Friday, May 30, 2014

Back in January, I attended a showcase for the National Theatre of Scotland's forthcoming year. They outlined various riches including something called The Great Yes, No, Don't Know Five Minute Theatre Show. 

To be curated by Davie Greig, this was an endeavour to offer 24 hours of live-streamed five minute pieces of theatre on a Referendum theme. 

So I submitted what must be getting close to being the most recycled play(let) ever and was - ta dah! - chosen to perform it as part of this epic venture. Along with 179 others. 

You have two choices. Three actually. To pre-record and send it in. Practical if you're the other side of the world. Or very organised. Or you can record it live on the day (and a night and a bit of a day), either at one of their performing hubs or you might have a roving camera crew sent out to find you and film your endeavours in situ.

I'd boldly said I wanted this piece of mine performed at the Parliament. A powerful promise. That I was then forced to follow up when NTS said they would indeed send a crew to us on location if we were at the Parliament. Why wouldn't you for a Referendum-themed show?

Dan very kindly furnished me with a contact so the quest began. Promisingly. Sounds interesting, she said, but it's not me. You need to speak to he. I emailed he. Sounds interesting, he said, but I'll need to consult they. Can you send me the script? 

With thanks aplenty to Scotrail wifi, I sent the man the script. And waited. A weird bumper (Friday and Monday!) Scottish bank holiday got in the way. Waiting. 

Extremely promptly the morning they got back, a "really great idea but afraid we can't right now". Of course they can't. They're about to run a Referendum. My five minutes has the "First Minister" railing and cursing at - you'll have to wait and see. So this wasn't a great surprise.

But it means we need a back-up. Fast. Rehearsals start Sunday. In a situation eerily reminiscent of the Big Burns Supper, I currently have no venue for my soon to be beloved cast. 

So if you're sitting on (or in) a plush office that looks like it might house a First Minister and could be opened to a small group of travelling players and a camera crew on the evening of 23 June, please get in touch. I'll remember you when I'm famous...

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Romeo and Juliet by Scottish Ballet at the Festival Theatre on Wednesday.

Was a peculiar beast of a show. 

As context, I know nothing about who choreographed it, whether it's a recent production or a revival and what any of the reviews have been saying. Possibly more importantly, I went to see it with slight heavy dread in my heart. Another R&J. A silly sappy love story that benefits from Mr S's beautiful words which are obviously drowned out by Mr Prokofiev's rousing tunes in the ballet version. So my mind was a little bit open to being impressed and astounded but it was also receptively sponge-like to any concerns, anxieties or small but significant disgusts.

The experience was enlivened by the fact that everyone except B S Neill was late. Mother, to the extent that she was allowed in the back of the auditorium during the overture. So we set down, pulses racing at 7:29pm without the calm frame of mind you'd wish for as a prelude to an artistic experience.

The orchestra struck up. And they did strike and they were a fine orchestra, laden with strings and horns and percussion(s) and a piccolo and a bassoon and even a harp. Led by a conductor with a shiny yellow tie (that surely drew the eye of the dancers but maybe that was intentional), they made a fine and fulsome sound that stood in lovely contrast to Matthew Bourne's best pre-recorded delights a month ago.

It became clear that this was a stylised production when the dancers, to a finely honed calf, fell to the floor and rolled rolled rolled along the stage as the overture drew to a close. Parting the low-lying dancer-ful seas only to let Juliet, in a tiny blue nightie, drift through their massed low ranks in search of what? Judging from the filmed projected cityscapes, some sort of post-war torn peace, perhaps. Or just for her Romeo.

The stylising extended into the choreography with lots of sharp jabbing and angular aggressive movements finding their way into the arms of the especially tall and striking Lady Cap and her (what? Lover? Brother? Husband? Son?) tall and striking man person. The massed ranks of Monts and Caps marched, loomed and gesticulated at each other. And now and again, a small pack of soldiers in black stalked across the stage.

The projected brutalist architecture, war-torn streets and aforementioned blackshirts makes me wonder if they were trying to say something about fascism. The first chunk of the piece was certainly set in the 1930s. Then we leapt to the 1950s in the second act. And suddenly, as our tragic heroes moaned, gesticulated and writhed their last love-lorn breaths, people started popping out of the wings in neon lurex. The nineties were (apparently) upon us.

With the beautiful objectivity of five days later, I think I admire the attempt to make a statement about warring factions that stretched outside Verona in 14whatever. (Showing dread ignorance of when the classic text is set. And quite possibly of the location too.) But I'm not sure that this particular statement worked particularly well. 

The dancing was lovely. The choreography wasn't their fault. The orchestra, although they sometimes looked bored, did a pretty nice job. The set worked hard, lights were great and costumes were, well, colourful. But the concept? I'm not sure it needed to try that hard to impress us. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Tonight tonight tonight opens the long in the making Scottish premiere of Tracy Letts' fabulously dark and funny August: Osage County. 

You may have seen the (dreary) film. Rest assured that this is sharper, crueller, less indulgent and very very funny.

We have an excitingly stellar cast for you: Wendy Mathison, Richard Godden, Robin Thomson, Alan Patterson, Klara Rohe, Laurence Waring, Cari Silver, Kenneth Brangman, Helen Goldie and I'm pretty sure I've missed a few fine people out of that list.

Gordon Craig has poured pure love into the set. And David Grimes and Ross Hope have poured so much love and care and attention into directing this beast that it deserves to win prizes at Crufts.

Do go see. It's on at Adam House at 7pm (note 7pm!!) from Wednesday to Saturday this week. Tickets here.

We'll look forward to seeing you there.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

1,000 (or thereabouts) of my words theoretically ended up in front of Davie Greig at the weekend.

In fact, I realise as I write this that I shouldn't say any more than that as it's all top top top super secret.

But if you have any retrospective luck to spare, please send them to my limp words. 

There weren't enough of them to qualify for being a Play Pie and a Pint. Which I suppose is a nicer get out than the nature of the words just being RUBBISH.

But a five minute version of the PPP script distilled to its very essence cannot be too short. 

I wonder what (if anything) he'll say.

"Nice try but it's RUBBISH."

"Were you even trying? As you can't tell."

"Poor thing. I hope you have paid employment to supplement these lame efforts."

"You seem to be able to write a sentence with an approximately correct structure. But I don't think playwriting is for you. How's about you get a job in - hmmm - I don't know, something that doesn't need much talent. How about MARKETING???"

"Please try harder."

"I think there's been a mistake."

"N.B. NTS - this is a shopping list, not a play."

Well. We'll see.

Monday, May 05, 2014

An amazing show on Saturday night.

Pressure. At the ever beautiful Lyceum.

Written by David Haig and also starring himveryself, it tells the gripping tale of Scottish meteorologist, Group Captain James Stagg (one-time teacher at Heriots, no less), who wound up advising General Eisenhower to reschedule Operation Overlord.

It's an incredible story. And an incredible concept for a play. Covering a four day period, the play is essentially about The Weather. And bear in mind that they didn't have all these whizzy charts and alluringly dressed weather presenters in 1944. So we make do with painted charts that - saints preserve us - don't animate. It ought to be boring.

But thanks to a cracking piece of writing from Mr Haig, it isn't remotely. It's compelling, edge-of-the-seat-ly so. Extraordinary given all of this happened seventy years ago. And that we all kinda know what happened. But none of that matters.

We end up caring enormously for this brusque man, despatched from the provinces to the ramshackle makeshift "family", bound together by impending catastrophe rather than blood. To the point that

Well, I shan't tell you what happens.

The set is just the ticket. The lighting is discretely marvellous. Summer's day to storms in a (lightning-less) flash. The costumes (and the actors) are so eerily real that I entirely forgot that they'd all troop out the stage door in jeans when they were done. You're almost - almost - transported.

Go see. As @uberpiglet said, it's the best thing we've seen at the Lyceum in ages.