Monday, January 28, 2008

"Barry" - January 2008

When The Citizens brochure came out Statler was quite keen on "The Blue Room". It didn't particularly appeal to me, but Borders based Rowan Tree Theatre Company's production of "Barry" caught my eye. The thought of two nights out the same week didn't appeal (plus the cost just after Christmas) so we decided to take advantage of The Citz's cheap Tuesdays and go to one each.

Isabella Jarrett has the difficult task of portraying "Barry", our eponymous hero(ine), in the bizarre tale of James Miranda Barry, a 19th century doctor who spent most of his career in the military. The reason for what seems slightly strange casting is that Barry is now strongly believed to have been a woman, and this is Frederic Mohr's dramatisation of how this complicated deceit occurred.

We've seen before in "Venus As A Boy" how a story can be told by a single actor, and this is another good example of this. Jarrett puts in a strong performance weaving the tale from her childhood in Ireland as Margaret, to her decision to become a doctor and achieving this by becoming a boy and continuing to live as a man. Using a variety of accents and attitudes the different characters that form this charade are given substance, and most importantly the different aspects of Barry are clearly differentiated. The change of costume and persona between the first and second acts is quite startling in its simplicity.

The in the round staging of the Studio Theatre works well as the audience are drawn into the tale. There were a couple of lines fluffed, but when you're the sole performer this is entirely forgivable and didn't disturb the flow of the piece.

One final comment has to go to the programme. Quite often this just gives you names and biographies of the cast if you're lucky. Given the historical basis of this piece it was fantastic to have a "Barry Chronology" giving you the timeline and details of Barry's life. For a history geek this was a lovely way of fleshing out some details. The spoiler warning at the start of the chronology was also appreciated, as it advised delaying reading it until after the performance.

"Barry" is touring until 9th February.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

"The Blue Room" - January 2008

It's always a little worrying when a play is best known for having had a big name star in a previous production, but given that it was adapted by a writer I was at least aware of, I was willing to give this production at the Citizens a go - despite being able to find out little about the company - Replico.

The play is made up of ten short scenes each involving a sexual encounter, with one of the participants changing between each scene. All the characters are played by the same two actors - Neil McCormack and Karen Fraser. While you would suspect one of the problems of such a piece to be the difficulty in clearly differentiating between the 5 characters played by each performer, McCormack and Fraser do an excellent job of giving each a persona of their own.

Unfortunately the main problem I had with David Hare's adaptation was almost the reverse of this - that as written the characters rarely seemed consistent between the two scenes each features in. One of the characters late in the play hints that this is by intent, suggesting that we are all different people depending on who we are with. While I can certainly accept that to some extent, when the scenes are so brief it seems to cheat the audience a little to establish a character's wants, desires and beliefs and then depart from them, often drastically. Hare's dialogue is also a problem, leaving many of his characters very two dimensional and cliched, with only the character of the Playwright grabbing any real interest.

Given the nature of the play there is nudity here, although it isn't in a sexual way and the scenes are all before/after with a darkening of the lights in between. I don't think many would be offended by its use here - other than the fact that it's largely unnecessary.

I can't blame Replico for choosing to put on "The Blue Room" given the in-built publicity that it guarantees, but I'd hope some future productions are chosen more on the quality of the material, as they've shown here that they are capable of delivering a quality production if given the right text.


Monday, January 21, 2008

Forget the January Sales...

It's that time year that the postman dreads. The increase load in their mail bags caused by every theatre in central Scotland sending us their thought provoking and tantalising schedules for the next 6 months. So this is your timely reminder to start have a look through their websites and brochures to see what catches your eye. Time's short at the moment as real life is slightly hectic so we've not managed to add our usual links to everything - sorry - but Google is your friend.

So far we've cast our eye over the main Glasgow theatres (Citizens, Kings, Theatre Royal and The Tron). We booked up early for what we're seeing at The Citz thanks to their Friends scheme giving us an early booking advantage. Of particular interest there is '6 Characters in Search of an Author' (Review now posted) from the NTS and 'The Blue Room' (Review now posted) although the latter divided our household so Statler's seeing that one solo, while I see 'Barry' (Review now posted) the same night.

After enjoying Mike Maran's 'Little World of Don Camillo' we've booked for 'Picasso and Me' (Review now posted) and after the brilliant 'Lysistrata' we are looking forward to GCNS's 'Animal Farm' (Review now posted). Having greatly regretted not buying tickets for theatrebabel's 'Volpone' before it sold out we made sure to book early for 'Educating Agnes' (Review now posted). QMU make a welcome addition to the Citz student season with a series of performances of Greek Tragedies (Reviews posted here and here), while we'll also now be booking up for Reid Kerr College's 'Macbeth' (Review now posted) thanks to the involvement of Melissa Deans who impressed us so much in 'The Princess Bride'.

And of course we'll be seeing the Citizens Company's 'Waiting For Godot' (Review(?) now posted), after enjoying 'Ice Cream Dreams' we've also booked for Citz Community Co and Young Company's 'They Shoot Horses Don't They?' (Review now posted) Rounding off our current plans for the Citz is 'Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off' (Review now posted) although we may still be persuaded to see 'Little Otik' once we find out a little more.

We've also got our 2nd London trip coming up soon, when we'll be catching the much reviewed "Othello" with Chiwetel Ejiofor and Ewan McGregor (Review now posted), having a bit of fun with "We Will Rock You" (Review now posted) and finishing up with "Speed the Plow" with Kevin Spacey & Jeff Goldblum, although it's still in Previews so we won't be doing a full review of it (Preview/Review now posted).

Elsewhere we still have to firm up our plans but there are a number of shows we have in mind. At the Kings in Glasgow we're considering Andy Gray and Elaine C Smith in "The Rise and Fall of Little Voice" (Review now posted) but I'd really like to hear some casting news for LV before booking up. Another possibility is "Eurobeat: Almost Eurovision" which was probably the popular hit of this year's Edinburgh Fringe.

We're also trying to fit in "The Wasp Factory" (Review now posted) and "The Wall" (Review now posted) at the Tron while further afield the prospect of "Yarn" by Grid Iron/Dundee Rep staged in an old Dundee factory has really caught our attention (Review now posted).

No guarantee we'll manage to see all of these but if we had sufficient time/finances they would definitely be on our lists, and of course we're still open to suggestions.