terms that that she’d hardly spare a thought for a seeing a play a second time, but with Alice she would definitely go back. The story of course, is a simple one, & it is not for the story I expect – but what the Lyceum have done with it is wondrous.
Reviewer : Damo Bullen
Oran Mor, Glasgow
Play, Pie, Pint (1pm)
This peach of a play by the late great poet and writer Willie McIlvanney ( Laidlaw, The Papers of Tony Veitch and Walking Wounded )resonates all the more having been revamped since its first airing in 2004. Energetic and genuinely funny insights into the twists and turns of new divorcee John Mitchell,(Iain Robertson) will have you in stitches, this is Oran Mor’s magical theatrical hour at its shiniest best.
From the set to the lighting – not to mention the audience participation – and finally to the acting itself , this well scripted piece of west coast escapism does just what you want it to, it transports you out of your own head. John, romantic idealist who has nothing to show for his 16 marriage except some spellbindingly funny memories entertains us with words of wisdom as well as his upbeat approach to what can only be called dire circumstances , have you ever seen someone fill the kettle with the water from their hot water bottle?.And make you laugh watching him do it?
Optimist John guides the audience through the antics of his latest love life with patter that is as fresh now as was when penned over a decade ago. Such capers hit the spot because the raw Weegie underworld is never too far away for John, even in the midst of his suave dalliance with Sally who he believed to be ‘ the one.’ His amorous toyings with the lovely Sally end differently than he imagined but there is no doubt that he won the heart of the audience even if he doesn’t manage to find the woman of his dreams.
Excellently directed by Gillies Mackinnon (Small Faces)invited by Robertson who played thirteen year old Lexi in his semi-biographical feature film twenty two years ago to direct McIlvanney’s one man performance. What more could you want? Don’t miss this chance to see this riveting play by the father of Tartan Noir who wrote 1985 movie The Big Man ( Liam Neeson, Billy Connolly) and won a Bafta for his screen adaptation “Dreaming”.
Reviewer : Clare Crines
The Citizens Theatre
Script: Stagecraft: Performance:
As the audience filled into the lavishly decorated stalls looking up to see balcony and high ceiling the massive stage was busy with props such as tables and chairs but also alternate clothing rails with what looks like fancy and expensive clothing. The acting began before the play in a way that let us in with a welcoming and relaxed feeling easing us into the heightened evening’s performance.
Dialogue began introducing three characters who were dressed in finery that was French in appearance, in a period where the story of ‘the Rivals’ was set, as rich as though you were there in France. In a sporadic way, or seemingly so, the stage comes to life as a space that was enticingly able to vary its character. First of the scenes suggest to us a drama of large proportions that the backdrop carried. We were invited to observe the stage as an interchangeable medium localised into French stylish fancies.
Classical dialogue ensued well where the characters dress would implicate their positions in society but also in the play. It did a dance between poetry, poetic meaning, and the clause of word of mouth to be acted upon. Self-reflection became a clear motive from about the third act on, as the musical nature of the players who moved in ways to enhance the visual spectacle, now undoubtedly unfolding into the story of love that takes many to understand, undoubtedly a motive for each and every conversation.
One can take two or three steps back during the action and dialogue that played with word, feeling and suggested themes of honour that were particularly bestowed upon the Captain Jack character; who was played well by a soft spoken Rhys Rusbatch an accomplished actor since his days at learning and with the Royal Shakespeare Company. The idea behind looking at characters in this way was no less than a brilliant ploy that moves faster and into better and better shapes we could only see in joy. There was also a very distinct comedic rhetoric that the audience really appreciated and is an inherent part of this style of theatre script.
The introduction of the character Lydia Languish played by experienced actress Lucy Briggs-Owen would have stolen the show from the very beginning if she had not been so taught, and had a semi innocent brashness moving from ecstasy to laying her comedic self upon the stage floor. The backdrop provided their separating function well, partly because of the sheer size of the stage, and because they moved the feelings of the scenes and thus coincided with the acting and dialogue. This was another display of experience and adherence to the idea that is the art of playmaking including a side splitting aw that serious acting can spring from.
Lively, active, poetically sincere; a mesh of characters that helped play the field that ultimately was all dedicated to the course of love between well matched couples. The play was served to a great extent by enhancement of everything that went into it, including a distinct emotional bond that had a wealth to it in the form of taking us along for the ride. In the jovial play of characters was the Welshman Bob Acres played by Lee Mengo who was a strong character though fraught with weakness and then actively participated in a great crescendo of the play where comedy tied together meaning for character and the unfolding discourse.
An element of persuasion does dominate the sense of scenes but it was never despaired upon in more reflective moments. On the theme of reflecting it was Sir Anthony Absolute’s character who offered sense to dialogues but he too developed a dodgy sense of humour as he guides the play into a sense of Captains Jacks honour as a man. Mrs Malaprop (the most comedic name), played by Julie Legrand had perhaps the largest role in her fancy costumes, she wore two dresses one red the other lilac. To call this play expert would I think be missing the point of an evening such as this. There was a touch of pantomime but it was only a hint of it because the play was more seriously governed as a play to contend with and in the quality behind it. Mrs Malaprop was the device behind the desire that Captain Jack and Lydia who languish should become together in love; a sentiment which she was not alone in. At certain times we could see her solitude, lending her a grace that we could also appreciate.
The most luxurious character had to be Lucy played by Lily Donovan who is a recent graduate from Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. In her we saw the drama of the evening unfold through her heartfelt reasoning and bargaining. We followed her around the stage as she grew in the hearts of us, telling no jokes but also living no lie but to heed the voice of her powerful character. This gave the theme of love a very level direction on the strengths of her alone.
Larger than life, characters, costumes, props, backdrops; this is a night that will hold your attention, marry you to the stage, love the characters, relish in the heady dialogue laugh out loud at the absurd treatment of some of the dialogue and general sense of the play. Be impressed at the sense of ease, excitement, sometimes enthralling atmosphere of word, language accent delivery, and genuine sense of love that is ultimately where every point turns to. Come along to the Citizens for an evening of entertainment that may enthral you.
Reviewer : Daniel Donnelly
A Play , A Pie and A Pint
Oran Mor, Glasgow
to the 5th November
Script: Stagecraft: Performance:
Thirsty pigs Viv, Coco and Lacey are unwittingly in transit to the slaughterhouse. Viv, a cross-bearing, praying pig (surreal indeed) is trying to make the journey easier for all concerned, but Coco (Claire Cage) is rightly suspicious. From the back of the lorry we are subjected to an animal rights play that would make eating your lunchtime pie – glad I chose quiche – a tad hard to swallow.
As was this week’s Oran Mor play. To a less than packed out theatre we encounter non-conformist Coco, more of a sow-preferring pig than a hog-chaser with her faux punk look. At least she wants to escape unlike Viv (Sally Reid), whose solution to everything is to kneel down and burst into prayer. Dippy Lacey (Michele Gallagher) can’t see beyond herself and is a sandwich short of a picnic anyway so we can’t really relate to her and her aspiring pig/actress role —– ‘ petrified porker….the trotter awards wait for no pig.’
This questionable comedy by Kelly Jones examines why we slaughter animals for food and clothing and questions the ethics in doing so. This is a subject with zero humour, let’s face it – we like our meat to remain tasty with no reminders of the trauma the animals went through. Despite knowing that the actresses were doing the best they could and did manage to raise a smile a few times , the whole sad tail (pig body part thrown in just to show you how annoying the pig humour was and not a typo ) was a chore and I wouldn’t recommend it, sorry.
Reviewer : Clare Crines
27 October -12 November 2016
Jumpy feels like a generic play, but of a new genre completely – the hyper-realistic account of a world in which social-media opens every aspect of our life to public scrutiny. The presiding theme of the play is the domestic & social tensions which arise between a teenage girl & her middle-aged mother. Very much a first hand account, its playwright April de Angelis, told the Mumble; ‘I wrote Jumpy around the time I turned 50 & my daughter 16. Two iconic ages in the same household lead for a stormy year which then inspired a play. It’s not a ‘true story’ per se but the feeling of being in, what was for me, uncharted parental territory was true. Writing the play also allowed me to reflect on other thoughts that year had given me; was the very liberal parenting style we had adopted the best? Did it sometime backfire on us?’
The stage we first encounter is slickly excellent – all the trappings of modern life heaped up jumble-grumblingly with a crumbling wallpaper & a fridge full of white wine. This is the universal nest of the disfunctional family unit – the wild teenager providing the main catalyst to a marriage held together through habit. Her name is Molly Vevers, her part Tilly, & she gives a razor-sharp account of her role – the rebellious harrumphing groan she made at one point being an uncanny audiomatch to our 9 year-old’s own protestations against parental authority. Indeed, this is one of the chief qualities of Jumpy – its universality, its warm embraces of reality – we’ve all been there in one form or another.
Jumpy is also very funny. Every scene has at least one power-gag, & there is a sprinkling of titter-spiraling thespian jokes provided by Lyceum stalwart Richard Conlon’s Roland. ‘I’m worried about you!’ sighs Gail Watson’s warmly raw Frances to her daughter… ‘Well, I’m worried about you, you’re fuckin’ mental,’ snaps back Vevers to her ‘mentalpausal’ mother. Into the mix we have plenty of modernisms – bodysonic dance floor, vagina necks & facebook sluts – plus a wicked wee sound track to boot. All these flavour the entertaining sub-plots which weave in & out of each other towards a deliciously delicate denoument. Televisual & quite sitcommy at times, & at others as if they were performing in your front room, Jumpy remains interesting throughout… perhaps fading from its high engagement factor a little towards the end – its almost two hours long.
The whole thing felt like an unconscious rebirth of the Commeddia Dell’Arte tradition of 16th century Italy: when various plots were played out by the same comedic stereotypes. Five centuries later these stereotypes have changed somewhat : the teenage pregnancy, the age-defying cougar, the shiver-grunting EMO, are what we moderns understand today. In an earlier interview, director Cora Bisset told the Mumble ‘In all honesty, this has been one of the most straightforward and enjoyable processes I’ve experienced. It’s a great play, and April has created these wonderful, recognisable, contemporary characters going through things we all painfully recognise. The tricky part has been finding the balance between the comedy of it and the very real, desolate vulnerability in all of the characters, and to never overstate either side.’ This is what makes Jumpy so excellent – tapping into so many streams of theatrical excellence at the same time, a ridiculously refreshing romp through the dramas that we all experience : domestic diligence, frosty partners, dangerous flirtations. When you watch Jumpy you are watching yourself, & because one should never take oneself too seriously, & neither does Jumpy, this is perhaps the perfect play.
Reviewer : Damian Beeson Bullen
Photography : Mihaela Bodlovic
Oran Mor, Glasgow
Play, Pie, Pint
24th-29th October 2016
Script: Stagecraft: Performance:
Written by James Runcie and directed by Marilyn Imrie, Dr Johnson Goes to Scotland was presented at the Oran Mor, A Play, A Pie, and A Pint, in association with the Traverse Theatre, provides an alternative look at the travel of Samuel Johnson, most famously known as the author of the English Dictionary (commonly referred to as The Johnston Dictionary), throughout Scotland in 1773.
As the 1987 hilarious comedy Planes, Trains and Automobiles follows the adventures of a travelling salesman and his journey home to his family, Dr Johnson Goes to Scotland, brilliantly compresses Samuel ‘Dictionary’ Johnson’s 87 days of carriage, horseback and boat into an hour of adventure, laughter and lovely Gaelic singing, with refreshingly simple yet effective use of stage and the actors.
Looking to experience the primate and wild Scotland of stories foretold, Johnson (Simon Donaldson) embarks upon a journey of Scotland with his good friend and scots born James Boswell (Lewis Howden) only to see his view and beliefs change as he is welcomed, treated with openness and warmth by those he encounters, eager to express their pride of being Scottish, their languages and culture.
Johnson a believer of the superiority of the English Language, begins his journey in Edinburgh, and with Boswell as his translator, dives into the scots culture, the languages of Scots, Gaelic and early British Sign Language. After initial introduction to the language of Scots in Edinburgh, he travels by horse and carriage to Aberdeen where he encounters the language of Gaelic, and as they attempt to communicate we are treated to a hilariously scene of Johnson trying to request a bed for the night. With crude and basic hand gestures and signs, only for the bewildered woman, aghast at the prospect of a ‘threesome’ with Johnson and Boswell. Leaving the audience around me chuckling heartily at Johnson attempts to undo this misunderstanding.
Superbly supported by Gerda Stevenson, Morna Young and Ciaran Alexander Stewart, as the people he encounters throughout his journey we see Johnson treated to all things Scottish including food, tartan, whisky, and the best use of shortbread I have seen.
By boat he travels to the Isle of Skye where he wholeheartedly expresses his gratitude for the experience of the communication of sign language. He is genuinely in awe and wonders how someone (Ciaran Alexander Young) can communicate so well when they have never heard the spoken word. But not all his experience were enjoyable and he did find some of the journeys tedious and was quoted as saying ‘Journeys made in this manner are rather tedious and long. A very few miles requires several hours”, and he deplored the depopulation of the Highlands.
The haunting beautiful Gaelic signing of Stevenson and Young, combined with the enjoyment of watching the actors perform all the roles of the play, from the clippity-clopping horses and carriage, the swaying boat as it crossed to Skye, to the stall ladies selling their ware, the simple yet effective use of the stage only adds to the experience of Johnson journey.
Johnson clearly began his journey with a pre-conceived ideas of the Scots, primitive, uneducated, aggressive and uncouth, we watch as he warms to the Scots, impressed by their humour and resilience and pride for all things Scottish, despite the harshness of the lands, the humble and poor living surroundings, people expressed a warmth and kindness he was not anticipating .
Interestingly given the current world challenges around mass migration of people and immigration, this play does allow you to explore the connection between the language of a people, their culture and how it shapes their beliefs and desire to share it with others. How do you communicate, express yourself, and connect with others, be able share of yourself. You are most definitely left with the feeling of the Scots being openhearted, embracing their culture and heritage, proud to be scots and of their language.
Well written, well performed this play will provide you with an unforgettable journey into the maybe the final conclusion as in Johnson words – ‘No dictionary can define a nation.’
Reviewer : Kathleen Cooper
The Mumble – Hello Fiona, so your play, the Flames is just to be turned up to boiling point, can you tell us more about it
Fiona – It is indeed! The Flames is a new performance group for participants aged 50 and over and it is launching at the CCA in Glasgow on Wednesday 26 October as part of Luminate. We have been putting together a live performance based on the eight participants involved and playing with ideas of risk, daily routine and changing identity. It has been great fun devising a new play with them because they are totally up for throwing themselves into the process. It feels a bit dangerous at times! Live music is being created for the show and we have been recording images and bits of film that are integrated into the performance.
The Mumble –The Flames came together after a series of workshops (I believe) – can you talk us through a typical session.
Fiona – We start with a warm up. I find when working with adults, you have to reintroduce the idea of playing, which is usually trimmed out of us in high school. It’s also to encourage adults to stop thinking and just react to what’s happening when they start the devising process. The rest of the session is based around the participants responding to questions I ask; getting them to do tasks without words and then finding a way to join up all the different ideas that emerge using ensemble performance so that they are all supporting the dramas that are made. It is always a surprise. We never know what we will end up with at the end of the session! They put a lot of trust in me and in the process that it will work.
The Mumble – How are you finding the performance levels of the over 50s set.
Fiona – The same as mine! I love the balance between working really intensely then having a break and a chat. Energy levels go up during the sessions when they do something amazing and inspiring.
The Mumble – You founded Tricky Hat Productions in 2005. How has the company evolved in the past ten years
Fiona – A lot. We now have multiple projects on the go. We have a great team of people that we have been collaborating with for a few years which means we build the way we work artistically together. We are always looking for new collaborations with artists, organisations and with people who want to make new theatre. We are currently expanding our work internationally which is really exciting
The Mumble – What are your plans for both play & company after this stint in Glasgow.
Fiona – We want The Flames to spread across Scotland. The Flames is for anyone over 50 who wants to create a live theatre performance in five days so it is adaptable and transportable. As a company we can work anywhere. We can take inspiration and ideas from one Flames performance and inject it into another. We are looking forward to watching The Flames ignite and expand.
Wednesday 26 October 2016, 2.30pm & 7pm
For more info or to get involved in future projects email: email@example.com
Oran Mor, Glasgow
Play, Pie, Pint
17th – 22nd October
Script: Stagecraft: Performance:
Specially commissioned for the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival and in association with Traverse Theatre and Aberdeen Performing Arts, this week A Play, A Pie and a Pint ‘One Thinks of it All as a Dream’ by acclaimed writer-director team Alan Bissett and Sacha Kyle centres around the enigmatic and immensely talented Pink Floyd frontman Roger ‘Syd’ Barrett (Euan Cuthbertson). From the outset you are immediately exposed to the erratic and confusing behaviour of Syd, as Cuthbertson, so dynamically vaults between seemingly normal behaviour and sparks of madness and volatility in behaviour.
As you absorb this beginning, the arrival of Syd’s bandmates Roger Waters (Andrew John Tait), Richard Wright (Ewan Petrie) and Nick Mason (David James Kirkwood), and effective use of stage lighting we are transported back in time and the lifelike feeling of being in the London Underground Music scene and the psychedelic world of the band. We are taken on their journey to the dizzy height of fame under the leadership of Barrett.
Flashbacks to his father reading him stories as a child to drug fuelled hallucinations interlaced with periods of clarity, brilliance expression of talent and musical ability that propelled Pink Floyd to the level of stardom in the Late 60’s, early 70’s. Cuthbertson vividly expresses through the immensely well written script, that Barrett was a visionary and wanted create the music of the 70’s. At times you question your developing opinion, is he suffering from mental health or simply playing a part, a role, performed for his artistic enjoyment and at the expense of others around him.
However all was not well and soon we are exposed to the alternate world of Barrett and the dark, destructive, emotional portrayal of a man haunted by his deteriorating mental health and the damaging impact it has upon his relationship with his band mates. Brilliantly supported by Tait, Petrie and Kirkwood I became engrossed in the internal politics of the band and each individual members battle to come to terms with Barrett and his increasingly erratic behaviour and inability to perform on occasions. Collectively torn between their loyalty for him and the demands of fame and the increasing commercial success, they eventually replace him. This plunges Barrett into the depths of isolation and as I watch the story unfold there is a real emotional connection to the despair, isolation and stigma attached to the poignant events, captured so eloquently by Cuthbertson, not only in his words but his body language and facial expressions.
Barrett retreats into his own world, no longer able to express his artistic talents through music, turns to art and painting as his solace. We are treated to moments of reflection by his bandmates are they reminisce over songs written and performed with Barrett and I genuinely felt their respect for him, for his talents, yet there is a melancholy, a feeling of loss, and the decision they made.
Fast forward some years and the reunion of Barrett with the band. When Barrett arrives so much has been the toil of his battle, he is unrecognisable to his band mates who initially dismiss him, his physical demeanour so dramatically and drastically different to their memories of him past. Only as he engages with them, expressing himself again, do they become awake to his presence and embrace him into the band once again.
Laced throughout the play, the funny and witty interaction between the characters shines a light onto the sometimes dark and taboo subject of mental health and the emotional, tragic and damaging impact it has upon the soul of person. Exploring Barrett’s journey provides a thought provoking opportunity to examine our own thoughts and feelings and I was left with a feeling of having gained a wonderful, if not poignant, insight in the life of the immensely talented Roger ‘Syd’Barrett.
Reviewer : Kathleen Cooper
1 – Hello Cora. So, when did you first encounter April de Angelis’ Jumpy, and what was it about the play that first struck a resonance with you?
It was actually when David Greig suggested it to me among lots of other plays, all very different in style. I read Jumpy in one sitting whilst feeding my baby in bed one night, and had to stifle my laughter. I loved it immediately. I loved the humour April brings to these critical life stages. I also loved the way she very playfully toys with the different generational concepts of what it is to be a feminist: what did it mean then, and what does it mean now?
2 – How are you adapting the play for a Scottish audience?
We’ve relocated it to Glasgow, so certain details have changed to make it specifically Scottish. Some of those are very subtle things, like a family holiday in Norfolk is relocated to Carnoustie. We chatted for ages with the cast asking ‘which is funnier – North Berwick or Carnoustie?’!
3 – Have you worked with any of your cast before, and did you feel any of them were perfect for any particular roles in Jumpy?
I’ve worked with Stephen McCole on the STV BAFTA-winning series High Times. It was some years ago, and Steve played the most brilliant stoner. I’ve always loved his work. I’m a mega fan of Gail Watson, who I think is a comic genius, and I’ve tried to employ her on multiple occasions – same with Richard Conlon! And I’ve seen Pauline in many things, but was particularly blown away by her recent performance in This Restless House, so am delighted to have her in this. I’ve admired all my team from afar, so I’m pretty damn delighted to be working with them now.
4 – Has the production all been plain sailing, or has there been a mishap or two?
In all honesty, this has been one of the most straightforward and enjoyable processes I’ve experienced. It’s a great play, and April has created these wonderful, recognisable, contemporary characters going through things we all painfully recognise. The tricky part has been finding the balance between the comedy of it and the very real, desolate vulnerability in all of the characters, and to never overstate either side.
5 – What are your plans after Edinburgh?
I’m working with National Theatre of Scotland on a new play about a transgender boy for next year, and I’m developing another production with Theatre Royal Stratford East based on a very famous contemporary novel (which I can’t speak about just yet!)
The Lyceum Theatre
1st – 15th October 2016
Script: Stagecraft: Performance:
On a slightly chilly October night the Lyceum seemed like a warm environment to set oneself in order to take in this astonishing theatrical production of The Suppliant Women. A two thousand year old play with a subtle but new twist is brought to us by young enthusiastic actors from all over Edinburgh. With an introduction of a sea-slip stage with a slant, and four buckets of water the logic of the set was clear. After a small introduction, the stage is then engulfed with a wave of women. Enstrangled and desperate, they are fleeing domestic uncertainly and are looking to seek refuge in Greece under the protection of Zeus. A drama, a play and a musical, it tends to have it all. As the light dims the saga begins… huddled together , crossing a deadly ocean, braving winds and storms they reach the protection off the Greek Gods…
With branches and white ribbons as props and well-crafted movement, the play takes on an endearing mood. Sung in chorus and beautifully delivered we close our eyes, listen and take a step back in time. With tales of Gods, Kings, Ancient Cities, Greece, Egypt and with emotionally wounded women, this is an enchanting piece of drama. It was inspiring to see so many young people giving their time and talents to understanding our past histories. To take a piece of theatrical history and create an informal but educational insight to times passed is heart warming… the relevant points that relate to us today as well as 1000s of years ago are apparent to see within this production.
As the cast grows in size so does the tension. The musical score was haunting but soothing, driving the play along at full speed the anticipation builds around you. With the King and people granting the ladies asylum, a mad frenzy of joy and relief is unleashed. A stunned silence covering the audience and with a quietness of consideration – it was all rather like being in a church. Well rehearsed, delivered with heart and desire, this was a moving and thought-provoking play. Pushing the boundaries is a huge part of theater and these actors did just that. The Suppliant Women moves you and warms you to the understanding of human endeavours. If you get a chance to be involved in, or to witness this pay, please take time to support it & be educated in the ancient arts of drama.
Reviewed by Raymond Speedie