“Downs With Love” explores the subject of love and disability and challenges us to consider what we view to be “acceptable”. Can we accept seeing a couple – one of whom has Down’s and the other does not? Do we understand the complexities and issues surrounding love and disability? The play has been written around the performers and especially with Abi Brydon, the central actor. Cutting Edge Theatre have worked with Abi, taking her own feelings, challenges and experiences growing up with Down’s and creating a very real, moving performance around her.
“Downs With Love” tells the story of Beth, a young girl who has Down’s Syndrome. She lives a very independent life, has her routines and lives simply but happily. She is helped by a new support worker, Tracy and they soon strike up a friendship. On a Friday night, she goes to the pub to watch Mark, a local singer. Beth loves Mark but the problem is – Mark loves Tracy who loves both of them. Complex and challenging issues arise for all.
Abi is one of the students at the INSPIRE project. INSPIREuses drama to help people who have additional support needs to become more confident, increase their self-esteem and improve their vocal abilities – all to help them be more confident in society.
Rona Munro’s 1990’s tale of the Troubles, Bold Girls, returns home to where it was first performed by the now legendary 7:84 Scottish People’s Theatre (well, to Cumbernauld Theatre’s newest incarnation at Lanternhouse).
The guns, bombs, helicopters, and RUC, though ever-present, are merely a backdrop to the stories of these bold girls. Marie, Cassie and Nora gather in West Belfast in the run up to a girls’ night out at the local club. An enigmatic young woman appears (almost An Inspector Calls-like) on Marie’s doorstep. Her presence and subsequent revelations break the bonds of the women’s friendship forever.
There’s plenty of banter woven around the reminders of the violence just outside the door, but the reality below the surface manages to quickly rise to the top. The desperation just seeps out. Desperation at the complete inability to escape your circumstances, desperation that you should be thankful your man didn’t hit you, desperation at the inequality of the expectation that you should spoil your sons and reproach your daughters, desperation at maintaining the façade of the perfect widow.
The staging is simplistic, allowing the focus to be on the storytelling and there’s a chemistry between the actors that serves the story well. Stand out among the ensemble is Leigh Lothian’s finely nuanced portrayal of Cassie, a woman wracked with anger and anguish. The tiny details in her characterisation are a delight.
Munro’s piece largely holds up, but one can’t help feeling that it hasn’t entirely stood the test of time. The dialogue, to 2022 ears, isn’t as naturalistic as it could be, and the ending could be trimmed for greater impact. There’s also the problem that the plot’s greatest revelations are a little too clearly signposted that they lack impact.
A worthwhile revival of Munro’s play, enough to tempt you to visit her latest work James IV – Queen of the Fight, the fourth of her James Plays, which tours this autumn.
Rona Munro’s celebrated play Bold Girls is returning to Cumbernauld in a newly-imagined staging, more than 30 years after the acclaimed original production by the legendary 7:84 company opened there in 1990.
The play is being produced in-house at Cumbernauld Theatre Trust’s new home at Lanternhouse, a state-of-the-art performing arts centre based at Cumbernauld Community Campus.
It’s 1991 in West Belfast. Despite the bombs, the soldiers, and their husbands being either locked away or killed, Marie, Cassie, and Nora are determined to get on with their lives. That is, until a mysterious young woman turns up on Marie’s doorstep, disrupting their girls’ night out and bringing devastating revelations that threaten to leave their friendships changed forever. Sharply funny, moving, yet never shying from the harsh realities of life during the Troubles, Bold Girls is a celebration of women’s strength under siege.
This new production is being directed by Michael Duke, former Tinderbox Theatre Company (Belfast) Artistic Director, who is originally from County Down, and currently based in Glasgow. It will star Pauline Goldsmith, Katya Searle, Julie Martis, and Leigh Lothian.
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.