Now in its second year, Tram Direct’s Rabbie The Man is The Shed’s alternative Burns’ Night, and it aims to put the man behind the annual revelries firmly at centre stage.
Revered from Tokyo to Moscow, every year there are celebrations to the great man on the 25th January the world over. However, Burns is a man of many contradictions, inspiration to liberal thinkers and socialists, ploughman poet and society darling, serial philanderer as well as loving and devoted husband, Burns means many things to many people.
Most of the elements that those familiar with the traditional celebrations are all here in Rabbie The Man: The Selkirk Grace; The Toast to the Lassies; The Immortal Memory, there’s even haggis, but are entertainingly woven through with a dramatised biography of the life of The Bard.Isobel Barrett’s script manages to present a healthily balanced portrait of a man who attracts the undiminished adulation of a nation. Burns is charismatically played by Colin McGowan who delivers a well-judged performance of this complex and often conflicted man and the evening is rounded out by songs, poetry and reflection: Ae Fond Kiss and A Red, Red Rose are beautifully sung by Gill Gilmour, a spirited rendition of Holy Wullie’s Prayer is given by Graeme Dallas and a heartfelt and eloquent Immortal Memory by David Sturgeon.
For those who want a slightly different take on the traditional Burns supper.
The wish for any festive show is that you leave the theatre feeling thoroughly entertained, filled to the brim with Christmas spirit and if you’re really lucky, a little bit heart-warmed; Cumbernauld Theatre’s glorious production of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen delivers all of this and a whole lot more.
The eternally popular tale of friendship and the triumph of love over evil, The Snow Queen follows the story of a young girl Gerda who is forced to battle the wicked Snow Queen in order to save the heart of her best friend Kai. She journeys through the four seasons, facing a series of obstacles in the shape of a series of whacky and sometimes alarming characters, until she finally confronts the evil Queen in a battle for her friend’s heart.
Despite being a traditional fairy tale, this production is inventive and thoroughly modern, and unlike the usual pantomime fodder it has real heart and soul: for all the laughs and moments of physical comedy the piece never shies away from the darker aspects of the tale, and as with all great fairytales there are moments when there is a tangible sense of peril. It is testament to the fantastic writing skills of dramaturge Roderick Stewart and the impeccable eye of director/designer Ed Robson that those cynical at the start were quickly entranced and completely and utterly won over after the first scene; thoroughly gripped, they hung onto every word until the end. The interactions from the audience were elicited, not from cheap humour or the goading and haranguing that most Christmas shows resort to, but instead relied on enchanting storytelling, fine acting and an excellent script to prompt genuine emotion from the onlookers; the children and adults alike feeling actual concern for the characters. There’s plenty to laugh at too, the simple but clever humour elicits laughs from the children as do the subtle but equally clever asides designed for the adults.
Highly atmospheric, the excellent script and acting are wonderfully complimented by clever lighting design and video projections by Craig Kirk, the visuals are used judiciously and to great effect throughout. There’s magic in the tiny details: ice cracking underfoot as Gerda makes a perilous crossing of the frozen lake to reach the Snow Queen’s palace; the crow’s wings made from flapping socks, the teeny, tiny Welsh Guards and a fabulous frog in a rowing boat all delight the eyes.
The huge array of colourful characters are ably handled by the small ensemble cast, as well as Gerda (Samantha Foley) and Kai (Colin McGowan) and the titular Snow Queen (Julie Brown) there’s also Dougie the dug, a Glaswegian Labradoodle (and the highlight of the night, hysterically played by Nicky Elliot) the Flower Lady and a crow that sounds suspiciously like Sean Connery. The multiple and lightning-quick changes are seamlessly achieved by the actors and each different character is unique and distinct.
This is an utterly absorbing tale eloquently and magically told. It is genuinely uplifting and will leave even the coldest of hearts warmed. Captivating, intelligent, gripping, entertaining, and absolutely joyous. Miss it at your peril.
Originally written in 1948, in 1984 George Orwell envisioned a totalitarian future where love for Big Brother and the State is maintained and controlled at every level, including within the hearts and minds of the people. In this hideous vision of the future (and perhaps disturbing reflection of our present), Motherwell College’s BA (Hons) Acting graduating class present Michael Gene Sullivan’s adaptation of Orwell’s most affecting novel.
Michael Gene Sullivan’s tightly-crafted, condensed script demonstrates an arresting approach to storytelling, whilst throughout, retaining both the relentless claustrophobia of the original work and its shattering emotional impact.
This was never going to be an easy watch: the subject matter so inexorable, so soul-destroying, so unvarying in tone and indeed so worryingly resonant that the fate of this piece is truly in the hands of the actors. So intense is their focus and so tight their grip on the audience’s emotions that you could hear a pin drop throughout the entirety of the performance and in their thrall we remained from start to finish.
In a clever piece of casting, the small ensemble cast were each allowed to play to their strengths: Ross Watson manages to convey the physical vulnerability and emotional turmoil of Winston Smith in the hands of his captors, however, some of his discourse was lost in his sometimes less than crisp diction; John Rennie skilfully gives life to Winston Smith’s words as the 1st Party Member who re-enacts the captive man’s journey from free-thinker to broken soul; Steve Lauder-Russell delivers a well-judged performance as the earnest 3rd Party Member – retaining an intense focus throughout; Colin McGowan is sure-footed as the 4th Party Member – his performance allowing him to showcase a range of characterful voices and allowing us a glimpse of the life beneath the soulless party member. Making an impact were Rachael Logan-Stott and Jordan O’Hara. Logan-Stott’s unerring focus never falters – her intensity as both the 2nd Party Member and Julia is disturbingly compelling. O’Hara does much with a small role – he is a powerful presence on stage – demanding the audience’s full attention in his hugely accomplished, assured and authoritative depiction of O’Brien.
Sparsely but effectively staged (with functional props that were more than likely gathered from whatever source the company could find), it did however add an effective timeless quality to the piece.
Again credit must go to the brave artistic choice – each of the three pieces on show here at Cottiers in Glasgow have a particular relevance and resonance to this place and time. And credit of course to this fine cast who promise much for the future of Scottish acting.