Saturday, October 22, 2011

This week has been neatly bookended by remarkable cultural diversity.

Last Sunday saw us here, in The Salon, hosted courteously by the Traverse Theatre.

(More photos to come but I'm having - shall we say - technical issues. As usual, born out of my laziness. Or rather, disinterest in anything practical.)

The Salon Project was a rather wonderful idea. The brainchild of Stewart Laing and masterminded by his production company, Untitled Projects, it endeavoured to recreate the Salon experience of times (ranging wildly throughout several centuries) gone by. Which meant dressing the audience in a gloriously eclectic collection of fabric and feather stuffs to enable them to wholly embrace the experience.

It was great fun. But as it so often the case, the getting ready bit - for me, at least - beat the show itself hands down.

Backstage, we had a conveyor belt of a production line to enable 60 people in jeans and workaday hair and make-up (always impeccable Cari aside) to be turned into creatures of gentility. That was fascinating. And so like a 'real' backstage with hair and make-up girls and a jewellery man and dressers - I've never had a dresser! - and racks and racks of costumes and hats and boxes of shoes in abundance that I was quite enchanted. It was glorious.

And then the clock chimed and we were herded through into the Salon. Beautiful set. Quite white. Ornate mirrors. A grand piano in the corner. A proper chandelier.

I suspect I wasn't clever enough to 'get' the concept. We had a tableau something or other (and if you were in the first batch of people, you got two) which consisted of (we were instructed to shut our eyes during the preparation) a bunch of people standing around naked studying iPads and phones and other assorted gadgets. Making a powerful point, I expect, but I have no idea what the powerful point was.

Then a series of discussions led by Stewart, the host and featuring assorted speakers who mused on this or that theme. This established once and for all that indeed it was Joyce (my stalker!) Macmillan in the large red dress. Unfortunately the first speaker was boring. Or my attention span was non existent as Mother claimed it was very thought-provoking. Second up was some very beautiful woman who spoke about the role of costume I think in our drab daily existence. Topical at least. Joyce spoke of Scotland. Very nicely actually. Then we milled around a bit more and then we watched some film of the previously naked people lying around all dead and bloody. (This provoked Mother to rant on the way home about the outrageous laziness of modern day man who only has to be presented with a screen before he flocks to it and laps up whatever is there presented like a thirsty dog.) And then - to the accompaniment of some dramatic sound effects and an apparent dialling up of the temperature, a group photo and we were herded back into the dressing room to be stripped of our finery.

I should have entered into the spirit of it more than I did. Sweeping around the salon in my beautiful 1920s golden dress engaging in discussions about the topics therein raised with my fellow salon goers. But I wasn't quite in the mood for talking. Mother claimed she met some fascinating people. I was introduced to Stewart Laing by Kim, our enthusiastic 'people-sitter' and babbled like a foolish schoolgirl about a ball and Faust and people standing around talking "rather like this" (oh no no no Claire, so gauche) and a Tempest on a boat and oh! how I love this kind of thing. I'm sure Stewart thought I was insane. But this fumbling foray aside, I managed only to take 103 photos. Which I'm sure was an infinitely better use of my time.

All in all, a glorious 'project'. But costumes aside, I wasn't wholly convinced.

In beautifully stark contrast, I went to see some clowns last night. Slava's Snow Show at the Festival Theatre.

They didn't speak. They pranked. With the most extraordinary effects I've seen on a stage for a long long time.

Guess which theatrical experience I preferred.


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