Monthly Archives: November 2014
The Traverse, Edinburgh
26th – 29th November
‘Slope’, is a play about the turbulent yet loving relationship of the two 19th century French poets Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud. The production by Untitled Projects is not in period costume or dialect which really paid off with all the quirks included. Stewart Liang, the director, has taken risks in a thought provoking way. The show is streamed online so the stage is awash with cameras and filming gear which adds a layer of excitement. Sense of smell is used to stunning affect when a dead mackerel flops on, then later a smokey smell graces us with paper being set alight.
The live audience are ordered by actors (wonderfully snapping out of character) to hold up pieces of paper for the streaming audience – with barriers being broken this production is certainly a interactive and memorable experience on a classic story. ‘Slope’ does not include the poetical works of Paul Verlaine or Arthur Rimbaud in a solid state, making it less biographical and historical. It is a gripping, modern interactive theatre piece in it’s own right that deserves to be talked about. The performances from James Edwyn, Jessica Hardwick and Owen Whitelaw are emotion based in a cinematic style at times. Performed with quality and dedication throughout, I will not forget this evening for a long time. FOUR STARS
Reviewer : Thomas Boglett.
The first thing to say about Theatre Uncut, is that it’s not just another evening of theatre for you to go and see then forget about. Or at least it doesn’t have to be. At the Q&A, director Hannah asks more questions of the audience than she claims to be able to answer herself: “We’ve been talking about a lot of stuff. What’s the next thing I can do about it? Anyone?” Hannah is humblingly earnest, someone who can see what the big problems are, and is desperate to make a difference. A member of the crowd suggests that she is “preaching to the converted.” I look around. The crowd tonight look, by and large, like the sort of folk who enjoy a tut over The Guardian and are proudly ignorant of whatever’s happening on X-Factor. Most of us are probably quite politically aware already, well informed and doing (for the large part) nothing about it. Theatre can generally help make us feel better about ourselves, our ineffectuality, in this way. A wee cry over the disenfranchised and you can leave feeling like a good person. But there are no easy tears during any of the four new political plays this evening. It’s Brechtian in that way, stripping the drama from the individual, forcing your vision out towards the larger picture.
Theatre Uncut will be touring over the next few weeks, not only performing the plays, but making them available for free online, so that people can perform them in their own way, in their own communities. Last year, some Edinburgh folk performed the plays in a charity shop window, for example. This year, the plays begin as a list of topics, polled from online community, which writers could choose to respond to. Taken together, there is a real feeling of accessibility, that thre are not Thespians allowing you a glimpse of their talent, but a band of innovators who want yo to join them, for whom theatre is primarily a way to reach out. The set looks sort of like the Scottish parliament might, as represented by a fifties cocktail-cabinet maker, concrete grey modernest chunks off the eastern bloc, which open elegantly to reveal various props, or to store others. Both stylish and functional, the structure provides a brilliant backdrop to the pieces.
Anders Lustgarten’s Finger of God, the first play of the night, was the stand-out piece of the evening. A perfect, striking and brilliantly original piece of satire. I wish I had written it, not only for the concept but the wonderfully sharp dialogue, just fizzing with ideas and pitch-perfect characterisation. I don’t want to tell you too much about it. I just want you to go and see it. Or better, put it on yourself. Download it for free at: www.theatreuncut.com But go and see this play, you should. Ruth Gibson’s character is deliciously evil and she plays it with hypnotic panache.
And, for all Lustgarten shines, there is no play in this collection that isn’t worth seeing, I would be lying if I said that Clara Brennan’s PACHAMAMA didn’t confuse me, but it was an experimental piece of theatre bursting with the need to draw attention to all that is glaringly wrong with the world and wailing with the futility of knowing that stuff, and feeling powerless to change it. There’s a lot to like about seeing that expressed on stage but it left me asking, “ok, so what now?”
Reset everything is Inua Evan’s brilliant allegory for modern resistance, a stern warning against our own minds, a reminder of the little microcosms we build to try and defend us from life’s injustices, yet become instead lost within, loosing sight of the bigger picture, trapped in the puzzlebox of ego and society. It is also very funny. And political. And like all of these plays, up to the minute contemporary. It is also a little schmaltzy in places, but sometimes so is life, and I enjoyed it just fine, anyway.
The Most Horrific was just that. Wonderfully horrific. Faith Alabi was stellar in the role of the stand-up who really tells it like it is. Her performance is chilling, unnerving, impressive. Vivienne Frazzmann’s dialogue was so powerful that the more conceptual elements of the piece felt over-staged, unnecessary, only because the subject matter and evolving characterisation were so riveting to watch. Great stuff.
Ira Provit and The Man, despite being a little fuzzy around the edges, shows that Hayley Squires certainly knows how to write an engaging play. It becomes apparent that what we are witnessing is a battle between the Minister for Education and his conscience, played brilliantly by the young Conor Macneil, who embodies the easy passion, empathy and determined optimism of youth at it’s finest. Ira Provit is truly tormented: “Soul?” he asks. “What nonsense! I have no use for a soul.” The range of emotions Ruairi Conaghan draws from the audience is staggering. The resultant piece brims with tension.
Wonderful – FIVE STARS
Reviewer : Katie Craig
Tragic (when my mother married an uncle)
Eden Court – One Touch Theatre
Wed 12th November
In Iain Heggie’s contemporary language version of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, we see the main protaganist played by a young male actor Sean Purden Brown. In an unusual twist, the platy is set with a students bedroom, complete with bunk bed and desk and music that wouldn’t be out of place in a trendy nightclub. Prince Hamlet introduces us to the people in his life by showing us pictures on his I pad, which are projected onto a large screen. We meet his friend, Horatio who’s a tad boring, the girl he’s into called Ophelia and his Mum and Dad. He recounts the sad story of how his Dad died and then tells us of his disgust at the fact his Mum has now married his Uncle C.
The rationale behind this one man play is Iain Heggies “desire for audiences to be able to access the story easily” and by using the language of our time he wanted to “get the story into the audiences jugular” and for me it definitely succeeded on both counts. Although I initially struggled with the paradoxical sensations of Heggie’s transcreation, by the end I was hooked, for Sean Purden Brown gave a substantial and confident performance that was entirely believable and gripped my attention.
The audience discussion and questions with both Iain and Sean after the play wasenjoyable and insightful, an added bonus to top off this touching and humorous adaptation of Shakespeare’s most famous, poetic & brilliant play. FOUR STARS
Reviewer: Zoe Gwynne
19.30 (+sat 14.30)
For those who have never read the Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini’s novel is a haunting tale of friendship between two young boys living in Kabul, Afghanistan, in the 1970s, neither of whom could foresee their worlds being torn apart. The main characters are Amir, the son of a wealthy businessman from the Pashtuns tribe, & Hassan, the son of their servant from the Hazzara tribe. The latter’s social class is seen as the bottom rung, & poor Hassan suffers much from this.
The two boys commence the play lost in the innocent joys of normal childhood, such as flying kites and playing at Cowboys and Indians, but suddenly their world is torn apart. Through the undying loyalty of Hassan and the cowardly ways of Amir, throughout this moving and complex story we witness many twists and turns.
We follow the boys through many periods of the troubles in Afghanistan, from the Soviet intervention, through the rise of the Taliban and finally the American-led invasion in 2001.The two boys stories couldn’t be further apart, with Amir becoming a successful novelist in America, while Hassan is left to fester in his war torn homeland… with tragic consequences. I don’t want to divulge any more of the plot here, but it is real edge-of-your seat stuff & Matthew Spangler’s stage adaption (directed by Giles Croft) is a three hours well spent indeed.
There was a certain sparsity to the stage set that really helped to hammer home the acting, which at times was breath-takingly close to the minutest nuances of human behaviour. This spectacular stage production fully justifies the novel, and I urge anybody to go and see it… I really wish I could give it more than FIVE STARS
Reviewer : Lisa Oswald
Centre for Contemporary Arts,
Sauchiehall Street. Glasgow.
Skierlik (Tswana for ‘suddenly’) is an informal settlement just outside Ventersdorp in the North West province of South Africa. At least it was before 2008. You won’t find it on Google Maps. Now renamed, the shanty township is about 100 miles North West of Johannesburg, and about a million miles away from the beating heart of Central Glasgow; at least it was until Phillip M Dikotla took us there in his, deservedly, award winning one man play.
You might find reference to Skierlik if you search the web for news articles. You’ll see sensational coverage of a shooting spree that took place there, and exhaustive reporting of the trial and the life sentence handed down to the perpetrator. You’ll get to know his name, see pictures of him and access a whole series of biographic information. If you want to know about his victims you’ll need to dig a lot deeper. Thankfully you won’t have to dig too deep into your pocket to experience Skierlik for yourself. Currently running at CCA on Sauchiehall St, (Extra performances scheduled for Sat 8thand Sun 9th Nov 2014 – Some tickets still available) and heading next to Live Theatre in Newcastle, this is a profoundly rhythmic journey which explores the shocking event and the impact on the survivors.
Meet Thomas as he takes us back to the place where his 31 years old wife, (Elizabeth) his 3 months old child, (Anna) and friends and neighbours, (Sivuyile, 35, and Enoch Tshepo, also known as Tikilion, 10) were randomly murdered in the heat and dust of this “post-apartheid” rural settlement. The intimacy of the almost bare stage at CCA lent itself well to a story of loss, pain, bitterness, anger, and eventual acceptance of change as Phillip unraveled his tale to a small, silent and totally absorbed audience. This was neither Monologue, nor Presentation; this was Performance! The after show Q & A was almost as interesting as the drama itself. The audience and artist shared their thoughts on some of the many questions raised. THREE STARS
Reviewer : Cai Storrie
Flying With Swans
4th-8th November 1pm £12
(additional performance 7pm Friday 7th November)
Traipsing through a damp Autumnal Edinburgh day towards a theatre at lunchtime. Greeted by the welcoming aroma of delicious pies, a pint and a play. What a fantastic idea! And I was not alone in thinking this. The bar was packed to a sell out audience. I went for the veggie haggis pie and a pint and awaited the entertainment. The play was ‘Flying with Swans’, by Jack Dickson. The story of 3 woman, old friends, who reunite for a journey on the ferry to Arran to watch the swans take off on their annual migration. A simple stage design of barriers and benches sets the scene on the top deck of a ferry, where the whole play takes place. Three uniquely different characters confront their fears and hopes as their pasts are revealed and reimagined, along with the weight of impending old age. One character confronts her secrets of lost love and living for appearances, one wrestles with the fear of becoming a burden and sacrificing independence, the other, portrayed at first as carefree and crazy, emerges as the one with least to regret. An unlikely scenario for a comedy perhaps, but the play is peppered with sharp one liners and a dry, dark humour that had the audience in laughing the whole way through.
“Dementia must be nice”, muses Jean, as she pops her pills and wrestles with the modern world. The play turns old age on it’s head as the characters morph from victims to comedy protagonists, bringing the voices of a past generation into the modern world. A Scottish pensioners version of ‘Thelma and Louse’, the play moves at a fast, sharp pace with poignant moments of reflection and realisation . “The swans know when to leave, they don’t think about it, they just do it”, the characters muse, and the acceptance and inevitability of change, and the passing of time, is a constant throughout. I left the theatre with a smile and renewed vigour to live life to the full, with no fear or regret, though that may well have been partly attributed to the afternoon pint. A fantastic performance and a wonderful strategy to fill this old theatre, mid week, mid day, with laughter and warmth. A brilliant way to spend a lunchtime. THREE STARS
Reviewer : Glenda Rome
The Country Wife
Royal Conservatoire, Glasgow
£11.00 to £13.50
Wycherley’s ‘The Country Wife’ – directed here at the RCS by James Robert Carson – is a sparky comedy of manners which, following great success at the tail end of the 17th century because it suited Restoration taste, died a death in its original form for around 250 years, being too hot, too mischievous, too close to the bone. Does it work today? Well, themes of hypocrisy and false reputation, of finding a place in demanding social networks, of what’s the story in public and private, all seem to chime with what’s going on now: especially when the main thread is the tussle between and among the sexes.
Three plot lines keep the action rolling: a rake feigning impotence to further his access to women; a former rake, now married to a ‘country wife’, who wants to keep her out of temptation’s way on a first visit to the city; then a pair of lovers in a tangle. The language is racy and keen – Wycherley’s skill in good one-liners established a fashion that shows no sign of flagging. True wits thrive; aspiring duds, like Sparkish and Sir Jasper Fidget here, tend to get it in the neck. The company, well coached and well paced, delivered the narrative and punchlines well – not so easy, because of the quickfire exchanges – and, as a result the audience on opening night clued in quickly and picked it up fine.
Lorne MacFadyen, the duplicitous Horner (none of the names being subtle!), made his entrance half stripped, like an 80’s rock star, advancing front stage to admire himself in the glass. His presence and sure delivery established the business straight away – and the swirl of quackery, raillery, seduction, scheming and so on had a good start and didn’t flag. The first half had a few odd spots – I didn’t always get the costume choices, and a couple of the characters didn’t quite mesh, but by the finale things were sorted.
As the ‘innocent’ and irrepressible Margery, Connie Hartley had charm and cheek in equal measure. As Pinchwife her husband, Hamish Riddle played the apoplectic poop to proper effect. Carly Tisdale, Snaedis Gudmund and Emily-Jane McNeill (good voices!) were an energetic, swish and predatory set of society women, establishing the low but scintillating moral tone. Lee Parker as the politico Sir Jasper Fidget was suitably self-obsessed and oleaginous. The Quack (Robert Ginty) and the Boy (Stephen Redwood) slotted in as required. Jess Nahikian’s Alithea was all the more attractive for being ‘righteous’ and indignant; Michael Collins, her admirer Harcourt, and Rodolfo Valadez Moto, her gullible ‘wit’, came out of her shadow better in the second half. Lucy, the judicious servant (Alix Austin), sewed things up neatly at the end: even managing to coax sweet Margery to ‘loy’.
The settings were simple: table, chair, couch or couches, clothes rack (for concealment) and moveable flats with large mulicolour dots on white were shifted smoothly around. The notorious bit where Horner shows Lady Fidget his ‘china’ was played, as one might expect, to ecstatic off-stage huffing and puffing and banging of crockery. But the best was the hilarious conclusion when, like a scene out of Tarantino, handguns were flourished in faces – even Old Mrs Squeamish (Alexandra Cockerill) pulls a piece from her purse – and the denouement (when everyone, with some brilliant and unexpected pairings, moved into a slow foxtrot to ‘Moon River’) had us all happy: whatever moral quandaries we may have had to set aside en route.Four Stars
Reviewer: Mr Scales
Eden Court’s OneTouch Theatre
This one woman show invokes three Gothic Horror Stories, whose theme explores the supernatural and uncanny. They are all penned by female writers, who despite being revered in their time, are now largely forgotten in favour of their male counterparts.
The scene is set with only a brown leather chair, a red rug and a table upon which stands a gold goblet and candelabra holding three candles. A lone female character enters dressed in a fitting black Victorian dress, addresses the audience and then begins to recall these macabre tales.
The first haunting story which is based on Mary E Braddons “The Cold Embrace”tells of young love between an artist and his cousin Gertrude. The next two tales “The Five Senses” and “The Shadow”were from Edith Nesbit. The Five Senses, a strange story of science and experimentation was reminiscent of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde. The snuffing of one of the three candles ingeniously signifies the end of each mysterious tale and gently guides the audience to the next story.
Rebecca Vaughan has a strong stage presence that mesmerises and draws you in. She conjures up characters in your mind with a clever combination of mime, expressive voice and direct address. The subtle use of lighting which casts eerie shadows, mixed with the occasional sound effects builds tension and creates a ominous tone. The odd moment of humour brings contrast to an otherwise intense performance. This simple storytelling creates chills and is the perfect antidote to today’s sensory overload.
A perfect end to Halloween weekend, a flawless, thought provoking performance that plays on your imagination and has made me want to discover more from these female writers. Highly recommended. FOUR STARS
Reviewer: Zoe Gwynne