Monthly Archives: March 2020
The Beaches of St. Valery
Oran Mor, Glasgow
March 16 – 21, 2020
This week’s wickedly lovely play, the Beaches of St.Valery, came from the pen of the excellent Stuart Hepburn. The show was making a welcome return to Oran Mor, with the original cast (James Rottger, Ron Donachie and Ashley Smith) reprising their roles. We were introduced to young Callum (Rottger) all dressed up in his smart army uniform, and soon caught up in the horrors of WW2. We watched as he and other Scottish soldiers of the 51 st Highland Division dealt with the reality of wartime.
The play effectively dealt with themes of duty and loyalty, as depicted in the character of Sergeant McGregor (Donachie), an old soldier with a lifetime of army and war experience. We also saw how the youngsters grew from being reluctant conscripts to embracing the idea of duty and service, no matter what it took. And it took a lot, especially for the Sergeant who had to give the terrible orders. The action took us right to the battlefield, using effects such as a castle backdrop, lights, explosions, the sound of planes flying overhead, radio reports, recollections. We followed them through well-choreographed manoeuvres as they fought, then retreated on the beach. We joined them as they huddled together in a bunker for warmth and Calum found love with Catriona (Smith) in the midst of all the turmoil. Somehow the fact that there was a smaller audience for today’s play (we are in Coronavirus territory after all), only made it all the more poignant. In the slightly eerie atmosphere no-one really wanted to laugh at the one small joke.
The author has thrown a light on the less well known fact that while thousands of British soldiers were rescued from the beaches of Dunkirk, this Scottish division was left to defend St Valery to the last man. Many died, many surrendered. The play wasn’t about anger at this apparently desperate situation, only the touching sense that though they were more than willing soldiers all they wanted really was to go home to their loved ones. An impressively well put together drama, with writing and craft that directly touched the heart and sent you home with a huge sense of compassion for those who had lived through it. It seems a fitting tribute to them and is well worth a visit.
Reviewer: Daniel Donnelly
Oran Mor, Glasgow
Mar 9 – 16, 2020
Paring Off, by Alma Cullen, is this week’s Play, Pie and Pint offering, and opened with pals Murdo (Tom McGovern) and Kenny (Steven Duffy), sharing a pint and enthusiastically discussing their team, St Mirren. Turned out that Kenny was the manager, and Murdo, a butcher by trade, had a vested interest in the shape of the club pie contract.
Enter Kenny’s girlfriend Mimi (Gail Watson) looking professional in a white dress. Mimi owned Happy Feet Chiropody and had come to treat Murdo who had terrible trouble with his feet (hence the “paring” of the title). It didn’t take us long to realise that Mimi and Kenny’s relationship involved a lot of high voltage quarrelling. However, she spread a towel on her lap settled down to her task of massaging Murdo’s feet while he lay back in utter bliss in a gorgeous looking leather and wood chair.
The men were feeling optimistic and excited about the future of their team as they chatted about the various signings and prospective victories that were coming up. Then the mood abruptly changed when it was mentioned that one of the new signings was gay. Kenny immediately showed his revulsion, saying that it was wrong and against the law. Mimi denounces Kenny for being uptight just as she was drawn to Murdo’s more relaxed reaction.
An attraction that grew as Murdo and Mimi become more than enamoured with each other and ended up sleeping together. Mimi confided that she sometimes needed sex to sleep well and that she had a wonderful night with Murdo, enjoying his cavalier attitude towards the whole thing. So when Mimi discovered Murdo’s own secret – given away by the state of his feet – in the shape of his very own pair of women’s dancing shoes, it was all part of a highly charged romantic exchange that ended in Mimi appearing in a sexy red dress and a long dance sequence that left the clumsy Kenny standing on the sidelines.
The music was lush, the action endearing and highly charged, catching you up in an intricate dance between the three characters. Funny and intense, it nearly set the place on fire…
Oran Mor, Glasgow
Mar 2 – 7, 2020
Today’s play, named simply “Daniel”, by Isabel Wright, had an intriguing set, simple but effective – a screen lit with a violet light. This one man show began with Daniel (Jack Tarlton) on the floor of what turned out to be a toilet – a striking image to start the story with. His trousers were round his ankles as he came to and roused himself into discourse, reflecting that the life he was living could be likened to waking in a toilet. It seemed like the beginning of something dark and macabre.
We were soon set straight in the next scene where Daniel stood tall in clothes that no longer made him look like some down-and-out about to shoot up. In darkly comic short scenes the tale of Daniel’s travels in London and Edinburgh began to emerge, peopled by off-stage characters that illustrated the different stages of his life. With more than enough on his shoulders, Daniel was shown on the one hand to be pathetic and yet also able to show resilience as he recounted his feelings for his father, his dog, his true love, Katie Watkins.
The action was punctuated throughout by silences and blackouts, adding impact to Daniel’s weird and wonderful take on life and inviting us to laugh, sometimes guiltily, as his forthright dialogue hit home. All delivered with a quiet physicality that held the room and somehow enlarged the comedy. One scene entirely consisted of him hilariously downing a bottle of Irn-Bru, just that, leaving us exposed in our silence.
Isabel Wright’s play made use of theatrical techniques to create a kind of bottomless comedy that felt new, reflective and powerful. As we followed the protagonist on his journey’s highs and lows, we were taken first into darkness then light where there was love and care, then back to darkness again. It wasn’t a linear journey, but if you took it in your stride it somehow all made sense. As an experience it was enticingly funny, brave and concisive, well worth seeing.