Tag Archives: David Hayman

REVIEW: The Slab Boys – Citizens Theatre, Glasgow

This article was originally written for and published by The Public Reviews at: http://www.thepublicreviews.com/the-slab-boys-citizens-theatre-glasgow/

There will be few productions in Scotland this year that will be met with more anticipation than the Citizens Theatre revival of John Byrne’s seminal work The Slab Boys. 37 years on from its debut at the Traverse in Edinburgh, original director David Hayman and creator John Byrne reunite to celebrate the Citz 70th year. Mythologised as the play that inspired an entire generation of Scottish writers and performers, the question is: does it stand up to its reputation and regard?

It’s 1957, a typical Friday in a Paisley carpet factory, despite the slate grey surroundings, the seeds of teenage rebellion fester under posters of James Dean and Elvis: “Slab Boys” Phil (Sammy Hayman) and Spanky (Jamie Quinn) rail against both the establishment and circumstance, yearning for a life outside the confines of the “slab room”where their days are spent mixing paint. Whilst Phil dreams of entrance into art school, Spanky wants to make it to a desk in the design room, but the pair’s energies seem to be wholly invested in relentlessly tormenting any and all visitors to their domain, especially their fellow “slab boy” Hector (Scott Fletcher).

Fans will be happy to know that the play retains much of its original allure: Byrne’s brilliantly observed dialogue comes across as razor sharp as it always has, and the work remains one of the finest examples of ensemble theatre. The audience still laughs at the cruelty of Spanky and Phil, but it must be said, in these days of political correctness, there are points where you are left wondering whether to laugh or squirm in discomfort at the relentless torment, even talk of Phil’s mother’s mental illness is delivered with a barrage of cruel barbs. But however brutal the ribbing gets, there is an understanding that it is very much a defence and when the chips are down the pair still have enough heart to rally to the aid of the unfortunate Hector.

There are a brace of fine performances here: director Hayman delivers a sure-footed turn as bombastic factory manager Willie Currie; Jamie Quinn’s Spanky has all the swagger of the typical west of Scotland wide-boy and Kieran Baker’s middle class Alan, is a perfectly pitched foil for the coarse central duo; Scott Fletcher too, is irresistible (not to mention hysterical) as the naive Hector. However, less successful is Sammy Hayman’s Phil: whether it’s nerves, inexperience, bad diction or miscasting, Hayman Jr’s dialogue, delivered at machine gun fire pace, is often lost into the ether, and while he perfectly captures the brutality and callousness of Phil, he fails to bring the required charm that elevates the role to one of the best in Scottish theatre.

David Hayman’s production is sure-footed but one gripe would be the length of the piece, it would benefit from judicious trimming to make it even tighter, the inevitable climax is a little long in coming, but that said it remains unfailingly entertaining throughout.

A solid and satisfying production with plenty of laugh-out loud humour, but lacking that certain something that makes for brilliance.

Runs until Saturday 7 March 2015 then touring

REVIEW: King Lear starring David Hayman – Citizen’s Theatre Glasgow 10th May 2012

“I am a man, More sinn’d against than sinning”

“The ageing King decides to step down from the throne and divide his estate between his three daughters. Deceived by false promises and rejecting his one faithful daughter, Lear’s former kingdom spirals into chaos as he is driven to madness by the cruel treatment of his own family.”

This intense exploration of the human condition is the focal point of Artistic Director Dominic Hill’s inaugural season. Celebrated Glasgow actor David Hayman, returns to the Citizens in the title role, 33 years after his last appearance here. He is joined by a cast of familiar faces including; George Costigan (Calendar Girls, Shirley Valentine & Rita Sue and Bob Too) as Gloucester: Paul Higgins (The Thick of It) as Kent and Cal Macaninch (Downton Abbey & Wild at Heart) as Cornwall.

After a 33 year absence from his “creative home” David Hayman returns to The Citizen’s Theatre and delivers a truly sublime performance: a performance that will doubtlessly be remembered for many years.

He begins this theatrical tour de force by striding imperiously across the stage, Cossack hat on head, to dispense his kingdom with arrogant zeal amongst his three daughters and then proceeds to take us on a journey which sees him end as a physically shrunken, anguished, remorseful shell of a man.

In the wake of Hayman’s truly inspiring performance it would be easy to overlook the rest of the cast. However, from George Costigan’s heart-breaking turn as Gloucester (seen below with Hayman),

Kieran Hill as the double crossing Edmund (below centre),

to Paul Higgins’ strong performance as the loyal Kent (below left), they more than hold their own.

This is a re-imagined Lear, placed smack-bang in our recession-hit times.

Olivier award winner Tom Piper, who designed the set, recently worked on Kevin Spacey & Sam Mendes’ Richard III for the Old Vic, (which I had the privilege to see), and the design is similar in many ways. It evokes the same bleak historical-modernist feeling. Lighting design is by Ben Ormerod.

Now when I heard that an original soundscape, performed live on custom-made instruments, was being created for the production my heart sank, However, Paddy Cuneen has actually enhanced the performance with a series of atmospheric and unobtrusive sounds.

There were a few downsides, Ewan Donald as Edgar and Shauna MacDonald as Regan both had appalling diction especially Donald who at times was utterly unintelligible, even from the third row. However this is a King Lear that would stand up against anything you could possibly see at the Globe or the RSC and the queues around the block for tickets (as seen below) show what an appetite we have here in Scotland for Shakespeare. Artistic directors take note.

all pictures from Citizens Theatre and Citizens Theatre Flickr