Monday, October 24, 2011

"Saturday Night" - October 2011

Back in 2009 Vanishing Point gave us a very different theatre experience with "Interiors" - a show where all the action took place behind a glass wall which allowed the audience to see, but not hear, the characters. "Saturday Night" pushes the concept further - we see more (three rooms instead of one) but hear less (there's no external voiceover this time round) - and the events are much more surreal. What hasn't changed is the way it absolutely captivates an audience.

"Saturday Night" makes significant demands on the attention of its audience as they work out what to take from the silent interactions on stage - often in more than one room simultaneously. But all that effort doesn't go unrewarded.

As the show is in part a puzzle, and in part open to interpretation, I'm not going to talk about the characters or the 'plot' - other than to praise what is a fine acting ensemble. I'll also add that it features the most oppressive sense of foreboding I've felt in the theatre for a long time - I'm not sure I'd want to see a Vanishing Point show where their main aim was to scare an audience. That's a lie. I'd love to see that show.

So, and let me be clear about this, I thought this was a spellbinding and wonderfully entertaining piece of theatre. And in many ways that's where this post should end. My problem is that I'm not convinced the show 'does exactly what it says on the tin' or in this case, in the programme notes. The programme and publicity material suggest they were aiming to create a show where the audience would use their imagination to interpret what they saw on stage, and I don't think that was achieved to any great extent. The performances are so well crafted that there's rarely much room for interpretation in individual moments. Yes, there are some details that require leaps of imagination (did I see a pizza being ordered by phone after it had already arrived?) but the central narrative is really only open to two possibilities. You either 'get it' or you don't . And if you don't, there aren't really (m)any alternatives that an imagination, however vivid, is likely to come up with. Leaving an audience divided ino those who 'got it' and those left thinking "what the hell was that?". And while the vast majority of those sitting around me in the theatre definitely 'got it', there were a noticeable minority who really didn't. I'm fine with that - I'm just not sure director Matthew Lenton and the Vanishing Point team would be.

Saturday Night completes its tour this week with dates at Eden Court, Inverness on 26th/27th October and at the Traverse, Edinburgh on 29th/30th.
Saturday Night is a co-production between Vanishing Point, Tramway, Teatro Nacional São João, Centro Cultural Vila Flor - Teatro Oficina, Sao Luiz Teatro Municipal.
Image by Joao Tuna/TNSJ used with permission.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

"Juicy Fruits" - October 2011

It's been quite a while since I last made it along to Oran Mor's "A Play, A Pie & A Pint" lunchtime shows - and if I'm honest waiting one more week might not have been a bad idea. It's never a good sign when it's twenty minutes in and I'm glancing at my watch.

Leo Butler's play throws together two old friends meeting up for the first time in several years - Lorna is struggling as a new mum and Nina's finding it difficult to readjust to 'normality' after spending time saving the Orang Utans. But could there just possibly be more than meets the eye to Nina's decision to come home? Yawn. It's all a bit by-the-numbers, and even a coup-de-theatre that brilliantly moves the action to the jungle can't save the show.

There are a few nice barbs thrown about between the friends, and Clare Waugh makes Lorna a believable anchor in what is otherwise a pretty 'out there' show. Denise Hoey avoids making Nina 'Central Casting cooky' and instead gives her an edge that creates just enough doubt that she intends to harm, rather than simply wake Lorna's baby when she shakes his buggy. But there are too many gaps in their character's motivations to allow us to relate to their choices.

In fairness, others seemed to enjoy it more than I did, but at times I do feel the Play, Pie, Pint audiences can be generous to a fault.

Juicy Fruits is a co-production with Paines Plough. It runs at Oran Mor until Saturday 22nd October before visiting Edinburgh's Traverse, Manchester Royal Exchange & Coventry's Belgrade Theatre.
Image by Leslie Black Photography used with permission


"Days of Wine and Roses" - October 2011

At a time when the role of alcohol in Scottish society is under increased scrutiny, the Tron & Theatre Jezebel deliver a devastating reminder of its impact on an individual level. So much so, that I wouldn't be surprised if the Tron notice a dip in post-show takings at the bar - on schoolnights at least.

The typical 'stage drunk' played for comic effect is almost totally absent in director Kenny Miller's production of Owen McCafferty's version of JP Miller's original play - we witness far more of the 'morning afters' than the 'night befores'. With a two hour runtime this could easily become heavy going for the audience. But the initial charm of the young Belfast couple goes a long way and Keith Fleming and Sally Reid's performances are compelling as Donal and Mona's lives fall apart.

Kenny Miller's direction effectively evokes time and location, but the pacing may have benefited from moving the interval back a scene or two. On paper, it would be tempting to dismiss the play's recurring use of racing great 'Arkle' as a timeline for the couple's relationship as faintly ridiculous, but Fleming's delivery exudes so much love and belief in the horse that it adds greatly to his connection with the audience.

I can't pretend that this is a fun night out, but it is unquestionably serious theatre of the highest quality.

We received our tickets for the show through our membership of the Tron's Patrons scheme which we thoroughly recommend for anyone who is a regular attendee at the Tron.

We'd also like to mention how impressed we were with the way the Tron front of house staff dealt promptly, professionally and sensitively with a medical emergency in the audience shortly before the start of the show.

Days of Wine and Roses runs at the Tron until 29th October
Image by John Johnston used with permission


Monday, October 17, 2011

Getting back on the theatrical (pantomime?) horse...

After having our Fringe plans for the last week of August decimated by coming down with a nasty bug/cold/manflu (delete as applicable / perm any 2 from 3), we were both left feeling under the weather for the entirety of September. And nodding off most nights before 9pm wasn't exactly conducive to our theatre plans.

But we've finally got our energy and enthusiasm back and we'll have a few shows to post about in the next week or so.