Saturday, March 12, 2011

Friday night.

x2 shows in a festival-worthy orgy of catch-up play going.

Both at the Traverse.

Both National Theatre of Scotland.

One was good.

One was not.

Somersaults first.

This told the story of - well, I understood it a little bit more after reading the programme - a man who fell out of love with his wife, rediscovered an old friend, was declared bankrupt and buried his dad. The exact chronology was hard to figure out but didn't matter all that much.

This same fellow had been brought up by his Gaelic speaking father. And as the fellow's father withered and died, so did his recollection of the Gaelic language. He spent much of the play trying to remember the Gaelic word for somersaults. Which I suppose was symbolic of something.

I slightly dreaded seeing this as it featured the dread word Gaelic in the blurb. And the Traverse had a spate a few years back of producing plays that were incredibly worthy as they documented the loss of a dying Scottish culture but were also often incredibly dull. But admiration for the director (Vicky Featherstone) won the day and I'm glad it did.

It looked beautiful. Gorgeous little set, lovely lighting, very nicely acted. A nice script until it descended into a strangle rambling conversation between the relocated in the audience actors. I didn't even mind the lapses into Gaelic. I sat wide awake throughout and even enjoyed it.

Girl X on the other hand I'd treated with similar suspicion but my admiration for the director (Pol Heyvaert) again lured me to part with my money. This fellow co-wrote and directed a very bleak but excellent play a few years ago about parents who murdered their child. Aalst.

Girl X
dealt with a similarly contentious subject. Parents who opted for their severely disabled daughter to have a(n) hysterectomy to avoid bother in later life. A worthy subject.

Unfortunately, the writers had taken it into their heads to fashion the play around the sort of conversation that you might have in an internet chat room. Which meant that we had a main protagonist - a guy with cerebal palsy - and a 'choir' who spoke their counter arguments in chorus. All very Greek tragedy.

An interesting way of telling the story. But it made the whole issue immediately a little more remote. As you had this guy who was very evidently dealing with his own issues versus an anonymous pack who varyingly did or didn't care.

A great story. Leadenly told.

On the plus side, well - there were two plus sides (if that's anatomically possible):

- sometimes the choir sang. Fittingly. And beautifully. These were proper hairs stand up on the back of your neck moments.
- some really lovely illustrations were projected across the set throughout. Some typographic stuff. Other really lovely little girls or little fauns trotting past or indistinct little figures wandering about. Really chaming stuff.

This gives you a tiny idea of what it looked like but barely does it justice.

I suggest they cut the dialogue, play some nice music and let me watch the pictures. Then I might have been spared my substantial nap.


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