Monthly Archives: October 2022

Orpheus in the Record Shop

Leeds Playhouse
October 13-15, 2022

Leeds is a wonderful example of a self-sustaining, modernizing city. The de facto capital of West Yorkshire, it’s bound to contain & attract a wide variety of talented performers – & of course the odd reviewer to check out what they’re up to. I’m in the latter category, & despite living in Scotland, I was heading down for the Burnley-Swansea game anyway (4-0, top of the league), so I’m like let’s check out the Leeds Playhouse while I’m nestling in the Pennines.

I’d never been before, & on entering for the first time fell instantly enamoured of the space. A proper Athenian ‘Theatre of Dionysus’, with steep’d galleries climbing tall into the cavernous auditorium, overlooking a spacious circular performing space. Yeah, it was great, & the acoustics were wicked. But so much for the tea-take – I think that’s what they call a bread roll in these parts -, what about the filling.

I love my Orpheus, me – he was probably the first western poet, c.1400 BC, & more than likely responsible for the original penning of the Cosmogonies, the Theogonia, & the wonderful Titanomachia. A couple of years ago I even visited the Greek island of Samothraki on some kind of Orphic pilgrimage, where the adolescent Orpheus was supposed to have been shown the lyre for the first time, strung by goat hair, which of course would lead to the empire of the guitar.

I am lonely
I need some serotonin
Somebody phone me

In 2022, however, the empire of the guitar is being challenged by such dazzling devices as the loop-pedal, & the way that the astonishing performer that is local lad, Testament, utilised this device meant the show did exactly what it said on the tin – Orpheus was truly in the house, presenting us with a truly Olympian vocal range with all sorts of stuff going on, from Gregorian chanting to hip-hop where he was rapping & beat boxing at the same time! I even thought of a new word to coin the magic; jawgawp, when you gawp at something with yer jaw hanging out – which I was doing!

All these audio skills are supported by a nifty script & some virtuosic musical performances from a small but tight-as-you-like ensemble of musicians. These came on to the stage one-by-one as the story & the intensity of the music developed, ending in an otherworldly jarring, sparring finale which had the entire audience ovating on our feet.

There’s comedy, there’s warmth, & there’s a proper natural insight into the mechanics of running a record shop. The substory of Testament’s dealings with DJ Vulture was an excellent narrative to plunge into in between the tunes – tho’ the love story not so much. Perhaps this was an allusion to the original Orphean Euridice story, where he tries to bring her back from the dead – in this tale she’s an absent ex-lover -, but it didn’t have the same impact as the rest of the play. Despite that, it’s extremely rare to get a blend of theatrical performance & live gig, where you feel as if you’re experiencing both sensations at the same time, but the hypnotizing mantra that is Orpheus in the Record shop pull’d the concept off magnificently.

Damian Beeson Bullen

Bold Girls

Pic Greg Macvean 23/09/2022 Cumbernauld Theatre Bold Girls dress rehearsal

Cumbernauld Theatre at Lanternhouse
24 September – 1 October, 2022

‘Bold Girls’ was a play on show at the Cumbernauld Theatre Lanternhouse, in the transformed complex. It is a 31 year old play, giving it a stunning success and obvious popularity. It has travelled the breadth of Scotland and far beyond as part of a fearless Theatre taking down censorship of both large and small proportions. The pleasure to be there was in a huge way a good sign of survival in the unbelievable position the world finds itself in at this time.

The play’s premier at The Cumbernauld Theatre was in a town very different today than it was then. Set in 1991 Belfast it has travelled internationally and to great success with sustainability that audiences have lapped up.

The Irish life of that time in Belfast stirred the Theatre into action, with such a lovely tone and accent, things seemed normal in conversation between the 3 family members (though things fell apart). The smart choice of cast brought a very incentive presentation with an organic quality.

The day to day life was tastefully injected making grounds for a story of survival that struck a painful note stirring feelings of compassion in an audience enthralled. The ‘Troubles’ pointed out as all the more potent.

The three characters had different stage appeal that went a long way into setting the right kind of scene. Written by the playwright Rona Munro after an experience there ‘under the troubles’ of which we shouldn’t estimate acts of depravity that communities lived through.

The lucrative stances of life between the girls came from the great negatives circling the times before there was a political will for peace and extreme violence was all too common. They sat together, made tea together but fiercely argued and fought with each other. Very much bringing the tensions of living during the times to the stage with a cutting, shaping and word smith talent that with strength put human fragility on par with the realities of it.

Families who were close were fragmented in a fearful environment that went about teaching the segregation and separation held on both sides as the one true way. Everything in this expert play was to enhance its sorry, crazy circumstance as it used Zen to place props and tables to portray normality alongside the bloody chaos.

It helps to a large extent to find a voice to express itself, then another, then another, Theatre is at its magical best as a tool for giving this voice so as to at least escape silence that the undeniable trauma had come about in the community as seizure after seizure.

The beauty of the play helped hit home the spirit of a need to protect but it is in a world where nothing could be done to alleviate and even halt the well known proceedings. The joys of discussion with regard to normal life, as it is a bold life, with three close ‘Bold Girls’. But the message consisted around the terrible tragedy of war or occupation, entre the stranger Dierdre (Katya Searle) a hard and mysterious role opened up, but only to a recognition of pain.

Nora (Pauline Goldsmith), Marie (Julie Martis), Cassie (Leigh Lothian) and Dierdre performed as an entourage of a sacred beauty and truth, with words of normality that directed the coming outrage incredibly well.

This was a very touching performance with writing to intercept an object nearly impossible to take. The joy was in the overcoming of the human will and spirit, but it was a world imbued with tales of painful cruelty, unfairness and looking back at the heart.

May we through dialogue find the necessary fact that conflict does harm to the greatest human being’s who survive and lives within dysfunctional boarders. I sensed a bond coming from these repeatedly wonderful actors who had a power to then from a most brilliant play stripped of anything but the lives that mattered most being driven down with hard to bear bearings and actions. That will not soon end because of the amazingly distorted actions in an issue that won’t be forgotten.

A well known and loved play, a play to show love being affected in its soft and pliable influence even in a world of threat, and a performance that makes such sense as to send out its message far into space, with a hope so tender as to make your heat full.

Daniel Donnelly

The People Woke Up

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya,the leader of the Belarussian Democratic Movement joins Cabinet Secretary Angus Robertson and the cast of new theatre piece The People Woke Up by ice&fire The actors playing the characters are: Hanna Komar (herself) Mitya Savelau (Dzmitry) Victoria Milham (Galina) Nastasya Korablina (Kira)

Scottish Storytelling Centre
29th Sept, 7.30

We were very warmly welcomed to the stunning play ‘The People Woke Up’ which was an evening organised by the Story telling company Ice& Fire. Working on the basis of its commitments to human rights Ice&Fire are successfully bringing trauma to theatre. In the evenings consort stories were shared as an international Belarusian presence were given a warm and supportive salute from Scotland who seem to be able to step in as a free speaking country which is a help in a big way.

Listening to these true stories of incidents in the ‘Occupied’ Belarus take-over, I found the influence and relationship between Belarus and the UK was of saving grace, urgency was the message. Human rights were focused in the use of theatre, offering great promotional potentials of travelling the globe.

The 4-person panel play of true stories in the events that happened in 2020. As the stories unfolded the message echoed through the room. The sold-out evening (thinking maybe it being better with fewer ears, minds and hearts to change) was to give Belarus a voice as it was hit in 2020 by the shift from democracy for a dictatorship when a rigged election brought about the rise to this elevated position that would last 27 years, for Alexander Lukashenko.

Living through nothing less than a dangerous environment, we realised that every important step towards reunion for Belarus cannot be done in one go after the currents of devastation that seem to have no end to. The force of flight has shown a light of hope for Hanna Komar who is a Belarusian Poet and an exemplary student on PHD status. Of all the four’s stories which were all true but those told by Hanna were of her own account, witnesses one and all.

Things are on this catastrophic level replacing humans with machine’s, unemotional and without mercy; The words of the play, asked for time to allow things like reflection and raising of concerns of very deep thoughts that have culminated into looking towards finding a manifestation for what was termed a collective healing. After being forced upon them it is now their time and place to free its people from the aggression of oppression.

The story goes; at first a great spirit arose in reaction during that year, but the feeling soon turned to the despair. The state of things setting the play to push for help. In the hope of freeing everything that Belarus is, Hanna’s incentive as an activist was suddenly devastated in her surprised realisation that things could go so wrong. It was her who, in a moment of the eye of a storm, noticed that ‘the People Woke Up.’ This evening created a small but soulful cry for all the action now needed with a new platform to express the real education that communities have found at the heart of shock.

This unrequested understanding on everyone’s face’s made possible for people and actions given a placed and time for a performance that had to be of strength to be amazed by, turning action into soothing talk about the disbelief that is now unavoidable.

Belarus sounds like a vibrant, richly cultured destination with a great many things to offer, but aid is now needed from the rest of the world but how do we go about it? At least this little simple gesture of a chance to share is a show of solidarity, to help herald a place in a bad position, but making things change was the highlight of this remarkable play.

Daniel Donnelly