Category Archives: Scotland
Oran Mor, Glasgow
Oct 14 – 19, 2019
This week’s offering at Oran Mor saw the return of Ian Pattison’s play “Divided”, about the iconic psychiatrist, RD Laing. The scene was set in a stylish art deco living room with three comfortable chairs and an extra podium at the front where Billy Mack relaxed and likeable Laing would sit with a whisky at his desk while he talked on the phone. We listened in as he took many calls from various characters, dealing in depth with each.
The play explored the way Laing would constantly come across the then behavioural dysfunctions of mental health treatment, which he saw as not humane. And so, as the action unfolded, these dialogues revealed the universal insights and the great passions that characterised his life. Alongside his work, life was happening for him too. Both of his daughters, Suzie (Sarah Miele) and Karen (Eve Traynor) would want to talk to him, but there was always some sort of barrier that meant that they felt he wasn’t quite there. It was sad to see this side of things, but although there were many arguments you got a strong sense of the family love that existed between them and that always helped them sift through to find the truer meaning – very much the work of the psychiatrist.
Laing was portrayed here as being defined by the huge regard he felt for his family and lovers. There was a dilemma regarding the hard fact that his daughter Suzie was ill with leukaemia and in all reality did not have long left to live. His love for her ‘perhaps’ conflicted with his philosophy; that it is better off to know bad news than to conceal it. After passionate arguments with his other daughter Karen, he decided to adhere to that philosophy causing Suzie to become upset though she later revealed that she was glad that he did so, while Karen too accepted it in the end.
This production had the taste of a fair-minded exploration into what made the great man tick, both positive and negative. It was also a dedication to a time when old walls were falling down and new doors being opened. Laing’s new theories about the doctor patient relationship would go on to change everything; a fascinating insight into a complicated mind.
Oran Mor, Glasgow
Sep 30th – Oct 5th, 2019
Oran Mor’s Play, Pie and Pint’s 500th play season continued this week with the return of “Fly Me To the Moon” by Marie Jones, a play that first appeared at the venue in 2010. The stage was set in a cosy looking living room where we meet two care workers, Loretta (Sandra McNeeley) and Frances (Julie Austin) who were there to carry out their duties for their client, Davy McGee. The two had devotedly looked after the 84 year old Davy for the past 12 years, knowing him well and familiar with his habits and routines, such as his love of the horses and of Frank Sinatra and the way he would sing along to “Fly me to the Moon”.
However it was soon clear that today wasn’t going to plan when Frances shot into the room from the bedroom and did a quick couple of turns around the stage, in a panic because she’d discovered that Davy had passed away in his sleep. What will we do, what will we do….? With Francis going out of her mind, the mind of Loretta got to thinking as she realised that the old man had died before he was able to pick up his pension of £80. Not only that but Loretta discovered a betting slip – for once Davy’s horse had won at 100 to 1. Wham the plot to take it for themselves was born.
While Loretta started making plans for a trip to Barcelona, Frances fretted about the fact that what they were doing could be fraud, and with the strains of “Fly me to the Moon” in the background, they discussed the rights and wrongs of the situation. The arguments went to and fro, but whenever Francis complained that they were doing something wrong, Loretta would persuade her that it was both of their ideas to which Frances always came round. But their careful plan fell flat when they realise that the time of death would not concur with the time of cashing the pension. But they did it anyway, justifying themselves on the grounds that they had been working for years on minimal wages. We can understand from the stories that blended into their conversation that no matter how hard they both worked, they have money troubles that won’t go away.
With lively dialogue and thought provoking issues, this was a play that challenged you. You can’t just dismiss the temptations the women are subject to as despicable without also considering the role of society which expects them to perform work for the vulnerable while not paying them a living wage. It’s good theatre that raises these conundrums and makes you think.
Sep 25 – 28, 2019
Having done a fair bit of hillwalking in Scotland and further afield, I was intrigued by the premise of this work – in 25-plus years of trudging through rain, hail, sleet, snow and the occasional sunny day, I’ve never exchanged passing greetings with a black fellow-hillwalker. I’m not sure how that fact plays out statistically-speaking, but I guess it is true that black people are under-represented amongst the Berghaus brigades.
Three titular black men meet once a month to walk and talk and relieve their urban stresses. But this weekend, as they stumble through heavy weather they find themselves confronting much deeper than their workaday problems. There’s Matthew the GP (played by Patrick Regis) who’s having marital problems, and Richard (Tonderai Munyevu), a Ghanaian man living in the mental exile of an absent father, and Thomas (Ben Onwukwe), a busted flush with a history degree from Huddersfield, who has been a little unsettled recently. Losing themselves in the deepening fog, they encounter Ayeesha (Dorcas Sebuyange), a streetsmart young woman who provokes the men to consider how ‘British’ culture swallows up their blackness like the fog, erases the mark of black peoples’ footprints on the landscape, from prehistory to the present day.
There’s a lot for an audience to consider in this work by Testament, the writer and musical director Andy Brooks. “Black people were walking here before Anglo-Saxons” remarks Thomas, who gives the group a peripatetic history lesson in the hidden, ‘whitewashed’ history of these islands. There’s some philosophising to – from black identity and the theories of W.E.B. Du Bois, the American sociologist and founder of the NAACP, to the political activism of rap music. The reality of modern racism is never far, it rises continually like a Brockenspecter, or the crunch of a boot on gravel, just out of sight. The most powerful testament to this is delivered in the pistol-quick spoken word pieces given to Ayeesha. Powerfully delivered with sass and charm by Dorcas Sebuyange, these interstices that punctuate the walking are the most powerful parts of the work. It’s a sobering reminder that, aside from the prejudice de jour of islamophobia, British black people have suffered and continue to suffer under the homogenous whiteout of casual racism.
Walking is a great democratic invention. Rich or poor, black or white, it’s only requirement is the ability to put one foot in front of the other. If you can do that, then do. The next time I go walking, I’ll be giving a thought to the history, the hidden history, that I might be walking through. Eclipse Theatre Company presents Black Men Walking as part of Revolution Mix (www.eclipsetheatre.org.uk/revolution-mix), a series of plays, radio dramas and a forthcoming film, by Black artists, with the aim of “placing Black narrative at the heart of British Theatre”. It’s a powerful, promising start for a worthwhile and timely project.
A new form of drama is about to entertain the audiences of the world. The Mumble caught up with the man behind it all
Hello Damo. So you are here to talk about your new project, the Conchordia Folio – what’s it all about?
Hello Mumble. Well, in essence the folio is a collection of dramatic scripts, per se, rather like the Shakespearean folio. The only difference is I’m assembling it myself, whereas the Bard’s was collated by his pals a few years after his death. It should be ready in book & audio form by the Spring. There’ also an element of competition here – why not, you only get one life. As a poet I’ve written a better epic than Milton, but Shakespeare seems untouchable. But so were Liverpool FC before Fergie got the Man U job, & after declaring he wanted to ‘knock them off their fuc£king perch’ he went on to do so. I know I’m definitely a better bass-payer than Shakespeare, so I knew had to incorporate music into my scripts, play to my strengths kinda thing. Its worth a pop, right, to try & knock that Shakespeare off his fuc£ing perch!
Good luck with that one? So what exactly is Conchordia?
Well. Its essentially the artform I’m inventing. Stripped down to its most basic level the term can be interpreted as ‘with chords’ – the idea is that one can witness a piece of drama accompanied by a single acoustic guitar. That’s the core. Then, I realised that guitar could be played by a performer, which reminded me of the very funny Flight of the Conchords duo. They are like proper multi-taskers – acting, singing, dancing, playing guitars – that’s what I want ‘Conchordian’ to be able to do. Act, sing, dance & playing instruments when they’re not on stage – even if its just percussive. Also, since Concord the airplane is now defunct, the name is up for grabs these days & I like idea of people going for a ride in one of my conchords.
What other musical instruments are used in Conchordia, apart from the percussion?
Well, to be honest, there’s no limit. I’m going off the old edict that for a song to be a good song it needs to sound good sung on its own with only an acoustic guitar. But any producer of a conchord may use that basis to add an orchestra, or a rock & roll band, anything they like really. Each text also has a few ‘set’ pointers, which may also be interpreted as the company sees fit.
What other traits & attributes sets Conchordia apart from the other arts?
Each of the Conchordia has different DNA – there’s some that are just rock opera with barely any dialogue, & some that are simply musicals with an acoustic guitar. My later creations, however, are definitely realising a vision of theatre I have been developing. As a poet I have a gift for blank verse – its the most artistic way of expressing human speech. Shakespeare used it, so it can’t be that bad right? The English also have a genius for songwriting, while the Americans have mastered the musical. So if we blend all these together – Shakespearean blank verse, English songwriting, plus a wee splash of Broadway, you get Conchordia.
Have you performed any of your conchords yet?
I have actually – last year I put on a piece called Alibi at the Haddington Corn Exchange & also at the Eden Festival. It was fun – everyone enjoyed performing it & watching it. Doing Alibi made me realise I was onto something & began to look at my past pieces.
Your past pieces, what do you mean?
Alibi was the first slice of musical theatre I ever did – in 2007 & 2008. I was wintering in Sicily & got an acoustic guitar for Christmas, 2006. I then started looking at my old songs, connecting the common threads & adding a story. Bingo, my first conchord! I performed a it a few times in Edinburgh, Sheffield & Leeds. Next was a piece called Charlie, about the Jacobite rebellion, which I made into a film. About that period, & ever since, I’ve created a few others, but all in sketch form, in various states of completion. The Conchordio Folio is the moment I get them all nailed – a line in the sand, so to speak.
What Conchords are included in the Folio?
I’ve settled on 12 – its a nice epic number. The first five come together in a quintology called Leithology. There’s Alibi, Gangstaland, one I haven’t given a title to, a time-travelling one called Timewarpin’ & Tinky Disco. The idea is that they all interlink through characters, who each get a main musical to strut their stuff in. Like the X-Men franchise. Tinky Disco is based loosely upon The Tinky Disco Show, & will see the return of DJ Brooklyn – like a 21st century Falstaff. There are then three histories – Charlie, Finnesburgh – based on a story in Beowulf – & Malmaison, which tells the story of Napoleon on his return to Paris after Waterloo. There’s also a trilogy called The Rock & Roll Wars, its essentially a battle of the bands on a cosmic level. Finally there’s Exes & Axes, a 19th century tale of romantic betrayal set in 19th century France – it doesn’t quite fit with any of the others, but its really funny.
Will you be performing anything from the Folio soon.
2020 is the big year. I’m gonna be putting the entire Leithology quintology at the Old Dr Bells Bath at some point, & probably during the Fringe. As for the others, who knows, but they’ll be in the bank for the future & anybody anywhere can perform one as long as they have space, people & a guitar.
Oran Mor, Glasgow
Sep 23 – 28, 2019
The fabulous 500 play celebration year for Oran Mor’s Play, Pie and Pint continued with Peter Arnott’s masterful play, ‘The Signalman’, a monologue starring Tom McGovern. McGovern played one Thomas Barclay, the eponymous signalman, and concerned his memories of 40 years before when he worked as a signalman at the tender age of 24. The action started on a simple set on which was just a few chairs and a coat stand on which the actor hung his railway jacket as he quietly entered. It all somehow endowed the stage with a feeling of depth and sincerity.
As he looked back into the past, Barclay’s memories transported him back to the terrible night so many years before when it had been his signal that had sent the Edinburgh train on to the Tay Railway Bridge which collapsed taking many lives. We saw Barclay in turmoil as he turned over the events in his mind and in his long spotlit scene’s, reliving the subsequent inquisition he’d undergone from his powerful supervisors, an inquisition which mirrored his own doubts and feelings of responsibility. It was not hard to sympathise with him when he began to question his own sanity – no wonder…
The music in the piece took on quite a grave, ghostly character as the man went through torrents of suffering and plunged into the depths of despair, haunted as he was by visions where he was left all but a ghost. He had been so proud of his life and career, so when faced with this devastation it came all the harder. We followed each line to tremendous heights and then equally tremendous lows, and were affected by each spontaneous outcry as in the end he wept openly. We were left in no doubt about the impact of having your world turned upside down in this way.
This story was a tremendously moving tour de force, holding nothing back as we were taken on a rollercoaster of emotion, focussing on how one terrible event can deeply affect one individual, posing questions about how responsible we are for the things that happen to us and seeking all the time to find meaning for our lives. Take hankies!
The Brunton, Musselburgh
September 20th, 2019
Since inception, Rapture Theatre have tunnelled a catacomb of fine memories into the minds of the Scottish theatre-goers. Their latest cave of delights is called Clybourne Park, a spin-off from Lorraine Hansberry’s ever-enduring 1959 Broadway play, A Raisin in the Sun. The latter play tells of a black family’s real estate experiences in “Clybourne Park”, a fictionalized Subdivision of Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood. The New York Drama Critics’ Circle named it the best play of 1959. A half-century later, a spin-off was penned by New Yorker, Bruce Norris, & just like its mother-ship won hierarchical awards such as the Pulitzer for Drama & the Olivier for Best Play. Side-by-side, the two plays have morphed into a soap opera, & there is no reason why the Raisin mythomeme could be a standard locale for future dramatical socio-dissections of 1950s America.
Clybourne Park is divided into two halves; the first telling the story of the house purchase from that of its owners & the busybodying locals trying to keep the neighbourhood white. So this is racism, of course, but its comedy racism, looked at with a kinda sympathetic pity thro’ mileusean eyeglasses. After a sophisticaed screwdrill-whirring session in the interval, we find ourselves transported to an assimilationistic Noughties, when its all a little bit more grating, with a dash of false-flattery. Are we moderns really like these people on the stage reduced to fencing dodgy jokes like weapons of prejudice. Luckily, the play was saved by the cast-inflating reintroduction of the house-buying back-story, & in essence Clybourne Park flows thro’ 4 quarters – plus an astonishingly well done ending – the first half is all good, the second half starts slow & becomes excellent. The whole, I must add, is held togther by leibmotifs which bounce from half to half & also into Raisin with subtle but enlightening alacrity.
The play exposes the hypocrisy, particularly of educated, middle-class people who will happily uphold the principles of fairness & equality – unless & until those principles impinge on their own ideas & interests.
Michael Emans (Director)
Watching Clybourne Park’s “progressive community” in 2019 is a curious, indemnified affair. The racism which Norris remoulds in the second half is that of an American people trying to redefine its attitudes as they dwell among social landscapes very much shaped by centuries of racial subjegation & oppression – all while living under the tacitly legislated safety of father Obama. Clybourne also shows how people shun the pursuits of deeper understanding by the donning of fake armour – ‘how can I be racist when I’m gay.‘ A soreiety of the minorities. Although attitudes are similar in 2019, ten years is a long time in world progress & things are changing / have changed – Clybourne Park is already on its way to becoming the time capsule that is A Raisin in the Sun.
I can only heap as much praise as I’ve got to heap upon the acting – extremely realistic, their accents were impeccable & they teleported me without (visible) effort into 1950’s suburban Chicago. Having such a deliciously drab set helped inestimably. In the second half the troupe takes on new roles; instigating & ensuring a dipping of my suspension of disbelief. The joy I felt toward the end when the 1950s actors returned to the stage, beyielding my spirit unto a child-like joy, made me realise that as entertainment Norris would have been better off staying in the 50s, but to win awards he needed to make it contemporary as well. The awards were won, yes, but the piece then becomes imperfect as timeless drama. Still, if you have a good company involved, then Clybourne Park gives its actors a chance for something meaty, something pleasantly performable, & Rapture were simply superb at it.
Damian Beeson Bullen
Oran Mor, Glasgow
Sep 16 – 21, 2019
Oran Mor’s year of celebration continued with a revival of Morag Fullarton’s take on the Mack the Knife story about the period leading up to the production of what eventually became The Threepenny Opera. There was great upheaval at this time in between-the-wars in Berlin just before the rise of the Nazis, mirrored in the action onstage which was carefully choreographed to contain all the vivid, comedic activity. The entourage on stage included 4 actors, with some having double roles; Keith Fleming, playing Lotte Lenya’s, husband, doubling up as the delectable MacHeath and also playing guitar. The dialogue kept up a fast and furious pace, interspersed with frequent songs that grew in passion and significant the further we were hurled into the plot. Bertholt Brecht (George Drennan) came on – a larger than life character sliding the four of them together in theatrical style. All of which lead to Lotte auditioning for a show in Berlin. She was almost faced with the three men conspiring about her, all in the name of the show. The story stuck very well to the original style of the 30’s song by Kurt Weill who wrote it with Bertholt Brecht writing the lyrics. The comedy flew faster than a speeding light as did everything else, in a whirlwind and exuberant spectacle of dance, song and enticing comedy.
The said Kurt Weill (Kevin Lennon) was also big personality, stealing the show in every conversation and standing out in his showy, not to be ignored outfits. With Lotte on the verge of stardom the show crept ever closer and behind the scenes things were far from peaceful, with problems coming on all sides at Brecht who did well not to fall apart. In the end, the show finally became the Threepenny opera and when the song Mack the Knife was performed it was immediately loved by audience after audience, performance after performance, and word spread about how brilliant it was. But other forces were in play, as we saw when our four characters onstage were called to be part of the darkness in Berlin at this time. An officer dressed as a Nazi had the three in line questioning them about their lives as artists, leaving having decimated the show. Lotte was placed in a useful Jewish section of the world but their lives had already been thrown apart. Except that in the end, as we listen the strains of Mack the Knife at the end of the show, we were reminded that this great song was too well liked to just disappear. It seems appropriate to revive this musical now, at this time of turmoil in our own politics.
The Mumble love the PPP at the Oran Mor – cutting edge theatre & a decent scran – its a winning combo. BBC Scotland are about to broadcast several plays – so folk can get their pies & their beers from the local store & watch from the comfort of their own home
The team at Oran Mor is justifiably proud of A Play, A Pie and A Pint, the distinctive lunchtime productions which year by year have grown in fame and popularity ever since their launch by founder, the late David McLelland, in 2004. And 2019 is a celebration year for PPP, marking as it does the 500th play, not to mention recognition of their achievements in the shape of the award for “Contribution to Scottish Culture”. All of which has generated the interest of BBC Scotland who will record and screen some of the plays for a new series.
Oran Mor’s proprietor, Colin Beattie, himself a huge supporter of PPP, is “ ..more than pleased that A Play, A Pie and a Pint is at last being featured on national television… A lot of dedicated people have contributed to Oran Mor’s success… I have no doubt our founder, David McLennan is also pleased his legacy is being aired on the BBC.”
The excitement is shared by Artistic Directors April Chamberlain and Morag Fullerton who are keen to point out that having the TV cameras present won’t change anything – they’ll stick to their tried and tested formula for the live events and hope that the series will give a wider audience the chance to experience this unique “little lunchtime phenomenon” for themselves. Chamberlain points out that it will also afford an opportunity for “the fantastic writers, directors and performers that we work with the chance to engage with audiences on a wider scale.” “It would be fantastic,” she adds “if writers who haven’t worked on television before went on to be picked up for something else, and hopefully this will encourage everyone involved to take risks.”
Amen to that!
PPP is famous for showcasing both new and existing talent and I look forward to catching up with some of the best of the shows in the comfort of my own home – though I’ll have to supply my own pie and pint! Go to the i-Player to find “Ring Road” and “Chic Murray: Funny Place to Put a Window” as well as other productions which are scheduled to appear throughout the autumn. I can only agree with April Chamberlain when she states “It’s obviously different from the live experience but if it helps to grow an interest and an appetite for audiences, it could be the start of a great thing”. Cheers!
Ring Road by Anita Vettesse.
BBC Scotland: Sunday 8 September 2019, 10pm.
A Respectable Widow Takes to Vulgarity by Douglas Maxwell
BBC Scotland: Sunday 15 September 2019, 10pm.
Toy Plastic Chicken by Uma Nada-Rajah
BBC Scotland: Sunday 22 September 2019, 10pm.
Meat Market by Chris Grady
BBC Scotland: Sunday 29 September 2019, 10pm
Crocodile Rock by Andy McGregor
BBC Scotland: Sunday 29 September 2019, 10pm
Oran Mor, Glasgow
September 9-14, 2019
Today’s play, pie and pint offering was a three-hander intriguingly entitled No 1 fan, by Kim Millar and appeared at the Oran Mor as part of a tour of Scottish cities. Joyce Falconer took to stage as Jan in a striking red dressing gown, soon to be joined by David McGowan as Andy her husband. From the first it was clear that Andy had found himself a younger lover less than half the age of his long suffering wife. So poor Jan was in turmoil from get go, not only trying to deal with her husband cheating on her, but with someone so very much younger. The script was sharp and pointed as Jan energetically tore strips off her errant husband about the age of her rival, not to mention the moral issue of older men coupling with far younger women.
But Jan had a plan to get her own back. She would pick up a gentleman of her own. A darker side emerged when she revealed that in fact she was going to target a specific gentleman, a journalist named Jack (Callum Cuthbertson) whose newspaper column habitually degraded older women. Jan lured her victim to the house, where he appeared in a cravat and adopted a rather arrogant stance as a darling of the business. Until she slipped something in his drink causing him to regain consciousness slumped against a radiator with Jan standing over him holding handcuffs on a chain in an almost cabaret-like spectacle. At first he thought he was going to be in for some sexual shenanigans, but as Jan chains him to the radiator she made it clear that what she wanted was for him to write a column retracting his previous attitudes.
This play featured very strong performances from all three actors. Joyce Falconer totally over the top and dangerous as Jan, railing against the way older women are treated. David McGowan as Andy, trying to justify his infidelity, but coming in the end to remember what older women have to offer and asking for forgiveness. Callum Cuthbertson as Jack the charming journalist whose swaggering persona was perhaps hiding a feeling that he could be knocked off his pedestal at any moment.
In the end I found this quite a touching piece about the power struggle between the sexes, making its points with humour and absurdity, but coming in the end to some kind of resolution. When Andy asked for a second chance, Jan magnanimously replied with a toast to second chances as the lights went down.
Oran Mor, Glasgow
Aug 26–31 , 2019
It was great to be back at Oran Mor where the year celebrating 500 productions of A Play, A Pie and a Pint launched into its autumn season with Crocodile Rock, a new one-man musical by Andy McGregor. Darren Brownlie plays 17-year old Steven McPhail who introduces himself in song from his makeshift music studio. But this joyous beginning is something of a false start as young Steven found that life at home on the Isle of Millport was tedious, empty and downright boring. The stage was strewn with piles of boxes containing his possessions, giving you the impression of someone who was trying to make decisions about his life and how to live it. By the way, the music in this show was top notch, ably supported by the 2-man backing band of Gary Cameron (keyboard) and Gavin Whitworth (bass and guitar).
As the stories unfold in song, we learned about Steven’s adored mother and rather straight-laced father. We saw him going down to the beach to stare at Millport’s eponymous crocodile rock, which just reminded him of how detached he felt from his surroundings, and how much his soul longed for something different. All his ups and downs were expressed in the music as well as a large cast of imaginary characters. In places the show seemed almost operatic in its production and lyrical quality.
Out of the blue, and to our great delight, along came someone new – a drag queen from a larger world that Steven met by chance and found awe inspiring right from their first encounter. As we watched he seemed like a little boy being led into a new world of wonders he had never dreamed of – a world where at last he felt at home.
But he sang of great heartache as well. Having plucked up the courage to tell him, he loses his father’s approval and finds himself actually disowned. In tears he shouted “I won’t apologize for being who I am”. He had come onstage dressed as a woman, with long blond hair and a tight sequinned pink dress. Now the joke becomes serious, symbol of a great expression of overcoming. With every leap he took us with him, his songs becoming bold, and his world that little bit happier as he realised the true nature of his identity, the real Steven in full frock and make-up. This show was put together to make us laugh and cry, and it did that in spades. It also brought joy out of the heart of despair as we shared the quest to be your real self whatever it may be.