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
The Mumble – Hello Omar, so how are you enjoying the city of Edinburgh?
Omar – Edinburgh is a great city and its National gallery is also home to the amazing seven sacrament paintings by Poussin! A lot to enjoy.
The Mumble – What is your take on the story of the Suppliant Women
Omar – First and foremost this play shows us the power of a chorus in a drama. In this case the chorus is formed of the women of Edinburgh
The Mumble – How are you finding working with the Lyceum’s triumverate – Gray, Greig & Browne
Omar – This play is very old and much of the work has been a kind of archaeological exploration based on what versions and fragments of the original text exist. The triumvirate (David Greig, Ramin Gray, John Browne) have invited us to join in this process through discussion, revision and encouragement to refire the imaginative engines that Aeschylus summoned when he first made the play.
The Mumble – There is also a lot of input from the local community – could you tell us more about this
Omar – The community have been working on material that John Browne has written as settings of David Greig’s translation for this piece. They have learnt by ear and so have formed a strong bond between themselves as a group. They have learnt dances and stagings and their presence as the central energy source is very clear.
The Mumble – Finally, what is the future for this production?
Omar – After the performances in Edinburgh we go on to Belfast and then Newcastle with different groups of women who will have undergone the same preparation process in order perform “The Suppliant Women” in theatres there.
Oran Mor, Glasgow
Play, Pie, Pint
26th Sept – 1st October
Presented in association with the Traverse Theatre this weeks A Play, A Pie and a Pint Breaking The Ice by Kieran Lynn is set in the Arctic and worth the watch. This topical farcical tale of treacherous bribery and corruption will have you in stitches from the outset. Meet Frank (Steven McNicoll) who has arrived to give a speech at the Arctic Council conference and the various characters, (Jimmy Chisholm and Nicola Roy) who between them play the hotel staff, an American marines, Russian delegate and a crazy weed selling shop worker and kidnaping duo. Never have I witnessed a door being used with such comical intent since Manwell and Basil got up to their shenanigans in Faulty towers.
This play has that level of humour mastery which comes with meticulous timing and funny accents. Chisholm transforms seamlessly from stiff upper lip bureaucrat to Yorkshire activist, Sami police chief to Russian professor of philosophy partial to toilet breaks mid sentence. Sound designer Andy Cowan has done a fine job making all the onomatopoeia pitch perfect throughout. Lighting designers Ross Kirkland/Chris Reilly make believable snow with a spinning disco ball.
Frank, newly appointed Foreign and Commonwealth Office Chief Scientific Advisor to the Arctic Council is here to cover for the advisor struck down with ultra violet hepatitis – that’s technical jargon for snow blindness – and delivers his speech in his dressing gown. But why does he only manage to deliver it to the hotel waitress rather than the world delegates? The answer to that is the very essence of the witty twisting plot that gets more and more bizarre as events unfold leaving you satisfied that you got more than your money’s worth of laughter from this gem of acting filled with an-acronyms that are so well written and performed you will find yourself howling at the daftness of human nature always trying to sound more intelligent and failing.
‘ I say, really that’s something isn’t it, almost makes me wish I was blind.’ pukka British delegate retorts to Frank’s obsession with his new tactile business cards. A superb offering that shouldn’t be missed.
Reviewer : Clare Crines
Scottish Storytelling Centre
Script: Stagecraft: Performance:
The Faustian pact is a well trodden road in theatre and art in general but, as a subject I have particular interest in, I am always willing to see a new interpretation. Here we have an ordinary bloke being lead astray by a camp jakey who may or may not be the Great All Mighty. It begins in a light enough vain, instantly recalling the Peter Cook / Dudley Moore classic Bedazzled (thankfully not the awful remake). The music is strong melodically and intelligent, recalling a burlesque or dance-hall feel with a contemporary twist, and the set design is as irreverent as it is creative. Set becoming props, props becoming costumes, all in a superbly imagined 2D cartoon style. So all in all the play is an audio and visual treat (and a particular mention must go to Nicola Sturgeon’s superb cameo). As for the plot we are soon launched into a fast paced adventure and barely have time to breath before our protagonist begins his dark descent. The interesting twist is that it’s God, not the other guy, who’s doing the corrupting this time. Apparently sick of Beelzebub having all the fun.
As the play continues it is fairly evident that the writer has teeth and doesn’t seem to think a great deal of this every man who has been caught up in this divine dual. Every hope of redemption seemingly dashed. The Lego Movie this ain’t. However the cruel wind it blows is a refreshing change from the tepid breeze of many modern productions trying too hard to please. Some of the gags can be a little obvious at times, local and cultural references thrown in all too frequently for a cheap laugh, but over all the writing remains witty and brutally insightful. Though I didn’t agree with many of the stances took by the play and found the comedy a little bit heavy handed at times (not averse as I am to the occasional tepid breeze), with the right audience this play would, and did the night I was there, go down a storm. So if you like your comedy to reassure you that everything’s all right, Lucas Petit might be worth avoiding, but if you’d prefer something with a little more bite then I suggest you seek it out in a town near you.
Reviewer : Steven Vickers
THE MUMBLE – Hi Laura – so can you tell me what ‘A Bench on the Road’ is all about, & what inspired you to create a play about it
LAURA – The play explore 100 years of Italian immigration in Scotland from the women’s perspective. Narrations, music and physical theatre give voice to many women that between 1850 and 1950 left Italy in search of a better future for their families. The play is divided in frames as each scene is like a living painting, Italian and English languages intertwine creating an interesting mixture of sounds and expressions. I was inpired to create the play by the story of my first friend in Scotland when I arrived at the age of 15 to learn English. She was an Italian Scottish woman and she introduced me to the story of immigration as I wasn’t aware that so many Italians lived in Scotland.
THE MUMBLE – There seems to be an awful lot of research gone into Bench – where did you source you materials
LAURA – The play was commissioned by the Italo Scottish Research Cluster- University of Edinburgh. It because of their archive and the support of many academics like Pedriali, Pirozzi , Colpi and Ugolini that I was able to write the play.
THE MUMBLE – Bench is a multi-media presentation, can you go into more detail about we have to expect.
LAURA – The play has been framed in Kantor style where the images s are strong and express the core of the stories; the marriage of ancient Italian and Scottish folk songs support the presentation of each frame. The costumes are designed in the shade of grey and sepia, like an old photograph to give a clear “image from memory” to the spectator.
THE MUMBLE – You have seven actors playing the voices of the women. Who are these, & where are they from
LAURA – Vanda De Luca is Italian Scottish, Anna Carfora is Italian and lives in London, Nicoletta Maragno is from Italy. The three Scottish actresses are Scottish: Sian Mannifield, Helen Cuinn, Pamela Reid. The accordionist who is also doing actions on stage with the actresses and playing an important role is also Scottish: Caroline Hussey. I mus say there are an AMAZING cast. This is one of the main reason why I left Italy and founded an international company: to offer opportunities to actors of different nationalities to work together. I travel a lot myself when I was younger, in search of more opportunity to grow and improve as an actress. Actor are constantly under training and if they don’t understand this, they will be extremely unhappy. Researching is one of the main duty of an actor. I noticed that when I was working in Russia with German and Russian actors, we were very open, productive and the creative process unfolded easily. I wanted to do more of this kind of work and after my last trip to Russia I founded Charioteer Theatre.
THE MUMBLE – What is your personal background in theatre, Laura,& how did you come to be in Scotland
LAURA – I started as an actress in 1990 after the degree at Piccolo Teatro di Milano Acting School. The director was Giorgio Strehler. I immediately started to tour internationally and I think that I was pretty successful in my acting career. I won the Milano 90 Award as best emerging actress then the Virginia Reiter Award and then the Anna Magnani Award. I had the privilege to work with the best Italian directors and to have rewarding experiences abroad. I then became a writer, a director and an acting coach. I love teaching actors. I consider myself a real CAPOCOMICO, like in the tour companies of comedians in 1500, I lead my company artistically but I also drive the van on tour.
THE MUMBLE – So you are taking your play across Scotland – what do you hope that your prospective theatre-goers will get out of ‘A Bench on the Road’
LAURA – Possibly a new intake on a piece of Scottish and Italian history. I hope that they will perceive the play as a journey through which they can reflect on identity and sense of belonging.
14 Sep 2016 to 8 Oct 2016
Script: Stagecraft: Performance:
The death of ecstasy-victim Leah Betts in late-1995 cast a gloomy shadow over substance abuse in the UK two decades ago. While the perils of party drugs distressed a scintilla proportion of the country, the perception of drug users, and substantially harder, more addictive narcotics, were counter-balanced by Irvine Welsh’s book ‘Trainspotting’ in 1993, Harry Gibson’s theatre production in 1994, and Danny Boyle’s film in 1996. This was to become one of the most vital stories narrated during the 1990s, studying the lives of four friends as they delve into the drug culture of Leith during the late 1980’s in an effort to escape from the hopeless world they find themselves living in.
Courtesy of Citizens Theatre itself, the lives of Mark Renton, Simon ‘Sickboy’ Williamson, Francis Begbie, and Danny ‘Spud’ Murphy returned to the hallowed main stage of Glasgow’s Citizen’s Theatre after a notable absence, guided at the wings by revered director Gareth Nicholls, whose previous productions include ‘Into That Darkness’ and ‘Blackbird’. In terms of both novel and picture, Trainspotting holds a place in the heart of most 30-somethings who badly wish to see every element of its reputation succeed, preserving its creditable stock and prolonging for future generations.
Reprising the roles made famous onscreen by the likes of Ewan McGregor and Robert Carlyle, tonight’s cast had the unenviable task of staying true to both book and picture, whilst also lending its own black humour into proceedings. Playing the lead as Renton was Lorn MacDonald, a tall, skinny, ranting sphere of machismo who required only twenty seconds before the first mention of drugs entered the fray during the opening interview sequence alongside Spud, played by Gavin Jon Wright. The youthful energy cascaded by both actors was a genial welcoming into a forbidden world, rousing the audience with the unmistakable twang served up by author Welsh. The grubby, insanitary stage was laid out for the introduction of Sickboy performed by Angus Miller, and Mother Superior played by Owen Whitelaw; the latter of which made a stunning appearance from the inside of a couch. It was Mother Superior, dressed in effeminate clothing and twirling around the stage which chiefly grabbed the eye, a large departure from Peter Mullen’s robust performance in the film, whilst serving up a homoerotic, scene-polluting number at the same time Alison, played by Chloe-Ann Tylor, Sickboy, Renton and Spud tightened the tourniquets around their arms in preparation for the first, slow junkie dance. The injection scenes are, as one should expect, fairly harrowing – an intelligent use of illumination and rumbling sounds flooding with the actors’ gasps and groans. This is no glorification of drugs, despite what the monologues ladled by Renton may have imposed upon the audience.
It is testament to author Welsh’s dramatic writing that frequently the highlights of the performance whittled down to the lone dialogues delivered by the cast, adopting narrator roles to the audience. From Sickboy’s gross attack on Shane the pitbull to Alison’s uterine lining complimenting a bowl of soup, the cast were at their foremost when the stage was reduced to a chair and a voice. That is not to dismiss the impact that a busy stage offered when a nightclub scene flooded with pulsing dancers alternated between standing, sitting, gyrating, and swaying, both in the foreground and in the background, during Renton’s first unsuspecting meet with schoolgirl Diane, also played by the talented, afore-mentioned Tylor. Having previously reviewed Tylor during a performance of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, I was privy to what a convincing actress the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland graduate can be, and there was no anti-climax tonight as she teased, toyed, and delivered a wicked temptress performance. Renton’s chameleon-personality simmered throughout this scene, flitting between politics and music in an effort to win Diane’s affections, while an animated bevvy of dancers maintained the youthful energy in front of a shrewd sex scene.
Dark comedy is etched throughout Trainspotting, glittering in the shadowed piss-soaked curtains while Spud regales a story of an unfortunate accident and Renton’s realisation that he has become a sex offender, but the tenebrosity of Alison’s baby Dawn’s cot death is an acutely distressing scene. These moments often allowed the cast to ignore their audience and concentrate on those under the dimmed lights, with Owen Whitelow’s turn as Mother Superior often more savage than his second role of the evening, the renowned Francis Begbie; none more so than when he rages with a black bin-bag intended for the deceased infant.
In his secondary role as the ill-fated Tommy, Angus Miller flits between his characters with an ease which enables the audience to establish which turn is being performed instantly, regardless of Tommy’s double-denim fashion being an obvious cursor. Although the nod to Tommy’s demise is clearly affiliated with the picture (in the book no such thing happens), director Gareth Nicholls remains faithful to scenes from Welsh’s initial written creation addressing Renton’s soldier brother and Begbie’s alcoholic father with a susceptivity which addresses a true representation of industrial working class people. Recently, producer Harry Gibson was quoted in The Herald saying “Trainspotting was a punk book and a punk play”, and this quality ebbs through the imagery, the dialogue, and the DIY ethos conjured by lead Renton’s ambitions, consistently putting himself first before friends or family. Whether it be the colourful pink lights and confetti cannons during Renton’s AIDS test or the tense, psychotic attempted murder of Renton by Begbie at Leith Central Station, the stage craft flowed with Welsh’s words, Gibson’s vision, and Boyle’s sensory depictions. Not forgetting the glorious compositions spun throughout the evening by Michael John McCarthy, webbing and weaving dialogue between sounds of horror and unbridled elation which captured each fitting mood, this was a truly triumphant return to the Citizen’s stage.
A special mention to Gavin Wright’s turn as the unfortunate but eternally-likeable Spud – every twitch, shuffle, facial expression and response was received with glee and captured everything and more that the audience have associated with the character. Preconceptions are a difficult thing to shake off but rest assured that this play will win you over and reignite your love for the film prior to the sequel which is due for release in early 2017. Choose life, choose Trainspotting at the Citizens.
Reviewer : Stephen Watt