Tag Archives: George Drennan

REVIEW: Mack the Knife – Oran Mor, Glasgow

The creation of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s “play with music” The Threepenny Opera is as dramatic as the ground-breaking work itself. In Morag Fullerton’s hands that story becomes Mack The Knife, an Oran Mor mini musical.

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The journey to stage success was rough, actors walking out in droves, a title changing weekly and a producer desirous of a quick summer season money-spinner. It isn’t until the last-minute addition of a signature tune for amoral antihero Macheath, that finally, it all falls into place. Suffused with the same wit as Fullerton’s previous adaptations of stage/screen classics Casablanca and Sunset Boulevard, it has laughter and tears, humour and pathos in spades.

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The quartet of supremely talented actors, double, triple and quadruple parts and provide the musical accompaniment. The only quibble being Angela Darcy’s less than era-authentic vocals, whilst strong and clear, are a tad too cruise ship for 1920’s Berlin.

For all the humour, Fullerton reminds us of the ultimate fate of the participants. While many manage to escape the Nazi gas chambers, Kurt Gerron, actor, singer, director and original Macheath, isn’t so lucky, coerced into directing a Nazi propaganda film, when he outlives his usefulness his captors transport him to the ultimate death camp, forced to sing his signature song as he is marched to his death at Auschwitz.

Like so many of Fullarton’s works, one can only hope it has a life long after its week at Oran Mor.

Images: Leslie Black

REVIEW: Europa, Our First Migrant – Eastwood Park Theatre, Giffnock

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This review was originally written for and published by The Public Reviews

Writer: Salvatore Cabras

Dramaturg: Maggie Rose

Musical Director: George Drennan

The Public Reviews Rating: ★½☆☆☆

A play about the origins of Europe, the cross-pollination of its distinct cultures and peoples  was always going to be difficult to sell to the theatre-going public. That said, often the most unlikely and demanding material proves to be the most rewarding and satisfying to watch. That the story here is told through a ‘modern twist’ on the ancient myth of the Phoenician princess Europa, a high born noble woman who is abducted by Zeus in the guise of a bull and transported across the Mediterranean, doesn’t help. Unfortunately, this is borne out by the tiny audience who have turned out to see this production of Europa: Our First Migrant by theatre company Replico.

The problem with the piece doesn’t lie solely with its subject matter but in its telling. The narrative lacks cohesion, the metaphors are heavy handed and the staging, coupled with a tiny, over-stretched cast, do nothing to help convey any meaningful message to the audience. We begin in an undisclosed Scottish location in what seems to be a community hall, where a few of the locals have gathered. The talk quickly turns to the imagery of the bull which proliferates in 21st century advertising and using a box of props which handily, seems to be just lying around, we journey from Cretan hillside, to sailing ship on the Med, to psychiatrist’s office, to a scene with the ‘immigration police’, oh, and to a scene with some puppets and Flamenco dancing, all within the space of an hour and all in the name of illustrating the origins of Western culture. The story too, is punctuated with a mishmash of songs, and whilst these may reflect the diverse cultures of Europe, do nothing to enhance the storytelling.

The narrative switches between a mixture of crudely written dialogue and lyrical poetry which, judging by the looks on the faces of the audience, left many scratching their heads and wondering just what on earth was going on for a large part of the performance. The actors themselves are an engaging bunch but their personalities alone are not enough to dig this piece out of the mire: the staging and delivery are too pantomime or school play for an adult audience and the overall tone of the piece is uneven. Whilst it is commendable that the company have to chosen to produce material that is out-with the norm, the audience sometimes needs a good old-fashioned, clear plot-line to hold on to.