Tag Archives: Guy Hollands

REVIEW: The Gorbals Vampire – Citizens Theatre, Glasgow

Above the Gothic gatehouse of one of Glasgow’s cities of the dead, the Southern Necropolis, the sky flames red from the fiery furnaces of the nearby Dixon Blazes Iron Works. Hundreds of local children, from toddlers to teens, armed with stakes and knives, storm the graveyard in search of a vampire, not the highly romanticised version of modern times, but a seven foot, iron-toothed killer of two young boys. It’s 1954, it’s Glasgow’s Gorbals and it really happened…well…

Inspired by local myths and bogey man stories, and fuelled by US horror comics, an urban legend is born – The Gorbals Vampire.

There are “two wee empty chairs” at the back of a Gorbals’ primary school class, Chinese whispers in the playground escalate into full-blown hysteria as the “creative thinking” kids debate the fate of their two school pals. Night after night until the sun goes down, the pint-sized vigilantes return to hunt their man, and only the rain and the intervention of local headmasters puts an end to the marauder’s madness.

What would have been consigned to the local archives gained worldwide media coverage and a backlash against the American horror comics that were gaining popularity in the country. This mass indignation also spawned the 1955 Children and Young Persons (Harmful Publications) Act, laws still in force today.

National treasure in the making, Johnny McKnight has not only created a work filled with humour, it is also a work cleverly and subtly interwoven with a social commentary on tenement life in Glasgow in the fifties – the overcrowding, neglect and social injustice, how this section of the city was unloved and unlistened to. This was the hardest part of town, and in the eyes of the police, if they were cowering indoors frightened of a 7-foot vampire then they weren’t on the streets bothering them.

The community cast of over 50 players makes the stage throb with life against the brilliant set design of Neil Haynes and the wonderfully atmospheric lighting of Stuart Jenkins, all enhanced by Kim Beveridge’s subtle but highly effective video projections – you can almost feel the metal tang in the air from Dixon Blazes.

This is a glorious celebration of Glasgow and what it means to be Glaswegian – when the chips are down, the community pulls together as one, the city’s divisions are forgotten and the people unite in a common cause.

A real gem of a production.

REVIEW: The Monster in the Hall – Citizen’s Theatre, Glasgow

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

Writer: David Greig

Director: Guy Hollands

The Public Reviews Rating: ★★★★★

A few weeks on from the Edinburgh Fringe and it’s time for another unlikely premise for a musical play. The Monster in the Hall tells the story of young teen Duck Macatarsney (Gemma McElhinney) and her pizza-eating, spliff-smoking, bike-riding, heavy metal loving widower dad (Keith Macpherson) whose MS is gradually worsening. An impending visit from the Social Work Department, the confusing attentions of a classmate and the worry of what her dad is actually doing on the computer for hours after she goes to bed, add to Duck’s increasingly loosening grip on her life.

Unlikely the premise may be – but boy does it work. This is a well-worked script which is laugh out loud funny from start to finish. The story is infused with such infectious charm and wit that I defy anyone not to be completely engaged by its joy and exuberance. It also manages to deliver a dose of healthy realism to a subject matter which could easily have been ruined by political correctness or over-sentimentality. The pacing too, is all but perfect: moving the story along with just enough time to get the message across whilst never letting you get bored.

The cast of four show impressive versatility and energy as they deftly handle the disparate and hysterical characters as well as providing us with the chirpy musical interludes. With a Norwegian online gamer; a smarmy teacher; a sexually misunderstood classmate; a leaflet obsessed social worker and the would-be writer teen central character, the cast have plenty to sink their teeth into. Shining brightest among them is McElhinney as Duck, whose beguiling delivery has you wishing her every crazy dream come true.

We should celebrate originality wherever we find it. All too often the theatre world regurgitates the same old tried and tired formulas. Writer David Greig pushes the boundaries in The Monster in the Hall proving that things we might turn our gaze from or want to be swept under the carpet can be thoughtfully, realistically and hysterically staged for entertainment.

This is a true gem of a show, richly deserving acclaim and deserves to be seen by the widest audience. Look out for it as it tours the UK. You will not be disappointed.

Runs until 22nd September

REVIEW: Yellow Moon – Citizens Theatre, Glasgow

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

Writer: David Greig

Director: Guy Hollands

The Public Reviews Rating: ★★★★☆

A life changing incident involving one character, and a fateful decision by the other bring together the unlikely protagonists of this latest production from the National Theatre of Scotland. Yellow Moon charts the exploits of “Silent” Leila and “Stag” Lee as they flee Bonnie and Clyde style from a moment of teenage madness.

David Greig’s engrossing play delivers on several levels, firstly giving us a pair of wholly believable central characters who step convincingly from the real world into this story and by providing a piece which manages to avoid the often single-layered characterisations of young people today. In looking at the contradictions of the two teens, both frantically trying to escape the depressing reality of their daily lives, but equally desperate to find a sense of belonging and ultimately love, he delivers a credible and arresting piece of theatre.

The cast of four ably drive the narrative, but it is David Carlyle as cock-sure teen Lee who grabs the lion’s share of the attention. He swaggers arrogantly through the piece but delivers with such an engaging charm that you can’t help but root for him no matter what he says or does. He also skilfully portrays how the teen’s swagger masks a pain caused by a home life blighted by a mother haunted by the black dog of depression.

On the downside, the sometimes smug tone of the narration jars with the more authentic voice of the central action of the piece and the story seems to meander rather than have any particular point to make. That said, the play builds eventually to a gripping and emotional conclusion in which the viewer is fully invested.

Parents may well cringe at the dialogue and antics here, dealing as it does with neglect and self-harm, but any teen today will recognise it as a realistic depiction of their world. This is an intelligent glimpse into the youth of today and how split second actions can affect the whole path of the rest of your life.

A compelling piece of storytelling, sparingly staged and impressively executed, and a piece that lives up to the National Theatre of Scotland’s aim to: “make incredible theatre experiences which will stay in your heart and mind.”

Runs until 22nd September