Monthly Archives: April 2015
Festival Theatre, Edinburgh
28th April to Saturday 9th May
We welcome to Edinburgh this remarkable play, which has been adapted from the 2003 award winning book by Mark Haddon, now acquired reading for GCSE. Directed by Marianne Elliott co director of War Horse fame, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time is a story within a story. Christopher Boone is a young man who referes to himself only as “someone who has behavioural problems.” He has an exceptional brain, able to work out complicated mathematical problems and remember minute details. When he finds himself under stress he recites prime numbers. He dislikes strangers and the colour yellow. Christopher is also not able to interpret human behavior and emotion and avoids human contact only touching a hand with his father as “sometimes he wants to give me a hug, but I do not like hugging people so we do this instead and it means that he loves me. ”
At exactly 7 minutes past midnight Christopher finds Wellington, the dog of his neighbour, Mrs Shears, impaled with a garden fork. Immediately under suspicion he finds himself being questioned by a policeman his dislike of being touched causing him to lash out. He goes back home with his father and is told to mind his own business. His own detective work leads to the unlocking of long held family secrets that take Christopher on a terrifying journey both physical and emotional as he’s never left the street where he lives. Written as a first person narrative Christopher recounts the case, he has written it down in his book which Siobhan his life skills teacher has turned into a play.
The stage design by Bunny Christie is amazing : it’s like being inside a great big cube on which diagrams, maps, rail-tracks, sign posts and cascades of numbers flit across the walls in all directions. It’s an inspired representation of the sometimes chaotic workings of Christopher’s inner world. The physicality of the cast really bring his thoughts alive, while the sound and lighting also used to forceful effect both deafening and dazzling a complete assault on the senses : especially during Christopher’s train journey.
Borderline Theatre Company & Hirtle Productions
Eden Court – One Touch Theatre – Inverness
Borderline Theatre Company’s new presentation of The Straw Chair, which was last performed in 1988 has reawakened this script by renowned Scottish playwright Sue Glover (Bandages) and through its extensive tour of Scotland has brought it to audiences in the Highlands & Islands for the first time.
The story is based on Lady Grange (Selina Boyack) who was banished to a number of Scottish Islands including Hirta (St Kilda) by her unfaithful husband Lord Grange for being a problem wife. Imprisoned on this remote rural island, a far cry from her civilised life in Edinburgh she descends into madness and drink, her only comfort is a straw chair which she carries around with her. The arrival of the newly married minister Aneas (Martin McBride) and his teenage wife Isabel (Pamela Reid) provides a hope of getting a message to the outside world of her abduction and an unlikely friendship is struck up between Lady Grange and Isabel
Selina Boyaks imposing performance of Lady Grange as a wild, unkempt, outspoken, drunk and sex obsessed woman full of anger and frustration is in contrast to the austere Aneas who’s only initial concern is converting the Pagan inhabitants to Christianity. It is his young, sheltered wife Isabel who has the compassion and understanding to realise that Lady Grange is in most need of their help. The grounded character Oona (Ceit Kearney), who is an islander, paid to look after Lady Grange provides a balance between these opposing parts.
This is in no way a fast paced drama, but the characters slowly unfold and develop, it depicts how living on the beautiful but harsh environment of Hirta changes them, we watch Isabel caught between being the dutiful wife and standing up for her own convictions and how Aneas softens and is somewhat converted himself by the lives and values of the islanders. The evolving of the friendships and interaction between Lady Grange, Isabel and Oona, especially when they all get “intoxicated” on stolen brandy, not only provided humour but signifies how these strong females are striving for freedom and liberation in a time when women had little rights and were constrained by society.
Reviewer : Zoe Gwynne
21-25 April 2015
Rachel Wagstaff’s powerful adaptation of the acclaimed 1993 Sebastian Foulkes novel, does justice to the memory of the fallen of WW1. The challenges of bringing a novel which follows the ‘sappers’ – the tunnellers’ whose job it was to tunnel underneath the enemy to lay mines – have been overcome by a superb production team.
The story is set in France during WW1 on the Western Front and follows the lives of a group of sappers in the awful conditions that they survived in a century ago. Living 80ft underground they were sleep-deprived, undertrained, and in constant threat of tunnel collapse, being blown up by enemy mines and being trapped until the oxygen ran out and they were asphyxiated.
The Officer in charge is Stephen Wraysford a man increasingly realising the futility of war as he witnesses all humanity being washed away in tunnels dripping with blood that seeps in from the shell-holes on the battlefield above. The use of flashbacks takes us back to Stephens’s life in Amiens, before the war, where he fell in love with a married Frenchwoman Isabelle Azair, played by Emily Bowker. These changes are handled with skill by the cast. Through watching the human casualties mount up Stephen rediscovers his own humanity as he finds himself trapped underground with Jack Firebrace (Peter Duncan) in the final scene.
The production captures the constricted and torturous lives the men lived. It manages to communicate their longing for family, and the close bonds that necessarily take the place of family on the front lines. The Set Design (Victoria Spearing) and eerie lighting design (Alex Wardle) add enormously to the atmosphere as does dramatic use of explosive sound effects. The stage design manages to cope admirable with the necessity of scenes as varied as tunnels, trenches and pre-war Amiens. A violinist and singing Cartwright character (James Findlay) adds occasional lamenting elements at appropriate moments of pathos.
Birdsong is an impressive and poignant production. The 12-strong cast put in strong performances, often doubling as other minor characters (my only gripe being a couple of wobbly accent) and even the programme is a wealth of information, not just on the show but also in historical context of WW1 – there is an excellent information pack available for download on the shows are welcome additions when dealing with such a monumental human tragedy. FOUR STARS
Reviewer : David McCaramba
Eden Court, Inverness
Sat 18th April
When I went to review this I had no idea what to expect I had invited my husband as I thought he would enjoy the subject matter of space. On going into the performance we were given head phones, this made me worry a bit to what I had taken him to.
There was no reason to be concerned, as on sitting down and putting the headphones on you are totally drawn into the world that is being created for you on the stage. I had read briefly the program which explained the performance would be telling two stories along side each other one about refugees fleeing from Mozambique to get to Spain, while the other story was detailing the 1st human going into space. I wasn’t sure how this could work as the stories seemed too far removed from each other but the theme of human endeavor brings them both together, they are both life changing events driven by hope and dreams.
The audience and myself were totally drawn into this performance from start to end. In the beginning it is sound checks you hear, but even this draws you in, and each sound makes you want to see what happens next. Both stories are told through dialect and music with minimum actions. At a point in the play the performers want to convey the illusion that the performance is paused they do this by silence and standing dead still for what feels like minutes. It is a joy to watch how talented they all are.
The stories are told beautiful through the medium of speech, music and the projection of images on a large screen. If you have a chance to go and see this I would highly recommend I will be looking out for work by Kai Fischer in future a very talented director.
Reviewer : Lucy Tonkin
The King’s Theatre, Edinburgh
Tues 14th -Sat 18th April