Monthly Archives: May 2016

Del Gesu’s Viola

A Play A Pie And A Pint

 Oran Mor


 May 30th – June 4th


This play, written by Scottish veteran playwright and adaptor Hector MacMillan, (The Sash, Moliere’s The Misanthrope are two of his notable successes) and directed by Liz Carruthers, is the last in the spring season of A Play A Pie And A Pint.

The setting is a precognition hearing at a Procurator Fiscal’s office and opens with Elizabeth Flett paying a beautiful piece on viola. The Fiscal (Eileen Nicholas) is hearing the testimony of a plaintiff (Finlay Welsh) and the accused (Peter Kelly). At issue is a viola which the plaintiff has bought from the accused for £1,900 under the impression that it may very well be a priceless instrument crafted by Bartolemeo Giussepe Guarneri ( known as Del Gesu) of Cremona, Italy, in the 18th Century. The fact is that Del Gesu was never known to have ever made a viola, only violins, although, confusingly, this particular instrument is the size of a conventional violin. Guarneri’s violins sell for astronomical sums and are regarded by some as superior to the better known Stradivari.

Both the accused and his naturalised (and now deceased) Italian father have made violins as a hobby and the instruments, though not really worth much are well regarded for their beautiful sound.

The plaintiff, a trader in old and valuable instrument’s wants the price he paid reduced because he thinks he has been hoodwinked by the accused, even though he was quite happy to pay a pittance for what he believed to be a possibly priceless viola.

The Fiscal has the tricky job of deciding whether a prosecution should go ahead.

delgesu2.jpgHector MacMillan’s underlying issue in this piece was greed and why should the rich have possession of the best instruments, while perfectly good modern examples are relatively worthless? Many of the greatest instruments languish unplayed in safety deposit boxes and collections, steadily increasing in value as  investment opportunities.

Although well acted, the basis of this piece was perhaps slightly insubstantial for those not really interested in the subject matter and without being too much of a pun, was very much a chamber piece with some moderately funny and thought- provoking twists. The beautiful sounding viola/violin in the play was, in fact, made by the playwright himself.


Reviewer : Dave Ivens

Script: three-stars Stagecraft: three-stars  Performance: four-stars 


Thon Man Moliere


The Lyceum


20th May – 11th June


Script: 5 Stagecraft: four-stars  Performance: three-stars

In his parting words to the public as Artistic Director of the Lyceum in Edinburgh, Mark Thomson says, with a serious sense of self-satisfaction – after commissioning & seeing to fruition a play on the 17th century comic playwright, Moliere, by Scottish Makar, Liz Lochhead – that the result was, ‘something horribly, wittily, human.’ But its more than that. It is pastiche brought to perfection, a traditional model infused with fresh insights & ideas. It is history remembered & resurrected &, of course, refined.


Liz Lochhead

This is not Lochhead’s only flirtation with Moliere. Her first effort broke her into the Caledonian consciousness after she translated and adapted his masterwork Tartuffe in 1985: premiering at the Lyceum in ’87. The translation was into choicest broad Scots, & followed in a long line of Scots translations of Moliere, such as Hector MacMillan’s ‘The Hypochondriack’ (from Le Malade Imaginaire) & Robert Kemp’s ‘The Laird o Grippy’ (from The Miser). There is something about Moliere & the Scottish psyche that just, well, fits. In a 1790 letter from Ellisland, Rabbie Burns, while requesting certain books to be sent to him, invites, ‘a good copy, too, in French, of Moliere I much want. Any other dramatic authors in that language I want also.’ With these two bedfellows – Scottish writers & Moliere – must be added the Scots language, creating a menage a trois that stimulates all our affections, whether writer, player, or audience. Of Lochhead’s contribution to the gryphon, Thon Man Moliere‘s leading lady, Siobhan Redmond, gleefully recognizes that Lochhead’s Scots, ‘sounds like real life only better…. with a much faster beating heart, singing on a higher note.

Thon Man Moliere is a pseudo-biography of the man & his, what Lochead told the Mumble, ‘harlequin-chequered life of ironies, ups & downs, successes & failures, of Paris & the provinces, of plaudits & penury, of patronage lavished & patronage brutally & arbitarily withdrawn.’ Her leading man, Jimmy Chisholm added, ‘Thon Man Moliere isn’t a history play, its about these completely made-up characters out of some facts of Molier’s life… its not just a knock about Moliere comedy its not like that at all, its about the life & the stresses & the darkness & the things that surrounded that man & that company while they were trying to produce very, very funny pieces of theatre.’



The story revolves around the sexual dynamics between Moliere (Chisholm), his leading actress & company-boss Madeleine Bejart & her 16 year-old daughter Menou (Sarah Miele), who may-or-might-not-have-been Moliere’s. This causes some dramatic tension, especially when Moliere & Miele get in on & have a couple of bairns themselves. Chisholm & Redmond work wonderfully well together, a sign of a lifetime friendship that has finally burst with some magic onto the stage. Redmond plays a fantastic Madeleine, & it seems that Lochhead had her in mind when writing Thon Man, telling the Mumble, ‘She’s a close friend, she’s like family & I wrote this play hoping but not thinking she would play Madelaine in it.‘ Just as in real life, Redmond’s class on the stage is reflected by Madeleine, & the part could well be a career-defining moment for Redmond, for she is brilliant in a brilliant play.


Nicola Roy as There Du Parc, in conversation with Madeleine Bejart (Siobhan Redmond)

Watching Thon Mon is a rare treat, a totally immersive experience which wings one’s thought-doves back to 17th century France with the loftiest ease. With Racine dipping into the plot from time to time, alongside some rather ‘excuisite alexandrians,‘ amidst an elegant set the colourful costumes leap from a monochrome stage – this is tragicomedy after all. Indeed, I loved Lochhead’s terse descriptions of tragedy – ‘any eegit can write that sublime shite’ – & comedy  ‘everything is a mess / it gets worse / it all gets sorted out / there’s a happy ending.‘ These words are symptomatic of the delineating predilection of modern poets writing for other poets – in this incarnation Lochhead is, at times, a playwright writing for other playwrights. Luckily there is enough rough & ready realism & colloquial cocksurity to please all who are to be entertained.


Sarah Miele

Thon Man Moliere is not just about the playwrights, but about his illustrious company too – all of whom are interestingly deep characters in their own right, who interact with each other electrically, most of whom end up in bed with each other at some point. I enjoyed them all, especially the scenes when they were rehearsing a play – brilliant flies on walls on walls kinda thing. Steven McCicoll’s Gros-Rene du Parc was a classic larger-than-life lovey-darling, while Lochhead’s inextinguishable Feminism swarms out of the mouth of Du Parc’s wife, Therese, played by Nicola Ropy. Molly Innes, as Toinette the maid, keeps everything together , I always welcomed to the stage, while James Anthony Pearson as Michael Baron delivered the best lines, when he described his double-jointed magical music-box debut for King Louis XIV, bubbles of phantasie delivered with addictively watchable precision. Of them all, Sarah Miele was simply divine. Winner of this year’s Bafta Scotland New Talent Award, while all other characters came to us fully evolved, with hardly a change in temperament, Miele’s Menou blossomed from an innocent rose-sketching lassie, to a twice pregnant, penis-drawing actress of some quality. Miele steered this arc like the captain of a 17th century sloop traversing the Cape of Good Hope.


As I watched Thon Man Moliere, I was sensing I was watching a classic. Alright, it is a regurgitation, but it is also a rejuvenation & one that is immensely entertaining. Listening to Lochhead’s lingua franca is like being down a pub in Cumbernauld just before the beers kick in – that hour or two  when everyone in the pub is funny & hilarious & full of wit. High-brow but low-dealt – its perfectly pitched & I reckon Moliere himself would be more than proud.

Reviewer : Damo Bullen


The Polar Bears Go Up

Falkirk Town Hall

20 May 2016



Script:four-stars   Stagecraft: four-stars   Performance: four-stars 

Inquisitive bears travel near and far

To reclaim fast ascending golden star

Framed within a proscenium arch of green and blue rectangular boxes which tower over a black floor-cloth laced with orange and pink lines to suggest a map, a journey, an awfully big adventure, a polar bears’ picnic of cornflakes on toast watered down with an endless supply of tap water is rudely interrupted by the ringing of a doorbell and the unexpected delivery of a big brown cardboard box which contains … Is it a bird, is it a plane? No, it’s a golden star on which to hang your dreams on.

Pic 1The Polar Bears Go Up, a co-production between Unicorn Theatre and Fish and Game, and sequel to the latter’s highly successful co-production of The Polar Bears Go Wild with Macrobert Arts Centre, tells the story of two playful Tornassuks (the name Greenlanders use to describe polar bears, meaning “the master of helping spirits”) who out yawn and out sniff, out reach and out jump, out fly and out trampoline one another in their combined but competitive efforts to reclaim the golden star which has escaped their grip and lodged itself in a cotton wool cloud.

Using the minimum of props and maximum of creativity, the two creators and performers (Fish and Game co-founder Eilidh MacAskill and her ever-smiling collaborator Fiona Manson) are a sort of inverse Vladimir and Estragon in that rather than stay put and talk about going, they are forever on the move and bar a few sniffs and belches never utter a peep. Though their personalities and relationship are very similar to their Waiting For Godot counterparts in that slapstick and petty quarrelling is the order of the day. And Eilidh, being the taller of the two by a good twelve inches plus VAT, is curmudgeonly and direct, though never cruel; whereas teensy-weensy Fiona is warm-hearted and amiable, if a tad mischievous.

Pic 2Despite the absence of words, the target audience of two to five year olds and their accompanying parents were captivated from beginning to end because the characters were likeable, the performers engaging, the show jam-packed with Laurel and Hardy visual gags, moments of surprise and suspense, and there were ample opportunities for the children (both young and at heart) to join in both physically and vocally. None more so than at the end when, after the well-deserved curtain call, a second doorbell rang and – without giving too much of the plot away – the audience had a ball!


Reviewer : Peter Callaghan


Role Shift

A Play A Pie And A Pint

Oran Mor


May 16th -21st

IMG_3594i Robert Softley Gayle, Natalie Macdonald, Louise  McCarthy.jpg

Script: 5 Stagecraft: 5  Performance: 5

Yet another entertaining and absorbing fifty minutes of drama from Oran Mor’s A Play A Pie And A Pint. This week’s offering is so original and works on such a number of levels that it’s difficult to describe- but here goes…..

A co-production with Glasgow’s Bird Of Paradise Theatre Company, which promotes the work of disabled artists, Role Shift was by turns, a hilarious rollicking comedy, a comment on sexual mores and how the world views the disabled.  Into the bargain it also warns “never trust the translator.”

IMG_3609i Robert Softley Gayle, Louise McCarthy.jpgMainly written throughout in rhyming verse, the action is set in the casino of a cruise ship and the three characters couldn’t be more contrasting. Ally, played by Robert Softley Gale (in real life too) is a disabled man in a wheelchair, Bernie, played by Louise McCarthy, is a big, blowsy woman, dressed up in a revealing glittery gown and Carrie, played by Natalie MacDonald and the cause of all the later trouble, is an interpreter for the deaf who signs the action throughout. A screen on either side of the stage also reproduces the dialogue as spoken.

From the outset Carrie makes it plain that she is fed up with “role shift” where she faithfully reproduces signing for the deaf on behalf of the two other characters and wants to become more a part of the action herself.

Bernie and Ally are both on the lookout for rich, handsome men at the roulette table and vying to snare a juicy catch. As the action hots up and more drink is taken Bernie and Ally discover they are attracted to each other but Carries intervention causes a calamity. It would spoil the plot to give away what takes place but the outcome is brilliantly played by all three and the plays’ title takes on a double meaning.

The actors had to pause several times during the performance to let the audience’s laughter subside, such was the comic delivery of a cracking script, This piece is both funny and thought provoking and definitely ends on a high. Written by Lesley Hart and directed by Garry Robson, Role Shift earned the players a rousing and well earned extra curtain call,  most unusual at Oran Mor. Be there or be square.

Reviewer : Dave Ivens

Inline image 5

The Love I Feel Is Red

Oran Mor


9-14 May


26307430914_6af8cf9a60_b(2).jpgMona (Janet Etuk) is a late 20s mentally strong athlete who dislikes her tragically departed boyfriend Ty’s mother Susan (Heather William) and has a personality to be proud of, saying what she thinks no matter what. Writer Sabrina Mahfouz explores abortion, miscarriage, a woman’s right to choose her path and the subsequent raw emotion experienced as a result of these decisions.

Descriptions are graphic, shocking but very real. I found myself feeling for Susan who is performed with such poignant believability as a mother who has lost her son and, ‘ grandson, I know its’s a boy ’ within weeks of each other.


Is it her grandson or is it as Mona believes just, ‘cells ’ ? Deep, dark issues described so brilliantly by Mona in rapper type dialogue that firmly contemporises a topic that has been raging for centuries – whether medieval toxic herbs or two bitter pills – women still don’t get it easy if they chose to terminate a pregnancy.Although I ( and likely many sitting in the audience) could’ve done without the the graphic descriptions, knowing all too well what a miscarriage does emotionally and physically to a woman’s mind and body, there are many who don’t and this play is educational in that respect and therefor important.

There are no winners in this woeful play. Susan is left bereft as a woman who gave up so much of her own glowing career for her child, now gone. Mona, has to move on without her boyfriend, just her memories both good and bad and an instinctive will to not just survive but to thrive which we know in time she will. Directed by Nel Crouch and produced in association with Tobacco Factory Theatre this is worth seeing because the script and acting couldn’t be better in such a harrowing set of circumstances.


Reviewer : Clare Crines

Script: 5 Stagecraft: three-starsPerformance: 5

Second Hand

APlay A Pie And A Pint

Oran Mor


May 2nd-7th



Ageing 71 year old Jim is about to open his dingy, down-at-heel antiques shop when there is a giant crash upstairs. It transpires that young Ash, kicked out by both his mum and aunt, has crawled along the tenement loft spaces from his aunts house and has been kipping above Jim’s flat over the shop. Going for a pee in the darkness he’s come straight through the ceiling, literally crashing in to widower Jim’s life.

This play by Paul Charlton, co-writer and co-star of BBC2’s The Ginge, The Geordie And The Geek and Directed by Mark Saunders is a wee gem of a piece with some great acting from Finlay McLean as Jim, Cameron Cunningham as young homeless idealist Ash and Elaine McKenzie Ellis as home visitor Alison.

Initially, thinking Ash is a thief, Jim holds him at bay with a putter but it soon becomes apparent that Ash has landed up homeless and destitute after having a run-in with the police at a rally for the low-paid.

secondhand3.jpgAlison, originally a carer with Glasgow City Council but now an employee of Cordia has been looking after Jim on a daily basis, much to his disgust, at the behest of his daughter who now lives in Australia.
The play started a bit tentatively but the actors soon got in to their stride and the piece never flagged, with some great comic and pithy exchanges, particularly between Jim and Ash.

By the conclusion we find that both young an old have something to learn from each other and that life just isn’t fair sometimes.

The play is touching, funny and poignant and an allegory for many aspects of modern life. Go and see it.

Reviewer : Dave Ivens

Inline image 5

Script: 5 Stagecraft: four-stars  Performance: 5