Monthly Archives: October 2015
Royal Lyceum Theatre
28th Oct – 14th Nov 2015
In a mischievous and captivating adaptation of Sarah Walters’ “Tipping the Velvet” by playwright Laura Wade, we are immersed within a theatrical 1890’s set, to begin the story of a colourfully edgy fish farmer’s daughter, Nancy (Sally Messham) whose obsession with onstage starlet Kitty Butler, played by Laura Rogers, results in an adventurous love affair with a kaleidoscope of magical situations.
Compered by David Cardy, whose powerful performance in top hat and tails finely relates the engaging and often tragic journey of the young adventurer, with captivating performances throughout, and a creatively adapted sound-track. We follow her adventure to London, where she embarks on catastrophic and remarkable twists to her life’s journey. Poignant and clever scripting is used to cleverly illustrate the prejudice of social class, sexuality and desire.
Sally Messham’s performance is thoroughly impressive as she pulls off modern satire within exemplary dance and song with effortless ease, she is a truly amazing talent. Laura Rogers is equally mesmerising and holds the audience gripped with her on-stage presence and utterly divine acting skills.
Contemporary music and narrative are smoothly mixed within classical theatre, mime, dance and comedy, to immerse the senses within a provocative and very clever (often tongue in cheek) love story. Swinging meat and musical fellatio touch on near theatrical genius keeping the audience smitten within a delightful chocolate pot of laughter and suspense.
Cardy is thoroughly engaging as the narrator of the show, adding particularly sublime touches including a special adaptation of the script to applaud the splendour of the Lyceum. It is these attention to details, combined with an expert cast and the incredible use of countless theatrical tools which make this a first class performance which will undoubtedly smash the box office.
Gripping, colourful and comedic theatre at its absolute best, using first class contemporary and classical performance to discuss a multitude of social taboos and portray a delight of historic references. And it’s all done rather well. FIVE STARS
Reviewer: Teri Welsh
Mon 26 to Sat 31 October 2015
Evenings 7.30pm, Matinees Wed & Sat 2.30pm
£15 – £30
Agatha Christie was a member of the genius club, & like that other prolific pensperson, William Shakespeare, her muse was designed to entertain. In the past century or so hundreds of millions of people have been pinned to their seat wondering & trying to work out whodunnit, & at the end after the ‘Big Reveal’ go ‘OMG, of course it was him/her, the clues were soooooo obvious.’ Her masterpiece in both the popular & the critical eye, was the above-titled, ‘And Then There Were None,‘ adapted for the stage by the excellent & well-established Agatha Christie Theatre Company.
Christie began life as a poet, her first ever writings, carefully inscribed in her exercise book of 1901, read; ‘There was once a pretty cowslip / And a pretty flower too / But yet she cried & petted / all for a robe of blue.‘ Thirty years later, & at the peak of her powers, she produced another poem, written by some ‘homicidal lunatic’ who has lured 10 strangers to an island off the coast of Devon in order to be summarily executed for ‘murders’ they had gotten away with in the past. Christie is here pointing a sardonic finger at that upper stratum of society which, in the late imperial era, thought they could ‘get away with it,’ that away from their ‘nudity & gramaphones half-the-night‘ ‘accidentally’ running over a young couple in your flash sports car was a terrible nuisance as one’s licence was taken off one for a whole year. The ten ‘murders’ which Christie chose all seem echoes of reality, & one gets the feeling that she was observing society at the time – in the news, at social events – & poured her findings into this epic text like some anglo-saxon Eudora Welty.
Ten little Indian boys went out to dine;
One choked his little self and then there were Nine.
Nine little Indian boys sat up very late;
One overslept himself and then there were Eight.
Eight little Indian boys traveling in Devon;
One said he’d stay there and then there were Seven.
Seven little Indian boys chopping up sticks;
One chopped himself in halves and then there were Six.
Six little Indian boys playing with a hive;
A bumblebee stung one and then there were Five.
Five little Indian boys going in for law;
One got into Chancery and then there were Four.
Four little Indian boys going out to sea;
A red herring swallowed one and then there were Three.
Three little Indian boys walking in the Zoo;
A big bear hugged one and then there were Two.
Two Little Indian boys playing with a gun;
One shot the other and then there was one.
One little Indian boy left all alone;
He went out and hanged himself and then there were none.
As for this particular renditon, it was all rather enjoyable, with wizard performances all round, what! Cue hysterical accusations, shots in the dark & the cast members dropping like flies. The star of the show was undoubtedly the delectable Welsh actress, Kezia Burrows, a splash of flouncing colour, hyped-up to perfection, offsetting the drabby-chic set & stuffy caricatures of 1930s Britain. As for the stage management, the predictable yet pretty decor really drew the audience into the death-house, especially during the candlelit nights when shadows danced like giants in the background. Unfortunately there was a distinct lack of atmospheric sound effects, just the occasional squawks of sea-birds & a wee wave-rush or two – but I guess this is the theatre & not the movies, so may be excused. I also felt a little cheated by the skipping of several of the deaths & their slightly confused afterwards when cast & audience members were playing catch up. Overall, however, a hugely successful production of which Dame Christie herself would surely have delighted in. FOUR STARS
Reviewer : Damo Bullen
Play, Pie and a Pint
The Oran Mor
Oct 26th – 31st
There is a lot of darkness and silence. Kim Allan plays The Woman, haunted by the tragic loss of her boyfriend who died in a car accident. The musician, Doctor and Gregor triple part is played by David Rankine, actor and musician from Glasgow band The Giant Squidz. The musician sits stage left playing his guitar while seated at a drum kit. The Woman sits at a desk stage right and she is obsessively counting. The metronome ticks and she is clock watching on an epic scale. What is she doing? Why is she doing this? As the play unfolds we are taken on a voyage into the frailty of the human psyche and the torturous need for The woman to stay awake and somehow connect with her dead lover.
Rabbit gets squashed.’
This mantra is a verbose and gushing lament to herself as she struggles to comprehend what has happened to her partner and the reality that her life is as squashed as said rabbit. Powerful insights into the power of the dark keep us intrigued, not the fear of it but ‘fates sealed out of sight while we sleep.’ She needs to ‘power down, regenerate, planets shift, we drift..’ This woman is exhausted! But she can’t give in. She has a conversation with her Doctor who tries to help her with her insomniac existence. Exploring the similarity of humans to bats with some fascinating facts. Stars in trillions of years will not be light bearing and will have expired giving rise to The Woman’s thoughts that the human race will have ‘no need for eyes.’ Do you know that you lose 30,000 cells per minute, well you do now!
This play is a personal private take on the chaos that ensues when a loved one is wrenched from us quickly and cruelly. There are no answers to The Woman’s search for her lover and it is only through her garrulous manic almost bi-polar galaxy mapping that she sees him and briefly connects again. FOUR STARS
Reviewer : Clare Crines
The lovely Brunton Theatre in Musselburgh is the secret gem of the Edinburgh theatrical scene, & last Saturday put on a wee treasure of a play, Hector by David Gooderson. It tells the story of ‘Fighting Mac,’ i.e. Sir Hector Macdonald a crofter’s son who rose through the raggy ranks to the richness of life afforded to a Knight of the Realm. In the perhaps to draggy first half of the play, we follow McDonald’s career as it led from active service in the Sudan, through the conscience-pricking imperialism of the Boer war, to his appointment as General Officer Commanding in Ceylon (Sri Lanka). Unfortunately, the posh old-money folk of the service in Ceylon didn’t take too fondly to his brash Gaelic honesty, & concocted a story which smeared McDonald as a paedophile.
Steven Duffy portrays the lead with the controlled, forthright decorum of a career Officer, a favourite General of Queen Victoria. His Hector in Act One is rather stiff and detached, but he allows the emotional intensity to surface in Act Two with fitting guarded despair. Gowan Calder moves between roles as Hector’s wife Christina and the Machiavellian Lady Ridgeway with fluid authority. The cast impresses in dual roles throughout, and handle the brief but charming song and dance with impressive skill and gaiety. The standout performer may be Stevie Hannan, whose charisma and confidence shine throughout several roles, including Governor Ridgeway, whose friendship and later scandalous decision making are the catalyst for Hector’s downfall.
Hector is most definitely a play of two halves. The first period is a tad too slow in creating within the audience any meaningful dramatic expectations, & it felt as if we were flicking through the Wikipedia entry for Mr McDonald. The second period, however, was a much brighter, edge-of-your-seat, emotionally-tugging work of art, a wee masterclass to be honest. Thus, with the first half warranting a three at best, & the second half rising to the four, it seems appropriate to award this clever & often times moving play THREE STARS.
Reviewers : Damo Bullen & Emily Oakman
‘A Play, A Pie and A Pint’
The felt sense of the ‘descent’ toward Traverse 2 only added to the theme of this play. The set is a traditional home with bright lighting, a bleak juxtaposition of the dark and hidden topic of dementia and its impact on everyone in its path. Barrie Hunter’s performance was breath taking and painfully real. The audience are placed as voyeurs on the outside of the home of a family as it battles with dementia on all fronts. This play should come with a warning… It hits you in the face with brutal honesty. It is easy to imagine that so many people and families have experienced the devastation caused by dementia. The isolation of the sufferer as lucidity declines and people who were once close can’t find a way to connect. The isolation and shameful grief of those around them as the lose someone they love and still see the shell of them. Wendy Seager, wife and mother, Cathy, delivered some painful monologues with a bullseye shot… “He’s not there…” Hunter played that vacancy beautifully. His character is diverse, fiery, articulate and inevitably, lost.
Linda Duncan McLaughlin’s Descent is in association with Luminate, Scotland’s creative ageing festival. I felt this work shone a light on the untold experiences of dementia and from that perspective it is a must see. On a personal level, this was not an easy watch, it was uncomfortable and sad. As an audience member the shock and sadness was palpable but there is also humour and love in handfuls, care and reality on all edges. We shared an experience and maybe this will bring awareness to how to manage this destructive disease and take the shame out of being with it. FOUR STARS
The lights go down after the introduction and the stage lights do their magic. Illuminating a well designed set that though sparse on the floor is a feast for the eyes with all the architectural models proudly displayed on the walls.
The wall of a lifetimes work.
The wall of the past and present.
The wall is full.
There is no place for the future to hang.
Cathy (Wendy Seager) is packing a suitcase. She tells us , ‘This is how he packs a case….precise, ordered, familiar…’ Her architect husband asks the audience,‘ When does anything begin?’ and proceeds to take us on a verbal journey about the precise moment that a seedling becomes a seedling before it parts the soil. This play is a tricky one. Tricky in its subject matter. We all tend to shy away from subjects like dementia – there are few of us who would choose this way to go when it comes to our time for the big Exit.
Rob, his wife Cathy and daughter Nicola are the family Linda Duncan McLaughlin has wrote about, bringing awareness of this harrowing condition that affects most of us at some point in our lives. She does this with a great deal of thought, intellect and compassion. There is not a soupcon of sentimentality. Each character has been carefully honed to represent the contrasting coping strategies different people utilise under such awful stress. It is clear that this family was a happy and loving one but with the onslaught of this invasive disease the cracks inevitably appear. Cathy confides in us at the point when they are getting the formal diagnosis as she watches their daughter Nicola become a carbon copy of her dad writing lists and seemingly being cold hearted asking which sort of care plans are available to them. She confesses that as much as she loves her daughter and knows that she means well, ‘there are times when I could crush her hand to dust.’ This insight into the personal day to day life of dementia victims and their families who struggle to find ways to keep dignity afloat is powerful and inspiring. It is a testament to McLaughlin’s skills in writing to be able to navigate through this traumatically repetitive illness which cruelly peels off the vital layers and binders of memory that hold a family together with touches of fiery humour.
The cast are fantastic : each one living their part so well that we have a deep connection to them from the onset. Rob is played by Glaswegian south-sider Barrie Hunter, a versatile actor who was flawless throughout. Fiona MacNeil got the balance between strength, confusion and love as the daughter perfect allowing the stoic character of Cathy to shine at all the right moments. Director Allie Butler knows what she is doing!
The sound designer and technician Pauline Morgan and Andy Cowan also deserve a mention for the very eerie recordings at the end and the dual carriageway sound effects when Rob gets lost and is wandering in the dual carriageway. As I left with tears in my eyes I heard an audience member say to her friend, ‘It was very well done but too close to the bone.’ As it should be.Theatre that is real. A must see – thought proving , challenging, and utterly humane. FIVE STARS
19:30 (mat: wed/sat 14:30)
£16 – £30.50
“Is the bathing safe in the bay?”
‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again,‘ begins Daphne de Maurier’s famous novel, Rebecca, first published in 1938. Given the Hitchcock treatment, the story the new Mrs De Winter’s entrée into the stately estate of the old Mrs De Winter is a perfectly English classic. It is a great testament to Kneehigh Theatre’s spirit that they have chosen this particular tale to adapt for the stage, but one is left with the feeling that their director, Emma Rice, hasn’t quite pulled it off.
Aesthetically the play is supreme; a wonderfully atmospheric set into which is blended a wooden boat – an ever-present reminder that the drowning of the old Mrs De Winter is the central theme of the story. Performance wise, the entire cast are on the top of their game, conjoining like Elizabethan players to sing moving sea-shanties or dance the Charleston with infectious energy. When siphoning off into their respective parts, I thought Lizzie Winkler’s bubbly Beatrice was excellent, while the Lord Flash-heartian entrance of Jack Favell was a fun moment. Emily Raymond’s ice-queen portrayal of Mrs Duvall was also acted to perfection, who by simply standing still oozed with stiff efficiency.
The problem with this version of Rebecca is that it feels more like a Vaudevillian farce at times, reneging upon De Maurier’s studied tension-builds & replacing them with out-of place humour. Well, for the first half, anyway, for after the interval the play picks up immensely: the three streams of plot, atmosphere & performance converging upon the stage with genuine excellence.
However, the ultimate feeling I garnered upon watching this play was as if I was reading the Shakespeare stories created by Charles Lamb for a younger audience, with all the clever nuances of the original in absentia. THREE STARS
Reviewer : Damo Bullen
October 13th – 17th 2015
£12 (inc. a play, a pie and a pint)
The name stuck out for me, as I glanced through the theatre listings because it reminded me of a Guns and Roses song. Cathy Forde explores a chance meeting between Gerry, a local handyman and Susan, a Malawi women who was brought up knowing of Marys Meals which originated by two Dalmally brothers who set up the education system of free school meals in return for attendance at school in Africa.
Expecting a grand space with lush sets and heavy costumes I couldn’t have been more inaccurate about my first visit to this venue. After walking down two flights of stairs below ground level, Traverse 2 allows us into a very small intimate environment. Seating no more than a hundred there was no room between the stage and the seats. Cathy Forde is a well-established writer of children’s books.
The Traverse theatre is dedicated to what they term ‘New Writing’. It is a modern play with Forde using simplicity as a tool for directing the acting. The stage is sparse and the lighting minimal. Comfortable humour aroused some responses from the audience with some great comedy moments. As the plot progressed the meanings of earlier dialogue becomes apparent keeping the audience engaged throughout right up the final serious scene.
There is a willingness to deal with emotions such as awkwardness, included in the main and smaller conversations. The plays two heroes, Susan played by Teri Ann Bobb-Baxter and Gerry played by Alan McHugh are its only characters. There is a genuine feeling of mutual respect and support between the protagonists. Gary and Susan’s continued use of storytelling gives the play another level where facts and details are important so that there is no confusion or false conclusion made both by the actors and the audience.
The sorrowful moments are offered as stories of what can happen when people suffering poverty try to kickback against the inevitability of their situation. Dialogue using humour and a little comedy helps us back into the underlying meaning of the play. Susan talks about her Art and how it helped her to convey her innermost feelings and how it helped her cope with very difficult hardships out with her control. Gerry thinks Art should only be done well and doesn’t understand conceptual Art. This subtly powerful yet gentle play gives credence to the relevance and kindness of human nature. FOUR STARS
Reviewer: Daniel Donnelly
Oct 15th – 17th
‘On the day of the holy polyscarp, I declare war against depravity’
Watching Marius von Mayenburg’s quasi-Christian Martyr is a bit like being crucified, a painful drawn-out affair that places the audience on the hill of Cavalry for 95 torturous minutes. First presented at the Schaubuhme am Lehniner Platz, Berlin, in February 2012, nobody in Britain would touch it with a barge-pole until Unicorn Theatre, in conjunction with Actors Touring Company, took it on this year. The play tells the story of bible-quoting, future spree-killer Benjamin Sinclair, played effortlessly brilliantly by Daniel O’Keefe, & his interactions between the rest of the cast; his mum, his teachers, his class-mates & a vicar. Scene-by-scene he is slowly suck’d into the Jesus complex, & the knock-on effect that has on the rest of the player’s lives. Of these, the dynamics between his increasingly exasperated mother, & his teacher obsessed with out-theologizing the lad were the most interesting; the others were a bit plastic.
Unicorn Theatre’s (with Actors Touring Company) self-titled moniker as the ‘the UKs Theatre for Young Audiences’ is well-given, for one gets the feeling one is watching Grange Hill. I can imagine von Mayebnurg making a list of what will shock a young audience; nudity, gay kisses, accusations of paeadophilia, & string them together with an evangelical thread… & tada, ladies & gentlemen, we have Martyr. Between condoms on carrots, a clumsy cast-clutter’d stage & a suitably Twilight-style visceral ending this play certainly stood out. In the Q&A session after the show, we were told that teenage audiences go wild for the controversiality of the play, but there is an element of unoriginality in trying to shock us – where is the subtlety. But saying that – a teenager delighted by the theatre today is an adult moved by the theatre tomorrow. THREE STARS
Reviewer Damo Bullen
Websters Theatre Glasgow
At the East End of Kelvinbridge the old Lansdowne Parish Church has been taken over by the same company that runs Cottiers in Glasgow’s West End and transformed into a performance venue. Very similar in feel to Cottiers theatre it has a great acoustic and conveys a sense of intimacy while still being a decent size. It’s situated right across Great Western Road from Kelvinbridge Underground station.
Windae Hingin’ is a two-hander set in the opposite ground floor flats of a Glasgow tenement and the two characters mainly converse by means of their open windows, hence the title. Written,produced and directed by Gurmeet Mattu this was a production of the amateur Yorkhill Theatre Group.
Maggie McClintock (Helene Fitzgerald) is a couthy hard-boiled Glesca woman of a certain age and Jeannie Cranwell (Carol Fraser) is a newly wed from the north of Scotland who has just moved in to her rented flat along with hapless husband Alan.
It takes time, but the two slowly become friends as Maggie give Jeannie the benefit of her experience and local knowledge by extricating Alan from the long arm of the law when he is wrongly accused of thefts at his work.
Unfortunately the piece plodded due to both the script and some rather leaden acting. You could imagine an Elaine C Smith-type character making something of the material but laughs were few and far between and fluffed lines and cues didn’t help. Admittedly, it was an amateur production but if you charge people for a performance you have to come up with something more substantial. It was an interesting concept that didn’t fulfill it’s initial promise. TWO STARS
Reviewer : Dave Ivens
A Play A Pie And A Pint
Oran Mor, Glasgow
There can be few people in the developed world who have not had some sort of contact with dementia at some point in their lives yet it still remains essentially a taboo topic. This hard hitting play by Linda Duncan McLaughlin tackles the problem head on and pulls no punches in it’s bleak assessment of the realities of dealing with the condition and the corrosive effect it has on day to day family life and relationships. Played as a flashback from the present as Cathy (Wendy Seager) packs a suitcase with her husband Rob’s (Barrie Hunter) clothes it shows his deterioration from a successful architect to a barely functioning shell of a man who is unable to remember how to sit down properly.
Initially both are in denial as it slowly becomes obvious that something is going seriously wrong and it falls to their daughter Nicola (Fiona McNeil) to attempt to draw their attention to the deteriorating mental state of her father, a thankless role, for which she is roundly ridiculed and criticised by her parents. As Cathy tries to care for Rob at home they both end up imprisoned in their own ways-she unable to leave him and he too great a danger to himself to allowed out. Eventually the inevitable happens and Rob has to go to a home when Cathy can no longer cope on her own.
This play reveals how difficult it is living with a loved one who is no longer the person they used to be and the guilt, distress and hardship of those directly affected by Dementia.
Barrie Hunter’s portrayal of the disintegrating Rob is powerful. spellbinding and heartbreaking and the supporting cast, lighting, sound and direction were all excellent. A must see. FIVE STARS
Reviewer : Dave Ivens