Sunday, April 10, 2011

"Falling/Flying" - April 2011

Stef Smith's 'monologue' in two voices allows us an insight into what it means to live the life of a transgender woman. We witness her early realisation of how she wanted to live, the prejudice she encounters, and then finally watch as her hard won identity is stripped from her by illness. But this isn't as bleak as it sounds. There is plenty of humour as 'he' and 'she' share memories and the overwhelming feeling is of adversities overcome and a life lived to the full.

John Paul Murray and Gordon Brandie give compelling performances as the 'male' and 'female' voices and make a real connection with the audience - it really matters that we're there to listen to her/their story. For the most part Ros Philip's direction works well, but although they add a nice touch, the projection elements seem unnecessary and out of place in what is otherwise a pretty pared back production. The moments when the actors play other characters in her life aren't always as clearly realised as they could be - in part due to a narrative that jumps around a little too much (also resulting in it being difficult to get a sense of the timeframes involved).

"Falling/Flying" is a touching personal tale but with its complex structure, poetic language and movement the volume of the theatricality risks drowning out the intimacy of the story.

Falling/Flying has completed its run at the Tron.
Image by Chris Amos used with permission.


Friday, April 08, 2011

"Project Branded" - April 2011

Tron Skillshops, the Tron's drama group for 13 to 17 year olds, brings us a look at where society may be headed with "Project Branded". With its group of close friends refusing to conform to the state's new programme designed to restrain teenage impulses it's like a mash up of "Skins", "A Clockwork Orange" and "We Will Rock You" - which isn't a bad place to start.

This is the first time we've been along to a Tron Skillshops production so it's worth outlining our approach to youth drama. Along with amateur and community theatre, we don't make any allowances and treat all performances exactly as we do fully professional shows. We believe that to do otherwise would be patronising to all those involved.

So, with that in mind, let's get the negatives out of the way right at the start. Most likely due to first night nerves, there were some quiet voices, a fair number of stumbled lines and a couple of horribly hesitant moments. And similarly, during the chorus/dance/movement segments there wasn't always the polished execution there might have been.

Fortunately, there was a lot of good stuff on display here too. The band of 'Outlaws' fighting the system make for a believable group of friends with Grant McDonald's "Ryan" and Ebony Blair's "Jess" making particularly strong impressions. Jack Kennedy gives an assured performance as Project Branded's "Head Advisor", clearly enjoying the character's almost GLaDOS-like personality. Directors Lisa Keenan & Gillian Crawford have given the show a well thought out structure that keeps things interesting - and all involved deserve credit for giving the show quite a ballsy finish. Hopefully as the run progresses the cast will gain in confidence and experience and be able to showcase the full extent of their talents.

We received our ticket for Project Branded through our membership of the Tron's Patrons Scheme - which we thoroughly recommend to all regular attendees at the Tron.

Project Branded runs at the Tron until Saturday 9th April
Image by John Johnston used with permission


Tuesday, April 05, 2011

"Mark Thomas - Extreme Rambling" - April 2011

Since the shocking revelation at the weekend that I have parents who think Michael McIntyre is funny, my mind has been tormented by the possibility that this may be the result of a genetic flaw and that later in life I may succumb to the same mental frailty. But fortunately, last night I had my fears banished – I just don’t believe anyone who found Mark Thomas as funny as I did could ever tolerate watching McIntyre’s ridiculous grin for more than 60 seconds without putting a foot through the TV.

This latest piece of political comedy saw Mark tell the packed Citizens Theatre of his escapades on an attempt to walk the full length of the Israeli-built wall which divides Israel from Palestine. As with all comedy gigs there's a danger of any review spoiling half the fun - so please forgive us for not providing any details of the evening. But here's everything you need to know: Mark Thomas is a comedy genius - not a word we use lightly. What he delivers is a carefully constructed retelling which has been crafted and polished for maximum impact; yet his obvious fire and passion make it feel fresh and spontaneous. Along with the rest of the audience we spent 95% of the evening grinning and laughing. But Thomas has an ability, like no other performer I've encountered, to shift to a more serious point and kill the laughter stone dead as we take in the shocking detail he's just dropped on us. So often we've seen audiences at other performers fail to appreciate such shifting tones, but Thomas has such control over his audience that we follow his lead as single unit.

With impeccable timing, a self deprecating attitude and an ability to bring characters to life, Thomas is a comic and theatrical performer at the absolute top of his game. For anyone even a little sympathetic to his views on politics, human rights and civil liberties, I doubt there is a more entertaining night out available anywhere.

Mark Thomas - Extreme Rambling has completed its two night run at the Citizens as part of the Magners Glasgow International Comedy Festival. It continues on an extensive UK tour including dates in Inverness and Aberdeen.
Image used with permission.