Thursday, April 24, 2008

"The Wasp Factory" - April 2008

Iain Banks' cult novel was always going to make for an 'interesting' production and with Malcolm Sutherland's adaptation Cumbernauld Theatre Company and The Tron have really made an effort to bring it alive. Choosing a piece with such a profile certainly appears to have created a buzz (Waldorf: groan!) and seems to have attracted a young audience. What's surprising is that Banks' tale turns out to be the least impressive aspect of the production.

His story of dysfunctional brothers Frank and Eric and their father (as told by Frank) is reduced to what amounts to an old school "Tales of the Unexpected" and I'm left a little puzzled as to quite how it achieved its cult status - maybe I'll need to make the effort and read the novel. But while the narrative may be a little underwhelming the direction and performances are anything but.

Nicola Jo Cully as Frank, Robbie Jack as Eric and Ian Sexon as their Father deliver three exceptional performances. Cully is frighteningly believable and grabs the audience from start to finish while Jack shows some wonderful comic talent - and despite being underwritten Sexon makes the relationship with Frank fully formed.

As for the tone of the production and Ed Robson's direction I think a warning is required. It's the kind of feel I love in a show - direct narration to audience, creative representations of events told in flashback and excellent use of props/stage design/music. From the opening scene I instantly had a grin on my face that rarely left throughout, although even at its funniest moments there was always an element of underlying tension. For a production based on a novel the 'feel' of it was actually very cinematic. This all really worked for me, but I'm aware that these aspects may well be less enthusiastically received by others - although it certainly got a positive response from tonight's audience. But I do have a few reservations about the show. Perhaps due to the novelty and freshness of the storytelling style starting to wear off it did seem a little overlong, the nudity was pretty pointless and the rabbit bombing scene went out with a bit of a whimper.

However, those are mere quibbles - this is a hugely entertaining show with a great cast and I'm sure it will be a big hit on its extensive tour.

The Wasp Factory runs at the Tron until 26th April then visits Stirling, Stornoway, Kendal. Bathgate, Stranraer, Kilmarnock, Cumbernauld, Dundee, Kirkcaldy, Inverness, St.Andrews, Falkirk, Edinburgh and finishes in Aberdeen on June 12th to 14th.

Image by Linda Graham used with permission