Monthly Archives: June 2015

The Driver’s Seat

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh

Until the 27th June


This production of Muriel Spark’s The Driver’s Seat is a masterclass in adaptation. Faithful to the novel, it manages to be both contemporary and retro, fusing elements of CSI and Crimewatch via Italian giallo. The director and adapter of Spark’s ‘spiny and treacherous masterpiece’ is Laurie Sansom, Artistic Director of the National Theatre of Scotland.

On the surface, The Driver’s Seat is the story of an alienated woman, alienated socially, by work, and from herself (mental illness is inferred from the start). She seems to be searching for a lover, she is quite sure she’ll find on holiday, who can save her from these everyday horrors. Yet this narrative is all about what’s below the surface and the many facets of Lise’s enigma are mirrored in the continually morphing stage design and production—so below, as above. The creeping sense of unease that builds incrementally throughout the play makes it apparent that she is not looking for love, a petit mort, or rescuing, but some form of self-destruction, ‘the time of her life’ as she says.

Each member of the cast is excellent, providing crucial and varied contributions as the play unfolds. They work incredibly well as a collective, shifting and changing in a protean mass, that is part supporting role to Lise’s unknown drive and part meta-fictive detective commentary on the crime—we find out early on—that is going to happen. Morvern Christie, in a cold and brilliant capturing of Lise, is the only character who plays a single role, but she shifts and changes within one persona, so we have no idea who she is, or what she’s thinking.

There are three main elements to the play which make it such a success, and which the cast help to seem seamless: the adaptation itself, the set, costume and video design by Ana Inés Jabares Pita, and the sound collage by Philip Pinsky, who is a constant looming presence on stage, at the side of the action.

unnamed (1)

The matter of fact descriptions of rooms and places in Spark’s book are skilfully redeployed by Sansom to become factual details, or evidence, in the police identikit profile of the crime. Mounting details are continually added to one of the main props, a type of incident room whiteboard/pinboard, that also plays many roles, from shop entrance to toilet. The trick here is that it is transparent, so the audience can see the addition of new evidence and photos: ‘Victim,’ ‘Eyes – Green/Brown.’ Live video footage is used to relay the narrative, to ramp up the sense of voyeurism in the prowling male characters, and to comment on lurid real-time mass media news coverage. At the same time the sound collage amplifies events and associations, especially with the clever interweaving of music from Argento’s Suspiria to cement the notion that the play is part homage to gialli films. This is augmented by the strong sense of Italian throughout, which is foregrounded more than it is in the book, not least through the use of Italian from the seedy mechanics, terrifically played by Castiglione and Volpetti.

It is this collusion of the many components to the play—set, adaptation, cast, sound—that help it capture the brilliance of Spark’s prose and story and be as brilliant a work in its own right.

Reviewer – Nicky Melville


Play, Pie, Pint

Oran Mor, Glasgow

15-20 June


There is a vast array of talent in the 3 male actors that perform this classic cut, the second in a series of 4 at Oran Mor. The stage is strewn with rocks and ancient pillars which are partially lit with warm ambient lighting.It feels like summer.It is in fact the island of Lemnos where Philoctetes has been surviving and living like Robinson Crusoe for the past ten years in excruciating agony due to an untimely snake bite, the stench of which sealed his fate there.His shipmates led by Odysseus,‘democratically voted him off the ship’ – Odysseus (George Docherty) plays his scheming character with such gusto and finger-pointing persuasion that Neoptolemos agrees to go with him to Lemnos to retrieve the bow of Heracles from sceptic Philoctetes, ‘Can I succeed without destroying my soul, my integrity?’ ponders Neoptolemus sinking into the murky waters of ambition and glory and risking his reputation and that of his dead father Achilles.


Philoctetes, played by Benny Young, gives a compelling account of pain and disability and the horrifying psychological and social disruption that he suffered on account of his cruel abandonment ten years prior by Odysseus and his evil crew.Our compassion is gained when he appeals to Neoptolemus (Daniel Portman,Game of Thrones’ Podrick Payne and River City actor) ‘Cut it off, my foot, use a rock.Kill this pain with pain’ Odysseus opportunistically tries to rationalize his inhumane imprisonment of Philoctetes, ‘oh please, save me your fucking pious wank” The essentially moral Neoptolemos, who so nearly betrays the honorable Philoctetes returns to his usual moral framework saving himself from further guilt by persuading Philoctetes to leave with them.

This play is a representation of social stigma built on disability so it is heartening that Neoptolemus does not lose his soul or the grit in his integrity. This, coupled with some very un-Sophocles patter such as ,‘has your stinking clogged your thinking?’ and ‘Helen the horny,the trollop of Troy’ inject some much needed humour into this heavy duty philosophical work.The actors are superb and their collective energy make this modern day gangster style version well worth seeing.

Reviewer : Clare Crines

Classic Cuts: The Yellow Wallpaper

Oran Mor., Glasgow

Mon, 08 June, 2015 — Sat, 13 June, 2015


This novella-adaption is Sandy Nelson’s twelfth Oran Mor show, directed by Sacha Kyle, & the first of the four annual, cut-down plays performed each year at this magnificent and lofty venue.. Charlotte Perkins published this tragic and turbulent tale in 1892, communicating her own post natal-depression through the main character of Charlotte; played to perfection by the intriguing actor, Hannah Donaldson.This is an extraordinary glimpse of what became for many women, and even daughters of the not so distant past, oppressive circumstances that were near impossible to escape from. Delving into the Freudian world of female psychosynthesis that was set by a patriarchal society,the use of first person narrative aligns us deeply and emotionally with Charlotte’s despair.

A play equally for Edgar Alan Poe and ballet fans alike,this play is sumptuously choreographed .The timing is seamlessly  well -balanced through the gymnastic energy of 2010 Ballet and Contemporary Dance graduate Katie Armstrong. In the past she has worked with The London Ballet Company and was appointed Choreographer for ZENDEH Theatre Company’s production of HEART, which toured nationally last year.Katie’s trippy performance as the woman-in-the -wall is hypnotic, with angular splits and creepy crawling about the stage which eventually drive our Charlotte mad but not before a brilliant contemporary piece of female dance action that should draw in even the most conservative of dance followers through its poetic fluidity.The music goes from beautifully flowing melody to manic electro chaos as the narrative unfolds. John, Charlotte’s husband (played by Sandy Nelson) shows us just how manipulating and charming a physician can be in his sleep rest and rot therapy.This shortened work can still touch a raw nerve if reflecting upon our contemporary lives.Do we have the power over our own fate in our computer (possible interpretation of the wallpaper?) crazed society where the machine is responsible for exhaustion and exasperation in equal doses? This Luddite thinks not.Stereotypical ideas of gender roles have improved since Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s lifetime but we are by no means free of them so it is refreshing to have a play that at first might not seem relevant and topica, but truly is on so many timeless levels.

Reviewer Clare Crines

Charlie Sonata

The Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Thu 4 – Sat 6 June

14.45 & 20.00

£7.50 – £10


Watching Charlie Sonata for the first time is a bit like going out into town with no intention of going shopping, yet coming back with a massive grin on your face knowing you’ve ended up buying that thing you never knew you wanted but really bloody needed! A sugar-sweet treat of epic proportions, we follow the story of social misfit Charlie, played with a wondrous confidence by burgeoning talent Nebli Basani. Clinging to the classical unities, with the occasional dream-sequence flashback, Charlie is desperately attempting to assist the recovery of his recently hospitalized, thirteen-year-old niece,  Audrey. This forms the nuclei about which the nine actors spin, corybantes-style, like planets orbiting the sun as Basani crashes & burns magnificently through his mediocre world. Great praise should go to the production team – led by director Matthew Lenton – who managed to create some genuinely emotional physical set-pieces, including ballet-dancing fairies, along with an atmospheric set surrounded by empty glass beer bottles. Towards the end of the play they also plunged us all in darkness – apart from a single, flickering torch – a rare moment of cinematic mood-making in the modern theatre.

Douglas Maxwell

Douglas Maxwell

Finally, we have the play itself, a new creation by award-winning Douglas Maxwell, finished in 2013 & getting its premier in the hands of an exciting crop of young uns graduating in their respective BAs in acting and the production arts. A genuinely heart-warming play, its full of obscure mimesi, from the Sleeping Beauty folk-motif to retro time-travel. In the latter segment, I was especially thrilled by his references to the quality of teenage life in 1994 – the age of phonecards & Blur’s seminal album, Parklife – & one line in particular seemed to reflect Maxwell’s muse : ‘I did like superheroes, but I’m 40.’ I also discerned a touch of the 1999 film Dogma in the mix, for the fairy godmother, played with panache by the superb Carly Tisdall, is a traditional avatar roughly masticated  with the reckless untraditionality of our creative zeitgeist.


An energetic, chic & witty piece… & tho of its time it also feels rather timeless. FOUR STARS   imgres

Reviewer : Damo Bullen 

On the Verge

The Arches, Glasgow

3rd-5th June

£6-£8 (day pass)


I Can Get Along With Shoes On My Feet


The Mumble always likes to keep abreast of what’s happening in theworld of theatre, whether Past, Present or Future, & it is the latter sphere that the Arches are concentrating with a three-day feast of raw and provocative new work work from students at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s MA Classical and Contemporary Text and BA Acting and Musical Theatre programmes.


Yesterday (Wednesday) I took in a couple of these plays; I Can Get Along With Shoes On My Feet by Fiona Mackinnon, & Julius by Daniel Lien. The first of these quality pieces is a sequence of dialogues based on interviews with the older generation, segued together seamlessly by Ms Mckinnon. Acted out by three young starlets in WW2 dress; Victoria Burgess, Nicole Goeden & the excellently chirpy Sarah Miele, we are taken back to a time when going out dancing was all about drinking cheap tea – which all the men could afford – & the dancing was just sooo much better due to the lack of the inebriating effects of alcohol. The way the actresses polished off their wide array of accents was really heart-warming & suspended my disbelief for the whole show. All this was accompanied by the adept musician, Nicolette Corcoran, & the entire audience was left with that warm afterglow one gets after visiting our favorite granny.


Julius was an entirely different affair; a surreal blend of physical theatre, from street-ballet to the Three Stooges, plus atmospheric dialogue & soundscapes, it told the story of a baby chimpanzee being brought up by scientists. A really forward thinking play & genuinely breathtaking at times, it shows how the future of theatre in this country is in safe-hands. Not having the chance to see all the shows on offer at the Archers, if the rest are as good as these two gems, then I urge anyone in Glasgow to take a trip to the Arches, where tomorrow, for only £6 you will get a chance to see the following.

Friday 5th June


1900-1940 Emilie Konradsen: That fuckin’ F Word
2010-2050 Rasa Niurkaite: 20 Season’s
2120-2200 Daniel Klarer: Side effects include


1910-1950 Eddy Mullarkey: Grassy Overtones
2130-2145 Sarah Miele: If only my body would let me


1915-1950 Fiona MacKinnon: I can get along with shoes on my feet
2100-2120 Laura Vingoe-Cramm: Bee Catching


2000-2030 Rosa French & Claire Winkleback: The Hoard
2110-2150 Tori Burgess & Francesca Isherwood: The Quarter

Yer Granny

King’s Theatre, Edinburgh
Tue 2 to Sat 6 June 2015

YER GRANNY National Theatre of Scotland  MAY 2015 Photographer credit: Manuel Harlan HANDOUT .... Maureen Beattie (L), Barbara Rafferty (C) & Gregor Fisher (L)

The National Theatre of Scotland’s star studded cast takes on award-winning Scottish playwright Douglas Maxwell’s version of Roberto La Cossa’s, La Nona. The Argentinian comedy classic, has been relocated to a flat above a failed chip shop in Glasgow. This is 1977, the year of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, an era of turbulent economics and the pre Thatcher recession.

We are welcomed by a highly detailed 1970s stage set design. The hideously 70’s patterned stained walls have been manufactured in such a way creating the illusion of perspective. In hobbles Granny scoffing a family size packet of crisps. Played by Gregor Fisher and as endearingly repulsive as his Rab C Nesbitt, Nana clearly has an unyielding appetite. The housewife, daughter-in-law Marie (Maureen Beattie) nervously and frantically cooks the Russo’s family meal, as Nana devours the last few crumbs and eagerly looks around for her next course.

Cameron or Cammy, husband to Marie (Jonathan Watson) has big dreams to re-open his chip shop, The Minerva Fish Bar, in time for the royal Jubilee and re-enacts his imaginary meeting with the Queen over a sausage.

Auntie Angela’s (Barbara Rafferty) failed courtship with the families rival chip shop owner, Donnie Francisco (Brian Pettifer) means she resides with the Russo’s now. Angela’s a prim but dithery and innocent spinster who feels she is a financial hindrance to the family, yet blindly encourages Cammy’s brother, Charlie’s (Paul Riley) musical non-talent, a camouflage for his work-shy lazy attitude.

Airhead blonde daughter, Marissa, (Louise McCarthy) who would literally do anything to be her daddy’s wee lamb, proudly works for a Zen ‘chemist’ who – unknown to her – is actually a drug dealer!

All the while the plot line develops, granny is slumped in a seat consuming buns, crisps, toast, biscuits, stew or picking and eating crumbs between the folds of her clothes. Devouring every last morsel like an ill-mannered hog. When she’s not eating food, she’s talking about food!


As the poor struggling married couple, Marie and Cammy, discuss their financial problems, granny obliviously but happily licks the icing off a cake hidden by Marie. Marie exclaims Charlie needs to sign on and either Granny goes or her! One by one members of the family begin to realise Nana is the problem. At the ripe old age of 100 she shows no signs of decline despite brother Charlie’s best efforts. Charlie bribes Nana to visit the shows for candy, but devilishly leaves her there. The family anxiously search for her, she’s nowhere to be seen, Charlie attempts to persuade the family of their newly found freedom just as Nana returns full of joy with a lollypop… Cameron turns to Charlie and says “Maybe it’s time to take it to the next level…”

After the interval, the living room is noticeably considerably bare, evidence of Marie’s desperate attempts to sell household possessions to make money. Auntie Angela in an attempt to prove her worth unsuspectingly helps Marissa sell ‘energy pills’ and becomes delirious after taking some! Meanwhile brother Charlie comes up with a master plan involving the old perverted and horny enemy Donnie Francisco. Marie leaves in disgust, bailiffs take all their possessions and the family falls apart. And finally with every one of nana’s family either dead or fled, a pool of light shines down on her and she ogles the audience and repeats… “Whits that yiv got?!”

A surreal and hilarious piece loaded with surprises, 70’s sexism and economic realism we can still relate to today. FOUR STARS



Reviewer : Sarah Lewis