Why culture vultures flock to Glasgow

For the past few weeks I’ve been writing wee reviews for the Friday Ticket section of the Daily Record and it’s amazing what is going on in venues across Glasgow on any given night, be it an all-male production of Wuthering Heights at The Arches (their BEHAVIOUR Fest in tandem with the National Theatre of Scotland is edgy and triumphant), Roma dancing at Tramway, or Scottish Opera doing Wagner at the Theatre Royal. Here’s a snapshot of what’s going on in Glasgow.

Open For Everything:Constanza Macras/Dorky Park Glasgow Tramway

Wow! Once in a while, you turn up for a live performance with no particular preconceptions or expectations, only to find yourself blown away by what’s happening on stage.

Open For Everything, was an incendiary evening of dance and music from a large ensemble Roma musicians and performers, amateurs of all ages, and dancers from the Dorky Park company.

From the moment the band struck up and the performers climbed out of a jam packed car, the explosion of music and muscular movement ignited the senses, and continued non-stop for the next 100 minutes.

This was edgy, thought provoking and above all, entertaining stuff. In the audience was the powerhouse behind Open For Everything, Constanza Macras, who brought together this talented but disparate ensemble and her dance company Dorky Park to perform in a show that recounts their lives, passions, despair and dreams.

The show stems from Macras’s research into the different ways of life, dance styles and music of the Roma in Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Using dance and music to lead us through the lives of the European Roma today, the performance plays with prejudices, clichés, misunderstanding s, similarities, traditions, discrimination, poverty and violence.

It wasn’t just that the performers were energetic and accomplished, they told their stories with each move, sound and expression.


Wuthering Heights The Arches  23.4.13

As you would expect from an all-male performance of Wuthering Heights, men stripped bare and changed into dresses, but that was but a momentary detail in what turned out to be a deeply moving and entertaining exploration of what it means to be a man in the modern world.

After several months in development, Peter McMaster’s extraordinary adaptation of the Emily Bronte novel was returning as a full production for the BEHAVIOUR 2013 festival, and the cast who collaborated with McMaster, performed this brave new interpretation with tender honesty and humour.

The lyrical script and athletic choreography, chartered a course between poignant reflections on fatherhood, part-harmony folk singing, and a Pan’s People style dance to Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights; leaving that out would have been a serious omission.

If I’m making this sound like a pretentious luvvie-in, it was far from it, although it’s unlikely that you will view Heathcliff and Cathy in the same light again. The energetic sincerity and sheer talent of Nick Anderson, Chris Hall, Peter McMaster, Thom Scullion and Murray Wason, made for an edgy piece of theatre, but one which left you with a positive warm glow and plenty to think about.

Donald Robertson is Not a Standup Comedian 6.4.13 Written & performed by Gary McNair The Arches & National Theatre of Scotland

Tom Jones belting out Delilah helped settle our nerves as we were ushered into the darkest reaches of The Arches wondering just what we’d let ourselves in for.

As the title suggests, McNair is neither a standup nor is he Donald Robertson, but his solo work is often compared to standup comedy, and this show stems from a National Theatre of Scotland project which gave him the chance to immerse himself in that world.

After watching 103 live performances and meeting a constellation of comedy legends, all that remained was to get up there and try it himself. Written by McNair, the show turns out to be much more than a standup routine, although it was often laugh out loud.

This a beautifully written and ambitious piece which sees McNair deftly stripping standup to the bone as we follow the story of Donald Robertson, a put-upon kid who uses comedy to win over his classmates.

When the 15-year-old Donald, played by Michael Kelly, makes an unexpected appearance, for a moment you wonder if McNair has actually morphed into a wee schoolboy with his shirt hanging out.

At one point, McNair asks the audience what the theatre to comedy ratio is, and while he has fine comic timing the and a presence that makes the women in the audience want to take him home, it is the latter that tips the scales. It will be interesting to see what McNair comes up with next.

Stitching Tron Theatre 11.4.13

This new production of Anthony Neilson’s play about a fracturing relationship is as fresh and edgy as it was over a decade ago when it first opened at the Edinburgh Fringe. On that occasion, the more shocking scenes resulted in a walkout by audience members, but this didn’t stop Stitching being performed both in the UK and internationally, garnering several awards along the way, with Neilson’s career as both writer and director going from strength to strength.

It was certainly a well considered choice as the inaugural production of the recently formed Delirium Productions, whose ‘raw and authentic approach’ to acting lends itself to such an intimate play, allowing our empathy for the two lovers to transcend distaste.

The play opens with an ordinary couple in an IKEA furnished flat, and it is the apparent innocence and lack of sophistication that Catriona Evans and Tom Moriarty bring to the characters of Abby and Stu, that keeps the audience on side, even through the darkest of territory.

Stitching deals with the balance of power between the couple, who will go to extreme lengths to fix their dysfunctional relationship. Why was I not surprised to read that Neilson’s favourite film is Last Tango in Paris?

Directed by Mark Westbrook, this bodes well for future shows from Delirium. When Evans and Moriarty took their call they appeared elated and the audience reaction certainly rewarded their commitment to this tender but brutal story.

Rambert Dance Company Labyrinth of Love TourTheatre Royal Glasgow Friday 1 March

There was an audible gasp from the pupils of Denny High School when the curtain went up on Rambert Dance Company’s Labyrinth of Love on Friday 1 March at Glasgow’s Theatre Royal to reveal the sculpted bodies of the male dancers in their ‘tidy whities’.

The young and vocal audience were put through plenty more pulse raising moments, from the feral athleticism of Margaret Donlan’s Labyrinth of Love, inspired by the love poems and prose of seven women including Elizabeth Taylor, through to Tim Rushton’s taut and moving Monolith, and Elysian Fields, Rambert’s take on L’Après-midi d’un faune.

While the dancers often moved to their own percussive sounds, music lies at the heart of Rambert Dance Company, which always performs to a live orchestra. Michael Daugherty’s score for Labyrinth was accompanied live on stage by soprano Sarah Gabriel.

Film projections presented a subtle yet evocative backdrop for the Olympian athleticism and flexibility of the dancers, with male and female company members displaying egalitarian strength.

By the end of the evening the company had taken us on an emotional roller coaster of longing, despair, ecstasy and other matters of the heart, but judging by the audience’s reaction, it was worth every exquisitely painful moment.









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