Category Archives: Scotland

Kind Stranger

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A Play, a Pie and a Pint
Oran Mor,Glasgow
13-18 November 2017

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Why would someone choose to be a regular hospital visitor? Do they have a philanthropic wish to do good work, or maybe just enjoy the sound of their own voice? The eponymous kind stranger (Tom Urie) pops into a room with one bed, to find he has a captive audience as the patient is in a coma. This presents no obstacle to the jolly, wisecracking visitor, (“Hands up who disnae want a story?”) he has a bag-full of books from which he can read aloud. Tellingly his favourite is A Christmas Carol, with its supernatural tale of a life turned around and redemption attained.

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This one-man play by Matthew McVarish appears to be a straight forward account of the visitor’s life, his fear and rejection before finding love and acceptance but as he reveals more about his life, we start to question if this linear narrative is all that it seems to be. The dialogue when varying from bouncy knockabout to gloomy introspection works well but the preponderance of enlightening quotes from Hippocrates, Sophocles, Buddha, Shakespeare, Winston Churchill, Helen Keller, Anne Frank, Dolly Parton and many others, does seem a bit much, even for a well-read man. Urie puts in a fine performance as the irrepressible visitor, whose layers of brash confidence are slowly shed to reveal an unexpected sensitivity. The denouement may have you scratching your head a bit- but in a good way.

Reviewer : David G Moffat

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Lampedusa

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Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
08 Nov 2017 – 18 Nov 2017

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I will be honest, Lampedusa by Wonder Fools makes for an uncomfortable watch. In the intimate black box that is Glasgow’s Citizens Theatre Circle Studio we find ourselves extremely close to the two actors whose interleaved monologues we listen to, but that is not where the discomfort lies. It is in Anders Lustgarten’s play, which takes the global problem of mass migration and forces us to face that it is everyone’s responsibility. He also shines an unflinching spotlight on some home grown issues: institutionalised attitudes to the poor and, he argues, endemic racism.

Stefano, an Italian ex-fisherman salvaging the bodies of drowned trafficked migrants from North Africa from the sea off the island of Lampedusa, describes what happens to bodies after days and weeks in the water. He says he gets used to the shock of finding them, but the dread as to what condition they will be in never goes away. His distress is accompanied by rage: “Where is everybody else?” he cries and when he reads of a disaster or a crisis he can predict who will be turning up on Europe’s shores next. Of those who survive he says “I resent them for their hope,” because he has none: the fish have gone, his country is a basket case.

The other protagonist, Denise, a mixed-race student in Leeds is funding her studies by acting as a pay day loan collector from people who spit on her, and racially abuse her. She is also in a vehement battle with work capability assessors over her sick mother’s clearly proven case for benefits. Like Stefano, her view of her own country and by extension, Europe, is that it is utterly broken; she will not be staying when she gets her degree. Describing herself as “mixed, mouthy and poor”, at times her impassioned speeches almost tip over into a diatribe, but a more nuanced performance (and writing) comes when her character meets with kindness. Indeed, this is the third theme of the play: kindness and friendship from the most unexpected quarters undoes both Stefano and Denise and liberates them from their bitterness and despair.

Both actors give committed performances of an exceptionally intelligent and humane play. Andy Clark as Stefano is particularly subtle and intense, while Louise Mai’s Denise is realistically brittle and angry. With music provided by guitarist/composer Stuart Ramage that is like a third voice in the play rather than an accompaniment to it, Lampedusa is that odd thing; an evening of very good theatre that will leave you feeling very uncomfortable.

Reviewer : Mary Thomson

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Meat Market

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A Play, A Pie and A Pint
Oran Mor, Glasgow
6-11 Nov

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We live in a world where everything has a price and is usually available at the click of a cursor. So if it’s 3am and a trio of disparate characters have a rendezvous in a 24 hour gym to discuss a purchase, surely something nefarious must be afoot? Well yes but to reveal the clever conceit at the centre of Chris Grady’s thoughtful dark comedy, would be criminal indeed.

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What does mercenary Alex (Megan Shandley), tall, confident and a robust picture of health, have that could interest wee Fran (Julie Duncanson), a chanty-mouthed bundle of perspiration in a sweatshirt and joggy bottoms? Could it be the same thing that cultured, epicurean Bruce (Robin Laing) hungers for? Will his silver tongue and well argued logic win the day?

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Though earthy Fran gets the best of the stinging banter, asking follicly challenged Bruce if he’s Bruce, as in Willis, as in ‘King of the Bald Guys’, all three actors are in fine contrasting form revealing their true motivations as the action progresses and personal ethics get a workout. This is a seriously funny, original piece of drama that’s well worth stretching your legs to get along and see.

Reviewer : David G Moffat

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The Burton Taylor Affair

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A Play, A Pie and A Pint
Oran Mor, Glasgow
30th October – 4th November

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IMG_6818i Chelsey Gillard, Steven  Elliot.jpgA huge photographic portrait of a movie star with arched eyebrows, hooded eyes and sultry lips dominates the stage. Either side of the framed picture, luxurious swathes of golden drapes glitter but little else does, in this disappointing drama by Steven Elliot featuring a reminiscing, Richard Burton (Dewi Rhys Williams) and Elizabeth Taylor (Vivien Reid). Comparisons of the couples earnings, Oscar nominations, and capacity for alcohol are ping-ponged back and forward with little conflagration, while lengthy quotes from Shakespeare and Marlow, used to illustrate their tempestuous on screen/off screen relationship, offer the best of what little chemistry the actors have.

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The female movie star seems far too young to hold her own, in a verbal joust with the mature stage actor and one wonders if Williams is reluctant to let loose the throaty Welsh grit of the full-Burton voice, for fear of extinguishing Reid’s lacklustre Taylor completely. This is a story that requires something a bit special to intrigue an audience familiar with the antics of a real-life married twosome they have seen on screen and in all probability, as characters portrayed by other actors. The play and cast deliver a muted, far from legendary, piece of theatre.

Reviewer : David G Moffattwo-stars

#71

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A Play, A Pie and A Pint
Oran Mor, Glasgow
23-28 October 2017 

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Septuagenarian Chrissy (Karen Dunbar) is rarely without pain and having tried every pill on the planet, has come to a decision. She’s invited her two closest friends round to the house as there is big news to impart. While she waits she slowly dances, in the old fashioned way, with a framed photo of her departed husband. The two chums couldn’t be more different with Jean (Maureen Carr) a short, permed, devout, worrier, prone to repeated malapropisms and Coco (Clare Waugh) a tall, confident, woman of the world, littering her speech with dubious Parisian pretensions – N’est-ce pas?

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On a stage, impressively transformed into a conservatory, the women swap memories and insults while searching for the essential truth about love and death…as one does in Whiteinch. When Jean reveals she has a passion for Grime then hip-hops a song about her loss of faith, we know sooner or later, this will end in gin. The affection for Dunbar (who wrote the play) from the packed audience is palpable and each familiar Glasgow expression included in the dialogue is rewarded with the laughter of recognition. There is however, a paucity of genuinely funny lines, for the broadly caricatured characters, to deliver.

Reviewer : David G Moffat

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The Maids


Dundee Rep
Oct 17-Nov 4

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The Maids (1947) is the first & most popular play to treacle-drip from the pen of Jean Genet, a reformed criminal who created a ritualistic polymorph that still astonishes all who sail in her. I would watch director Eve Jamieson’s transcreation on my first visit to the Dundee Rep, a marvelous space which reflects the gentle grandiosity of the city of Dundee; compact yet spacious, humble yet magnificent, tiny yet extravagant. The auditorium takes the form of three sides of an octagon, & the stunningly decorous stage whisked us with some precision to the boudoir of a wealthy French mistress in which her maids – Solange & Claire – run riot while she is away. On either side of the stage were two clear boxes in which the maids sat in sculptured silence when off piste, with a red light underneath indicating as much. This then turned green whenever they were needed by the script & off they would stroll into action. Excellent stagecraft indeed!

After the interval, enter the mistress into this ‘atmosphere of anxiety;‘ a jewel-choosing, catty-commenting cauldron of condescension. ‘You have your flowers, I have my sink, I am the maid,‘ says Solange, from which moment ensues the tempestuous double-cross which leads to quite an insane ending. En route, suspicion & intrigue abounds & one may trace the course of Genet’s musings, from the true source story of two maids murdering their employer in 1933, through the socially divisive paranoia of Nazi-occupied France. ‘Who are we really? Where are we really? What is real & what is an illusion?’ declared Eve Jamieson in her program notes, ‘is it possible for Solange & Claire to escape the real & imagined shackles that they believe have held them captive & become, finally, ‘beautiful, wild, free & full of joy?’

The Maids is a mind-bending, quite compelling invective-peppered parody of the wealthy mistress / lowly maid relationship, the actuality of which – in the hands of Genet – is a wee slingshot away from the plantations of Nat Turner’s Tennessee. It is fascinating to watch the stresses & strains of friendship, the caste-laden workplace & of a mistress – shouty, emotional, irresistible – insouciant to her workers’ needs. Here splurges the silent storm of hopeless lives & brainwaves starting to burst from the confusion of inadequate circumstance, from the stifling banality of the soul in servitude.

There was a lucid chemistry to the performance, forged from the experience of each of the actresses’ 18 years together as part of the Dundee Rep. While Irene Macdougall & Ann Louise Ross as the maids, & Emily Winter as the mistress all worked up a hurricane of entertainment, by the end I was staring boggle-eyed at the proceedings as the cruciate dangers of overactive imaginations reigned free.

Reviewer : Damian Beeson Bullen
Photography : Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

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From The Air

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A Play, A Pie and A Pint
Oran Mor, Glasgow
16th-21st October

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Pete’s retired from the rigs so no more chopper-hopping is required. The kids have flown the nest leaving him and wife Claire, free as birds. Time to catch a plane to Italy and that little Tuscan villa they have always dreamed of buying. Thing is she has a phobia about flying – and forget driving, she also hates tunnels. Still, maybe if she pings that rubber band around her wrist frequently and hard enough, all will be well.

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Fear of flying, its causes and often funny consequences for Claire (Angela Darcy) and Pete (David McGowan), is explored in this well written, thoroughly enjoyable play by Anita Vettesse. Darcy’s portrayal of Claire is a wonderful mixture of mad panic and perceptive questions…. (Why don’t they have airbags on a plane?)

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Her manic contortions, as crisis and terror grip, are utterly persuasive as are the humorous details of her morbid “arrangements”, which are to be found at the back of her knicker drawer in the event of the aircraft dropping out of the sky. McGowan’s Pete provides a steady, less turbulent presence, a necessary counterpoint to his partner’s turmoil but with plenty of dry, sardonic insights to impart. With clever use of back projected clips of old aviation footage to supplement the always entertaining dialogue, this is a first class flight.

Reviewer : David G Moffat

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Love Song To Lavender Menace


The Lyceum Studio, Edinburgh
12-21 October

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Being played out in the Lyceum Studio, normally used for rehearsals, was the long awaited and anticipated play Love Song To Lavender Menace by James Ley. Set in Edinburgh’s gay community in the mid to late 1980s, with the city’s gay bookshop taking centre stage. As the lights dim and change direction the set design springs to life; a tall structure of towering book cases simplified with white lines creating the outline of books, the effect channels an image of the many barriers we cross in search of the right answers. We may also observe an 80s ghetto blaster complete with tapes and a red duffle bag that has nostalgia written all over it. A simple but effective stage design makes way for the smooth operators that are proud owners of the one and only gay bookshop in Edinburgh’s New Town. Skipping onto the stage with a repetitive tongue and engulfed in a happy smile that would make you think that you were strutting your stuff on the dance floor of Fire Island , you could sense this was going to be a show full of fun and humour, as well as delicate politics. Striking first, Lavender Menace makes a point straight from the start that this is a piece of theater that is to be enjoyed, laughed at and not to be taking too seriously, opening the door and allowing some of those dark shadows behind it to come out into the light. Liberating !!!!!

The acting on display from both Lewis and Glen was as real as as it gets, with very believable characters that had been chipped and modeled like a good marble sculpture, they connected with the audience with the same modus operandi as a piece of cheese that connects with Branston pickles. Centered around the turbulent and loving relationship of these two men and a Policeman (enter Fire Island), the story plays host to the many observations of LGBT movement in the 1980s. Lavender Menace is challenging in many ways and pushes aside the man-made images of gay life. Conjuring up thoughts that provoke your emotions, Lavenderstirs you up and leaves you in a cauldron of side -plitting jokes and sketches that spread an immensely amusing blanket aslant the end product. A well-written script was polished with a very open-minded approach which stuns the hearts of the audience & in subsequence allows them to embrace the message on offer. This is a piece of theater that will thrill and captivate, shatter political laws, chase rainbows, reinvent humour, warm your bobby-socks and get you to ask questions about some of the prejudices we encounter in today’s society. Love Song to Lavender Menace breaks down the walls that hold you inside, but also gives you shelter from fragile storms. With cultural direction, justice and liberation, and a twist of camp fun, Lavenderoffers up a concoction of all that is good in humanity. A message of love and respect for all and always be true to who you are !!!!!! Refreshing.

Reviewer : Raymondo

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Brothers Karamazov

The Tron, Glasgow
12th – 28th October 2017

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059_303__tro_140_genericpost_1499247005_standardDramatised from the Dostoyevsky novel of the same name by Richard Crane and directed by Faynia Williams: Thierry Mabonga, Tom England, Mark Brailsford and Sean Biggerstaff play the Brothers Karamazov and double as the other principal players.

The play begins with an acapella procession from the balcony that perches above a minimalist stage set, making good use of the intimacy of the 150 seat venue. Part 1 was entertaining with a slight sense of precision in the delivery of a cleverly worked script, and a couple of unfortunate voices off tried to intrude but the guys carried on through the distraction with great professionalism. That’ll be sorted out for the rest of the run. I found myself distracted during the opening scenes, not as I’d expected by the rotation of the cast through other principal roles, but by the sensation that I was witnessing the early career steps of my nomination for Black James Bond – Thierry Mabonga! Shut my eyes and big Sean could’ve been right there in the room.

Part 2 was a much more relaxed and engaging affair where the actors developed into believable characters and I spent less time comparing their performances to more established stars of stage and screen and started to appreciate the economical use of choreography, costumes and design, and use of the space. There’s no point in me giving you a synopsis of such an enduring tale. This particular vintage could be fairly labelled made from concentrate, but is actually fresh and juicy. In terms of review I will say this; I didn’t pay for my ticket but I wouldn’t have felt cheated if I had.

Reviewer : Colin 

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Cockpit

18.(L-R) Sandra Kassman, Nebli Basani, Deka Walmsley, Sophia Kolinas, Adam Tompa, Kaisa Hammarlund, Aly Macrae. Photo Mihaela Bodlovic.JPG


6-28 October 2017
Lyceum, Edinburgh

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When I got asked to review this one, I wasn’t sure what to expect at all… but what a gem of a play it turned out to be! It was my first visit to the Lyceum, so it was a night full of surprises. The theatre itself is beautiful, from the reception through to the bar, and then on into the very impressive auditorium itself. As we took our seats I admired the set immensely, while tattered drapes and ladders hang around the room added touches of authenticity to the illusion as we were all transported back to Germany and the end of WW2. I don’t think I have ever felt such anticipation for a performance in the air as we waited for a show to start.

13.(L-R) Sophia Kolinas, Adam Tompa and Alexandra Mathie. Photo credit Mihaela Bodlovic.JPG

12.Kaja Pecnik and Dylan Read. Photo credit Mihaela Bodlovic.JPG

The plot was quickly established; basically, we were in a theatre just after the conclusion of the war, with the British just turning up to help repatriate multiple nationalities of Europe that had been press-ganged by the Nazis into servicing the Reich. I must admit that I had prior ignorance as to the conflict between neighboring countries and different religious beliefs throughout Europe, but I was quickly educated in the select matter of everybody having something they didn’t like about everybody else, and they all had no desire whatsoever to be in the same theatre together, never mind the same truck that the British officer was hoping to get everyone in and on their way! The officer was played by Nebli Basani whose performance was sheer quality as he and his trusty sergeant (Deka Walmsley) went about conducting the staging-post proceedings in a melting-pot of DP’s (Displaced Person’s) as the Sgt rightly informed us all. I really enjoyed the Sgt’s character and thought that he stole the show a little in the first act; he had the right mix of humour and no messing that a genuine Sgt in the war would likely have needed to be able to survive with his humanity and sanity intact!

There was a sweet-paced genuineness, and the first interval was upon us in what seemed like only a few minutes… which had been, in fact, a full hour. A great sign that one is enjoying oneself. The 2nd half saw a lot more of the cast coming to the forefront of the story, and I quickly felt a connection with a few of them who gave stellar performances! The French Resistance girl played by Kaisa Hammarlund was another one of my favourites; she had a decent sized part and I was genuinely upset by her trials & tribulations. These were among some scattered, soul-touching moments that made me reflect upon the war and the terrible suffering our embattled predecessors had to endure.

23.Sandra Kassman. Photo credit Mihaela Bodlovic.JPG

Cockpit simply blew me away and I was very glad I had been asked to review. It was most thought-provoking, and I will remember all those excellent performances and the drama from which they shone for a very long time. I was genuinely moved! In today’s world of ever-increasing differences and toxic religious divides, the play remains extremely relevant, it made me think of just how similar we all are. Everyone has the same basic needs and desires, trying to please everyone in this mixed up world of ours,though just like the play would be very difficult indeed! However, just because something is difficult to achieve that should not stop us from trying! Go and see tis play where & while you can & you won’t be disappointed. You don’t need a great historical knowledge or political insight to enjoy Cockpit; the acting was first class, the story was very believable and the stagecraft painted an extremely believable setting. Remarkable theatre!

Reviewer : Mark Parker

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